wand’ring through the olden days…

Near the end of my road trip, last month, I made sure I had time to visit the local antique mall near Chambersburg, PA, because it was a favorite place for me to “take a wander” when I was living there. With 4-5 buildings loaded with all sorts of antiques (and some handmade crafts), who wouldn’t want to stop by?

I’m always fascinated by the immense variety, not only of the items themselves, but in how well some have been taken care of through the years. You can tell that some people go looking for antiques in thrift stores, so they can keep their booths well-stocked with treasures that are in good condition. Other people are just looking for a buck or two, in order to get rid of their junk.

Looking through the kitchenware is a must, for me, because I’m always looking for Mirro cookie presses, but some of the other things are very tempting. It makes me want to buy random items for cool-looking storage, and not always to be put to their original use.

Some people collect old bottles, but I’m not really familiar with the ins and outs of what makes a good one. I have some beautiful matching green bottles with a wave pattern running around them. They look like vases, almost, but they’re too narrow at the top and too tall to get any flower or plant into. I’d been searching for a bottle to give a friend that collected them… and ended up keeping them for myself. But I still look, when I’m in the antique shops.

I love the freestanding drawers that come from old sewing machines. If you see the picture with the “Our Leader” metal plate (near the top, after the rolling pins), the drawers are behind it. When you pull the drawer out to use, there’s no outer “wall” to it, so you see the gap it leaves. Someday, I’m going to buy one to put on my desk or dresser. They’re beautiful.

As I wandered through the stores, I was surprised at how much I liked the dancers figurine and the busts, atop the wooden cupboard (below the deer head). But then, right next to them, on a lower table, I was almost alarmed at how creepy some other clay faces can be.

The sleds reminded me of one we had when I was little, but then, that was the last time we lived anywhere near the “serious” snow. No point in buying another, when you live in the south. Some other kitchen gizmos were interesting, but some of them, I had no idea what they were for, even after looking at the tag. I thought some ladies would be thrilled to have that sign about what their husband called to say.

I can’t help looking closely when I come across any thick ceramic crocks. My family has a huge one that we use for a trash can, and I have memories of playing in it when I was little. It only had sewing room scraps in it, then, and we were small enough to fit into it. We occasionally got stuck, too, and had to be pulled out. But try as I might, I can never find one that’s as big as ours, and they’re mightily expensive, even when they get close.

The glass telephone sign was pretty neat, and I wished I could come up with a place to put it, but until I have my own place again, there’s really no point in stocking up on more stuff. The glass doorknobs were beautiful, reminding me of some I had at my last house. And though I couldn’t think of any use for the balls of thick carpet cord (that’s what the tag says!), I’m pretty sure my crafty cousins would have come up with something.

Amidst the fun of old Star Wars glasses and classic kids’ books, you’ll find terrifying items like this yellow-eyed baby doll. I wouldn’t give it to any child of mine, because they’d probably have nightmares until they were fifty. It reminded me of a booth that used to be in that building, which had a mannequin that was dressed in vintage clothing. But one of my little cousins was scared to death of it, and would have to leave that area, in tears, not willing to even walk by it. I should let him know that it isn’t there anymore.

The wheel that was meant for rubber stamps put me in mind of getting my library book stamped, when I was a child, and of the scenes in The Music Man, where Harold Hill sings to Marian the Librarian, and she ends up stamping his hand, several times.

The old-fashioned rolling tea cart was fun and charming, and the glass table with the bear holding it up made me smile. And the metal lunchboxes and Smurf glasses made me think of my childhood. My grandma collected the Smurf glasses, and we always used them when we visited her in Pennsylvania.

From that very last antique building, there’s a door into a craft section, where local artisans sell their furniture, candles, soap, and many other interesting items. I have as much fun in this section as the previous one, and unlike being at a craft show, I can stick my nose anywhere I want, and not have to worry about talking to the booth owner, since they aren’t in the store.

The old-fashioned crates that they often use to display items, I usually wish they would sell those, too. In my last house, I was always looking for extra shelves for my books, and those crates would have answered admirably. Or they could have displayed other fun items, hiding in different corners of the house.

