everydaysparks

Stuff I see, which you might not.

Do you wanna see a mermaid?

I am not entirely sure how I found out about the Weeki Wachee Springs State Park in Florida. But it is now on my bucket list. Would that be because it is, “one of the deepest, naturally formed underwater caverns in the U.S.”? Maybe for some people. Or because of its super catchy name, which means, “little spring” or “winding river”? Not really, to be honest. It’s actually because it is, “THE ONLY CITY OF LIVE MERMAIDS!” (or so they say on their website).

Yesteryear Mermaids

Apparently it all started back in 1946, with a former Navy guy called Newton Perry, who trained SEALs (the Navy ones, not the ones who do tricks and catch fish) to swim underwater in World War II. No notes on whether he was a mermaid/merman, but apparently he, “scouted out Weeki Wachee as a good site for a new business”. And then he invented a method for humans to breathe underwater via oxygen hoses connected to an air compressor (so it could look like humans were, “thriving twenty feet underwater with no breathing apparatus”. Genius.

Then he built an 18 seat theatre into limestone, six feet below the water’s surface. And then? Well, I can’t paraphrase, as I won’t do it justice: “Newt scouted out pretty girls and trained them to swim with air hoses and smile at the same time. He taught them to drink Grapette, a non-carbonated beverage, eat bananas underwater and do aquatic ballets.” AMAZING.

And so the mermaid show drew large crowds and was quite the place to visit in the 1950s (even Elvis stopped by). And then in the 1980s they opened a water theme park and beach. Then in the 1990s they started the popular “Mermaids of Yesteryear” shows. Apparently, the former mermaids’ motto is, “Once a mermaid, always a mermaid”.

Not convinced? Then have a look at some of these amazing mermaids from the “Mermaid Roster” on the site (which is almost too good to be true)…

MermaidStayce

Don’t be surprised if Mermaid Stayce beats you in Candy Crush.”

MermaidCrystal

“Mermaid Crystal enjoys track & field and is always up for a game of Trivia Crack.” 

MermaidBrittany

“You can find Mermaid Brittany hunting when she’s not performing.”

I salute you, Newton Perry, for your fabulous vision. And you too, multi-talented mermaids. I very much hope to see the mermaid show for myself one day (they are open 365 days a year, fyi). [I did check out the ‘Careers’ section of the website – no current requirements for additional mermaids.] “Being a mermaid is a magical job. As the mermaids sing in The Little Mermaid show: 

We’re not like other women,
We don’t have to clean an oven
And we never will grow old,
We’ve got the world by the tail!”

Sing it, sisters. [You can check out the website here.]

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The Possum and the Parsley

Yes, it’s the name of book for children that I am currently writing – just need to find out how it ends…

When we last left our story, the possum(s) had breached my clever Parsley Defence System (TM) and helped themselves to many bunches of bright green goodness.

Last night, after consultation with my parents – fellow parsley farmers in the Hills – I decided to mess with the possum’s tiny head and bring the parsley inside for the night. (I was also going to leave a note saying GIVE UP NOW, OR ELSE…, alongside a single possum fur glove, but decided to keep that as an option if tensions escalate.)

Anyways, I had left the base/tray from under the pot (not sure of the technical farming name for this equipment) outside and when I looked out this morning, it appears that the possums had a little tantrum and kicked the base away.

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Now I am worried that this is their way of warning me. As in, PUT OUR PARSLEY BACK OR NEXT TIME, WE’LL THROW THE BASE OVER THE EDGE. Can possums pick locks? Will they learn to like spinach or lettuce instead? I’ll keep you posted…

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Battles with Nature

Please don’t get me wrong – I really do love Nature. Flora and fauna and all that good stuff. However, lately a couple of things have happened that make me question whether Nature really loves me. To be honest, I probably started wondering about that back on the Camino last year, during the festival of insect bites.

This week has seen two main conflicts between Nature and me. The battleground is my own home. And the local fauna has been the winner.

Let’s start with birds. We have a lot of very pretty, colourful and interesting birds around here. Delightful creatures. Except when it’s, say, 3.55am on a Tuesday and a gang of kookaburras are preparing for a talent show with repeated (very loud, very long-lasting) laughing sessions.

NOT SO FUNNY, FELLAS.

Don't be fooled by their cute looks. These guys are merciless torturers of happily sleeping humans.  NB, this image is from Pixabay, so I can't be sure that these two in particular are quite as evil. But I wouldn't be surprised.

