Sunday, 21 September 2014

India - Week One

I'm sitting in a hotel room in Agra, killing a few hours before we head back to Delhi. There's too much time to not be bored, and too little to go do something else, so I thought I'd just catch up on some journal writing and blogging. 

The last week has been a lot of fun. We landed in a pretty group of people in our Intrepid tour. As usual there has been someone who fits in less well with the group, and some who are quieter, but on the whole the dynamic has been quite positive. Our tour leader Veerendra is quite knowledgable, and it took him a few days but his less serious side finally showed up, and with it, his cheeky grin. Five of us are going on to do another tour tomorrow so hopefully the guide is just as good. 

We began, and will end, in Delhi. And I have to say, ugh. Delhi is doubtlessly my least favourite place so far. It feels like just another soulless, sprawling city, where everyone wants something from you; and whilst certain elements have been interesting, the prospect of rattling around Delhi tomorrow and again on the day I leave India does not fill me with joy. But I will have good company so I'm sure I'll make the most of it. 

Also, to be fair to Delhi, my impression of the hotel didn't help. Although I didn't expect great things, having travelled fairly extensively in developing countries, I was still a little disappointed. And that was probably because 1. The room was stuffy and claustrophobic because it had no windows at all, just a wall decorated with alternating panels of padded vinyl and a semi-reflective surface; 2. The entire bathroom was covered in dust (but not the rest of the room...); 3. There was a pigeon living in the exhaust fan of the bathroom, which probably contributed to the dust and also meant that, every so often, a feather would float out; and 4. There were maggots in our beds. (Do you like how I saved that one until last? 😊)

We got up to a few things in our first couple of days in Delhi. My BFF Ness and I explored the area around the hotel and ate street food for breakfast for the princely sum of about 40c, so imagine our horror at ending up in hotels on tour where you have to spend seven whole dollars on breakfast. The horror! (That's a joke, by the way. Compared to the $20 or so you'd spend back home, it's obviously very affordable, despite often eating at establishments geared to cater for tourists with sensitive stomachs.)

We went on a tuk-tuk adventure (to be clear, I'm aware they're supposed to be called motor rickshaws (or a variation thereof), but they have taken to calling them tuk-tuks when they tout their services, presumably to cater to tourists) with a driver who in hindsight stalked us back from breakfast. After a dispute about where he was taking us (he wanted to take us to an emporium and to a tourism office where he obviously got a commission), he finally took us around the war memorial, and then to the parliament and prime minister's residences, where we had our first taste of domestic Indian tourists including us in family photos. And then we had a brush with the law. Our increasingly dodgy tuk-tuk driver didn't tell us it costs RS$500 (AUD$10) to get into there, and he evaded the fee on the way out which resulted in a very minor police chase and some red lights run. When he finally lost himself in traffic and felt safe and explained, we scolded him and he seemed suitably chastened. He took us to a fairly nice garden...and on the way home he insisted on taking us back to the emporium. We finally yielded when he explained that he got a lunch voucher if we looked around, so ten minutes in air conditioning wasn't the end of the world when you're hot and jet lagged. Anyway, that was our big adventure that lasted about 90 minutes, cost $2.10 and taught us what to watch out for so it was an afternoon well spent!

Once we'd met the group, we went for an adventure on the Metro, where we discovered there is a Women's Only carriage. And it was actually quite comforting. There was also a magical force field between our carriage and the next, despite there being no physical barrier. The metro was clean, new, ran well and was safe - bags were X-rayed and passengers walked through metal detectors - so I do quite highly rate their metro system. Just be prepared for the gentle push 😉

We wandered around a market, had a masala chai, visited the largest mosque in India (spoiler alert: it was pretty huge), rode in a bicycle rickshaw, and visited a Sikh temple and saw their community kitchen where they cater for 3,000 hungry people each day. And we sweated. A lot. Luckily I was able to bond with one group member in particular over how ridiculously sweaty we were. One week in and it has become par for the course, but early on it was amusing. 

From Delhi we moved onto Jaipur by train, which included a little breakfast brought to you on a tray. It was somewhat reminiscent of the long-distance buses in South America.

Jaipur itself was very pretty after the grime of Delhi, and our hotel was very 1950's British, with a nice lawn, cane lounges and simple but clean rooms in a hotel that both has windows (yay!) and was also built for the heat (yay again!). 

Highlights from Jaipur were a visit to the quite incredible Amber Fort, an obligatory (but interesting) visit to a textile factory where they showed us how they do block printing using natural dyes, taking in a surprisingly compelling movie about a female Indian boxing champion (no subtitles!), visiting the city palace museum and the observatory, which contained the world's largest sundial, and an incredible (but for totally different reasons that I won't elaborate on here!) oil massage that cost all of about $15. 

From Jaipur we caught a private bus to Karauli, where we stayed in a hotel that was the former residence of one of the Kings of one of the 22 Rajasthani princely states. He's still king, by the way, but it's a ceremonial role. He also still stays at the palace, but rents most of it out as a hotel to pay for the upkeep. It was a pretty amazing experience to stay in a palace, which, if I were to hazard a guess, was decorated more or less as it had always been. But yep, pretty sure I could handle living like a princess!

We also did a village walk in Karauli, and visited a Hari Krishna temple, where the women were very welcoming and invited the girls in to join them in their singing and dancing. It was quite an experience. Walking back through the village we encountered so many friendly children who just wanted to say hello. You could tell they hadn't made the connection between tourism and making a profit, which in hindsight is why our guide discouraged us from leaving the palace grounds. It was very refreshing and is just as it should be. 

Back on the bus, and next stop was Agra, via Fatehpur Sikri, a former Mughul palace and adjacent, second-largest in India, mosque. Like Amber Fort, the palace was the kind of place you could spend a few hours alone with a camera...but no such luck. The guide told us an interesting story of the justice system of the time, and how murderes and rapists would be sentenced to Death by Elephant. They had this generally quite pleasant elephant they kept tethered to a rock, and when execution time rolled around they would feed it a plant that caused it to go crazy and trample whatever was in front of it - in this case, a murderer or rapist. Quite novel, definitely gory, and not at all fair on the elephant (nor surprising, given this was the emperor who came to the throne at 13 and would use women to play naked Blind Man's Bluff and other, naked, human-sized takes on traditional board games. He was obviously at a loose end as to what to do with his power for a time there...). On the bright side they obviously appreciated the poor creature, because they constructed quite a spectacular tomb for it!

Finally to Agra, where the streets seem to be better-made, and with less traffic than other cities. We entered the Taj Mahal at sunrise, but unfortunately the fog prevented us from getting the spectacular sunrise photos we'd hoped for. Still, the early start meant fewer people, so more photo opportunities and plenty if time to just chill out and take it all in. 

The feeling I got from the Taj Mahal was incredibly powerful. Obviously things are a bit different for kings with bottomless pockets, but the love the emperor had for his wife was almost palpable. An awe-inspiring structure, and a surprisingly peaceful place to visit despite the crowds. 

Later, we saw the room at the Agra fort where the emperor was imprisoned by his son for spending too much money on grand structures (hah!), and from it you could see the Taj Mahal. Legend has it that he would live out his days there, weeping for his dead wife as he looked out over the Taj Mahal that he would never again visit. 

The fort itself was pretty cool, too. I mean, this place had two moats, one wet one filled with crocodiles, and one dry one filled with tigers. It doesn't get much better than that!

So now we wait for the train. I'm trying to take it easy this afternoon because I have the triple-whammy of having sweated in the sun for half the day, being up at 4:45am and having an upset stomach. Our train also won't get in until after midnight tonight, so rest is probably a good idea. 

