Last week, the Pioneer Woman was espousing the virtues of a point-and-shoot camera and its ability to take great macro shots of flowers. When she wrote "Not that any flowers are growing anywhere right now except southern California and Australia…", I just KNEW it was because she has been reading my blog and has been hoping for an update on life Down Under. Just in case I'm wrong about that, perhaps YOU might be interested? If not, move on, buddy, because that's what I'm all about today. This will probably be the start of a series of posts on this subject, because you know I tend to be long-winded. I'll begin with the weather, since most of my readers are in the fall-winter transition and are far less likely to plot my demise now than if I were to do this when they are in the depths of dark cold misery (sorry, Europeans, but we haven't forgotten Dutch winters yet!).
It's full spring here in WA (pronounced "dubba-you-aye"; that's local-speak for where we live in Western Australia)! The weather is absolutely heavenly! Sunshine nearly all the time. Cool temperatures, but not cold. Sometimes we still need to turn on the heater in the baby's room at night, but that's because there's no insulation in these houses. Almost every day starts out with still air, and the wind kicks up in the early afternoon. Sometimes it's just breezy; other times, we get quite a wind. The kite surfers and windsurfers (Markus included!) could not be happier about these conditions.
The big (and by big, I mean HUGE) concern here is the sun. I have always tried to be sun-conscious, but now that I'm here, I realize I am nowhere near where I need to be in that department. The daily wearing of moisturizer on the face with 30 SPF that felt so smart back home and even over-prepared in sun-deprived Netherlands is soooo just a baby step here. The sun is INTENSE! It will fry you through your hat if you aren't careful. Forget sunburn, baby. I am convinced the sun here can cook the marrow in your bones. The home rule of stay indoors during peak hours from 10-2 just aren't the same here. For starters, no one stays indoors (though maybe they will once summer hits), but those hours just aren't enough to help you. We eat most of our meals outside these days (al fresco dining to some, "camping" to our friend Tony), and we can feel the sun strongly even as it's close to setting after dinner. All-over sunscreen with at least 30 SPF is mandatory. Reapplication is necessary. Hats are required. Shade is best, though that's still "partial-sun" and should be treated as such. I've been trying out a sunscreen called "Invisible Zinc" lately, and it seems quite good. I have to scrub extra hard in the shower to get it off my skin, so I'm hoping the sun will be equally repelled.
Anyway, the sunshine is beautiful, as long as you respect it. And speaking of beautiful, I cannot generate the words to describe the Indian Ocean. Oooo. Ooooo. Ooooooooooo!!!!!! This weekend, we stumbled onto an empty beach south of Fremantle, and the beauty was overwhelming. My camera didn't catch the color correctly, but you might still be able to judge the clarity. Crystal clear water, greenish turquoise-ish splendor! Each time I see it, I can't stop thinking about how much people pay to get to beaches like this...and we live here! There are many people here who start every day with a morning swim in the Indian Ocean, regardless of temperature or weather. Not gonna happen for me with two little ones, but I would love to be one of those people! It must be so good for the soul.
As I've mentioned before, outdoor living is the way to go here. The beach is for surfers and sun-worshippers (yes, those fools are here too, keeping dermatologists employed), and the river is for water play. The kite surfers and windsurfers gather at bends in the river where the winds are strongest. Paddlers (kayaks, canoes...even rowers) weave around sailboats, motorboats and yachts in the harbors. Picnicking is practically a sport here. People take it very seriously and have chairs and blankets ready to go. The top of King's Park provides a particularly lovely view of the city and the Swan River, though any spot directly on the river can be fabulous too. We eat most often at a plastic table we set up right outside our back door where the roof extends to give us some good shade, though we'll probably start shifting dinners to the side porch in the summer when the sun is too strong for us in the evenings.
I started this post with flowers, so flowers is where I will end it. Your Australia vocabulary word for today is JACARANDA. This is a tree that bursts into brilliant purple flowers where most trees are covered in green leaves. We have one in our backyard. It drops a purple carpet all over the grass and patio every day, but the beauty is worth the pain of sweeping up.