I reached a new level of un-American last week. Continue reading “Forget-th of July”
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)”
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!”
Part biscuit. Part caramel chew. Part chocolate bar. 100% life changing. This, my friends, is the tale of the Caramel Slice. Aka Millionaires Shortbread.
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.
So go on… treat yo’self. You’ll never think of caramel the same way again.
Caramel Slice (from sbsfoods.com.au)
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Joel: it’s a town in Queensland.
Me: How is it spelled? Like, C-A-N-N-E-S?
Joel: No, it’s–
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.
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.
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.
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.
C – Capsicum. It’s not a green or red or yellow pepper, it’s a capsicum. Makes me feel fancy.
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.
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.
G – Garden. It’s not a yard, it’s a garden. Even when it’s completely trashed and whacked out.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
The metric system makes way more sense, everyone. But I still can’t measure in it.
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.
“Like strip steak.”
“Strips of beef, like stir fry?”
“Everything that comes off a cow to you Americans is steak. Unless it’s hamburger.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
It’s been an ordeal of packing, good byes, visiting, more packing and more good byes, but I’ve finally made it to my new home. And so far, it’s wonderful.
After a week in Los Angeles, I checked my bags with Virgin Australia and boarded my flight.
It’s a 16 hour flight from Sydney to Los Angles. The last time I visited Sydney, my flight back was perfect. I had the entire row to myself, a good dinner, and I stretched out and slept for 12 hours with a pile of pillows and blankets. But my flight back was atrocious. I was in the middle seat in the very last row of a completely sold out flight, and I only had one Xanax. Xanax? Yes. I used to be a nervous flyer–one of those people who would sit absolutely still lest I knock the plane out of balance–but now I’m asleep before the plane takes off. I’m fine with planes. What I’m not fine with is being bored and awake on a flight. It seems that long flights bring out the ADD in me, and no amount of movies, books, over priced mini-bottles, or tabloid crash can keep me occupied for more than a couple of hours. And while I have no problem falling asleep before take off, I always wake up when the attendants come by. Or when there’s slight turbulence. Or when the person beside me is snoring. So I take Xanax before flights to sleep through the entire experience and just be done with it.
Anyway… after I evaluated the conditions of the flight (delayed, cramped, stuffy, smelly seat mates), I decided to take my one and only Xanax immediately. I put my head phones in, pulled my hoodie down over my eyes, put my pillow up to my chin and made the “I’m sleeping, please don’t bother me” pose. But, the flight attendants woke me up for everything. Drink? Snack? Post-drink snack? Dinner? Drink? Are you sleeping? It was awful. And for 14 of the 16 hour flight, I was like a caged cat stuck between two sleeping giants.
So I wasn’t really looking forward to this flight. I pulled a packing ninja move, and crammed 3 large carry-on’s into 2 (packing my life for the win), with one bag dedicated to in-flight entertainment (including a stack of gossip trash–my last taste of America), pajamas, and a refill of Xanax. I was in luck, though, as I once again had the entire row to myself, a semi-good dinner, and a good round of sleep. I watched a beautiful sunrise around 5 AM, and sat glued to the window as we made our descent. I filled out my customs card, and felt a little spark as I got to the duration of visit section and checked the “12 months or more” box. 🙂
After waiting in the customs line for about 40 minutes, I grabbed my suitcases from the carousel. I juggled the two suitcases and my two giant carry-ons as awkwardly as possible, as everyone else stacked their luggage on smart carts. Being American, I had the “I’m not paying $7.50 for a damn luggage cart when my suitcases have wheels.” and it wasn’t until I was waiting in line for the second round of customs and my suitcases flipped or my carry-ons fell off that I realized the luggage carts were free. I felt like an idiot abroad until a Japanese woman trying to wrangle 4 rolling suitcases and a handful of stuffed animals got in line behind me. /solidarity
I got through the dog sniffing line (the dog got really excited when he smelled my suitcases, and the security guard asked me if I had cats at home. ha), and was finally released into the airport. I don’t know what possessed my luggage, but I couldn’t keep them rolling straight behind me. Since I couldn’t get wifi in the customs area, I had no way of contacting Joel to find out where he was. I was wide eyed and bushy haired and struggling with my luggage when the crowds literally parted and I saw him standing there, with the biggest grin on his face. My heart about burst out of my chest. We ran to each other, my bags flying everywhere. He grabbed me in a bear hug and I started crying. I swear, I’ve never felt so lit in my life.