I hope that wasn't too tedious for you to read, but like I said, I have time to kill! And hopefully the pictures helped break things up a bit. I haven't taken many on my phone yet, as evidenced by the gaping pictorial holes in this story, but I'll try harder next week. 

Stay tuned for more adventures. 

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Monday, 1 September 2014

100 Days of Awesome: Days 96 - 100 - FREEEEEEDOMMMMM!!!!

I can't believe I made it here, to Day 100. At least I think it's Day 100. Given that most of my posts were written the day after they happened, I wouldn't be at all surprised if that had been jumbled up a bit, but eh *shrugs* 

And whilst it's true that I actually only posted on 39 of those 100 days, it's still a pretty good effort on my part. Plus of course I participated in VEDA, which meant that I was vlogging for the entire of August (except for 3 days)... so really, I blogged in one form or another on 67 out of 100 days, it's just that it wasn't necessarily about awesomeness, and it was over at my YouTube channel rather than here. 

Anyway, I guess I should tell you what was awesome about the last few days before I leave these 100 awesome days behind me...

Day 96

Thursday was productive at work, which felt awesome. And then my BFF Ness came over for tea, and we decided to celebrate some awesome stuff with a bottle of bubbles. She said "something better than Yellow, but not as good as Moet" so I had decided to go for a pretty decent bottle, around the $40-$50 mark, because sometimes a gal's just gotta celebrate awesomeness in style. And when I walked into the bottle-o the Bollinger was on sale for $60, marked down from $110. Now, I've never tried Bollinger before, being a girl who normally buys $10 bubbles to add to punch, but I knew that this was too good an opportunity to pass up. So I splashed out... and it was a grievous error, because now all I want to drink is $110 champagne, because it really is that awesome. Damnit!!!

Day 97

Friday! Whoohoo! Another productive day at work, and then off to a quiz night with The Kiwi and my BFF Kaye from school. Our team didn't even come close to winning, HOWEVER we did win the travel round (entirely thanks to myself and one other team member), which resulted in an awesome box of Lindt chocolates for the team.

Day 98

Weekend! Whoohoo! The Kiwi and I took our sweet time waking up, then we headed off to one of my favourite markets where we ate some pretty amazing felafel for brunch, drank a nice spiced chai to get me in the zone for my upcoming trip to India, and bought some of my favourite soap.

After that the day got even better, with a hike in the Kinglake National Park. I had done this particular walk - the Masons Falls circuit - twice before. Once, when I was about eight years old, it was stinking hot day and I had an asthma attack doing it. And the second time was with my BFF Ness in preparation for my first post-highschool hike, to Mount Feathertop, and we were carrying packs full of blankets and phone books to give us a bit of an idea of how hard it would be. Suffice it to say that both of those experiences were somewhat more negative than the experience we had on Saturday.

We were on a bit of a deadline on account of the fact that the park shut at 5pm and we didn't get on the trail until 1:15pm, and with 13km to walk including a wholllllle bunch of uphill, I set off at a pretty cracking pace (er, for me!). And I kept that up for the first half of the walk. I faded in the second half, especially in the last quarter, which was all uphill. But my heart didn't play up, and my lungs didn't play up, and although my legs felt somewhat leaden they did keep on going. So I was pretty impressed with myself for doing so well, and despite the massive blister that formed on the bottom of my big toe, it was a pretty awesome hike.

We popped by to say hi to mum and pick up my passport with the new visa for India in it on the way home (yay!) and the day ended with a pretty awesome charcoal chicken dinner and an episode of Vikings, which I am slowly but surely becoming addicted to.

Day 99

The last day of winter, and it truly had me convinced that it was summer. I really, actually got my legs out and wore a skirt! And I wore it with a light t-shirt and thongs (flip-flops, jandals, whatever), and didn't have to put a jumper (sweater, cardigan, windcheater, whatever) until quite late in the day.

On top of that, despite the fact that I had to work on a Sunday, I was pretty productive doing that on Sunday afternoon, and knocked over a bunch of stuff that has been haunting me for a good long while. And THAT felt awesome.

On top of that, I played Trivial Persuit (and won. Duh.), which I lovvvvvve.

On top of that, I encountered a situation that I had been pretty nervous about, and it actually went pretty well, despite the fact I was pretty sure I was going to throw up for the hour or two that preceded the event. It's not something I'm going to talk about here, at least, not right now, but it's not something I ever contemplated having to encounter so it took a bit of doing to wrap my head around it. But it's all good now, which was awesome. In fact, it turned out to be a pretty awesome day. So yay to that!

Day 100

Hah. Well for one thing, I've finished this 100 days of torture awesome. And, once again, I've gotten a heap done at work. And, being a Monday, I had a yoga class this evening, which was awesome because a) it's my usual, awesome yoga class and b) I actually felt a bit stronger tonight, like I am beginning to tangibly improve. Before that, I got an enthusiastic welcome from my Housebaby, which was awesome. And then she decided that she wanted nothing more than to put her hand in my mouth, and there's not much you can do about that when she sets her mind to it... so that was kind of icky and cute at the same time.

On my way home from Yoga I had an awesome chat with Ness, and then The Kiwi cooked me a pretty awesome dinner. Life is good :-)

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

So the purpose of this 100 Days of Awesome was to help me count my blessings as they come. At the beginning I really needed it, and it really helped. And then - and you probably all noticed this - I met The Kiwi and suddenly it was a lot easier to count my blessings, and I didn't really need to catalogue them Every. Single. Day. anymore.

I definitely think it's valuable to think about the good stuff that has happened to you every day. I guess people from certain backgrounds would consider it to be a kind of prayer or meditation, but whatever you want to call it, it's worth doing and I strongly encourage you to give it a try yourself.

I had a pretty awesome 100 Days - hiking adventures, trips to Tassie, new boyfriend, birthday parties, free movie tickets, made several awesome cakes, started to get back on track with my health and fitness, visited a few wineries... the list goes on. And despite the fact that I had other crap going on, mostly with my family, it really was a pretty awesome 100 days, partly because of recognising all those awesome things.

I hope your last 100 days were just as awesome as mine, and I'd love to hear about your own awesomeness some time!

Thursday, 28 August 2014

100 Days of Awesome: Day 95 - All Work and No Play makes Jack a Dull Boy

... except that's kind of what was awesome about Day 95. I got SO MUCH DONE at work, and it felt GREAT! No dullness to see here, folks.
 
I'm also not a boy named Jack.
 
I can't really explain it, but I've had a bit of a shift in motivation during the last few months at work. I don't know whether it's because I'm happier in my personal life, or I've found something that I can sink my teeth into, but something has changed in me and motivated me and it has flow-on effects in my professional life (my supervisors will be pleased to hear that, no doubt!).
 
For one thing, I'm ironing my shirts instead of just ironing the sleeves and putting a vest on and letting the rest take care of itself ;-)
 
(Don't worry, that's just a trick I mostly reserve for time on site, when a shirt that is clean often stands out enough without needing to iron it!)
 
The hour or so of sunshine we got at work was pretty awesome, too, as was the fact that I more or less stuck to my resolution to eat super-healthfully. The part that was "or less" was when our Accounts lady brought in some sultana tea loaf for afternoon tea, and I had a piece. Weirdly, it made me feel yuck and I didn't enjoy it all that much. I don't know whether it's because it had a bit of margerine on it, and margerine is the devil, or that I've just become quite unaccustomed to eating refined sugar (hah, except in Killer Python form). But that was interesting.
 
So I think I might have to do some baking this weekend, to test out my theory. You know, all in the name of science! And the guys at work have been complaining about the lack of cake lately, so I really only have to eat one slice and then feed the boys the rest, and then feel all virtuous about that.
 
