Sunday, December 23, 2007
Bula! That's the one word that pretty much sums up our stay in Fiji, because it was the most oft-used word. It's a great word and the Fijians use it all the time as a greeting, acknowledgment, welcome, and attention-getter like "hey you." Basically, you don't walk by anyone without saying Bula, it would be rude not to.
I'm writing this missive from our little balcony at the wonderful Warwick Resort and Spa, overlooking a pool, a red hibiscus tree, and a very calm pocket of the Pacific Ocean. We've been here since late Saturday night after a rather long, hot day of travel that included a drunk dad in customs (Haydn and I wonder how that poor kid's vacation is going with drunk dad and loud uncle) and a somewhat dangerous hour and a half bus ride to the bucolic Warwick. We were greeted with a "Bula!" and a lovely fruity drink at check in. Vinaka (thanks).
From there, Haydn and I quickly settled into a little vacation routine that pretty much revolved around buffets (heretofore referred to as "Jimmy" because we're on a first name basis with our Buffet, according to Haydn), reading, Bloody Marys, and Gilmore Girls DVDs. Our three meals are inclusive with a Jimmy at breakfast and dinner and an Al (a la carte) in between for lunch. Jimmy and Al are here with us on our holiday, great companions those two!
Jimmy 1 is one of those amazing hot breakfasts that blends the best of Aussie, English, and American breakfasts. The bacon is decidedly American in style, but the beans are a great English touch, and the yogurt and muesli makes me think Aussie.
On our first day the sun was out and it was hot. We were poolside and enjoyed the inaugural holiday cocktail around noontime. Haydn excitedly started in on the final Harry Potter, which he has been saving for this very trip, and I started in on The Sisters, a great early 20th century non-fiction historical escape about the six vaguely aristocratic English sisters, the Mitfords, who got into all sorts of romantic and political trouble.
After a bit of sun, it was time for Al beachside -- the pool grill at the more "activities" based pool on the other side of the resort (read: more kids and organised games, bar in the pool, hot tub, etc). It can be light fare if you so choose.
Following Al is a good time for a siesta or in-room reading, then another swim at our more mature (read: quiet and couples vacationing on their own) pool, a check of the clock, a shower, a cocktail, and then back to see Jimmy. Each night Jimmy is a themed dinner -- Mediterranean, American BBQ, Italian, etc.
By then we're pretty tired from the day and retire to the room for a few episodes of the Gilmore Girls DVDs which arrived in the mail just prior to our departure. Perfect timing.
So, that's the general schedule we've followed for Sunday, Monday, and today, Wednesday. Unfortunately, the sun hasn't really come out since that Sunday, with various spells of showers. It hasn't stopped our Jimmy and Al schedule or really the swimming and pool schedule. We're on vacation, we've got our books, we just need a comfy spot to read.
But, Tuesday was our day away from the confines of the Warwick and we went on a tour to a Fijian village, the "Jewel of Fiji" tour. This included an hour or so ride near to the capital, Suva, on the main island's one highway. In one direction it is Prince's Highway and the other direction King's Highway. It was a hilly ride through villages made up of little shantys, shacks, and cinderblock homes, sprinkled in with the occasional more contemporary dwelling, like the rugby star Lotte's place in his home village.
It was a really interesting ride filled with waves to anyone we pass on the road and a Bula!
The tour was an all-day affair led by our guide William, who took 16 us in two little speedboats up to his village. It's a traditional, functioning village, seven generations old that started with an English fellow named Danford who came to Fiji in the early 1800s, visited a village and didn't get eaten, but ended up chief of his own village. Not bad.
We were welcomed with dances, kava, a song from the adorable school kids, a wonderful homemade lunch of curry and kovo-cooked food, and more dancing. While, it seems a bit odd to be tourists visiting what is essentially someone's normal way of life, it was enlightening and really wonderful to learn a little bit of the history and culture of Fiji. From the village we sped up the river to a series of waterfalls, passing grazing cows, little villages, and kids swimming in groups. Lots of Bulas on the ride. We adventured up the waterfalls and went swimming underneath a thundering falls about six or seven stories high. It was the vacation moment of being very far away from everyday life.
The day concluded with a short, peaceful ride down part of the river on a bamboo boat, very Fijian Huck Finn style.
