Warnbro sunsetIt's been over a month since my last post to this website (on Christmas Day).  Where did January go?

To orient those living in the Northern Hemisphere... January to Australians is like July is to you.  This is summer, although climate-wise the hottest days can be still ahead of us in February and March (the hottest temp so far has been 42°C - 107.6°F).  Kids and teachers are on holiday in between school years (about 6 weeks from mid-December to the end of January).  Australia Day with picnics and fireworks (the equivalent to the US 4th of July national celebration) is on the 26th of January.

So, with school starting on Monday (1st February), we're looking back on 6 weeks of summer that flew past awfully quickly.  First we had Christmas and the preparations that led up to it, and Boxing Day.  Then Mike and Lori and the girls came for their visit, followed by our quick camping trip to the south coast.  And now I'm scrambling to be ready for a new school year.  I normally speak very highly of our school schedule here with 2-week holidays spaced every 10 weeks during the year, but I do miss the 3 months between American school years compared to our 6 weeks.

I've got heaps of news and photos to post on the web site to catch up everyone with our summer activities.  While being busy with prep for the school, I'll still try to chip away at this task over the next weeks.

boys at ChristmasWhile family and friends were battling a big winter storm to get to church on Christmas Eve and Day back in Minnesota, we were enjoying a beautiful warm sunny day here. As we did the year before, we opened presents on Christmas Day morning, went to church and then had a big Christmas feast with several of our friends hosted at the home of our pastor.

The kids first opened the presents that were under our tree. They were thrilled with all of them, but the favourites may have been the various Lego sets, a special Australian version of Monopoly and really creative fold-up photo books from Grandma Schumacher.

Shed-Game RoomThen we led the boys out to the shed for two big surprises: a table tennis table and a dart board. Lanette and I had been taling about getting a table (they don't call it ping-pong here), but hadn't found one at the right price. Just a week before Christmas I spotted one on eBay that was offered in an auction only to those who could pick it up locally. I jumped into the auction and won (over only one other competing bidder!). On Christmas Eve I was able to sneak away and drive 90 minutes across Perth to pick it up and then put it together in the shed late at night. Along with the dart board from Uncle Kurt and family, the shed which we never park in has become a bit of a game room now.

Boxing Day swimBoxing Day follows right after Christmas Day. I don't think we're still very clear on the purpose for Boxing Day, but we get the idea it's an excuse for another day to relax while watching the really important Boxing Day cricket match (this year between Australia and Pakistan at Melbourne's MCG), watching the start of the Sydney-to-Hobart Yacht Race, and going to the beach. So that's pretty much what we did. While swimming at our beach, Lanette realised it was the first time since arriving in Australia that she really went all the way into the water for a swim... as shocking as that may seem! She claims the water was finally close enough to bath water temperature.

After taking about 5 weeks off during the summer holidays, baseball training and games have resumed for the boys.  Peter's team has played two games now, while Karl and Dane's first game back will be this Friday.  Karl and Dane's team has been undefeated since the beginning of the season in October.  In fact, their only loss in the last two seasons was a game added after the end of the season last year to challenge the best team in Perth.

Peter's team has had its struggles all season as they've moved up to a higher level of competition but are playing with many underage players.  However, they almost pulled off a big upset yesterday.  Earlier in the season they had lost to Waneroo, 35-0.  Yesterday they held close trailing only 7-6 late in the game, only to lose 10-7 to Waneroo.  Peter had 3 throw-outs from 3rd base and batted 1 for 4.

Rockingham baseball 30th anniversaryEarly in December the Rockingham Baseball Club commemorated it's 30th anniversary with a gathering of founding players and current players of all levels (current players in the photo including the boys and their coach who also plays on one of the men's teams).  Stories were told of the struggles to get the club going in an area where baseball isn't too popular and fields aren't so common.  However, nowadays the club has 3 well-groomed diamonds and their own clubhouse building complete with lockerrooms, concessions kitchen, functions room and a bar.  This year there are 4 mens teams and 4 youth teams.  The club is still compete for kids against cricket and t-ball (played through age 15!), but there's lots of hope for future success when they look at what's happening at Karl and Dane's level.

(Still trying to get caught up on the back log of news from our busy summer holiday...)

Arrival by trainWe had a wonderful visit early in January from my brother Mike and family.  This was the first visit by cousins for our boys since we arrived Down Under over a year and a half ago.  We packed a lot in during their 8 day stay.

