I freaking love winter. I look forward to winter the way most people look forward to spring — with renewed energy and UNFLAPPABLE OPTIMISM.
Throughout May, it would steadily get cooler. Then we had day light savings, so it was cooler and the sun set at 5PM. But it never really got cold. And the weekends still got really warm. I bought a brand new down filled winter coat (see: UNFLAPPABLE OPTIMISM), but every warm weekend and afternoon made me think I wasted my money. But, I woke up on June 1, the first official day of winter, to 12* temps. And when I walked outside, my breath hung in the air, the brisk air chilled my lungs, I zipped my coat all the way up, and I was filled with unspeakable happiness.
BRINGING OUT THE DOWN COMFORTER!
ENJOYING HOT SHOWERS!
NO NEED TO SHAVE MY LEGS EVERY DAY!
NOT WAKING UP SWEATING BECAUSE
Granted, it’s no where near the winters that I’m used to. The temperatures are in centigrade, so 0* is literal freezing, not 32*. When I leave the house and it’s 13*C and my face isn’t frozen, and I’m not slipping on ice, like it would be in 13*F, I’m shocked. But I’m not sad. It’s cold, but it’s still humid. So it’s like, a warm wet cold instead of a bone dry, bitter cold like I’m used to.
Sure I miss snow, but I don’t miss scraping 2 inches of ice off my windshield, waiting 10 minutes for my car to warm up to only slightly arctic, or feeling my hands get so dry that they crack the second hot water touches them. But it does get cold enough to wear good coats and scarves, eat shepherd’s pie, sit in front of a space heater, wear wooly sweaters, and most importantly: it convinces the cat to sit by me for warmth, and I’m all about pretending that she loves me.
So happy winter, southern hemisphere. These mild, grey, and rainy winters without ice 100% make up for the blistering heat of the summers. If you need me, I’ll be blissfully wrapped in layers in front of the heater, or sleeping under two quilts all the while not melting into a puddle of sweat and nightmares.
*I have a lot of things to blog about — like 800million things to blog about — but I can’t focus on one topic long enough to actually get a post out and they’re all coming out bad as a result. And instead of “picking one topic” and “trying” to work on it, I’ve just been avoiding it altogether. So tonight, instead of avoiding it, I forced myself to write just something – ANYTHING – but what I want to write, so I can break the ice. It’s like exposure therapy for writer’s block. So that explains this absolutely riveting piece of blog journalism. Enjoy.
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”→
SO. In my last post, I talked about how I confronted my fear of driving on the high ways here in Sydney by taking a professional driving lesson. I was hella scared and nervous, not because I was already scared about driving, but because on Friday, I made the mistake of telling my friend Josien about my upcoming lesson and how I planned to drive a little bit every weekend until I wasn’t scared anymore. Josien has this really irritating habit of forcing me to do things I’m afraid of and of holding me accountable for my goals, so I have to be careful what I tell her or else she’ll actually make me do it (i.e. I really should tell her everything I want to do with my life). And after I told her about my plans, without skipping a beat, she said “Ok, so where are we going on Sunday?”
I tried to talk my way out of it, but she wasn’t hearing it. It really was the perfect circumstances for a road trip: we’ve both been in a bit of a slump and it need of distraction, it was a long weekend, I had a car, and I needed road practice. And since Josien was my co-pilot on the very first time on the Australian roads, I figured she knew what she was getting herself in for. So, when I sat down for my lesson, I was actually twice as nervous: nervous to be there in the first place, and nervous that if this didn’t go well, tomorrow was going to be awful.
HOWEVER. My lesson was amazing. And by the end of the day Saturday, Josien and I had plans to visit the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden in Mount Tomah, about an hour and 40 mins away from Sydney. We were going to leave at 8AM, walk around the gardens, eat lunch on the porch of their restaurant, and head home. PLANS!
Well, Josien showed up and we got to work cleaning off my car. I hadn’t touched my car or even looked at it for 4 weeks when my instructor and I walked up to it. Of course, I could barely recognise the car because it was covered in bird shit and dust and pine needles and leaves, and the side mirrors were pine needles and cob webs (shudder). So I quickly brushed the needles off for my lesson, promising to give it a proper clean before our big road trip. For 20 minutes, we scrubbed the windows with Windex wipes and brushed all the debris off with a hand broom. And then, armed with a GPS and snacks, we were ready to get on the open road.
