Wentworth Weekend

My favourite neuroscientist/life coach Josien was in town this weekend, house sitting at one of my dream houses in Wentworth Falls in the Blue Mountains. She invited me up for the weekend, and I was all HELL YAS. And after a 1.5 hour train ride on Friday night, I was there. Continue reading “Wentworth Weekend”

Anzac Biscuits: an introduction

Today was Anzac Day, and I made Anzac biscuits for the first time. So on today’s adventure, you get a history lesson and a recipe for some delicious sweet treats. Yay! Continue reading “Anzac Biscuits: an introduction”

Catchup.com – September

Sooooo – how about September, huh? It’s like the whole month happened, and I slept through most of it. Today is the end of the month, and since it’s been a bit quiet around this corner of the internet, I thought I’d write a little catch up post. Mostly so I can figure out where the hell the time went. Continue reading “Catchup.com – September”

On the Road Again (or, for the first time)

I remember my very first time on the open road. I turned 15 and 9 months – the state of Maryland’s minimum age for obtaining your learner’s permit – and scored my learner’s permit on the first try. Continue reading “On the Road Again (or, for the first time)”

Christmas!

Ah, Christmas. I love this time of year. I’m even accepting that it’s a summer holiday now, and somehow it’s just never going to snow and I won’t get to wear sweaters. And I’m like, almost ok with this. Continue reading “Christmas!”

Caramel Slice of Awesome

Part biscuit. Part caramel chew. Part chocolate bar. 100% life changing. This, my friends, is the tale of the Caramel Slice. Aka Millionaires Shortbread.

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The first time I saw a caramel slice in a cafe fridge, I thought it was a piece of peanut butter pie with chocolate topping. I fantasized about buying one every time I passed the cafe, until Joel told me it was caramel, not peanut butter. That stopped the fantasies right then and there, because I like caramel as much as I like math… which is to say, not in the fucking slightest. So I put it out of my mind. Until one day, when Joel came home with one. And I tried a bit. Soft, crumbly biscuit base, fudgey center that didn’t taste all that much like caramel, and smooth milk chocolate topping. Not bad at all. But still, I wasn’t sold. It was good, but nothing to write home about.

A few weeks later, my boss had a sweet craving, and asked me to pick her up a ‘slice. The cafe near work was selling them two for $5, so I got one for her, and one for Joel. I stashed Joel’s in the fridge, where it haunted me. Soft, Crumbly Cookie. Gooey Fudge. Delicious Chocolate. Yum. The slice barely made it home uneaten. And since that day, I’ve been obsessed. It’s my favourite Aussie treat, ever. And on Sunday, I took a stab at making them!

Which is great, because I needed another reason to gain 15 lbs.

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The most exotic ingredient you’ll need is desiccated coconut. Or golden syrup. Or dark chocolate. I guess it depends on what you think of as ‘exotic.’
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The recipe calls for a parchment paper lined pan, but I used the butter/flour method, and nothing stuck.
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Sunday’s apron brought to you by GOOGLY EYE CAT NATION
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Baking is infinity times better with my birthday scale.
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Mix the brown sugar, coconut, flour and melted butter, and vanilla. 
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yummm
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once combined, press into the bottom of the pan. Take a moment to appreciate the beauty of a giant block-o-butter
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I got crazy and decided to double up the base, because it’s the best part (in my opinion). I love carbs.
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yummmmm. Put it in the oven and bake for 10 mins.
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over low heat, mix condensed milk, butter, vanilla and brown sugar. Stir constantly for 10-15 mins and you’ll have your caramel filling!
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stir. Stir forever. Stir until your arms go numb.
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Remember, dont over bake your base, and don’t bake it in an oven 10* higher than the recipe calls for. Both of which I did. So my base is crunchy on the edges, but soft in the middle. Learn from me, folks!
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Pour the caramel over the base, and bake for 10-15 mins more, until caramel starts to bubble on the edges, and turns a slightly darker color.
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mmm, spongey. Now, let it cool COMPLETELY, for 1-2 hours. You can use this time to catch up on housework. Or call loved ones. Or watch Gossip Girl. The choice is yours. 
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Orrrr, you could chop up chocolate! I used two parts dark (70% cocoa) to one part milk. Next time, I’m using two parts milk to one part dark.
Melt butter and chocolate in a heat proof bowl over simmering water. Or, a double boiler. I don't have a heat proof bowl, so I improvised.
Melt butter and chocolate in a heat proof bowl over simmering water. Or, a double boiler. I don’t have a heat proof bowl, so I improvised.
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Voila! Double boiler – so science.
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Melt, baby.
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yeeeeeah
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Spread it over the COMPLETELY COOLED (can’t emphasize this enough) caramel filling, smoothing it out with the back of a spoon.
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Chill for at least an hour in the fridge. Watch some more Gossip Girl.
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And when the chocolate has set… you have a delicious treat.
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mmmmmMmmmmmm