Don’t be fooled by their cute looks. These guys are merciless torturers of happily sleeping humans.
NB, this image is from Pixabay, so I can’t be sure that these two in particular are quite as evil. But I wouldn’t be surprised.

Then there’s my small veggie and herb garden (where ‘garden’ means a few small pots on my balcony). I find it pretty exciting to plant things and watch them grow, and this farmer’s crop has been thriving with all of the rain that we’ve been having in Sydney lately. Lettuce, chives, spinach and parsley are on the grow.

I can't pick any lettuce because I don't want to disturb the pretty arrangement of leaves.

I can’t actually pick any lettuce because I don’t want to disturb the pretty arrangement of leaves.

Looking good, spinach.

Looking good, spinach.

Parsley. The scene of the crime.

Parsley. The scene of the crime.

The problem is with the parsley. Apparently, possums love parsley. The naked stalks in this pot seem to suggest that they’ve been helping themselves to quite the feast. It’s hard to see in the picture, but these possums meant business. Clearly not interested in any of the other crops, the bandits snuck in during the night and chomped away.

Problem is, I like parsley too. And I was actually growing it for me, not for the local possums. So I came up with a Macgyver-style solution: a strainer thingy from the kitchen fit perfectly over the pot.

Parsley prison.

Parsley prison.

HAHAHAHAHAHA, POSSUMS. That’s what I thought as I laughed (like a kookaburra) at my cleverness. Until I looked out this morning and saw that the strainer has been moved and more parsley has been stripped away. They’ve also found the other secret parsley stash next to the lettuce.

Back to the drawing board, Macgyver.

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Talk to the Animals

In case you haven’t seen this video, taken at an aquarium in the USA, here’s a Beluga whale trying to get his point across to some kids. I think their mother might be partly responsible for their shrieking – at the very start of the vid, she says “Ooooh, he’s coming for you!”, but I think he’s really just saying “Hey, guys!” and wondering what all the fuss is about.

Also, it’s a bit boring up to 45 seconds, so please stick with it (or fast forward if you’re in a hurry).

Happy Monday!

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I love the Humans

It’s the week leading up to Valentine’s Day and, whatever your status or your take on the whole festival, it’s a good chance to think about what we love. Whether that’s people, furry friends, places, foods, languages, brands, weather, hobbies, or even shoes. Or weird stuff, like those people on My Strange Addiction who love eating the synthetic filling in couches or love their car (as in, really love their car) or love their teddy bears as if they were children. (If you don’t believe me, you can check out the stories on the show’s website here.)

Anyways, this week I’ll be posting about some of the things that I love. Today, it’s the incomparable Humans of New York.

Image from the Humans of New York Facebook page here.

[Image from Humans of New York Facebook page.]

It’s more than a blog and a book and a community – I’d say that it’s a public service. When I first encountered it, I was hooked. With a snap and a few lines from someone out and about in NYC, you get an incredible insight into their life – sometimes sad, sometimes funny, sometimes hopeful, sometimes heartbreaking. For a fanatical people-watcher like me, it’s gold.

[Image from Humans of New York Facebook page.]

[Image from Humans of New York Facebook page.]

Brandon Stanton is the man behind the Humans (well, technically he’s behind the camera in front of the Humans). What started as a ‘photographic census’ of NYC grew into a hugely popular blog and it’s now even bigger thanks to Facebook (the page has almost 3 million likes). There’s also a book of HONY photos and quotes that you can buy.

[Image from Humans of New York Facebook page.]

[Image from Humans of New York Facebook page.]

[Image from Humans of New York Facebook page.]

[Image from Humans of New York Facebook page.]

[Image from Humans of New York Facebook page.]

[Image from Humans of New York Facebook page.]

[Image from Humans of New York Facebook page.]

[Image from Humans of New York Facebook page.]

These are just a selection of some of my recent favourites. If you are on Facebook, I strongly suggest that you get on board with Humans of New York. You can also check out the book here and the blog here. I LOVE IT!

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Things With Faces

I like things with faces. Animals, people, watches – those kinds of things. Nothing strange about that, I’m sure. But I really like spotting unexpected things with faces – in nature, or on inanimate objects like doors or street signs or pieces of toast.

Many years ago, I found a photography book made up entirely of images of faces in unexpected places and I was excited to know that there was at least one other person who shared my interest. And now, thanks to Facebook, I know that there are at least 63,976 people around the world who also like things with faces. Because there’s a Facebook page called Things with Faces. Their tag line is Admit it, you see a face. And it’s a very good page to look at if you need a giggle.