You can’t live in the south and not appreciate some of the humor that’s always aimed at rednecks. But if you didn’t know it, all rednecks don’t live in the south. Strangely enough, in that section of PA, there are a number of locals that pronounce “fire” as “fahr”. I’ve never figured out why, because it’s the local accent, not just some southerners that came north. You know, like Fayetteville is pronounce “Fattville” by those that are from there. Yep, you’re still in the north!

The candles were the last items that I came across before leaving the store. Some of them had nice names and smelled wonderful. Others had some very strange names. I’m afraid that “Elf Sweat” smells kind of sweet, not necessarily a nice smell, but not quite a bad one either. If Legolas smells like that, I really wonder what he eats when no one’s looking. Some of the other oddly name ones, well, they smelled revolting, so I don’t know why the maker named them that.

I hope you enjoyed my little trip. At the time, I was enjoying having my Canon PowerShot working again, so I could keep it in my pocket, and be unobtrusive, for once. It still takes nice pictures, but I will say that I’ve learned a lot from taking pictures with my Nikon for so long, and I won’t easily revert back to my little camera.

they gave me the boot(s)…

My going-away present from my Aussie family arrived in the mail, today. They’d heard me express an interest in Ugg boots, before leaving, and decided to buy me a pair. So, I got to look at a website for genuine Aussie Uggs, with real wool in them, and have them mailed to me (because I didn’t need any more weight in my suitcases). Taking into account that I don’t really like the look of the tan colored ones, and that the Cardy socks make them look pretty cool, I opted for the chocolate brown color, and I think I chose well.

Some of you may have decided opinions on Ugg boots, and you wouldn’t be the first. When I left for Australia, I hated Uggs, and was determined to never buy a pair. But that was before I learned a bit more about them, and how they’re a part of Aussie culture. My experience with them was that they were an American fad, one that I wished would die out. I’m not even talking about how they don’t really give your feet any support, but seeing pictures of movie stars and regular people wandering around in Uggs of all colors. Well, you can imagine that I was somewhat revolted. I’m not a fad follower, and wasn’t going to become one.

Before you think I’ve changed my mind about fads, please let me reassure you. I still don’t like fads, but my Ugg boots aren’t part of an American fad, they’re a part of the Aussie way of life. Until I arrived in Australia, I had no idea that they were originally Australian, that almost every Aussie had a pair, and that they don’t belong to any particular brand, nor are they trademarked in Australia. The trouble began when an American company bought the original Ugg company, trademarked the name, and then tried to accuse anyone else of using the name to have violated their trademark.

Ugg boots were named that because they’re considered, even by Aussies, to be ugly. They wear them indoors, like anyone else would wear their favorite bedroom or house slippers, and rarely do they wear them outside. Well, I’ve only seen them outside, once, and that person was already in someone else’s house, with their sweatpants tucked into their Uggs. And it was a guy, which was my first clue that Uggs weren’t a fashion statement. I don’t know a single American guy that would be caught dead in them, because of their “fashionable” nature. But Aussie guys (and girls) wear them for comfort, not to look stylin’. I’ve even told some of my friends here in the U.S. that if you see someone outside, in Australia, wearing Uggs… they’re probably American or European.

So, after a year spent Down Under, autumn was about to begin, and those sheepskin boots were making their way back onto shelves. And when I went to Sydney, I saw them in every gift shop in town, and had a good laugh over some of the designs (sequins, anyone?) that you could get them in. I liked the look of some of the ones with laces up the back, though. My thoughts were leaning towards the idea of getting some, eventually, because they were uniquely Australian, and because I would never have to wear them outside the house. Just save them for a winter day, when my feet were extra cold on these tile floors.

After checking out the website, I didn’t like the Uggs with laces as much, but I really liked the ones with the Cardy socks, which are just socks to put on the outside of your boot, and the rest of the sock goes inside the boot. Kind of like a legging for your boot, with no sock toe. The large, cream-colored buttons stand out really nicely against the chocolate color, and look pretty cool, too. But I can still wear my Uggs without them, and you can even fold down the boot to show off the sheep’s wool inside the boot.

Today, they arrived in the mail, and as awesome as they appeared, I started to sweat just from looking at them. Remember, it did get up to almost 90 degrees Fahrenheit, around lunchtime, so I was waiting for it to cool down a little bit before trying them on. So, I experimented with the Cardy socks, folded down the sides of the boots, and felt the soft sheep’s wool inside. And I also liked to see that really obvious label that said “Made in Australia” on the outside. Because as long as I’m getting them because I love things that are Aussie, and for the same reasons that an Aussie would, then I’m okay. There are still no fads for me. If you ever see me outside with these on, it’ll because I was too lazy to take them off (in the winter), when I went to check the mailbox.

