Playing Catch Up

Just a warning - this will most likely be incredibly long, boring and rambling as I am determined to catch up and write about the last week and half all in one post...  Strap in, this may get bumpy....

In my last post, I left off with my adventures to Chinatown on the Tuesday before last.  I went off to work the next afternoon and when I was passing through Hyde Park, I realised that the Night Noodle Markets which are part of the Sydney International Food Festival were due to end in a few days.  I had been looking forward to this event ever since I saw the first tents being erected in Hyde Park so I made a date with Joe to have dinner there that night.  It's actually a bit strange as he was working from home that day and I was working in the office - it's usually the other way around!  We aren't really the "festival going" type of couple; but this really wasn't too bad.  We didn't get there until a bit after 6 when I thought it was quite busy - silly me, by 8 it was a complete and total madhouse!
We started off by buying a bottle of wine... as we were standing in line, the real estate agent that showed us our unit saw us and came over with some friends of hers to say hello and ask how we were settling in.  It was nice of her to come over to talk to us and it made me like her a bit better.  As you may remember from this post, she was a bit witchy when I tried to see the apartment for the first time so I am now revising my opinion of her!  Anyway, we got some pork and duck buns and then started looking for a decent patch of ground on which to sit (I think you would have to get there around 3 to actually get a table)... We found a perfect place and as soon as we sat down, a family sat down about 4 inches away from us complete with a screaming toddler in a pram that got parked facing us.  Yeah, we totally moved!  I'm glad we did though because; as we were settling our stuff around us in our new spot the woman next to us said something to us and I realised she was American. So, of course, me being the shy thing that I am (ha ha ha) struck up a conversation with her.  I've exchanged some emails with her and I'm hoping to meet up for a coffee soon.  Call it what you will... fate, kismet, providence etc... but I believe that we ended up on that little patch of grass for a reason.  The American woman, her British husband and adorable baby left soon after we sat down.  Joe and I stayed in the park to finish our wine and watch dusk and twilight come down on the market. 
I know you married folks will understand when I say that sometimes couples don't have much to say to each other over a quick weeknight meal.  Especially when you work in the same place and spend as much together as we do!  This was not one of those nights...  We couldn't stop talking - couldn't stop holding hands - couldn't stop smiling at each other.... You know what I mean!  We sat with our wine in the grass and really talked... about the big (and mostly fantastically wonderful) things in our lives right now.  When we finished the wine, we really wanted to eat a yummy desert to round out the night; but there wasn't anything at the Noodle Markets that looked good to us.  We walked down to Circular Quay and had some delicious coffee and some tirimisu at Rossini at the Quay. I think we missed about 2 ferries while we were sitting there holding hands - we just didn't want to leave and spoil the great conversation that we were having.  It's moments like those when I realise just a fraction of how lucky we are as a couple.  How lucky we are that we found each other in the middle of our crazy lives, and how glad I am that we both stuck it out through much of the crap that we had to deal with early on in our relationship.  Our marriage is worth every bit of stress that we ever had to face.
I can't ever have imagined moving halfway around the world - that just wasn't in my wheelhouse... I'm a homebody, I don't like change and I don't like my routine to be altered.  It still seems pretty crazy that we are here and that I'm actually happy with my new and different life here.  The only thing that I can figure is that being with Joe is like being home to me - as long as I have my hand in his than I can go anywhere without fear or worry.  I know this might sound a bit schmaltzy (ok, probably more than a bit); but big life events can either strengthen a relationship or they can reveal all the tiny cracks that will eventually lead to a full break.  Moving in general can be very stressful - let alone moving to a new country.  I was always worried in the back of my mind that our move might shake our marriage up and cause some fights etc... 
In the end though, I was completely unprepared for the effect that this move had on our relationship. I didn't think that this big stressful move could make us fall even more in love.  I didn't think it could strengthen our already rock solid foundation.  I guess that putting yourselves in a position where your spouse is the only one you can lean on for a while can deepen your patience and trust in each other in a way not many things can.
Anyway, I digress ((I mean, that was a seriously long, vomit-inducing digression) I hope you are still reading; but, if not, I would totally understand).  We hopped on the next ferry, still holding hands and then it was homeward bound.
I've been trying to discipline myself into taking pictures of anything and everything that I like or find beautiful - even if it makes me feel silly or even if the picture turns out looking like crap.  I was lying bed that night reading a book and Joe was sleeping - I glanced over and realized that my husband's back, as he sleeps in bed next to me, is one of the most beautiful things that I have ever seen.  So I snapped a picture.

