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Last weekend we took Alex, our temporary associate from NYC, down the GOR to see all of Australia has to offer.  It was kinda cold, and less than abundantly sunny, but we had a great time nonetheless cruising down the coast and camping overnight at Apollo Bay.  Full pictures on the photos page.

Happy Thanksgiving!

As everyone back home settles down in a tryptophan-induced coma (or maybe helps themselves to a third helping of pie), we’re just kicking off Thanksgiving here in Australia.  No, we havent entered a time-warp where it’s now a day behind here…

But as there’s no holiday in Australia for Thanksgiving, our celebration and feast had to wait til Saturday.  To get a jump start on the cooking, I am “working from home” today to get stocked up and space out the cooking (since I have the tiniest oven known to man).  I picked up my $77 turkey from the local butcher (that’s right, a 12 pound turkey cost me SEVENTY SEVEN DOLLARS!) and all the necessary ingredients from the grocery store.

(looks like the makings of a fantastic meal, eh?)

Stay tuned for tales of our 18-person dinner party with representatives from nearly every Commonwealth (or former Commonwealth) country, and recipes to follow!

Since I first resolved to re-learn the piano, and brought my beautiful G Schwechten home as a first step to realizing that aim, I’ve had a hard time evaluating when to declare this particular resolution complete.

I briefly considered success to be achievement of my previous playing level. This goal was promptly abandoned when I flipped through the pages of my Chopin nocturnes and realized I could barely read the tightly packed stanzas, much less contort my early-onset-carpal-tunnel fingers into the right technical positions. Honestly, 9 months later at the “re-learning” effort and I am amazed that I was ever able to perform such a feat, which I chalk up to youthful zeal and a phenomenal and patient teacher.

I then considered, particularly given my remote location, recordation of a tune as evidence of my accomplishment. After all, concerts are a necessary part of any pupil’s repertoire and it would be the only way for the parents and grams back home to nostalgically reminisce of Sunday afternoons spent in the Andover public library.

I set out to record The Long Day is Over, both because my determination to re-learn piano was partially fueled by a desire to find an outlet for my passion for singing (other than shower karaoke) and I relate to this song on a particularly deep level. It is of the melodic romantic style my musical soul has always craved, and a particularly poignant commentary on my current lifestyle. But try as I did, and despite my sweet husband’s assertions that I play it as good as ol’ Nora, my perfectionism has not yet let the slight blemishes in my every attempt escape into the public domain.

At last, I have decided to judge this re-kindled passion of mine by the same token as my culinary leanings.  For the last few weekends, despite my zombie like state from 60+ hour work weeks, all I yearn to do on Saturday mornings is sit and play.  It looks at me longingly in the morning as I run for the tram, remembering mornings of a less stressful time when I would sit and play a few songs before catching the 9:15. I long back, waiting for the lazy, sunny afternoon when we can spend hours together remembering old melodies.

So, in my heart at least if not in my fingers, I declare, resolution complete!

(p.s. Jody, this post is for you and you are right, long overdue)

I heart this recipe for caramelized onions

Actually, let me rephrase.  I ate an entire batch of caramelized onions (4 onions, and I’m not going to add up the # of tbsp of butter) in 2 days flat. Dressing for veal ravioli with olive oil and parmesan, check.  Topping for mixed greens, sliced pear and fennel salad, double check.  Snack-time with a spoon straight into my mouth, you guessed it, CHECK.

I’m pretty sure that kinda of love qualifies for just this side of obsession / desire.

The duo at Rufus’ Food and Spirits Guide has an awesome step-by-step tutorial, so rather than do it injustice by replication here just wander over there… you may find you like them as much as I do!

After a heckuva week at work, it was off to the races last Saturday.  Let’s just say over a 5-day span, my cumulative sleep was hovering in the low double digits.  Plus the forecast all week was calling for rain rain and more rain on race day.  So imagine my delight at an ENTIRE day off work (yes, it was  Saturday) to sit in the sun, sip champagne, and watch the horses whizz by.

From a fashion perspective, it was as  close to NYC Fashion Week as I can imagine.  And the view of the city from behind the race track was phenomenal.

For a few minutes, I did get caught up a bit in the whole betting thing ($1 bets only)… and then disillusioned as my horse selection strategy (awesomeness of horse name) did not yield any winnings.

All up I made $5 (my share for placing a winning bet for Mel because she was in the beer line).

It’s finally spring, and we just can’t help ourselves.  We’ve spent the last few weekends expanding our garden and filling out our pots and planters.  Every weekend, it’s a plant or two more… Last weekend, we were at a local nursery and spotted some adorable hanging succulents – round little moss balls of dangling joy.  So cool, had to have one, maybe a couple.

Only problem was the shop lady seemed to think this 10″ ball of dirt + mother nature was worth $60, for one! So instead, we brainstormed on the walk back to our house as to how to DIO (do it ourselves).  Then we jumped on the tram, did a little googling in transit, bought the necessary materials for $40,and in 2 hours flat had ourselves 4 adorable little Kokedama.

