Sunday, July 29, 2012

Samosas for lunch

I wanted to make home-made pizza the other day, but the easy way, with store-bought pastry. I couldn't find store-bought pastry, though, so I bought phyllo dough, assuming it'd be a bit weird, but would work. When Hugh got home, he informed that phyllo simply would not do.

So I had a whole pack of phyllo dough that I needed to use up. I decided to make myself samosas today. I figured I didn't need a recipe, despite the fact that I completely lack culinary instincts. I have learned one thing, though: almost every recipe should start with a fried onion.

So I fried an onion in butter, then added chopped mushrooms. I boiled some potatoes, and remembered partway through that we had frozen peas. I chucked some of those in. I mashed the potatoes and added some tandoori spice, which smelled like samosas should, but after two dashes of the spice, the potatoes still tasted pretty bland. I didn't want to use up all of the tandoori spice because, well, it isn't exactly mine. So the filling is a bit bland, oh well. I added the mushrooms and onions to the mash, then buttered up some phyllo dough and got folding. Easy peasy! I brushed the outsides with butter, so even though the filling is meh, at least the pastry tastes nice and buttery.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Handmade finds

In my efforts to find free wifi in the city, I signed up for a library card at the State Library of South Australia (it was super easy to sign up). I love it! I've been getting magazines from there pretty regularly, and across from the magazines, is a manga section. Did you know Marvel released a comic book version of Pride and Prejudice? Awesome! And someone else turned Midsummer Night's Dream into a graphic novel.

Anyway, back to the magazines. There's an arty Australian women's magazine called "frankie" that I've really enjoyed reading, but the branch I go to only has, like, 3 copies. But it's cool! They're big on photography, handmade items, and whimsical art. Each issue has a page devoted to stuff you should buy, but instead of high-street brands or designer labels like Louis Vuitton, most of the 'brands' are Etsy shops. A magazine that tells you to shop on Etsy! They feature lots of interviews with indie bands I've never heard of, and shopkeepers who run cool little stores in more cosmopolitan places like Sydney and Melbourne, but it's fun to look at the pictures. The magazine is overall pretty hipster, but I guess I can't really deny that I enjoy a bit of the hipster lifestyle. Only a bit, though.

Wait, there was a point to this blog post, wasn't there? Oh yeah, "frankie" mentioned a cool second-hand store in Adelaide called Irving Baby. I went to check it out. They bill themselves as "vintage," but that is a term used very loosely these days. There was some 70's and 80's era stuff in there, but a fair amount of modern second-hand clothing as well. They also sold handmade jewelry and bags, which I found more interesting. In the end, I couldn't resist buying a pack of original art stickers. I love the yellow catwoman!

by Lauren Carney

On my way from Irving Baby to the library, I passed this place.

They had loads of different handmade arty objects for sale, including jewelry, wallets, ceramics and glassware, paintings, illustrations, sculptures, textiles, and generally gifty things. They also sell t-shirts celebrating South Australia with jokes only an Adelaidean would get. I found some super duper cute Henna-painted ceramics, but they were sadly a bit out of my (unemployed) price range.

The Amazing Balthazar & Mirabelle

Knitted animals performing a magic show? Yes, please!

The Amazing Balthazar & Mirabelle from blabla kids on Vimeo.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Letters to myself

Dear Self,

Remember how, every time you drink more than one or two alcoholic drinks, even if you don't get "drunk," you wake up in the middle of the night feeling like you're dying? Remember that special burning sensation from your stomach all the way up your esophagus? Remember how you know you need to drink water, but you can't actually move to get some because movement will certainly make you vomit? No? You don't remember? The next time someone invites you to a degustation for a winery, maybe you should try a little harder to remember the inevitable consequences. Yes, you paced yourself. No, you didn't finish everything in your glass. Yes, you were only ever tipsy, and not drunk. But none of that matters, because God didn't actually give you a normal liver. He gave you a little tiny one that gets easily stressed out and overworked. So next time someone offers you that second beach bucket of Long Island ice tea, or that third glass of wine, JUST SAY NO.



