Eastern Coastal Walk - Part 1

It was a beautiful day last Sunday and I had been bugging Joe for a while to do the "Bondi to Coogee" walk. This particular trek is one part of a beautiful walk along the beaches and cliffs that stretch from the mouth of the Sydney Harbour down to a beach called Maroubra.  The walk in it's entirety is called the Eastern Coastal Walk so I suppose the title of this post is slightly wrong - however, I do hope to complete the entire walk eventually and so have parts 2 and 3. 

The portion of the walk that we did was 6 kilometers long (just shy of 4 miles) - it didn't seem all that long; but there was a lot of stairs and climbing involved so it did take us a couple of hours to complete.  In this first picture you can see the approximate route that we took.  It's not a great indicator of scale, so, in this second photo, I backed the map out so you can get a better idea of the length of the walk. 

It was an absolutely perfect day with bright blue skies - I took about 70 pictures in total and then whittled that number down to 30 once I got home and started editing.  Just a warning:  I'm not sure how I am going to pick only a few photos to add to this entry.  There may be multiple entries with lots of photos on each one so be prepared!
We started by taking a bus to Bondi - I have to admit - not a great way to spend a morning.  It was crowded on the bus (the Bondi buses are always crowded); however, we were lucky to have boarded the bus at the first stop so we did have seats for the entire trip.  The last time we took a bus to Bondi it only took about a half hour.  There was so crazy traffic on Sunday though, so we were in route to Bondi for almost an hour.  Once we got there we sunscreened up and we were off.  The beach was already starting to be really crowded (even though it's just early Spring here) and we weren't in the mood for crowds after our bus ride. 
It was very crowded to begin with - there seemed to be a lot of people just strolling up the first hill to get a better view of Bondi beach in it's entirety or maybe going up to the famous Bondi Icebergs Club (so named because their members swim year-round... yes, even during the dead winter) to see the salt water swimming pool.  Either way, Joe and I were ready to take off at a good pace so that we could get away from the worst of the crowds (again, we were pretty sick of people at this point).  Well, to be completely truthful, Joe was ready and I kept lingering behind to take pictures.  I couldn't help it really!  I have been stricken with shutter-bug-itis!
The surf was crashing up over the corner of the Icebergs swimming pool and everywhere I looked there was blue water, blue sky, white rock and green foliage.  It was very very hard not to take many more than 70 photos.  Heck, I would even venture to say that only taking 70 photos showed great restraint on my part!

Once we rounded the first cliff thingy ( I don't know what to call them - maybe a curve?  Yea, that sounds good). So, once we rounded the first curve in the cliff walk we could see down the coastline for miles. 

It was incredible to see people on the cliffs so far away looking for all the world like tiny ants and to think that we would be standing there too in about an hour. 

The beginning of the walk by Bondi was very challenging.  There were dirt paths and lots of precarious steps that had been hewn in the rock.  Sometimes the steps were more like divots so it would be tough keeping your balance.  There was also a great disparity in the size of the steps - there would be a couple that were about 6 inches, than one that was 10 then two that were 3 then.... well, you get the idea.  Murder on the calves I tell you. 

The rocks along the walk were particularly beautiful - they had that distinctive "erosion" look to them... that softness of line that can only come from years and years of the harsh elements facing the Tasman Sea. Some of the rocks were a golden colour that was really beautiful up against the blue sky; but my favourite were the white and grey rocks.  They were just so stark and dramatic against all that blue.  It made the coastline pop out at you.  This one was an accidental dead end that we got to - I think it was meant to be a lookout of some sort... or maybe just a resting place.  We only had to retrace our steps for about 10 meters to get back to the main path. 

I'm certainly glad for the wrong turn though as this was one of my favourite photos that I took the whole day.

Well, the next beach on the walk was called Tamarama Beach.  I had a little information card talking about the walk and it proclaimed this tiny little beach to be where "all the most buff, tan bodies" were in Sydney.  Yikes!  Once we got down there though, we realized that it wasn't anything special...  I think once you start actively advertising a specific beach as a place where all the hot people go to get half naked, than all of the not-hot people start showing up to gawk.  Once that happens than it is just a regular beach....  After the walk, when I was doing some googling research on it, I read that Tamarama was actually considered to be a gay beach.  I have to admit, it just looked like a regular beach to me... 

