Saturday, December 31, 2005

Holiday-ing up north

My holiday hiatus is coming to a close, and I could pretty much just fill this post with the all the pics I took on my new super slim, red Sony digital camera that Haydn gave me for Christmas. I gave him one of the Jamie Oliver cookbooks, so that and the camera are complimentary gifts true to the spirit of this blog.

We took off for Brisbane last Wednesday and I procured some very Australian, very soft, no-sodium licorice. Aussie licoriceSuch good car food, nearly like taffy. We made it a two-day trek north to Brisbane, with the first night's stop in small-ish town Taree, where the only place serving food after 9:30pm was Jin-Hong's Chinese, which didn't give us utensils, so we sat in the hotel eating off of the teacup saucers with spoons. We were definitely on the road.

The next day was Byron Bay, maybe a kindred spirit to Santa Cruz, ie a beach town where you can mellow out and cater to your chakras. We made a major upgrade from the Taree accommodations and stayed at the Byron at Byron, where Haydn stayed with Interpol last year. Very "adult" resort in a very quiet, serene way: no running or diving at the pool, facials and hot stone massage services and very breezy feng shui rooms. We had a great breakfast the next day at Succulent in town, I didn't take pics but I think "chorizo and grilled mushrooms with greens over sourdough toast" pretty much explains it. We did some sight-seeing at the Lighthouse there (most easterly mainland point in Australia) and very nearly melted in the late morning sun.

It was then onto Brisbane for the Official Scorcher Christmas 2005 with temps in mid to upper 30s Celsius and 90s F. It was hot. Very hot, but great to be around Haydn's parents who take such good care of us. Four grandkids between ages 7-3 make for lots of excitement, too. And check out the pic of the totally festival city bus.

The last 5 days were spent at the Johnston family compound at Stradbroke Island, with Haydn's parents, his brother Nick, wife Tash, and their kids Jack, age 5, and Ella, age 3. Stradbroke is an island about a 20-minute ferry ride from Brisbane. Haydn dubbed it Rancho Relaxo -- even with kids who wake up at the crack of dawn!

The days are breakfast, coffee, reading, beaching, reading, eating, playing, happy hour on the veranda, dinner, bed before 10. Island life, with lots of Christmas ham -- it was even used in the fried rice Haydn and Nick made one night. And featured pictorially is the Won Ton soup Nick made, so delicious and flavorful.

We had Joeley over for a night and the three of us made a couple of afternoon appearances at the island pub for "pots" of Carlton beer after a swim. There are varying sizes of beer glasses, and in Queensland a pot is 10 oz, the same size is a Midi in New South Wales. Very important to make note of, culturally, esp if you go to Queensland in summer -- smaller glasses of beer don't last long enough to get too warm.

And then all of a sudden it is Saturday and New Year's Eve and we had our goodbye fry-up breakfast this morning and made the journey back to Sydney via ferry-cab-airplane-cab. Here's to 2006...

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The fancified time of year

I hate to break it to the readers back in the northern hemisphere, but it's been another beautiful day in Sydney. I would say low 80s and requisite sun and blue skies. Times like this is when I realize I am pretty far away from the old stomping grounds of the midwest and east coast, because I can't really fathom the cold and snow. I think I might just be getting used to this as holiday weather...especially as Haydn and I ready for a trip up north. We're going to drive up to Brisbane starting tomorrow and make it a two day trip, and I'm thinking at last I will see a kangaroo out in the wild (or on the roadside where they are unfortunately rather prevalent).

It was a busy weekend with a holiday party in Surry Hills on Friday, a Mess Hall show at Annandale on Saturday night, and then the Tsubi (too-cool-for-school jeans label) and Modular record label party that Haydn coordinated down at Bondi. There was a wee bit of anxiety about the event at the beach what with the terrible rioting of late at other beaches, but with cops on every corner and with clearance to check cars, it was a pretty quiet beachfront. However, the fashion at the party was loud, and I am still smarting that I left my camera charging in the kitchen, so there are no shots to share. But a word of advice for next summer -- those 1980s one-piece shorts jumpsuits seem to be back, preferably in terry cloth! Yikes.

And last night, the esteemed principals of Level One Agency, Haydn and Adam, hosted a Christmas party for the bands they manage, The Mess Hall and Gerling, respectively. We headed to a pub, the Cricketers Arms, for tapas and drinks.

There were some lively little dishes, I must say, with the cauliflower fritter being a battered puff of crispy goodness. And how could I not think of my dear Greggums with the goat cheese-stuffed chilis? That's right: fancy j-poppers! And man, the red chili had some heat as you can see from my sort of hesitant/glazed look in the pic as I eat one. There was also pate with preserved onions (or jelly or marmaladed onions, something like that, pictured), sausage skewers, wonderful chips, marinated mushrooms. Delicious.

I should be able to get a post or two in up at Brisbane and the picturesque Stradbroke Island, but for now Merry Christmas and Happy Boxing Day -- I finally get to experience the day that is always on calendars as a UK, CAN, AUS holiday!

Happy holidays!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Southern Hemisphere style

Well, the sun continues to shine, the skies stay blue, and while the beach calls out to me for a visit, I think I might just opt for some internet time today. I love the sun, but am wondering how a lady of leisure keeps it at a healthy amount without becoming too weathered, shall we say?

Yesterday, I took a little public transporation adventure over to the Annandale, in a neighboring suburb. In order to do this, I had to transfer buses -- something I had not yet attempted in my time here. Very brave of me, yes. Unfortunately, even though it was, in theory, one trip, transfers are not available within public transport here and I paid two separate fares. While I waited for the bus at Town hall, I snapped this pic, a spirited holiday display in the center of the city at Town Hall.