30 seconds into our drive, I knew something wasn’t right. The car sounded rough. Like there were rocks in the engine. I turned on to the main road and felt like I couldn’t get the car to speed up. And it still sounded strange. Very strange, considering it was driving perfect yesterday. At this point, about 2 minutes into our journey, it dawned on me that I might have a flat tyre (yes that’s how I spell it now). So I pulled off to the side of the road to investigate.
And oh, boy!
Ah, shit. I hate flat tyres. I hate them because I know exactly how to change a flat tyre, but I’m not strong enough. It’s my T-Rex arms syndrome. And I hate that when I call roadside assistance and the guy (always a guy) shows up and I’m like, “Hi my tyre is flat,” I get that “It’s ok, little lady, let me just take care of this for ya” and he’s done in 4 minutes and I’ve paid $400 and I hate myself and pledge to work out to get Schwarzenegger arms. But also this time, I didn’t have a jack. And that’s absolutely paramount to the whole tyre changing scenario, or so I’m told.
Also it cost $400 because I had to sign up for membership + lodge emergency service because we were parked in a metro two hour zone. I thought I had signed up for roadside assistance but Joel reminded me that we said we’d get it later because “we probably won’t need it right away.” because that’s exactly how I operate in life. At this point, Karma decided to help me drive over that screw that punctured the hell out of my tyre. But, I got a bonus year of coverage for free, so it’s not all that bad.
So, around 9:45, our tyre was changed and we were ready to go. Except I was a bit defeated, feeling nervous, like this was all a bad idea, and I was ready to call it a day. I was half-heartedly trying to convince Josien that we should just go see a movie and save the road trip for another day, but then she said, “You know if you don’t go out today, you’ll never get back in your car again.” And I hated her because she was right. We had a full tank of gas, a full sized spare, and we still had heaps of day left. And so, I pushed on, against my will, by my friend who won’t let me bail on myself.
After a shakey start (I was literally shakey), we made it to the main road, then the highways, and more highways, and a wrong turn, and then more accidental highways, side winding back roads going up the mountain, and finally, we made it to our destination.
We ate an amazing lunch (I couldn’t take pictures because I was so hungry that I immediately inhaled the thiny sliced salmon, perfectly friend potato cake with sour cream and fennel, and spring salad. I wish I were still eating it), with a gorgeous view, and made our way back to Sydney. I had pumped myself up to spend hours finding a parking spot, especially when my FAVOURITE spot was taken (the nerve of some people), but we found one in minutes that I only kinda needed to parallel park into.
All in all, what a fantastic little adventure. Josien and I used to work together, but she’s a doctor now with her own business so we don’t get to hang out 3-4 days a week anymore (once again, the nerve of some people). So it was great to spend the day with her, being huge nerds, laughing, having heart to hearts, scaring people with our show tunes, and listening to Mitch Hedburg and Eddie Izzard. I don’t remember the names of any of the new flowers I saw, but I still feel like I got a lot out of the day. I’m happy to have people like her in my life, who push me out of my sweatpants shell when they know it’s best for me.
Also, I’m still running off my driver’s high from having driven so far. Even if my ass and shoulders hurt the next day from being so stiff in the driver’s seat. But it’s such a good feeling to know that I’m not bound to public transport or someone else driving when I want to go somewhere. Feels good, man.
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”→
You guys – after nearly 3 years, I got to see the Blue Mountains.
There has always been something stopping me from getting there – mostly because I wanted to go with Joel the first time I went, and our schedules, the weather, money, and someone with a car just never lined up. But last weekend, the stars aligned. I bought some active wear (active wear!), we woke up before dawn,and set out with our friend Rob, his flatmate Eloise and her pal Oxanna to see Empress Falls in the Blue Mountains National Park.
After a traffic free, two and half hour drive, we reached the mountains. It felt cold. It felt like actual winter cold, with real frost in the air. So that was exciting. It was less exciting that I was wearing super thin, stretchy active wear pants and that didn’t do a thing to keep me warm unless I was moving in them (clever girl, active wear).
We parked the car and set out to begin our 3.5 km trail. I was too excited to get to the first look out to take many pictures, but I did see some killer rocks, and a pair of underpants in a tree (nature!).