It was a Bula of a day and required that we drink our happy hour bloody mary's in-room to have a bit of a relax before the Jimmy.
Speaking of Bloody Mary's, it's about that time on our final night in Fiji.
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
When I searched for it on iTunes to make sure I spelled "Guaraldi" correctly, I saw that that A Very Special Christmas is also in the top 10 of US iTunes...that's a classic in itself. And while the artists on that brilliant compilation were stars at the time of the album they could have easily become a bit relegated to that era, yet, they aren't. The Pretenders "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," U2's take on "Christmas (Please Come Home)," and of course "Christmas in Hollis" by Run DMC. Classics were still being made in the 80s! I'm not sure if they are these days in this genre.
In the meantime, I feel a splurge coming on of Christmas music..."Do They Know It's Christmastime?" Or maybe some King's College Choir carols, Wham's "Last Christmas," The Waitresses "Christmas Wrapping." I could go on as nostalgia kicks in. So instead, here's a list to check out -- complete with the genius, somehow timeless pairing of David Bowie and Bing Crosby -- banter included.
Monday, November 26, 2007
Meanwhile, back in the kitchen, Haydn's tenure as Thanksgiving chef is becoming the stuff of legend. The food tells it all. Oh and I baked the pies and would like to thank Gregg for bringing me Libby's canned pumpkin a year ago. That stuff still had a year of shelf life left.
Twas wonderful to introduce more people to Thanksgiving, for such a rather elaborate meal it's about a pretty simple sentiment.
Monday, November 12, 2007
However, I realized this past weekend, there is one show I tune in to regularly and even know the various broadcast times it is shown on the Lifetyle channel. This show is Grand Designs, a UK program hosted by building/design guru Kevin McCloud. He finds a couple with varying degrees of building and renovation knowledge but armed with a dream to renovate some kind of really old house or buildling. Often, the build goes overbudget and into overtime. Somewhat often, ol' Kev doesn't really care for the end result. It might be environmentally wasteful, too ostentatious, or it just didn't end up as it was envisioned. Other times, he's profoundly moved by the structure and what it can do for the landscape, local history and the family.
I've become riveted by this show. I think it's the British-ness, the history, and Kevin's astute and thoughtful commentary. And, I think it's just a bit of voyeurism. It's like going on walks at night and seeing in to different kinds of homes. It's maybe a bit of growing older, as I find myself tuning in to This Old House or Location, Location, Location as well. Maybe it comes from watching a lot TV shows based in homes of impeccable settings - the Cosby's comfortable brownstone, Friends' spacious West Village flat (an oxymoron!), the Gilmore's idyllic Stars Hollow, and wanting to see an actual "set" at those standards and beyond, with a dash of Little House on the Prairie's rustic-ness.
Sigh...I do know it's good TV with a narrative structure that doesn't really change, but the contents do with each episode. And there's something to be said for employing that successfully. I know I find myself making Haydn put up gingham curtains and I have bought two eBay items recently -- an old gold reading chair, and a red fiesta ware gravy boat. Maybe I'm embracing a new home or craving creature comforts.. Regardless, if you can tune in to this gem, especially on a rainy Saturday afternoon, I highly recommend.
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
While Crowded House were superstars and pretty much remain legends in Australia (tho, technically the Finns are Kiwis), before I moved to here I always associated them with a certain bygone era -- the early days of MTV in the Carter household, when it was Channel 23. I think it's safe to say I had a crush on Neil Finn but I might not have been totally aware. If anything, I really liked him and Crowded House hits like Something So Strong and Don't Dream Its Over bc they were sang by this well-scrubbed, rosy-cheeked guy. Boy George was confusing, Neil Finn wasn't.
And still isn't. The man has energy, a full head of hair, and can craft a song like no other.
But, I better wrap up my stroll down memory lane and will just leave you with bit of a Then and Now for pondering.
Something So Strong - 1986
Don't Stop Now - 2007
Sunday, October 14, 2007
If I were to dress up for Halloween this year, it would be very hard to resist going as Feist, which may sound a bit try-hard, but really I would love a night to dress up in the blue sequined pantsuit she wears in the ubiquitous "1234."
What other costume ideas are floating around out there?
