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So we got the jump on Canada Day this year, being 14 hours ahead of our friends in Ontario 🙂 We went to our fellow Canadian ex-pat friends’ place for dinner and they hosted another amazing evening! Rob got us started with homemade Caesars:

You can’t get Clamato in Australia (can you get it anywhere outside of Canada??) so Rob has perfected a concoction that rivals any Caesar I’ve had! He buys a Caesar mix from an online store in Australia that sells Canadian stuff and mixes it with spicy V8 (he even saved an old Clamato bottle so he can mix it in there like one would an oak cask for wine :)). He then added lots of veggies – celery, olives, hot peppers – and a nice Aussie twist of fresh shrimp! DELISH!!

For dessert, Barb made these absolutely delicious butter tarts (another item that can’t generally be found outside of Canada):

As many of you know, Hugh and I are always seeking butter tart perfection and I have to say – Barb knocked it out of the park!

At one of our going-away parties, our friend Liz packed a supply of Canadiana for us so we brought it all out last night – hats, socks, necklaces, Canadian flag toothpicks (we put them in the butter tarts above as well as in the cheese and cracker appetizers), napkins, you name it!

Rob and Barb decorated for the occasion as well:

Rob also played an all-Canadian music set list with so many of our favourite Canadian bands. A really wonderful evening!

I understand that the smoke is still pretty thick in the Hamilton area, but hopefully the temperatures have been warm anyway. Here, we are in the beginning of a week of much cooler temperatures (we are in the dead of winter, after all). Yesterday Hugh got up before 7am to get to a garage sale to find some tools and the house was FREEZING. He had to wear long pants for the first time in the 2 months we’ve been here – he was not happy about it:

Fortunately the cold just impacts the evenings and mornings and you can still be out in shorts and T-shirts throughout the day. But we did have to learn the air con / heat systems in our new house (in keeping with the Aussie tendency to use short forms for everything, no one says air conditioning here, it’s always “air con”). Most houses that have air con here have what is called a “split system” – there is a unit that you put inside each room you need to cool/heat and there’s an associated unit outside:

So we have these in each of the bedrooms in our house. However, we are fortunate that we additionally have ducted air con in the main living areas. We definitely turned that on for an hour this morning and had the bedroom unit on over night so we didn’t freeze when we got out of bed this morning!

Speaking of mechanical things, we have a couple other neat features on our house. We have a small set of solar panels on the roof of the house that are dedicated to heating water. We then have a large set of panels on the shed that power the house as much as possible and also feed into the grid when we don’t need the power. The previous owners got in on a good deal with the Queensland government when they installed the panels and they were getting paid a super high rate – so much so that their electricity bill always had a huge credit on it, they never actually had to pay a bill. That deal doesn’t transfer to new owners so we’ll just be getting $0.14/kwh – will be interesting to see what the bills are like.

And still speaking of mechanical things, the previous owners installed a fabulous rainwater collection system (many people here have them). We have 2 huge sealed tanks behind our shed (you can just see one of them in the photo):

Rainwater from the roof of the house and shed is stored in the tanks and then pumped into the house. Most people here use this as grey water for toilets, etc. However, the previous owners here installed water filters on part of the system and directed that filtered rainwater to a drinking water tap in the kitchen. That water is AMAZING. The Yeppoon shire (it’s not a county here, it’s a “shire” – feels like The Hobbit :)) actually has pretty good water (one of the top 5 in the country, apparently), but this rainwater is so pure tasting that we’ve decided to plumb it to our fridge.

I promised more bird photos. On Thursday this week, the lorikeets discovered our front yard. The only thing different with our front yard starting on Thursday is that our thoughtful friend Rob brought me a lovely gift of 2 foxtail palms that he’s been growing from seed (will get a better photo of the trees later for you). These have always been my favourite palm trees and because I never knew what they were called, I just called them “fuzzy palms.” Now I know they’re foxtails, and very aptly named, and I’m so grateful to Rob for giving these to us – I just love them! But apparently so do the lorikeets. Rob explained that lorikeets are actually critical to foxtails because they like to land on the new fronds and when they peck away at the ends, that helps release the seeds. Sure enough, we get lorikeets landing on the new fronds:

And they also enjoy the bird bath (poor quality photo – taken from our living room through a tinted window):

The previous owners created a rainwater irrigation system, so  not only are all the plants watered, the bird bath is always full of fresh water.

Speaking of plants, we have a number of desert roses in the front garden. We have some learning to do about these succulents. The flowers are gorgeous and the seed pods look like helicopter blades. The actual seeds are sort of like 2 dandelion seeds stuck together:

We should be able to work with them to give them fat trunks just above the soil – will see how that goes!

I’ve been meaning to tell you about the tide here – it’s big, about 4 metres! Hugh took these photos of low and close to high tide this week (notice the boat on the right):

These were taken from a bridge over Ross Creek (which isn’t much of a creek at low tide). On the main beaches, there is pretty much no beach at high tide and a massive beach at low tide. The sand is excellent for walking.

Tomorrow we are supposed to get the first real rain we’ve seen since arriving here 8 weeks ago – will be strange to see grey skies!

Well, I have some work to do tonight, so better wrap up. One final thought. Hugh and I now totally understand what it’s like to be an immigrant who really wants to learn everything about our new country and immerse ourselves in the new culture – while still wanting to celebrate our Canadian heritage. I wish I had understood that more deeply when I lived in Canada. Sending all our Canadian friends and family best wishes for a wonderful Canada Day long weekend! And Happy July 4th to all of our American friends and family!




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