And now, I’ve tried them on, and I didn’t get as sweaty as I thought I would. They are so soft and comfortable, it would be delightful to wear them in the winter, or when your town is suffering from a cold snap in spring. The Cardy socks look awesome, and the folded down boot looks a lot like a bedroom slipper. They’re also a good quality make, and will last me for years, seeing as I’m not always freezing cold in the winter, like some of my friends. So, for any of you that think they look comfy, but don’t want to give in to the latest fad, I’ve given you your way out. Enjoy!

a craft from the past…

When I was growing up, every December, we would go to Holiday Fair, in Greenville, SC. In “those days”, the art and handiwork that was on sale was still mostly handmade, though nowadays, this particular show was given in to goods that are cheap and sometimes mass-produced. Hence, we tend to go there to stock up on Southern Supreme fruitcake, because they always have a booth, but not so much for the crafts, anymore.

This isn’t to say that it’s a bad show, in case you’re crossing it off your schedule for this year! It’s still very nice, and not to be despised, as I’m sure there are some real quality craftsmen hiding between the pots-and-pans salesmen. But if anyone can tell us where the majority of the great local artisans are holing up at Christmas, we’d like to know.

But “back in the day”, we visited, and then for several years in a row, we actually went there to sell our own crafts. I say “our”, though my skills were not really behind any of what we sold, but I helped run the booth. It was great fun, though the hours were long, dressing up in your most Christmas-y outfits, and wandering the show, when someone else was manning the booth. I made friends with the other artisans and those running their booths, and could get some interesting conversations going, when they came to ours.

My parents had seen a particular type of angel doll, and decided to make their own. Dad put together all the woodworking parts, Mom sewed up the dresses and cut up the yarn for the hair, and they worked together to put them together. I helped glue the hair on, if I remember correctly.

At the same time, my dad built knick-knack shelves and coat racks (we used the wooden racks to hang our stockings, at Christmas). The racks had holes drilled into the tops, for snowmen. The snowmen were originally created to be free-standing, or to sit on some wooden sleds that my uncle had made. But then we cut the wooden spheres in half, to make half snowmen to go on the coat (or stocking) racks.

According to the dolls’ feet, they were made in 1996, so we would’ve had our own booth at Holiday Fair for several years after that, and at least one year, we went to the Spring Jubilee in Pendleton, too. So, from age 16 to 20, I was dressing up for the show, and helping my parents and my aunt and uncle with our booth.

So, of the dolls and snowman racks that didn’t sell, we took some of them to The Mercantile and some to Mountain Made. And at Mountain Made, some of them have remained ever since. They wrote to us, telling us that there were some left, but we never got the message. Not until I walked into the store, and started talking to the owner, and mentioning that my mom used to sell her dolls there.

A box of five dolls, some of the best my parents had made, were waiting for me to retrieve, and two racks, completely with their snowmen. Yes, one had lost his head, but I found the head in the box, afterwards. Plus an extra snowman, or rather, snowchild. Several of them have bumped noses, so that’ll have to be fixed eventually.

But looking through all of them was quite fun, because of the memories that were surfacing. I didn’t have a lot to do with the making of the dolls, except for gluing on yarn hair. But I helped paint the snowmen, and their hats. I put lots of earmuffs on the snowchildren, tied on neck scarves for the daddies and the children, put on the head scarves for the mommies, and hot-glued them into place. My dad drew all the faces, glued the snowpeople together, and put their noses in. And glued in the pegs, for the half snowmen, so they would attach to the wooden racks.

It was a bit of a family project, you might say, and we still have our own sets of everything that we get out at Christmas. I had my own snowman coat rack, when I was living in Pennsylvania, and I used it regularly. It held all my jackets during spring through fall, and then in the winter, I flipped the rack over, and dug out my half snowmen, to put them up.

And while clearing out the basement, recently, we also found the wood and nails “frame” that my dad used to bend the angel dolls’ wings into that particular shape. Unless I decide to use it to hang jewelry on, we’ll probably donate it. But it’s a fascinating contraption, and I wonder how many people would see it in a thrift store, and wonder what in the world it was used for?