Anyway, that's it from me. Some pretty basic awesomeness, but awesome nonetheless. To me!
 
What was awesome about your day?

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

100 Days of Awesome: Days 73 -94 - Uh, oops.

So the main thing that happened that stopped me from documenting the everyday awesomeness of my life is that 1) I have been participating in VEDA, that is, Vlogging Every Day of August (you can check out my YouTube channel here), which has taken up all my spare time; and 2) life has been pretty flipping awesome every day and I have been too busy living it and enjoying it to spend much time here.
 
On top of that, work has been really busy, which is pretty motivating for me. I hate it when working days drag by, but if I'm honest it's those days that drag that I have time to blog at lunchtime. For the last three weeks I haven't really had a lunchtime, thus no blogging. But when things are fast-paced, I get a lot done and I feel valuable and capable and all of those other good things.
 
Plus, The Kiwi insists on hanging around... which works out pretty well for me, because I really like having him around :) Various adventures from the last few weeks include a little hike in the You Yangs, dinner with friends, and a weekend away in Tasmania. That was a pretty awesome weekend away, actually. I saw lots of friends, went to my friend Katie's engagement party and hit the town afterwards for one of my standard 4am Tassie Saturday nights, did a hike to Liffey Falls, showed The Kiwi my old job site, and just generally had an awesome weekend.
 
So anyway, if today is Day 94 then there's only 6 days to go here, and thank heavens for that. And when the 100 Days of Awesome is over, I'm trying to get back to my food focus of old. Which is a little contradictory for my current weight loss goals, but hey, you win some you lose some.
 
My macro lens is also off for repair, so I'll finally be able to take half-decent photos of my baking creations again!
 
Lastly, exciting news - my BFF Ness and I are off to India in 19 days for an adventure. We haven't travelled together since 2005/6 and I'm really looking forward to it.
 
Better leave it here - it's past my bed time.
 
Night all!

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

100 Days of Awesome: Days 68 - 72 - VEDA Made Me Do It!

Up to my old tricks with having trouble cataloguing the awesomeness, largely because I've been doing so much. Part of what I've been doing is VEDA, which stands for Vlogging Every Day in August. If you're interested in seeing me make a tool of myself on the interwebs, I'm #71 on the participants list that can be found on the VEDA site - weblogwevlog.com. And when I'm back using Wifi that has no restrictions on it, I will directly post a couple of YouTube links (or you could just search for my channel - vanessalillian82).
 
Anyway, back to the awesome. In reverse order, because it's easier that way.
 
Day 72:
- Gorgeous day to be outdoors at work - cold, but sunny.
 
- Got a really good cuddle from my Housebaby.
- Yoga. Stretched my crunchy back out. Lovely.
- My lunch. A yummy salad The Kiwi had made for me.
- My dinner. Ready and waiting for me when I got to The Kiwi's place.
- VEDA. I don't think the quality of my videos is improving, but I'm starting to relax a bit and have fun. I'm nowhere near as creative as other participants, but it's great seeing what everyone comes up with.
 
Day 71:
- Woke up with my back feeling totally amazing for the first time in forever, thanks to the bed I was sleeping in at my friend's house. I had slept in it previously and uttered the phrase "it's like sleeping on a cloud", and my memory of it was spot on!
- Eggs and bacon for brekkie, cooked by someone else.
- Free lemons and oranges from my friend's extensive fruit tree collection.
- Beautiful day.
- Stopped by the rail viaduct in Malmsbury on the way back from Bendigo to show The Kiwi the awesome architecture in daylight. It's tucked a little out of the way, and I only knew it existed because I used to have to test water quality in the river beneath it when I was working on a project nearby.
- Climbed Hanging Rock, had a picnic up there, and did not, in fact, go missing (Aussies will probably know the story about the schoolgirls who went missing up there during a picnic in 1900; there was a book written and a movie made about it).
 


 See? It really was a picnic. For realsies.

 
 
Day 70:
- Slept in a little and had a generally relaxing morning.
- Got a cuddle from my Housebaby.
- Went to visit my dad in hospital. The fact he needs to be there isn't awesome. The facility he is in is definitely not awesome, in fact, it is kind of depressing. And he's still pretty nutty and having a lot of weird ideas. But it's good that he's getting help, and he does seem to be more settled in himself. Plus we had a bit of a moment where I was tabbing some chords out for him for the guitar (he has not, until recent times, had a musical bone in his body but is keen to learn, and hey, if I'm busy teaching him music then he can't be busy telling me about conspiracy theories, so it's a win-win!), and we sang a The Tennessee Waltz together, which is a song that he used to play the LP of a lot when I was growing up. I did have a "bad daughter" moment when we finished and he said that he'd always dreamed of singing a song with his daughter, and that he'd finally done that. It only took 32 years. Oops. But I'm glad that he was happy.
- Went and stayed with some friends who I met through work, and introduced The Kiwi to them. I'm pretty sure they approved, because he was given a company hat and jumper before the night was through. And that's pretty awesome, because these people are kind of like the parents I wish I had, so it matters to me what they think, especially because dad is sick and hasn't met him yet.
- Had an amaaaaazing roast lamb for dinner, and drank some very nice wine, before moving on to the tokay and then the scotch, all the while chatting away with my friends. Probably drank more Johnny Blue than was strictly necessary, partly because we were at it until 2am, but it certainly is a nice drop!
 
Day 69:
- Friday! Well I mean, come on, how can you go wrong with a Friday!!! Although it was a pretty horrible day, weather-wise... but I was safely inside for most of the day. Until...
- I went to see Les Miserables with one of my housemates in the city, and didn't just get rained on. Nope, I got sleeted on. An icy-cold slurry, falling from the sky, soaking my jeans and my jacket. Not impressed.
 
(I've also just realised how much I look like my dad, or at least how similar our "not impressed" faces are, which I wouldn't have known if he hadn't recently shaved his beard off for the first time in my life!) So I was pretty much cold and wet through the entire performance, but the show was incredible and I may even have cried a little at the end, so it was totally worth it.
 - We had Chinese for dinner beforehand, which I always love.
- We went for a drink at the Y&J afterwards, and the Kiwi met us there.
- Did a late-night Maccas run for cheeseburgers on the way home. Yum.
 
Day 68:
- Had my BFF Ness over for dinner, and I have to say that the spaghetti bolognese I made was pretty amazing. Plus I made apple crumble for dessert. It was a great night, all in all.
 
So how is everyone else's awesomeness coming along?

Thursday, 31 July 2014

100 Days of Awesome: Days 65 - 67 - Communication, In All Its Forms

Day 65

Still riding the wave of Sealgate, the cute little fella frolicked and fed his way onto the nightly news on three different channels. I haven't actually seen any of the footage they showed yet, but my personal footage DID show up on the internet, which can be found here. Not great quality because it was compressed to email it, but still pretty awesome.
 
Gotta say, I felt pretty famous on Monday!
 
Day 66
 
I realised overnight that my rather large-ish pile of baggage from my previous relationship was affecting the way I interact with The Kiwi, and also how I respond to various situations that really shouldn't rate a mention. Acknowledged it, addressed it, communicated it, and suddenly I feel like quite a mature adult (besides many, many other indications to the contrary). And it's awesome that I can openly discuss things like that with The Kiwi. Either he's completely blind and can't see how nutty I am, or just a really good guy. Mmmmaybe both...
 
I also ate a bowl of Coco-Pops. They're just as awesome as I remember them being... at least, they are in small quantities.
 
