a pictured pause…

The paper for my UK class is finally starting to take shape… and by that, I mean a shape that doesn’t make me want to throw the laptop out the window. It’s quite normal for me to hate my research papers, because I can’t get them to say what I want them to say. Until about 24 hours after I’ve written them, I decide they weren’t so bad, after all. So, now that I know I have all day tomorrow to finish it, and I’m well into the fourth page, I can breathe more easily. 12287557_10153686755089976_285132929_o 12295085_10153686751844976_1654943065_oSo, before I go see how the Christmas tree decorating is going, I thought the least I could do is share a few of my latest pictures. Mostly taken at Thanksgiving, I can assure you that we dined most deliciously on all the food that you could desire. Oh, right, the cake pictures were taken before Thanksgiving, because my mom tends to bake cakes for parties at work. They’re addicted to her cooking and baking (as are we). And I was feeling all artistic after taking some of these.  : )12290528_10153693025334976_102409055_o12281770_10153697314914976_836887180_oMost of my brothers made it to town, along with my youngest bro’s dog. Bullet has been part of the family for almost a year now, I think, and we occasionally get “custody” of him when my brother has to go do military stuff. Now that my brother is MARRIED, then Bullet stays with my sister-in-law instead. However, Bullet’s a really nice dog, and we love having him to visit, too. This picture I included was taken after he realized that he WAS going home with Joe and Amanda, instead of staying with us. Or rather, he leaped into his bed in the car, and couldn’t be shifted, as if he was afraid he might get left behind after all. So, for a rescue dog that lucked into being adopted by a young man in the Air Force… life is good for him, and he just LOVES my brother and his wife.12318272_10153697411134976_1543031468_oAnd now, away I go, and by tomorrow, I should be ONE research paper closer to being done with this semester! Hooray!

Christmas break has broken…

My Christmas vacation began on Thursday night, as soon as I finished my last geography “report”, which was really just a longer homework assignment. Before that, I had three exams, one each on Mon, Tues, and Wed… and then fiction portfolio was due on Thursday! My two final drafts (for this semester) for that portfolio were so crisp and clean and beautiful. And then it was over!10834714_10152866313979976_743309326_o10844515_10152866185429976_61046275_oI only just realized that my last post on here was before Fall Break. So sorry about that, I haven’t been swamped, but I do manage to stay busy. At the end, I didn’t have any big papers due for any history or literature classes, but I did have to finish my stories and read one last book for history. That kept me busy during some of my Thanksgiving break, which I spent in Florida. Even though we were in my brother’s place, I still manage to find time to work on a few school things, which was good.10825049_10152866180794976_124053857_oLet’s see, what has happened since I posted last? Aside from probably achieving all A’s in my classes again, I mean. We’re taking care of my brother’s dog while he’s away, so Bullet’s getting used to living with us and having four people to be entertained by.10844591_10152860790974976_569860123_o

We’ve decorated for Christmas, so all the trees are up and looking cheerful. Oh, at school, they’ve finally gone up “above the fence” while they’re rebuilding Freeman Hall, so I’m sure it’ll look almost complete when we get back from our break. No, we haven’t started any Christmas baking yet.10821814_10152855592604976_1118922527_oI feel like there’s probably something else I’ve forgotten, but oh well. I’m going to go empty my school notebooks so that they’re ready for next semester and so they’ll stop cluttering the furniture in my office area. I’m assuming that I’ll be back on here before then, but if I get busy, I hope you and your families will have a splendidly wonderful Christmas!10834475_10152866184189976_177036601_o10840097_10152866973814976_109514920_o

not so itsy-bitsy…

I don’t like spiders. But as long as they keep their distance from me, I won’t freak out, and they’re allowed to live. Unless they intrude on my personal space. Because if a bug gets in my face, or on my body, then all bets are off.DSC_0464

With as many arachnophobic friends as I have, I prided myself on my ability to look at this fellow… just a little bit. It still gives me the creeps, but my mom did tell me that it isn’t dangerous. In fact, this yellow-and-black kind are really good for gardens, eating all the bugs that want to eat your plants. DSC_0473

DSC_0475With the sun as brilliant as it was, I tried really hard to get myself at an angle where you could see the beauty of the spider web, but my camera was having difficulty in focusing on the spider strands, as opposed to the flowers behind it. I find that thicker design of webbing, below the spider, to be rather fascinating, but I don’t know enough about these critters to explain why it’s there.DSC_0474

