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Posts Tagged ‘Home life’

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It’s hard to believe, but I have been living in Australia for a little over 2 years now. Where has all the time gone? It has taken some work, but I do believe I am finally getting the hang of living here.

Father knows best

In my opinion , Oz is a lot like America in the 1950’s, only tech savvy.  It’s a much slower pace most of the time, everyone is very friendly, and you can take most people at their word. The Aussie motto is “No worries Mate”, and they mean it. When I first got here, even though it is a different country, for me there was only a little culture shock.  Thanks to the fact that Australia is an English-speaking country (for the most part) and the fact that we get a lot of American TV here, Oz is a lot like the States.  Most Aussies could understand me, I just had to work on understanding what they were saying. Besides the Aussie accent, they do have their own lingo here that was rather confusing to me, until Gene, my own private personal interpreter, would translate.

Denero

The first time I heard that a man was “nursing” a child, I thought for sure Aussie men were very different from regular men.  I wanted to see this special male breastfeed a baby.  As it turned out, in Oz, to be “nursing” someone means you are taking care of them.

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baby

Since we are on the topic of babies, a nappy is a diaper, not a short amount of sleep, and asking a baby about his/her dummy is not a question about their intellect, but instead a discussion about their pacifier.

parramatta club

If we are going to a hotel, in most cases that means we are going to a pub to drink, but it can also mean a place we could get a room for the night.  A “club” is not only for dancing, like it is in the States, but instead it is the Aussie version of a VFW hall, only a whole lot better.

slot machine

They always have a café, and most have “poker machines”, or “pokies”, which are what Americans call slot machines. I am not really a fan of these clubs, but Gene really loves them. You can get a really cheap meal, but in my opinion, all the food in all the clubs are all the same.

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Since my move here, we have had only one visitor from the States, and that was my BFF Mary, from Detroit.  In her infinite wisdom, she summed up Oz in one word.  Adequate. This is the perfect word to describe Australia.  I am not saying that being adequate is a bad thing.  Aussies get just what they need, and usually no more.  That is one reason we go food shopping 3 to 4 times a week. Why buy extra when you can make another trip to the store and get it fresh?

Unit sweet Unit

Unit sweet Unit

A lot of things are much smaller than I was used to.  Take housing.  This is a photo of our “unit”, or townhouse. There are a lot of “units” (or apartments, condos, or townhouses) everywhere, and they keep building more.  There are single family homes, but the majority of them are what we in America would call small.  Like us, it is very common to have only a one car garage, (not a 1 ½ car) even if you are a two car family.  I just want to know where they keep all their stuff.  One of Gene’s sisters’ lives in what I call an “American” house. For Aussie standards, it is large, with big front and back yards. I say it is just about right.

macca's sign

Their serving size are also much smaller here.  A large drink at “Macca’s” (pronounced mack-ers) would be considered a small in America.

Roundabout

I had to get use to everyone driving on the wrong side of the road, and all the roundabouts.  It is very strange to sit in the front seat of a car on the left side, and not have a steering wheel in front of me.  I have driven a little here, and I am not a fan of how narrow most of the lanes are. Again, the adequate thing. I keep saying I just need to get out there and practice, but for once in my life, I am enjoying having my own personal chauffeur. I just can’t get Gene to wear the little hat that goes with the uniform.

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When I’m asked what I miss most about the US, my first answer is always Taco Bell. Yeah, I know.  It should be family and friends, which I do miss, but I also miss the fact that I can’t just go through the drive thru any time of the day or night to get one of my favorite foods.  I have reserved myself to the fact that Oz is not a place for Mexican food, so I make it at home when I get a craving to make a run for the border.  I do Skype with my family and friends, so in some cases, I talk to them more now than I did when I lived there.

tomato sauce

 

Oz tom sauce

Another thing I miss is being able to find certain things in the stores.  One example is tomato sauce.  To an Aussie, tomato sauce is ketchup, and American tomato sauce does not exist in Oz. To compromise, I’ve learned to substitute tomato puree instead.

I also miss the fact that not every store gives you a bag for your purchases.

powerpoint

One thing that I will never understand, is their electrical outlets, or what they call power points.  For some reason they turn off the power points when they are not in use.  I am assuming that Aussies think the power may leak out when they are not looking, so they turn them off.