What I really would have liked to take a picture of is the little nativity scene the bus driver to Annandale had set up next to his fare box -- a lovely little snowy scene with the manger and everything. I think the snow was his own added yuletide effect. I can't help but to think of the Freedom From Relgion movement in Madison would have had a field day with that one. Anyway, I thought it might look a bit odd to snap a pic of his Christmas scene after he helped me figure out where I was going.

And true to the chunkytoast spirit, I did enjoy a lovely chili basil vegetarian stir fry at the Annandale, it had some heat to it, just as it should.


Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Sea legs to go with chicken wings

This might be a brief post, as I have just been alerted that the water at Bondi is perfect for a swim -- well, perfect for a whimp of the waves like myself. I am starting to get a bit more brave about diving into waves, but I have also been knocked over a couple of times, too. After one such knock-over, it took me a good 15 minutes to relocate my towel on the beach, altho that was mostly because the person next to me had left and I couldn't spot my landmark. So, it sounds like the water is quiet and very welcoming to the novice.

But, first, very important is the wondrous BBQ we had the other night. Thank goodness Pops and Michelle acquired that grill, and they acquired a Fisheroo too, a contraption for grilling fish. They picked up the fish, bream, Haydn got the chicken wings and away we went. Sadly, there aren't really Buffalo wings down here, so this was especially special with a lovely Thai marinade. I realize the picture of the bream and wings might be a bit graphic, but I don't think words do justice. It was one of those dinners of self-congratulations because it all turned out so well, and concluded with a sight I so treasure -- men doing dishes. Oh and a little warm apple pie a la mode was dessert, for good measure of course.

And, now, you understand why it is imperative to stop what I'm doing to go enjoy some calm ocean water, time for some fitness, without getting knocked over by the waves and tossed back onto the beach like the landlocked native I am. I will watch out for sharks (one was at Bondi last week) and these heinous surfer gangs and their meathead friends wreaking havoc at other beaches. Far, far away from being your typical Aussies, that is for sure.


Sunday, December 11, 2005

A tale of two breakfasts

It has been a good, productive weekend as I have set a deadline of Monday for shipping Christmas gifts overseas. This means it was essential to start each day with the hearty Aussie breakfast. Saturday morning was bright sun, blue skies, a quick run to the Waverly Cemetery before it got too hot, and then Haydn and I strolled down to Baristas -- my treat. He opted for the Big Breakfast and a flat white -- the big breakfast consisting of eggs, sausage, bacon, toast, mushrooms, and tomatoes. Seriously. I think this would usually be referred to as a Lumberjack Special or something along those lines in the US. As you can see in the pic, there might just be a certain Paul Bunyan air to Haydn with that breakfast in front of him. I went the way of the British and had beans and chunkytoast(!) with jam, and I opted for an iced latte. Usually ordering this from a cafe means getting a scoop of ice cream in it, but I elected for sans ice cream.

Then it was running around, getting some things together to send away. A stop at a vintage clothing sale with Joeley. All good stuff. Joeley and I and some other girls headed to the Beach Road Hotel in Bondi for a wee bit of Saturday night fun, and we had missed the Miss Bondi pageant that happened earlier in the day. Oh drat.

But this morning, was the return of how weekend breakfast should be -- executive produced and cooked by none other than Haydn. On the menu we had eggs, rye toast, organic bacon from Sam the Organic Butcher, avocado, salsa, and cantaloupe (otherwise referred to as rockmelon here). I've included a shot of my breakfast, as we dined oh so civilly in the sun room complete with tablecloth (ok, still on the table from Thanksgiving) and a favorite smutty coffee mug.

And now, before me is much wrapping to do. I've downloaded the Charlie Brown Christmas album from iTunes to help invoke the spirit. It is just a bit hard here to grasp Christmas with the sun, blue skies, and beach and lack of elaborate neighborhood light displays and Christmas carols piped in everywhere you go. A few other Northern Hemisphere expats who have been here for some time have said it's just never quite the same, or moreso just different in its own right. Here's to something a bit different...


Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Festival foray

At last, I have a bit of gumption, a little time, and a high-speed connection, which means I can post pictures from Homebake and my mini-foray back into the working world and music. I was working for the promoter of Homebake, an all-Australian one-day festival in the middle of Sydney that draws about 25,000 people. I've done some guest lists in my time, but this was pretty massive and I became well-acquainted with the labelmaker and laminator in order to make all those All-Access passes. Haydn, esteemed production coordinator of the festival, captured my industriousness for y'alls.

And for those of you requesting some Aussie fashion pictorials, I tried to capture a couple of pics of rock n roll fashionistas. It was a day of skinny jeans, Olsen twin-sized sunglasses, and girls in bikini tops perched atop shoulders in the crowd.

Some musical highlights for me were The Mess Hall, Ben Lee and his rainbow-and-butterlies positivity, The Dirty Three, and most of all the Finn Brothers. Pretty cool to hear all those people singing the chorus to Don't Dream It's Over and Four Seasons in One Day, very anthemic. And...a pretty good Aussie celeb spotting backstage at the Finns -- Toni Collette, who looks younger and prettier than most of the roles she plays. I also made sure to have my own little photo op with a Finn -- not the more familiar Neil, but the just as well-coiffed Tim.

All in all a very good learning and cultural experience (Aussie hip-hop?!). And lots of good catering too, as that is the kind of thing that helps power me through the day -- spaghetti and meatballs, fish n chips, stir fry. Thank goodness for that.

Nice to be back in the blogosphere...