A little fast, a lot of dough

We finally bought a car last week (yippee and boo). We have been renting cars for the last 6 weeks, and not only has it been a large expense, but we have had some real crappers. Let me just say that cars in Australia are EXPENSIVE…expensive to rent and buy, expensive to register (annual “Rego” is about $650, even if your car is a total piece), and gas is about $5.10 a gallon. I’ll never bitch about spending $45 to fill up my tank in the States again! We bought a 2002 Toyota Prado that is in pretty decent shape. They don’t sell Prado’s in the US, but it seems they have them in many other places around the world. We actually rented one in Costa Rica during our last trip there. Anyhow, after waiting two weeks for all the money to transfer over to AUS, we were finally able to pick up the truck. The same day we received a speeding ticket in the mail from a month prior. This is where it gets funny and redonkulous. The ticket was for going 105 kilometers per hour in a 100 kilometer per hour zone. On the highway, no less! The ticket is for $176…for going (quick conversion) 3 miles (yes 3 MILES AN HOUR) over the speed limit. Some stealth camera operation just zapped the license plate on our rental car and found us at our new address. I now consistently drive 10 km under the speed limit.

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Savory Muffins

They taste better than they look

I am not much of a cook. I tend to get creative and just throw things into the bowl and hope it works, or I will modify the recipe as I see fit. Cooking has become even more of a challenge now in our new house because my nice pots and pans and other utensils haven’t arrived. Not only that, but when I do feel adventurous enough to try a new recipe, I spend about as much time trying to convert the measurements from milliliters or grams to cups and teaspoons as I do actually making it. Needless to say, I was really excited when I received a large bag of ingredients and a typed recipe for these Savory Kalamata olive, sun dried tomato, feta muffins. As I posted earlier, baked good are really fantastic here, and this style of Savory Muffins can be found in many coffee shops and cafe’s. These were made for the Spring Festival that is coming up in October at the Steiner school that my daughter attends. I know, it IS weird…I keep calling it the Fall Festival myself.

I was pleasantly surprised at how amazingly delicious they turned out. I am not taking any credit for the recipe, but they are definitely blog worthy! The recipe they gave me was for 54 muffins, however the ingredients only yielded about 48 for me. Below is the recipe for 24 muffins

  • 4 1/2 cups of unbleached white flour
  • 3/4 ¬†teaspoon of sea salt
  • 5 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
  • 3 Tablespoons of fresh thyme, basil, or parsley, chopped
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 5 sun dried tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped into small pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups of crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 1/4 cups milk

For the topping, mixed together in a small bowl

  • 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 5 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped into small pieces

Grease muffin pan. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius/350 degree Fahrenheit. Soak the sun dried tomatoes in a small bowl with enough hot water to cover them for 15 minutes. Squeeze out any excess liquid, chop into small pieces, and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, paprika and fresh chopped herbs.

In another bowl, beat the eggs. Add the olives, sun dried tomatoes, feta, Parmesan, onion, olive oil and milk and stir to combine.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Spoon batter evenly into prepared muffin pan. Sprinkle each muffin with some of the topping and bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until golden. Let muffins sit for a few minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack.

For an added bit of flavor, serve with a dollop of pesto on top.

Images from the Surfcoast Shire


Bells Beach at high tide

Torquay


Torquay

Magpie


Magpie at the Footy Field

18 months


18 Months

First day of Spring


First day of Spring

Surfcoast Shire


Rainbow over our ‘hood’