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They have wonderful tea shops that I frequent quite a bit, and my tea collection has grown to 60+ teas.  Aussies still look at me funny when I tell them my drink of choice is Ice tea, but I am hopeful that one day they will realize that they there are other ways to have your tea besides white (with milk) or  black (no milk).

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Cockie & bridge

 

I also love the fact that there are beautiful animals here.  There are all kinds of birds all over the place, and my favorites are the rainbow lorikeets, and the cockatoos.

All dressed up for that night out!

All dressed up for that night out!

I also love the fact that fairy penguins also call Oz home.  They are the closest thing to a munchkin here, so they fit right in.

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One of the things I really enjoy doing is going to some of the wildlife parks, and have lunch with some of my truly Aussie friends.  That’s something I never got to do in America.

winter car

Some things I don’t miss are having to be at work, and bad weather. Sydney has pretty mild weather, and never gets snow, so that makes me a VERY happy camper.  When I moved here, I was thrown into an early retirement, because I was not allowed to work.

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Now I spend my days doing what I want to do, and not what a boss thinks I should do.  I like this way much better. Here’s a photo of me and the girls at one of the knitting groups I belong to.

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ferry

Nice weather makes taking public transport not seem like a bad thing.  Instead of driving a car, I do take the buses and ferries to get where I’m going, and I also do my fair share of walking. I guess now that I have the time, I don’t mind leaving the car at home.  That would have never happened back in the States.  That, or living in a house without a heating system.  Even when I lived in Las Vegas, smack dab in the middle of a desert, we had a furnace, and we used it.  Here, we don’t have one…  Yet.

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I gave Gene one winter to see if I could handle it being cold in the house, and the answer is no.  So to put off getting a heating system this year, Gene is taking me on trips while it’s winter here. I must admit I like his way of thinking.

I have gotten use to this lifestyle, and I will be the first to admit, I am really enjoying it here.  It is a slower pace, everyone is laid back, and it is a very peaceful place to live.  I do miss America at times, but that’s what the airlines are for. For now I plan on staying here as long as possible, and enjoying my new life.  Gene and I do love to have visitors use our guest room, so if you are so inclined, feel free to plan a trip down under. We would love to show you around all the places that are on my “What to show visitors” list.  And if you’re lucky, my truly Aussie friends or our munchkins will fit you into their busy schedules.

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No worries Mate

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Winter Scenery (26)

I was born and raised in Michigan, which means that the beginning of the year means cold weather. By January we would be well into winter and all she could throw at us, be it snow, cold weather, or ice storms.

snow plow

I always loved it when the snowplows would come by to clean off the roads right after you finished shoveling your driveway just to have the plows fill it up again.

winter car

Most of the time it didn’t really matter anyway, because after all that shoveling, you would soon discover that your car wouldn’t start.  Even a car doesn’t want to get out of bed to drive around in below freezing temperatures before the sun comes up. Yes, these are some of the thoughts that come to my mind when I hear the word January.

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Now that I am living in Oz, January is smack dab in the middle of summer. I will admit that I am still getting adjusted to it being warm this time of year, and it feels like half the year is gone already.

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Sydney enjoys a temperate climate with a mild winter, and has more than 340 sunny days a year. Average temperatures in the winter months of June through to August are between 48° F (9° C) and 62.5° F (17° C).  In the summer months, December, January, and February, the average summer temperatures are between 65° F (18° C) and 78°F (26°C).  So, like everyone else in Sydney, we just enjoy the weather.  Usually.

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This year though, on Friday, January 18th, we made history.  Seems that Mother Nature must be getting a little old, and getting a touch of forgetfulness. I am guessing that she decided to either mess with the thermostat, or do some baking here in Oz.   Either way, the temperature soared up to 114.5° F (45.8° C). The previous record of 113.F (45.3C) was set way back on January 14, 1939.

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Even though I experienced Las Vegas’ over 100° temperatures for over 3 years, I hadn’t had the joy of adding 70% humidity to go along with them.  The newsreaders here (That would be newscasters in American) did one story on how it took an ice block (Popsicle in the US) only 6.5 minutes to melt.

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It took the ice cream truck only 20 minutes.

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Most of the trains were delayed by at least an hour with overhead wiring and signal problems failing to cope with the extreme heat. Some parts of the track even buckled because of the heat, and were unusable. I really didn’t believe that one until I saw the photos.

crowed beach

Most Aussies (like Gene and I) don’t have air conditioning at home, so we do what we can to keep cool.  A whole lot of over heated Aussies went to the beach.