In the meantime, things have gotten a bit creepy and downright annoying here with the massive influx of bogong moths that have descended upon Sydney. High winds sent them here from their usual residence of Canberra -- and alive or dead, they're ubiquitous in their own way...
Friday, September 07, 2007
However, silver lining to all the media brouhaha, overkill of Bush coverage, and temporary barbed-wire fences is a day off work. A bizarro public holiday of sorts. But while going too far out of our Bondi bubble was not advised, we got to Surry Hills, had a wander, and got some pub grub. But all was quiet, as seen in the picture below of Oxford Street at about 3:30 on a Friday afternoon. Quiet, minimal traffic, clouds overhead.
It's a good night to stay in with the space heater on, have a glass of wine, and sit down for a roast dinner. Haydn's working on that as I write...
Sunday, August 12, 2007
I made it up heartbreak hill, I ran the whole thing, it was pretty hot out, and I improved my time by a bit with a finish just under 90 minutes. I think for the last 45 minutes my left knee pretty much hated me and the asphalt. But thankfully the likes of Kanye West's "Stronger" and Fall Out Boy's "This Ain't a Scene..." on my iShuffle helped me power through. Yes, the iShuffle is a saccharine playlist filled with hits to run up hills to, it is a thing unto itself.
I was joined at the start by my running buddy Kristy who finished in amazing time just over 80 minutes. We met up afterwards to come back for a world famous Haydn breakfast. Joeley and Jimmy joined in for what was pretty much a Greatest Hits of breakfast with spicy home fries, salsa, toast, scrambled eggs, flat whites and a celebratory glass of rose (I can't find the accent mark in blogspot settings so read it as rose-aye).
And pretty much after that it has been recovery time on the couch with the Sunday afternoon classic, Sleepless in Seattle. And perhaps some hot chips and a diet coke.
Monday, July 30, 2007
Here is the $29.95 heater:
We've been staying in a fair bit and keeping a low profile...but one night after seeing the amazing Sarah Blasko, I meant to write it right away and how one of the musician's dad was at the pub singing along and then during one of the most beautiful, sad, clear songs I looked over and he had tears streaming down his face as he sang every word.
But then I came home to space heater and didn't share.
The other night we went to see Gotye and his "mini-orchestra," another great artist doing incredible, new things. Plus he's a drummer who sings, always exciting. And I meant to write about it more fully, but came home to the space heater.
In more chunkytoast-related news, I recently made spaghetti and meatballs, a new culinary attempt for me. I did get a pic of the fruit of my labors. And in true housewife spirit, I sported the apron Ann gave me for Christmas. Aprons are really handy, I might add. I predict a comeback.
But, lastly, for those of you who have stayed at Chez Carter Johnston/Johnston Carter, we have gotten rid of the wonderfully tacky futon. It served quite the purpose during our influx of visitors - Tom & Jen, Lucy & Ann, and our prodigal son Baggar Hadley who took up part-time residence during The Ashes. But the spare room is going the way of the home office and Haydn's accomplished ebay skills found a great desk and chair set. The futon, with yellow throw included so as to not induce nauseau from the actual pattern of the futon cover, is on to the home of some British friends with a round of visitors arriving in the coming months.
Here is Haydn, writing his great Australian novel at the great Australian desk.
And the desk, with more office re-decorating to come. It's all a process here as can be seen by the corner of the other desk that is still in the room.
And that, in a rather scattered fashion, pretty much covers the recent Blair Street highlights.
Saturday, June 16, 2007
We found the movie Singles on tv this afternoon and took a little wander down early 90s grunge nostalgia lane. In the span of watching the last 45 minutes or so, there were THREE scenes featuring popcorn. In one scene, Bridget Fonda's character is eating from a bowl of popcorn as she talks to the camera (there is an actual film term for that, right?). Shortly after Kyra Sedgwick and Campbell Scott's characters are at a movie drinking a coke and eating popcorn. And then we have the guy from thirtysomething, Peter Horton, with a small role, making popcorn in the kitchen of the woman he was suppose to meet for a date. They have a missed connection, he ends up knowing her roommate, and, well, at this point I'm like "Can we make some popcorn and get a bottle coke?"
Haydn to the rescue! He dashes to the corner shop and comes back and makes honest to goodness popcorn on the stove in a big pot, just like Grampa Carter did with all that oil and real butter.
