It was a damp, grey, murky morning when we woke up.
And since we were up and dressed extra early to hit the grocery store for breakfast (guess who went to the store three times this week and forgot eggs, bread, and milk each time? I need to start making a list), we decided to take a short walk down to the park to get pictures of the fog.
Fog Quest 2014!
We decided to go past the park, and headed down to Mort Bay. I love Mort Bay. It’s not very exciting compared to other water areas of Sydney, but it holds some good memories for me. When I first came to Sydney in 2012 to visit my friend, Odie, he and Joel took me to Mort Bay with a couple of $5 bottles of wine and we just carried on. Nothing terribly crazy happened, but it was the night that I first got to know Joel, and I got a chance to re-bond with one of my best friends. Just one of those nights where everyone drinks a bit too much and everyone dies from laughing. It’s one of my most treasured memories.
It was nice to walk down there again and feel the good feelings. Even if the weather was getting super humid. (i.e. I was slowly becoming a ball of sweat)
I dressed for a short walk, which meant flip flops. And now the bottoms of my feet are blistered. Awesome. But, the blisters were worth it. By 10 AM this morning, Joel and I had a) gone on an adventure, b) finished the grocery shopping, c) did our exercise, d) made and eaten a pancake breakfast, and e) gathered a blog post for me. Since then, we did dishes and made left over tacos and did dishes again. And now I’m blogging. And I might get up to make brownies. PRODUCTIVITY. FAT AND PRODUCTIVITY.
Oh, speaking of fat and productivity–I know where I’ll be on Friday night.
Last night, Joel took me to the Night Noodle Markets, an Asian food market set up in Sydney’s Hyde Park as part of Good Food Month. 50 food vendors, 8 million people, 7 million chairs, hundreds of lights, and one giant inflatable Happy Cat. While it was insanely crowded, the weather was perfect and the food was incredible.
The evening reminded me of food festivals back in the states–except the smell of gutter farts and stale cigarettes was blessedly absent. Just a drunk mix of rich business yuppie, school kids, hipsters and hippies taking up tables for too long, or sprawling out on the grass enjoying the dim sum, bao, noodles, fried chicken and curry fest. And I took lots of semi-blurry photos because I was getting knocked into a fair bit, and I don’t know how to play photographer yet.
Man… I could really go for some Pork Bao right now.
Over the weekend, I had an incredible craving for banana cream pudding. It’s possibly the best pudding ever in the world, especially when it’s homemade. What’s better than banana pudding tossed with ‘Nilla wafers and sliced banana, and topped with whipped cream? Hardly anything? That’s right.
This craving was troublesome, since pudding as I know it here is something completely different: it’s a cake.
So, no aisles full of instant pudding boxes in the grocery store. Strike out. Resume desert-induced depression.
But then, Cosby-devined intervention came through: “I could make some. Like home made banana pudding.” Granted, the closest I’ve ever come to home-made banana pudding is throwing 2 cups of milk into a bowl with Banana flavored Jell-o pudding, letting it chill, slicing bananas, dousing it with Reddi-Whip, and eating the entire bowl. I started looking up recipes for ‘from-scratch’ banana pudding, but they were super Southern and filled with scary terms like “corn starch” and “double boiling” and “separated egg whites.” To complicate matters further, I couldn’t find ‘Nilla wafers, or even plain vanilla cookies in our store. Double farts.
I decided not to let it get me down, though. The two cookbooks I have with me from the states didn’t have a recipe I could use, but the internet is dark and full of terrors a lovely treasure box of food noms. And lo and behold, I came across The Baker Chick’s recipe for Homemade Banana Pudding. It looked easy enough to follow, and I was pretty sure I could find all the ingredients, or their Australian equivalent. I wasn’t excited about the 10 minutes of constant whisking, but it sounded easier than double boiling (which I’ve only tried once and it ended terribly). I’ll admit, at first I read the recipe because I liked the look of her site, but, I was sold on how her banana pudding looked closest to mid-west Banana pudding I’m used to eating (did you know that Southern people eat it hot, right off the stove? ew.)
So, yesterday, on a cold, cloudy day, I got to makin’ puddin’.
This pudding was incredible, even without whipped topping. Homemade whipped cream would have been amazing, though. Ah, well. The search continues for whipping cream!
In the mean time, I have one of my most favorite comfort foods ever waiting for me in the fridge.
In a medium sauce pan over medium heat, combine the sugar, cornstarch, egg, egg yolk, whole milk, vanilla extract, and salt. Whisk together until combined, then continue whisking constantly for about 10 minutes, until the pudding thickens and starts to bubble.
Add in the butter, remove from the heat, and whisk until completely melted. If there are any lumps, pour the pudding through a mesh sieve into a separate bowl. Allow pudding to sit in the fridge for 20-30 minutes, until cool to the touch.
