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Hot Cross Buns

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Perfect homesickness cure: visit the Australian Outback

I’ve spent a bit of time talking about our recent bouts of homesickness.  Thankfully I can report that we’re all cured for a while and we’re moving onwards and upwards.

Why? We went home!  We heard the ads on the radio, we heard the talk around town and we thought, “why not?”, we need a bit of Koalafornication at the San Diego Zoo.  (Although a bit of David Duchovny Californication might have done the trick too).

It’s such an easy drive from LA straight down the 405 to San Diego there’s no excuse not to go–regardless of whether you’re visiting LA or live in LA.  It should be about a two-hour drive but nearly died when the GPS told us it would be a lot more.  My precision timing had us to the zoo just after 10:00 which I figured would be early enough to get a park, get our tickets and avoid the long queues for the Pandas.  Instead it had us coming in at closer to 11:00.  Sigh. Why are we always late? (Actually I’m partly to blame because I insisted on being Superwoman and baking fresh Hot Cross Buns for Good Friday).

It turns out the GPS wanted us off the 405 to avoid traffic.  We went with our gut, stayed on the 405 and we were there just after 10:00.  Success.  (Note: we could’ve been lucky, if you’re stuck in traffic on the 405 it can add hours to your trip so it might pay you to detour).

The carpark was filling fast and there were queues at every ticket window.  Either this zoo is really popular or we’ve come at the wrong time.  Or both?  I’m pleased to report the queue moved quickly, just enough time to take a family selfie, look around and we were in.  Once we were inside we didn’t feel like the zoo was so super busy that there were people everywhere so it was nice.  All good.  Straight for the Pandas.

SkySafari

Enjoying the SkySafari very much thankyou!

 

It’s so good having older kids who can read a map, less for me to do. We opted against the bus (as it seems this is where most of the entrants wanted to go) and decided to do the SkySafari. Bit of a queue but it moved quickly and it would get us to the Polar Bears and Pandas so we could walk downhill in time to have lunch at the Sydney Grill.

San Diegans love their Pandas

The San Diegans go ga-ga over their very own Pandas, why not? What’s not to love?

 

I heard a story that the San Diegans love their Pandas.  The town goes into “Pandamonium” when one of the Pandas does something and when one gives birth it’s like the future King (or Queen) of England is born.  And why not?  Pandas look like they should be cuddly and fluffy and because we’re not going to go near them let us believe that.  They are so cute.  Besides it’s good to see a town get behind their very own.

(Tip: Even if there is a queue for the Pandas there are things to see on the “journey” so don’t be put off by it).

The highlight of our morning wasn’t the Pandas though–it was the Polar Bears.  How fun are they?  They are show-offs, stirrers and just big kids who love to have a good time.  Check this:

 

You've been mooned

Want a good shot of me? How about this?

 

After lunch we headed to the impressive Koala Exhibit.  Thoughts of Austen Tayshus’s Australiana came straight to mind: “How much can a Koala Bear?”  Loved the fact that the hosts on the buses had to spell out, “Did you know the Koala is not a Bear?” on their way past the exhibit and I wonder a) how they came to be known as a Koala Bear (or a Koala Be even–you know who you are Phillippa Jones!) and b) how Americans are still surprised by that fact.

But as good as it was the Australian Outback wasn’t the highlight of our afternoon.  No, the Tortoises were.  Yep.  The Tortoises.  All the way from the Galapagas.  The over 100 years old and still going strong.  It was feeding time and one of the tortoises (let’s call him Piggy) ate a whole head of lettuce then started playing tug-o-war with his mate’s dinner.  Not nice for the mate (not mate as in partner but mate as in friend) but fun to watch.  Love surprises like that.

Tortoises at dinner time

Share nicely “Piggy” (Piggy not in the middle, Piggy just managed to take that whole lettuce minus one leaf from his poor hungry mate!)