Thursday was a  free day for me; and I can't remember anything remarkable about it.  There was probably some laundry involved - Ah yes, I believe I finished the last season of The Tudors... yikes, they were really into the torturing and beheading there at the end.

Friday was work and then out for a few drinks with coworkers.  Joe got dinner at the pub; but I didn't eat.  So, when we all left the pub, Joe and I went around the corner to a little Italian place where I got a salad and a bowl full of mussels.  Oh, and I had the best cappuchino of my life...  Really, like the total best.  Also, I think there was a redback spider in the toilets....

Saturday morning (or maybe it was Thursday?  At this point I'm not completely sure of the days) we were quite shocked to hear the buzzer.  It was the postman!  OMG!  The postman actually rang our buzzer and then actually brought a package up to us instead of just leaving a card in the mailbox!  I guess my complaining finally paid off.  The package was a from my fabulous and wonderful sister Julie and it was full of incredible goodies.  Peanut butter M&Ms, Reese's Pieces, Bath and Body Works Lotions, Magic Erasers and some Skyline Chili seasoning packs.  Oh the rapture!  The lotion has to be my favourite item - she sent me one of their new line (I think - I am so out of the loop on all things involving American shopping) called Dark Kiss.  I'm just letting all of you know, up front and right now, that I would consider doing pretty much anything to get my hands (ha ha - literally... wow, that was a bad pun) on more of that specific scent.  I might even consider smuggling a koala out of the country for someone if they offered me enough of this lotion - just saying....
In the afternoon, we headed up to Pymble for a housewarming party for a coworker.  Their new apartment is huge and completely gorgeous!  The company was wonderful, the food was truly beautiful (especially the whole broiled fish with ginger) and we had a wonderful time.  About halfway through the party, the sky opened up and it rained absolute buckets... in the back of my mind I pictured all the open windows in our apartment and had a mini heart attack but what could we do?  It cleared up by the time we left which was good as we had to walk back to the train station to head home.  Well, you can probably see where this story is going...  we got home to complete destruction and devastation (ok, I'm exaggerating a little but it was pretty bad).  Lamps were blown over, there were puddles on the side tables and the couches were completely soaked. Joe's computer equipment was ominously wet; but all survived save his keyboard. Our bed was so wet from the rain blowing in that we actually had to sleep in the spare room that night.  We closed our bedroom door and turned the heater on in there full tilt to try to speed out the drying process.  Really though, we were very lucky that both Joe's desktop and my laptop which were both left right in front of open windows made it through unscathed.  Needless to say, we have been pretty militant about closing the windows every time we leave the apartment now - Lesson learned.

Ok, I am now admitting defeat.  I still have a weeks work of blogging to go and this post is so long that I doubt most of your will have even made it to the end without falling asleep.

Next up, a wedding, a week of being irritated and a Halloween Party. I'll try not to wait another week again so that I can keep these entries a bit shorter.

(Also, can I just say that I am having such a love affair with parenthesis in this post)

Insomnia - Or - Why I am Writing at One in the Morning...

I suppose I should be grateful for my insomnia tonight - it certainly lends itself to blogging far better than sleeping an a warm comfy bed would...

As I mentioned in my last post, this past weekend was very productive with the both of us getting a bunch of stuff done around the house.  We made a trip to Ikea for more furniture on Friday night and then spent the weekend getting it all set-up.  I also finally finished re-painting the armoire I had been working on for a seeming eternity...
It's pretty incredible having an actual living room full of furniture - we spent so long with nothing that I had almost forgotten what it was like to invite people over without asking them to bring their own chairs with them!  I was really in a rush to get all of this set-up this past weekend because Monday night I was hosting my ex-pat book club at my place.  I knew it would push me to get more done than I would have otherwise...  Quite honestly, if I hadn't been hosting the book club, I think the armoire would still be unpainted...

