X is for XY Chromosome: Missing the Refill/Replace Gene (#atozchallenge)

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I live in a house full of males, in a veritable tsunami of testosterone. Those who are familiar with my blog, know that I have sons. For His own reasons, the dear Lord did not see fit to bestow upon me the gift of daughters and sometimes I can’t help but wonder what life would be like if He had. A whole world of Barbie dolls, pink fairy wings and tulle has passed me by.

Boys are a whole lot of fun. Boys are the gateway to cheeky play, physical nonsense and unrelenting banter. We bond over computers, cars, baseball, soccer, laser tag and we wrestle. I am lucky I have always been something of a tom boy so enjoy all of these types of activities and of course, the bond between mother and son is a rather special one. Male to male bonding is also fascinating to watch. I have observed that the more a male is bonded with another male, the more likely he is to playfully tease said other male. Guys’ currency tends to be mild teasing banter and I can mix it with the best of them. I suppose it’s why I have always had a lot of plutonic male friends.

Life in my house can get rather interesting and at times I do feel like it’s three to one. Me thinks there is a slight conspiracy going on around here. Me versus them in a battle of the chromosomes. The battle is the battle of the refill or replenish and the gladiators are merciless. The battle goes something like this:

    1. One of the drinks of choice for the boys is cordial which is akin to Kool-Aid. Cordial is made up of flavoured sugary syrup diluted in water, about 1 part in 10. As a mother I would of course prefer that my sons drink water or other healthier alternatives, but let’s not turn this into a health debate, because then you’ll miss the point of this post.
    2. The cordial resides in a two litre bottle in the fridge and the boys happily help themselves.
    3. At about the quarter bottle full mark, the boys start pacing themselves with the cordial and carefully watch the reduction in quantity.
    4. They will each take only so much such that there is always some quantity above negligible left in the bottom of the bottle.
    5. The object of course is not to be the last to drink from the bottle to avoid having to refill it and to maximise the chance that I will instead do the job.

This battle is all about precision timing and precision measurement. It’s a game of stealth  and strategy. Who knew that the boys possessed the skills of a scientist without the use of scientific instruments? Skills for life, people…skills for life!

The skills learned in the cordial arena are also applied to kitchen paper towel refill and of course to paper refill in the bathroom. The golden rule seems to be NEVER use the last sheet for he who exposes the cardboard roll will be put to unthinkable effort.  Never mind that there are full rolls within easy reaching distance.

At one point I put up a sign in our kitchen proclaiming “changing the roll will not give you pimples”. It didn’t work.

I’m still changing rolls and making up cordial and have firmly come to the conclusion that the refill/replace gene just does not appear on the XY chromosome. Either that or I have a battle of Darwinian proportions on my hands!

W is for Whiffs Of Warmth and Whimsy: The Nose Knows(#atozchallenge)

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The power of the nose and the sensation of smell. They all pass by us from odious odours to appealing aromas. Today’s post focuses on the latter, those memory triggering whiffs of warmth and whimsy.

When I was a kid, my mother cooked. Mothers did that a lot more in those days – they seemed to be less harried than now, but then again I was probably just oblivious to the frantic paddling of feet going on under my mother’s lake. You know that whole gliding swan phenomenon, looks all smooth and in control on top of the lake with the hard work taking place below the glassy surface. I know it’s a different species, but “just keep on swimming….” seemed to be my working mother’s motto. One of my strongest childhood memories is of my mother frying onions. Most European dishes seem to start with the frying of onions. Every time I smell them, I conjure up memories of home, warmth and family. I love the smell of frying onions which together with the sweet sizzling sound envelop me in their promise.

Here’s a list of my other top sensory whiffs and what they conjure for me:

Baking things – is there anything like it? Baking bread is particularly high on the list – so powerful it can sell real estate. Cake and biscuit (cookie) baking also rate highly. These smells are too good just to be contained in the kitchen! Thankfully, there are no calories in odours, so I can indulge until I’m giddy from inhaling. These smells are full of warmth and whimsy and conjure up images of a jolly, robust bakerwoman in a red and white checkered apron.

Coffee beans – Arabica, Kona, Robusta, I’m not fussy as to type, I’ll take any freshly ground coffee bean. Aromatically sensual and warm this smell says friendship and relaxation like no other.