After Tamarama, we walked on to Bronte Beach which was about the half way point in our stretch of the walk.  I liked Bronte the best - it seemed very family friendly without being overrun by unruly children.  Plus the sand looked completely gorgeous.  I made a mental note to keep it on our list of beaches to frequent this summer.

I did read later that it can have some pretty dangerous undertows/rip tides etc... so maybe it will be a beach where we lay on the sand and wade in the water - not a "swimming" beach.  Not that either of us are major swimmers but.... I digress..

We stopped at a little picnic shelter in the park overlooking Bronte to eat our packed lunch of sandwiches.  We had bought them at a stand in Circular Quay earlier that morning so my hopes were not high.  Rightly so, they were just ok; but we were pretty hungry by that point so we really didn't care.

I am going to go ahead and cut this walk into two posts. It's already one in the morning here and I have to work in the morning.  I love you all; but not that much.  I will add the rest of my photos down below; but you will have to make up your own stories to go with them!

Good and Bad

So, Ive had this post rolling around inside my head ever since we got our stuff (man, that makes it sound like there is a whole lot of empty hollowness in my noggin).  I've been wanting to write about my Mom and Dad - not just about them; but about a few of the things of theirs that I was lucky enough to inherit...  Some possessions that mean so much to me that they are almost a tangible thread that I could follow back to my Mom and Dad if I tried hard enough.  Ok, I know that sounds fanciful.  I'm hoping to explain it here though so maybe by the end you won't think I'm so crazy.

So, like I said, I've been thinking about this post; but I wasn't really in a huge hurry to write it.  Friday evening at work someone gave a talk about eating organic (explanation, if you want to give a short talk about something than you can while everyone is drinking - I know right?) and it seemed to push a lot of buttons in the office.... including my own.  It wasn't the subject matter that bothered me - I think that if you can afford to eat organic than you should.  It was more of the way the subject was presented - lots of blanket statements and not a whole lot of objectivity.  Anyway, you know me with the big mouth - first I chimed in to give some examples of how crazy expensive organic food is here.  Then, as the talk devolved into a discussion, I was trying to get across the point that eating organic won't save your life just as not eating healthy your whole life will necessarily condemn you to cancer.  So, I used my parents as an example - one who ate very healthy and died of cancer.  One who ate badly and died of cancer.

Ugh!  What was I thinking?  Now I am the girl with the dead parents.  I try really hard to just not ever mention that my parents have died - so hard in fact that, when I was leaving my old job to move to Australia, several people asked me how my parents felt about it.  See?  I am usually very very careful.  So, we went out to the bars on Friday night after all that and I ended up having a couple drinks too many - which means that I spent Saturday morning lying in bed thinking.  Oh no - thinking...

Usually when I think about my parents (which is all the time), I think of happy things - I try very very hard to not think about the sickness part of their lives.   So, when I was a little hungover, missing them and had the morning to lay in bed with my fuzzy head and think, I thought about all of the horrible things about the actual sickness and dying part of the time I had with them.  It didn't make for a good morning; but it did make me realize that I needed to shake all of those feeling off and write a wonderful celebratory post about my parents and the things they left for me.  I am going to rise above and make this happy!

First up - the spice rack...  This hung in our dining room/kitchen for as long as I can remember.  It was full of Spice Island Spices (the nice expensive ones) so it didn't get used very often.  Mostly, it was a place to stash bills and paperwork.  When we sorted through all of the stuff in my parents house before it was sold, I was lucky enough to get the spice rack.  I immediately hung it on my kitchen wall, full of the same dusty old Spice Island spices that were too old to use.  It was a bit like a shrine really - I didn't use it at all.  When we decided to move to Australia, I had to really think about what to do with it - Leave it in the States in storage?  Bring it with? Buy new spices and send them over? 