But I took enough flower pictures that day that I thought the spider could enjoy having its very own post, and the floral offerings will come later. I’ve had trouble finding flowers in bloom anywhere on campus, but maybe I’ll have to visit the Botanical Gardens, one of these weekends. Especially when the leaves start to change.DSC_0476

Anyway, more photos are coming. Be patient!DSC_0498

the why-me? factor…

I should’ve known, I suppose. Or should I? When was the last time we had SO much rain that it occurred to me that I should move my car several times, in order to discourage intruders? I knew that bugs will head inside, sometimes, when there is a lot of rain, because they’re looking for dry ground, and shelter from what must be a global flood, to them. But how often do I leave my car sitting for several days? Not very often.

Spending several days with friends in Georgia was wonderful, and I’ll talk more about that part of it, later. But I was expecting a leisurely drive home to Clemson… when I saw an ant on my dashboard. I squashed him, thinking little of it. And then I saw another. By the time I had seen four or five of them, I was getting worried. Because it had finally occurred to me what MIGHT have happened, while Georgia and South Carolina were getting drowned in rain, and my car had been sitting in the same spot. I was hoping I was wrong, however.

You can never find an exit, when you want one. I’m sure it took another half an hour to find an exit, and then pull off at a gas station. The second I opened my car door, I almost freaked out. Ok, I wanted to freak out, but had to keep it under control. A stream of ants was running around the door jamb of the driver’s side door. So, I opened a different door… and it was even worse. I ran into the gas station, hoping they would have bug spray, but no such luck. I ran out, slightly panicked, and NOT wanting to get back into my car, but reminded myself they didn’t seem to be getting on the carpet or anything fabric. Just on the plastic stuff, in the door.

I managed to find an Ingles, and hurried in, just as it began to pour down rain, once more. Here I was, wearing my sundress that I had worn to church, trying to keep from slipping in my wet flip-flops, carrying an umbrella, and all I wanted was ant spray for my car! When I saw the Terro ant spray on the shelf, I took a brace, momentarily. Terro ant traps… my family and friends swear by that brand, so the spray must be fantastic.

Back out into the rain I went, where eventually, I had about three doors open at a time, to keep from soaking the inside of the car, and to deter anyone from making a grab for my purse. Not that any sane person would be out there in the rain, purse-snatching. But I had swarms of aunts in the back door jambs, which made me want to do a dance of disgust and run away, not deal with the problem. Holding an umbrella in one hand, I stomped through the puddles, spraying my doors, the door jambs, parts of the floor, and even on my dashboard (while trying to protect the CD player).

Once I was back in the car, I tried to convince myself that nothing was crawling on me, as I drove away. You know how it is, you get any creepy-crawly on or near you, and you feel like there are more. About an hour later, the rain had stopped, and I needed a break, so I pulled over at a Starbucks. Then, it was time for the next step. With no rain coming down, I popped the hood, and looked inside. And had to take several deep breaths, before calling my dad.

With a stream of ants running around near the battery, I wanted to know if it was safe to be spraying ant spray near the engine, while I continued to resist the urge to run away and cry. Or scream. Or something. So, after getting the go-ahead, I sprayed down everything I could reach (aside from the engine itself), and left the hood open. Then I went inside for coffee, and stayed there for a while. Just keep breathing. Coffee will help.

For the rest of the trip home, I had an occasional invader come into the car, and crawl out on the dashboard. So I kept the spray handy, and kept my windows cracked, whether it was raining or not. Because it was extremely humid and I have issues with the smell of exhaust, I could never go long with the air cycling from the outside, so I finally just kept the AC running, with the windows partially open. And yes, it was raining for a lot of this.

There were so many wrecks on the road, because of the slippery roads, and the traffic kept slowing down and speeding up. But I was doing fine, if a little uptight over the bug problem. And then, I still don’t know if the van didn’t have brake lights or if I just missed it. I saw a license plate at such close range that I’ll never know how I didn’t hit that vehicle. I hit the brakes and threw my car into the other lane. Had I somehow remembered that that lane was empty, because of an upcoming police car (helping someone with a flat tire)? Or would I just have hit whoever was in that lane? I’m sure what almost happened to me is why so many people were in the ditches, even when it wasn’t raining. So much traffic, and cars stopping and starting.