Frangipani – not only a ten in the smelling stakes, but also right up in there in the best dressed flower category. For those of you hungry for facts, frangipani was the name of an Italian perfume used to scent gloves in the 16th century and named after its creator, the Marquis Frangipani. When the frangipani flower was discovered its natural perfume reminded people of the scented gloves, and so the flower was called frangipani. Conjuring up images of Hawaii, hula girls (and boys!), holidays and summer days, the frangipani  odour is sweet and whimsical. I can never go past a perfectly formed frangipani fallen on the ground without picking it up. They are hardy trees too. We once had a frangipani growing in a pot which survived the death plunge off our second story balcony and lived to flower the tale.

I took this one!

 

Fresh Strawberries  – if you have ever picked your own strawberries, you’ll know that I mean. When I was young, my family used to travel to the country and pick strawberries from strawberry farms. The smell is sweet but subtle and oh so seductive and brings a promise of sticky juice, sinfully small seeds and yes, whimsy. As a child it was hard to resist not popping the fruit directly into my mouth rather than the picking bucket. Also, being fresh and ripe, no sugar was required. Occasionally I can find that smell in store-bought strawberries, but it’s hit and miss.

As you can tell, I’m a big fan of whimsy….

What smells float your nasal boat?

V is for Veterans and Victory: ANZAC Day 2012 (#atozchallenge)

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When the letter calendar came out for the A to Z Challenge I was excited to see that the letter V fell on 25 April. Today’s blog topic was the first topic that I slotted into the Challenge because it was an obvious choice.  25 April is the day Australians and New Zealanders celebrate ANZAC Day.

ANZAC Day is akin to Veteran’s Day in North America – it is our national day of remembrance for those who have fallen, those who have served and those who still serve in the defence forces. ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps and today marks the 97th anniversary of the first military campaign fought by the Australians and the New Zealanders in World War I.

In 1915 Australian and New Zealand soldiers formed part of the allied expedition that set out to capture the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey in order to open the Dardanelles to the allied navies. The ANZACs were to lead the Allied assault on the Peninsula, providing the covering force and landing before dawn at about 4.30am. The British would be landing later that morning and would be covered by the guns of the British Royal Navy.

The Australians were landed from row boats. Most of the troops were still in their boats when the Turkish forces opened fire with many men being killed or wounded in their boats. It became apparent that the Australians had landed about a mile north to the intended beach for reasons that are still unclear today. Despite water-logged uniforms, thick scrub, steep slopes, unfamiliar terrain, confusion and enemy fire the Australians took the first slopes. However, throughout the day, the Turkish forces, led by Col Mustapha Kemal held back or annihilated the Australians. They were later joined and reinforced by members of the New Zealand Division. For the next eight months of the campaign the Allies attempted to expand their toehold in Turkey, the main offensive being the Battle at Lone Pine. The Peninsula was finally evacuated in December 1915 without the objectives of the campaign being met. By that time Australia had more than 28,000 casualties, including 8,700 killed and New Zealand suffered 7,500 casualties with 2,700 killed.

It is traditional for ANZAC Day to begin with a dawn service. During the War, dawn was often the most favoured time for an attack. After the War, returned soldiers sought the quiet and mateship they often felt at dawn and the dawn service became the favoured form of commemoration. Wreaths are laid at war memorials across the country and servicemen or their descendants march in a public show of support.

The Gallipoli campaign could not be considered a victory on any analysis. However, the battle was a victory in terms of Australian patriotism, mateship and the fighting Aussie spirit. It is where the term “digger” originated, a term used in the Aussie vernacular for the ANZACs, but also now a slang term for “close mate or friend”. If someone refers to you as a digger you know that they are loyal and will do anything, including laying down their life for you. This year marked the first year where no surviving diggers remained to take part in the ceremony.

Whether you agree with the concept of war or not, the troops deserve our support and recognition. ANZAC Day is the day to give thanks to the troops and to truly appreciate the freedoms their service has enabled us to experience. Listen to the sounds of our peaceful skies and look at the people gathering in masses to express their opinions. None of this would be possible without the sacrifices of those who serve in our defence forces.