So go on… treat yo’self. You’ll never think of caramel the same way again.

Caramel Slice (from sbsfoods.com.au)

Base
110 g (¾ cup) plain flour
½ tsp baking powder
30 g (⅓ cup) desiccated coconut
75 g (⅓ cup, firmly packed) brown sugar
80 g butter, melted
1 tsp natural vanilla essence or extract

Caramel filling
395 g tin (14 oz can) sweetened condensed milk
110 g (½ cup, firmly packed) brown sugar
1 tbsp golden syrup
40 g (3 tablespoons) butter, cubed

Chocolate topping
200 g (7 oz) good-quality dark eating chocolate (70% cocoa), chopped
30 g (2 tablespoons) butter, cubed
75 g (3 oz) good-quality milk eating chocolate

Preheat oven to 180°C (350*F). Grease a 16 cm x 26 cm (long and shallow) shallow slice tin and line the base and sides with one piece of non-stick baking paper, cutting into the corners to fit.

BASE
Combine the flour, baking powder, desiccated coconut and brown sugar in a medium bowl. Add the butter and vanilla and mix well. Crumble evenly over the base of the lined tin and use your hands to press down firmly and cover evenly. Bake in preheated oven for 12-15 minutes or until cooked through and lightly golden. Remove from the oven.

FILLING
Meanwhile, to make the caramel filling, combine the sweetened condensed milk, brown sugar, golden syrup and butter in a small saucepan and cook over a low heat, stirring constantly, for 10 minutes, or until the sugar dissolves and the mixture thickens slightly (do not boil).

Pour the hot caramel immediately over the base and use the back of a metal spoon to smooth the surface. Return the slice to the oven and bake for 10 minutes or until the caramel has darkened slightly and starts to bubble around the edges. Remove from the oven and set aside for 1 hour or until cooled completely.

CHOCOLATE TOPPING
Combine the dark chocolate and butter in a medium heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (don’t let the water touch the base of the bowl) and stir frequently until the chocolate melts and the mixture is smooth. Pour over the cooled slice and use the back of a metal spoon to cover evenly. Place in the fridge for 1 hour or until the chocolate sets (see Baker’s tips).

Cut into 20 pieces to serve.

Eat 7. While wearing sweatpants and watching Gossip Girl.

Summmmmmer

We’ve been tip-toeing up to summer all through September, but every warm day we had was immediately followed by coats and boots or frozen rainy weather. Friday, though, brought the sunshine, and we’ve had 28-35*C days since. I’ve been reaching for flip flops and shorts, not boots and jeans. It’s still light outside at 7 PM. And at midnight, with the windows closed and the fan off, it still gets so warm that I sweat on my upper lip.

And with that, I’m calling it: summer is officially here. And I’m not dreading it like I did last year!

This optimism is mostly because I’m not having back to back summers this year. Or maybe I’m excited to not freeze every day when I’m at work (where the heater was functioning maybe 5 days out of the entire winter). Regardless of where this summer excitement is coming from, it’s a welcome change. Maybe I’ve just been glued to my couch for too long in grey, rainy weather (see: last post regarding funks), but I stepped outside in the warm sunshine on Friday morning and I just felt glad to be alive – warm weather AND a three day weekend? Heck yes.