First, place a layer of bananas in the bottom of a round 9 inch bowl (or something of similar size), then a layer of vanilla wafers (it doesn’t have to be perfect, because when you scoop up the pudding to serve, everything gets served together), then a layer of pudding.
Repeat this banana, wafer, pudding layering until the last layer is pudding. Place in the fridge for 5-6 hours, covered in tin foil or plastic wrap. (I chilled mine overnight and in the morning it tasted perfect!)
When the pudding is ready, Put your mixing bowl and beaters in the freezer for about 5/10 minutes or until very cold. Then, whip together the heavy cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract until peaks form, about 5 minutes at the most.
Top the pudding with the whipped cream, then sprinkle some crushed wafers over the top of the pudding. Keeps well in the fridge for 3 days. Serves 8.
*fun fact – American style pudding is actually custard, which The New Food Lover’s Companion defines as a dessert made with a sweetened mixture of milk and eggs that can be either baked or stirred using gentle heat. I always thought custard was a gross kind of ice cream. And now I know better.
The first meal I remember my mom teaching me how to cook is meatloaf. Somewhere in my storage boxes at home, I still have her recipe that she wrote out for me, on her stationary whose border had a mother rabbit in a dress, surrounded by [presumably] her baby rabbits in little clothing, saying “Motherhood is a hare raising experience.” I liked making meatloaf because it was my job to mash all the veggies and whatnot into the meat. It was gross. And awesome.
I remember eating meatloaf a lot as a kid, because my parents are mid-western and meatloaf is a mid-west staple. But I can’t remember the last time she made it. And as Joel and I were flipping through a cookbook my mom gave us, his eyes landed on a meatloaf recipe and he lit up. As I was about to find out, Joel is a meatloaf fiend. And since we had hamburger in the freezer, vegetables in the fridge, and up til then, no clue what to do for dinner, we decided on meatloaf.
Prepping it was gross and awesome like it when I was a kid–just mushing together a pile of cold hamburger and egg and cut vegetables, and topping it with tomato sauce. It looked like a pile of wet slop. But after two hours of baking, it was delicious.
I didn’t take more photos, because I didn’t think this meal was going to be a success. But, shit. Meatloaf might become a regular thing now. I paired it with golden potatoes that I mashed with thickened cream and real butter. And it was so good.
What I didn’t realize until I put all the ingredients together is that 2 lbs of meatloaf can feed like, 20 people. Whoops. But now I understand why it’s a family staple. It’s easy to prepare, uses up your old veggies (or frozen veggies, even easier), is child friendly, doesn’t need constant tending, and will feed you for days. Like tonight, when we had fried meat loaf sandwiches.
Meatloaf for days. Or as Joel put it, “Alright, second hand meat!”
Yeah… That quote is the only reason I wanted to post about this.
From Talk About Good
by Hattie Mae Perry
2 pounds ground beef
2 eggs, well beaten
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1/4 bell pepper, chopped
1/4 teaspoon pepper, more if desired
2 slices bacon (optional, I went without, because bacon is different here)
1 can tomato sauce
*I added carrot, celery, and corn, because vegetables are yum. I also added a healthy dose of Tony Chachere’s Cajun seasoning because yes. It goes on everything.
Mix meat, egg, onion, bell pepper, parsley, salt and pepper in a large bowl. When mixed, form into a 9 X 5 inch loaf pan.
Place the two slices of bacon over the meat loaf and cover with tomato sauce.
Bake at 350 degrees for 1 1/2 hours, or 170*C for 2 hours.
Approximately 8-10,000 servings.
This past week, Sydney had some ridiculous thunderstorms.
Thanks to a perfect storm (heh) of weather conditions, our region went through a cavalcade of weather fun–gale force winds, hail, floods, and even snow in parts of the Blue Mountains. It was intense. They Sydney Morning Herald called it a once in a century event, and the news coverage reminded me of the 2012 Derecho that hit parts of the states. Like the Derecho, the super storm caused massive power outages, property damages and flooded subway trains.
Fortunately for us, though, Balmain wasn’t hit too hard. In fact, we watched the storm roll in on Monday night (amidst my own anxiety attack storm), and we had a good time. When I was younger, thunderstorms would turn me into a frightened puppy. I assumed every storm would turn into a tornado and kill me–the natural assumption for someone who has never been in a tornado. But I was raised by parents who grew up in Tornado Alley. And I did watch Twister a million times when I was 12. At some point though, I fell in love with thunderstorms. I get excited when the wind picks up, when I see thunder heads and when the temperature drops. That smell of impending rain, right? So good.
Such good storm.
Added bonus: the storms gave us super cool temps, and I got to pretend like it was October in Virginia for a bit. Thanks, storm!
