I had originally thought about writing a post on our first AFL Grand Final experience, but the game was a blowout so that will have to wait for another year. Instead, I bring you something better than the Grand Final and potentially better than gold itself.
It’s May trying Vegemite for the first time.
For those unaware, Vegemite is a food paste that seems to be the de facto standard for known Australian food by those outside of this continent. It is made from yeast extract which should tell you enough to determine if you would actually eat it or not. However, May did not get to choose if she wanted to eat it or not because I determined that for her.
Yesterday (Sunday) we were able to get a little farther out of the city. We took a group tour to Phillip Island to see the Penguin Parade. Along the way, there was also a stop at a small animal sanctuary where the group had lunch and we finally got to get up close to see and pet some kangaroos!
The tour was organized by a Meetup group we joined online. There are hundreds of different types of these groups for various interests and ages and people in Melbourne seem pretty active in them. We figured it’s a good way to explore the city a little more and maybe meet some new people. This particular group is focused on International Newbies [to Melbourne] and they organize all sorts of events, generally at a discount. Most of the members are in their 20s and 30s. It turned out to be a pretty fun day.
If you’ve never seen the “True Facts” videos on Youtube before, then here’s a little treat for you to learn a little about marsupials. The last bit about the Koalas is the best but now I can never look at them the same way! Disclaimer: the language and video content is intended for a more “mature” audience so I wouldn’t sit down and hit play with your little ones but then again who am I to tell you how to raise your kids 😉
The animal sanctuary was small but had a variety of inhabitants. I generally get sad at places like zoos. I don’t really like seeing animals in cages but I do feel better when I know that an organization is strongly affiliated with a conservation group. Here at least the kangaroos and wallabies are roaming around free. And they are ADORABLE. Aussies consider kangaroos to be the equivalent of vermin – they are overpopulated and can be a nuisance. But to me, it was one of the highlights to get so close. Who doesn’t think of kangaroos when they think of Australia?!
The best part of the day by far was the Penguin Parade. Every day at sunrise and sunset the penguins gather up in groups to cross the beach to get into and out of the ocean for feeding. The penguins are about a foot and a half tall and scurry across together in groups of 10 or so to avoid predators such as sea hawks.
A group of penguins will gather on the beach until they feel they have the right numbers. They hide amid the seaweed and then start inching forward together. Then they’ll make a run for it. The cutest is when you see a scraggler get left behind who then decides whether to brave the trek alone or run back to join another group.
Since pictures are absolutely forbidden once the penguins arrive on the beach, I had to pull a couple from online. Apparently, you can have yourself superimposed on an image of the penguins at the visitors center for a fee but we declined. And no worries, I suppressed the very strong urge to steal one and hide it under my jacket!
3 years of marriage + 7 years of dating = a third of our lives together! So that would make us … [if you do the math, then keep the numbers to yourself!]. We celebrated the 17th here since that would officially be the 16th in the US where we were married. The time difference is very complicated 😉
We decided to go low key this anniversary. After all, we did just move half way across the world and we have some grand plans for trips and vacations to come. So in the spirit of celebrating, I stated that I would make a special dinner.
Ben asked what “special” meant. It was a fair question with our belongings – which include the better part of our kitchenware – still in limbo. Apparently, it has all arrived here in Melbourne and has passed customs but still no word on any arrangements for delivery. Grrrrr.
This means that all these weeks I’ve been “roughing it” in terms of cooking. We have a single non-stick fry pan and a small 3-pot kit we bought at Ikea which reminds me of the camping cooking gear you buy to make quick meals in the wilderness. There are no mixing bowls and nothing I can truly cook with in the oven aside from make-shifting a pan from aluminum foil. I have one chef’s knife which I packed in our checked luggage but no utensils other than the two forks and two spoons we bought to eat with. Not to mention I don’t have a single baking instrument.