The main problem was the old jars of spices - you can bring spices into Australia; but they have to be new and unopened.  I wondered if I should save all of the old bottles and try to clean them out; but the assortment wasn't very good.  In the end, I decided that if Mom were here she would want me to use it - not just look at it on the wall like a painting.  So, I threw away the old bottles of spices, I bought new bottles and labels and I brought all of it to Australia with me.  I've been slowly building up my collection... each time I go to the grocery store I buy a bottle or two of spices and herbs and then I repackage it when I get home. I'm so glad I made the decisions I did - I use it almost every day and it reminds me of Mom's cooking. it's like having her in my kitchen with me every time I make a meal. 

So, the next bit of this story is somewhat of a confession.  I didn't come by this next piece of property through any sort of division of property - I took it.  Granted, I was about 16 or 17 at the time and my parents were still alive so it wasn't like I knew it would be worth something more to me one day.  It was just an old book that was down in the basement and I wanted to have it; because I thought that reading Shakespeare would make me seem really cool.  In reality, none of my friends ever really cared; but I had this book and also a collected works of Edger Allen Poe so in my mind I thought I was a young literary genius.  I've carted this book around with me for the last 10 years - it went through my house fire with me and it moved a bazillion times with me.  I'm honestly quite shocked that it's made it this far.  I decided to bring it to Australia with me because it is one of my oldest possessions (and I use the term possessions loosely) and I've just always had it with me.  I had never looked inside of it before we got here.  I'm not sure what made me open it up when I was unpacking our stuff; but seeing that the book was one of my Dad's college textbooks was like a little gift from him - A little message saying "I'm here with you". 

I started turning some pages and I found his notes.  His writing - such a wonderfully familiar sight - scribbled in the margins of the plays he studied in college.  He was exactly the same age in 1960 that I am now.  I made a mental note of the notes in the book and decided to blog about it.  So, this past Saturday, after I spent the morning in dark thoughts, Joe and I went down to the reserve to read.  I brought this book and my camera to take pictures of it for this entry.  I had such fun reading the little notes and reading the passages that my Dad underlined when he was 27.  I was careful not to look at every page - these sorts of discoveries are best when you can dole them out to your self in small increments over time. 

If I were to leaf through every page and read every notation - it would be too much.  I would feel cheated that there was nothing left to discover.  It was obvious that they hadn't covered every play in the book; and it's not like the pages were littered with notes.  They were few and far between - always judicious - so that makes them all the more precious.  I figure that I will know the next time I need to get  a message from this book.  This particular Saturday, I needed a really big message. 

I was really low, really missing them - feeling sorry for myself... sick of hearing people say "but you are so young!" when they find out that my parents are gone. 
I was sitting on the blanket next to Joe, taking my artsy pictures for this blog entry when I ran across not just a message; but a gift. 

An absolutely amazing gift.

So, now I am restored - back to thinking my happy thoughts!

Chicken Pot Pie

I was just downloading my newest batch of photos from my camera when I ran across a bunch from a dinner I made earlier this week.  It was pretty epic so I thought I would share.  I was wanting some warm comfort food, I had some puff pastry sheets and chicken breasts.....  Of course, Chicken Pot Pie was the first thing that popped into my head!  Really, when a dinner begins with onion, celery and carrot it's really hard to go wrong. 

I didn't have a recipe (per the usual); but I think I ended up with a fairly traditional rendition of the dish...  I tossed some raw potato in and I also mashed up a couple cooked potatoes that I had with some milk and used that to make the delicious creamy sauce.  I decided to put my own spin on it in the spice department; but throwing in a lot of tarragon.  Maybe even a bit too much...  It ended up working though - what I thought was a bit overpowering in my saucepan somehow calmed down and meshed with the other flavours as it bubbled away in the oven for an hour or so.

I had some leftover puff pastry so I decided to use that as my crust.  In hindsight, I think I would have cooked it separately and then floated it on top. Maybe not...  I do know now that rolling puff pastry into little balls to make a pretty edge means that they do not cook all the way.  I will not be trying that trick again!

I think my oven heats a bit unevenly as one side of the pie ended up being more puffed and brown than the other - no worries, it was still pretty and it all eats the same.  I was quite happy with my decorative tree cut out of the pastry. I'm glad I followed through on that particular whim.

I was quite pleased when Joe had a second helping - that always means that I made something really really yummy in his mind.  I almost didn't notice how much he was enjoying it - I was too busy photographing my serving and sipping on my delicious wine from the Coonawarra Valley (gift from the neighbors for feeding their cats).

I also made a green salad - I didn't want our whole meal to be so heavy.  Although, why I feel the need to justify myself is beyond me.  Well, actually it isn't; but that is another post.....

Taronga Zoo

I'm not going to lie - I'm exhausted!

I don't have much in me for this post; but it has been hanging over my head for some time, I'm overdue for a blog entry and it's 11:30 at night.....

Work is great - I just forgot how much harder it is to make free time for blogging when you don't get home from work till late and then still have to make dinner etc...

Anyway - I digress...

I've been putting off this zoo entry because I couldn't think of anything really to say about it.  A zoo is a zoo is a zoo is a zoo...  Admittedly, Taronga is one of the cleanest zoos I have ever had the pleasure of seeing and they do have many cool Aussie animals that I have only ever read about.  Still though, it's hard to imagine how to fill up a great big blog entry saying things like "and then we saw the wallabies - after that we walked over to the chimps" and so on.

So, I'm just going to give you the highlights:

Kim was a doll for taking me and letting me use her guest pass (did you know that admission is $45.00?)
We only saw half the zoo in the time that we had
The Koalas were super cute - especially the mom and baby.
Chimp faces fascinate me
I got to feed and pet a wallaby
Emus are quite scary when they are a foot away from you and staring you down with beady red eyes
I saw the biggest gorilla ever!

Now you get to see the pictures - Enjoy!

Another Year Gone

I am feeling only slightly guilty for not blogging all weekend - It was my birthday weekend and one of the presents I gave to myself was the permission to slack off on blogging, taking photos and everything related.  I hope you all will pardon the absence.

I've been saving up some fun news for a few weeks and since it is finally official I can spill it... 

I got a job!!  Whoo-Hoo!!  I am actually going to working at Joe's company.  It is very very part-time - only a day and half a week to start; but then going up to two and a half days in November.  I'll be handling culture and publicity exclusively till November when I will pick up the extra day doing some work around the accounts receivable/invoicing process.  It's nothing super-glamorous; but it is fun, interesting, engaging and will get me out of the house a bit more.  Don't expect to hear much about the job though as a lot of my new co-workers read this blog!  Anything I post here would be the same as talking about it in the office.

So, I had made plans earlier in the week with two other couples to have a picnic on Saturday - I honestly didn't realize until it was pointed out to me that it was actually my birthday that day.  I really hadn't planned on really celebrating it because I was too worried that it would make me homesick.  Since I got a birthday package from Joe's Mom and Dad that had some Montgomery Inn BBQ Sauce in it, I decided to have a Southern themed picnic.  I made devilled eggs, sweet tea, pulled pork sandwiches, coleslaw and potato salad.  One of the girls brought apple turnovers (so so so so so yummy) and the other brought Bloody Marys (so so so so so yummy).  Really, it was a perfect day.  Perfect.... seriously.  I can't think of anything that would have made it better!

I got flowers from one of the couples - so thoughtful!  They also took some pictures throughout the afternoon and you can view them on their blog here.  Joe's boots even made it into the photo collage!!  It was a truly wonderful afternoon spent lounging on the blanket, drinking, talking and laughing.  Did I mention laughing?  We had so much fun, in fact, that we already have the next picnic planned  for two weekends from now.  I can hardly wait.

All of my worries about being homesick were completely unfounded - it was a great day.

Sunday (today, I guess - but since it's after midnight - not really.  I digress!) was a busy day.  It started slow with me sleeping in far too late...  We had discussed doing the Bondi to Coogee walk; but it was overcast and a little chilly so we decided to postpone that till a nicer day.  We decided instead to catch a bus for Manly beach with a little picnic dinner and some books.   We walked by the exhibition grounds on our way from the bus to the beach and got to see/hear a Scottish Pipe Band competition...  Awesome!

It wasn't the sunniest, warmest day; but it was so nice to lay on a blanket, smell the ocean and hear the waves for an afternoon. 

There is something that is just so wonderfully calming about the ocean...

Then there is the sand....  It gets on the blanket and it gets in the food.  You find it in your house months after your excursion - and, even though you are wearing jeans and a long sleeve shirt, it somehow ends up in your underwear.

The views from the blanket were awesome - just imagine how much greater it would be on a sunny day.

And yes, I need a pedicure... and I have a blue ladybug on my toe...

When we got back into our neighborhood we had the choice of waiting a half hour for the bus or just walking home - wisely, we decided to walk... and since I had my camera, you will now be subjected to two artsy pictures that I took on our way home.

The End!

Fun With Google

If any of you have ever had your own blog or website, you quickly learn about things called analytics.  This is a bunch of HTML code that you embed within your site that tracks how many people view your site, where they are coming from, what types of operating systems they are using etc...  It won't tell me exactly who you are (cause I know you are totally nervous right now reading this); but sometimes I can make some educated guesses...  When I see a big old blip on my map coming from Charlotte, North Carolina - I know who that is; and when I see a blip in West Babylon, New York - I know who that is too!

So here are some stats:
I've been writing this blog since May 5th of this year and I have posted 85 times since then.   It's been a little over four months at this point and I have had over six thousand hits on this blog!  People from 40 countries have been here to read my posts.  The top five countries that send the most traffic to my site are:

1.) Australia
2.) USA - come on folks... you should be in the number one spot!
3.) United Kingdom
4.) Canada
5.) South Korea - really? number 5 in the whole world?

One of my favourite parts of analytics is my ability to see what people were doing Google searches for before they stumbled across my blog.  Of course there are the usual "goneonaluckycountry", "move to a lucky country" etc... but occasionally, there are some other random searches:

North Shore Sydney
Lucky Country Red Wine
Bundaberg Ginger Beer
The City in the Morning
And The Only Thing That
Mimi Food Blog Sydney
Australian Ketchup at T J Maxx

So yeah, some of those actually make sense; but "the only thing that"??  Really?  The weirdest part about these searches is that people actually clicked through to my blog while looking for these things...  I tried doing my own search for "The city in the Morning" and for "And the only thing that" and I made it about 10 pages through the search before I gave up - I'm not sure how far you have to drill down to actually find me.

My favorite search term of all of these was obviously "Australia Ketchup at T J Maxx" - I wondered how many pages of search returns I would have to wade through to find my blog.  Apparently - not many.....

Picnic On The Reserve

Saturday we had friends over for a picnic in our front yard at Kurraba Point Reserve and it was lovely.  Joe and I took a little picnic dinner down there weeks before; but it was chilly, it was late, there was a mob of crazy teenagers and we sat on a rock.  So... this time - sitting in the sunshine on a blanket with lovely friends, beautiful food and delicious wine was one of the nicest Saturdays we have had since we got here.  I think I am going to make this a weekly tradition - in fact, there is another one planned for this coming Saturday.  We are having over 2 fellow blogger/ex-pat couples that we have met and liked immensely.  The theme of the picnic is "Southern Style Food" complete with sweet tea, pulled pork sandwiches and coleslaw...... Yum!

Guess we'll be enjoying this view again in a few days...

Getting Settled - Part 2

So, I spent almost the entire day yesterday catching up on ironing.  Half of our clothing + a dozen space bags + being in a crate for 3 months = equals a ton of laundry and ironing. Yuck, yuck, yuck!

So, one of the boxes that I was most looking forward to getting into was my box full of American toiletries and medicines.  I know... I know, that you can get all of this stuff in Australia; but it is loads more expensive here and I want a bit more time with all of my favourite brands before I start my foray into finding replacements here.  There is just something about Bath and Body Works Kitchen Lemon hand soap that makes me think of summer days in my kitchen in Kentucky.  It's nice to have a link back there sometimes. 

Plus, I already had most of this stuff stocked in our house and it would have been a huge waste of money to just get rid of it (see how well my justification is working).  I also brought my handy-dandy Ikea organizers with me that I had been using to keep all of this stuff sorted.  I swear, Ikea does organization better than anywhere else I have found - and to me, being organized is just about the greatest thing in my life!  So you see, there are separate compartments that are a variety of sizes so that I can put all of the stomach remedies together, all of the dental stuff together, all of the Bath and Body Work stuff together and so on....  

I tried putting the organizers into the hall closet side by side like this (as they were back in our old house) but the closet was just a bit too shallow.  I was really disappointed; because I was trying to conserve as much space as possible.  I ended up having to put them in sideways; but I used the odd spaces left over for storage of my dryer sheets and Yankee Candles.  Plus, I had to have a whole shelf alone for my fluffy white towels!  I am happy to have them; but I am dreading the first time I need to wash and dry them.  

 I think I can only fit 2 of the towels at a time in the washer and I think they will take a couple hours in the dryer to reach their desired fluffiness.  Yikes! ( I am trying not to think of our energy bill for this quarter)  Really, by the time I was through stocking everything in my little closet, it ended up looking like my little American convenience store.  Perhaps I could put an ad out in the Mosman Daily and let the other ex-pats shop in the closet?  I could probably make a fair profit on all this treasure.  Just kidding... this stuff is all mine!!

I had a moment of questioning my own sanity while I was unpacking my kitchen stuff...  I kept coming across packet after packet of kitchen utensils and I started wondering why on earth I thought I needed all of this!  Really, it wasn't all that bad once I got it sorted into categories and separate drawers; but still, after having used 3 utensils for the last three months, I am starting to see that maybe I have too much in my life.  Having very little changes your mindset on how much you really actually need in your life.  I did buy a bunch of measuring cups at Ikea before we left that I didn't exactly need; but I really only bought them because they listed both the metric and the empirical measurements on them.  I figured that was something that would come in handy once I start settling into my kitchen a bit more.

We are almost done setting up the second bedroom/my office.  I have a mattress and bedding ready and waiting for the bed frame to get put together.  It's sort-of complicated and Joe was the one who took it apart and labeled everything so I don't actually trust myself to put it together without him.  I know I would end up with a leftover (very crucial) piece and then our first house guests would end up on the floor the first time they tried to crawl into bed.  We weren't able to set up my black desk as the hardware was somehow lost during unpacking; but Joe took one of the desk legs to the hardware store on Friday, pulled another Rock Star McGuyver and had it set up within 15 minutes of getting home from work....  what a nice man I married!

It's very exciting to have a desk on which to put my laptop and really type.  I think it makes me want to post longer blog entries (if these last two are any indication) when I sitting comfortably to write instead of sitting on the bed with the laptop balanced precariously on my knees.  Plus, I got to stack up all of my books in piles around me - I am trying to decide which of them I am going to read or re-read and in which order.
I have two travel books that I am deep into right now - one is about a couple from Britain that moved to Verona, Italy (I love reading about the Italians) and one is about a mother and her children who moved from Sydney to the south of France to run several small inns.  The second one isn't all that well written to be honest; but it is still very interesting to read for all of the Sydney references.  She lived on the North Shore like we do and she references streets/landmarks etc. that are now in my neighborhood.  Reading the book has been bringing me another layer of realism to the fact that I really actually live here now.

The wardrobe in our bedroom is quite small so I have been using the wardrobe in the second bedroom to store my clothes until we can get a large freestanding one from Ikea to put in the master and share.  I unpacked all my jewelry after my desk was set-up and I ran into such a dilemma - what to do with all my dangly earrings?  Necessity is so the mother of invention/innovation...  I used an old necklace of mine that I really didn't care about any more and I created my own little earring holder.  Ha ha!!  Victory again!  I must say, as much as I miss my giant fabric-backed, picture frame earring holder thingy that I made back in the States -I think this turned out much nicer and is much more tidy and neat.

OK, I'm off to get more done; but I leave you with one last photo... 

My first truly yummy, homemade with my own espresso machine, flat white...