That near-miss just about gave me a heart attack, and for the first time, when I got home a road trip, I told my mom that I never wanted to get into the car again. Or at least, for a very long time. I proceeded to hose out the engine of my car, even as it began to rain again, and then hose out all the crevices all around my car. The ants kept looking for any non-poisonous space they could find. By the time I was finished with the hose, the rain was really coming down again, but I just stayed out in it, cooling off and calming down further.

It was  a crazy trip. One of those trips where you want to ask the sky, “Why me?”. What did I do to deserve that? Nothing, of course. These things just happen, and it’s just life. But though I’m usually the kind of girl that isn’t overly bothered by bugs, I’ve been extra antsy about them, all day today. And no, I’m not intending a pun, though I know where the word comes from, now. When I woke up, I had to take a deep breath and go check my car, because I had this dread that it would be just as bad, again.

Thus far, the spray and the hose seem to have done their work. But I don’t think I will be very “trusting” of my car, for some time after this. So, if you see me staring hard at the door jambs of my car, any time soon, you can be sure of what I’m looking for. Any unwanted visitors, so I can be rid of them, right away!

Now, feel free to laugh and squirm over this, and the fact that you didn’t have to deal with it. And I’ll get ready to tell you about the rest of my fun, though wet, weekend in Georgia. The trip home was the only bad part!  : )

lizards after the rain…

On one of my magnolia hunts, I knew it was unlikely that some of the blossoms would even have survived the beating they took in the recent rainstorms. Nevertheless, I went to see if any buds had waited until the return of the sun. DSC_0361

I found that lots of flowers were so wet that they attracted a lot of bugs, making them less photogenic, for sure. But while looking at one magnolia, I noticed another inhabitant. Can you see him?DSC_0363

DSC_0364Before you get too worried, he isn’t in the first or the last picture in this post. Don’t want anyone straining their eyes for what isn’t there!  : )DSC_0369

DSC_0371After he jumped off the magnolia blossom, I watched the lizard crawl out onto a branch. I wished my camera lens could be longer, but did my best to get some pictures of him, before he ran away into the greenery. The petals of a magnolia would certainly make a comfortable bed for one of them, and probably a good place to catch bugs.DSC_0374


the birdhouse blues…

The biggest problem with having a birdhouse, bird feeder, and a bird bath right by the front window (not to mention a flower-covered arbor) is that you can never get decent photos of the birds. If you move suddenly, while in the dining room, they’ll fly away. So, it’s only after sitting still at the table for some time that they’ll come back.DSC_0160

And then, if you could manage to find a good angle to take the pictures from, will your camera focus on the outside, or on the window? And what if the window has pollen on it? Will it show up on the camera? These are all moot points, however, if you can’t be anywhere the birds won’t notice you. It did occur to me that I could try setting up my tripod at a low angle, but that was only after I seated myself in front of the window.DSC_0162

Our front windows are rather large, and the bottom sections have screens, so before the air-conditioning was turned on, we had them open. So, rather than deal with the possibility of a smudged window, or having to hold extremely still while standing, I decided to see what the camera did while aiming through a window screen.DSC_0166

It actually worked pretty well, as you can see. Aside from a tiny bit of blur, the camera at that range, like my own eyes, does not focus on the screen itself, but what’s beyond. So, knowing that I can hold a camera steadier if I have my elbows propped on something, I found a sort-of comfortable position, with my elbows on the window sill.DSC_0167

I started with taking pictures from the right-most window, and then moved to the middle one. So, the third picture from the top was taken from the new angle, and there is no bird in that picture. Just in case you were looking. I thought it would be nice to include a picture where you can just enjoy the loveliness of the arbor and the flowers.DSC_0169

Still, even at this seemingly close range, my camera doesn’t zoom too far. My brother even offered me his camera lens, but I was too involved with holding still to take him up on it. I had to be quiet and still, and be alert to when the mother bluebird returned to the birdhouse.

Oh, I guess I forgot to mention that. This year, we had a bluebird build a nest in our birdhouse, the first time a bluebird has ever done that. So, if you want to, you can watch the flashes of blue, coming and going, all day long. But when the first nest of birds had hatched and flown away… a few days later, the mother bird came back and had some more eggs. DSC_0170

After some research, we discovered that bluebirds will have two or three hatchings in a year, not just one. And if they like the location, they may come back, year after year. Sometimes, the first set of babies will even help the parents feed their younger siblings. So, if they go for round 3, we still have more babies to see.

