Thursday, January 27, 2011

Kittens and Cars

So, if you hadn't assumed already,we've made it safely to Oregon.

It feels like Australia was another lifetime ago.

So weird.

It's cold, but not as cold as NYC and since it's January my brain accepts the cold much better than it was accepting the warmth of an Aussie summer.

We've settled in as much as we can here in Oregon while we wait for our renters to move out of our San Francisco house.

I've allowed to begin decorating again. Very exciting.

We adopted kittens. They're part of the settling down phase we've decided needed to happen. They will come with us down to Cali when we move.

And we bought cars.

Not sure I like having to drive to get everywhere. I much prefer the walk/train/ferry/cab to wherever I need to go. The only time it's nice to have a car is when you buy a lot of shit and can't possibly carry it all home by yourself.

Also, we live out in the country and it takes 10 minutes to even get into "town". AND no one delivers. This could definitely be a contributing factor to my missing big city life. "What do you mean I can't get wine delivered to my house at 10pm on a Sunday?"

But nevertheless, all in all life is good.

And it's good to be back.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Great Ocean Road Part 3


We leave Australia today.

I'm excited.

So, without further ado, let's see if I can finish up our last trip before we leave the country.

Where were we? Oh yes, koalas!

Cute, no?

So, after the excitement of the koalas we discovered 2 things.

One, all the hotels/B&B's along the Great Ocean Road are BUSY during the summer and as I said we didn't plan this trip out very well. We just planned on stopping somewhere along the way, wherever we made it to by nightfall...yeah, so that was a stupid plan. If you're ever driving along the Great Ocean Road in the summer, don't do this. Go ahead and book something!

Which leads me to...

Two, we were about to lose the sun and we were very near the Twelve Apostles, if we didn't hurry we were going to miss them altogether and have to double back in the morning from wherever we ended up staying...which was a big unknown and could involve a drive of hundreds of kilometers looking for somewhere that wasn't booked.

If you've never heard of the Twelve Apostles it's probably because you don't live in Australia.

In a nutshell the Twelve Apostles are pretty rocks. And there's not 12 anymore, there's only 9, the other 3 have fallen into the ocean. Anyway, they're giant rocks just off the coast that the ocean has created by cutting away at the limestone around them. Is that not the most scientific explanation you've ever heard?

So, anyway (why do I keep writing anyway? anyway, anyway, anyway, clearly I am in need of a thesaurus...anyway), they were kind of the highlight of the roadtrip so if we missed them we would have felt really stupid and while the koalas made the trip the Twelve Apostles were the POINT of the trip and I don't know if even the koalas could have made up for missing them.

Just as the sun was setting...we made it.

Barely.




Oh Australian signs how I will miss you. Notice the people on the other side of the sign...

As the sun faded into night we then turned our attention to the most important task at hand...finding somewhere to stay the night.

We drove and drove passing NO VACANCY sign after NO VACANCY sign and calling every inn we could find on our phones, with NO luck. Finally some brilliant helpful innkeeper directed us inland ie. get off the coast where everyone wants to stay! So, inland we went and half hour later we found ourselves in a tiny tiny little town with...A HOTEL!!! And coincidentally it was the Thompson Hotel! (now if you don't know what I'm talking about you probably don't live in New York).

Let me tell you about the hotel.

First off, it was $60 a night, which is just awesome.

Second, it was dormitory style with a communal bathroom, which normally I hate, but it was 11pm, we were exhausted AND the girl bathroom had a bathtub and looked like a real bathroom, rather than the boy bathroom that just had shower stalls.

Third, we had to sleep in 2 separate twin beds, which is just...funny.

All in all it saved us from having to drive 4 hours back to Melbourne just to start all over again the next morning, so we happily slept in our twin beds and showered in the communal showers and woke up happy and well rested the next morning.

And then... to be continued unfortunately on the other side of the world.

T-minus 6 hours until we leave Oz!!!

The Great Ocean Road Part 2


The weather improved each and every day of our road trip. It started out miserable and cold in Melbourne but as we hit the road the sun was out and while it wasn't warm it also wasn't cold.