I don’t suppose any of you would be interested in having their own angel doll or row of snowmen? We’re considering putting them on eBay or etsy, so you get first dibs, if you’d like any of them.

what could be better than mountain made?

In my travels down the Square, I came to my other favorite store to visit. Mountain Made is half handmade craft store, half antique store. And in case I’m not describing that well enough, the “crafty” side of the store is where local artisans sell their wares. From canned foodstuffs to toys, from pottery to Christmas ornaments, everything that you would find at a craft show, where everything is handmade, locally.

I admit to drooling whenever I’m around pottery, and I have a deep-set hankering to learn how to do it myself, someday. But that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the skills involved that created all of the other items in the store. Even when a jacket or hand-knit scarf isn’t of a style that I would wear, I can tell that much care (and probably many hours of work) were put into it.

My walk around the store started, as usual, with me going to talk to the owner, wanting to request permission to take photos in their store. Aside from generally being flabbergasted at the request, I’ve never yet had anyone say no. But this conversation began a little differently, as I was trying to tell Mrs. Grossman that I’d been in there before. In fact, that they used to sell some dolls that my mom had made. But she was looking confused, until I mentioned that the dolls had blocky, wooden feet, and then she said, “Oh, the angels!”. I had forgotten they had angel wings, too.

So, aside from my usual conversation about photos, I got sidetracked into finding that they’d had my mom’s dolls in storage for years, because somehow the letter had gone astray, saying that they had some left. Also, some snowman shelves. I’ll put this in a later post, but I did walk out of the store, looking like I’d bought a huge bunch of things, when I was actually reclaiming some handiwork from years ago.

Also during that conversation, I found that Mrs. Grossman actually knew my older brother, back to when he was taking life-guarding courses in high school. She was his instructor, and had kids in the grades between my brother and I. So, that was an interesting chat, as he graduated in ’95, and she hasn’t seen him in a “few” years.

I continued to putz around the store, paying more attention to some things than I normally would have. I don’t really have an “artist’s eye” for seeing the best way to photograph something, but at the very least, you have to pay attention to what’s around you. I look for anything and everything that’s interesting, and I find things that are interesting, even when I might not buy it for myself. That doesn’t make it any less fascinating, that such intricate care was put into all of these items.

The toy section is one of my favorites, as I’d love to get those letter trains, when I have children of my own. I could spend a long time looking at the neat little quilted stuffed animals, and many more things of this type. Just because you don’t have kids or you’re not working with them anymore (for the time being) doesn’t mean you can’t pay attention to toys. I have little cousins with birthdays a-comin’, you know.

Then, I took a step up into the next room, and wandered back to look at the antiques. This small store has competition from several local antique stores, but I think the combination of handmade crafts on the other side, and the small room that’s easy to make your way around, works well. There are several large shelves of books, and I have to resist looking, because prices can vary, and I have a hard time saying no to a fascinating tome.

I thought the little toy fort, with it’s plastic cowboys and Indians, as well as a plastic moose, was a great find. I don’t recall seeing one quite like it before. I’m not certain whether the little figurines are Hummels or Berta Hummels (there’s a difference), but they’re still adorable. A store like this can be a treasure trove, if you just look carefully. I’ve heard of weddings where centerpieces were made of old books. The furniture can be just as interesting as the items placed on them.

Eventually, I had to resurface, sooner than I wanted, because nature was calling, and I still had to go retrieve my car from The Mercantile’s parking area. I was not carrying the angel dolls or the snowman shelves down the street. Once the car was loaded, I headed for home, to surprise my family with my haul. But more on that, later. You’ll have to drop by again, if you want to see them.

visiting a piece of my childhood…

After my visit to the Clemson University campus, I thought it was time to go to another old stamping ground of mine, located in Pendleton, the next town over from us. It’s home to a number of historical buildings that you can tour, but the place my family always heads for is Pendleton Square. I’ll post photos of the Square itself, later, but it really is an old-fashioned Square with shops on all four sides.

One of these stores, The Mercantile, is owned by friends of our family. In fact, my grandfather knew the owner, Bill Earl, before he even met my grandmother. So, their friendship could be dated back to the 1940’s. We all knew each other, when I was a child in Alfred, NY, and then when my family decided to relocate to South Carolina, the Earls had already beaten us there.