Monday morning I had plans to go see "Eat, Pray, Love" with my friend Kim.  I hadn't seen her in a few weeks and I was missing her like crazy...  She had just gotten back from a holiday in Western Australia so we had much to catch up on at our lunch after the movie.  I really wanted to sit around and talk to her all afternoon; but she had to pick her son up from school and I had a ton more to get done before book club.  It was a resounding success, although I hadn't read the book and those that had read it didn't really like it.

(I have to pause here to add that I had ordered the book weeks before but it hadn't arrived yet.  Also, I have to add that I got it several days after the book club meeting, started reading it yesterday, finished it today and I thought it was one of the worst books I have ever spent painful painful hours trying to slog through).

But, I digress...  Tuesday was a scheduled "day of adventure" with a fellow blogger.  We talked about doing some walking tours etc; but the day was rainy and overcast so we decided to head down to Chinatown and Paddy's Markets for some Yum Cha (Dim Sum) and some serious shopping.  We met around lunchtime so we decided to start with the food and then go from there.  Yum Cha was delish and wonderful - fellow blogger had never experienced it before so it was neat to get to explain how it all works.  We had a bit of a translation issue at one point and so ended up with a lovely dish of beef tripe (you do know that tripe is stomach lining right?) on our table.  As with most odd things that you can order in a Chinese restaurant, the flavour was great; but the texture was quite um... textured. 
I was quite impressed with the both of us though - we both tried it and we both actually ate more than one piece each.  Actually, when I wiki'ed tripe to make sure I talked about it correctly, I found out that most commercial breakfast sausage in the States uses pork and beef tripe as filler.  I guess I can't honestly say that this was my first experience with it!  The rest of the food was stellar, and so, buoyed up by a pot of Chinese tea, we headed out into the drizzle in search of bargains.  Paddy's Markets were closed much to our intense disappointment; but the upstairs shops were open so we headed up to see what they had on offer.  We were figuring that they would be regular places; but they seemed to all be stores that were geared for lower budgets which suited us just fine!  I was able to pick up 4 pairs of shoes for only $70 and it felt like I was back in America with such bargains. We had just completed a circuit of all the shops when we noticed one off in the corner called Typo.  Fellow blogger and I were helpless - like moths to a flame we went in slack jawed and drooling.  I would try to explain the coolness of this place; but I know I would fall very very short so I am just going to encourage you to follow the link and look at the catalogue.  While in the shop I fell in love with a rather large black canvas with Australian city names listed on it in an arty sort of way. 
I texted Joe some pictures, he liked it, it was a good price so I bought it.  Then I realized that I had to carry it home.  Yikes...  I hadn't really thought that one through.  Luckily it was longer than it was wide so I was able to sort of tuck it under my arm and grab the bottom of it with my hard.  I got lots of stares on the way home... We didn't end up wandering too much through the actual streets of Chinatown as I now had an enormous canvas tucked under one arm; but I am hoping that our next outing can be truly exploratory in that sense...  We did see a bit before we went into the markets and also on our way back to Central Station to catch our respective buses and trains which is when I snapped these couple of pictures.  I'd like to give it a go on a sunny day; with my actual camera and not just a cell phone.

I am going to give sleep another chance; but I will write again in the morning  - I still have to talk about Night Noodle Markets, meeting more ex-pats, being in love with my husband and our busy social weekend.

Obsessions, Eggplant and Voting

What a title right?  I mean, how could you not read this?


I can't stop taking pictures! I downloaded some photo apps for my phone and now I am snapping pictures of random park benches, wharfies or anything else that is in front of me...  I even did a self portrait of myself tonight. How Aussie am I with my messy "couldn't care less" hair?  I even had random unnecessary bobby pins stuck in it just to mess it up extra!

Really though, in all seriousness, I didn't prep for this shot - I just took it in five seconds as a lark; but it somehow managed to capture a lot more than just what my face looks like. It's a bit hard to describe; but I know the ones of you readers that know me the best and longest will know exactly what I am talking about.

Anyway, this is really a microcosm of what I am really talking about....  Obsessions...  Well, not really; but the things that you are semi good at and have always wanted to learn/improve/take classes on etc...  Being here in my specific situation is giving me some opportunities that I never would have imagined.  Opportunities in the shape of seemingly endless free time, a new country/city/culture to explore and most importantly, a new perspective on who I can be, who I want to be and what my life could be like.