One of Hugh's friends has recently started working in a pub in Port Adelaide, and they put on a $90-a-plate degustation last night for one of the wineries in the Adelaide Hills. The food was absolutely spot-on perfect. I was less keen on the wines, but that may have been because they were varieties that I don't like (Rose, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir). I don't know enough about wine to be sure, but I wasn't keen. First, there was a sparkling rose to kick things off. The first course was another sparkling wine (sparkling wine is an Adelaide specialty) with an espresso-cup of mushroom and truffle soup. SOOO GOOD! I could have eaten a vat of the stuff for dinner and gone home the happiest girl in the western suburbs. Then there was a chardonnay with a crab crepe with carrot...something or other. A sauce of some sort. The carrot something or other was very caramelly and lip-licking good. The crepe was delish as well, but really complemented by the carrot sauce. Then there was pinot noir with confit de duck with a tasty jus (I forgot what it was made of). For dessert, there was sherry (I really, really hate sherry) and a salted caramel and chocolate tarte served with sweet and sour cream and mandarin jelly. Then there was a cheese course! There was a cheddar which I found very boring, a bleu that I didn't bother trying, and a brie that was absolutely to die for. I could have eaten three whole triangles of it, but I thought people might judge me. Hugh was judging me for how much I did eat.

I think the mushroom soup and the brie will haunt my dreams for a long time.

Tonight in town, one of the clubs is hosting a "Bow Tie July" party. Hugh's best friend is dj'ing for part of it, so we were gonna go, but Hugh has a bit of cold so we think we'll have to pass. Still, I spent yesterday crocheting myself a bow tie sort of following this pattern by Sara Dudek. Actually, crocheting is super quick, especially something as small as a bow tie, so it shouldn't have take me long at all, but I did something wrong at the very beginning. I decided I liked the way it looked, so continued to crochet the whole thing. But then I needed to replicate the mistake I made on the other end of the bow tie. I spent about an hour and a half trying to figure out how to do that, and when I couldn't figure it out, I just started a second bow tie, but only did the first rows, and then sewed it onto the original. I do not recommend this method. Which leads me to another letter to myself.

Dear Self,

Remember how, whenever you knit anything, you always stray from the pattern, thinking you're being super clever by improving it, and you ALWAYS end up having to frog it and repeat it at least four times? And then in the end, it looks stupid anyway? Remember how you do that for every single project you ever make? Yeah, you should probably stop doing that.



Wednesday, July 25, 2012


Hugh's sister is learning to drive, and around these parts, there's a very rigorous program you have to follow in order to get your license, or, as the South Australia government website puts it:

Getting a driver's licence involves gradually progressing through a series of stages until you are ready to graduate to a full driver's licence. It involves:

 While you're in the Learner's permit phase (where Em currently is), you have to drive with "L plates," which is a white card with a red "L" that you stick in the front and back windshields. You have to drive with a fully-licensed driver in the passenger seat, and that person can not have any alcohol in their system (neither can the driver, obviously). You have to log SEVENTY-FIVE HOURS!! of driving with a licensed passenger before you can progress to your "P plates."

So anyway, all of that to say that Hugh's dad took Em driving in the Adelaide Hills on Saturday, and I tagged along. We started by dropping by Hugh's work to say "hi." Then Em got behind the wheel and we drove to Hahndorf, a little German town in the Hills.

Now, when I've read about Hahndorf, everyone has said nice things about how cute and charming and traditional it is. The town was settled by religious zealots (much like America!) that had fled Germany, and they created a Little Germany in the Hills. I totally assumed it would be like Leavenworth, you know what I'm sayin'? Yeah, Leavenworth wasn't settled by actual Germans. Yeah, it's totally fake and commercialized. But I was expecting chalet-like buildings full of cheesy souvenir shops.

It wasn't like that at all. It really was charming, but in a really understated way. There was no rampant commercialization, no Bavarian taverns. Okay, there was one Bavarian tavern, but it looked fun and inviting! There weren't even really that many shops sellling "German" stuff. Just a couple German bakeries. There was a really nice cheese shop, but I don't think it was particularly German.

We had Bratwurst and sauerkraut for lunch. Mmmm, tasty! Then Em and her dad introduced me to a bienenstich or "bee sting." I'm telling you, these Aussies really know how to eat. Probably why Australia has recently surpassed the UK in obesity (don't worry, the US still leads the developed world.)

(haha He eats like Ross)
We bought an extra one for Hugh, a full-sized one. He'd eaten two-thirds of it before we got home.

After Hahndorf, we just drove around for ages, so Em could log some good time behind the wheel. We got lost on country roads (and I mean dirt roads, here) twice, but Hugh's dad's amazing sense of direction got us back on track eventually. He's like my daddio in that sense. You're never really "lost." (And I had my smartphone all along, in case it got really hairy.)

Considering that I don't have a job yet, or any friends, or a car, it's really nice to get out and about a bit with Hugh's family. I really look forward to it. But now I need to get back to job applications!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Even more snapshots of Oz!

