Once Upon a Sydney: Featherdale

Welcome to Featherdale

Featherdale Wildlife Park, Sydney, Australia http://www.featherdale.com.au/

Observed at the Featherdale Wildlife Park, April 2014

This gaggle of girls have all come from the nearby girls’ school.
An annual migration.
They hold papers to fill out when traveling from site to site but
instead
they are very concerned with the shiny trinkets held in their
palms.
Chattering all at once
It takes specialized study to understand their unique language
J’yaknowwhatimean
So basically
Yeah! (pronounced in three syllables)
Anywayz (pronounced with a zed)
I know-oooooh
It all seems to center around discussion of their opposite gender
The only thing I can make out is that Ian is so cute
And Straight Hair is the queen bee, able to bring the rippling laughter to a crescendo
or a pause.
Pause.
Whatever, Frizzled Hair.
That was Not Funny.

And here’s a family unit,
from Hong Kong, judging by their sounds.
The two appear a couple, with the eldest the female’s mom.
Let’s call her ‘Grandma.’
Grandma moves slowly, in a shuffle, her arms at her sides,
but her face is wide and bright, taking in the wonders of her environment
with a pursed smile and twinkled wrinkled eyes
Notice her body jump as much as it is able when allowed to touch
the koala.
Has she ever experienced anything like this in 87 years?

Another trio, all female. The largest is quite tall for her species.
And overweight.
She is the matron, she speaks with authority about all they
encounter
Whether it is right or not, her voice declares she has seen it all
before.
The same voice directs her daughter from afar,
Instructing her in the best way to feed the wallabies
from a stale ice cream cone of alfalfa purchased from a vending
machine.
Homo Americanus.

Over there, that’s Molly.
Notice her long red hair but vacant eyes.
Her colors are the typical green polo and khaki of Featherdale
staff.
She carries an armload of eucalyptus branches, obviously meant
for the Koala exhibit.
Behind that tired expression is the drudging patience of daily
routine.
She likes animals, she does.
It pays for university.
If only there weren’t so many other humans in her territory

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Travel Tips: The Number One Mindset You Must Be In When You Travel

from: Google Images Time Life Archive; Long Island, NY, US (1939) Photographer: David E. Scherman

from: Google Images Time Life Archive; Long Island, NY, US (1939) Photographer: David E. Scherman

Before I tell you my secret that will help you stop worrying and enjoy the travel experience, I have to ask: How do you travel?

Are you like, say, Herman and Wanda? The ones who have a list of things on his agenda, and they angrily hush the youngest of the family because no, it’s not time to eat yet, and yes, they still have to go through the free museum tour and, besides, the restaurants outside the museum are too expensive anyway?

Or maybe you’re like, perhaps, a Chason and Abby? Holding each other tight, they pose for a two-person selfie while trying to get the museum facade in the frame at the same time? They’re holding the ice cream they bought from the cart a few feet away, not because they were hungry, but it’s hot and that gelato looked really good, didn’t it?

The truth is that we’re all somewhere in the middle, right? But regardless of where you are in the spectrum, there is one thing I guarantee you will ALL fall victim of. It’s unavoidable. It happens whenever you travel, but if you can get your head around it, and accept it, you will be able to find joy in any travel situation.

The thing is, EVERYONE will have to pay a Stupid Tax.

A Stupid Tax is, obviously, any extra money that you will have to pay because you are stupid. And you must humble yourself– you WILL be doing stupid things when you travel. You are not smart about that area, because you just traveled there. There is no way you can be 100% smart about the area, and any percentage you fall short will be your Stupid Tax.

You tipped the taxi driver too much? 5% Stupid Tax.

Didn’t realize you had to pay for bread at the table? 3% Stupid Tax.

You tried bargaining in the market, and still feel like you paid too much? Heck, that could be upwards of 25-30% Stupid Tax.

Chason and Abby (remember them?) paid extra for the gelato at the cart when they could have walked a bit more and found a convenience store, if they really wanted the ice cream at all. It’s all just Stupid Tax, automatically added to your bill.

There are non-monetary ways the Stupid Tax will affect you, too. If you fail to take the direct line with Bus 310 and instead take Bus 278 with transfers to 51 and 32, that could be a problem with some extra Stupid Tax fare, but it might be felt more acutely because of the tax on your time and patience. Herman and Wanda, above, are finding their Stupid Tax in the form of frustration and family tension.

So, if Stupid Tax is unavoidable, how can you have a pleasant travel experience?

The key is to develop this mindset: Do your best to avoid unnecessary Stupid Tax, but be ready to accept it when it comes.

Look at those examples I listed above. These are not bad things, necessarily. Tipping, bread, any sort of bargain at the market, ice cream…

If you are too much like Chason and Abby, then you’ll end up losing a lot more money than you’d prepared, and that will actually end up limiting your options. But if you try to overcompensate, you are too much like Herman and Wanda, and then you’ll end up being paranoid and miss out on opportunities when they come.