Day 67
 
Again, as with last week, I felt pretty uninspired considering it was a Wednesday. I realised it's because I have pretty much exhausted all the big topics I wish to or need to discuss during the weekly Toolbox meeting, so I'm just clutching at straws, which is hardly beneficial to either the workforce or the impact I make on them by standing up and saying something. So I have to rethink my strategy there... although it was pretty awesome that I was able to think on my feet and come up with something to say about twelve seconds before the meeting began. Not so awesome was that it took me until the last twelve seconds to gather my thoughts on it, even though I'd had at least a week to think about it (or, my entire career, if you want to get picky about it). But I got through!
 
Our admin lady had a bit of a breast cancer scare, and she got her results back yesterday, and it's not cancer. So that was awesome, particularly given my own recent experiences.
 
I had more Coco-Pops, which was also awesome... but now there are none left (it was one of those mini multi-packs). Sad face. I do, however, think it's pretty awesome that Kellogg's have acknowledged that Coco-Pops are like crack, and that siblings will fight over them tooth and nail, so they'd better put extras in the packet!
 
I met someone I'd never met before after work. My ex's sister contacted me a while ago because one of her juniors from work was coming down from Canberra for three or four weeks of medical treatment, and hoped I could give her some tips on things to do or see in Melbourne-town. I was more than happy to oblige, particularly given how much time I've spent in hospital myself this year. I know how disheartening and lonely medical incarceration can be, and how insane it can make you. So we've been texting a couple of times a week, and we finally met up last night.
 
I won't tell you about why she was in there, because it is none of anyone's business, but she was a really cool chick. I'd had no idea how old she was when I agreed to help her out, and even her text messages made it pretty hard to peg, but as it turns out she's only 18. Pretty mature for an 18 year old, because I thought she was about 22. Not that she looked older than 18, but it was mostly the way she conducted herself. She also thought I was about 25, so she's obvs my new BFF ;-)
 
It was really interesting talking to someone else who has had a medical challenge impact their life, and the way she deals with it. She's a lot like me in terms of wanting to live a normal life, and she is definitely not a victim. It looks like she's trying everything possible to manage it, which I think is great. I think she's more inclined to pretend "it" doesn't exist than I am, although I was a lot older than she was when things went pear-shaped, so it really is comparing apples and oranges.
 
Mmm, fruit.
 
Anyway,  I'm glad I met her, I hope I have helped her in some way, even if it was only in the form of an hour's entertainment, and I think it's awesome that two people with something in common and some form of understanding have been able to connect, who would otherwise never have met. Hopefully I can help her out in the future if she needs it, although she already seems like she's got her head screwed on straight anyway.
 
Also awesome is the fact that we went to a place called Massive Wieners on Chapel Street.
 
Giggle.
 
It's a very bare-bones establishment, and I suspect it's a really awesome alternative to the 3am Souvlaki mission you go on after a night on the tiles. It has grubby lino floors (probably not actually grubby, just old and scuffed); grubby, off-white walls covered in photos of customers who have triumphed over or been defeated by an entire yard-long hotdog (I'm guessing at the dimensions but I'm pretty sure I'm right); second-hand bar stools and a counter running around the outside; and the menu is an A4, framed affair, supplemented by notices that appear to be hand-written (could be a fancy, printed font??) tacked onto the front of the counter beside it.
 
We each had a pretty awesome strawberry milkshake - $5 buys you a regular, which was plenty big enough, and they keep their flavours to the simple chocolate, strawberry or vanilla - and shared a $5 basket of fries and ketchup. I didn't pay much attention but I'm pretty sure their menu was limited to shakes, fries and dogs... and I'm totally okay with that. Their website does not elucidate you to their opening hours, but next time I'm stumbling down Chapel Street late at night in need of a munch (nah, I'll never be too old for that!), I will definitely swing by and check them out.
 
Last but not least, I then met up with The Kiwi and had a pretty awesome evening re-enacting approximately the first half of our second date. Not, like, deliberately, but it was close by to where I'd met my new friend, and worth doing again for its own sake. Drinks at Bridie O'Reilly's (same table and all, including a near-repeat of me smashing my glass! I'm sooooo smooooooth...) and dinner at the Sweetwater Inn.
 
We shared the potato croquettes to start this time, and they were pretty awesome, especially with the wonderfully smoky hot sauce. And even though I really wanted the seriously awesome pulled lamb rolls like last time, the milkshake and fries I had just consumed put paid to that so I went for a lighter option - the calamari salad - instead.
 
I probably shouldn't have eaten it. I caught a wiff of something strange before I tucked in, and walking down the street afterwards I began to get stomach pains. I'm not sure if it was a little bit past its prime, or whether I'm developing an allergy to seafood, but over the course of the night I felt pretty ill. Ill enough to have a bucket next to the bed, and to actually sit up and tie my hair back in the night, because I was convinced I was about to spew.  I suppose it could have just been that I was really quite full, but the fact that I manged to eat half a slice of the ever-awesome white chocolate framboise cake from the Lindt Cafe and drink a cup of tea to accompany it and feel quite good, suggests otherwise.
 
Anyway, I'll never know, so there's no point in whining about it. It could just as easily have been the shake, or the fries, or the fact I licked the handrail on the tram (KIDDING!). But it was altogether a pretty awesome evening, and I hope all of you have had an awesome couple of days, too. Tell me what you've been up to!
 
 

Monday, 28 July 2014

100 Days of Awesome: Days 62 - 64: Sealing the Deal

Day 62

It was a Friday. So yeah, of course it was going to be awesome!
 
Well, mostly. Work was a bit meh, which it has been, on and off. But the most awesome part about Fridays is that it's the end of the working week, so that's always cause for celebration!
 
The Kiwi took me out for dinner to Chingon in Richmond, which is a Mexican restaurant that keeps things pretty simple. To that end, the menu is quite limited but I would still recommend you try it. We had the salsa, the corn, and shared a plate of four tacos, and I have to say, thank heavens we shared them because I damned near had to unbutton my pants as it was! Towards the end of the meal The Kiwi leaned across the table for a kiss, and I had trouble leaning past my full tummy. Haha, yep, I think I ate too much...
 
The flavours were pretty authentic, almost exactly as I remembered them from my trip to Mexico. The steak taco was wonderfully juicy and smoky, the pork one had some pineapple floating about which gave a really nice burst of sweetness, and the fish one was pretty much identical to the ones I ate on the beach in Playa del Carmen a couple of years ago. Yum. I will definitely be making a return visit! My only criticism is that the pork taco wasn't as awesome as pork I have had elsewhere... but I'm comparing it to the mouthwartering carnitas we ate in Mexio, and that is obviously totally unfair to all the pork elsewhere in the world ;-)
 
Next, it was to the video shop to pick out something to watch. Our original plan had been to go to the movies, but I was tired and keen for a quiet night, so we picked out Saving Mr Banks (uh, that was me... but I'd heard it was really good!), which we watched that night, and The Wolf of Wall Street, which waited until Day 64.
 
Sooo.... the Kiwi passed out on the couch half way through Saving Mr Banks. But in the first place, he has a habit of falling asleep during movies, and in the second place, as it turns out, he hasn't actually seen Mary Poppins (seriously! I didn't realise that was possible!!!), so I don't think that was really a true reflection on the movie's awesomeness. I personally found it to be quite interesting, and may have sung along and cried a little (hah, so it's a good thing The Kiwi was asleep). Plus of course it had the ever-awesome Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks in it.
 
Day 63
 
Saturday! Whoohoo! Mind you, it was a pretty miserable day. But it began with a nice sleep in, and an awesome cooked breakfast, and a trip to Ikea for a cushion for the stool I sit on at The Kiwi's house - I've been getting bruises on the backs of my legs from it. I"m such a special little snowflake.
 