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Gene and I opted for the mall, and made a day of it. Gene was thrilled because he got to eat at his favorite venue, the food court.

 bulldog in ice

Animals are not allowed at either the beach or the mall, so they had to come up with other ways to cool down. Nothing better than an ice bath to beat those dog days of summer.

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Not everyone can say they have an indoor swimming pool for their cat.

 dog in tub

It’s always nice to enjoy a dip with friends.

 lion & Ice block

Our friends at the zoo kept cool too.  This lioness is enjoying a Popsicle made especially for her.  I wonder if it’s zebra flavored.

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You would think that they would give him the banana-flavored iceblock.

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Now this is one way to really cool off.

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Too bad she doesn’t do competitive swimming.  With a neck like that, she would be head and shoulders above  the other swimmers.

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Nothing like your own private pool.

 kangaroo_swimming

Even out in the wild, the roos know how to cool down.

In the late afternoon, severe thunderstorm warnings were issued, but no rain came by us.  In the early evening, there were wind gusts of up to 65mph (104km/h) that swept through the city, as temperatures dropped by about 10 degrees in 10 minutes. Because of the wind, there was a lot of falling trees and roof damage. Then by 10 pm, Sydney was at a comfortable 73°F (23°C), and the severe thunderstorm warning were canceled.

Yes, Sydney does get some hot weather, but so does everywhere else in the world.  I like the fact that it may be really hot one day, but will cool down the next.  We don’t’ get snow, so I don’t have to shovel anything, or scrape ice off my windscreen (that’s Aussie for windshield).  On the really hot days, I’ll just sit back, in the shade, eating an ice block.  That is of course if the truck hasn’t melted.

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christmas-koala-bear

Well it’s that time of year again.  Most of the world is all white with snow, Jack Frost is busy painting the scenery and nipping noses, icicles sparkle in the sunlight, and kids are trying to get their halos as straight as possible before the big guy makes his deliveries. Yes, it’s Christmas time.

randy20snowsuit

Being born and bred in the northern hemisphere, I am quite used to living in the cold and having to wear tons of layers of clothes just to go out to get the mail.

My beautiful picture

This is an actual photo of one of Christmases we would have in the States. Huge fully decked out tree, stockings hung by the chimney with care, garland all over the place, and the scent of Christmas cookies in the air.

xmas house

Many Americans would decorate their homes both inside and out, with some making sure Santa couldn’t miss theirs even if he tried.

My beautiful picture

If you were good all year, Santa might even pay you an early visit just to make sure you were getting your daily intake of candy canes. (For those of you old enough to remember, that’s my dad under that big mass of cotton of a beard)

Now that I am older, and hopefully wiser, I have learned that you need to go with the flow, and accept change.  Seeing how it is summer here in this part of the world, things are done a little differently than what I’m used to.

1 horse open sleigh

You won’t see any number of horses  pulling any sleighs of any kind, be they open or not, because there is no snow. Yes, look all you want, but the only flakes you will find here are in your cereal bowl.

xmas beach

The schools do have a break at this time of the year, so a lot of families go over the river and through the burbs to swim at the wonderful beaches we have here.

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As you can see, Gene and I got all decked out in our Christmas finery to celebrate the season.

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I am finding that it makes the holidays much less stressful by letting a lot of things slide. I no longer live in a house that even elves look at with awe. This is a photo of all of our holiday decorations.  That’s it.  One 7” red sparkle tree.  I love it because it’s all ready decorated, and for the second year in a row, no needles to sweep up.  It takes me a grand total of about 30 seconds to have our home totally decorated for the holidays.

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When I get in the mood to see some holiday decorations, I just head out the malls like everyone else.

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There are all sorts of wonderful holiday things to see.  All you have to do is just look around.

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They have them outdoors.

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And indoors of course.

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Each shop showing its holiday spirit.

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Don’t forget to look up!

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See, Gene and I are not the only ones that don’t have a tree that drops it’s needles.

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One of the big draws to the CBD (that would be downtown in American) are the window displays.  They are beautiful!

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They reminded me of the shop windows when I was a kid.

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I would love looking at them, and I can see the kids in Oz love it too.

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One thing that REALLY impresses me is they still say “Merry Christmas” instead of happy holidays. They even have the manger scene where everyone could see it.  It’s a nice change. One of the best parts is that you can see all this without having to wear a heavy coat or boots.