Since moving into this apartment, I have felt that not having internet access has really been getting in the way of my ability to blog regularly. I have so many pictures to post! So much to say! My adoring fans deserve to know every minute detail of my fascinating life here in Australia!!

Well, we've had internet in the apartment since Friday. Five days, and I've posted...let's times. Heh heh. And Kusems reverts to posting once every three months.

Here are some more random pictures! This is a picture of Rundle Mall at dusk. Rundle Mall is the main shopping street in town. It's pedestrianized and has a few very random sculptures, including the Mall's Balls, two silver balls placed upright one on top of the other, and three wittle pigs, one of which is sneaking a peak into a rubbish bin. Cute! But I don't have pictures of those. I just have this fountain outside Adelaide Arcade, which dates back to the Victorian era and is full of...actually really boring shops, sadly. There is a milliner's, though!

On the left is a rather boring picture meant to show what winter looks like here. Palm trees among leafless deciduous trees, neither of which are native.  Gum or Eucalypt tree are native here, but they don't lose their leaves. On the right is a picture of some typical Adelaidean houses. The Victorian ironwork can be found on most houses in any neighborhood, in any suburb, of Adelaide. Even new houses are built to have a Victorian feel to them. In Hugh's parents' neighborhood, by the sea, some of the houses were actually built in the Victorian era. They're like run-down doll houses.

 One of Hugh's coworkers from Edinburgh has been living in Sydney for the past few months. She came to visit a couple weeks ago and Hugh took us on a winery tour in the Barossa Valley (pretty much the main tourist attraction in Adelaide). Sadly, I'm useless and don't remember the names of the wineries pictured. It may have something to do with the fact that I didn't spit out the wine I tasted and was therefore quite sloshed by the time we reached the second one (out of four).

Friday, July 20, 2012

More snapshots of Oz

When you move, you come across cherished possessions you forgot you owned. And now that it's winter, what better time to pull this little number out for wearing?

I pretty much forgot about the 4th of July until I came downstairs to find this adorable note from Hugh's dad. How cute is that?? And yes, like a true stereotypical American (at least as far as the British are concerned), I DO use maple syrup on my bacon and eggs!

If I never leave this country to return to my homeland, it won't be because of Hugh. It'll be because of the native food. Here is just one delight, from Lobethal Bakery in the Adelaide Hills (wine country). Adelaide is full of bakeries, which do sell some fresh bread, but mostly serve delicious breakfast and lunch options. This is a pizza pie. It is a savoury meat pie (i.e. beef and carrots in gravy in a pie base) with ham, pepperoni, cheese, and pineapples on top. I'm drooling just looking at the picture. The photo also features another South Australian peculiarity: flavoured milk, specifically coffee flavoured milk. Now that I'm a coffee drinker, I quite enjoy these cartons of sugar--er, I mean, calcium. Healthy healthy calcium.

 Isn't my boyfriend talented? He made this for me while I visited him at work at the winery (the vineyard is pictured on the right).

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Driving on the Wrong side of the road

My first week in Radelaide was pretty much entirely consumed with moving. On Day 2, Hugh had to work so his mum and I planned to help his sister move some more stuff into the place. We walked out to the car in the morning and she said, "Do you want to drive?"

Is 'no' an option? But she insisted, so I decided to suck it up. I need to learn to drive in this country some time, right? Adelaide isn't like London or Edinburgh, where you can get around anywhere you need to with public transport or your own two feet. Then again, it's not as bad as the Eastside of Seattle, where there aren't sidewalks you could follow along the freeway to get between suburbs on foot.

So I got behind the wheel and tried to start it up. Where was the ignition? While this was an automatic transmission (phew!), it was a special Prius where the 'key' is an electronic box and the ignition is rectangular hole for that box. Hugh's mum didn't bother forewarning me about this, so I searched for a few seconds before she enlightened me. Fine. Stick the box in its hole, and what? Turn? She waited a further few seconds to inform me that I just needed to push the 'on' button, then pointed it out when I couldn't locate it. Great, so now I look like a total dunce cuz I can't start a car. Oh well.

I didn't have much trouble driving on the left side of the road, as I mostly just followed the cars in front of me. Plus, the main road between Hugh's parents' and the new place has a huge divider between the opposing lanes. What I struggled with was driving on the right side of the car. You know how, when you first learn to drive, it takes a while to figure out where the passenger side of the car ends? Well, I had to start at square one with that. I kept getting too close to parked cars. I also noticed that I was relying heavily on my right side mirror and not checking my rearview mirror at all. I mean, it was in the wrong place! Or so my brain thought. The ride was uneventful, though, so all good. Unlike my first experience driving a manual in France, when the children in the back of the car screamed every time I stalled (and I stalled a lot.)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

My first garment!!