We waited in line for a taxi, and we were finally on our way home. Joel handed me my keys, and when I opened the door, he had Welcome Home! streamers hung over the door ways. As soon as I dropped my bags, the place felt like home. Like there was no place else I’d rather be. It was good to be home.
After I settled in for a bit, Joel gave me my birthday presents: a Fuji X-M1 camera with a 16 – 50 mm zoom lens, an Italian leather journal with my name hand embossed on the cover, a real fountain pen, and some damn awesome socks. I can’t tell which gift I’m more excited over. I love stationary. And I love fun socks. And I really love using a real camera. So, basically, I’m really looking forward to adding quality pictures here. While I wear my pizza socks. And doodle animal creatures and scribble my name 800x with my fancy pen in my fancy journal. So good!
Joel’s mom sent over a welcome gift of wine, chocolate frogs, and notebooks, and a sweet card. It was such good welcome to my new home. Our new home 🙂
We went out for breakfast and coffee, and sight seeing.
Our suburb, Balmain, is about 15 minutes from downtown Sydney, and is filled with shops and restaurants. And if you walk in any direction, you hit water. It’s so nice.
Even when it’s freezing. Because spring just happened here, but the winter temps haven’t left. And I knew the temps leading up to my arrival had been between 50-60*, so I wasn’t too worried. I just didn’t take into account how close we are to the water. And how breezy it is here. A normal 57* here feels like 40* back home. For the last 6 days, I’ve regretted leaving my jackets and scarves at home to be shipped here later. And being in fall like temperatures without boots and a coat makes me feel naked and vulnerable in the most yuppy-can’t-even-deal way.
We ordered fancy pizzas for dinner, and had a Nicholas Cage movie marathon until I fell asleep at like, 9 PM.
The next day, we went to see an exhibition of Tabaimo’s illustrations at the Museum of Contemporary Art, which were surreal and a bit unsettling, and I made the agonizing decision to get an iPhone.
We got a really good deal on adding an extra line to Joel’s existing contract, and I got the 5s phone for a really good price (and an even better price since the USD is currently stronger than the AUD). I’ve been Team Droid since they came out, but I have to admit, life with a new phone is a hell of a lot easier. I mean, beside the 4+ hours it took to set everything up because I couldn’t remember my iTunes password and I kept having issues with my Gmail security. But now, I can make calls, and my apps load within mili-seconds, and my phone doesn’t turn off randomly or give me massive delays when typing. And it has a fancy gold case. Like a mix between RuPaul and C3-PO. I’m pretty happy. Even if my bank account is a little lighter.
We had lunch at the top of the Museum, and we watched a storm roll in over the harbor, and I had a Waygu beef sandwich that was life changing.
We got home and had taco night and I watched my first rugby game. Sports bore the shit out of me, but I kinda admit here, that rugby is pretty sweet.
The next day, we had an adventure to Ikea that started off amazing and ended almost terribly. But that’s another post unto itself.
My first few days in Sydney have been a blast. I’m slowly getting unpacked, our apartment is coming together, and Joel and I have awesomely over-indulged in sweat pants hang times. I’ve been able to chat with friends from home a few times, and I’ve even worked in a Skype with my family. I’ve had a few Idiot Abroad moments, and I’m learning the in’s and out’s of public transportation and Australian pronunciation (the names here are drowning in vowels). I miss everyone back home, but I’m really happy to be there. After all the waiting, all the time apart, and all the planning, I’m finally here. And it’s like I’ve never left.
Til next time!