Time's up. [image from Things with Faces Facebook page]

Time’s up.
[image from Things with Faces Facebook page]

Say cheese. [image from Things with Faces Facebook page]

Say cheese.
[image from Things with Faces Facebook page]

Surprise! [image from Things with Faces Facebook page]

Surprise!
[image from Things with Faces Facebook page]

ET, in ice cream form.  [image from Things with Faces Facebook page]

ET, in ice cream form.
[image from Things with Faces Facebook page]

Happiness in a cup. [image from Things with Faces Facebook page]

Happiness in a cup.
[image from Things with Faces Facebook page]

And finally, one of my favourites.

[image from Things with Faces Facebook page]

[image from Things with Faces Facebook page]

If you’re on Facebook, I strongly suggest that you check out the Things with Faces page. (Oh, and while you’re there, you might want to like the EverydaySparks page too!) If you’re not on Facebook, you can always google ‘things with faces’ to find similar collections of pics. And when you’re out and about, remember to keep alert – THEY ARE ALWAYS WATCHING.

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Roaring and Snoring at Taronga Zoo

On Saturday night, a wonderful tradition continued for me here in Sydney. Actually, I think I have written about it here before, but that was a while back, so I’m sure it’s ok if I tell you about it again. It all started almost six years ago, when my eldest niece turned eight. Given that her birthday is in December, I gave her a combined birthday-Christmas present of a Roar and Snore adventure at Taronga Zoo.

(If you’re not familiar with Taronga Zoo, it’s in a fabulous location with some of the best views in Sydney (especially if you’re a giraffe) and they have a really strong commitment to ensuring that the animals are well looked after – which makes for some large enclosures and interesting activities.)

Life is good, especially at Roar and Snore. [image from Taronga Zoo website]

Life is good, especially at Roar and Snore.
[image from Taronga Zoo website]

Anyways, last weekend it was finally the turn of the youngest of the three sisters in the family to head off for our overnight excursion to the zoo. LG was super excited about it – I know that for sure because she had written I AM SO EXCITED! on the gift voucher in giant letters. She had also started a countdown on her calendar and her whiteboard some time before we were due to go and had written a long list of things that she needed to pack in her bag – she’s an organised gal, alright.

The view from our tent. Uh huh.

The view from our tent. Uh huh.

And so we headed off to the zoo on Saturday evening in perfect weather. Arriving around sunset, we settled into our glamping accommodation – the large ‘tents’ have wooden floors, nice beds (with electric blankets) and two layers of zipped material doors to keep the pesky possums out. Over drinks and nibbles we had a close encounter with some new friends – including a snake, blue tongue lizard, leaf insect and a few others. And then after dinner, we went on a fantastic night tour of the zoo, when a lot of the boring daytime animals become very active creatures indeed.

Our new lizard friend. Did you know that lizards have ears and snakes do not?

Our new lizard friend. Did you know that lizards have ears and snakes do not?

LG makes a new pal - the Children's Python (named after a guy called Children, not because it eats kids...apparently)...

LG makes a new pal – the Children’s Python (named after a guy called Children, not because it eats kids…apparently)…

Overnight, we heard some roaring and some snoring (not from within our tent, I swear) and then it was an early start for breakfast before heading off for more behind-the-scenes interactions. Feeding the tall and frankly bizarre-looking giraffes their carrot breakfast was an incredible experience – some people even got a bit of a slurp from their loooong blue tongues. And then a close-up look (while staying dry) at the leopard seal being trained – amazing stuff. After that, we said goodbye to our new friends (humans and animals) and then spent the morning wandering around the zoo.

She looks lovely, but we were grateful for the extra thick glass between us, just in case...

She looks lovely, but we were grateful for the extra thick glass between us, just in case…

Yeah, yeah, hello everyone. Now hand over our breakfast.

Yeah, yeah, hello everyone. Now hand over our breakfast.

Hello, possum.

Hello, possum.

A tortoise (I think). Shows its age through the rings on its shell, like the rings on a tree trunk. Just in case you were wondering...

A tortoise (I think). Shows its age through the rings on its shell, like the rings on a tree trunk, apparently.

Up close and personal with the amazing leopard seal.

Up close and personal with the amazing leopard seal.

Show-off.

A beautiful show-off.

One of the highlights (which I wish I could’ve captured better, but it was actually pretty scary at the time) happened when we were checking out the chimps on our early morning tour. The guide was telling us about the male boss chimp and, right on cue, he came to the front of the enclosure (you can hear her in the video advising not to make eye contact). He was right up at the glass and started tapping on the ground in front of us. The guide suggested that we could tap back at him.