After Ikea we headed to the Asian supermarket on Victoria Street to pick up some ingredients for the Tom Kha Gai I had decided to make for dinner. I'd actually been mulling over it since I had the same dish on Tuesday night, and - spoiler alert - mine was waaaaay better. I was also totally right about the flavours not being quite right - I used the pretty darned genuine recipe book from the cooking school I attended in Thailand, and, lo and behold, kaffir lime was in it. Just like I thought! As soon as my camera has been fixed I'll make it again and take some photos and post the recipe for you.
 
Yeah, cos I don't mean to brag, but I totally nailed it, and it's probably because it's a great recipe and one well worth sharing. Nessa came over to share in my awesomeness, and we polished off most of the batch between the three of us, plus a couple of bottles of wine. Which in hindsight, I probably drank a fair bit of myself, which explains why I was a little dry when I woke up on Day 64...
 
Oh! And I got a little teapot from the Asian supermarket, which of course means that I spend even more time drinking tea than I already did. I didn't know that was possible, but here we are. Perhaps next weekend I'll bake some kind of awesome cake to go with it... and actually post a recipe for the first time in a gazillion years. Sorry I've been so neglectful about that, y'all.
 
Day 64
 
Sunday! Whoohoo! Unfortunately I woke up quite suddenly, only 6 hours after I had gone to sleep, and was unable to get back to sleep. I spent two hours being annoyed about that before I got out of bed and realised what a beautiful day it was.
 
After brekkie I mucked around a bit and FINALLY cleaned out my laptop bag. I was a bit stunned at how much junk I threw away from it, actually. Including (but not limited to) a broken sachet of chicken noodle soup... which means that the long-lost set of earphones that have been kicking around the bottom of my bag actually smell like chicken noodle soup. Delicious, but really, really odd!
 
The Kiwi and I headed out with the intention of going for a run around the park. My heart started to let me down after the first 500m or so of walking, which was really disappointing for me. I'd already been silently freaking out at the prospect of running a) for the first time in ages and b) for the first time in front of The Kiwi, and that just made it worse. So we walked around the park instead... which is how we came to notice something a bit odd... (there is supposed to be a video embedded there, but it's not working, so I've taken some screen shots for you instead)
 
Heeeeeere, fishy fishy fishy...
 
 
 
 Om nom nom nom nom...


See you later, guys!

 
Yep, that's a seal, catching fish and frolicking. In the Yarra River. In Hawthorn!!! HOW FRIGGING AWESOME IS THAT??!!! I called Wildlife Victoria and they got the sealkeeper from Melbourne Zoo to call me, and he said that it's not unheard of for seals to be found that far upstream, but it is pretty rare. He said they'd go have a look for it on Monday. I'm a bit worried about the poor thing being so far from home, but he seemed happy enough. Hopefully he stays happy and goes home soon!
 
UPDATE: a friend just emailed me and it looks like the seal made the paper! I am the person it refers to who reported it and said the seal was heading up the river. I'm pretty much famous now... ;-)
 
UPDATE #2: Both Channel 7 and Channel 9 want my footage so they can show it on the news tonight. Yep, definitely famous now!
 
Aaaanyway, once the excitement of the seal spotting had died down, we kept walking, and I decided that it was time that I hardened up and tried a little jog. It was abysmal enough an effort to send The Kiwi on ahead, and for me to have only run a total of about 500m, but I guess you've got to start somewhere. I was, however, pleasantly suprised by how well my little sprint (hah, well, it was sprinting for me!) went at the end. So it wasn't all bad, and it was pretty awesome having company and knowing someone was there if I needed them. And now I have something to build on, which is always good.
 
The afternoon involved a trip to Kathmandu (or Kathman-don't, as I call them) to pick up some new shorts for my impending trip to India, seeing as I have prodigiously outgrown my old ones (well, I guess that really just means I've gained a bit of weight...). I ended up with a pair of shorts, a skirt and two shirts, so it was fairly successful. It was pretty awesome that I paid 1/4 price, but I couldn't wrap my head around the fact the people sometimes pay full price for this stuff. Seriously, what the hell are they thinking??
 
An evening spent watching The Wolf of Wall Street (The Kiwi stayed awake for that one!) and eating a pretty tasty Tandoori chicken salad for dinner was an awesome end to an awesome weekend that was very much too short.
 
So, what was awesome about YOUR weekend? Betcha bottom dollar you didn't see a seal in a river...
 

Friday, 25 July 2014

100 Days of Awesome: Day 61 - My Lovely Lady Lumps

Day 61 could have been much, much worse than it was... but it turned out pretty awesomely in the end.
 
The morning was kinda pedestrian, although I did discover that the Irish name that sounds like "tier-knee" is actually spelled "Tighernach"... and that was about the most awesome thing about my morning. Mostly because I saw it and thought "Tiger Natch? Tiger Natch? Who the hell is emailing me?? A Bengali? I don't know any Bengalis..." (the connection there in my very strange brain being Bengal tigers.)
 
I left work just after lunch for my boob sandwich. By which I mean, mammogram and breast scan to check out that possibly, maybe, potentially lump. I'd been pretty damned nervous about it, and had been having a lot of trouble focusing at work for the couple of days before it. Understandably so, or so I like to think. At least I didn't eat my feelings.
 
Turns out, not a lump at all. Well, not a lump-lump. I just happen to have lumpy breasts (thanks for sharing!), with areas of denser, fibrous tissue. And that's all it was. Whoohoo! Doesn't get much more awesome than that!
 
I admit the machine that did the scan was pretty awesome as well. As was the fact I got to read a few acts of Romeo and Juliet whilst I was waiting, which I have been trying to re-read for about a year and keep being distracted from. I'm actually really starting to get into it and be able to easily understand what is going on, without totally bending my brain over it.
 
And the yo-yo biscuit and hot chocolate I treated myself to beforehand, just to get me over the line and into the building, were also awesome. Actually, that's not true at all. The yo-yo was awesome, but the hot chocolate was meh. And I swear, I wasn't eating my feelings! Much...
 
Well anyway, it turns out that mammograms aren't anywhere near bad as people make them out to be. Sure, nobody much likes having their lovely lady lumps manhandled by a technician and then squooshed between two bits of perspex. But honestly, ladies, harden up. I'm only 32, so my breasts are less pliable than they are at 40+, which is when most women start getting scans. It was less comfortable for me than it would be for someone older, but it wasn't that bad.
 
Add to that the fact I have a pacemaker, which was also squooshed against my ribcage during the process whilst pinching muscle and scar tissue. And STILL it wasn't that bad. So if you've been putting off a breast scan - or a pap smear, for that matter - because you've heard how uncomfortable it can be, or because you're embarassed by the thought of a highly-trained, very professional human being touching or seeing those parts of you, don't be. Because I'll give you the tip - any surgery you may require as a result of missing a tumour in its early stages will be a damned site more uncomfortable than a mammogram, and will probably also require you flashing more of your body to strangers than you could possibly have dreamt of. Oh, plus you might die from it anyway. Just a thought!
 
Anyway, now that I've lost all my male readers, I'll climb off my Womens Health soap box... ;-)
 
On the way back to the car I heard my name called, and I turned around to see my high school boyfriend (I was 16 at the time), who I hadn't seen in about fifteen years. It was pretty awesome to see him after so long. Amusingly, he apparently recognised the company logo on my jumper (he knows who I work for) before he recognised me. I'm not entirely sure whether that's a good thing or a bad thing... although to be fair, it took me a second to recognise him, too, and (and I'm hoping he's not reading this!) it was mostly because he resembles his father a lot more now than he did at 16, and that made it harder to register who it was.
 