Despite First Day of Flip Flops sore feet (why is the first day just terrible), and killing myself trying to walk up a hill (frighteningly out of shape) it was a banner weekend. And I’m 100% sad to go back to work tomorrow.

I ran out of all my toiletries in September. New Toiletry Day = Best Day.
I ran out of all my toiletries in September. New Toiletry Day = Best Day.
so much cobbler yum.
so much cobbler yum.
Cheers!
Cheers!
I was told that "shrimp" or prawns, as they're called here, never go on the barbie. And these are called "skewers" not kebabs/kebobs. It was like everything I thought I knew was wrong.
I was told that “shrimp” or prawns, as they’re called here, never go on the barbie. And these are called “skewers” not kebabs/kebobs. It was like everything I thought I knew was wrong.
Joel's Nan always brings articles and clippings to show him. It's adorable.
Joel’s Nan always brings articles and clippings to show him. It’s adorable.
And she showed us this pic of her in the 80's holding a snake. FIERCE.
And she showed us this pic of her in the 80’s holding a snake, while wearing a gold turban. FIERCE.
Joel at the meat helm
Joel at the meat helm
MEAT FIRE! Joel showed me the continuous shooting function, and I got amazing shots of the grill catching fire (the meat was unharmed)
MEAT FIRE! Joel showed me the continuous shooting function, and I got amazing shots of the grill catching fire (the meat was unharmed)
and bubbles
and bubbles
and more bubbles
and more bubbles
all the bubbles
all the bubbles
lazy Sunday cookie baking
lazy Sunday cookie baking (and maybe the last day until March where it’s not too hot to turn on the oven)
I ate raw berries for the first time this weekend, and it didn't kill me. If I'm not careful, I might start eating better.
I ate raw berries for the first time this weekend, and they didn’t kill me. If I’m not careful, I might start eating better.
lazy Sunday obsessive drawer re-ordering and kitchen clean out.
lazy Sunday obsessive drawer re-ordering and kitchen clean out.
Labour Day Beach Day! We checked out Balmoral Beach, which is in the harbour, so no scary waves.   Just calm, clear water. This meant no panic attacks for Audrey. /victory
Labour Day Beach Day! We checked out Balmoral Beach, which is in the harbour, so no scary waves. Just calm, clear water. This meant no panic attacks for Audrey. /victory
The remains of an antique shark net. We swam on the side that doesn't have a net. Whhhoooops
The remains of an antique shark net. We swam on the side that doesn’t have a net. Whhhoooops
the water was perfect, if a little cold. We would have stayed all day if there was a way to not get fried in the sun.
the water was perfect, if a little cold. And there’s rocks and cliffs for exploring. It’s perfect, and one day I’ll be able to walk up the extra steep hill leading to the beach without having a heart attack.
First Neenish Tart. Must have more.
First Neenish Tart. Must have more.

Three day weekends never seem long enough. But at least we got a kick ass summer kick off.

Here’s to more time outside! Here’s to sweating profusely 24/7! Here’s to towels drying without a weird smell on them! Here’s to the return of Spider Watch! And more importantly, here’s to not having to blow dry my hair until April.

Hello, summer. I’ve been surprisingly excited for you to get here*.

*check back in one month, when I’ll be willing to sell a kidney for air conditioning.

Audrey vs. Australia

Joel: it’s a town in Queensland.

Me:  How is it spelled? Like, C-A-N-N-E-S?

Joel: No, it’s–

Me: C-A-N–

Joel: C-A-I-R-N-S.

Me: Really?

Joel: Yeah. What?

Me: how is C-A-I-R-N-S pronounced like “cans”? There’s an A-I-R in there. 

Joel: Yeah, like CAAAAIRNS.

Me: that still doesn’t sound like cans. 

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Cairns, Queensland, your gateway to the Great Barrier Reef.

I mean, I’m from the Land of faux-French-dropped-letters-and-terrible-pronounciation, and even I think that’s a bit of a stretch.

Then, moments later, we had a debate on how to pronounce Sioux. And I conceded.

Oh language. You are weird.

