Aud vs. Australia: the Blue Mountains

You guys – after nearly 3 years, I got to see the Blue Mountains.

FINALLY!

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.

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6:00AM. SO cold. SO sleepy. But the early bird beats the tour busses.
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We reached the trail around 8:30AM. It was a brisk 7*C. 

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!).

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rocks!

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.

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OOoOoOooo
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AhhHHhHhHhhh
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AAAaaAaaHhhHhhh
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camera frenz
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I love how spindly the gum trees look against the greenery
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fence/schmence
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so majestic

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.

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staring up at the rock wall above us was almost dizzying

And there we got our first look at Empress Falls.

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don’t let those little stairs fool you – walking up them is no treat.

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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.

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People ab-sail these falls. People die. People are ballsy for no reason.

 

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So Ferngully
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I imagine this would be a cool place to swim in summer. If I wasn’t terrified of everything living inside it. And if this place weren’t crawling with tourists in warm weather.

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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.

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poignant photos of pheet
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this is a playground that 9 year old Audrey would’ve died for
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RAPIDZ
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Jabba the Rock
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Joel taught me how to use my long exposure setting (i.e. the one good photo taken all day)
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An artist prepares. Also disobeys the perimeter markers. #rebel

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the tiniest spider in all Australia
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I love finding love locks

Joel and Rob spent a lot of time getting photos of the waterfall.

Like, A LOT of time.

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so there was a lot of time for reflection and chill

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.

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More poignant photos of pheet (also, slippery moss)

Eventually the photographers packed up and we all continued down the trail the next waterfall, Sylvia Falls.

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great rock walls
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and more greenery
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and this gorgeous stack of waterfall

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.

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dat sun
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my favourite

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.

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Love
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Love more

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.

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Hello pal (did you come to signal my death? Contrary to popular belief, I survived)
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Milkshake frenz
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Breakfast of Champions. We all ordered simple breakfasts, but the waitress brought us all GIANT BREAKFAST PLATTER. I ate almost all of it, and killed that milkshake. #yolo

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.

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Goodbye Mountains. Thank you for not killing me.

Verdict: +10, will mountain again. Must get in shape, or I will die.

Onwards to the next adventure!

Audrey vs. Australia: Chinese Garden of Friendship

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:

 

 

 

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The majestic Bin Chicken beckons you in
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The entrance to the garden – a fun bonsai farm.
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views through the pavilion
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I love red lanterns
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walk way of zen
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lagoon of zen
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Actual Photographer
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I am a rat. Zodia-graphically. The Garden had all the Chinese zodiac animals hidden around the place. I almost found them all.

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lily pads and sculptures and willow trees, oh my!
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waterfall!
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A stranger offered to take our photo. And she didn’t steal my camera. Friendship forever.
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Love Graffiti Bamboo Forest
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1 of 1 billion flower pics
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more zodiac sculptures
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2 of 1 billion flower pics
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SUN BERRIES
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I want this print on a dress.
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top of the falls, and the Rising Jade Pavilion
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I love this reflection
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It’s my faaavourite
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Fake Photographer
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raise the red lantern
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Rising Jade, for my mom – she had jade plants all around the house when I was growing up.
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3 of 1 billion flower pics
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my lily pads and sculptures and lagoon (featuring casino construction in the background)
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4 of 1 billion flower pics
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Twin Pavilion – named for it’s joined roof and benches
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There were SO MANY lizards. I took about 700 photos. In fact, this blog was almost called “Chinese Garden of LIZARDS”
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fantastic details inside the Twin Pavilion. I’m buying all the red lanterns this year.
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East views
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Willow trees = best trees
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baby falls

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I love a good stone stair case – and the Gardens did not disappoint. It’s basically the closest I’ll get to rock climbing.
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I also love this handsome face
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View of the aptly named Grand Pavilion
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More gorgeous details in the Grand Pavilion
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dat ceiling lantern
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Views to the west
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the red-pink flowers were the best
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Forest garden
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RABBIT
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LIZARD (seriously – I had to restrain myself from only posting lizard photos. Be thankful I stopped myself at 2.)
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no trolls were found
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babble babble
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more bamboo islands
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views to the west
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DUCK
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FEEEEESH – we got there right after feeding time, and it was literally a frenzy. These suckers were huuuuge.
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exit with zen
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good bye!

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!

+10, would definitely venture again.

AudPodge vs. Australia

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”

Thanksgiving

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.

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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:

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.

Sunrise Adventures

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.

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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.