For my own example, in my recent trip to Sydney, I researched the kinds of public transport options I would need ahead of time. I was sure that what I would need would be a MyMulti One ticket. On arrival, I asked the subway attendant about the options, and confirmed my decision. After all, I reasoned, I would not be using the ferries very much, and that was what made the difference between a MyMulti 1 and 2. However, as the week went on, I did find myself using the ferries more than I had planned, and so I would have saved money with a MyMulti 2 in the first place. The difference wasn’t terribly significant, but it was definitely a Stupid Tax that I could have spend on something else. I could either stress about it and regret that I didn’t do my homework good enough, or I could accept the loss of a bit of money as “Stupid Tax happens” and continue to enjoy my trip.

I definitely recommend the latter option.

Australian Fairy Bread for Grown-Ups

Quick, name one staple of authentic Australian cuisine!

I’m sure that for most people, it might be things like Vegemite, barbeque steak or prawns, pavlova, or, heck, even meat pies. For me, however, I’ll name something that, if you are not a Down Underling, you won’t recognize. But if you ARE a fair dinkum Aussie, hearing its name will produce an unconscious smile and a wistful expression… In case you couldn’t tell from the title of this article, I’m talking of course about Fairy Bread.

australian fairy bread

The name of which, of course, makes me laugh. The food is really so simple, the recipe as simple as you can get — sliced white bread with butter covered in rainbow sprinkles (a.k.a. “hundreds and thousands.”) That this ultra-simple dessert could be universally recognized and beloved throughout an entire continent is funny to me. So why do Aussies everywhere respond to the words “fairy bread” with smiles and a chuckle? Because fairy bread is pretty much a feature on any kid’s table for his or her birthday party. And why not? Starch, fat, and sugar– your basic food groups for young kids! It’s caught up in the same Edenic memories of running in the yard with friends, batting at balloons, and opening brightly-wrapped presents.

But as always, I want to mix and play with recipes to see how basic recipes mix and match with new things and new ideas. Is there a Fairy Bread for grown ups? I apologize in advance for the Fairy Bread purists out there. I know, I know– nothing can beat that bland starchy goodness of plain white bread smothered in greasy blobs of margarine and dotted with crunchy sugar. But the world is a bit more complex nowadays, with a lot of new experiences that take our initial understanding and build onto it for new and exciting, richer and more complex thoughts. Isn’t that what growing up is all about?

Here’s my attempt at Fairy Bread For Grown-Ups. You may not have a birthday party with donkey tails being pinned, but you may have an afternoon tea or coffee soon with a new chapter of that novel you’ve been reading, and this side will go great with that.


 

Fairy Bread for Grown-Ups

Ingredients:

Cracked-wheat bread (or other complex, nutty bread)
Honey Butter
… 3/4 cup butter, unsalted and softened
… 1/4 cup honey
… 1 1/2 teaspoon rose syrup
Rainbow sprinkles (“Hundreds and Thousands”)
Sea salt
Nutmeg

Step One: Honey Butter

1) Soften the butter to room temperature. Whip the butter until it’s creamy with a hand mixer.
2) Mix in honey and rose syrup.

Step Two: Toast

Slice the bread into thick slices. Toast until brown, but allow to cool a bit or you’ll lose the nice pillows of yellow when buttering them. Scones are good, too!

Step Three: Top it off!

Butter the toast, then crack the sea salt over them. Sprinkle with nutmeg and, of course, the hundreds-and-thousands (just a pinch! These are more for show because the sweetness of the honey butter.)


 

My thoughts have turned to Australia, since this past week I had the opportunity to return to Sydney for my Spring Break. It was actually my third time there and each time I think I find some new way to love the city. Must be something about my love of metropolises (metropoli?). As with my trip to London last summer, I tried to explore some of the farmer-ish markets about town, but my timing was a bit off as they are likely more on the weekends and that turned out to be a bit inconvenient. You gotta hand it to the Rocks, though. There, I did find some nice specialized tea and some natural honey.

With honey in hand and memories of fairy bread in my head, I wondered if the honey held the clue to making my grown-up recipe. Obviously, some bakery-fresh bread was called for, but there was something else that I wanted to help make it a bit more ethereal, a bit more fairy-like, more nature-y. That’s when the rose water came to mind, and I picked up a bottle of Monin’s brand syrup.

I really loved the end result. And why not– it’s still starch, fat, and sugar, right? Obviously, you will have a lot of left over honey butter with this one, so adjust accordingly if you wish. Also, I love the crunch of the sea salt when it’s sprinkled on top, the way it mixes with the sugar and blends in your mouth, but you might like to use salted butter or to add the salt when creaming the ingredients together, instead.

I hope you get a chance to try the grown-up version, but if you’re in a pinch, why not try the basic version? In my imaginings, I’m picturing some stressed-out mom nearly collapsing on the kitchen counter while the children at the party are yelling and banging pans in the next room. With an exasperated sigh, she just grabs the bread and butter that’s always on hand, and some rainbow sprinkles that have been in the cupboard since last Easter– the last-ditch effort to appease the li’l beasts. Surprisingly, it works, and all the other moms are so impressed with the simplicity and ingenuity that it becomes part of the Australian cookbook lexicon.

Trust me, if you have an Australian in your midst, bring some fairy bread to your next potluck and you will bring the kinship to a whole new level.