My Australian Alphabet

Before I moved to Sydney, I had pretty hard held beliefs that I wouldn’t change my language style. I remember making fun of Odie while I was visiting him here, when he said “to-ma-to” and “How ya going?” and “transport”, etc. He told me he couldn’t help it, that it just happens to you when you’re immersed in another culture. I thought it was pretty douchey* to adopt speech and colloquialisms from another country and use them as your own. Like when Madonna when she married Guy Ritchie and called herself Madge and put on that weird British accent. Or when Gretchen Weiners tried to make Fetch happen.

Oh, but how all of that has changed. I’m using a whole slew of different words, and eating the words I spoke previously. It does happen.

A – Aluminium (a-loo-min-i-um), not Aluminum (a-loo-min-um). Turns out, Canada and the US are the only countries that use the Aluminum spelling. It’s also called “al-foil” or “tin foil.” I’ll keep calling it Reynolds Wrap because I’m trained on brand recognition.

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Unrelated, but starts with A: It’s spelled Aussie, but pronounced Ozzie. I always thought saying Ozzie was wrong. Whoops.

B – Bogan. A Bogan is an Australian Redneck. Rednecks, but with a better accent.

Put an American flag on that shirt and he'd be equally at home in the States.
Put an American flag on that shirt and he’d be equally terrible and at home in the States.

C – Capsicum. It’s not a green or red or yellow pepper, it’s a capsicum. Makes me feel fancy.

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a steal at $8.98/kg.

D – Doona. When Joel and I were first emailing each other, he at one point said something about how good it is to “wrap up in a feather doona.” After a confused Google search, I found out that doona is a word for comforter, or in his case, a feather comforter.

Hello, Doona Doggie
Hello, Doona Doggie

E – Expiry (ex-pie-ry). It’s not “Expiration date?” it’s “Expiry?” and when you hear it over the phone, it sounds like someone asking you if you’re an ex-pirate. I never know how to answer.

F – Footpath. Otherwise known as a sidewalk. And everyone walks on the left. Same with escalators, where people walk to the left and stand to the right. It’s taken a long time to relax my Washington DC instincts when I’m on the escalator, where you will be mowed down by commuters if you’re standing on the right.

Footpath dog!
Footpath dog!

G – Garden. It’s not a yard, it’s a garden. Even when it’s completely trashed and whacked out.

A garden full of trashy treasures.
A garden full of trashy treasures.

H – Holiday. People don’t go on vacation, they go on holiday. Which makes going away sound so much better. Vacation kinda implies tourists and sun burns and shitty hotels. Holiday sounds indulgent and exciting. From now on, I’m going Holiday. Even if it’s just a holiday to my couch.

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A photo from our recent family couch getaway.

I – Ice block. You won’t hear many people say “popsicle”, because it’s an “ice block” here. Australians aren’t trained on brand recognition, apparently. There’s also an ice block called “Splice” that makes me think of a popsicle infected with alien parasites that will eventually take over your body and kill you after you eat it.

Now in Pine Lime Parasitic Alien Invasion flavour!
Now in Pine Lime Parasitic Alien Invasion flavour!

J – Jumper. I’ve adopted this one pretty quick. I’ve always known jumpers to be shift dresses for little girls, but in Australia/UK, it’s a sweatshirt or a sweater. I like it.

Jumpers 4eva
Jumpers 4eva

also, Jam. People here get confused when you say jelly. It’s like they picture a peanut butter and petroleum jelly sandwich. Which is gross.

K – Kilometer.
“What the fuck is a mile?”
“I don’t know, what the fuck is a kilometer?”
“It’s one thousand meters.”
“Shut up.”

The metric system makes way more sense, everyone. But I still can’t measure in it.

Yep.
Yep.

L – Lift. I take a lift to the 19th floor. It makes me miss my futuristic elevator.

M – Mince. Ground meat is called “mince.” I grew up hearing “mince pie” in British context, and I always assumed it was something weird and British, like ground intestines with jam. But it’s just ground beef and gravy in a pastry shell. And it’s delicious.