They arrived by train from Adelaide (41 hours across the Nullarbor plain) so they really got to experience the Australian Outback.  After a day of clouds, humidity and threatening rain (it doesn't do much more than threaten rain this time of year), the weather warmed up gradually throughout their week.  When I dropped them off at the airport on their last day, the thermometer was up to 42°C (107.6°F).  In between, it was just about right weather for enjoying touring activities and hitting our beach.

Straight away the first night, the blokes all headed to the WACA cricket grounds for a Twenty20 match (short, one night version of cricket) between Western Australia and South Australia. It was a near sellout crowd that saw some rather exciting cricket even though our side fell short.

Cousins at Pt PeronWe pretty much kept to the Perth region hitting many of our favourite spots.  We had a windy sunset at Point Peron here in Rockingham (photo of kids at the top of the point).  We spent a day in Perth, taking the train and the ferry to the Perth Zoo (100° made it a little uncomfortable and slowed the animals down).  Several mornings were spent at our beach by the house here where they were treated to dolphin sightings three different days (including once when a few of us were in the water only about 20 meters away from 2 and a baby).

Finally, on the day before flying out, we made a quick run down to the Margaret River region.  This is area has some of our most favourite touring spots, so it was great to get the cousins down there even though it was quite a one-day whirlwind tour (3-4 hour drive one way).  We took them to the chocolate factory for several handfuls of free samples, did some shopping, watched the action at one of the best surf beaches in Australia, and even stopped off for a swim in one of our favourite bays (although the flies were rather unbearable this time).

Family in PerthIn between all of the touring, the cousins all had heaps of good fun playing games, playing cricket in the driveway and digging in the sand at the beach.

We're very grateful for Mike and Lori making the big effort to come down here for a stay.  Now we're looking forward to a visit from one of my cousins during our next holiday in April.  It's not too late to book a future holiday with free room and board here in Rockingham, although the list of potential dates is growing shorter day by day (free offer ends in December 2011!).

 

 

 

As we did last year on Australia Day (26th January), we went to Perth to watch the SkyWorks fireworks show again this year.  We were so wowed by the fireworks last year that we had to go again this year.  Peter had missed it last year but was able to come along this time.  Australia Day commemorates the first landing of convict settlers in Sydney Harbour in 1788, but it very much has the feeling of the US 4th of July mid-summer picnic in the park or at the beach celebration.

This year we chose a different viewing location.  Last year we found ourselves amidst the rough young crowd on the south foreshore of the Swan River (even though it's officially a non-alcoholic event).  So this year we took the train to King's Park and found a much more family friendly crowd.  The view wasn't nearly as good as last year, but as you can see from my panoramic photo (stitched together from 3 photos), it was still a remarkable 30-minute fireworks display performed to music.

 

Perth's Australia Day 2010

In mid-January, we headed south as we did last year to camp and fish at Peaceful Bay on the coast of the Southern Ocean.  We didn't have as much time to get away as we did last year, but did find about 5 days to relax with our Pastor Fulwood and his family down there. (view a map of the trip)

Since we had seen many of the local tourist sites last year, this year was more about staying around the campsite.  That means we lounged around reading books and playing games.  The most popular game for us currently is "Monopoly Deal".  This card game, adapted from the original Monopoly board game, was actually a Christmas gift from the Fulwoods so we were able to teach to them. (You can try playing it online here, but it may not make much sense without someone to explain the rules.)  We also played several rounds of the card game "Wizard".

Tim's salmonThe overnight 4WD beach fishing adventure was "on" again as it was last year.  We jump in about 6 four-wheel drive trucks supplied by acquaintances through church who camp at the same caravan park every year, and then take a 4WD-only track across the dunes and onto the beach.  This time we were a little better prepared for the experience including bringing warmer clothes and tents for overnight (the blokes with the 4WDs just sleep in their trucks, whilst last year I just laid out on the sand).  We left at about 2pm and returned the next morning before lunch.  In between it's all fishing on the beach as late into the night as you can stay awake and then up early for more.  My first cast in was hit by an Australian Salmon.  As I patiently tried to bring it in, it jumped fully out of the water 3 times - what a sight!  I lost it just as it got close to the beach.  However, we soon found that there were many more salmon in the waters that night.  I ended bringing one in a few hours later (photo - maybe 5-6 pounds).  Pastor Mike landed the biggest salmon amongst us with a whopping 12+ pounder.  Peter was able to join us this year and was able to bring in several other fish including a silver bream and a yellow-fin whiting.