From the age of eight, and on, I remember going to visit their store, and taking an interest in the things that you would expect. They had puppets, toys, and Boyds Bears (both stuffed and figurines), as well as rows and rows of candy, in old-fashioned jars. We would save up our allowances to buy rock candy, button candy, Sour Patch Kids, nonpareils, and anything else that struck our fancy.

When I was older, I would save my allowance for a longer stretch of time, in order to buy a dragon puppet that I had wanted for… well, it seemed like forever. I still have that puppet, and I’ve never seen another like him. My mom and I both went through a period of time where we collected Boyds Bears, the resin figurines, and I spent a lot of money in that section, over the years. Eventually, The Mercantile phased out their Boyds section, but I wasn’t royally upset, as my interest was starting to wane. There were still many more things there that I was interested in.

And then there were the rubber stamps. When I was little, their rubber stamp collection was not as large, and they hadn’t expanded into so many other craft areas. My brothers and I all would buy rubber stamps and ink pads to decorate paper or to make cards. I had the largest collection of stamps in our family, as well as a lot of containers of different colored emboss, and an embossing gun, to go with it.

If you’re not familiar with rubber stamping and embossing, then let me explain. Instead of using a colored ink pad, you would use a special clear embossing pad, thoroughly coat your stamp with the ink, and then firmly press it onto paper. Then, you open your container of emboss (gold, silver, or any color you please), and pour it onto the ink. Carefully picking up your paper, you pour the excess powder back into a container, and the design now shows up beautifully, with the powder stuck to the ink. Then, you get out your embossing gun, which is similar to a hot glue gun, but with a heating element like in a hair dryer. Aiming it carefully at your powdery design, you move it around until the embossing powder melts. Once the whole design has melted, it will be permanently affixed to your paper.

In later years, I remember one Christmas where we actually made all our Christmas cards, and I don’t know how many designs I embossed onto cards. When that was finished, I wore out several special pens, that I used to color in between the lines. It’s a lot easier than regular coloring, with embossed outlines that are easy to stop at.

Over the years, while my Boyds and stamping interests lessened, The Mercantile expanded their craft section, especially the rubber stamps, and started giving classes on every craft imaginable, and some that I hadn’t imagined. When I went to visit them, the other day, they were having a jewelry class, where they were working on a Viking Braid, which involves making a wire design, and then creating a similar design inside of the first. I’m not sure how it’s done, but it looked both beautiful and fun.

When I was eighteen, I worked at The Mercantile over Christmas vacation, and though it was only for about two weeks, the Earls’ son-in-law took the time to teach me to drink coffee. Now, my family has always had several coffee drinkers, but I’d never taken to it, because I can’t drink the coffee without sugar. But The Mercantile sells flavored coffee, and my coffee teacher assured me that I just hadn’t put the right amount of sugar into it. So, he poured me a wonderful flavor (I don’t remember what it was), and loaded it down with sugar and cream. And I’ve never looked back.

They always have a coffee sample container out, so I always get one, when I come to visit. And I always visit, even when I’ve been living several states away. Because wherever I moved to, whenever I would come home, The Mercantile was on my list of places to go, right after I arrived. I would pop in to have a good wander around, and have a good chat with whoever was working that day. I’ve had many good chats with Mr. Earl, keeping him up-to-date with the doings of my family, and he would do the same for me, concerning his family. He knew all of my parents’ generation, when they were younger, so I can tell him who has grandchildren, who got married, and so many other things.

Of all my brothers, who also enjoyed going there for candy, when we were younger, my youngest brother is the only one that continues to come in, now and again. But unlike me, who wants to catch up and see everything that’s new and everything that’s the same, Joe comes to go jewelry shopping.

When he was in his teens, and still looking at the toys and candy, Joe discovered that The Mercantile sells beautiful jewelry, and that it’s classier than the stuff you’ll find at Claire’s (that’s an American youth-aimed jewelry shop). Also, that it’s not extremely expensive. So, he began to buy earrings for my mom and me, for birthdays and for Christmas. He knew he had found a good thing, and he stuck with it. As the years went by, he also found out that the jewelry displays in the back of The Mercantile, by the work table for the craft classes, are not for sale, but you can ask them to make you one of them. In other words, he can commission them to make jewelry, from a wide selection of gorgeous samples. Oh, the possibilities are endless.