So on this Anzac Day, we say the Ode (which comes from For the Fallen, a poem by the English poet and writer Laurence Binyon):

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old; Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning We will remember them.

and give thanks for the liberties of this great land.

Lest we forget.

U is for Underwater: Getting Reacquainted With The Dive (#atozchallenge)

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Is there anything more soothing and magical than the ocean?

I have always been drawn to the ocean and consider myself lucky living in a beautiful harbourside city with amazing beaches. The rhythm of the breaking waves, the blue azure of water on a sunny day and the glinting of the sun all combine to seductively draw me to its presence. Even just walking along the cliff tops, gazing out at the Pacific Ocean, letting my mind wander is incredibly cathartic. Occasionally, the water throws up one of its inhabitants in the form of a dolphin or a whale to remind me of Mother’s wonderful nature.

About 18 years ago, the Italian Stallion did a PADI dive course and obtained our open water diver qualification. This enables us to dive to 18 metres. We have not dived as much as we have liked as we put diving on hold when our children were born. But the lure of it is ever present.

There is nothing like a dive, particularly in tropical waters. We have been lucky enough to dive in a few tropical locations and snorkel in a few others, including the Great Barrier Reef. Tropical waters are warm and clear and the visibility is amazing and that’s just the start! Then there’s the marine life, spanning the spectrum of nature’s palette, a world of grace and action, beauty and terror.

Great Barrier Reef - Australia

Our last diving experience was in Morea, Tahiti in the lagoon. We decided to take it slow with an introductory dive to reacquaint ourselves with this wonderful activity after our parenting hiatus. I remember the day vividly. I woke up nervously questioning whether diving was like riding a bike and whether I could really just jump back in and pick it up. We were the only people on the dive that morning, being escorted by Pascal, a  handsome fifty-something year old silver-haired Frenchman who spoke no English. Luckily I had five years of schoolgirl French in my repertoire and between a lot of hand gestures, bad French (on my part) worse English on Pascal’s part and miming we established basic communications. I think I must have inadvertently communicated my nervousness because Pascal looked as though he was stuck with a skittish nerveball on his hands wondering how he we were all going to survive the next two hours.

To do an introductory dive, you have to pass two underwater skills. One is to take off your mask and put it back on without it ending up full of water and the other is to put the breathing apparatus (called a regulator) back in your mouth once it has fallen out. We all jumped into the water to do these skills. I had done them before of course, but that was over a decade back. Hitting the water, I started to panic breath. Panic breathing (short sharp bursts of gasping breath) is not a good thing on a dive as it quickly consumes precious oxygen. Pascal tried to calm me down in his gentlemanly French way holding me in a death grip, liability firmly etched in his face.

Dive skills

Within minutes I started to listen to my breathing, found the rhythm, focused on the length of each breath and watched the bubbles. I was back!! Pascal was relieved and gave me the OK sign with his fingers. Quickly dispensing with the skills we set out to explore. The kaleidoscope of colours was amazing, the fish life incredible and the thrill of spotting a shark energizing. But what I will particularly remember is getting reacquainted with the slow and deliberate movements of the dive. You kick slowly and deliberately, you turn slowly and deliberately and you breath slowly and deliberately. There are not too many opportunities in life to just be slow and deliberate. I also remember the euphoric feeling afterwards and this huge jolt of confidence in my abilities.

Awesome

I am hoping to one day dive the Maldives and Palau, possibly with the children. In the meantime, I am content to explore the underwater world by snorkel from above confident in the knowledge that diving really is like riding a bike….. you never forget. Oh and it really does help to have a handsome silver-haired French diving expert and the Italian Stallion egging you on.

Are you a water person or a land lubber?

T is for Taste, Texture and Tone: Flunking Interior Decorating 101 (#atozchallenge)

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I was talking to a friend earlier about the topic for today’s “T” blog post because I was not really happy with my initial topic choices. It’s every good woman’s right to change her mind and I must be a very good woman today because I’ve changed my mind about my blog topic a hundred times. But enough about my blogging angst….