 

Top Billing: the star of the zoo is

But who gets top billing of the day?  This Magpie deserves top billing as the star attraction.  Say “hi” and he’ll say “hi” back.  No word of a lie– click on the links and watch these!

Magpie

More Magpie

And as if that surprise wasn’t enough we were getting a drink and they were letting some birds go in an afternoon ritual where they get to stretch their wings and go for a fly.  Thanks for the special show, we really were special guests.

Birds

Along the way I heard a boy say to his Dad, “Can you find someone to carry me?”  Couldn’t agree more.  That’s what the buses and SkySafari is for though so we had to do one more trip on the SkySafari–this time back down the hill.

You’re either a regular zoo goer or you’re not.  I fall into “you’re not” category and loved every minute of it spending the day with the family at the San Diego Zoo.  It’ll be one of the days I’ll treasure in our Californian adventure.

Typically when you’re young, keen parents you take the little kids then you may or may not remember to bring them back when they’re older.  It’s great when they’re older and you go and appreciate different things.  Stop thinking about it and do it–you can’t possibly regret it.

xx It Started in LA xx

PS:  It Started in LA & family were guests of the San Diego Zoo.  Thanks so much for hosting us. We had such a fun time and would love to do it again.  It’s a good idea to buy tickets before you go and here’s a link I prepared especially for you.

PPS: I’ll leave you with this image of Mother Duck heading out with her little ducks.  Gorgeous.  Surprised, however, by the number of people who thought that meant they could go up to the little ducks and pat them.  Lucky the zoo had it all under control with one of the keepers keeping a closing eye on them to make sure that didn’t happen.  Good job (as the Americans like to say and that I’m trying to avoid using quite as much as I do).

Ducks

Mother Duck went out one day, over the hill and far away

PPSS: More pics on my Twitter and Instagram pages, plus there’s a small album on my Facebook Blog page.

Easter
Differences between America & Australia

Easter in Oz v US: big chocolate eggs v little plastic ones filled with candy

I posted a status update on my Facebook page about a very special moment in time at dinner the other night: “that” conversation.  No, not the one about sex, the one about Santa and the Easter Bunny.  We pretended the kids didn’t know the “truth” while they “lived the lie” knowing that once we have “the chat” and come clean Christmas and Easter would never be the same again.

We couldn’t believe we were having the conversation–the kids telling us stories of times were we’d been so obvious and the time my mum said (practically as soon as the kids went to bed), “So should we put the presents out now?”

To which I (apparently) replied, “No, they won’t be asleep yet”.

I think it explains my daughter’s meltdowns over the last few Christmases when we had confirmed for her the dreaded truth but she couldn’t let us know we had.  She was acting up because what she wanted to be real was turning out to be a big fib after all.

It was such a gorgeous conversation but it was also melancholy that we were entering a new phase in our family life: the kids were indeed getting older.  Still, as one friend put it, “It doesn’t mean it can’t still be magical.” True enough.

Passover

This Facebook post turned into a comparison of traditions around Easter.  For many people here in 90210 they don’t celebrate Easter rather Passover–the freeing of the Jews from Egypt.  Over eight days they can’t eat bread or cereal (basically anything that can rise or has risen).  They start with a feast on the first night at sundown and the following night there is also a feast.  And I’m not quite sure what goes on the remaining six days.

Easter in OZ v US

But those who celebrate Easter should do so in roughly the same way here in the US as in Australia right?  Apparently not.  Firstly, apart from Lindt chocolate bunnies there are hardly any chocolate Easter Eggs. That turned out to not necessarily be the case.  I put my heart and soul into researching this topic and found some larger eggs but by and large the eggs here are small.

The eggs are either “candy” or plastic.  The plastic eggs are filled with candy and coins and scattered around the yard for the morning Easter Egg hunt.  There are lots of Easter-themed candies and marshmallows and a few little eggs.  Naturally being America all the chocolate companies put out Easter specials so you get Reece’s peanut butter eggs and Snickers eggs and even Kit Kat bunny ears.  Sadly for my family NO Red Tulip Bunnies.