The story of our trip in BananogramsWe also got Karl and Dane out fishing on the beach near our campsite one evening.  Dane was thrilled with his first catch of an ocean fish - a whiting.  Karl didn't bring any of his bites in, but he had caught one last year whilst there.

On the one afternoon where all of us headed out from the caravan park, we went to Mandalay Bay.  This is a picturesque bay with a view of Chatham island and wide soft-sand beaches.  After picnicking, the seven of us boys played a fun game of "French cricket" on the beach while Lanette and Narelle huddled against the big sea breeze.

We had beautiful weather for most of the time camping with tops in the 90s F and evenings in the 60s - though windy at times.  Even in summer, the Southern Ocean is a little cool for swimming so I think only Peter got in the water. The hottest day was when we drove home whilst the thermometer topped 107°F.

Garden Island mapGarden IslandThe boys and I were fortunate to have a day out sailing on the boat of our friend, Keith (Vikings fan originally from Minnesota).  Another friend, Rob, (Packer fan originally from Wisconsin) joined us.  Last year we took Keith's boat all the way around Garden Island.  This year we just headed directly to a beach on the eastern side of the island - about a 10km trip each way - for a little picnic and play on the beach.

(See map here.)

Garden Island is occupied by an Australian Naval and submarine base and isn't accesible to the public except by boat.  We saw a dolphin alongside the boat and a foot-long lizard that hung around for most of the time we were eating at the beach.  Fortunately, we didn't see any of the tiger snakes for which are well-known to populate the island.  All-in-all, it was a relaxing summer day with no worries.

 

 

 

 

Aussies score a goalTonight we went to a hockey game.  Australia vs. New Zealand in an international test match played right here in Rockingham.  Not the "ice" version like we'd prefer back in Minnesota.  This was "field hockey", although it's just "hockey" here.  By some accounts, hockey is one of the top 5 sports in Australia.  It's popularly played by both men and women, boys and girls - and in fact, in Western Australia, those like me who'd be playing recreational softball back in the US are often playing hockey here well beyond their mid-life crisis years.  The men's and women's national teams are among the best in the world often.

We don't know the game really at all and wouldn't count ourselves as fans.  But this was a big opportunity to see the game played at a very high level.  These were the "national" teams for the two countries, who if this were a Summer Olympics year would be probably competing against each other for medals.  We have a relatively new hockey field in Rockingham that is supposedly up to world class standards, but even then it was a unique occasion to have the national team play here.

It was a beautiful summer evening to be out watching hockey - about 80°F with a beautiful pink sky at sunset.  We probably saw about 10 other staff members from our college and several students. The game was very competive with the Australian "Hockeyroos" defeating the "All Blacks" 3-2 after trailing 2-1 at halftime.  The photo at right shows the Hockeyroos first goal about to go in.

Don't ask me the rules - I still don't really get it.  But it was fun to watch.

Whilst we were there, Lanette suggested that Karl record the fans chanting the classic Aussie sports chant - "Aussie-Aussie-Aussie-Oy-Oy-Oy".  He only caught the last bit of it, but this will give you taste of what we often hear.  It's usually sounds more like "Ozzie-Ozzie-Ozzie".

{rokbox title=|Play "Aussie-Aussie-Aussie-Oy-Oy-Oy"| size=|250 15|}podcasts/aussie-aussie-aussie.mp3{/rokbox}

According to Wikipedia, the entire chant usually goes like this:

Leader: "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie!"
Crowd: "Oi! Oi! Oi!"
Leader: "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie!"
Crowd: "Oi! Oi! Oi!"
Leader: "Aussie!"
Crowd: "Oi!"
Leader: "Aussie!"
Crowd: "Oi!"
Leader (much faster): "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie!"'
Crowd (equally fast): "Oi! Oi! Oi!"

Swan River - PerthI know it's been hard for those experiencing serious winter weather in the US to accept the global warming theories (not to mention the recurring reports of errors in their research).  But if you're looking for data to bolster the warming data, come on down to Perth!

According to news reports this past week, we're on track to call this both the hottest and driest summer ever in Perth... and the next days may be the hottest last week of February ever with tops forecasted to be from 36°C to 42°C (97°F to 108°F).  Really, though, it hasn't felt like a record hot summer.  It's just that the average high each day as been a consistent 32°C (90°F) without any lengthy run of days in the high 30s... until this week.  Today was 38°C but a typically dry 20% humidity.  We're not whinging one bit about living in this climate!