Eloise and Oxanna and I had never been to the mountains, so when we reached the first look out, there were collective OOooOooOOo’s and AAAaaaAAAhhHhHhhs. It was incredible. All the photos I’ve seen, all the movies they’ve been featured in, nothing does them justice. And seeing the bright white cockatoo’s flying against the green trees was beautiful. It’s like looking down at a masterpiece.
We continued down, down the trail, down the trail steps, down the rickety wooden stairs, down the slick, narrow, metal stairs, and we finally got to a valley that looked straight out of Ferngully. Or even Jurrassic Park. All rock walls and hanging plants and waterfalls and boulders.
And there we got our first look at Empress Falls.
It was absolutely beautiful down in the valley. We were down far enough for the sun to barely touch us, and we were surrounded by so many trees and water falls that it felt like walking in a rain forest. I felt like I couldn’t take enough videos or pictures, like I was trying to memorise the entire scene with my camera. It’s just beautiful. Also I kept waiting for a dinosaur to jump out at me.
It was so still and quiet. Since we made it there so early, there weren’t many people around besides us. All you could hear was the waterfall and the birds. No planes, no cars, no people, no phones buzzing. Everything smelled wet and Earthy. I felt the cold air settling in my lungs. It was phenomenal.
Joel and Rob spent a lot of time getting photos of the waterfall.
Like, A LOT of time.
At one point I took out my book, sat on a rock and read a couple of chapters. Totes felt one with the world and nature — sitting outside in the almost sun, listening to the waterfall, breathing in the pure mountain air, wearing my active wear— and I was nearly overwhelmed by how lucky I was to experience all this splendour and solitude and how I should do this more often, when I realised my butt was frozen to the cold rock and I almost pulled a muscle when I extricated myself from it. And then I slipped on the moss when I got down and nearly fell in the water.
Maybe I’m not 100% ready for nature.
Eventually the photographers packed up and we all continued down the trail the next waterfall, Sylvia Falls.
I could have stared at this waterfall all day. It was beautiful. We got there right as the afternoon sun was hitting the rocks perfectly — it was hazy and glittery and very much dreamy.
The sun was also casting amazing light on the trees above us. At this point the tip of my nose and my finger tips were insanely cold (yassss winter cold) and all I wanted to do was take a nap in that sun. But I liked the look of the highlighted gum trees and the dark shadows where the light didn’t touch. Yeah, I had Mufasa’s voice in my head the whole time.
After spending some more time with Sylvia, the moment I had been dreading since we made plans to go to the mountains finally came. It was time… to hike back up to the car.
I’m woefully out of shape. Like, I have the cardiovascular endurance of a 700lb diabetic smoker who’s been bed-ridden for years. It’s baffling to the doctors I work with, who think I must be asthmatic to get excruciatingly, painfully winded with even moderate exertion, but really, I’m just horrifically unfit. Climbing stairs makes me winded, and the slightest incline makes my thighs hurt. And with every step I took going down on the initial journey, I knew that would be one more step going up on the return. So I said a little prayer to the active wear Gods and started followed the rest of my team up the first set of stairs.
I quickly realised Eloise was behind me. I let her pass in front of me, saying “I’m going to be really slow, you won’t want to get caught behind me.”
“Oh that’s ok, I’m really slow too!”
“Nope, you have no idea how slow I’ll be.”
And it was true. Just climbing the short bit of rock stairs between Sylvia Falls and Empress Falls left me gasping and pretending to video the guys ab-sailing so I could catch my breath. Joel hung back with me and pushed me up parts of the stairs, and stopped with me whenever I started seeing stars and needed to stop. I was trying to be positive, trying to feel the inspiration of my active wear and JUST PUSH THROUGH IT! NO PAIN NO GAIN! HUSTLE GETS MUSCLE! INSPIRATIONAL PHRASE but all that kept running through my head was Sam telling Frodo that they needed to save the elfish bread for the return trip home and Frodo looking at him and being all “yeah, we aren’t making it home.” I was quite certain I would die, even as people twice my age were bounding up the stairs and that asshole fitness jock passed us jogging — again.