Family favourite: Red Tulip Bunny

Family favourite: Red Tulip Bunny

Even in China after the first year we managed to find chocolate eggs.  (The first year we were there I arrived just before Easter weekend.  I had smuggled loads and loads of Easter Eggs in my hand-carry and cases to make up for the fact that it was our first Easter away.  My daughter confirmed during our chat that that was THE best Easter EVER!).

Lucky for us we had a Marks & Spencer’s which eventually started carrying Easter Eggs but before that we were forced to the international hotels for their Easter eggs for guests and expats alike.

Hot Cross Buns

The thing that surprised me the most was the absence of our beloved Hot Cross Buns.  I think it’s something you just take for granted.

Missing in Action: Hot Cross Buns

Missing in Action: Hot Cross Buns

Not unlike Christmas decorations once Valentine’s Day is done out come the Hot Cross Buns (actually someone reminded me pretty much on Boxing Day they come out!).  There’s nothing better than the first batch of Hot Cross Buns but then by Easter you’re kind of over them.  Right now, from where I’m sitting having had none this year I’m craving them–so much so that I’m attempting to make them.  In fact, through Facebook a number of us Aussies living in America are collectively craving them.  Imagine, fresh from the oven, butter melting over them (tons of butter!) and a cup of (real) coffee or tea.  Look what I’m doing to myself.

Easter morning traditions

In Australia and across Britain we hunt eggs Easter morning then eat ourselves silly on chocolate and Hot Cross Buns.

Here in America eating is more central to Easter.  Like Christmas and Thanksgiving there’s a “set menu”.  A new branch of Ralph’s (supermarket chain) opened (an opening we’ve been hanging out for) and I wondered why they had stocked so much ham.  It was like Christmas in Australia.  Turns out everyone has ham for Easter; it’s the thing.  I could fully do that one.

It got me thinking that apart from Hot Cross Buns there’s no “set menu” in Australia.  As we’re usually on a long weekend we’re often away.  It’s also often the last chance we get at being at the beach so we probably just have a Barbie (BBQ), feast on seafood and generally be out on the boat or on the Beach (or a bit of both).

Like at home Easter varies from house to house but these seem to be the main differences:

  • Chocolate eggs v plastic eggs filled with candy and coins (perhaps greenbacks in 90210?!)
  • Hot Cross Buns and anything goes v Ham as part of a shared meal and lots of variations on eggs, such as deviled eggs
  • Longest weekend of the year v Friday off if you’re lucky or in some states no days off.

Who better to sum up a typical Easter feast than Martha Stewart so I’ve linked her suggestions for you to have a sticky beak (click on Martha Stewart highlighted–Blog reading for Dummies).  And if you click through you’ll see one of the desert suggestions is our very own Pav.  There you go!

I love learning about the differences in our cultures, especially that we all basically came from the Brits many years ago at different times through different reasons and from different classes yet we’re so uniquely different.

Back to the long weekend

In Australia we love a good long weekend so the Easter four-day long weekend is like hitting the jackpot in Vegas.  You can imagine my surprise then when I discovered it wasn’t really a long weekend here in the US.    It’s not until you move or travel overseas that you realise how lucky we are to have a four-day long weekend.

Many countries obviously don’t celebrate Easter.  When we lived in China I remember thinking how surreal it was that Good Friday–traditionally a day where NOTHING is open at home–was business-as-usual.  Again, you’d expect a more religious Nation like America to have time off for Easter off.  No long weekend here.  Some schools get Friday off (not all) and many offices (like Mr H’s) are business-as-usual on Friday, let alone Monday.

So enjoy your long weekend (if you’re lucky enough to get one).  My kids want to take a day off for “religious reasons” good luck with that kids.

Happy Easter everyone & Happy long weekend Australia & the UK. Bastards ;).

xx It Started in LA xx

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