So, here is your own visual cue to crave popcorn. Plus you can see the somewhat wild weather out the window.
Thursday, May 31, 2007
Haydn was at the helm of the stove, and, as always, he made the culinary magic happen.
Then he enjoyed the fruits of his labor....
Sunday, May 13, 2007
What an adorable pooch:
Sunday, April 22, 2007
That changed with a heaping helping of 2 hour+ shows this week. I headed to Melbourne for the Weds and Thurs shows and enjoyed the sidestage view. I also enjoyed this amazing pizza on my Thursday strolling through St. Kilda.
(Obligatory Chunkytoast food mention)
Saturday, the lovely Joeley B accompanied me to the Enmore for an incredible show -- the room was filled with big songs, grand noise, and the audience showed enthusiasm, reverence, and thankfulness. (The Melbs peeps were probably all these things too, just not as demonstrative). And per always, I can't take a picture at a concert to save my life. So my pictorial includes one crappy shot from Enmore and then the random goodness of having an all access pass.
The kind of pic that Haydn and I will look back at in 20 years and reminisce about when we were cool:
Dueling tour managers, Jason and Haydn:
Stage awaits in Melbs:
Aforementioned poorly executed pic from Enmore show:
Ahhh, good times. Lucky people you are in Eur and N America when the band comes your way very soon.
Headed up to Brisbane and Straddie for the long Easter weekend. It wasn't as spectacularly sunny as one might think if you haven't spent the last 80 some years in that neck of the woods. Sooo, we had some sun, some wind, some sideways rain and lots of home cookin' and time with the kids.
Johnston kids with their Easter loot
Jack and Ella, before the rain came down and we raced back to the car. Ella runs fast, lemme tell ya
The green house next to the Jetson's-esque pad is the Johnston place
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
Well, here are ominous skies in full effect:
I walked out the door this morning with sunny skies to the east and nearly black skies to the west. I headed towards the bus stop in the sun and snapped this pic as light and dark met (sounds like an English class motif!). Thankfully, the sky waited about 2 minutes before it opened up with pouring rain and pebble-sized hail and I had been able to get onto the bus without getting drenched. An adventorous commute today, indeed.
Sunday, March 18, 2007
Haydn, on his continuous mission to make me an unabashed egg-eater, got up early Saturday and headed to the Friendly Grocer and our neighborhood butcher for the goods. We had a cheese and veggie omelet with fresh salsa and bacon. Mmm, bacon. And the flat whites come from the kitchen too, with Haydn doubling up as chef and barista. And, yes I nearly ate it all.
Sunday morning was American-themed breakfast with pancakes, real maple syrup (thanks to Gregg!), and, hmm, maybe some more bacon. And flat whites. Weekends are for breakfast. Haydn made a tall stack of flap jacks, so we summoned Jimmy over to help out and we all sat around looking at the social pages of the newspaper. As it should be...
So tonight, I thought I should give my husband a break from slaving over a hot stove and I tried a little taste of home, or at least my most favorite soup from Der Rathskeller, Chicken Tortilla Soup. And I'd like to thank Joan Lunden for shaing her recipe, it's quite the popular one when Googling "chicken tortilla soup." Delicious, and definitely has some fire to it. Highly recommended.
And, scene: dinner
It's Grey's Anatomy time and then the weekend comes to a close.
Sunday, March 11, 2007
We went down to Melbourne this weekend, me for leisurely Melbourne times and Haydn for tour managing. However, we did a mighty fine job of both clocking in some good leisure. For starters, it helps to stay at the Sofitel to put you at ease. Check. Two, it helps to be pretty much within walking distance of all that Italian food. Check. And some cafe time is crucial. Check. Check.
I did some wandering on Saturday and found the recommended Flinders Lane -- there are streets and there are lanes in Melb, and the streets have corresponding lanes. Hence, Flinders St and Flinders Lane. Haydn and I rendezvous'd off of Flinders Lane (a Lane of a Lane?) and I might have had a Chicken Parmigiana as big as my head. Here is Desgraves, lane of lane.
The only downside to Melbourne would be the rather alarming amount of pigeons who really aren't afraid of people, for instance landing on cafe tables, flying at your head, and hogging the sidewalks. Tradeoffs.
Wilco in Melbs, soon: