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Our Christmas present to each other this year was a hot air balloon flight over the Melbourne CBD.  Due to massive thunderstorms, our flight didn’t go forward on Christmas Eve as planned, so we re-booked for the morning of Jan 3.  Which turned out to be perfect, since our other Christmas present to each other was a weekend in Sydney for NYE.  The hot air balloon ride was icing on the cake.

So how was it you ask?  See for yourself; check out our morning in flight on the out and about page.

pretty. freaking. awesome.  Like, once in a lifetime, awesome. So sweet.

(the happy ballooners)

Ah it’s that time of the year again.  One year ends, another begins, prompting contemplative thinking about what life (or at least the next year) has in store and/or excessive champagne consumption.

2011 was a pretty great year.  You might have noticed that we spent it in Melbourne, Australia.  As if that wasn’t enough, I learned to cook kangaroo, re-learned the piano, made it almost all the way through my reading list (Infinite Jest, in all its 500+ page glory, is still waiting in the wings on my bedside table), attempted to make pasta from scratch, blogged my heart out (and even earned a WP kudos for doing so), and did an awful lot of exploring in this beautiful country.

For 2012, I have a similar laundry list of potential personal achievements, a new reading queue, and some holdovers from 2011’s resolution list to finish off (hot air balloon ride and Tassie devil sighting). But after much contemplation, I have decided 2012 will be the year of Claire, the vicambulist.

So instead of professing my commitment to meet general goals for the year, below is my hiking wish list.  Since Australia is relatively flat, it is hard to characterize many of these as “hikes”, but walks, treks or tramps will suffice…

Some are day walks, others are overnight hikes.  And a full 1/3 of the list is already planned for the month of March when dad & donna visit, which is giving us a jump start to the year.  Let’s just say, I am excited to hit the trails in 2012 (ambulance ride optional).

Therefore, I hereby resolve that in 2012 I will hike…

1) in and around Wilson’s Prom (VIC)

2) a New Zealand glacier (South Island, NZ)

3) the misty eucalyptus forests of the Blue Mountains (NSW)

4) the highest peak in Australia, Mount Kosciuszko (NSW)

5) Snowy River National Park (VIC)

6) at least 2 days of the 9-day Great Ocean Walk (VIC)

7) a portion of the Overland Track, Cradle Mountain (TAS)

8) the Victorian Alps (VIC)

9) the Milford Sound Track (NZ)

10) among waterfalls, rainforests and killer crocodiles in Kakadu National Park (NT)

11) Grampians National Park (VIC); and

12) an international peak with the other members of the fantastic four, location TBD.

In addition to the specifically enumerated walks comes a general commitment to walking where possible in lieu of other forms of transportation.

These boots were made for walking, and in 2012, that’s just what they’ll do!

This weekend, I attempted to make pasta from scratch.  I resolved to do so at the beginning of 2011, and have been plotting this culinary adventure for the last few weeks, diligently reading and re-reading the pages of a book about pasta making I bought months ago.

Saturday, I bought all the necessary ingredients: “00” flour from the local deli; prosciutto, pecorino and pear for the ravioli filling.  And on Sunday, Steve & I had a cooking date day and big plans for the kitchen.  First up, pasta-making.

I love fresh pasta and it seemed simple enough – make a well of flour, insert 3 eggs and a tbsp of salt, incorporate flour into egg mixture until sticky dough is formed, knead. (so says my book)

In my first attempt, I broke the well. Raw eggs EVERYWHERE! Steve encouraged me to try again.

In my second attempt, I gingerly incorporated the flour grain by grain.  I stirred, ever so gently, the liquid mixture to thicken it with the tipo “00” flour.  A tiny crack in my well formed, but with various stents I managed to avoid the gooey-eggs-running-down-workbench fiasco that ended my first attempt.

I kneaded the dough, pushing and pulling, and yearning for the “elastic and soft” texture my efforts were supposed to yield.  I kneaded some more.  And more…. But try as I did, my dough was neither soft nor elastic. No, it was more dry, rough, and concrete-like. 

I sighed, and stuck a fork in it.

I made a stiff cocktail to ease the pain of my pasta-making failure from supplies on hand (Bombay, fresh pressed granny smith apple juice, lemon juice (around the rim) and a splash of dry red muscato in the bottom).  Umm, yum!  Like a bitter and savory Long Island Ice Tea (without the 12-liquor induced headache afterwards.)

Then I whipped up a tasty white bean dip, and enjoyed a snack with my adult beverage.

Fortified, I dug into dessert.  I had bought 12 pints of strawberries at the market.  

(what?  it was $10.  how could I resist?)

When life hands you a box of strawberries, you must make cake.

We were so stuffed, we decided to scrap dinner (lamb rack) and call it a night.  Pasta FAIL.  Fun cooking date day, SUCCESS!!

from the date of January 1, 2011 to December 31, 2011, I will…

1) balance my life (no promises on how balance will be achieved.  Right now I’m standing up straight, so I could be off to a good start in 2011.  1 down, 9  to go).

2) learn how to make pasta from scratch (and make things that are way more yummy than, for example, freshly-made squid ink pasta, which I always see at the pasta shops in markets.  Seriously, who ever thought that (1) squid ink is tasty and (2) black as death linguine noodles should be considered a delicacy instead of just moldy).

3) read Traffic, Tom Vanderbilt, Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace, On Love, Allan de Botton, Reading the OED, Ammon Shea, The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho, and A Long Way Down, Nick Hornsby, each of which has been on my reading list for nearly or over 3 years.

4) cook kangaroo (and have someone other than my loving husband verify that it actually tastes good).

5) ride in a hot air balloon.

6) blog at least once a week, and at least twice a month with a fun, interesting or unique fact about Australia (Steve has promised to post to the blog as one of his resolutions too). (NB: WordPress has issued “postaday2011” and “postaweek2011” challenges to its bloggers.  Totally on the same page as my blog host.)

7) take a wine pairing & cooking class, and try to remember something other than “hhmmm, wine good!”

8 ) re-learn the piano.

9) see a Tasmanian devil, the world’s most cartoonish carnivorous marsupial.

10) vacation more, for and with less (really, camera, birks, 1 pair pant, 1 swimmie, 1 tank top, 1 jumper (that’s a sweater to you Americans) and my straw fedora should be all I need for any good 4-day weekend in Oz. The straw fedora is perhaps the most essential, to mask the fact that I did not list soap, shampoo or brush among those items.  Oh, and Steve).

Here’s hoping my resolve in 2011 is stronger than in 2010.  I think I should be able to keep up with #6 (at least for a week or two…) Stay tuned.