One picture includes what might be a female cardinal, but the picture really wasn’t close enough to be sure. Almost all of these pictures were cropped on Picasa, because my zoom lens didn’t show enough detail. I also had to brighten up the colors, so you could see the mother bird, perched on the birdhouse. Some days, we’ll have birds in the feeder (which is above my head, just outside the window, but not in the pictures), a bird in the birdbath, and babies cheeping from the birdhouse. And with cardinals visiting us regularly, we’re awash with color!DSC_0158

I need to look through my other photos some more. I’ve attempted to get pictures of the babies, from the hole in the birdhouse, but they usually retreat into the shadows. But I keep trying, and their mother hasn’t dive-bombed me yet.  Stay tuned, I’ll see what other bird photos I’ll manage to dig up, now that I’m watching through the windows!     DSC_0172

the local wildlife…

Our friendly neighborhood woodchuck (also known as a groundhog) has been pretty busy in our backyard, this last week. I caught him boxing daisies, a few days back. Well, it looked like he was boxing them, as he seemed to be hitting them in order to get them to bounce back into his mouth. Perhaps that’s easier than pulling them? Earlier, I saw him going over to the neighbor’s house, examining a ditch they’d dug next to the garage door. There weren’t any daisies in it, so I wasn’t sure what he was up to.

But while I had to explain what a wood chuck was to an Aussie friend of mine (it looks a bit like Mr. Beaver from Narnia, without the accent), I was remembering those really funny videos on YouTube, from BBC, about “talking animals”. Of course, the most famous one is the groundhog that constantly shouts for “Alan”, until it occurs to him that maybe the guy’s name was Steve. If you’ve never seen them, check it out (Talking Animals). I can’t find the one that was my original favorite, but it’s got most of the best in there. It’s also a pretty good example of some American animals that Aussies may never have seen before, like the groundhog, badger, and chipmunk.

Yes, I know beavers and groundhogs aren’t exactly alike, but I did look them up, and they look similar, as well as being related. I think a groundhog could even be called a “land-beaver”, in some instances.

We haven’t seen our local hawk or deer, recently. The deer (sometimes one, sometimes several) like to eat our crab apples, since nobody else does, and they’re welcome to them. And the hawk likes to perch on one of our volleyball net posts (perhaps he played volleyball in a past life?). I think he’s mocking us, because he knows we don’t have a good enough camera lens to take good pictures. He’s probably sticking his tongue out at us, whenever we peer through the shades, hoping to catch him unaware.

I guess this just means I’ll have to get a better, longer zoom lens for my camera, because I can’t have the local wildlife laughing at me, behind my back (or rather, behind my house).

the birds are setting up house…

Every year, some birds build a nest in the little birdhouse, outside of our front window. I don’t know if it’s the same couple of birds, but the local feathered folk definitely like it. This is despite its occasional shortcomings, as I remember the year that a snake climbed up the pole, into the next, and took a baby bird from it. I think we greased the pole after that, to discourage any more reptiles.

Ever since I returned home, I’ve been noticing how much the local birds like to perch on the wooden arbor. Of course, they’re a lot smaller, quieter, and generally less obtrusive than the birds in Australia, so perhaps that’s why I’ve been fascinated by them. There’s a cardinal that keeps coming to visit, but I haven’t been able to get a picture of him, yet. Likewise, the bluebird that I’m sure was out there, this afternoon. I didn’t get a close look, but in the afternoon sun, his wings practically seemed to sparkle with the color blue.

So, yesterday morning, I sat down in the dining room, in a chair, holding very still, waiting patiently for our little nest-builders to return. I don’t know if I’ve determined their sexes correctly, but I just assumed that it’s the soon-to-be mama that’s building the nest, and arranging all the bits of grass just so, while the daddy bird stands guard. He’s usually out there, chirping at full volume, probably telling the others to stand clear of his wife.

Still, they seem disturbed by too much movement, and my zoom lens isn’t good enough to stay far, far away from the window, and still get a good picture. My glimpses of the mama bird remain only glimpses, as she’s either half in the nest, rearranging her furniture, or zipping off to look for more.

Later in the day, I took the time to go look closely at the birdhouse, ascertaining that there are no eggs in there yet. Hey, there’s no reason she can’t rearrange a bit, after they arrive! And she flies so fast, you can’t see what she’s carrying, all the time. But this is definitely the birdhouse of choice, because the one we had in a different location, that one got chewed up by squirrels, if I remember correctly.