I have a mild case of anxiety. I’m no stranger to black out panic attacks, or staying awake at night, unable to breathe or keep my eyes closed, feeling my brain move at warp speed, trying to categorize a whirlwind of thoughts. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it’s awful.
Like it was this week.
Last Friday, I finished up my temp role at the cosmetics company, and it was as stressful as I worried it would be. For the first time in years, I found myself taking half a xanax before I left for work and the other half after lunch. When I walked out of the building on Friday, I thought I wouldn’t have to worry about the company anymore. My contract was over, and I was done. I was a temp. I got a bag full of make up samples, and I was on my way. But, I didn’t have a proper hand-off with the woman I was covering, and my unfinished work gnawed at me all weekend. I went to bed on Sunday feeling uneasy, like I was going to get in trouble over something. And I woke up on Monday with even more knots in my stomach. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t sit still. All I could do was fret over nothing.
When 9 AM rolled around, I walked down to the post office to get a package that was waiting for me. My head was too clouded to think that it could have been anything other than tampons (last week I got boxes of tampons from two different people, long story). But it turned out to be a care package from my sister–a fantastically amazing box filled with some of my favorite America things that I can’t find here.
It was such a touching gesture, and I definitely teared up while unpacking it. And it was right in the middle of that nice moment when I got a text from my recruiting agent, asking me to go back to the cosmetics company for a few days to help out. All I could think was that I had messed something up, that I was going to get yelled at, that I screwed up launch campaigns and print ads and the building caught fire after I touched the microwave last. And then it happened: anxiety meltdown. I sat on my bed and cried. All I could think was I don’t want to go back and stop being a fucking baby. I took a xanax. I whinged to my friends in the States. I started frantically cleaning the apartment– when I get anxious, I turn into Monica Gellar.
I spent the rest of the morning trying to vacuum and scrub away my worried feelings, but I was wound up in such a tight ball of First World Problems that it didn’t seem possible. Anxiety is like that, though. The tiny snowball that turns into an avalanche of suck and catastrophe.
Joel texted me later in the afternoon that the BIG BOX from my parents finally arrived. I had it sent to his work, since I haven’t been off during the week to sign for packages, and getting to the post office when it’s open is a pain in the ass. I’d been looking forward to getting the BIG BOX since the day I landed. It was a giant box that my mom’s best friend Sue offered to ship for me as a going away present. Shit yeah! I had filled it with winter clothes and shoes and photos and things to make me feel at home. I dropped everything and ran to the bus. I needed the distraction. I needed my stuff.
Well, the box was bigger than I remembered. It barely fit in the Ikea bag I used to bring it home. And the 2.5 block walk from Joel’s shop to the bus stop was a million times longer now that I was lugging a 500 lb box with me. I had to stop every 20 seconds to rest. I was overheated and spaghetti armed by the time I got home. But it was worth it.
So much stuff! It felt good to unpack it all, to bring my old home into my new home. And even though I was wandering in and out of bad patches all day, I could look at the boxes and feel better. Mom always says that good mail comes when you need it the most, and I definitely needed it on Monday.
Joel came home from work, and I’ve never been happier to see him. We made dinner, watched a thunderstorm, and he helped me talk through what was going on.
Anxiety attacks aren’t fun. And work can be hard. Both can make you feel small and embarrassed. But my people are awesome. The boxes reminded me that I have a world of people who care about me, who are thinking of me. And I care and think about them, too. And it was nice. It was a nice reminder that things are good, even when they suck.
And I got my jackets and scarves, just in time for the rainy season.
P.s. I went back to work, and it turns out I didn’t ruin everything or set the building on fire. Nice!
Monday was Labour* Day here in Australia, and Joel and I both had the day off. Yay!
I also woke up in the clutches of a PMS monster, where everything made me irrationally moody and sad. Not yay.
I ate breakfast and stalked Instagram and felt mopey, and Joel made adventure plans. 90% of me wanted to stay home and sleep for the rest of the day. I kept my eye out for even the slightest signs of resistance from Joel, convincing him with my mind that staying home was the best idea–even though I knew getting out of the house was the only thing that would prevent me from crawling inside myself. I know this because last month when I woke up dying from the hormone sads, yelling at my clothes for not fitting, Joel strongly suggested we go to the Australian museum. And I saw a dinosaurs and a prehistoric wombat creature that made my life complete, and I ended up thanking him profusely for getting me out of the house.
So, before I knew it, I was putting on my sneakers and slathering myself in a shield of sunscreen. So much sunscreen. I used to never care about sunscreen. But the UV rays don’t play on this side of the world, and I have enough pasty Scotch-Irish-Mid West American in me to get a pink schnoz and arms on my 10 minute walk from the office to the bus stop.