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The family Christmas get together in Oz are pretty much the same as in America, but with a little Aussie twist. At each place setting, they have what is known as Christmas crackers. You pull on each end, and they make a popping or cracking noise, and inside are some goodies.  They all have a paper crown that everyone wears during dinner, a toy, some sweets (read that chocolate), and a sheet with some jokes on it. We got a little picture frame, and a very small deck of playing cards in ours this year.

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Since it is so hot this time of year, a lot of families have a Christmas BBQ.  Turkey or ham is common as the main part of the dinner, but seafood is big here, so you are sure to find it on most Aussie holiday tables.

oysters

It seems that most Aussies like oysters, even the kids.   I can (and do) live without them.

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Some families will even have prawns, (shrimp in American) for dinner.  Seems the only problem is finding plates and silverware that are small enough. This gives sitting at the little table a whole new meaning.

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If they serve prawns as part of the meal, they usually are served cold, with their heads still on.  I personally don’t like their beady little eyes looking at me, so Gene, being the gentleman that he is, is the one that will behead them for me.  Other than that, they are always really tasty.

Nutella-pudding

Since Oz is part of the British Commonwealth, there are some things here that are very British.  One is pudding. The first time someone offered me some, I was expecting a nice smooth, creamy bowl of yum that I was use to. I was in for a blast of Aussie reality.

plum pudding

What I got was a plate of what is known as Christmas pudding.  In my American eyes, it was not a pudding in any way, shape or form.  It was a slice of cake like substance, under a cream-colored sauce, that was the consistency of yogurt.  It tasted like it was a type of moist fruitcake, and the sauce was very rich, creamy, and sweet, which was a wonderful contrast to the cake. As it turned out, this was a plum pudding with a custard sauce, which is a very traditional dessert for the holiday.  Now I have a better understanding of what everyone was eating in all the old classic English Christmas stories.  Unlike the fruitcake we have in America, I noticed that most of the Aussie diners would ask for this fruitcake willingly, and they would eat it, instead of using it for a doorstop like we do in America.

All in all, I must say I do enjoy an Aussie Christmas.  Where else can you eat Christmas dinner in shorts and flip-flops, spend some time at the beach, and open your presents from Santa all in the same day?  I don’t miss the snow at all, and it was nice to see everything in bloom all around the city.  I guess the only thing I’m going to miss is my yearly gift of a new doorstop, but I can live with that.

Merry Christmas Mate, and God bless us, every one!

kanga christmas

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It’s the holiday season again.  Today is the fourth Thursday in November, so I guess that means it’s Thanksgiving. Yes, it’s turkey day!  A day for the big parades, getting up early to start cooking the feast, watching football on TV, eating way too much, and then falling asleep on the couch because of the tryptophan in the turkey.

The only problem is I’m not in America.  I am in Oz.  Aussies don’t celebrate Thanksgiving Day, so today was just another ordinary Thursday.  No fanfare, no kick off of the Christmas season, no family get-togethers. Just plain ol’ Thursday.

I decided that just because it is not a national holiday here, that does not mean that I can’t make my own feast just for Gene and I.  So, off we went to the mall to get all the ingredients I would need to make a traditional Thanksgiving meal.

As I walked into Coles, our regular grocery store, I had visions of turkey, stuffing, cranberries, and pumpkin pie just waiting to come home with me to grace our faux holiday table. But, all I found was a reality check.

Seeing how it is now the end of November, here in Oz, we are at the tail end of spring, with December 1st being the first day of summer.  Since it is so warm this time of year, there is not a large selection of what we in the north call “cold weather” food. This is not oven roasting season, so in short, there was not a whole turkey to be found. We did find some turkey breasts, but they cost as much as a whole turkey.  I figured that since I was in Oz, the Thanksgiving Day police would never find me, so I would just have to forget the turkey, and make a substitution.

My first thought was chicken.  I could just pretend that it was a really small turkey, and all the side dishes were just really big.  They even sell fully roasted stuffed chickens, all set and ready to eat. The only problem was that we had just had chicken the night before, and we have chicken a lot.  Besides, Thanksgiving is supposed to be a special meal, with special foods. So I stood there and tried to think of what I could cook that would make it a special dinner.