SHOOT! I was eventually going to get around to writing a post about my first knitted garment, but I just sent the finished product off to Amy without taking a final picture! Oh well, it would have been flat and lame anyway. Maybe Amy will send me a photo of her modeling it. I do have "in progress" photos.

So yeah, when I first taught my self to knit way back in ought-six, I knew that I would never be good at this craft. Or any craft. But I decided I was okay with that. What is good enough for Mrs. Weasley, is good enough for me. All I ever wanted was to be able to make gifts for my friends and family, and make myself little accessories, and if I knitted a Mrs. Weasley sweater some day, with sleeves all the wrong lengths, I would be proud.

Still, it took me six years...wait, is that right? SIX YEARS? Apparently, it has taken me six years to work up the guts (and motivation) to knit a full garment. I've made leg and arm warmers, hats, scarves, dish cloths, and blankets. But no proper clothing. I first saw the "Coachella" pattern on Knitty a couple years ago and immediately thought of Amy. She went to the Coachella festival one year while at university, and the way she described it made me really want to attend a music festival in the UK...I never did, of course, because attending music festivals in the UK requires two things that I lack: a) the ability to plan ahead, and b) money.

But anyway. A couple months ago, I wanted a new knitting project and, because I had a decent-paying job and wasn't paying rent, I actually had a bit of cash to afford nice yarn. Realizing Amy's birthday was coming up, I decided it was time to knit my first garment.

It went really really well! It's not Mrs. Weasley at all! (It helps that it doesn't have sleeves)  I had Amy try it on twice while it was in progress, and it looked fantastic. It helps that Amy has an amazing rack, but it fit her just right. I'm excited to see how she looks in the finished product.

(Going through the photos on my phone, I realize I have a LOT of catching up to do blog-wise. Sigh...)

Saturday, July 14, 2012

New Apartment!!

Here is our new apartment! We're basically part of one long, one-story house or building that was divided into five apartments. We're at the end of the building. We have a cute white picket fence and a front porch, as well as a big, covered back porch area, perfect for BBQs (and the Aussies love their BBQs).

This is our long and pretty wide hallway, before we completely lined it with unpacked boxes and various random crap. We plan to line it with bookshelves, but we'll see if that ever happens. Straight ahead is the bathroom door. There are two bedrooms off to the right, then the living room behind that, and the kitchen behind the living room. The kitchen is ridiculously small and was almost completely useless, but we've added some storage solutions that help a bit.

And here is my manly man putting together our brand new bed!! We tried to do it without power tools, and took 15 minutes to install two screws. Then we went to Hugh's parents' to get the drill, and it took 3 minutes to install the remaining 16 screws. I LOVE POWER TOOLS!

Monday, July 09, 2012


heehee Hugh is not pleased with me for posting that picture of him :-D

So, now I am in Adelaide, and have been for a little over a week. Where to begin? At the beginning, I suppose.

Winter in Adelaide was almost more noticeable than in Sydney, but that was sort of just luck of the draw. We happened to arrive in Adelaide during heavy rain. But in addition to that, the suburbs of Adelaide have more trees than we saw in Sydney, and many of these had lost their leaves. It was already dark, so I didn't get much of an impression of Adelaide from that drive, but what I saw looked vaguely like the parts of Orange County that "The O.C." wasn't set in.

Hugh had been living at his parents' house since returning from Edinburgh. The plan had been to look for a place for the two of us once I arrived, but he had managed to find a two-bedroom "cottage" before I arrived. His twin sister, Em, needed to move as well, so the timing worked out really well. I arrived in town on Friday evening, and on Saturday morning, we started moving in! Hugh and I didn't have a bed yet, so we continued staying at his parents until that was all set up, but we moved lots of other stuff in, including my dishes. Yay!

I saw my first Australian bug as we were moving in! It was a cockroach, so not really uniquely Australian, but it was a sort of pretty reddish-purple color. I was okay with it for two reasons: 1) It was outside on the sidewalk, and 2) it was dead. I will certainly not be so blase the first time I find one in the house!

We drove back and forth several times between Hugh's parents' house and the new place. They're about 20min drive apart, so a fairly significant distance to cover several times in a day.