I took some pictures of the beautiful clematis vine that’s growing up the side of the arbor, but didn’t think anything about the petal count, until my brother pointed it out. Of the 6-8 clematis blooms that are open, some of them have four petals, some five, and some six. And it’s not because any of them have fallen off, these flowers have grown that way. So, don’t flowers of that type generally keep the same amount of petals, or is a lottery as to how many they throw out? I’m assuming that none of them will come up with only one, two, or three.

But not being a flower expert, I don’t know the answer to this question. Some pretty little pink flowers also caught my attention, but I have no idea what they are. And the roses were too high on the arbor for me to get a very good look at. Also, as you can see, I was having a great time with the effects on Picasa. The birds can blend easily into the woodwork, so I had create a vignette of some of the photos, or sharpen the colors a bit, so that you can find him. And thankfully, my camera takes good enough photos, that I can crop them, without making the pictures blurry to the eye. Until I get a longer zoom lens, I’ll just have to continue doing it that way.

So, the nest-builders continue their work, and maybe I’ll be able to show you pictures of eggs or baby birds, some time in the future!

chicks on the run…

A few of you may remember me writing about the little bundles of golden fluff that Emmie received for her birthday, and how things were going as we kept them in a pet carrying crate, in the house. Unfortunately, I returned from Sydney to find that the golden baby chicks were missing, or at least somewhere out of sight, so I asked what had happened.

Emmie informed me that the chicks had run away, as she hadn’t closed the latch on the cage completely, one evening, and the family had left the back door open when they went out. Her mom had meant to come back and fix that, but had forgotten. So, the family came home to find the chicks had flown the coop, so to speak.

Both Sadie and Emmie were full of the idea of how far the chicks must have run, though Bea gave me the sideline on what might really have happened (and the proof of where they “ran” to). But the little girls were much happier thinking about the “runaways”, and didn’t even seem upset. I suspect Emmie was more upset, the day it happened, though. Maybe when they’re a little older, they’ll find out where the chooks went.

She was promised some new chicks, so a few days later, Blackie and Flappie arrived. A serious contrast to the previous yellow chickens, these little ones with black feathers don’t even look like chickens, as far as I can tell. Yes, I know they come in many colors, but I just tend to associate baby chickens with being yellow.

With the temperatures being cooler at night, the chicks still slept inside, but the family fixed a large cage outside, so they could adjust to the world around them. We usually left the pet crate on top of the cage, so they had plenty of shade from that (and from some bath mats drying on top of the cage). That’s a good thing, giving them shade, because the sun can be brutal. But they’re still not big enough to take on any of the critters that can be found around the house, whether wild or domesticated.

So, I won’t be able to show you the “finished result” when they get quite big, but maybe my Aussie family will e-mail me some pictures to share. With their black plumage, they’ll be standouts amongst the rest of the red and white chooks, so Emmie will never have any trouble identifying them.

I hope you’ve enjoyed all my posts on the Aussie domesticated animal kingdom. We don’t have any pets in my American home, anymore, so I won’t likely have any more animal stories, for a while. Unless any of my friends have pets. We’ll see what I can come up with.

More posts upcoming, as I continue to dig myself out of my jet-lagged stupor. As for today, I was up at 6:30am, but I’m going to take a nap until lunchtime, now.

two views of Sydney, mine & Taronga’s…

Tuesday, April 3

I wasn’t sure my alarm would go off, so I kept waking up to check on it. Sure enough, it didn’t go off at 7am, like it was supposed to. Otherwise, I might’ve been late to meet my friend Laura, at Central Station. As it happened, I didn’t have any trouble with the buses, now that I know what the bus station looks like. The night I arrived, I got on the bus at a different spot, you see.

With forty-five minutes to kill, I was able to have a leisurely breakfast at Bruno Rossi, after wandering around Central for a bit. Bruno Rossi was right next to Hungry Jack’s and Krispy Kreme, but I find those doughnuts to be quite expensive over here, so I stayed away.

While finishing off my coffee, I watched the pigeons chase after crumbs, and took note of the really lovely wooden carvings all around the walls. I wonder how many people even notice them, when they come in?

Instead of catching a train to Circular Quay, Laura and I walked there, stopping to look at any number of interesting buildings, on the way. For example, the Three Monkeys Pub (see bottom right, in the above photo), which used to be a bank. My friend told me I didn’t want to go in there for a drink, because I’d probably get stabbed. Now, if that’s not a reason to stay away, I’ve never heard of one.

