I'm Not in Kansas Anymore

I have been trying desperately to clean up my photos folder on my hard drive as I have been taking load of photographs of the food I have been making. For the food blog.  That I am starting soon.  Really.  I mean it.

I have an excellent filing system (as one might imagine) that includes such folders as "Random Pics", "Random Sydney Pictures", "Random Food Photos" and "Random Nature".  Are you sensing a theme here?  Anyway, I've run across a whole bunch of Aussie themed photos that I had taken that I have been meaning to share here.

Please enjoy my "random" collection:

This is the Kookaburra couple that likes to sit on the rooftop of the building next to us.  It's close enough that, were the roof flat, I wouldn't be at all nervous to jump onto it from our window.  So, that means that they are very very very very loud!  This has also become their favourite place for "couple time" if you know what I mean.  It's quite violent and frenzied and a very good reason to close the curtains...

Also a favourite spot for this adorable Lorikeet couple.  These birds are just so gorgeous to watch, not only because of their plumage; but because they have really cute personalities.  This couple in particular seems to have a husband that is a bit of a loudmouth and a wife who just shakes her head at him.  I'm sure there are lots of us who can sympathize!!

This is an insane flower that Joe and saw on our way to breakfast one weekend.  It was just down the street from us.  I know it looks a little suggestive; but climb out of the gutter for a moment just to admire the absolute coolness of it.  I didn't feel that this picture adequately captured the size of the bloom, so.... 

I had Joe provide a sense of scale.  Every time I see a familiar plant here, I always notice that the one here looks like it must be taking steroids.  I'm sure it's mostly to do with the climate and I'm certainly not complaining.

This is some "street art" that is out at a place called Cockatoo Island.  It's in the middle of the harbour and it used to be a heavy industrial site.  It's been closed down for some time and, instead of tearing everything down, they've left it all as a canvas for very interesting art.  You can take a ferry out and tour around the island on your own for free.  Very often they have exhibitions there; but even when there isn't, there is some permanent stuff that is very cool.  They also have a bar there during the summer, complete with lawn chairs and astroturf.  It's an absolutely amazing place to go with friends to spend an afternoon drinking G&T's and watching the water.  I've never gone with the express purpose of wandering around the island - I'd like to do that next time to see all of the industrial art.

Autumn brings colder weather which really stinks; but it also brings incredible sunsets which doesn't.  This is one of my favourite ones from a few weeks ago.  Purple water yo!!

All by myself....

Well, not really...

And mostly by choice....

I know I haven't written much lately  - in my mind, I feel as though it has been a couple of months since I blogged regularly; but the sad truth is that it's been closer to six than two.  Anyway, lots of things have changed in that six months - most notably that Joe moved to a new job in a new company.  What that has meant for me has been the opportunity to stay home and be a "lady that lunches".

Most of my friends work though (how dare they right?) and so I find myself doing a lot of things "all by myself".  I waver between rather enjoying all the time and feeling a bit lonely.  I know that I am very lucky and I also know that this status may not be forever.  I may have to go back to work at some point or someday we may have children and this enviable status of stay at home wife could go right out the window.

Because I am aware of how lucky I truly am, I am not complaining even a little bit about those spots of loneliness - I am trying to embrace the opportunity to do things that I never had time for before.

I am starting a cooking blog.  No really.  I am.  Soon.  Seriously.  I promise.  Stop laughing.

Well, the whole point of this post is that I was on the bus the other week coming back from some shops when we happened to stop at a red light right in front of our local cinema.  I was looking at the posters and a sudden thought flashed into my head.  I realised that I have never seen a movie by myself in my whole life!  Ever!  So, I resolved then and there to rectify that situation as soon as possible.  It took me a couple of weeks to get around to it; but this afternoon I went to a movie by myself.

Just a quick word about our cinema.  It's called the Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace and I think it's grand!  It's a fully restored art deco theatre so the technology is new but the furnishings are still swank.

This is the largest theatre where the most popular movies play.  During prime time, there is an old Victrola Organ in the floor that gets raised up before the movie and you get a little concert.  Majorly cool!

