31 December 2003
Clare ready to experience her first snow.
Remember the woolly caterpillars from the last month? The colours represent the winter temperatures, with Black being Cold and Red being nice. So far, they are accurate. With a sudden start to cold weather in late November (see the snow on Brasstown Bald!), we quickly organized warmer bedding and clothes. The wind whooshed around and thoughtfully cleared up most of the leaves I had painstakingly raked to one side, whilst showing us all the air gaps around the house. There was just enough snow to make a snowball or two, but the children enjoyed getting dressed up in snow clothes with hats and gloves anyway.
The current weather (consistent with the Woolly Caterpillar forecast) is unseasonably mild. No jumpers/pullovers/ sweaters/jackets required. We have been warned this will soon change.
Finally, they administered some pain relief, and about 1.5 hours later, another dose, and Lana’s pain finally began to subside.
Baby at 13 weeks - looking well.
Lana then proceeded to rest. She slept the next 30 hours straight, followed by lots of rest for the following week or so. With the cold going away and the morning sickness past all was well again.
Now all are improved. Once more, for the Australian readers, the doctor’s visits are $25 US each and the various antibiotics were $251 US. Without insurance, these costs would have been substantially higher. Australians complaining about an increase in prescription costs to $6 AUD, need to look around and compare!
The day after Thanksgiving is the biggest shopping day of the year. A tale of shopping exuberance occurred at Walmart where a lady had waited for some time to be one of the first to get in and get her heavily discounted appliance. She succeeded and got her appliance, but was knocked over in the rush and bumped her head on a display. Whilst her friend was trying to keep people from stepping on her, all she could do was push her a bit out of the way. Everyone was too busy going for bargains. Finally the paramedics got through, rescued her and took her to hospital to recover. In a later interview, the staff at Walmart expressed their sympathy by saying they would hold the appliance for the lady for when she recovered – at the same special price.
Also, guns are much more prevalent than in Australia. At Walmart, you can go to the gun counter and buy a rifle or pistol, ammunition and whatever else you need. This is quite a surprise for an Australian where guns are rarely seen at all. So, to comply with local conditions, we have purchased a “Red Ryder Model 1938 BB air rifle.” The BB stands for Ball Bearings. You fill the ammunition area with up to 650 ball bearings, cock the gun by pulling the trigger guard and off you go. The gun was in the general area of Walmart for $25 and 6000 BBs were $5. In this way the children are learning about gun safety with a less powerful gun. This gun will NOT help when the Rattlesnake returns other than perhaps irritate it.
So, we now have the spare cars and a gun. When necessary, David can put on a pretty authentic Southern accent in order to be understood occasionally, so we are getting localized.
B1 and B2 - enjoying the chill.
Library – The local library is a treasure. It has a huge range of books, especially older ones in the children’s area. We will need some time to go through the collection of living history books that abound. These are books that provide a first person narrative in various historical times, such as “We were there with Christopher Columbus”, or “We were there with Julius Caesar” and lots of tales told about famous historical people. The library is also linked to all the other Georgia libraries, and the inter library transfer system is very impressive. We were able to borrow the book “Who gets the Drumstick” by Helen Beardsley, which is what the movie “Yours, Mine and Ours” was “based” on. Read the book.
Home Depot – On the first Saturday of each month, the local branch of the Hardwarehouse equivalent has a Kids Craft time. It is Free and the staff provide a choice of simple woodworking kits for the children to make with all the tools provided. They get down and help bang the nails, assemble the bits and apply the glue. Depending on the child’s age, they will give advice, or hands on help. They provide a great apron on which they write the child’s name which we bring each month, a certificate with their name and completed project (homeschoolers – “tick” craft done), a badge or pin they can put on their apron, and the thing they made to take home. The children have made a box, fire truck, bird-house, helicopter, sled, Mickey Mouse bookends and snowman napkin holder.
Local Wildlife – At the Local Post Office in town, you must be careful to avoid wandering chickens. We also saw Emus whilst driving out of Hiawassee. These are the Australian flightless birds. That surprised us.
Also at the Christmas Parade were lots of floats put on by local businesses, churches and community groups. One of the clever floats was a collection of tricycles joined together, with all the riders wearing check shirts and baseball caps, titled, “Hillbilly Carpool”. There were ten bikes in all with the Grinch and a toy monkey bringing up the rear.