Since we had 2 days to do this drive we took our time and got a late start from Melbourne after visiting the Gaol in the morning. Unfortunately we didn't really plan this trip out AT ALL and it was all very go with the flow and see what happens. Because we had no plan whatsoever we ended up missing out on 2 things that we really wanted to do because they closed at 5pm and we didn't make it to them until after 6pm. The first thing we missed out on was the Cape Otway Lighthouse which is apparently haunted (who doesn't like a good haunted lighthouse!) and has been running since 1848. The lighthouse was actually way up there on my list of things to see on the road trip so even though we missed the opening hours we took a little drive down the road towards it in hopes that we could catch a glimpse from afar. And while we caught nary a glimpse of any lighthouse we did make a very happy discovery that we otherwise would have missed if we hadn't turned down the road to the lighthouse.

Koalas!






Coolest wildlife I have ever encountered in the wild! Better than the roos in my opinion. They're very lethargic and slow moving (maybe this is why I liked them so much, the roos are always on the move and impossible to photograph!). Once we saw one they were incredibly easy to spot and we saw hundreds up in the gum trees. Completely amazing and made the whole trip worth it.

Next up we catch the 12 apostles just before the sun sets...

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Great Ocean Road Part 1

It is said that the drive between Melbourne and Adelaide on the Great Ocean Road is one of the best road trips in the world and that if you ever have the chance to do it, you should.

So, we did.

We started off in Melbourne where it was COLD, remember it's summer, but with temps in the teens (Celsius) rain and wind, Melbourne was a bit miserable. When we first moved here we debated on whether we wanted to live in Melbourne or Sydney...how very very happy I am that we chose Sydney. Melbourne is cute, but it's really not my cup of tea and the weather is even more crap than the crappy weather here in Sydney.

However, one completely awesome thing about Melbourne is the Old Melbourne Gaol, which is the old prison that they've since turned into a museum. The famous bushranger Ned Kelly was imprisoned and hanged here, he's the Australian version of Jesse James as far as I can tell, an outlaw that has captured the interest of the public.

I just have this to say about the Old Mebourne Gaol...it was damn cool and I recommend going if you're ever in Melbourne.




These tiny cells on the lowest level were for the worst of the worst inmates. They were in these cells for 23 hours a day and were NEVER allowed to see or speak to anyone including the guards and other inmates. It would have been sure hell.

I've only included this piccie because Dom's eyes are the exact color of his shirt and mine are the exact color of my jacket =)

This is the actual spot and actual beam from which many a prisoner were hung, including the infamous Ned Kelly himself.

And speaking of Ned Kelly, this is his body armor that he made for an imminent police shootout. He still managed to get himself shot and ended up here at the gaol, but nevertheless it made him famous.

After Melbourne we hit the road, hoping and praying for better weather...

Monday, January 10, 2011

Paleo Chili

It's summer here in Oz and yet raining almost every day and I find myself making soups and stews...subconsciously I obviously think January means winter regardless of the temps outside.

So, here is a recipe for my paleo chili. Paleo because it fits into the Paleo Diet which I have been following for the last few years with a few modifications, ie. I still eat dairy though only in small amounts. Originally the hubs and I started this diet to get fit for our wedding and continued with it off and on and now we've gone back to it because of some medical issues regarding insulin. So now the paleo diet is an easy way for me to stay healthy.

Originally I found this on some paleo website but have changed it so much from the original that it is now mine.

So, without further ado.

Ingredients:
2 lbs lean hamburger meat
1/2 onion diced
1 green pepper chopped
mushrooms chopped (as many or few as you like)
2-3 hot peppers, jalapenos or habaneros diced (depending on spiciness you want/can tolerate)
6 cloves of garlic minced
1 big can whole tomatoes (not the 15 oz. ones, the bigger ones, what are they 20 oz? 24 oz? I'm in Oz where everything is in grams, so I don't have a can in the house to confirm =)
1 15 oz. can tomato sauce
2 1/2 TBSP cumin
2 1/2 TBSP chili powder
pepper to taste
salt to taste

To Garnish:
sour cream
shredded cheese
onions (I use the other half of the onion I used in the recipe)

Brown meat and onion in large pot, add pepper to taste.