It took me about 20, maybe 30 hours mins longer to make the walk back to the car. I couldn’t breathe deep enough. My heart was straining from beating so fast, my lungs felt like steel wool, my ribs all felt cracked, my throat and nose were killing me, my head was splitting, and my arms and legs were spaghetti. My face was beet red and I was ready to collapse. At one point I tasted blood (I swear!). It was actually pretty scary. My chest and throat hurts just thinking about it.
But, I survived. And we made our way to the Conservatory Hut to have breakfast. And milkshakes. Because after facing death in the face, you get a milkshake.
We picked up some take away coffees and made our way to the car. I was warm, happy, and snug in the backseat, but too full of caffeine and adrenaline to sleep. When we got home, though, I was instantly so tired I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I slept for 2.5 hours and woke up feeling like I got hit by a truck.
I’ve been sick all week as a result of my cold-weather-over-exertion and resulting sinus/chest infection, but shit. It was absolutely gorgeous and I would do all again next weekend.
Except this time, I’d hire a helicopter to save me from the hike back.
Verdict: +10, will mountain again. Must get in shape, or I will die.
As I mentioned in my last post – I’m doing Australia in a series of posts called Audrey vs. Australia. LOOK OUT! And my first stop was basically in my backyard – a 15 minute walk from our apartment took us to the gorgeous Chinese Garden of Friendship, right in Darling Harbour.
I’ve walked past the Garden more times than I count, but Saturday marked the first time I’ve been behind the walls. It’s $6 for adult admission, and it’s $6 of beauty, zen, and most importantly, big ass, majestic lizards. The garden is filled with peaceful rivers, lakes, waterfalls, and lagoons; is drowning in greenery; is glowing with flowers and lanterns; and dotted with intricately designed pavilions and secret pathways where you can have a sit or explore. It’s an interesting juxtaposition of traditional zen and bustling city, and I had a blast. Will definitely add “Chinese Garden of Zen” to my future dream house plans.
It was a bit cold, and too late into autumn to see the garden in bloom, but it was still absolutely lovely. I can only imagine how lush and beautiful it looks in spring and summer. Or when it’s raining. Ah man.
Let’s take a tour:
I had a pretty stressful Friday, which bled into Saturday morning, and I was surprised that wandering around the Garden all morning absolutely took my mind off of it. As we left, I felt happy, relaxed, and like I wanted to go right back in. I’m not one who is normally fixed by zen gardens, and I didn’t even realise it, but it actually worked. Triumph!
The building I work in has a balcony with a view of the ANZAC Bridge, and yesterday I spent my lunch break up there. It was one of those days where the sun was perfect, the humidity was perfect, the temperature was perfect, the breeze was perfect, and the pollen count was awful (can’t win ’em all). Continue reading “AudPodge vs. Australia”→
I’ve wanted to do a Friendsgiving style dinner since maybe before I moved to Sydney. But I’ve just never had the wherewithal or the space to get it together. I mean, my first Thanksgiving here literally snuck up on me the day before, and was thusly celebrated with little fan fare. The second one was better thought out, but as we were in a tiny heat box apartment with only 3 plates and 2 chairs, there wasn’t any space to entertain. But, as luck would have it, at Joel’s exhibition, Hugh (our master chef pal) and I started to loosely plan a big Thanksgiving dinner.
In mid-October we remembered we were planning a dinner (actually, Hugh remembered, because I’m absent minded professor), so we picked a date, set a menu, made a plan, and on Friday night, we made it happen. With Hugh at the ham helm and the grill station, and me with the mayonnaise and bacon salad (America) we fed 17 of our pals and killed many 3 for 1 bottles of wine. It was fan-damn-tastic.
When I think of Thanksgiving food, I want cheesy green bean casserole, heaps of mashed potatoes and gravy, piles of turkey, stuffing, etc etc. But when I think of cooking and eating a meal of cream, cheese, starch and gravy in the air conditioner-less heat of an Australian November, it makes me want to curl up and die. So we adapted the traditional meals for something more light and summery — but still paid homage to the fat filled, cheese topped, heavy, heavy style traditional noshes. What we ate:
Ham with pineapple/lime/chipotle glaze with a chipotle apple sauce
Glazed and grilled carrots, and squash and broccolini (topped with pickled carrots)
Green beans tossed with almonds and pickled onions
Red Skin potato and bacon salad
Corn bread from scratch
Homemade pumpkin pie with spiced whipped cream
Mixed berry cobbler
Honorable mention but didn’t make it to the table – buttermilk rolls and mini bourboun pecan tarts.