I have always pictured living in a house with personality – one that’s warm, personal and says a lot about its inhabitants. Understandably, this personality is not created overnight and requires something more than just a professional interior decorator’s touch. Our naked rooms are just begging to be dressed and I would like nothing more than to dress them. But I am looking straight into those oncoming headlights, just like those cute little rabbits that end up as someone’s rabbit stew.

Coordinating taste, texture and tone just seems like an impossible task. Scanning ads and the Internet for furniture pieces I like is easy. I’ve got a pile of torn out newspaper pages all depicting wonderful buffets, sofas and display cabinets. But matching pieces to decor, pieces with each other, pieces to fabric and having the vision to put it all together is beyond me. No number of trips to IKEA or items with really cool sounding nordic names will teach me the art of home decorating. Just digressing for a moment: those IKEA design names are so great, I wonder if they design first and wait for inspiration to name it or some manager at IKEA says make me a “pysslingar” or a “raskog”.

As a result, our rooms echo, our walls are bare, our sofa is old and our knick knacks are homeless. This friend I was talking to has so much talent in this area, I want to live in her house…. heck, I want to be her house! She decorated it herself and it screams “welcome” and this is a “home” from every angle. Thankfully, she has offered to provide me with some much needed advice, hopefully enough to overcome my decorating inertia.

Another tool I am going to use is the website, design-seeds.com. The site has delicious colour cards, presented in such a fashion that you mostly want to eat them. I am hoping to find at least a few cards that will give me some ideas on what matches with what. One of life’s little mysteries has always been that I cannot transfer my ability to colour co-ordinate my wardrobe to furnishings and wall colour. They are not so different, are they?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maybe it’s the thought that getting it wrong has big consequences. The possibility of having to stare at an olive green coloured wall next to pink skirting for the next 20 years of dinnertime does not bode well. But they looked really good on the colour card and that small postage size sample we tried out before committing. They did officer, honest…..

The time has therefore come to bite the home decorating bullet. My knick knacks need a home, the rooms need to be dressed and I need to get over myself. My tones will now learn to match my textures so that I can telegraph my taste. Onwards and upwards to furniture swatch, colour palette and wood grain hell heaven!

Have you had any interesting home decorating experiences?

R is for Reality: When Realities Collide (#atozchallenge)

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I have been married to the Italian Stallion for more than two decades. When we first met back in the dark ages we spent some time comparing our respective realities and decided that we were a pretty good fit. The big items were all processed and ticked (checked) and the courtship culminated in a marriage proposal….eventually…..after seven years and well, it was a leap year. We were married nine month’s later, went on our honeymoon and then we started to live together.

That’s when each of us REALLY got acquainted with the other’s reality.  The first decade of our marriage was about whose reality was better. Ah, young love…aint it grand? The next decade was about making our own new, bigger and better combined reality, something we have done with moderate success. The third decade is still a work in progress but involves consolidating and building on that combined reality and helping our children create their own.

Let me give you a pictorial sense of our reality on a few of the more significant marital issues:

Pets

His Reality                                                                                                 My Reality

Our Reality 

Holidays

His Reality                                                                                                My Reality

Our Reality

Romance

His Reality                                                                                                      My Reality

Our Reality

Housekeeping

His Reality                                                                                                 My Reality

Our Reality

What happens when realities collide? Apart from the smoke and ash that eventually settles, it’s not really the black hole that one would think. Life is certainly not dull and we all bring our prespectives to the household.

And now, taking my tongue right out of my cheek, I am hoping to make this the best decade yet with the Italian Stallion and to continue to carve out our new reality in middle age. 

P is for Plethora: So Many P Words, So Little Time (#atozchallenge)

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The A to Z Blogging Challenge is an interesting beast. There are some letters that I have struggled with and yet there are others where the ideas just come in abundance. I suppose that’s why they call it a challenge.. and challenging, yet gratifying it has been.

“P” is one of these plentiful letters with great topics coming to me without pause. I really didn’t need to plow the dictionary or plunder the Internet for particular subjects. So being the positive person that I am, knowing that I won’t be pilloried by the wonderful blogging population out there and pondering that perchance this post will be pertinent to at least some of you, I have decided to publish a plethora of “P” words.

I have a passion for word play and punning. Some might say that’s a bit peculiar, but I have come to the conclusion that word play and punning are rather popular pastimes. Not one to procrastinate I throw on my pantaloons and pursue my passion with persistance and patience and without pause.