Add green pepper, mushroom, garlic and jalapenos and continue to cook for another 5 minutes just so the pepper and mushroom begin to soften.

Stir in the can of tomatoes, tomato sauce, cumin and chili powder.

Add salt to taste.

I also have a tendency to add a bit of water here, I put some water in the tomato sauce can, just a 1/4-1/2 way full and pour it in as well.

Bring to a boil then put a lid on it and turn it down to simmer. Let it simmer for 1-4 hours (or longer if you like, it just intensifies flavors the longer it cooks).

Intermittently check the chili and stir and skim off any grease.

After your designated cook time, be it 1 or 4 hours, remove the lid and let it cook down on a low heat for another 20 minutes or so before serving just to thicken it a bit.

Add shredded cheese, a dollop of sour cream and some raw diced onions for crunch.

I love making this and then putting it in the freezer, it's a fantastic surprise to not feel like cooking and opening up the freezer and realizing you have wonderful homemade chili that just needs to be reheated.

Serves 6-8

Enjoy!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Kangaroo in the Wild

Since I finally figured out how to upload videos properly on here I thought you all might enjoy the kangaroo.

I also have, because I know you want to see, a koala in the wild to show you soon!

video

T-minus 12 Days until we go home!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Booktastic: Down Under

I read too many books, I'm finding it impossible to keep up with myself.

I read this months and months ago, but it's a really great book so I thought I would do a whole post on it.

Down Under by Bill Bryson

I'd never heard of Bill Bryson before Dom came home with this book but after catching Dom laughing out loud several times and reading passages to me in bed I decided I had to read it for myself.

Bryson is a travel writer and basically goes somewhere walks around and writes about what he encounters. He "does" very little other than walk around new towns, which in and of itself isn't funny, but what he encounters along the way is hilarious.

This book gives a really great glimpse into Australia ESPECIALLY as an outsider. If you've ever wanted to visit Australia I highly recommend this book. OR if you just really enjoy travel writing in general I also highly recommend it.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Taco Soup

This recipe is from my little sister, who I think got it from a friend of hers, so I'll just continue to pass it along. I've changed it a bit from hers, but not too much. It's the simplest and yummiest soup in the world.

Ingredients:
1 lb. hamburger meat
1 small onion, chopped
1 can corn
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 can black beans
1 can pinto beans
jalapenos to taste
1 packet taco seasoning
1 packet ranch seasoning

(2 notes, first you can use other types of beans, I've made it with kidney beans when I couldn't find pinto beans here in Oz, still tastes delicious and you can also skip the ranch seasoning if you're having trouble finding it, again impossible to find here in Oz and still rather delicious without it)

For garnish:
shredded cheese
sour cream
tortilla chips

Brown the meat and the onion in a large pot then add the rest of the ingredients. DO NOT DRAIN canned veggies, leave everything in, just throw it in the pot. Bring to boil then lower to simmer and cover for as long as you want ;-) Cook it for at least an hour, but you can slow cook it in a crockpot and leave it on there all day as well.

Then when it's time to serve add cheese, a dollop of sour cream and crushed tortilla chips.

Feeds 6-8

HOW EASY IS THAT?

Plus there's enough leftovers for several days if you're just cooking for 2 people like I am.

Enjoy!

Some Help Please

Since we're heading back home and I will no longer be living in Sydney it's going to be a bit silly to have a blog called "From Sydney with Love", so what should I call my blog?

My next city is so undetermined right now I can't even just change the city and be from somewhere else with love.

Originally this thing was just to update friends and family while we were away, but now I think I'll keep it going.

Anyone have any brilliant blog titles I can steal?

And also, so far this thing has been pretty much a travel blog and now I'm going to have to mix things up because we're finally "settling down" with no more trips planned, OMG!

So, get ready for some baking/cooking/decorating blog posts because for the next few months we'll be in good ole Springtucky Oregon!

Things I Miss About Home

And now, the things I've missed over the last 7 months and am excited to get home to.

Coffee - Yes I know I just said that I will miss the coffee in Oz, but this is a different kind of coffee. I miss drip coffee, filter coffee, the kind of coffee that does not need an espresso machine. They don't have that here, all coffee is some form of espresso. So, I can't wait to get back to regular coffee.

