Thursday, December 30, 2010


Australia has its fair share of spiders and a lot of them are quite nasty.
We have in our area the funnel-web and redback whose bites can be lethal. The white tail and mouse spiders are not too pleasant either.
But we don't see too many of these on a daily basis.

The black house spider is however quite prevalent. It prefers dry habitat areas and secluded locations and is commonly found in window framing, under eaves, gutters, in brickwork, sheds, car ports and among rocks and bark. Electric lights attract their main food source of moths, flies, mosquitoes and other insects so they tend to congregate on our front and back verandahs as well as in the garage. Their bites can be painful but not lethal.

The St. Andrews Cross spider is also common. This spider with its brown and yellow striped markings is a web-weaver usually found in summer in garden areas around the home. It is considered beneficial as it spins a large web to snare flying insects, such as flies and mosquitoes. They are non toxic and non aggressive. There are a lot of these in the vineyard.
An adult Huntsman spider may have a body length of up to 20 mm. It's the diameter including legs may reach 45 mm. The first 2 pairs of legs are longer than rear two. This spider is hairy, buff to beige brown colour, with dark patches on it's body.

The spider prefers to live under the flaking bark of trees, under flat rocks and under eaves or within roof spaces of buildings.
It often wanders into homes and is found perched on a wall. They are shy, timid spiders able to move sideways at lighting-fast speed. We usually 'relocate' the ones we find inside.
We always have plenty of these around.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Why is the Surf SO Cold?

It's almost mid December.
It's summer.
Daytime temperatures are getting up into the high 20s.
Then why is the ocean so cold? Jumping into 15-16 degree water is no fun.
This is winter stuff.
Finally we had an explanation from my surf report web site today. report that "The coldest water is pretty much isolated between the mid north coast (around Port Macquarie) and the south coast (Eden/Bateman’s Bay) anomalous to what we expect for summer and a La Nina season.
This summer is not living up to its reputation. We have just endured the wettest spring on record, the wettest start to summer, and sea surface temperatures have been fluctuating around 16-17 degrees(DECC, MHL) during the last week of November and the first few weeks of December, the lowest recorded temperature was below 15 degrees. The East Australian Current travels south down the east coast sending warm water down to Tasmanian waters from QLD, however BOM sea surface maps show the current is flicking offshore just south of Port Macquarie transporting warm water offshore.
During La Nina cycles the east coast of Australia is expected to experience warmer wetter conditions and persistent onshore winds. Relentless ENE and NE winds blowing at a parallel angle to the coast drive ocean currents south and offshore, due to the Coriolis Force. The centrifugal motion of the Coriolis effect causes water to move to counter-clockwise in the southern hemisphere i.e. away from the coast.
Persistent onshore wind conditions result in Ekman transport, the term for when surface water is pushed away at the ocean surface and is then replaced by colder water from the depths offshore."
So there you have it.
We can only wait and hope.
Meanwhile it's fun to watch the newly arrived tourists running down the beach for their first plunge of their holiday....and then obviously wishing they hadn't.

Friday, December 10, 2010


I love books.
Reading has always been a passion. So much to learn, so little time.
Nothing like the smell of a bookshop and especially a newly opened book.
But books are really expensive in Australia due to Parallel Import Restrictions (PIR's).
Under the PIRs, if a novel or textbook is published in Australia within a certain time limit of it being published elsewhere in the world, booksellers cannot import and sell stocks of the same book from UK, the US or Asia. This enables rights holders to charge prices (or obtain royalties) in the Australian market with the certainty that they cannot be undercut by commercial quantities of imports of the same titles.
This means in the USA, the same book can be 50% or more cheaper than in Australia. Needless to say when we are in the USA, we stock up to our airline baggage allowance limit.

Then there is
Both the co driver and I keep a running list of books that we are interested in. These are usually gleaned from reviews, references in other books, author interviews on TV, web sites and word of mouth.
When we have a sufficient amount, we order from Amazon. Ten or more books including airfreight costs are still around 50% cheaper than we can get here. The near parity $A/$US exchange rate is also a help.
The government is not interested in collecting tax on such small value imports (they have a $1000 limit) so that saves us another 10%.
Our last shipment arrived yesterday. It is always like Christmas opening the box.
And that smell!
Can't wait to get started on them!

Monday, December 06, 2010

The Daughter's Italy / Part 1

Italy. My credit card’s Achilles’ Heel but always and forever my happy place. Numerous visits to the home of creamy gelato, heavenly pizzas, rolling Tuscan hills, azure seas and lecherous men have not quelled my fascination and love for a country that lies 14,000km from my home.

I barely speak the language. "Non parlo molto Italiano" is my favourite Italian phrase and get-out-of-jail-free card (see lecherous men above). I don’t seem to actually do all that much when I am there apart from shop for beautiful handbags, drink wine and meander around the countryside…. Oh… and I eat…
I eat A LOT in Italy. One afternoon after a third Nocciola gelato (hazelnut ice-cream) I pondered how many gelatos a day was considered excessive. I mean – you have to have one mid-morning to quash those hunger pangs as you peruse the shops (glorious lunchtime aromas of garlic, oregano and basil start wafting through the air – it’s a killer). Then comes the post lunch gelato – always a must – you need to help all that pasta, cheese and bread digest don’t you? Last, but definitely not least is the post dinner gelato. This is enjoyed while practicing the art of "la passeggiata". This is a great evening ritual in Italy. Everyone strolls gently (slow! think slow!) through the main streets of the old town. Italians tend to dress up in their latest designer gear (seriously though, when don’t they dress up??) and tourists are usually easy to spot in their dusty jeans and Converse (yes, me). I love that la passeggiata is where budding romances are displayed as well as newly purchased shoes and handbags. So, after some lengthy consideration I have come to the conclusion that 3 gelatos are just right (because anymore would be just plain greedy – right????).

Friday, December 03, 2010

Introducing a Guest Blogger

It's still raining here. Most outside activity has been put on hold. This means blog subjects are a little hard to come by.
But there is a solution at hand. The daughter has just completed a five week tour of Italy and France and has offered to share some of the highlights.
Here's what she originally wrote in the offer to help her old man out:
I’m not going to lie to you. I am the first to admit that the idea was not very original – especially since it came to me while flicking through a copy of 'Eat, Pray, Love'. I thought to myself “If you could go anywhere in the world this very second, someplace that would make your heart sing and your lips smile wide - where would you go?”.
Without a moment of hesitation, the answer came to me.
One word. Three syllables. Italy.
So now she is busy writing her story. I have seen the pictures and now wait expectantly for the tales behind them.
Hope you will all enjoy them too.