First Woman to Win Melbourne Cup

On my first trip to Australia, I was fortunate enough to witness the remarkable response to the annual running of the Melbourne Cup. It is called the race that stops a nation–and it really does. Businesses close on the day of the race. Traffic stops during the running of the race, which takes place at 3pm on the first Tuesday of November, and has done so for more than a century and a half. It is hard to imagine how far from civilization one would have to be to not hear the reportage of the race.

This year’s race was remarkable for two things: the horse that won, Prince of Penzance, was a 101-1 outsider, and the jockey was a woman–Michelle Payne–the first woman to win the prestigious race. Remarkable day.

And if you’d like to see the “surprise ending,” here’s the race.

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Amazing Opal

An opal that has been declared to be the most precious ever discovered will be going on display in South Australia next month. Named the Virgin Opal, it was discovered in Cooper Pedy (which I visited on my first trip to Australia — detailed in my book and posted about here.) I saw some pretty astonishing opals while traveling in Australia (for example, these), but am pleased to learn that Australia still has some surprises hidden away.

In this video, the text is simply read by a computer, but it does give a great view of this remarkable gemstone.

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It was fairly early in my first visit to Australia that I encountered the iconic confections called Lamingtons. These traditional sweets consist of rectangles of sponge cake dipped in melted chocolate and rolled in shredded coconut. Hard to beat that combination. I found them from one end of Australia to the other. Here’s a video that takes you through the whole process of making them — though one can simply buy sponge cake, rather than making it from scratch.

For Americans, be advised that caster sugar is what we call super fine sugar. If you don’t have super fine, just put regular granulated sugar in a blender for a few seconds. Icing sugar is what we call powders sugar. Corn flour is corn starch. And 180 decrees Celsius is about 350 degrees Fahrenheit. I think everything else will be familiar. Hope you enjoy this Aussie classic.


Filed under Australia, Food, Recipes, Video

ANZAC Centenary


I have written a number of times about the ANZACS, both on this blog and in my book. You can do a search if you want more details. I came across this post and was reminded that it is, indeed, 100 years since the ANZACS landed at Gallipoli and became legends.

Originally posted on Pacific Paratrooper:

James Charles Martin (1901-1915), youngest Australian KIA at Gallipoli James Charles Martin (1901-1915), youngest Australian KIA at Gallipoli

Anzac Centenary

Between 2014 and 2018 Australia and New Zealand will commemorate the Anzac Centenary, marking 100 years since their  involvement in the First World War.

Gallipoli today Gallipoli today

The Anzac Centenary is a milestone of special significance to all Australians and New Zealanders.  The First World War helped define them as a people and as nations.

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During the Anzac Centenary they will remember not only the original ANZACs who served at Gallipoli and the Western Front, but commemorate more than a century of service by Australian and New Zealand servicemen and women. [And I hope other nations will as well.]


The Anzac Centenary Program encompasses all wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations in which they have been involved.   And to honour all those who have worn the uniforms.  The programs involved with the Centenary urge all to reflect on their military…

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May 9, 2015 · 3:21 pm

The Kangaroo Mob Recovers

I couldn’t leave you with the kangaroos dying from the mosquito-borne disease. Here’s the video that follows up with the mob 10 months later, when the survivors are rebuilding their lives.


Filed under Australia, Geography, Nature, Science, Video

Kangaroos and Mosquito Plague

Nature is amazing, but it is not always kind or easy. In this video, a kangaroo mob is besieged by disease-carrying mosquitoes. While the mob will recover in time, it is sad to see them suffer–and while I realize that death is often a key part of how nature keeps itself strong, it still makes me want to spray the whole place with DDT.

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Kangaroos in the Outback

While I find koalas interesting, the Aussie animals I love most are kangaroos and wallabies. Such remarkable creatures. I’ve discovered a splendid BBC series on kangaroos in particular, and I thought it worth sharing. Note that a group of kangaroos is generally referred to as a mob, and if you listened to the video I posted last January about magpies, you’ll recognize their caroling in the background of this video.

Clearly, it’s not easy being a ‘roo in the back of beyond.

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