Surf World Museum


Surf World Museum


View to the sea

Dandenong Ranges, Yarra Valley


White Ash

william ricketts sanctuary

William Ricketts Sanctuary

My brain on Bikram

I am a Bikram junkie. I crave the sweat, the stretching of my underused muscles, and the hidden strength I often find within myself once I am inside the yoga room. It hasn’t been easy, but it has been worth the discomfort, the tender hamstrings, the popping hip joints, and the crackling knees. Some days it is 90 minutes of pure hell, other days it is 90 minutes of meditation, and sometimes it is like 90 minutes of Gestalt therapy. Same room, same heat, same poses, yet always a different manifestation of time, space, and expectations.
I attended my first class last weekend at the Geelong Bikram studio. It’s kind of a PITA to get there from Jan Juc, but still worth the time (30 minutes each way!). There is a certain comfort in those 26 poses, like seeing an old, very close friend. I was able to take 2 classes while we were in Melbourne, but my practice has become sporadic in the past 6 months.
I am going on my fourth year of Bikram, and it has lodged itself into my entire psyche and quite possibly has imprinted itself onto my soul. For those of you who are Bikram-curious, I offer you some tips. For those of you who practice, hopefully you will find some truth and hopefully some humor in this post.
1. Skip the beer/wine/alcohol the day before your first class. Seriously, you will feel awful no matter what, but I promise you will feel worse if you drink the day before. I’m not talking about a hangover, either. I’m talking one or two drinks. Believe me, I’ve been there and it’s no fun. Nothing like a chunky burp while inverting…
2. Lock your effing knee! It may take months, or even years. Doesn’t matter, just learn to lock that mofo. When I first started practicing, I would practice locking my knees when I brushed my teeth. You have to be standing completely still, so if you walk and brush, skip the extra practice.
3. Invest in a pumice stone. Hey, I’m not saying you need a nice pedi every week, but since you can afford to pay $18 for a yoga class, I’m going to assume you can also afford a $2 pumice stone. I don’t really like feet to begin with, and when your dirty cracked heels are in my face, there is only so much transcendental breathing I can do not to notice. Since you cannot control the amount or stench of your detoxifying sweat during class, you can at least tidy up your tootsies a little.
4. If you enjoy a little extra fresh air when you practice, set up close to the pregnant woman. I know, because I was the pregnant woman, and before I got pregnant, I made sure I was close to the pregnant woman. Nothing wrong with a little breeze now and again. Yes, I know, there are 2 schools of thought regarding Bikram and pregnancy. Some people were appalled, other people were in awe. I stopped talking to my OB about it, and fortunately she stopped asking. I’m not really sure how I managed to practice until I was 40 weeks pregnant, or how I was able to drag myself back 3 weeks after giving birth, but it can be done. And if I can do it, anyone can. I pretty much suck at all things athletic. I will say I hardly retained any water and L&D was a piece of cake (with epidural frosting, of course!).
5. This one is for the guys. Man up and get some real yoga shorts. I know you may feel funny wearing the tight little stretchy costumes, but no one wants to see your sweaty nuts during class. It is probably worse than seeing nasty feet. My badass husband may drive his Harley to class, but once there, even he wears his little butt huggers.
6. And last but not least, leave your ego in the dressing room. Yoga is not about competing with those around you. I know it is human nature to compare ourselves to others, but in the yoga room, one of the most difficult exercises is learning to love yourself. I don’t always like my own reflection in the mirror, but I have learned to love it. Even when I have to “landscape” during the standing postures…

I’m no Martha…

This pie was delish…I mean, really amazingly good. I only used half of the sugar because I didn’t think a complete sugar high was necessary after nearly causing a heart attack from all the cream cheese. If you love all things peanut butter and chocolate (like my husband), I recommend this recipe. You can find it here:¬†http://www.marthastewart.com/258413/chocolate-peanut-butter-pie

Yes, I know, hers is much prettier than mine. Remember, I have very limited kitchen appliances, and I was concerned that my new (el cheapo) stick blender was going to cause an electrical fire.

Enjoy!

Konscience Konsumer to Kmart

We moved into our beautiful new house last Saturday, with nothing but the 8 suitcases we moved here with. It will take another 8-10 weeks for our furniture and other household crap to get here. M did all the legwork and was able to rent us the absolute necessities for the interim. We literally have 2 beds, a sofa, TV and TV stand, 2 bedside tables, and 2 recliners. I am all about “less is more” these days, but one of the best things about this house is that is has a gargantuan play room downstairs for the girls. Now, some of you may know that in the last couple of years, I had successfully rid our home of crappy plastic toys, which was quite an undertaking. However, since the eco-sustainable wood doll house, easel, table and chairs, dress up clothes, books and a few puzzles and board games that once filled our play room in Reno are currently in a storage unit somewhere in the Nevada desert, we have a huge, empty, cold room.
Now, moving is a pain in the ass, whether it is across the street, across the country, or across the globe. You never really realize how important things like sheets, towels, and brooms are until you don’t have any of them. For the sake of saving as much $ as we can, we had to hit up our local stores to replace all of these things (and much more). Here in Australia, the cheap stores are Target (nothing like Target in the States…really, you can’t even compare the two. Target AUS is like Kmart in the USA), Kmart (a lot like Kmart at home, but crappier, and sans all Martha Stewart stuff), and Big W (which I initially thought was Walmart Oz, but it’s not. It’s owned my Woolworths, one of the main grocery store chains). For the sake of convenience, we bought most of our household items at Kmart. Don’t mean to be a hater, but it’s all pretty much garbage. I guess you get what you pay for!
Anyhow, before M returned to work, he went out for one last shopping excursion, and returned with a car full of cheap, crappy, plastic toys for the girls. Initially, I was appalled! My children were not going to play with BPA laden, made in China, unethically produced toys! However, my anger subsided in about one minute when I saw the look of pure glee on A’s face. “Mommy, junky plastic stuff!” she shouted to me, giggling. In addition to the plastic blocks, another easel, fake “lego” table, and blow up over sized bowling game (my personal favorite. NOT!), M purchased a coffee table in a box for A to use as a “nature table”. Now, any Waldorf influenced family knows the importance of a “nature table” both at school and in the home. After putting this one together for A, I had to laugh at the irony of the whole endeavor. It isn’t even made of real wood, but some covered plywood pulp crap that had a subtle chemical stench that clung to the room like a poopy diaper for about a week. It is quite possibly the worst piece of furniture we have ever owned, and it now sits in A’s room, covered by a green cloth, her gold silk scarf, and all of her plastic toys. I guess it’s time to hang up my eco-warrior cape and replace it with a polyester hoodie. From Kmart, of course.