Finally it came to me.  I am in Australia, the land down under.  What does Australia have that no other country has?  Kangaroos. I checked the meat counter, and sure enough, there was roo meat.

Kangaroo meat is high in protein and with only about 2% fat, and is considered a very lean meat. There are various cuts of kangaroo, including fillets, minced meat (hamburger) and ‘kanga bangas’ , which are kangaroo sausages.

You can also buy steaks, and just hope that they don’t hop away before you can cook them.

I have had kangaroo meat before, and like it.  Yes, I know what you’re thinking.  “How can you eat something so cute?”

My response is; turkeys are cute too.  Some of them even have great senses of humor. Most people have no problem sinking their teeth into a big juicy turkey leg or breast, so don’t judge, and keep an open mind.

Gene on the other hand, is not a fan of having kangaroo for dinner, either to have them come over to share a meal, or being the main course.  So when I informed Gene that I would be making roo for Thanksgiving dinner, all he had to say was “Oh, so you’re going to cook dog food?”  Apparently, this is a very Aussie response to this kind of news, because they do use some of the lesser cuts to make dog food.  Seeing how I was buying the top grade of roo meat, I let his remark slide.  To keep the peace, I got him some BBQ pork ribs, and I picked out some herb & garlic kangaroo kebabs for me.

Even though I live in Oz, we don’t own a barbie that I could cook our dinner on, so I used what Aussies call a grill.  In America, we call it a broiler.

Even though it was only the two of us, we had plenty to eat, and even had leftovers.   Aussies would never think of using pumpkin in any kind of sweet, and I did not want to make a whole pie from scratch, so we didn’t have any dessert.

Even though it was not a traditional Thanksgiving meal, we really enjoyed it. Australia doesn’t have a holiday that is the equivalent of this American holiday, so I guess it will be up to me to keep the tradition alive.   I don’t think I’ll have any problem coming up with a menu for the warm weather, but I’m guessing convincing all these Aussies to put pumpkin in a  pie is where I’m going to run into problems.  Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

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Living in a different country can take a little getting used to at times.  When you want something that you are used to, and just can’t find it here, it can be a little frustrating.

The three things that come to mind are Taco Bell, (my Favorite place to eat) NyQuil, (my favorite nighttime, sniffling, sneezing, coughing, aching, best-sleep-you-ever-got-with-a-cold medicine), and tomato sauce. You do what you can to get the fix for the things you miss. I cook Mexican at home but it’s nowhere near what the bell offers, substitute purée for tomato sauce, and I smuggle NyQuil back to Oz in my checked luggage when I make trips to the States.

Christmas morning in Oz!

One great thing though, just like Christmas morning,  there is always something new to discover.  Besides kangaroos and koalas, Oz has quite a few pretty nifty things that I have not found in America as of yet.

Remember how Goldilocks broke into the 3 bears’ house and ate all their breakfast?  Well, the story must have taken place in Oz, because we have porridge here.  Yes, honest to goodness porridge.  I will admit that it is a lot like oatmeal, but it is different, and taste really good.   Instead of just oats, it’s made from a hearty blend of oats, barley, rye, and linseed. I will admit though, when I have it for breakfast, I do keep an eye out for mama bear, just in case.

Now I know that hamburgers are as American as, well hamburgers, but the Aussies put a little different twist on them.  In a lot of the little dinners that are all over the place, you can get a burger with “The Works” which is short for “Works and Jerks” which is an Aussie expression that is used around here quite a bit. (It means the whole enchilada) What you get is a hamburger patty on a bun that has bacon, tomato, lettuce, tomato sauce (that’s what Aussies call ketchup), fried onions, aioli (a garlic mayonnaise which is really good), beetroot (or just beets in American), a fried egg, and a  slice of pineapple.  If you want cheese on that, it will be “Tasty” cheese, which is Aussie white cheddar.  As with almost every other meal, chips, or what Americans call fries, usually come with the meal. I have had more than one of these wonderful burgers, and I will admit that like their cheese, they are quite tasty.

Now not to be outdone, McDonald’s has gotten into the act. Like everywhere else in the world, Australia does have McDonald’s.(Which by the way is called “Macca’s” pronounced “mack-a’s)  Being the Savvy business-clown that Ronald is, he likes to cater to his customers. Since Australia is the leading producer of wool in the world, we have a lot of sheep here.  So, Aussies tend to eat a lot of lamb. Therefore, it only makes sense to have lamb on the menu.  What doesn’t make sense is that they don’t call it the McLamb.  They call their lamb burger a “Lamb Taster”, and it’s a really big seller here in Oz.  The only things missing are the pineapple, cheese, and bacon. And the wool coat of course.

They also have a Lamb Taster wrap for those times when you have a craving for just a little lamb instead of a whole sheep.

Another great meal is a kebab, which is sort of like a Turkish burrito. They cook beef, chicken, and lamb on huge spits, and shave the meat off as orders are placed. The kebabs usually have meat, cheese, tomato, onion, lettuce, tabouli, sauce, (like ketchup, BBQ, hummus, or my favorite, garlic) all wrapped up in flat Turkish bread, and then grilled in a sandwich press.  It is a lot like a Gyro, but having it all wrapped up, it’s a lot easier to eat.

Sweets are a big deal here in Oz.  The unofficial national dessert of Australia is Pavlova, which is a meringue-based dessert named after the Russian/Australian ballet dancer Anna Pavlova. Way back in the 1920’s, a New Zealand chef created the dish for Anna during one of her tours to Australia and New Zealand.  It is Very sweet, and the Aussies just love it.  It is way too sweet for my taste, but they are very pretty to look at.

Seeing how Aussies are really into really sweet desserts, (that would be my guess as to why they call them “sweets” instead of desserts), their version of Aussie apple pie makes perfect sense.  They have what is known as apple charlotte.  Basically, it’s apple pie with frosting on the top crust.

Again, not my favorite, but Gene just loves it.

Now, we must not leave the kiddies out.   Here they have what is known as Fairy Bread, but don’t let the name fool you.  Kids take this bread VERY seriously.  So serious in fact, that restaurants are even serving it.  If you are short of your daily requirement of fat and sugar, this is a great way to get it into your system and build your levels up.

What they do is spread butter on bread (pretty thick I might add), then put some kind of sugar sprinkles (or “hundreds and thousands” in Aussie speak) on top of the butter.  I recall a long time ago, my mother made me some of this type of bread, but we just called it “The bread with all the pretty colored sprinkles on it” bread.  When I asked where the peanut butter and jelly was, all I got was a weird look.  Seems they don’t have those kinds of sandwiches here.  They will have either peanut butter, OR jelly (or as they call it, jam) sandwiches, and they think it’s gross to mix the two. Wonder what they would think of peanut butter and banana sandwiches….

Need something to wash down all these Aussie finds?  How about a cup of bubble tea?  Being a tea drinker, I thought I had heard of most kinds of tea before.  This was one I hadn’t, so I had to try it. There are only a few places that sell it, but there is one stand at the mall that carries them.  It is a Thai drink, and this is one place that they sell fresh brewed ice tea.  You pick what type of ice tea you want, and then they add the bubbles.

The “bubbles” are really tapioca pearls, and can be a lot of different colors, but so far, I have only seen them in black.  The straw is really fat, so you have no trouble sucking up the bubbles while you are drinking your tea.  I will admit that this tea can be a lot of work because the bubbles are rather chewy, but it is good.  This was the first time I ever had chunky-style ice tea.

So, as you can see, I am adapting quite well. I am finding new things to love, and trying to find replacements for the things I can’t find here.  If  I don’t find replacements, I can load up when we make our yearly trip back to the States.  As for now, I hear the fairies calling, so I must stop to make them some bread.  Now where did I put those hundreds and thousands ….

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Even though there are a lot of starving people in the world, Sydney is one place where you would have to work at not finding something to eat.  I could say that there is a café on every corner, but I would be lying.

 The fact is there is usually more than one, and most times, they are only a few feet away from each other.

 

They are everywhere. In case you needed something to drink while you are filling up with petrol, the Aussies have you covered.

Need a break at the office?  Check out the lobby of your office building.  There is sure to be a café there.

 

Is that café in your building busy?  No problem, just go to the one that is right across the hall from it.

 

Even if you’re out in the middle of nowhere, Aussies will make sure that a café will get to you just so you won’t miss tea time.

The Aussies are big on their “tea” time, so there is a need for cafes. There is both a morning and afternoon tea, (what Americans call a coffee break) and most Aussies do partake. (Personally, I think it is an unwritten law here.)

Even though Gene is no longer in the workforce, he does have his morning and afternoon tea, even though it’s always coffee that he drinks.

I am sure that unwritten law also requires all Aussies to have a “Biscuit” to go along with their “tea.” (In American, a biscuit is a cookie)  Seeing how Gene is the model Aussie citizen, he is having an “Anzac Biscuit”, which is the national biscuit of Oz.  He says he would rather not have a biscuit during tea time, but that would put him in the unpatriotic category. So, every tea time, he makes the sacrifice for his queen and country, and has a biscuit.  What a guy.

Now, just because they call it “teatime” does not mean you are required to drink tea. There is a whole lota cappuccino being consumed at these times.  What I have observed is, it doesn’t matter what you drink, so long as you took the time to sit down and drink something.

Now of course, you need something to go with that drink, so there are all sorts of wonderful little things to nibble on with your drink of choice.  One thing I have noticed is no one dunks here.  Guess that’s an American thing.

Sometimes the cafes are not out in plain sight, so there are all kinds of signs directing you to every kind of café you could ever want.

There are a lot of Asians here that don’t really understand English very well, so they have problems coming up with a good name for their establishment.

Some just decide to go the direct route, and just call a spade a spade.

 

Now most of these places are rather cozy (read that tiny).

 

Seeing how there isn’t much room inside, they do use whatever space they have, so most shops that provide food do have an outside eating area.

Most of the “foot paths” (or sidewalks in American) are rather large, so there is room for all the tables and chairs.

 

It is rather pleasant to sit outside and enjoy the weather when it is nice. Even though you are sitting right out there about a foot or two from all the traffic in the street, it is still kind of relaxing.

It’s even better when you are in the CBD (Aussie for downtown), because you are by the water.

 

Not only do you get a meal, but you also get a show of watching all the boats.

 

Now this is all well and good when it’s summer.  The problem comes in the winter when it’s cold outside. The businesses still need to use the outdoor seating, so most business will use plastic walls to keep the heat in.

To warm the enclosed area, they use big outdoor heaters.

 

Even the nicer restaurants do this.  It does make it sort of cozy, and the plastic walls do help some, but when it comes right down to it, you are still outside. It’s still cold, and in many cases windy.  I for one am not a fan of having to eat dinner while wearing my coat and gloves. Besides, my wine gets spilled because of all the shivering I’m doing. Have you ever tried to get red wine stains out of leather?

One thing I have noticed, is that here in Oz, Starbucks in not king. There are a few around, but you really have to look for them.  The reining coffee monarch in Oz is Gloria Jeans.

They are sort of like a really laid back Starbucks, and like all Aussies here, are big on the “No worries Mate” attitude.  They have really nice “nibbles” aka “biscuits” aka “sweets” aka “cookies,” and their tea is much better than Starbucks.

Having morning and afternoon tea is a really nice ritual that I have taken up since I’ve been here. It breaks up your day, gives you a rest, and it gives you an excuse to try out a new sweet.  So when all of you come to visit Oz, you can count on being taken to one of these many cafes. Twice a day. We wouldn’t want to break the law and miss tea time, now would we?

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Ask any Aussie to name 4 things that are considered part of Australia’s heritage, they would all answer; meat pies, kangaroos, Vegemite, and Holden cars.  Now, I will admit that there is an Aussie song that answers that question, so you would not only get your answer, but it comes with a nice catchy little tune to boot. (Yes, Gene did sing it to me.)  Now I have explained about kangaroos, Holden cars are a different post, so that leaves us with meat pies and Vegemite.  Living in the land down under, I decided that I should try as many “Truly Aussie” things that I could. That meant having a meat pie, and Vegemite.

Now when most Americans hear the word “pie,” they instantly think of desert.

You know, fruit pies like cherry, apple,  or lemon meringue.

Unless of course it’s November, and our mind moves right to the pilgrims’ favorite, pumpkin pie.   When we hear “meat pie,” we have to stop for a minute and try to go through the files in our brains to come up with something that would fit into that category. Let me help you out here.  Think chicken potpie. Aaah!  The light just went on didn’t it!

Yes, an Aussie meat pie is like our chicken (or beef) potpies.  They eat a lot of them here, and they have all kinds of different meat in them.