In case anyone wants to know, I occasionally mess around with filters and color changes on my photos, but all I use is Picasa. Their latest version, Picasa 3, has some marvelous effects that you can use on your pics. I’ve been using that program for a while now, to crop or otherwise edit my photos, but I try to leave most of them as-is.

I thought it was interesting how the Ikea advertisement for mattresses blended in with the design of the Victoria Buildings. Look closely, can you see where the ad ends and the building begins (two photos above)?

After stopping to take a look at the Queen Victoria statue, I noticed a wishing well that had some history with the Queen, as well, but it looked like it was attached to an ancient elevator… but I couldn’t find an entrance, even though I circled around. The puppy statue, above the wishing well, was cute, too.

The design of the Victoria Buildings is really quite lovely, from the tiled floors to the amazing castle clock hanging from the ceiling. When Laura pointed out the design of the ceiling, in the very center of the building, I was hard put to get it on film. I ended up placing my camera on the floor, right in the center of the floor design, and taking the picture from there. Yes, that’s looking straight up at the roof. Doesn’t look like it, does it?

We walked down the street, taking a look in at The Strand, one of the oldest shopping centers in Sydney, where we stopped in for candy at The Nut Shop. I didn’t get any, though the chocolate ducks were adorable and deliciously tempting. They reminded me of the chocolate animals that my brother and I got for Easter, when we were little.

With a few more stops to look at buildings, and some interesting inscriptions on the ground, we finally reached Circular Quay, where we planned to take the ferry to Taronga Zoo. You see, Taronga is across the bay, placed up-and-down a hill, with some fabulous views of Sydney.

After getting off at the Zoo Wharf, we rode the bus up to the top of the hill, entered the Zoo, and began working our way down. There were quite a few more animals that I have pictured, but all the photos weren’t wonderful. But wherever we looked, we seemed to find the Harbour Bridge or the Sydney Skyline in the background. I really wondered if the elephants and giraffes appreciate their view.

Which reminds me, Laura told me that the city’s debating whether to move the zoo, and use that spot for prime real estate. Too bad, because it makes it such a unique place to go and see the animals, possibly drawing in more visitors than it would elsewhere. Especially with several other wildlife places nearby, including the Dubbo Zoo and WILDLIFE Sydney.

The koalas were very funny in their positions in the trees, some of them seeming to use their heads to brace themselves, rather than their limbs. The snake house wasn’t exactly cute, if you know what I mean, but some of the statues alongside the cages were creepier than the inhabitants. See the giant snake statue outside of a snake cage? That was like meeting Nagini, frozen into stone. But I found that most of indoor displays had some beautiful sculptures of the animals to look at, when the other visitors were blocking your view of the actual exhibit occupants.

I wish we’d been able to get some pictures of the platypus. They were adorable! And quite a lot smaller than I’d expected. But even when they’re displayed in a dark room, with barely enough light to see anything, they still hide in the darkest of corners.

But though some people hadn’t been aware of it until they read the wall displays, I already knew that they have venomous spurs, so if you ever managed to come across one in the dark, you still don’t mess with them, because they know how to protect themselves. Despite being American, I remember learning all about Australian animals, when I was in school. We learned all about marsupials, though I’m not sure if they taught us that egg-laying mammals are called monotremes.

I would guess that this chapter of school was so memorable to us because the marsupials and monotremes are completely different from the animals that American children are used to. On the other hand, my Aussie friends have sometimes turned out very interested in animals that I think are normal, like raccoons, squirrels, and chipmunks, because those are the unfamiliar animals, for them.

Another example of the monotreme is the echidna, which looks a bit like a long-nosed porcupine. Also very rare to see in the wild, I was only able to see a glimpse of one in the zoo. He was hiding behind a bush, and I couldn’t get a closer peek. However, I’ve seen many examples of them in various statues around Sydney.

Taronga is known for being one of two zoos in Australia that have managed to breed platypuses. Also, they’ve had several elephant births, so Laura was telling me about the recent ones, when they thought the baby elephant had died. But miraculously, he was still alive. They were fun to watch play, though the elephant area is the most “fragrant” of them all.

I still think that giraffe hide looks fake, like it’s been printed on by a machine. Yes, I know it’s real, but it’s so funny-looking, up close, because of that! And they’re so wrinkly. God makes such amazingly beautiful and interesting creatures, don’t you think?