I still call ground beef hamburger every now and then, and it confuses Joel. He’s decided that Americans have two categories for cow meat. For example, I asked him if he wanted to have steak fajitas for supper.
“Steak?”
“Like strip steak.”
“Strips of beef, like stir fry?”
“Yes.”
“Everything that comes off a cow to you Americans is steak. Unless it’s hamburger.”
“Basically.”

Also, you can get a lamb+pork mince that makes bolognese 800% tastier. Sorry, vegetarians. But, on another fun note, the grass fed, humane slaughtered meat here is actually affordable, like only $2-3 more, unlike in the US, where it’s $10-12 more. So that’s cool.

N – “No worries.” I thought this was a phrase Outback Steakhouse made popular, but it’s pretty accurate for Australian people. From what I’ve experienced, they’re much more laid back and living for the moment than Americans. Less striving for status and social climbing, and more enjoying what you already have. It’s been an adjustment for me, but one I really needed.

noworries

O – Op Shop – Thrift stores are called Op Shops. Funny enough, they all smell the same as they do in the States. I guess old clothes and failed dreams smell the same no matter where you go.

Op shops are the best
Op shops are the best

P – Prawn. Shrimp! I thought a prawn was a giant shrimp, but it’s just a regular shrimp. And they’re everywhere here – the advantage of living so close to the ocean.

Mmmm, eyeballs.
Mmmm, eyeballs.

R – Rubbish. Trash is no longer trash, it’s rubbish. Whenever I say it in my mind, I say it with a clipped British accent. I can’t help it. /fancy

And sneakers are called “runners.” Which makes more sense, as I can’t sneak around in my sneakers. They squeak.

S – Scroll. It’s a cinnamon scroll, not a cinnamon bun. And they aren’t limited to just cinnamon. There are endless combinations. I walk past a stand that sells Banana – Nutella and Cookies -n- Cream scrolls. The one time I had money and time to stop for one, they were sold out. I will get there one day. And it’ll be life changing.

nommmmm
nommmmm

Oh, and swim suits are called “swimmers.” I like it.

T – Tomato. Tin. Trolley. Thongs. When my friend Odie was living in Sydney, he started saying to-mah-to, and I made so much fun of him for it. Now I say it regularly. I even say “Tin tomato” which is “can of tomatoes.” Resistance is futile.

Also, people push trolleys through the store. And they wear thongs on their feet, and a G-String as underwear. “My thong broke on the beach!” means your flip flop broke. It doesn’t mean your bottom swimmers broke. Even though Speedos for men are unfortunately popular here.

U – Uni. When you go off to university, you head to “uni.” No one really says college. And from what I’ve heard, the “crazy American college experience” doesn’t happen here. No solo cups? Denied!

Official Sponsor of Bad Decisions
Official Sponsor of Bad Decisions

V – Vegemite. This yeast based spice paste used to make me vomit. The first time I tried it, I spit it out and swore it off for good. Even the smell of it turned me off.

However. Joel made a toasted English muffin with butter and Vegemite, and it was actually the perfect savory breakfast. And it’s a really crucial hangover snack. It’s all in how it’s prepared: 2 parts butter to 1 part vegemite, on any toasted bread. This also supports my principal that butter makes everything better.

vegemite-big-night-small-68721W – Washing. Whether it’s dishes or laundry, we call it “washing” here. For example, I do the washing (laundry) on Sundays. And we do the washing after every meal.

Also, a windshield is called a wind screen, which I don’t get. It’s glass, not a screen. Point – America.

X – XXXX beer. The first time I saw an ad for XXXX beer, I thought it was an ad for a porno. Turns out it’s Queensland’s most popular beer.

Weirdest porno ever.
Weirdest porno ever.

Y – Yobbo (yah-bo). Like we have rednecks and white trash, Australia has Bogans and yobbos. Like a bogan to a lesser degree. Maybe less meth.

bogan_123652_02
Yep.

Z – Zed. X, Y, Zed, not X, Y, Z. Apparently, Zed is not dead. He’s been living at the end of the alphabet.

Happy Australia Day, everyone!

*for the record, the only word that makes me feel douchey is “mobile.” As in, my “mo-bile phone”. I can’t say it. It comes of like mo-bille or moe-bal every time. Oneathesedays.