They even have pie shops that sell only these types of pies, and if you believe the hype, it seems that they are always “Famous” pies, even though I have never heard one single ad for any pie shop.  Seeing how these shops specialize in nothing but pies, they will always give you the most variety to pick from. Besides your basic beef, chicken, pork, lamb, veggie, and seafood pies, they do have what they call “game” meat pies.  That would be buffalo, camel, crocodile, emu, kangaroo, rabbit, and venison.  I have had the crocodile, and I will say it was rather tasty.  (And yes, it did taste like chicken)

Pies are usually served with “tomato sauce” (which is what Aussies call ketchup), and/or mashed peas.  I have no idea why they mash their peas, but they all seem to like it that way.  Maybe it’s a throw back to when they were babies, so it’s like a comfort thing.

To show how popular meat pies are, they are one of the most popular consumed food items while watching a sporting event.  Yes, they do eat hot dogs at their games, but a pie will win over a dog any day.

Typically, they are small, single serving pies, so they are easy to eat anywhere.

They are also served as a meal with peas, and the ever-present chips, that seem to be served with everything. Even ice cream.  Well, maybe not ice cream, but you get my drift.  Personally, I don’t see the big attraction, but then again, I was never into chicken potpies.  I will purposely pass on pies if they are presented to me. I feel that there are better things to eat in this life, so move on.  Which brings us to Vegemite.

Now I am quite sure that most of you are wondering what Vegemite is.  It is, hands down, the national dish of Oz, and no, they do not slip it on the barbie.  There is nothing in America that I can think of to compare it to.  Nothing that is edible anyway.

One thing I will say about the Aussies is they take their beer and their food very seriously. So what would be more Aussie than a food made out used brewer’s yeast?  That’s right.  Vegemite is made from used brewers’ yeast extract, (a by-product of beer manufacturing).

The texture is smooth, thick, and resembles tar.  It is very dark reddish-brown, almost black, in color, and one of the richest sources known of Vitamin B.  Just makes your mouth water hearing about it doesn’t it?  All I can tell you is that Vegemite is an acquired taste to say the least. The VERY least.  The first time I tried some, Gene was kind (?) enough to spread some on some toast for me.

Spread WAAAAAY too thick!

Thinner is better

I noticed that it was spread kind of thin, but it looked a little like dark chocolate.  Gene likes butter on his bread, so he buttered the toast before applying the Vegemite.  As he handed me this true Aussie staple, I happily took it as I was expecting a wonderful taste experience of chocolate mixed with sweet creamery butter.

I took a small bite, and all the color drained from not only my face, but also my whole body. It didn’t taste ANYTHING at all like chocolate, but instead it was more like a cross between Tasmanian devil dung, tar and used gym socks. Only not as good.  (Not that I’ve ever tasted any of those). I spat it out, and ran for the sink. After I finished my 2 liters of water, one pot of tea, and a pint of milk, I asked Gene why he would inflict such torture on me.  With a smirk on his face, all he said was “You asked for some.” Well, of course he was right, so I couldn’t be mad at him.  I did say I wanted to try all things Aussie.  I have since changed that to “Most things Aussie.” About 2 hours later, the Vegemite was finally out of my system.

When Gene finished laughing, I offered him what was left of this Aussie treat.  He just shook his head and said no thanks.

Gene's Vegemite face

Seems Gene is in the 10% of Australian’s that do not like Vegemite.  He totally agrees with me about it, and won’t touch it even with the proverbial 10-foot pole. Aaah.  Just another reason to love him.

A Vegemite sandwich to an Australian kid is the equivalent of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to an American kid.  Oh a side note here…. Aussies do not have peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  They thought I was from a different planet because I put jelly and peanut butter together.  In my defense, at least my sandwich doesn’t taste like a dead bird that was soaked in armpit sweat, then wrapped in plastic and kept in a hot car trunk for a week.

Believe it or not, Vegemite is actually an Australian obsession that has become a unique and loved symbol of the Australian nation. 22.7 million jars of Vegemite are manufactured in Australia every year, which is 235 jars per minute.  I have even seen Vegemite sandwiches on  menus at some of the pie shops around town.

Parents give their children Vegemite when they are young, which in my opinion hinges on child abuse. The kids will not only take this stuff willingly, but I have even heard some of them ASK for it. This goes to show how trusting a small child can be.  On the bright side, if these kids grow up and are tortured for information, I doubt there is anything anyone can do to them to get information out of them.  They lived through eating Vegemite in their childhoods, so nothing can harm them.

Next thing you know, they will be making Vegemite meat pies.  I’ll be sure to be the first in line for those.

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