We've officially recorded a mere 0.2 mm of rain since the beginning of summer (officially December 1st the way they mark the calendar in Australia).  Note that that's not 2 millimetres but two-tenths of a millimetre, or about the width of one of the "l"s in millimetre.  For the purposes of weather recordkeeping, they close the books on summer at the end of February here.  The forecasters say the only thing that might fall into the gauges this week is dust so it's likely we'll easily better the previous dry record of just 0.8 mm in 1974-75.

So, what will we be doing in the heat this weekend.  Well, it's a long weekend in Australia with Monday being Labour Day.  On Friday, Peter and I will be at our Senior School's swimming carnival all day at the outdoor 50m pool across the oval from our campus. For those in the U.S., a "carnival" is a sports festival, and, in this case, involves all of our Senior School students competing in swimming competitions.  I'm in charge of keeping the data on the computers.  We'll keep our feet in the water as much as possible with the forecast top of 40°C.  Karl will have his Middle School swimming carnival next Wednesday.

Both on Saturday and then again on Sunday, we'll be watching two of Karl's baseball games each day.  Dane and Karl's team played their last scheduled game last weekend (undefeated for the season).  Now Karl is playing for the "charter" team of kids from all the teams they played against.  This is the beginning of a series of competitions that would end up at the Little League World Series in Pennsylvania (sorry, no chance for our guys to go that far!).  Then Peter also has a game Saturday afternoon, so that will make 5 games in the sun over the weekend.

Notes about the photos shown here... Last weekend, Karl and Dane's opponents failed to show for the last scheduled baseball game.  So the parents and siblings jumped out on the field to play against them.  Following the game, we all went to a brunch in the park to celebrate our Pastor Mike's 50th birthday.  This was at a beautiful park at Point Heathcote overlooking the Swan River and the Perth CBD whilst the Saturday afternoon sailboat races were underway as usual.  Lanette estimated that we could over 150 sailboats on the river.

 

LanetteTim

 

Emu leg pointing deviceBeing the Head of Learning Area for Technology, I try to be open to every bit of new technology that comes my way. So, when the leg of a dead emu was given to me this morning, I thought it might make for a useful pointing device.  I think it was rather effective in gaining the attention of the students.  I might work on implanting a laser in it,... or maybe a laser in each of the 3 fingers.  (make sure you click on the photo at left to enlarge it.

emu legA fellow Shed Men of mine who also is our head of grounds gave me the emu leg.  He said the dead emu was found on someone's farm.  I thought it was fascinating to see up close.  The emu is such a strange animal.  The texture of the leg almost looks lizard-like.  It's hard and bony, with some long nails on the ends of the 3 fingers.  Lanette wasn't too keen about me bringing it home and leaving it on the kitchen bench for her to discover ("bench" down here means "counter").

 

 

Here's some other photos I've taken of emus.  The first one we saw near Pemberton in southwest WA and was probably about 5 feet tall.  The second one was spotted on the outback sheep station we stayed at in July 2008.  And the last set of rubber tire emus were from the Sculptures by the Sea at Cottlesloe Beach in Perth last March.

emu

 

emu

 

cottlesloe emu

CurryHere in Australia, there's lots of people who eat curry.  It's because of how close we are to Bali (Indonesia), Malaysia and India.

Mum's tried cooking it about 4 times so far.  This last effort may have been her best curry ever.  It was a "butter chicken" recipe.  She got the idea after having it at a local restaurant when she and some of her friends went out recently.

Dane dressed up his plate of curry to make it fancy (see photo).

(story by Dane and Tim)

Peter - formal 2010It's Peter's 16th birthday this morning!  He celebrated it at midnight as he and I were driving home from the school's Year 11 & 12 "Formal" (think "prom").  We bought Peter a new suit so he could attend the formal in style.  He and his "mates without dates" had spots reserved together at a table at the formal.  I attended as all the Year 12 teachers were expected to be there.  As the tradition has been, it was hosted at the very fancy Fremantle Yacht Club.

Though we have all boys and thus won't ever have the hassle of prepping a girl for prom (they go all out with the dresses and hair, etc. here), Lanette was glad to be asked this week to alter the dress for one of the girls attending the formal.

Peter & LanettePeter & Tim

 

Peter's Japanese writing sampleI am learning Japanese again this year. It is very difficult with lots of assignments and tests, but it is still fun. Last week I had to write a letter to a pretend family in Japan, introducing myself and my family. You can click on the image to enlarge it. I will be participating in the Japan trip in September. I will be spending almost two weeks in Osaka! I am very excited.