How amazing is that?

Even the smaller theatres are cool.  This one is only about 60-70 seats and so lots of the smaller films play here.  This is actually the cinema I sat in today when I saw my movie.  Me and 4 other people!

I saw a movie called The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and I am recommending it highly if you have the opportunity to see it.

Reason #24618 I love living in Australia

My chemist knows my name....

It feels hard to explain why that is such a big deal - but I will try...

Instead of having giant Walmarts, Krogers, CVSs and Walgreens to choose from for our prescription needs, we have two local "chemists".  I chose one when we first moved here simply because it was on one side of the street versus another.  This isn't like a Walgreens where you can pop in for some groceries, a dog toy, a belated birthday card for your cousin, eyeliner and your prescription.  No, this is a tiny little store  - maybe the size of two largish bedrooms smooshed together and their opening hours are not conducive to modern times.  They are open till 7pm weeknights and have very limited hours on weekends.  If you went in with that list that I just named off, you would walk out with just the prescription.  That's all they do....

It sounds limiting and there were times when we first moved here that I struggled with that.  Joe and I both take maintenance prescriptions so, while I wasn't in there a lot, I was in there about once a month.  When Joe had his big surgery back in October, we struggled with getting his pain managed properly.  The doctor agreed that he needed an additional script of the main pain med he was taking.  They asked for the name of my chemist and I gave it to him.  Later that day, when I went to pick up the script, the chemist didn't know what I was talking about - apparently, the doctor sent the new script through snail mail to us - not even to the chemist!!  There was no calling or faxing. The chemist tried to call the Dr to verify; but it was after 5pm so no dice.  Luckily, the Dr had scanned the new script and emailed it to us.  I showed the copy to the chemist and he filled it because he knew us and knew we weren't trying to scam him.

So, can you imagine going into CVS or Walgreens with a *copy* of a prescription for narcotic pain killers and having them fill it and telling you, "just bring the original in when you get it in the mail."??  Can you imagine?

Anyway, since then, he has filled another script for Joe while still waiting on the new one from his regular Dr.  To be fair, this is one of the ones we get every month; but still.... how great of service is that?

Last month, I ran out of refills on my regular prescription.  When I picked up the last one, the chemist gave me the used up script and told me to get a new one from my Dr and drop it off when I had time.  I did it a couple of weeks later and stopped back in to drop it off.  He was behind the counter in the back filling a script so the shop girl was trying to help me.  I was just trying to explain what I was dropping off to the confused girl when he popped out...

"Hey *insert my real name here*, is that your new script for *insert medicine name here*?

"It is!"

"Do you need it filled now or later?  You should still have 2 weeks worth from the last one but I can fill it right away if it's easier"

So, in that moment I realised.... My chemist knows my name by sight, he knows what medicine I take and approximately always knows when I will be needing a refill.  A couple weeks after that when I was picking up my medicine, he asked, "Does Joe need his *insert medicine name here* filled?  He should be almost out".

In that second moment I realised.... My chemist knows both of our names and all of our medicines and when they need to be refilled.  How great is that?

Brings a whole new meaning to personal service!

Aria Restaurant Sydney - 24 hours and counting.....

There is this great couple that recently moved to Sydney from Atlanta.  Their names are Mollie and Dan and their blog is here.  The reason why I bring them up is due to the fact that we have a date with them tomorrow night - a date I have been looking forward to for a month - A date to eat incredible food...

The idea hatched itself over some glasses of wine (could it have happened in any other setting?) - basically, the four of us love to eat really incredible meals in top restaurants and we are blessed enough in our lives to have the means by which to pay for these meals.  So, we decided to make a list of the top restaurants in Sydney (after all, we are in a foodie's paradise - why not take advantage of it?) and then eat at one every month.  Obviously there are going to be some hiccups in the plan as we will be in New Zealand for a good chunk of December and will need to skip that month; but the four of us are also pretty easy going so no rigid schedule is being adhered to.