Hillbilly Car Pool - the front
Parish Directory – Our local church has a “Parish Directory”. We did not know what it was, but now we know. It contains a brief history of the parish in words and photographs of the previous year, followed by a photo of every family that makes up the parish with their names. Then there is a list of everyone’s address and contact details. Basically, it is the parish spotter’s guide. We are now able to rush to our book and answer the question, “Who was that person we were talking to?” After all, everyone knows who we are. We are “The Australians”.
Pizza – Pizzas vary depending on where you are in the US, but locally, they are quite different to Australia. The two most common varieties are Cheese and Pepperoni. That is, the base, tomato paste and then just cheese, or cheese and pepperoni (salami). A “specialty” pizza is Hawaiian (Ham and Pineapple). The typical Australian Pizza with LOTS of toppings is a rarity. We had a Hawaiian pizza the other day. Our friends commented, “That’s a lot of toppings!” whilst we looked at each other and said, “Is that all they put on?”
An interesting, yet tasty, pizza is the BLT pizza. Basically, you have the base, tomato paste, cheese and bacon pieces cooked. Once out of the oven, you add the tomato and lettuce. Sounds odd, but is very tasty.
Boiled Peanuts – A local delicacy is boiled peanuts. Signs abound on roadsides advertising “Boiled P-nuts”. We finally thought we would stop and try some. In an old drum, over a wood fire, are peanuts boiling away in salty water. The peanuts, through their shells, absorb the salt and they turn soft. The local rule is that whenever you eat a boiled peanut, you open the shell, suck out the nut with a big slurp and drop the shells onto the ground, saying, “It’s all natural”. I think we are too used to peanuts being crunchy to appreciate the softer texture of the boiled peanuts.
Sorghum Syrup – In the early days of this area, sweeteners were derived from the Sorghum cane. It is similar in consistency to Golden Syrup, but is darker and has a more molasses/malty taste. This is very tasty on hot buttered toast. When we couldn’t find Golden Syrup, we substituted Sorghum syrup in ANZAC biscuits (cookies). They tasted quite good, just a bit different.
Vidalia Onions – These are grown locally and are peculiar to the specific soil found in Southern Georgia. They are sweet and do not make your eyes cry when they are peeled. One of the local restaurants has an Onion Ring loaf made using fried crumbed Vidalia onion rings shoved into a loaf tin. Normally David avoids Onion Rings because of their bitter taste, but the Vidalia onion rings are very tasty. But the rule is you must pronounce their name properly – Vie-Dayy-Lya in a Southern accent. Unfortunately, they are only around in summer. Next year we will stock up.
Butter – In Australia margarine is a viable alternative to butter. It tastes similar and can be used the same as butter. Here the margarine tastes completely different. We tried many and can’t recommend any. The butter comes in a box with four sticks, each equaling 8 tablespoons. Many US recipes actually suggest using 1 stick or half a stick, rather than using ounces or spoon measures. We now just use butter for everything.
Chocolate - In general, Australian chocolate (i.e. basic Cadbury Milk chocolate) is far superior to any of the standard fare here. We have performed taste tests with locals both here and in other states, and the results still come back the same. “Let me try some more of that Cadbury’s.” Some of the US chocolate bars are very nice, including “Zero”, “100 Grand”, “Baby Ruth”, “Poppers”. The last are small balls of larger chocolate bars, such as Kit Kats, Snickers, Three Musketeers (Aust. Milky Way), Milky Way (Aust Mars Bar) among others. It is not very easy to say no to just one.
Food overall – As part of our service to all you strangers to the US, we are constantly trying different foods with varying degrees of success. Vegemite is known due to the song by “Men at Work” with the phrase “Vegemite Sandwich”. Very few actually knew what it was, but they know the term. If we are allowed to apply it correctly – that is not like peanut butter – on hot buttered toast, the reaction is favourable. Unfortunately, it is just one of those things that is unavailable here.
1 cup Self Raising corn meal
1 cup Self Raising flour
1 small diced onion
1 tin sweet corn
1 tin creamed corn
Throw all the ingredients together in a bowl. Add milk until you achieve a doughy consistency. Drop Teaspoon size balls in hot oil.
Warning: Don't lick your fingers – the raw mixture tastes horrible.