I've always loved photography; but I've always written myself off about it - "I have a crap camera", "I don't know anything about photography" etc...  I've had some lucky moments and gotten some good shots.  I took a bunch of pictures on one of our vacations to Hocking Hills and they turned out so well that Joe and I had the whole series framed to hang in the house.  So many people commented on them - Honestly, it was always nice to correct them when they assumed that Joe (the artistic one of the two of us) took them.  I started to think that maybe I really could take good photos if I tried hard enough etc... 

A couple weeks ago Joe and I did some of the Eastern Coastal walk and I was so blown away by the intense beauty of what was around me that I resolved then and there to start taking pictures of everything and anything that caught my eye or looked beautiful to me.  I bought photo editing software.  I started paying just a bit more attention to what I was photographing.  I would say it's going well so far.  Maybe some die-hard photographers will disagree with me and tell me that it takes more than a mobile phone and a vignette to make a good picture.  Maybe they will tell me it takes a $3000 dollar Nikon, many classes and years of experience to produce a good picture.  I say beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

What I'm coming to realise is that it doesn't have to be about "trying hard" or having a top of the line camera...  It is about seeing beauty in simple things, in shadows - about seeing a picture in your head and then capturing it with whatever you have available to you.  Thankfully, I have a wealth of material.  The train stations here are much like the train stations everywhere - nothing special; but coming from a life without trains, I notice them now.  I ride them, I wait for them and I love their yellow doors. 

I am writing and writing about this and I still don't feel as though I've really made my point...  I suppose if I had to sum it up - I would be saying this:

I have given myself permission to take photos of everything and anything I find beautiful or interesting.  I have stopped mentally telling myself that I don't know enough to take good pictures. I am resolved to take advantage of the newness with which I see my surroundings and try to document that. 


I do my grocery shopping on-line here and have it delivered.  It's much easier than dragging it home two miles from the store - even with my shame on wheels granny cart.  I mostly get all of my staples and heavy stuff (((mineral water, milk, canned goods, beer, wine) and yes, beer and wine are staples) don't judge) delivered and then do my meat and produce shopping throughout the week.  This past weekend, I was getting ready to host a book club, I had a full weekend planned and then rest of my week was already booked out....  I decided to order some produce on-line to get me though to when I could make it up to the shops.  Among other things, Eggplants were on special and I sprung for two of them. 

I was kind of expecting those skinny Asian eggplants when the groceries were delivered; but instead I got these impossibly fat, glossy specimens of what eggplants should always look like.

Maybe it's just me, maybe it's that I hadn't made anything Italian-ish in a while; but the first thing I thought of was Eggplant Parmesan.  I had also ordered a big hunk of mozzarella so I was set...  it was more a matter of timing than anything.  The weekend was out, Monday was the book club with nibbles for dinner; but tonight - Tuesday was the perfect time.  It was gloriously gray today - drizzly this morning; but clearing quickly into a blustery, too shy for Spring day.  It was Eggplant Parmesan weather!

I decided to forgo the salting and pressing that my mom always did with her eggplant - I never found it very helpful and I am of the opinion that, if an eggplant is full of bad bitter seeds, no amount of salt and squishing with a full gallon of milk ( my siblings should hopefully get this reference) will make it any more palatable.  All the produce I have gotten here has been completely beautiful so I forged ahead with the egging, breadcrumbing and frying.  I did the usual layering with sauce, eggplant pieces and mozzarella cheese.  I don't have a recipe; but I can tell you that the process of preparing this dish is best enhanced with a nice glass of champagne, the sound of your husband playing music in the office and four new pairs of shoes waiting to be introduced into your closet.  After I finished our dish, I had leftovers of everything - not enough for a whole other 8x10 casserole; but enough for a smaller cute, "one meal for two people with no leftovers" size casserole.  I figured I could freeze the smaller one and then inspiration struck!  Our neighbors across the hall are expecting a baby any day so I packaged it up and took it over for them to freeze and have after the baby comes.  After I got back from delivering it I had a moment of panic.... What if the eggplant was full of horrible bitter seeds?  What if it was inedible?  What had I delivered to them?