For comparison sake, the City of Seattle packs roughly 600,000 inhabitants into an area of 84 sq mi (not including water) for a population density of 7,360 people per sq mi. Looking at the whole of King County, the population density is still 908 inhabitants per sq mi. Adelaide and its suburbs, on the other hand, cover an area of 705 sq miles with a population of 1.2 million, for a density of 163 people per sq mi.  So it's pretty spread out here, and even in the downtown area, there is a distinct feeling that you're in a big country town, and not the fifth largest city in the nation. But then you have to remind yourself exactly which nation we're talking about here. A country with an area only slightly smaller than the U.S., with 1/14th of the population of the U.S.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Sydney Day 3

Day 3 was our last day in Sydney.

We wandered through town to the Botanic Gardens, which were a-ight. Then we walked over to the Opera House, which was pretty tight! It really is cool up close.

 The man who designed it knew the general shape he was going for, but couldn't figure out architecturally how to make it work (and not collapse on itself). Then he found inspiration in a sliced orange, and somehow that solved it. Yays!

An interior design feature (don't think it's anything in particular)

From there, we caught a ferry to Manly, one of the coastal beach suburbs of Sydney.

Again, I was struck by the beauty of Sydney Harbour. We basked in sunshine on the ferry, even getting warm enough to remove our sweaters!

We walked the main street, lined with surf clothing stores like Quiksilver and Billabong, to the beach. We looked for fish and chips, but the only chippie on the strip was charging $18 for a meal. After searching the side streets for a while, we finally found some for $12. This country is expensive! While the Aussie dollar has just squeaked ahead of the US dollar in worth, the prices here reflect the fact that the AUD has traditionally been weaker. This means that my USD $100 is worth fewer AUD, perhaps $98, but an item that would cost USD $100, costs AUD $120. (There are other reasons for higher prices in Australia, but the end result is that I get screwed.) Anyway, we ate fish and chips, then caught the ferry back to Sydney. See, here are the HUGELY IMPRESSIVE bridge and Opera House. Isn't your breath just stolen away from you? (Hugh is giving me a hard time for saying I was unimpressed.)

Overall, Sydney struck me as a mix between London and San Diego. I liked it, but I'm not sure I could imagine myself living there. It's still too big a city for me. I think London ruined me for big cities. We collected our bags from the hotel and caught the train to the airport, and...BUSINESS CLASS, BITCHES!!! Oh yeah, that's right. I told you he spoils me. We flew in STYLE to Adelaide. The flight attendants address you by your last name. They offer you a selection of newspapers. They offer you a drink before take-off, then come back before take-off to collect your glass. They feed you dinner on a one-hour flight! And that's not even mentioning the cushy, spacey seats. Luxury.

Sydney Day 2

On Day 2, we explored Sydney much more. Sadly, I forgot my camera in the hotel for the first part of the day, so no piccies until the afternoon :-(

I wanted to wear my new Roxy skirt, which is red with white flowers. I paired it with my gray pocket-in-pocket t-shirt, a pair of gray tights, and my thick, mustard yellow cardi. With my lacy oxfords, it turned out to be a very autumnal outfit, which was perfect, because the weather was very October in Seattle-ish. We walked down to the Rocks, the historic district of town, for coffee and breakfast. It being winter, and a weekday, it was pretty quiet down by the water. I loved the terrace of Campbell's Storehouses, where one of the trendy restaurants set the masts of a tallship into the pavement. From this vantage point, the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge were splayed out in front of us.

All my guidebooks raved about the Harbour Bridge, calling it stunning and breathtaking. With all this talking-up, the actual thing was a bit of a let-down. It was a bridge. Both it and the Opera House were smaller and less imposing than I had imagined. I think my expectations were just too high. But we decided to take a ferry from Circular Quay to Watson's Bay, and then I understood why people rave about Sydney Harbour. This harbour is unbelievably gorgeous. It's lush and green, with miles of picturesque inlets. Watson's Bay was a cute little village/suburb with pretty private beaches every now and again. We walked around South Head, where we passed a fully-exposed nude beach (complete with fully-exposed nude sun-bathers), watched a seal body surf, and looked for whale spouts off of North Head. Braving a bit of rain here and there, we decided to catch a bus to Sydney's most famous beach, Bondi (pronounced bond-eye). By the time we got there, the rain clouds had moved off and we walked along the beach in full sunlight. It was like a mild summer morning in Seattle. The beach was beautiful, with gorgeous blue-green waves rolling in. We meandered slowly, by foot and by bus, back into the city over the course of the afternoon.

In the afternoon, we visited the Chinese Garden and walked through China Town. The Chinese Garden was nice, but it was surrounded by concrete. It seemed odd, in a city with a huge botanic garden, it seemed like the Chinese Garden should be embedded within that. Anyway, I made up for my lack of a camera earlier in the day by taking lots of boring pictures.