I also have a pechant for rhyming schloky poetry. I have penned a plentiful number of positive and philosophical birthday poems for plutonic pals and acquaintances. Some of them have even thought they were pretty as a picture and have framed them for posterity. They are rather unique pieces of prose and are in no way pedestrian. A poetic portrait, if you will. One day I may even find prosperity through my prose and passions. Pending that, I will have to participate in paid penance…er, employment and persist in perfecting my product  part time.

All “P” words aside, I really do love to write funny rhyming poems for friends’ special occasions and love to think about rhyming word combinations and puns. I’d love to hear from you if you (secretly or otherwise) love punning and word play. Let me know what form your punning/word play takes.

Just in case it wasn’t pitch perfect and painfully clear, this post was brought to you by the letter P and the colour purple. It was no problem or painstaking, and in fact was a pleasure to produce.

O is for Orchard: Finding The Sweet Apples of Life (#atozchallenge)

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In September 2005 Louise Eldrich published her novel, The Painted Drum. The book, which I have not yet read, contains one of my favourite quotes of recent times. So good in fact, that I had one of my friends, Toni Legates, who is a Photoshop magician, create a photo montage with the saying. The montage is reproduced below.

This is a quote that resonates deeply for me at middle age. I think if I had encountered it ten or fifteen years ago, I would not have appreciated its full meaning – at least not in the context of my own journey. There are some extremely powerful messages in the lines of this quote. Some messages, I already knew, some messages I needed to hear and some messages that I have embraced.

By the time I reached middle age I had worked out that no-one can lead a rich life without taking emotional risks. People and their reactions are things we cannot control and there are times when you just have to put it out there. Life does not come with 100% absolute guarantees and it never will. However, I think most people get to that stage sometime in their life that they develop the confidence to know that they will be able to handle any negative consequences that may arise from taking emotional risks. I now have. Being prepared to risk emotionally means creating the potential to reap rich emotional rewards, a potential that was denied to me in the past.

I can also now more fully appreciate the need to let myself sit in the orchard of life and just listen. Having emerged from a time when I thought there was NO time to sit and think, I have now made appointments with myself to do just that. We wouldn’t think to break a committment to others, but we tend to quite readily do so in the case of commitments to ourselves. Well, I am giving my appointments with myself at least the SAME amount of importance as I do with my appointments with others. We need to process and have enough clarity of vision and clear headedness to pick up on the cues the universe sends our way.

Having given myself permission, I now find that the sweet apples of life are everywhere. I take gratitude in the small things. The small wins are to be savoured and deserve just as much, if not more, focus and energy than the more remote possibility of a big win. Yes, it would be nice to win the lottery, but what are the chances…really? So I am not waiting for life to hand me lemons or one giant apple, I am reaching out for as many smaller sweet apples as I can and taking a huge bite of them. Happy to say, that I have encountered very few rotten cores to date.

When life hands you apples, you could make apple sauce, but I’d rather enjoy their crispness.

Have any quotes or passages ever resonated deeply with you?

L is for Lyrics: Na Na Na What…? (#atozchallenge)

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In what now seems like an eon ago (was there ever a time I was blogging before the A to Z April Blogging Challenge?) I wrote a post about having a song of the moment (or SOM).  Briefly, a SOM is a song that has taken residence in your head and can cause behaviour alterations, like hanging around in cars just to hear the end of the song. You would think that with a SOM, I would know all the lyrics, all the pauses, all the subtle differences in beat throughout, all of the song’s nuances. You would think…

When I was a teenager and even when I was a twentager (a term I just made up to connote someone in their twenties), I used to know the lyrics to all of my SOM’s, relevant other songs and just songs I didn’t really need to know about. I would sing along perfectly timed and worded to even the most complicated of tunes. I’d like to think I can appreciate beat, rhythm, chorus and verse.

However, something happened on the way to the concert hall. Somewhere along the line, my head got filled with children’s schedules, household schedules, household administration, laundry, payment deadlines and work related matters. My brain, being a finite capacity organ got stuffed with all sorts of adult trivia and my ability to remember song lyrics has been compromised ever since.