So, I wandered through the same building that I’ve been visiting since I was a little girl. I bought people Christmas presents there, and bought many things for myself. I marveled that Terri Earl could come up with so many amazing designs with rubber stamps, but I always stuck to the simplest designs. I wished that I could take every class they had, but never found the time to take one. And still, I always come back. Because they make you feel welcome, whether they know you or not, you feel at home immediately, and what they sell and craft are both beautiful and unique.

Also, I still come back for the candy. For those of my Aussie friends who remember me trying to tell them the perfect three candies to eat together… and then I drew a complete blank, here they are. Semi-sweet chocolate nonpareils (not milk chocolate or dark chocolate), Swedish Fish, and Sour Patch Kids. The combination of chocolate with something sweet and something sour is absolutely perfect. The only way to make it better would be to eat pretzels with it, and add in the salty element. When I was a child, I’d come in and get a half pound of each, but now, I buy their small bags with a dollar’s worth of candy in it. Just a little bit, not overdoing it any. Since I’ve been eating this combination since I was ten, or less, I think I can say that I know what I’m talking about.

If you’re ever in Pendleton, and you haven’t visited the Square, then you should. Over the next few days, I’ll be showing pictures of the Square itself, as well as another favorite store, Mountain Made, and a surprising discovery that I made there. I didn’t have time to go into the antique stores, that are on the corner of the Square. Take the time to visit and you won’t be disappointed!

Paddy’s Markets, Darling Harbour, & the Museum of Sydney…

Wednesday, April 4

I think I’m finally getting the hang of the bus and train system. Maybe if I spent a week in NYC by myself, I’d figure it out, too. But for the time being, I will just be grateful that I can get from my residence to the bus, and then take that to Railway Square.

Instead of hurrying across two large lanes of traffic, I made my way into another Gloria Jean’s for coffee and a muffin. What leisure, to not worry about buses anymore! Then Laura and I met in front of Hungry Jack’s again, and headed for Paddy’s Markets.

I guess you could say the Markets are the giant flea market that resides in China Town, and has everything from regular stores on the second floor to fruits and vegetables downstairs, along with all the Sydney souvenirs. After waffling about it, I finally decided to go ahead and get a bunch of Sydney goodies, and then not have to get so much stuff on Friday. Besides, what if I didn’t get around to coming back?

After the Markets, we continued through Chinatown, where I’m still debating over what that sculpture/tree thing is supposed to be. I didn’t get close enough to see it, but at a distance, it looks like a cross between a tree and a giant gold hand. You decide.

As for myself, I can now claim to have bought a wombat in Sydney’s Chinatown. How many others can make that claim? Yes, it’s a stuffed toy, not a product of taxidermy, and it’s just for me. Besides, people at home will probably think it’s a bear, but I’ve read enough of Diary of a Wombat and The Muddleheaded Wombat to see how cute they are. Of course, if I had one digging in my yard, I might not think that. I was considering the one that’s bigger than Sadie, but I decided it would be hard to fit it into a suitcase… even by itself.  : )

We arrived at Darling Harbour, and took a look around, but didn’t stop to do very much besides take pictures. As you’ll see, Titanic 3D is playing in IMAX, but I wasn’t really up for watching it.

The fountain of cranes was quite lovely and fun. And the pedestrian bridge was a good way to get up and see everything. But though I could see the Aquarium, the Maritime Museum, and WILDLIFE Sydney from the bridge, we didn’t go to visit any of them.

We took the Monorail back to the vicinity of the Botanical Gardens, because I wanted to see the ANZAC Memorial. I saw the Memorial Park in Townsville, and had heard that the Memorial in Sydney was something to see, also. Perhaps they were talking about the one in Canberra, but since I didn’t have time to go there, I went to the Sydney one, instead.

On the way, we came across St. Mary’s Cathedral, which has a fountain in front of it, full of Greek gods. At least, I’m assuming they’re Greek, because none of them were dressed, and I think Roman gods would’ve worn animal skins or something. These statues didn’t even have strategically placed maple leaves, like in the Botanic Gardens, though, so there won’t be any close-ups.

By the way, can anyone tell me why naked statues in Sydney have those maple leaves, when Australia doesn’t even have maples? Then again, a eucalyptus leaf wouldn’t quite… ahem… cover the problem.