We took the Sky Safari Cable Car down the hill, when we were leaving, enjoying the view, and taking as many pictures as we could manage, on the way down. Then, we hopped out, took a few more, and then headed down the steps to the Ferry. And then, I stopped in my tracks, realizing I was missing my sunglasses. Now, since my travel pass hadn’t included the Sky Safari, we hadn’t taken it up the hill, when we arrived. But it’s included in the Zoo admission price, so then you can ride it all you want. Which is a good thing, because we got back on the Sky Safari, to go back and get my sunnies. I was slightly embarrassed, you understand, as it really looked like the two of us just couldn’t get enough of the cable cars.

But really, it worked out for the Zoo, because my friend bought something else, when we got back to the gift shop. I had already done my duty, resisting all the books and adorable stuffed animals, but I bought some sweet necklaces for my girls. Bea’s has a penguin on hers, Kit’s has a giraffe, Emmie gets one with a really funny pewter hippo, and Sadie has a panda.

So, in the end, we all got what we wanted, and Laura and I were agreed that we were NOT walking back up or down that hill, no matter what. Besides, we also found out that the gift shop lady had run after us, thinking we’d gone to the upper gate, but not checking the Sky Ride. Oh well.

Finally, back down the hill we went, and we paid very little attention to the view, at this point. I was getting tired, so it was nice to sit on a bench in the cool Wharf for a while. Then we got on a Fast Ferry back to the Quay, and had a lovely view from the back.

Upon arriving back at the Quay, we decided to take things a little easier, walking through the city, wandering through some gifts shops, and then Laura took me to Dymocks. Three stories of book store, and very reminiscent of the biggest Barnes & Noble stores I’ve been in… perhaps like the one in Boston Harbor?

Stopping to use the restroom, I found that this giant store only had one public bathroom, for guys and girls, and the kid that was using it was apparently reading in there. At least, that’s what the conversation sounded like, as his parents tried to convince him to hurry up, talking through the door. He kept wanting to know why he should hurry up? As the conversation continued, I had a hard time not smiling at the kid’s comments, because he wasn’t being obnoxious, it just sounded like he was genuinely confused over why he should come out early.

After the book store, we went back to The Strand, and I was able to admire the gorgeous tile, the colored glass in the windows, and the ancient elevator, though we walked up the stairs instead of using the lift. The second story had some seriously snazzy stores, with labels that I couldn’t dream of affording, or even fitting into. And I thought of a certain set of Attwood girls, when I went into Alannah Hill, which makes new, vintage-looking clothes. I felt very out of place, but wished some of my friends could have seen it.

Continuing to walk through the city, I happened to glance down an alleyway, and found a collection of bird cages hanging from wires. If there was an artistic reason for it, I didn’t see a sign anywhere. But it was still beautiful.

Going to the Myer food court, I got a coffee from Gloria Jean’s (very necessary), while my friend got a very healthy juice made out of beetroot, spinach, and I don’t remember what else. I kept telling her she didn’t have to drink it, while she made faces over it.

But then, I decided to get a baked potato with seafood and cheese topping, though not the first time I’ve had something similar. But this turned out to have smoked salmon, some strange looking mussels, and white things that looked like eggs, but weren’t. I tried the salmon, which was okay, but didn’t keep eating it. Then the cheese tasted weird, so I ate as much of the cheese and potato as I could, but finally didn’t finish it, because I was afraid my stomach would have a fit. I did take pictures, but when I looked at them later, I thought it looked pretty disgusting. So, I won’t put you through looking at pics of what I ate, but I thought Laura and I were about even with our interesting choices of food… except I at least got to have a white chocolate mocha, too.

I won’t go so far as to say that I’ve mastered the bus and train system, but I went back to Central with my friend, by train, and then found my way (with no trouble) upstairs, without getting lost in the tunnels, for once. Then, I made my way out of the building, and towards the bus station, and got onto the correct bus to take me back to my stop on King’s Street.

How delightful to arrive back at my abode, with the sky still a bit light! Of course, then Rachael asked me what I did for the day… and I drew a complete blank. I was a little tired, you see. It took me a few minutes to remember that we went to Taronga Zoo.

And now you know about it, too! So, tomorrow, the plan is to go to Paddy’s Markets, and then to Darling Harbour. I’m still debating over whether to visit the Museum of Sydney or to make my way to the Harbour Bridge Pylon, before making an early evening of it. We’ll see what tomorrow holds!