After that I was pretty much free for the evening, and I had decided it was high time I reinstated my long-held Thursday night shenaningans (which I haven't done since I went into hospital in March), so I caught up with my friend Viv. We were also celebrating my lovely lady lumps being okay, so dinner was definitely in order (Happy? Let's eat! Sad? Let's eat! Disgruntled? Let's eat! Cold? Let's eat! Confused? Let's eat! Excited? Let's eat! Yeah, you know how I roll...). We headed Chocolate Buddha in Fed Square and had a drink and shared some tapas-style food. It was pretty awesome food, from the pork belly and chicken spare ribs, to the tempura bananas at the end of the meal. Nom. And it was awesome catching up with Viv for a bit of a gossip, too.
 
Stepped straight onto a train to The Kiwi's (awesome timing), and spent an awesome few hours just chatting about nothing in particular and drinking hot chocolate. Just my kind of evening.
 
Yep, Day 61 was DEFINITELY more awesome than Day 60.

What was awesome about YOUR day?
 
 

Thursday, 24 July 2014

100 Days of Awesome: Day 60 - Hump Day

I normally enjoy Wednesdays. I like standing up at the weekly Toolbox meeting and talking to the guys. This time, not so exciting, and I don't know why.
 
I had a decent-ish sleep, but I was still exhausted. Exhaused to the point that I nodded off at my desk, very briefly, around midday. Concerning.
 
I didn't get much done at all at work, because I was feeling so far beyond unmotivated that it wasn't funny.
 
I think things have just been getting on top of me a bit the last few days, and even though I'm still making an effort to detect the awesome little things in my day, this time it was harder than usual.
 
I can't say that work was awesome, because I had a very uninspiring day. Totally self-inflicted, I admit, but that doesn't really change the end point.
 
I can't say that my family is awesome, because they are so far from awesome right now it's not funny. Dad's still in hospital, mum's within a bee's dick of checking herself in for a bit of a grease and oil change (but hey, at least she has the self-awareness to do that), and I'm generally worried about my brother.
 
I can't say that my friends are awesome (although they always are!), because a lot of them are going through their own personal challenges at the moment, and nobody's really feeling on top of the world.
 
I can't say that my health is awesome, because my heart has been feeling dodgy for about two weeks, and Day 61 will bring a breast scan to check out a potentially, maybe, possibly lump, which I am totally petrified about. Hah, well that's an awesome thing - my mum has lumpy boobs and has had several lumps that were benign, so that's going in my favour. Whoohoo, I found something! Yee-hah!
 
Yeah, that sounded a bit hollow, didn't it...
 
Wow, all of that totally defeated the purpose of this exercise, didn't it - to find the positives. I ended up listing the negatives instead. Geez. Okay. I'm going to have to try harder then.
 
Right. So it was a freezing cold day, the kind that sucks the heat out of you and gets into your bones, but it was nice when I got out on site in the sunshine (wearing a polar fleece and a woollen Bluey jacket, with my hands stuffed in my pockets to keep them warm). That was awesome.
 
I saved a tree, and not just any tree - a locally threatened tree. That was awesome.
 
I got to talk about landscaping with a subby. That was kind of awesome.
 
The Kiwi had dinner all ready to go when I got home from work (chicken salad wraps), so I got to sit there and pick at grated cheese and talk to him while he cooked the chicken. That was pretty awesome, as was the aioli I put on it.
 
I started reading the Zumbo cookbook that my awesome friend Rach gave me for my birthday (we bonded over a mutual love of food, so it was quite appropriate), and I realised that Adriano Zumbo is the twin of my friend Tollo, and not just because they're both Italian. Seriously. If Tollo shaved his head, it would be difficult to tell them apart. So that's pretty awesome.
 
I ended up with a wee dusting of glitter on me, because the cookbook had been inside a gift bag that was also covered in glitter, and glitter (in small, tasteful quantities) makes me pretty happy with its sparkliness, and that's awesome.
 
We had Mexican hot chocolate, and anyone that has visited the South/Central American continent will realise how awesome that is. We had the cinnamon one, which is my favourite.
 
The Kiwi cracked my back for me, which felt amaaaaaazing (and therefore awesome).
 
So that's about it. I had to dig a little bit deeper, but there was awesome stuff to be noticed.
 
Hopefully it was a bit easier to identify the awesome in your day today.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

100 Days of Awesome: Day 59 - Restaurant Review - Dining Solo at Steam, Rye

Most of the reasons my day was awesome were work-related, including scoring both a sleep-in and a hot chocolate paid for by my company, all because I had to catch up with a member of the public and sort out an issue. Sometimes the community aspect of my job drives me nuts, but yesterday was not one of those days!
 
Because of the meeting I didn't get to work until about 10:30, which you'd normally think was awesome, except it meant that I got a heck of a lot less work done. D'oh! Yep, looks like these last few productive weeks have gotten me a bit hooked on the rush of getting stuff done.
 
Haha, yeah, that's pretty sad isn't it...
 
Anyway, I decided to spend the night at Rye (because I have to be there before 7am on Wednesday mornings, and the early starts have been wearing a bit thin). It's awesome that my company will pay for my accomodation, even though technically they don't have to.
 
So I did a bit of Googling to figure out what I was going to do for dinner, and landed upon Steam, which is on the main street of Rye. I'm pretty much a fan of anywhere that puts their menu on their website and enables my menu stalking habit, so they were off to a good start.
 
The menu looked pretty magnificent, and is very much set up for sharing with a friend or a group. As such, it seemed a bit lacking for the solo diner with just four items in the "individual small plates" section, with a further three items available in "entrees" which again, are probably more for sharing - I mean, who wants to plough through a whole plate of edamame on their own?? I imagine I would not have noticed that if I wasn't dining alone, but I did find the menu choices to be a bit restrictive.
 
It was a quiet Tuesday night, so service was perhaps not as snappy as it otherwise may have been. I had a nice Canadian girl for my waitress, and although she was friendly she did place my order incorrectly, so I ended up with two rice paper rolls and one sang choi bao rather than the other way around, which she had personally recommended. Le sigh. But she was appropriately apologetic about it.
 
There was a second waiter, who did a good job of picking up the slack when my primary waitress was otherwise occupied. The style of service was friendly and fairly casual, and they made me feel welcomed. The second waiter in particular seemed to be quite experienced and professional, or at least confident, which was good.
 
I ordered the Tom Kha Gai, Rice Paper Rolls, and Duck and Shitake San Choi Bao (so, I effectively experienced 75% of the solo menu, and wasn't full afterwards). For a drink I had the White Peony Tea (I had intended to have a Lychee and Ginger cocktail, but they were out of the ginger element), and, because I wasn't quite full, I tried the Indonesian Black Rice Pudding for dessert.
 
The trouble, when you fancy yourself as a decent home cook, and have travelled fairly extensively, is that, if the flavours and textures aren't spot-on, you can get a bit more finnicky about your food than your Average Joe might be. I'm the girl that sits and watches Master Chef or My Kitchen Rules, and yells "YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG!!!" and "I can do it better! *rolls eyes*" at the TV. So I'm just putting that out there, to provide a bit of context to the review which others nay find to be unfair.
 
You could tell from the prices that the servings were going to be quite modest, kind of like an assortment of entrees, and The Tom Kha Gai was no exception. It came in a small bowl (cup??) that probably only held about 150-200mL. It was thick with coconut milk, and had a few slices of mild chilli, some bean shoots, half a cherry tomato and a prawn swimming in it. The menu says it is flavoured with lemongrass and galangal, but I have to say that the coconut flavour definitely dominated the soup. I recall from when I made this very dish in a cooking class in Thailand that the flavours were far stronger, so I was a little disappointed.
 