The meal didn’t come together without its share of Audrey-style mayhem – I was meant to do a big shop on Wednesday night so my Thursday night would be totally free for baking, but Glued to My Phone Election Night Blues got the better of me.
I went to the store, but it was only to buy bacon for dinner and to cry in the aisles like a basket case. So on Thursday, I did my big shop. 90 minutes and 30lbs of groceries later, I was exhausted. At 8PM Joel took command and made most of the corn bread (ok, he really made all of it but I read the recipe to him and grated the cheese and pointed out that I forgot to add the creamed corn, so I’m taking credit, too). Around 9 PM I started boiling the potatoes and putting the pie together. By 10PM the pie corn bread was done, the pie was baking, and the potatoes were still hard, and I was counting how many hours of sleep I’d need to be up at 6:30AM and not feel like a zombie for work. By 10:45PM the potato salad was done, the pie was burnt to a crisp (fucking *F to *C), the buttermilk rolls were scratched, and I was all “fuck it.” and went to bed.
But, the meal was still a success! Hugh is a genius with food, and it’s a meal I wish I was still eating. Here are some moderately good pics – mostly blurry and mostly forgetting key elements like the green beans and the whipped cream gun, but some pics are better than none:
The pie that did not live
Vegged out (literally)
The new can of beer that confused all of us. It looked like a milk bottle.
Grilled veg, sauces, and wine – treasures
Pickled carrots are my new jam. Grilled squash and broccolini will always be my jam.
Master Chefs, Master Pals
Not shown: 17 plates, full of pie
It really was a fantastic night – friends, wine, great food, laughs, and even some interpretive dancing. Thanksgiving is intended to be a day where you reflect on your good fortunes, and for showing gratitude for those good fortunes. I felt the gratitude. And I felt the love. It was a night to not dwell on the negatives (Trump), and it was a night of reassurance that not everything is dark and terrible. As I looked down the table filled with people and candles and conversation and food being passed around and everything just felt – good. If I were the Grinch, this is where my heart would break the frame.
I am incredibly thankful for my Sydney family, for Joel’s friends who have never treated me like a stranger and who I now consider to be my friends, too. I’m thankful for my life here. I’m even thankful for this year, even though it’s been so hard, it’s been so eye-opening and revelatory to support systems I didn’t realise I had.
I’m thankful for the life I live, and I am thankful for the people around me.
And I’m thankful for that ham. Seriously, it was damn delish.
This morning, Joel and I woke up at 4:45 (what) to catch the sunrise at Bronte Beach. The forecast had been telling us all week that it would rain on Saturday morning, and I’ve kept my fingers crossed for so long that I basically have arthritis now. But, crippled granny hands are worth it, because the sunrise was be-a-u-ti-ful.
There are few things I love more than seeing a sunrise or sunset over the water. Seeing that golden orb sizzle along the horizon fills me with… I’m not sure. It’s a combination of inspiration and awe. Add in the smell of sea salt, the sound of crashing waves, and the cold breeze coming off the water, and it makes me feel so fantastic.
The beaches in Australia are just next level. The water is clear and the most perfect shade of aqua-marine, and the sand is almost white, and most of them have these craggy cliffs that catch and pool water and it’s like walking on another world. And when the rose and gold tones of the sunrise reflect off the water – it’s un real. I like Bronte because there’s a little rock pool to the side that’s very calm, and it’s where whusses like me can get in and splash around and pretend to be cool. Ok ok, insert anecdotes about sharks and dangerous Australian sea creatures here and everything – but you can’t deny just how drop dead gorgeous it all is.
I’m so happy we dragged ourselves out of bed and made the trip happen. It was a beautiful way to wrap up a particularly less than stellar month.
It’s very well known that I didn’t grow up at the beach or near the shore, and I don’t always keep my cool in the beach, but I love being at the beach. It’s very centering, very calming. I think being on the edge of the world makes my other problems feel very small. And being in the presence of such an incredible force helps me put things into perspective… just watching everything wash away with the waves is a good reminder that “this too shall pass.” Maybe it’s the visceral experience – sights, smells, textures, emotions – but the beach is one of the few places where I can go and my mind just clears. I could sit at the beach and do nothing for hours. And it feels good, man.