This doesn’t stop me from singing along to SOMs and any other song that catches my ear. I think we have all been there. Driving in the car with teenage son, good song comes along, singing along happily, the big main chorus moment about to arrive and ………I fluff it. Said teenage son in fits of laughter and thinking I’m seriously uncool because the fluff moment comes usually when the artist has paused briefly and well, it’s out there for all to hear.

Then there’s the cover up. Me singing along quite happily until my knowledge of the lyrics dries up. So I don’t miss a beat, I make up some words that sound the same as the words in the song, sometimes with hilarious consequences. Sometimes, the cover up is not even done with that much finesse, sometimes there is only a grouping of sounds that aren’t even words, sounds that are meant to sound like the words in the songs and that I know what I am doing. At this point I lose all credibility for cool with my teenage son who is laughing hysterically trying to say “you don’t know the words, do you, Mum?”

Really, the artists have a lot of explaining to do as to why they can’t get with the programme. It’s not that hard, really. I refuse to admit my lip synching days are here just yet. I’ll leave that to the professionals.

What do you do when the lyrics don’t come as they are meant?

K is for Killer Wildlife: Kangaroos and Koalas (#atozchallenge)

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I have been reading some fantastic blogs on my travels through the A to Z Challenge. One of them is by Geoff Maritz, who lives in Capetown, South Africa. Geoff’s concept for the Challenge is to write about his home in Africa, including its wildlife. You can find Geoff’s blog here: Geoff’s Blogs. He has a killer post about Kilimanjaro today – great K word, Geoff!

Geoff has inspired me to write about some of Australia’s unique killer wildlife. Let me show you a couple of our natives.

Kangaroos

Kangaroos are native to Australia and are marsupials. The name ‘kangaroo” is derived from the Aboriginal language. “Kangaroo” was originally “gangurru” and was  the native’s description of the grey kangaroo. Groups of kangaroos are called mobs.

Some kangaroos can jump 30 feet and and can hop up to 45 kilometres and hour. The largest kangaroo, the Red Kangaroo, can grow as high as 6 feet and weigh 200 pounds. Something I didn’t know and just found out was that kangaroos can’t move backwards and they can’t move their back feet independantly on land. However, when they swim they can kick with one foot at a time. Baby kangaroos are called joeys and are born after only 31 – 36 days of  gestation.  They are basically tiny,  pink, hairless animals that don’t come off of their mother’s teat for weeks and live in their mother’s pouch.

That’s gotta hurt!

Kangaroos are strong and males usually box. Usually this is playful, but can be part of a show of dominance. You do NOT want to be kicked by a kangaroo, although it is an amazing feat of strength and balance. A kangaroo will rear up on its tail and then kick with both feet at the same time. If you are a male of average height, that usually connects with your pride and joy. Great subject for a family video, but you would only want to capture that frame once!

Kangaroos essentially sleep during the day and feed at night. Contrary to popular belief, there are no kangaroos hopping down the street in urban areas, although in some parts this can happen in times of drought. Most urban dwelling Australians see kangaroos by the side of the road – either alive or as road kill or in a wild life sanctuary, just like tourists.

Koalas

Koalas are only found in four states of Australia: Queensland, South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria. The word ‘koala‘ comes from an Aboriginal word meaning ‘no drink’. Koalas mostly eat eucalyptus leaves and this provides them with the water they need. Therefore, they do not, or only rarely, drink water.

Koalas are not actually bears, they are marsupials, which means they carry their young in a pouch like kangaroos. Adult koalas measure between 64 to 76 centimetres in length and weigh between 7 and 14 kilograms.

Koalas have a great life, they basically eat and sleep and seem constantly in a languid satiated state. The reason Koala’s sleep so much is that it takes a lot of energy to digest eucalyptus leaves, which are tough. They are also poisonous to other species.  Male koalas are solitary animals, like their man caves and often live alone.

Most urban Australians will see koalas only in the wildlife sanctuary just like tourists. Sometimes, you can catch a glimpse of a colony of koalas living in trees in rural areas, but in my experience this is occasional at best. Unfortunately koala habitat is on the decline and they are also under threat from cars and dog attacks.

just hanging around

So, come on down and see the natives. They are cute, entertaining and we really don’t bite….much!