Driving - I haven't learned how to drive on the other side of the road. I've done it a few times, but honestly I suck at it, it's like learning how to drive all over again, and I find it an unnecessary skill to master. Ok, actually I haven't really driven in 5 years because I've been in NYC and you don't drive in NYC but STILL, ready to be ABLE to drive if I so choose.

Being in the same time zone...or at the very least the same day as friends and family - It's rough to be in a completely different day than everyone, the novelty has worn off.

Insurance - We have insurance here, but since we're expats and not Australian we don't have Medicare, which is their free national insurance, and it's a PAIN in the ASS. We have to pay for everything up front and then claim it back...and sometimes they don't pay it back, IT'S LAME.

Groceries - Grocery shopping has been such an adventure here. I can't tell you how many times I've gone searching for something that I think is a very common item (remember the pumpkin incident?) only to discover that I can't find it ANYWHERE and I have to end up cooking something else or supplementing one thing for another. And while this makes for more adventurous cooking, I find it annoying at best. I miss big US grocery stores.

My Furniture - We live in a furnished apartment and I MISS MY OWN furniture desperately. I hate seeing cute things in shops and not being able to buy them because I can't figure out how the hell to get them home...SO OVER IT.

Friends and family - I have none of them here, I'm ready to go back to life where I have someone else to talk to besides Dom =)

What do all you expats miss about the home?

T-Minus 12 days until home!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Things I Will Miss About Oz

Since we're on the home stretch and about to leave the wonderful world of Oz I made a list of things I'm going to miss.

In no particular order...

The eggs - God they have good eggs here. They are a wonderful delicious bright ORANGE, which means lots of flavor and lots of Omega 3. American eggs are flavorless and yellow in comparison and since we eat eggs every single morning I'm really going to miss these.

The coffee - I've written about how I take my coffee and how it's a pain in the ass to figure out how to order it in different countries. But now that I've been here awhile I'm definitely going to miss my flat whites. I think what I'm honestly going to miss most is the size of the coffees. They come in really small sizes...6 or 8 oz is the norm, and I love it, I don't NEED a giant coffee, in fact even in the US when I order a giant coffee I never drink the whole thing.

Australian sense of comradreship - There's a certain Aussieness that I can't really accurately describe and you'll have no idea what I'm talking about unless you've been here. But they're way out here in the middle of nowhere all by themselves and they are there for each other. They have a deep sense of togetherness and "I'm here for you mate." I guess you could call it patriotism as well, they go out of their way to support other Aussies in whatever they do, ie. they still love Mel Gibson even after his fall from grace.

Speaking of mates, the way they constantly use the word "mate". I don't think I can get away with it...calling others mate that is, but I do love hearing it, it's a good word and can be used in many many different contexts.

Aussies in general - They're nice. Just really nice people. They always want to help you out. I very rarely encounter a rude Aussie.

Ferries - It's awesome to get wherever you need to go by ferry.

Sunscreen with Zinc - Oh how I love the zinc sunscreen. I've tried about 7 different brands and have finally found the BEST sunscreen in the whole wide world. It's Australian Cancer Council Active and it works so well that Dom can slather himself up and go at least ONE WHOLE HOUR without having to seek shade or reapply. That's amazing for someone who normally burns in the shade with sunscreen on especially in this uber intense Australian sun. AND it goes on and soaks in IMMEDIATELY so you're left feeling like you have absolutely no sunscreen on whatsoever. It's fantastic, I plan on buying boatloads of it before we leave.

Prescriptions - $24 for all prescriptions...I have nothing else to say about that.

Kangaroos and Koalas - Hands down the coolest animals I have ever seen and to see them in the wild is just amazing.

The beach - Obviously I could live somewhere in the US with a beach, but honestly I'm not a real beachy type person, and there's just something about the Australian beaches...they're so beautiful and there's always a cool breeze so you never feel too hot. And they're SO easy to get to...I will definitely miss that.

Now, I'm sure I've missed some things on here and I'll update if I think of more.

Any other of you expats who have some good Aussie things you'll miss when you leave?