Even with this however, Ben has gotten extremely spoiled with home cooked meals almost every night. I can get by well enough when I keep it simple and think through one pan for meat or a primary vegetable and another for sides. When the ingredients are fresh and of great quality, thankfully, you don’t have to do much to make them tasty!
So in this case “special” simply meant more thought out. Here was the resulting menu:
Appetizer: seared scallops with an orange-ginger sauce
Salad: spring mix with marinated artichoke hearts, avocado, shaved Parmesan and homemade vinaigrette
Main: pan seared porterhouse steak, oven roasted shrimp scampi, mashed potatos and wilted spinach
Dessert: blueberry apple crumble + cookies and cream cheesecake (both bought from a local bakery)
To add to our “simple life” we still don’t have any furniture (purchased but not delivered). Since it didn’t seem romantic to eat standing up at the kitchen counter alongside the cooking prep, I created little make-shift tables by wrapping appliance boxes with our beach towels.
All in all it was a success and sort of reminded me of what a newly wed couple should be living like if we were in a romantic comedy. Something to look back at fondly when we are old – sitting on the floor eating our anniversary dinner off of appliance boxes.
I think it’s worth mentioning that growing up, I never wanted to get married. I never saw myself with a traditional family. I did see myself traveling the world and taking adventures. That part so much has been true and SO much better than I could have dreamed having my best friend and husband along with me for the ride. Sometimes the things you don’t plan are the sweetest in life – and that’s saying a lot from this type-A personality!
Happy anniversary my love!!! Here’s to designing our life together and making dreams that we haven’t even dreamed up yet come true!
I promised that I would let you know how the Mexican Festival went and so I shall!…. Eh. It was pretty anti-climactic. Ben would tell you that I had let my cravings get the best of me and my hopes were unrealistic. Perhaps that is true but what can I say? I like to hope for the best, even if I don’t necessarily expect it.
Let me start with a little background info so you fully understand the situation. We’ve been in Melbourne for just over a month and a half now. So that is 6-7 weeks it’s been since my last helping of Mexican food or anything resembling it. You may think ‘that’s no big deal!’ … but in fact if you’ve ever lived in California for any extended period of time then you know it is a very big deal.
Please don’t misunderstand me. The food in Melbourne is EXCELLENT. And I’m well acquainted with studying and living abroad in countries where dietary restrictions and simple access to variety is very limited – try 2 months in India. However, when you have such food of such quality so easily available to you that you eat it on a weekly basis or more, then it’s hard not to miss. Melbourne has many choices in wonderful dining options but Mexican food is NOT one of them.
Not that they are to blame. It seems there is a slow and steady movement trending for Mexican cuisine but you can only imagine that with the geographic distance from Mexico and few Mexican immigrants, it’s more slow than steady. This is heartbreaking to me. Oh, I could make do and cook some of my favorite items myself but the ingredients are not so easy to find either!
We’ve finally located a vendor at South Melbourne Market that sells fresh jalapenos and one vendor in Queen Victoria Market that sells black beans. However, I’m still on the hunt for some decent corn tortillas and cilantro coriander that doesn’t taste more like parsley and don’t get me started on finding the right type of chili peppers.
So yes, my hopes for the festival were high. There was a very large turn out of people and food stands – all of the Mexican restaurants that give it a go in and around the city. Ben and I sampled a few different stand. The fish tacos at Mamacitas were bland. A carnitas burrito from Mad Mex left a lot to be desired, though Ben claims that it would do the job if he were badly in need of a fix. We did finally stumble on some authentic and flavorful fair at Los Amantes where we gobbled down the chilaquiles de pollo. We’ll have to find their restaurant location and do some further reviews.
This week wasn’t too eventful. Perhaps one small thing to note is I did some bookstore exploring. It seems that Melbourne has an amazing array of bookstores. I came across a list on Buzzfeed (yes, I’m a Buzzfeed addict) and had to investigate for myself. True enough there are a plethora of amazing bookstores all within a very short distance of each other – everything from discount chains, to independent bookstores to second hand books and even small specialty shops.