My favorite part of the fountain was the spitting turtles. There were also spitting fish, but they weren’t quite as cute, kind of scary-looking, actually.

After St. Mary’s Cathedral, where a wedding photo shoot was taking place, we walked down and attempted to get a look at the Coca-Cola sign at King’s Cross. Unfortunately, it was too far away to see clearly. We turned around, got a good look at the Tower Eye, the highest point in Sydney, which was definitely towering over us. For some reason, I keep wanting to call it Centerpoint Station, as in the Star Wars books. Maybe somebody called it that, accidentally, when they were with me? I can’t figure it out. Then, we crossed the park, nodding to the statue of Captain Cook, as we passed.

The next stop was the ANZAC Memorial, but I’m going to save that for another post. Remembering the sacrifices of “our boys”, no matter what country you come from… it shouldn’t be trivialized by including it with my tourism tales.

After the Memorial, I stopped at a Starbucks for lunch, where I had my first Caramel Macchiato in almost a year. Along with a thoroughly Aussie sausage roll and scone. The way I hear it, Starbucks used to have a bigger presence in AUS, but I’m not sure if the company overreached, or if there was too much competition. Whatever happened, they crashed and burned in Australia, leaving only a few of them in the big cities. After walking all over Sydney, though, I would say that they’re still maintaining a presence.

I finally located the Museum of Sydney, which was built on the foundations of the first Government House. If you remember the pictures of the dollhouse castle from the Botanic Gardens post, the original building was more like a very, very large plantation house. Ok, I’m not really slamming the new Gov’t House. I’m sure it looks bigger inside.

You can’t take pictures inside the museum, but there’s more to the outside of the place than you first realize. At one point, the ruins of the old House were in danger of being paved over and they were debating how to preserve their history, without closing off streets completely.

The compromise was reached when steel studs and white granite were used on the front area, to mark where the foundations lay. The granite slab that’s slanted up from the rest, it’s like that so people can see the original foundations through a glass, there. The upstanding logs are a piece of artwork to commemorate how the Aboriginals of the area first saw the First Fleet when they landed.

Inside, I wandered all over, especially enjoying the black and white films that told me what that dinky little fort was, out in Sydney Harbour. It’s Fort Denison, once called Pinchgut, and occasionally used to hang convicts that had really overstayed their welcome, even in Australia. It’s another example of how perspective can affect a location, as in my opinions of the size of Government House. Fort Denison looks like it’s about the size of my bedroom, compared to Sydney Harbour, and sitting in the shadow of the Harbour Bridge. But it’s actually quite big inside, even though it was never used for defense of the Harbour.

Another video told all about the building of the Harbour Bridge, though the narrator sounded like he was bored, from start to finish. Thankfully, the subject was quite interesting, to start with, so I didn’t let the narrator put me off. And seeing the videos of the area, before the Sydney Opera House was built, was fascinating, too.

Upstairs, I did better reading up on the history of people I had already heard about. I thought Lachlan and Elizabeth MacQuarie looked like a nice couple. He was one of the first governors, and she was interested in improving the culture and society. Even for a painting that’s really old, he was quite handsome. For those Americans who don’t know, there are tons of locations named after MacQuarie, as he was here early enough to name them all himself.

Also, there was a section on Jørn Utzon and several scale models of the Opera House, including the sphere that he used to illustrate how creating the “shells” of the House would be actually possible. The other architects and engineers had finally deemed it impossible, until Utzon stepped back into the picture. His explanation made it look like child’s play, both literally and figuratively, as the scale models looked like a set of children’s blocks.

The gift shop in the Museum of Sydney was quite fun, with all sorts of neat toys and interesting decorations, as well as gifts designed to go with the World War II display, upstairs. Talking about the Home Front in Wartime Sydney, there were many displays about what the women had to do while their men were away. The video also mentioned the arrival of American troops, and how they had to try and get along with the Sydneysiders.

I even bought one of the replica books that the Americans were provided, that explained a bit of what Australia was like and what to expect while they were there. I’ve only skimmed it, but it explains cricket and the size of the country to the bewildered American boys. Of course, that book was written before Hawaii and Alaska became states, so they could say that our countries were about the same size.