Danger on the Hawkesbury

Oh Australia, how charming and harmless you seem from afar with you sparkling beautiful beaches, gloriously sunny weather and plethora of outdoor activities. I did not know that once I got here I would constantly be bombarded with crap weather and DANGEROUS ANIMALS. Seriously, how do they disguise this fact from us so well?

Ok, the crap weather is just this year...or so they say, though they could be lying I would never know. Although it is nice and officially summer weather now so I'll quit whining about the constant rain, but seriously, I'm from Oregon and it's been a lot of rain EVEN FOR ME.

Moving on.

I've told you all about the dangerous animals in Queensland, but there are dangerous animals here in NSW (that's New South Whales for all of you non-Aussies, the state in which Sydney is located) as well. First up we have the funnel web spider, which is one of the most venomous spiders in the world. Awesome. Luckily I have never had the misfortune of running into one of these guys, but just the knowledge that they're here is enough for me.

Also here in Sydney are sharks, now of course I know you're all thinking, well duh of course there are sharks there, you're on the ocean. But did you know, that there are more shark attacks IN THE HARBOUR than on the beaches. Crazy shit, no? And did you also know that there are SHARKS IN THE RIVER.

Seriously, you can't even go houseboating without fear of BEING EATEN BY A SHARK.

Oh Australia.

So, anyway, the point of this post is...we went houseboating on the Hawkesbury River and luckily it was nice and CLOUDY, again because the weather in Sydney is so awesome, so it wasn't even warm enough to get in the river but once. Which means, I did not get eaten by a shark IN A RIVER.

Another little interesting tidbit about Australian wildlife, apparently there are jellyfish in the river as well. What? Jellyfish in the river? Yes, jellyfish in the river. Now, luckily these little suckers are not venomous and don't even have stingers, but holy hell they're big!


This is our boat.

Now, my pictures I warn you are going to portray the weather as deceptively sunny. This was purposeful, mostly because I was not the photographer the majority of the time, and Dom only whipped it out when the weather was nice.

The camera, he only whipped out the camera when the weather was nice! Dirty minds. Oh, was that just me when I read back the sentence?

Anyway.


I am a fabulous boat driver.


See the jellys?

Pretty sunset.

Waterfall.

Now, about the waterfall. We decided to climb it. I don't know why we decided to climb it, but we decided to climb it.

But we successfully made it to the top! And my thighs hurt for a full week afterward. Fantastic workout.




T-minus 14 Days, that's just 2 weeks to home!

This One Time We Went to the Opera

I'm so crap about actually writing about events when they actually happen...

Sorry.

Several months ago, back in October I think, we went to the opera at the Sydney Opera House. My opera experiences are minimal at best...I think I've been to 3 now, so when it came time to decide what to see at the Opera House guess how I chose the opera?

Pretty Women. Ha!

You know that scene when they go the opera and Julia Roberts says "It was so good I almost peed my pants!" and he turns to the old lady who she was talking to and says "She said it was better than the Pirates of Penzance." So, guess what we saw?

The Pirates of Penzance!

Seriously that's how I chose. I checked what operas were playing and it was the only one I recognized, and yes I only recognized it from Pretty Woman, so I bought the tickets right then and there having NO idea what the opera was about. You may remember I also did this with West Side Story and it turned out less than amazing for me. This time on the other hand it turned out completely awesome.

Did you know that the Pirates of Penzance is a comedy???? And that the main pirate is either being very Jack Sparrow in his portrayal of his character....or vice versa? Seriously, he was totally Jack Sparrow (from Pirates of the Caribbean if you don't know who Jack Sparrow is).

Anyway, LOVED the opera and give it 2 thumbs way way up, if you ever feel like going to the opera and Pirates of Penzance is playing, GO SEE IT!

Oh, and you remember this dress, well I didn't wear it to the wedding, but I totally bought it anyway and yep, I wore it to the opera!



How very New York of us to be in head to toe black...

Anyone else been to any really great operas?

I'm going to start my new countdown now, it's the countdown to HOME!

T-Minus 15 Days!!!!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

video

Sorry it's such a crap editing job, I'm learning imovie and honestly couldn't be bothered to put more effort into it than this.

Enjoy!