Sheesh - I really need to start trusting myself!  I took ours out of the oven when it was golden and bubbly on top.  I broke open a cleanskin bottle of Semillion Chardonnay and served it all up.  I am happy to say that there was not a single bitter seed to be found...  I am actually going to just be honest and say that it was by far the best Eggplant Parmesan I have ever had - better than Mom's and better than anything I have ever had in any restaurant...

It was so good that I actually had this crazy moment after a couple of bites where I blurted out to Joe, "Why don't I do this for a living?"  I've spent the evening thinking about that - about being good at something, about enjoying something, about the difference between a hobby, a passion, an obsession or just work.

Does working at something dull your passion?  Do you need to take classes to be good at something?  It's a lot to think about; but it's really good stuff to be thinking about right now....  Joe made it a point to show me a cooking school around the corner from work last week and I have been thinking about it ever since.  Why shouldn't I do what I love? 

This is just one of the many many reasons I am glad we moved here.  I am working so few hours that I finally have time to take classes if I want.  Plus, moving has gotten us out of our rut - it was a good rut; and I would have been happy in it for the rest of my life; but since I am out of it, I might as well look around and see if there isn't a rut that looks a bit better!

Oh Yes!


Go here and vote for me - even though they have my blog listed as Gone "to" a Lucky Country instead of "on"... Sort-of ruins the whole meaning; but oh well, it would still be cool to win.  I'm only up against 9 other blogs so I think I actually have a decent shot...

I'm Back!

Where did I go?  Well, nowhere really - I was here the whole time... I just wasn't in the mood to write anything.

So, I'll give you the highlights since I've been on hiatus....

We had a long weekend and our first Aussie holiday (it was their labour day) - we had friends over for a dinner/game night that Sunday as it was too rainy for a picnic.  Also, we had Australian Daylight Savings Time go into effect.  So, we used to be 14 hours ahead of the States and now we are only 13?  I think?  These uneven numbers are really screwing with my head.

Also, we went to Ikea and now we are the proud owners of, not one; but two couches!!  It is extremely exciting to sit in something that is not a bed or a bench from a patio set.  We have big plans for this coming Friday evening to go out to Ikea again and buy ourselves two armchairs and a bookcase! Who Hoo!!

This past weekend sucked a bit - our downstairs neighbors smoke and mostly we can't smell it; but Friday night it was really bad and it had Joe and I up all night with allergies etc.... (I do recognize the irony of an ex-smoker complaining about smoke) so Saturday was mostly a bust and rainy to boot.  I think there were like 3 naps that day?  Sunday was better though with blue skies and sunshine.  We decided to walk all the way around Neutral Bay - We made it to the High Street Ferry Wharf and then caught the ferry to Kirribilli.  Then we walked into Kirribilii proper for some brunch.

*Side note - Have I told you about the Orange Juice here?  I didn't think so.....  They don't serve you orange juice from cartons or concentrate here.  They go juice oranges into a glass for you.  Yeah....  The first time I ordered it I thought the place we were eating was extra snooty or something; but no - pretty much wherever you order juice, it will be freshly made.  Yum...

Anyway, after brunch (I swear every time I say brunch I think of "How I Met Your Mother") we walked across the Harbour Bridge into the Rocks/Circular Key.  We had just missed our ferry so we had about an hour to kill.  We got sorbet and sat in the sunshine to people watch - honestly, it was so much fun I didn't even want to go home.

Monday (2 days ago) was our second wedding anniversary.  We both worked (me only half a day though) so it wasn't any huge celebration.  I did make a nice dinner though - pork roast, apple/potato pancakes and green beans.  We got each other cards and little gifts - usually, I am the winner in this department.  I always write long sappy messages in my cards and pick out the perfect presents.  Yea, Joe totally beat me this year - his card (and what he wrote inside of it) was so perfect that I cried and he got me Ugg slippers.  I have needed new slippers for months and I just keep forgetting to buy myself some.  So, he beat me to it and got me like the most incredibly comfortable footwear ever.  I know it's bogan to wear them outside so I won't; but I will be wearing them at every second while I am in my home!

Last night Joe worked late - really really late....  I stayed home all day because I was waiting for the Post to deliver something (which they never did - don't get me started on how annoyed I am with these people) so it was a long hard lonely-ish day.  I did have three Skype dates that morning (thanks Ladies!) so it helped break up the day a bit.

Also - just a quick thanks to Jen for the Birthday care package... Everything made it through quarantine.  I literally walked out of the post office, found the nearest bench, ripped the package open and started laughing.  I LOVE MY HALLOWEEN COSTUME!!!!!!  Thanks also for the great card, candy, stickers, chili powder etc....  You will be happy to know that the M&Ms did not taste like chili powder!

Ok, I am off to get ready for work

Eastern Coastal Walk - Part 2

After we finished our al fresco lunch looking out at Bronte beach we climbed up and around the next curve in the cliff.  I was excited for this next part of the walk as I heard a great deal about it; and also glimpsed it from rather far away when we first started the walk.  I'm referring, of course, to Waverly Cemetery. 

Waverly cemetery was started in 1877 - amazingly enough, it is still operational today - and sits on the top of the cliff looking out over the Tasman Sea.  Apparently, the cemetery started off on a relatively small plot of land; but over the years has grown to over 140 acres of plots and monuments.  I know that some people don't really enjoy being around or in cemeteries; but not me...

I know this will sound a bit macabre or even slightly fanciful; but I don't care.  I just feel very peaceful by graves.  I also feel quite hushed and reverent thinking about all the lives that used to belong to all the remains - all the memories and experiences sort-of massing together into this huge cloud of slowly forgotten humanity that hangs over the dead. 

Wow, that sounded even worse than I thought it would. 
Ok - to explain - when I was little I was completely freaked by cemeteries, wakes, coffins, dead people etc...  The fear part of it faded as I got older; but the rest of it was still pretty firmly entrenched.  After my Dad died, I realised that dead people aren't gross or scary or anything like that - they are all someones dad, mom, brother, sister, husband, wife etc... I also came to realise that cemeteries weren't spooky at all - they were places where family members could come to feel close to those that they lost.  Plus, some years earlier, my bestest friend Meaghan took me to a cool old cemetery in her neighborhood in New York which sort-of started me down the road of viewing cemeteries as history.  Well, back to my original subject matter... there is plenty of history here at Waverly Cemetery...

There are lots of famous Australians who are interred here...  I didn't recognise the names so I doubt any of you would either.  One super interesting tidbit that I read was that there are at least eleven Civil War veterans buried there.  Also, in true Aussie form, there are memorials sprinkled all over the cemetery - to WWI veterans, to WWII veterans, to the soldiers of NSW, to those that were killed in a sea mine explosion, to the Irish Martyrs etc...

I was reading an old (ok, not really old - just outdated) account of the cemetery from the late nineties that was discussing the general disrepair of the place and the inefficacy of having a path for walkers doing to Eastern Coastal Walk leading right through the cemetery.  Apparently, there was some vandalism from the local youths and so-on.  There was a discussion of having a new and modern boardwalk put up along the cliff; but outside the fence of the cemetery.  I am pleased to report that the board walk was indeed erected and looks very nice and not garish.  Joe and I (well, mostly me) decided to use the old path so we could take a gazillion pictures of walk through the cemetery and be reflective.  We did rejoin the new and level boardwalk at the main gates and I must report, I think it was the most pleasant walking experiences of the whole trek.  In this case, I think modernization of the walking path was a resounding success.

                                                                    Some final shots:

The rest of the walk went downhill from there (no, not literally) with the entrance to Clovelly beach which was mostly all paved, filled with children and looked and smelled rather oily. 
There were a couple more fetching little coves - one with fishing boats and dogs and sunbathers on the rocks. Then, back up to the next cliff on which was perched a forlorn looking park on one side and apartment buildings on the other.  The walk weaved into some residential areas, taking us away from the sea view and I was not impressed.  Luckily, down the next hill was Coogee beach, the end of our trek and some delicious iced coffees as reward.  The bus ride back was, thankfully, much less crowded and I used the time to doze on Joe's shoulder.  We were both pleasantly wearied and decided on an evening in with tv and an early bed.

My final verdict on the walk is this: 

I would do it every weekend if I could - it is absolutely not to be missed!  I can't wait to do the beginning and final leg of it...  Plans are in the making!