And then he went a little bit nuts and hurled his large self at full pace right up against the glass and ran towards us. Thankfully, the $10k per pane extra-thick glass did its thing – but it definitely woke us up first thing in the morning!

I really can’t recommend this experience highly enough – for adults and kids alike – especially as a great gift idea for visitors or people who might be tricky to buy for around Christmas-time… If you’re interested (and you really should be, according to LG, her sisters and me), you can find out more at the Roar and Snore website here.

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My first parkrun

I’m not sure if you’ve heard of parkrun – I hadn’t heard of them until I read an article in the local paper last week about one starting in our area. Such a cool idea – I’ll let the parkrun people explain it: parkrun organise free, weekly, 5km timed runs around the world. They are open to everyone, free, and are safe and easy to take part in. These events take place in pleasant parkland surroundings and we encourage people of every ability to take part; from those taking their first steps in running to Olympians; from juniors to those with more experience; we welcome you all.

Mosman parkrun, Balmoral Beach. [image from Mosman parkrun Facebook page]

Mosman parkrun, Balmoral Beach.
[image from Mosman parkrun Facebook page]

Sounds pretty good, yes? And when they launched a parkrun at Balmoral Beach in Sydney, a picturesque part of the world not far from where I live, I thought I would go along and see what it was all about. As an aside, I haven’t been running for over 12 months after being scared off by a couple of big injuries in quick succession. And I wanted to avoid going back to the physio’s torture chamber and putting on those horrific communal short shorts (which I wrote about here last year).

I was in there somewhere! [image from Mosman parkrun Facebook page]

I was in there somewhere!
[image from Mosman parkrun Facebook page]

Saturday was a lovely day in Sydney and I arrived at Balmoral about 10 minutes before the 7am start. There were an assortment of people there – almost all of them looking like super fit and fast runners, sponsored by major sporting brands. I started to suspect that the parkrun promise – encouraging people of all abilities to take part – had not quite reached glamorous Balmoral.

I skirted the edges of the group, still thinking I could skulk away and get a coffee and just watch them, but then summoned up the courage to speak to a volunteer in a fluoro green vest. Meg was a parkrunner from Curl Curl on Sydney’s northern beaches and had come to help out with the first ever Mosman parkrun. She assured me that there would be lots of ‘normal’ people there, even some walkers, but as we looked around the group, I think we both doubted whether that was true. Then I saw some people with prams and a few older ladies and thought I might as well give it a go.

Flagging the end of the run.  [image from Mosman parkrun Facebook page]

Flagging the end of the run.
[image from Mosman parkrun Facebook page]

And so I did. I ran the whole way – more of a shuffle than a run, mostly – and when I was tempted to walk, the words of my Camino buddy Shane rang in my head: DO NOT STOP. And so I didn’t. The atmosphere was lovely and there were lots of smiles and high fives from the 102 runners – the fastest ran past like a blur and finished in half the time it took me, but I was very happy just to get to the end and find the earlier finishers hanging around to clap and cheer the slower peeps.

Some Mosman parkrunners. [image from Mosman parkrun Facebook page]

Some Mosman parkrunners.
[image from Mosman parkrun Facebook page]

So, that was a great start to Saturday morning – exercising (for free!) in a beautiful place with nice people – and all done before 8am. Everyone was nodding and smiling and looking forward to building this little community that had just formed.

Now I don’t want to get political, but this story has since taken a bad turn. By yesterday, Mosman Council had squashed the new parkrun community like a bug – cancelling the Balmoral run because of blah blah blah. An annoying setback, but hopefully the organisers will be able to come up with a different route that doesn’t upset the precious people and lets the parkrun community thrive. If only so I can try and beat my first run time and feel like an Olympian with a new PB!

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Friday Foto – At the zoo

This week, with some Irish friends visiting for the rugby and a burst of some incredible springtime weather, we spent a lovely day at Taronga Zoo. Definitely one of my favourite spots in town and quite appropriate for the Lions fans.

Anyways, no pics of the animals today – but the tree trunk that I saw in the reptile exhibit. I was so taken with it, I almost didn’t notice the giant boa constrictor that I was meant to be checking out.

So here it is – the Taronga Zoo Tree Shark…

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Oh and some large toy animals in the Zoo shop wearing booties. Just because.

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Have a great weekend!

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A Skateboarding Dog in Central Park

Because, why not? My cousin in New York sent me this video, recorded by a friend of hers in Central Park a few evenings ago. Look at how many people are happy and excited about this spectacle – there just aren’t enough skateboarding dogs in this world, I tell you.

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