The Tom Kha Gai was pleasant enough, but not quite what I had expected. My expectations of the soup were obviously unfairly raised by a) my experience in Thailand, and b) the amount of time I've spent with The Kiwi in Asian restaurants on Victoria Street lately, where both quantity and quality are king, and at a very reasonable price, too. But none of that changes the fact that I wasn't especially impressed by the temperature, quantity or strength of flavour. The prawn was pretty nice, though, and I'm not a big prawn person.
 
The Rice Paper Rolls... errr, so I heard a rumour that there were prawns and pork in them...?? To be honest, I mistook what I now realise was the pork for some kind of roasted chicken, kind of like that dodgy chicken you get in the chicken and avocado sushi rolls they make in shopping centre food courts, and didn't really notice the prawn or remember it was supposed to be there until I was half way through the second roll.
 
As it turns out, the prawnts were butterflied and hiding along one side, and were rolled up with an abundance of rice vermicelli, a couple of leaves of Vietnamese mint, and I think there may have been just a skerrick of grated carrot and maybe a beanshoot or two, although the fact I don't clearly recall indicates that they obviously weren't the star of the show. There was a stalk of coriander and a wedge of lime on the plate, but no coriander actually inside the roll. I ended up picking off a coriander leaf and placing it on the roll for every bite of the second roll, just to add a bit of interest to it.
 
Look, I've never been to Vietnam, so I don't know for sure what an authentic rice paper roll tastes like. But I did just Google the heck out of it, and all the recipes for authentic rice paper rolls came up with more balance in terms of meat and vegetable content and were lighter on the rice vermicelli. This page explains the importance of balancing flavours and textures, and I more or less felt like I was eating noodles using my hand. Again, I know I'm biased because I don't even bother putting the noodles in my rice paper rolls - mine are all meat, bean shoots, veggies and herbs - but I've eaten a few rice paper rolls in my time, and none were that heavy on the noodles.
 
Lastly, I had the San Choi Bao. I always love the combination of a cool, crisp lettuce leaf with hot, flavoursome meat. And again, I enjoyed that aspect of it. I would probably order it again, although the water chestnut slices were still whole (in my experience they're normally chopped), the primary flavour of the meat was salt (not unpleasantly so, but I'm just saying that the flavours of the spices didn't really come through), and I would have been quite certain that the meat was a pork mince and not duck, had I not previously read the menu. I suppose I am just accustomed to my duck coming in whole pieces, and enjoying the texture and flavour, rather than having it all minced up. It kind of seems like a waste of duck.
 
I sat for a moment or two after finishing those three dishes, before deciding my hunger wasn't quite satiated. So I asked for the dessert menu, and chose the Indonesian black rice pudding, served with coconut milk ginger ice cream, on the basis that it would be served warm. (Note that, having eaten the meal, I think the coconut and ginger ice cream were actually supposed to be two separate entities, but the punctuation did not reflect that.) On a cold night like last night, having a warm dessert was important! The price of $13 indicated to me that it would certainly be bigger than the servings of the other foods I tried, and I was right. The generous portion came in a large, flat soup bowl, with warm, fragrant black rice piled in the middle of a sea of sweet coconut milk. A dome of what I had assumed was ginger ice cream was set in the centre, sprinkled with toasted, shaved coconut.
 
In general, the dessert pleased me. It filled me up, warmed me up, and the flavours were nice. I had two criticisms, however. The first criticism is that I'm pretty sure the dome of ginger ice cream was actually a dome of whipped double cream or maybe even Crème fraîche. It wasn't noticeably cold (nor did it melt), it wasn't gingery, and it was distinctly buttery to the point of over-richness, so I laid off on that after a couple of spoonfuls.
 
The second criticism is that the cardamom pods and star anise were still floating about in the rice, which meant that I found myself unexpectedly chewing on a strongly-flavoured cardomom pod serval times. I had learnt my lesson by the time I was about a third of the way through the dessert, and began thoughtfully probing each mouthful of rice with my tongue before biting down on it, to allow myself the opportunity to discard those little flavour bombs. You shouldn't really have to work for your rice pudding, and a graveyard of blackened, par-masticated cardamom pods atop your serviette is none too pleasant a site for other diners to behold, but nonetheless it was a nice dessert.
 
Overall my experience at Steam was fairly positive, despite finding the food to be barely above average. The quality of ingredients was excellent, but the execution of the dishes I ordered was not. I had a serious case of of food envy when the ladies at the adjacent table were served some amazing-looking food, to the point that my mouth watered and stomach grumbled just smelling what had been placed before them. Understandably, I was pretty bummed that, as a solo diner, those meals weren't really an option for me, and it would be good to see those dishes offered as a half-serve for the occasional lone wolf. I imagine that if you are in a group, and have the entire menu available to you, your dining experience would be a far more positive one than what I experienced.
 
Overall, I would probably return there, but certainly not alone.
 
I should also point out that the waitress let slip that the chef was "the new guy", which may account for several of the factors that I picked up in terms of the quality of the food, or the food not quite matching the description. And I won't know that unless I go back there. But I'd be interested to hear about the experiences of any readers, to see if they match my own.
 
Despite my grumbling, it was still a pretty decent meal, insofar as I live in a country where a little seaside town can support decent-quality restaurants in the off-season. My bill came in at $38, including two cups of white peony tea, and that's probably roughly what The Kiwi and I have been spending between us on almost twice as much food on Victoria Street (which obviously use lower-quality ingredients and have lower overheads, but which is far more authentic).
 
I would describe Steam as an upmarket Asian-inspired restaurant with potential, inspired rather than Asian itself, because it appears to be totally run by Anglos, at least, it does on a Tuesday night! Perhaps the meals have been altered to suit the local palate. Who knows. Like I said, I'd go back with a group but probably not alone. That said, having seen the serving size of the sharing plates, you could probably be a rebel and order just one for yourself and perhaps some rice. Just a thought.
 
So, did everyone have an awesome Tuesday?

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

100 Days of Awesome: Days 54 - 58 - Happy Birthday To Me!

I just had quite the hectic weekend, because it was my birthday! A fair chunk of the weekend was spent having a party, setting up for said party and cleaning up from said party, but it was a great weekend nonethless.
 
So here we go again, in reverse chronoligical order, the awesome things:
 
Day 58:
- Yoga
- Good day at work
- Read this post on Reddit and the comments that followed it, and it prompted me to pay more attention to and appreciate what was around me. Which is quite a bit of talent, as it turns out - I work in the construction industry and am surrounded by men all day. And, believe it or not, almost every man has something going for him, regardless of age (although admittedly the majority of the age profile of my office sits between 27 and 37). So yeah, I spent two minutes of my site meeting checking out the scenery, appreciating that, and then letting it go. I strongly encourage you ladies to do the same. Just not in a creepy way ;-)
- Support from The Kiwi when my mentally unbalanced father called
- Flirtatious texting with The Kiwi. Yeah, we flirt even though we're actually together. It's fun! You should totally give it a go!
 