This month, November, is our first month in action on this plan.  We chose the restaurant Aria (when I say we, I mean Mollie and myself - the poor guys are just arm candy for this project!) which is located just before the forecourt of the Opera House and has a lovely view of both the Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

I think any food tastes better when consumed looking at a view like this

The restaurant is owned and run by celebrity chef Matt Moran who is most recently famous for guest-judging on the third season of Masterchef Australia.  Side note, if you don't download and watch this show, you should.... I think it's better than the American version and that's really saying something...

As you might have guessed by now, I'm more than a little excited about our dinner there tomorrow night.  I think we've all agreed to go with the tasting menu (always my favourite way to eat since you get to try lots of things) and with good reason.  Check this baby out:

sashimi and tartare of yellow fin tuna with yabbie tails, cucumber ,honeydew melon and wasabi

chicken and foie gras parfait with a salad of smoked duck, rhubarb and black pepper
roasted fillet of King salmon with fennel, orange and watercress

with dumplings, shaved abalone and mushrooms
Kurobuta pork belly with pork croquette and caramelised apple
roasted fillet with ricotta gnocchi, pumpkin and mustard fruit purée and a sage and balsamic sauce
panna cotta with pistachios, balsamic strawberries and strawberry sorbet

Suffice to say, my mouth is already watering!

It's Spring!! I'm Cheerful!!

One of the best things about living in Sydney is the glorious weather.  I know... that sounds dramatic - but I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio.  A place where it was not uncommon to have snow 6 months out of the year.  A place where summer only lasted a few weeks each year.  Ok, maybe I'm exaggerating a little bit; but as someone who is always cold, moving here was like a lifetime dream fulfilled!  No Snow! Ever!  At worst it gets down in the 40's during winter! Heaven...

Granted, now that I've been here for 2 winters, I'm starting to feel like 40 degrees is actually really really really cold!  Oh acclimatisation, you are a cruel trickster!

Anyway, I can't decide if it's all the excellent sleep I've been getting or the fact that Spring is truly here that is making me in such a stinking good mood - but, who cares?  Life is awesome!

I do think that the warmer weather has a lot to do with my happiness though - Spring in Sydney is scattered with these really lovely signs of growth.  I know I have posted about the Jacaranda Trees in the past and I know I have posted pictures of them; but I just can't convey how gorgeous it is to look out of our windows and see dots of brilliant purple all over the cityscape.

This is not my picture - I found it on-line and stole it...

The sky is crazy blue every day - a blue that you will. not. believe. until you actually come here and see it for yourself.  It's warm enough to sit outside on the ferry in the mornings on the way to work.  The past few mornings it's actually been a bit too hot to sit in the sun on the ferry and we have had to seek seats with some shade (well, Joe thinks it's too hot - I think it's glorious!).

It's still light out now when we leave for work.  The windows are open in our bedroom now and so we are being woken up by water, sail boat and bird noise.  Not a bad alarm clock if you ask me!  Basically, everything is sunny, warm and beautiful! (see what all this extra sleep does to me?  I am so annoyingly cheerful!)

Summer in Sydney is festival time.  Every week there are new tents, signs, and exhibits being set up in Hyde Park.  We just finished up with the Crave Food Festival and it's attendant Night Noodle Markets.  Joe and I went last year; but had to give it a miss this year as it was taking place right during the week of surgery stuff (see previous post). The events for the Annual Sydney Festival have just been announced and already my calendar for January and February is chockers with events.

 Heaps of flowers have been set-up in the forecourt of St Mary's Cathedral as they are every spring and summer.

There is just something so awesome about looking forward and realising that from the beginning of November to about May it is just going to be lovely outside.  Realising that you have a full six months in which to spend your weekends on beaches or sprawled out on blankets some where watching an outdoor cinema or listening to a free concert.

Jealous yet?  Want to visit yet?  Seriously, Tourism Australia should hire me to market to cold mid-westerners!

Basically this taunting is fully intended for my family.... Come visit! Soon!

Good Excuses for the Win!!