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Yesssss
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The colours – trust me, I’ve only slightly edited this photo.
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Prawns! In a tidal pool. There were also tiny fish and about 600 crabs. I think I took more photos of crabs than I did of the sunrise.
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While I was spazzing over crabs and prawns, Joel was Working Man
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ohhh clouds…
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Intrepid Explorer Man
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I tried to follow Joel down the rocks, but this crab army prevented my crossing. And maybe because my sneakers kept slipping against the rocks. I am the most graceful.
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beep beep, I am a ship.
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those waves…
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Corny and no fucks given. 
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lurrrrrrve

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.

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Thanks for a good morning, universe.

xox

Autumn

The nights are coming earlier and getting cooler. Most nights, we actually need a blanket. There aren’t many leaves to tromp around in, but you can smell a crisp change in the mornings and evenings. The seasons are changing, and I couldn’t be happier.

Even if it’s not the holiday season and pumpkin flavoured everything isn’t being shoved in my face from every direction, Autumn is still my favourite.

I like the feeling of layering up against the elements. I love breathing in that first cold breath in the morning.

It’s time for my second Autumn in Sydney. Time to celebrate Joel’s birthday. Time to recalibrate after a draining summer. But most importantly, it’s time to wash the storage smell out of the winter blankets.

Seriously. Put blankets in one of those vaccumn seal bags for a whole summer and they’ll come out smelling like feet.


Oh, and Game of Thrones. It’s time for that, too.

Xox

Biennale

Biennale! Bee-n-olly. Or, as I can only remember it – Beabolly, Banomamolly, or Bananamaalla. Or, big ass art fair spanning across Sydney that happens every two years.

It’s a huge to-do, with events happening at different venues all over the city. Since I successfully missed Sculpture by the Sea each year that I’ve been here, I was hoping I’d make it to at least one venue for Biennale. And yesterday, we met up with our friends Kat and Matt for a tour of Cockatoo Island (two birds/one stone, it’s also my goal to visit all the “animal” islands around Sydney – there’s also Goat Island and Shark Island, and I will visit them.)

Among other things, Cockatoo Island was a holding area for prisoners in the 1800’s, and then a pretty major shipbuilding and dockyard facility, until 2001 when it was closed down and most of it demolished. But now it’s a heritage site, and most of its buildings have been re-opened as museums of Sydney’s industrial history.

We left the house prepared for rain, as the weather report suggested. However, 10 minutes before we got on the ferry, the rain let out, and the brightest sun came out and stayed out. Needless to say, we are both sunburned now.

Mostly the installations left me kinda meh, and I found myself more interested in the buildings and the machinery that’s been left behind than the actual installations (sometimes I am 100% my father’s daughter). But we had a really good time being out and about, seeing some amazing drawings and mind blowing texture work, some really off the wall pretentious video installations, and listening to self-important people explain art to the people they were with. Here you go, enjoy a smattering of photos!

 

 

I’ll be off putting aloe on my sizzled forehead.

xox

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.

Heeeey Sunday

It’s been so quiet today.

I had a quick phone chat with my sister, I did the washing, I bought milk, I took a shower, I had a Skype date with my friend Daron, and I started my budget for the next couple months.

STOP. STOP THE EXCITEMENT.

But seriously. It’s really good here. There are few things I love more than a good, quiet Sunday. And today is especially quiet because Joel and I cleaned our apartment within an inch of its life yesterday, so I didn’t really have chores to do. I don’t even have to start dinner soon, because we are still chipping away at the red beans and rice I made on Thursday.

I’m just sitting here watching the sun set and cast light through our kitchen.

photo 2(1)and enjoying the company of our new kitchen buddy:

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RARRRR! Yes, he is leaning against a bottle. Maybe he’s an alcoholic. Or maybe he’s a bit top heavy and his hollow tail doesn’t balance him out. His life, his choice.

I love these days.

One of my greatest feelings is when I look around and think, “I love my life.” Even when all the looming uncertainty and separation from my friends and family makes it hard. Even when I blow off my to-do list for the second weekend in a row. I love it here. I love the life we are working toward. And I’ve never been happier.

photo 1(1)Nope, no real point to this post. I’m just feeling gushy.

Sydney!

Hello, Sydney!

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.

hey hey!
hey hey!

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. 🙂

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Sunrise over the Pacific
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MORE SUNRISE
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Descent!

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.

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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!

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hand marbling!
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stationary 4 lyfe
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It has the feel of one of those ‘Nam-era photo journalist cameras, even if it’s digital. I have dubbed him T.Rexington
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SOCKS!

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.

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Important parts of this picture: Hooker bank, Monkey bar, chili con carne croissant, Derp Face.

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.

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It was so blustery that day, that we were almost blown off the cliff.
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Joel checking on things

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.

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such yum

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.

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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.

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Seagull pal!
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Joel’s chicken salad, which was equally amazing
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Joel!
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Waygu beef!

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.

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Rugby!
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Tacos!

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!

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