Yes, I find all the reminders on the roads, to look right, quite amusing and helpful. I’ve been here long enough to remember which way to look, but I think there are plenty of tourists who would get run over, without these reminders.

Then, I took in the view from the train station at Circular Quay, and went back to Newtown to look over my tourist treasures. No, I don’t know who I’m giving what, yet. I bought a wild array of things at Paddy’s Markets, for good prices, and I plan to decide on who gets what, when I get home. Because, remember, I’m also bringing home gifts that I’ve been buying for a year, so I’ve forgotten half of what I have.

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!

kennedy & grace…

There must be some special etiquette for taking pictures inside of stores, but I don’t really know what it is. I’m assuming that many people use their iPhones to take pictures as they go about their business, permitted or not. But since I don’t have a fancy phone that allows you to be subtle, I have to stick with my camera. In fact, since the zoom froze on my Canon, I haven’t used it for anything at all, so I have to take pictures with my Nikon. That isn’t a bad thing, mind you, but “subtle” doesn’t exactly describe a Nikon camera.

So, on this beautiful Saturday, to escape my room and prove that I haven’t completely wasted my Saturday (Does washing a comforter that a cat pooped on count as being constructive? Or do I mean productive? I forget.), I went to get some food, and then wandered into some stores. Because nothing’s as constructive/productive as shopping, right?  : )

After a long conversation in the Highland Homewares store with some people I knew, as well as spending a long time debating over some perfume (my arms now come in four scents!), I hurried to one last little shop, right before they closed. The early hours that most of these stores close at had caught up with me, as it was just 1pm. Then I noticed some new furniture sitting next door, and went to investigate. And I discovered the store, Kennedy & Grace.

Their business card reads Kennedy & Grace, Interiors. Does that just mean Interior Design? It certainly carried everything required to make the interior of your home look delightful. My first impression, design-wise, was that the store seemed to be a cross between a haven for some fun, modern decor, as well as some antique-y looking items. The colors, the variety, the mix of old and new, the cool factor! It had it all! I immediately wished that my cousin Sarah and several other of my friends could come and check it out. I also wished I could buy a bunch of items and bring them home, but the total amount, money and weight-wise, would probably incapacitate my bank account and my suitcase.

Now, I just happened to have my camera in my purse. Contrary to popular belief, I don’t actually carry it everywhere, and I don’t take pictures constantly. And not being as brave as some people take me for, I decided to go out on a limb and ask permission to take some pictures of a few things inside the store. Because, in the absence of the knowledge of etiquette (if there is any for this), you dig through your reservoir of good manners, and apply the correct one. In this case, politely asking permission to take pictures, for use on my blog. To my great happiness, the owner told me to go right ahead, so I had at it.

There’s a lot of fabric in their store, and I believe they will upholster whatever you like, or maybe just their particular design in couch. I wasn’t doing a newspaper article, so I wasn’t asking lots of questions. The fabric section made me again wish for some of my crafty friends, and I thought the signs and Audrey Hepburn pillows would be a delight to some others’ hearts.

As for me, I fell in love with the haphazard-looking bookshelf in the room with the red chandelier (but then, when do I not fall in love with bookshelves?), as well as the flower lamps. I may still return for those bend-and-twist-how-you-like lotus flower lamps, before I leave Australia. The Victoria hat rack was another favorite of mine, but I’m really going to need a hat rack for my two Akubras, and that one won’t be big enough. Le sigh.

At first glance, I thought the large letters on the walls and shelves were made of wood, but on closer examination, I found them to be very sturdy, not very heavy, and made of metal. Oh, I’m tempted. I’m in love with the lockers, up at the front of the store, but even if someone hadn’t already reserved them, I’d have trouble putting them into my luggage. And if I were a pillow person, I’d love to take one of those Great Southern pillows home with me, but unfortunately (or fortunately for my suitcase), I’m not. The only pillows I ever buy are extremely soft and huggable, as my friends will tell you.

I didn’t end up buying anything, but I certainly plan to return there, many times, before returning to the U.S.  It’ll be nice to see what they have on display, after Valentine’s Day, as I’m not really in the market for any LOVE signs right now. I would like to take the lotus flower lamp home, at the very least, but we’ll see what else I end up with. And I hope some of my local friends will discover this lovely store, too, so that Kennedy  Grace will stick around, in Emerald, for a long time!