Day 57:
- My birthday, which means I survived another year. Go me!
- My birthday, which meant that a whole year had passed since the first guy since my ex busted some moves on me. Although it's unlikely that he's reading it, I just wanted to take a moment to acknowledge how awesome it was that a 24 year old was interested in a (then) 31 year old. Even though he wasn't for me, it did help me heal, improved my self esteem and reminded me that there are some quite lovely guys out there. Thanks, J! Hope you find happiness for yourself, too :-)
- My birthday, which meant PRESENTS!!! The Kiwi did really, really well and bought me a bunch of little things that showed he had been listening, and all you ladies know that the little things generally add up to more than the grand gestures. Especially demonstrating they have been listening. Don't get me wrong, the occasional grand gesture doesn't go astray! But I scored some nice chocolates (what girl doesn't love those), a warm pyjama top from Peter Alexander (he knows I get really cold at night, and that I'm a PA girl), some Jurlique hand cream (I'd run out of the tube I keep in the car), a pizza cutter (he sat with me while I decorated the wedding cake the other week, and I had commented that I should be using a pizza cutter not a knife to trim the fondant, so he went out and bought me a really good one), and... well the fifth thing was probably more for his benefit than mine, but I'm totally okay with that ;-)
- My birthday, which meant left over cake, jelly slice and profiteroles for breakfast. Nom.
- We went for a drive to the Dandenongs and had a Devonshire tea. Nom.
- We went out for dinner on Lygon Street and I had a really nice fettucine cabonara, chased by gelato. Nom.
- The Kiwi did a stellar job of helping me clean up from the party.
- I had an early night, which I REALLY needed after the big weekend I had.
 
Day 56:
- I slept in (a little bit)
- I had an awesome massage (although I do have bruises now...)
- I made this cake (no, I don't plan to grow up. Why do you ask?):
 
- I had a birthday party and saw approximately 30 of my friends and family
- The Kiwi bought me a bunch of white roses. My favourite! (Yep, he definitely listens.)
 
Day 55:
- I had an appointment with a dentist, which I thought was going to end really badly... but which actually ended in having my teeth professionally cleaned. No cavities after all, just teeth that I apparently brush too well. Yep, that's a thing...
- I got a bit of my tax stuff sorted
- I got a hair cut and donated the ponytail to charity. Now you see it...
 
... and now you don't!
And yes, they were really both taken on the same day. I had a few people ask me whether I was twelve years old in the first picture, and the answer is no. It was taken at about 7am on Friday, and the second one was taken about twelve hours later. True story!
- We had Burger Lounge for dinner, and I have to say, they make THE most amazing burgers
- And by "we" I mean "mum, The Kiwi and me". Yep, the new man met the mother... and it went well. Whew!
- Went for a drink at the Young and Jackson with my BFF Ness and The Kiwi. We were out pretty late but it was a good night with good company and good wine.
 
Day 54:
- Spent the evening finishing off the book my hairdresser had lent me. Which is just as well because it was beginning to give me nightmares...
 
What awesome things have been happening in your world?

Thursday, 17 July 2014

100 Days of Awesome: Days 48 - 53 - ... *crickets chirp* ...

I really am getting unpardonably lazy with this. Six days in one post. That's practically a week, and, I must say, vastly impractical when it comes to actually remembering the awesome aspects of your days! But I will try my darndest, and I think I'm going to have to do it backwards for this to work. So...
 
Day 53 was awesome because:
1) I had an awesomely productive day at work;
2) I was given the opportunity to eat as many lollies I wanted out of a 5L tub, and only took 5 small lollies, which I have to say is a pretty awesome effort for me;
3) I had an awesome impromptu workout in the form of unloading about half a tonne of coldmix asphalt from the back of my ute;
4) I got to hang out with my BFF Nessa, who is a pretty awesome human being;
5) I ate this awesome dessert of ice cream with frozen raspberries and dark chocolate ganache, 2/3 of which were effectively leftovers from that wedding cake I made:
 
Nom. And,
6) The Kiwi saved the day by going to the supermarket for me when I got stuck in traffic on the freeway. Many (four) hands make light work! By which I mean, we have four hands between us, not that he has four. He's a bit quirky, but he's not an alien!
 
Day 52 was awesome because:
1) I had another awesomely productive day at work;
2) I spent a couple of hours reading the book my hairdresser lent me, which is just as well because my haircut is booked in for Friday and I still have a couple of hundred pages left! So it was an awesome achievement, considering I'm not the world's fastest reader, and awesome that I got to spend the evening reading, which I love. It was slightly less awesome that I had kind of delusional nightmares about it - it's a pretty creepy book so it was quite a restless night for me. But still, I love reading!
 
Day 51 was awesome because:
1) I had yet another awesomely productive day at work; and
2) I had a really awesome yoga class. Which kind of turned into a group therapy session, because my instructor says "tell me everything" at the start of every class, so I told her about my dad. She threw in an extra line than she normally does when she was getting us focused for the class, about keeping our thoughts on the yoga mat. I suspect that was mostly for me. She's a pretty awesome instructor, and it's a lovely, sharing class and an awesomely warm, friendly and welcoming environment.
 
Day 50 was awesome because:
1) It was Sunday!
2) I had a really good sleep in;
3) The Kiwi made me Eggs Florentine for brunch. Looks like picking a fella who did part of his chef's apprenticeship was an eggcellent idea;
4) I saw my dad, which wasn't great because he's quite ill, not himself, and has shaved his beard off and pierced his ear (the beard shaving is an especially big deal because I've never seen him without a beard, nor has my mother, and she's known him since he was 21! It was kind of disturbing...). But he's still my dad, and he still gives awesome hugs, so at least there was that;
5) We took the scenic route through Sutton Grange to Bendigo, which was awesomely pretty, but which unfortunately led me to discover that Collier's Chocolates no longer seem to exist, which was the entire purpose of taking the back road;
6) I had a really awesome Bee Sting from the Beechworth Bakery (they're a custard-filled pastry, for those not in the know);
7) The Kiwi came up with me, not to see dad, but so that I wasn't alone afterwards. He really is an awesome guy;
8) My friend Sara from uni texted me to see how the visit was, which was really sweet of her. I really do have awesome friends; and
8) The Kiwi and I went out for Vietnamese on Victoria Street for dinner, and we had a pretty awesome soup and an array of entree-type things. Nom.
 
Day 49 was awesome because:
1) It was a Saturday! I had another nice sleep in, which was definitely awesome;
2) I went to a birthday lunch of a uni friend, and it was really awesome seeing everyone and finally meeting one of my friends' two-year-olds... which kind of shows how long it's been since I saw Sara!;
3) The Kiwi and I became "Facebook official" Which means, I really, actually have a boyfriend! Ooo-ooh! *giggles* (I won't explain how many levels that is awesome on, because you'll probably throw up. I mean, you already know that he's supportive and you're about to find out that he cooks for me, so the rest will probably be positively nauseating for you...);
4) I decided it was finally time I stopped being such a slacker and cooked dinner (The Kiwi does it more often than not, which I have to say is pretty awesome), and I think it turned out pretty well if I do say so myself; and
5) The Kiwi and I spent the evening just hanging out. I darned the elbows of my cardigan (I really do like to party hard on Saturday nights...), and it was awesome finally having it done after about a year of avoiding it... which explains why the holes have gotten so big! He had bought strawberry tarts - my favourite - for dessert, and we sat around talking, eating tarts and drinking whisky. There was nothing particularly exciting about the night, but it was still awesome.
 
Day 48 was awesome because:
1) It was Friday! And Fridays are always awesome!
2) The Kiwi came to my place for dinner and we hung out with my housemates Rohan and Nyssa, who I have seen way too little of lately, and of course my awesome li'l Housebaby, Layla. Pizza, self-saucing pudding and the M*A*S*H trivia game made for an awesome night with awesome people.
 
I have to say, it's good that I can actually recall the awesome things about my days almost a week later. It means that things are really positive for me, and it's not all down to The Kiwi (although he certainly helps). No, life is just awesome right now. Mostly. And the bits that aren't awesome are made up for by the support from the awesome people around me.
 
What awesome things have y'all been up to this week?