I don’t know how they all stay in business but it seems the written word is still alive and well here in this city. I didn’t hit up every store on the list but got to about 5 of them including the adorable children’s bookstore The Little Bookroom and Kay Craddock which houses first editions worth thousands of dollars per book. Though I have surrendered to the convenience of downloading books which can be accessed on any of my electronic mobile devices, I have to say that I am still a big fan of physically being able to turn a page so I may be making some literary purchases in the near future.
Today we kicked off the weekend with some lovely weather. Ben and I headed to Queen Victoria Market to do our grocery shopping and to indulge on some fresh made doughnuts. Queen Victoria Market is much larger than South Melbourne Market and we tend to alternate between the two for groceries. Picture an old time Bizarre with endless rows of stands selling everything you can think of. Both markets are fantastic and we are starting to distinguish preferences among the vendors at each.
In the afternoon, we noticed a bunch of booths set up near our apartment along the river. They were holding a small Lantern Festival with a bunch of different Asian food stalls. We wandered over and picked up some lunch. Then we decided to enjoy the day by walking to Queen Victoria Garden.
Spring is definitely creeping up and it was apparent on our walk through the garden. The trees are just starting to bud leaves and flowers are starting to add color. We made our way through the park to the War Memorial which we spent some time appreciating. On the walk back, we stopped and had a quick drink before calling it a day.
It may not seem too exciting to others to be in on a Saturday night but we need to be up very early tomorrow to watch the UGA game. Go Dawgs!!! Tomorrow afternoon, we are headed to the Mexican Festival! I cannot express how excited I am about the Mexican Festival – I might be persuaded to punch a stranger in the face right now if it meant I could get some decent Mexican food. I’ll let you know how it all turns out!
The first week in September marks the beginning of Spring and with that comes Melbourne Spring Fashion Week (MSFW). Festivities are held downtown all week with both free and ticketed runway shows, workshops, fashion film and of course, lots of opportunities to shop. The vast majority of the designers are Australian and unfamiliar to me but I figure why not see what all the fuss is about.
My interests were peaked even more when I saw Lululemon and Arthur Galan on the week’s program. My infatuation with Lululemon is pretty well noted by my friends. I can’t seem to walk into one of their stores without purchasing something. It’s very dangerous for my wallet. Arthur Galan happens to be the one designer whose store we stumbled into on Chapel street a few weeks back. I basically fell in love with EVERY item in the store and Ben had to haul me out.
While I’m sure Ben did not want anything fueling my Lululemon appetite, it was a free show and he was oh-so-kindly willing to come along and “support me” (a.k.a. see the models perform in yoga gear). We went to the show on Wednesday evening and got there early because it was open to the public. We somehow managed to get seated in the first row which was reserved for certain important persons of unknown identities who ultimately did not show up.
The show was entertaining with all the models performing down the runway with yoga, dance, acrobatics and pole performances. I made note of things to add to my workout wardrobe while Ben made notes of… well, let’s pretend he made note of the men’s running wear for himself. To top it off, we also got to claim goody bags with our front row upgrade which contained generous gift cards. So it was a win all the way around and the next shopping trip won’t worry Ben so much 😉
After the show I made us some dinner – a couple steaks from South Melbourne Market with pasta and salad. In a way, it was to treat Ben for being such a good sport but somehow I think he got the better end of the whole night!
Thursday night came the designer show. Ben played the loving and dutiful husband and dressed up to escort me. I was excited to have another proper occasion to wear my birthday Louboutins. There were 10 designers featured: Akira, Yeonjin Bae, Thurley, Jayson Brunsdon, Arthur Galan, Megan Park, Nicola Finetti, Calibre, Nevenka and Christine.
The show was great and Ben limited his Zoolander quotes. The goody bags were not nearly as exciting as the ones from Lululemon but all in all a fun night – likely more fun more me than Ben.