(plus enough leftover bonsai soil and moss for at least 4 more!)

The process is shockingly simple, but two sets of hands was definitely necessary for the wrapping. Check out the DIY instructions.

We just saw one of the most amazing shows I’ve ever seen.  Seriously, my face hurts from 1.5 hours of smiling with unabashed glee and child-like wonder.  Think hip hop meets cirque du soleil meets electronic-jazz-funk-guitar solo mashup meets fast-n-furious drumming meets the best beat boxer you could imagine.  Then you might have some idea…

If you’re in Melbourne, you MUST go to see the Tom Tom Crew.  One week left.  If you live in a major city worldwide, they travel and when they come to your city you MUST go.  And if you just can’t wait to see what I’m talking about, well there’s always youtube.

Is Junk Food Really Cheaper?  Answer: NO.

This NYT article by Mark Bittman says everything I want to scream from the tops of skyscrapers and church steeples all over America.  Junk food, fast food, processed food is NOT the answer.

It also touches on many themes I resoundly agree with — dispelling the myth that junk food is cheaper than the fruits of the earth and land; the cooking challenge; the need to breakaway from a culture of food consumption based on an 24-hour multi-tasking lifestyle; a call for concerted political and cultural action, a food revolution, if you will.

The cooking dilemma is perhaps one of the biggest challenges for most people struggling to break free from a processed food diet.  I’ll admit that there are nights when I don’t want to undertake the effort of cooking (not to mention cleaning), and I am a self-professed wanna be chef!  It’s takes time and effort to cook, and increasingly Americans are being brought up in an environment where food for purchase is so readily available, they don’t know how to cook!

But there’s a wealth of information out there about cooking.  An abundance of recipe books are available touting easy 20-minute suppers and other simple cooking ideas.  Cooking shows, cooking demonstrations at local shopping malls, magazines, books… Cooking can be easy and accessible, if you just give it a go.

For my part, I am trying to encourage healthy, “at-home” cooking, for those around me—-my office mates.  Last week, I served up 3 kangaroo loins, green beans, garlic bread and a tossed salad for the associates in the office.  It took 20 minutes, and fed 4.  Yesterday, Kelly and I made veggie pizza for lunch.  Using a pre-made pizza base and piling on freshly sliced peppers, onions, and tomato took at total of 5 minutes prep and 15 minutes wait time.  Approximate cost $8.  (Approximate cost for lunch from the laneways of Melbourne, $10-12 each.)

Apart from the cost incentives of personal food prep, there’s a moral aspect to cooking as well.  Working late nights at the office, it made all of us feel better have a “home-cooked” meal, plus we ate together in the boardroom (rather than the normal routine, stuffing our faces from a plastic take-away container in front of our glowing computer screens).  The joys of cooking are shared, and continued, with the joys of eating: communal food consumption.

So I challenge everyone to be honest with themselves.  Test the theory.  Go out and eat an easy meal at a sit-down restaurant, say pasta or roasted chicken.  Then go home, buy the ingredients, and replicate the meal.  See how it stacks up, and follow your taste buds!

As the winter season draws to a close, we are definitely looking forward to spring’s bounty.  For those of you in the northern hemisphere, here’s a warming soup to get you through those cold winter days to come.  Just in time for autumn harvest.  This was a huge hit with Cathy & Dave when they visited, I think Cathy even asked for leftover soup for breakfast the next day…

Roasted Cauliflower Soup

  • 1 large cauliflower, chopped into thick pieces
  • 3-4 shallots, roughly chopped
  • 1 leek, roughly chopped
  • 10 garlic cloves
  • 500ml (2 cups) chicken stock
  • 300ml heavy cream

Combine cauliflower, shallots, leek and garlic in a roasting pan. Drizzle with olive oil.  Roast for 1 hour at 200 C, turning occasionally. Bring stock and cream to simmer in a saucepan.  Transfer to a blender, and blend in cauliflower mixture. Salt & pepper to taste.  Serve with hot buttered soldiers (non-Aussies, read: buttered slices of sourdough toast)

* Adapted from the Gourmet Traveler

I’ve finally found something I miss about having a car – karaoke time.

I, like the rest of the world (or maybe just Australia?), am completely obsessed with Adele at the moment.  Turns out, however, that one attracts odd looks unconsciously singing along in a packed 8:45am tram.  But I couldn’t help it!  I had to consciously tap my toes, and hum a little, just to keep the tunes in my head buckled under.

One of the books I’m currently reading, Traffic by Tom Vanderbuilt, is all about the human behavior as it relates to, you guessed it, traffic.  A bit of an odd read for my current car-free lifestyle, but it certainly hits the nail on the head in the chapter dealing with the odd things people do in the inviolable solitude of their vehicles (even when other drivers may be no more than a few feet away).

Like solo karaoke time.  For me, driving time was always my jam time.  Crank up the volume, head tilted, full on jamming.

Oh well, guess the shower will have to suffice.