10

So, I’ve been here in Australia for nearly 6 weeks. I have finally gotten this blog started, and now I need to actually write. I decided to come up with a list of the Top 10 most noticeable differences between here and home. As we begin to adjust, these differences will become more and more muted and insignificant, but for now, these stand out the most in my mind.

1. Things are clean. Not that there isn’t character, but there is less trash in the streets, less tagging on everything, and every public restroom I’ve been in has been “tidy” (that’s a cool word I picked up here….). Even the city streets and public transportation vehicles (tram, bus and train) don’t smell like BO, rotten Kimchi, or ass.

2. When referencing your spouse/significant other, you say “partner”. The term “partner” encompasses your fiance, spouse, or de facto partner (including those in a same-sex relationship). This makes my list because it shows that Australians are far less concerned with labels and I appreciate the ambiguity. In a recent study, 62 percent of Australians support Marriage Equality, which is higher than in the States. It’s reassuring to know that I live in a place that is more aligned with my personal values.

3. Baked goods. As in, scones, muffins, croissants, pies, cookies (which they call biscuits, that can be both sweet and/or savory…I know, it’s weird. Who would eat a garlic cookie?), slices (really like a bar cookie) and desserts ALL OVER THE PLACE. To top it all off, I have seen fewer overweight individuals, yet I always see people eating the white flour/refined sugar/diet destroying treats. Not sure how they do it, but when I find out I will let you know.

4. $12 pints of Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream. This only makes my list because of number 3. If I could afford the B&J’s, I would probably be fighting homesickness with it. But I eat scones instead….

5. Rarely do you see anyone driving whilst talking on a cell phone. In fact, I have only seen ONE person talking on their phone when driving in the city. Coincidentally, a police officer on his bicycle immediately knocked on this guy’s window and told him to hang up. Now that we have moved to the coast, in a much more rural (bushy) area, people just pull off to the side of the road when they need to talk on the phone. Imagine that!!!

6. They use the words “whilst”, “reckon” and “cutlery”. Most of the time I don’t really know half of what people are saying, but I know it sounds more proper than “And then I was like blah blah blah”, or “you ain’t got none”.

7. More signs. For example, if there is a school or park, it is well marked by an additional sign on the street where it is. One day, while walking in Melbourne, I saw a sign that said “Toilet”. I thought it was so freaking hilarious that a street was named toilet, until I realized it was just indicating a public restroom. Very useful information if you have a small bladder!

8. Parents often use “darling” when addressing their children. It is much more endearing than “spaz”, which I am guilty of….

9. If you are a pedestrian, you don’t have the right of way. Better look both ways, then look again. This only makes my list because I am one of those freaks who hates to jaywalk or walk against the light. My best friend is convinced I was hit by a car in a past life because I’m totally anxious about it. Or maybe I was unintentionally preparing for a relocation to a place where you can get hit by a car. And will, if you’re not careful.

10. Less. Less of everything! Fewer choices of products. There aren’t 15 types of peanut butter, 20 brands of laundry soap, 8 choices of salad dressings in cafes. There is what there is and it’s sufficient. And if it’s not, you can pay $40 to have it shipped through Amazon!

Ok, so this is obviously my opinion, and if an Australian is reading this they probably think it’s really stupid, and perhaps not true where they live. But this is the best I can do today, and since it has taken me 2 weeks to get er’ done, I’m done.

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