I know I haven't been here in forever and usually I don't have a very good excuse for my prolonged absences; but this time I have a few decent excuses.  Our life has been busy busy over the last couple of months...  We took a beautiful holiday to Fremantle and the Margaret River region.  We drank (and bought) lots of gorgeous wine while we we there and returned in just enough time for a busy week of catch-up before Joe went in for surgery. Ha ha!!  See?  I do have good reasons?  I win....

Gorgeous Picture of Watershed Winery in Margaret River - stay tuned for more posts on this later

My poor husband had been having horrible problems with breathing that were growing steadily worse over the last six months.  Sleep was eluding him (and by proxy, me) and slowly, breathing during the day also became a real hardship.  He started up with a horrible hacking cough, his asthma returned and every cold virus and allergy irritation seemed to be attracted to him.  It all happened so gradually over a period of months that neither of us really saw the true impact that it was having on us.  We were both exhausted, we were getting sick constantly and poor Joe could hardly breathe!  He finally got a referral to see an ENT specialist who took one look and told him that he need surgery and soon...

Basically, everything in Joe's breathing area (Please don't be intimidated by my fancy medical terms - I'm really just like you) was swelling up and slowly cutting off his airway. Nice right?  Additionally, he has some genetic malfunction where his esophagus is weak and will continue to swell and get irritated  if not taken care of...  The long and short of all this gross medical talk is that Joe had to have surgery.  In this surgery, he had his adenoids and tonsils removed - he also had part of his soft palate shaved back and he had his entire esophagus cauterised, widened and scored with little cuts to ensure a strong esophagus for life.

It was a rough procedure and there was a whole lot of pain involved.  A whole lot.  Joe could tell you a lot more about the specifics of the pain; but let me tell you, it was hard just to watch him go through it.  It was made much worse by the fact that the dose of pain meds that they gave him wasn't even half strength. He wasn't eating or drinking and I started getting concerned.  Thank goodness for my lovely sister Julie who is a nurse.  She gave me all the proper info on what safe dosages were, I called Joe's Dr., he agreed and we went forward with better pain management.  That's when things started turning around and the healing process began.  Yesterday was just 3 weeks out from the surgery and Joe is feeling like a whole new person.  He still gets a bit tired and sore when he talks too much and he still has to concentrate a little bit when he's drinking so as not to allow the liquids to come out his nose!!

The best part of this whole procedure has been the sleep.  Oh!  The Sleep!!  Neither of us realised (again, as it al happened so gradually) how little sleep we were actually getting through the night.  It has been absolute heaven to go to bed every night and wake up feeling truly rested.  As the sleep has improved, everything has improved.  We are in good moods all the time, we want to go out and do things, we are happy and life is beautiful.  I know that anyone reading this who is a parent will understand what I am talking about when I say that 6 solid months of interrupted and crappy sleep can make life seem like a very dark place.

Anyway, if you add together the general misery leading up to the surgery, the surgery, the recovery and some other largely life-changing decisions that have gone on in the last week and a half (and no, I'm not preggers) than I would say that I have some darn good excuses for neglecting you for the last month or so.

I promise I'll be better from here on out - and really, with this much sleep in my life, I am feeling like there is not much that I can't do right now.

More news to follow in the coming weeks - we are welcoming summer, our first overseas visitors and some big changes here so there should be plenty of writing material!

It's Fridayyyyy... Fridayyyy....

Well, Joe and I leave for Perth tonight and I can't wait.  I've been really struggling with anxiety this week - not sleeping well and generally feeling quite on-edge....  Luckily, I had plans to meet up with Cristin for a Mani/Pedi last night so that helped to get me in a holiday mood.  I also made the executive decision that I needed a massage so after my nails, I ran next door and got a 90 minute Thai massage.  So worth it (even though I'm a bit sore today) and exactly what I needed to finally let go of all my stress and tension and mentally prepare for our holiday.

Of course, because I spent hours after work getting pampered, I didn't get home till late.  That meant that we ate dinner late, I finished the laundry very late, started packing extremely late and went to bed ridiculously late.  So, I'm pretty tired today; but still feeling really mellow - maybe I'll try to sleep on the plane...