Joel suggested we walk into the city and take the ferry back. On a day when the weather isn’t terribly hot and you’re not me (i.e. so out of shape), you can walk from our apartment to downtown Sydney in about half an hour. So, with temperatures climbing and the clouds waning, off we went.
Adventure time — in Gallery Style!
I would have taken more photos, but immediately after we got off the ferry, we had to climb the steepest hill ever known to man. I know I’m out of shape, but I had walked for about 3 hours that day without too much complaint. So I didn’t think anything of that incline. But that 45* sidewalk incline gave me heart palpitations. I was so red and sweaty and out of breath. The senior citizens who were floating up the hill with the greatest of ease were looking at me like I was going to die, and by the time we reached the top of the road, I too, had legitimate concerns that I was going to die. But, I made it. I stared heat stroke death in the face as we made the 25 minute/mostly uphill trudge home. Complaining pretty steadily that I was going to die the entire time. Naturally.
By the time we made it home, I was a hot mess. Literally. I was out of breath, and dripping sweat and sunscreen and blisters and America. I took a cool shower for what felt like an eternity. After, we ate paddle pops (my new favorite ice cream),
And I took an Adventure nap.
And when I woke up, Joel made an Adventure Omelet.
Such a solid day. Even if I did almost die a couple of times. But I learned how to walk to the city–in case I ever get locked out of the apartment without my keys again (that’s a story for another time)–I saw some great buildings, beautiful gardens, eels, a phenomenal photo exhibit, ate delicious lunch, had a good nap, ate an excellent dinner, and only had one PMSy mood moment. And once again, I thanked Joel profusely for getting me out of the house.
Success all around. I wonder what next month’s PMS Distraction Adventure will be. *fingers crossed for hammocks on the beach day*
*I get to spell a whole slew of words with an extra ‘u’ now. Be jealous.
Friday marked my one month anniversary with my new home. Happy one month, Sydney! It’s been swell.
Swell is a bit of an understatement. The past 30 days have been nothing short of fantastic. I’m in love. Not just with Joel, but with life in general. Most days, I’m so bowled over with happiness and feels that I think my heart will burst and a billion sappy Meg Ryan comedies will spill out of me. And then I feel like punching myself. But it’s all so good.
We’ve been cooking and adventuring and decorating and hanging out in sweat pants, watching movies and terrible television. I walk all the time. I get to read when I’m on the bus. The weird pink-eye but not pink-eye that affected my right eye for almost an entire month cleared up after being in Sydney for 2 days. My skin looks clearer. My eye lashes are longer. I just feel better. Life just feels better.
Have I been home-sick? Well, at times. For example, it’s October and instead of orange red leaves and girls in scarves, we have lush green trees and girls in booty shorts, which is a bit of a mind-warp. I’m already missing my East Coast fall, and pumpkin flavored everything. I miss having hang times with my family and my friends, and only factoring in a 2 or 3 hour, not 16 hour time difference, when I’m talking with my long distance pals. I miss being there to hug my friends who are going through tough times. I miss going on Target runs and I miss my pets.
I knew that would be the case though. I knew I would long for the people and places and animals that have helped make my life whole, but I’ve never had a doubt in my mind that moving to the other side of the world would be worth it. Before I moved, a few people warned me that Joel’s and my relationship dynamic could change since we went directly from long distance to living together. And it has. But in a good way. We’ve had our moments of adjustment–it’s natural. It’s what a relationship does, it grows and flexes over time. It hasn’t dulled the luster. We’re still super smug in love. Like Jay and Bey.
So, missing everyone in the states, and trading fall for summer has definitely been worth it. I feel at home with Joel. It’s a completeness I’ve never felt outside of my family, and it’s fulfilling and lovely and full of unicorns shitting rainbows. It’s not just me and my goals anymore. It’s us, and our goals. Bringing each other up. Doing things for our future. I’m awed at the sacrifices Joel makes and the constant support he gives. I live to see him walk through the door at the end of the day, or to meet with him at the bus stop. I wake up every day, without fail, feeling lucky and grateful.
/gush gush gush. I am a geyser of feels right now. Old Faithful style.
Basically, my first 30 days in Sydney have been full of fun and love. I’ve been mistaken for Canadian every single time. I’ve learned a whole new catalog of words. I’m pretty down with centigrade, but cooking with the metric system makes me curl into a small ball. My phone and my work computer auto-corrects “realize/apologize” to “realise/apologise” and “color” to “colour”. I can’t say the word mobile as mo-bile without feeling like a douche. I’m getting used to $1 and $2 coins. I haven’t yet been punched by a kangaroo. I spill food when I use my knife in my left hand and eat off the back of my fork. I’m getting used to no a/c and no electric dryer. I’m learning. And it’s hella fun.