Saturday, 27 December 2014

Almost 30

One day...
Yes, I've got the white hairs, the back pain, the long term partner. I must be nearing my 30's. But what to expect from this new decade? I read somewhere that people are 'happiest' at the age of 38.  It seems to be mostly related to financial stability and the thought of 'achieving' one's life goals. But surely being happy in life isn't just about money. 

Perhaps it's the idea that happiness comes from moving forward in life. In my teens it was all about achieving good grades and getting into university. My twenties it was about discovering love and developing self confidence. With this new-found self confidence and this strong love to support me, I hope my thirties will be able bring new life experiences and a house of my own. 

I'm working really hard at the moment with the one goal in mind. To go back to Sydney and buy that Bondi beach pad with an ocean view. For me, that and all it entails, will make a good decade. The lovely sun-drenched afternoons in the water. There's a sense of freedom in that. But it'll be a hard few years to get there. It's one of the reasons why we're staying an extra three years in London. To save more and experience more of the world before we consider 'settling down'.

And that's what London is for. It's a place where everything moves fast. The capacity for change and progression is larger and you can do it all here. But we'll tire of it sooner or later and head for home at some time. Where then we can grow and mature in other ways. Not just the beach pad but hopefully more travels (3 months in Japan Kevin?). Maybe a job relocation to a new city for a year (fingers crossed it's NYC).  Perhaps children (!), OK maybe child. Definitely fur babies.

It seems like life is now pulling me in all directions and to be honest, I kind of want it all. Maybe that's the motto for my thirties  - having it all. Otherwise known as the 'dirty thirties'. 

Monday, 8 December 2014

It Doesn't Get Anymore English than the Cotswolds

OK so after my last post I think it was pretty obvious that I was getting a little bit worn out by London. So with an impending 3 day weekend coming up it was time for a spontaneous trip away. To the Cotswolds! What are the Cotswolds and why do people go there? Well I wasn't quite sure of this myself before embarking on this trip, hence the spontaneous part. 

We started off with a short visit to Oxford, just to check out the town and look at the lovely old buildings and well manicured grass. Though it was slightly less so after we witnessed a rather disheveled man allowing his massive staffy x mastiff to playfully run all over that 'do no walk on grass' area. He got told off by some passer-by's in which he promptly told them to 'F-off'. The dog was having the time of his life.

We spent the rest of the afternoon at Waddeson Manor in Aylsebury, which not only was a beautiful and bloody massive building itself, but also had a cute Christmas fair on the side offering my new favourite treat - a toasty mulled cider and a cool light exhibition which was quite a cool thing in a old school kind of setting.

The following two days we spent in the Cotswolds themselves. The best way to describe this experience is 'cute'. Our airbnb with it's quaint English garden overlooking the rolling hillsides of Malvern. Me with a cup of tea and a neighbourhood cat enjoying the sun on the porch. Sitting with Kevin for hours in front of a roaring fire. Visiting Lower and Upper Slaughter, Stow-on-the-Wold, having tea at Badger's Hall in Chipping Camden, trout spotting in the clear streams of Bibury. The sun was shining, the temperature brisk, the general population greying, oh it felt like we were world's away from the harsh reality of London. I was living my own Jane Austen novel. With instagram.

Yes I very much enjoyed my trip to the Cotswolds. I'm all villaged out at the moment but I've got sights on other English novelties like visiting the puffins on Farne Island and there's place in Wales where you jump on giant trampolines in a giant cave. I guess it's not so bad here after all.

This is a puffin and yes I would pay so much to see it do that in real life.

Giant trampolines + cave = FUN!

Friday, 7 November 2014

Having a Bit of Whinge

London's been great so far, what with the job and Visa and a new car and all. But every now and then I think to myself..'WTF am I doing here?!? Some of the things that are part of the norm here just don't make any sense and it can really drive an Aussie up the wall. So here's me, off -loading some Britishism's off my chest.

1. Everyone walks/drives/rides bikes as bad as they do on the streets of Vietnam
It's chaotic. Just when you think people are going one way, they throw you off and walk right into you. There's no sense of personal space or consideration. It's all me, me, me. I remember Christmas last year walking around Oxford Circus (BAD idea) and doing the whole sideways dance with someone just trying to walk around them. Instead of laughing it off and giving me a sheepish grin like I was doing, the grouch started swearing off at me and being a complete dick! What a dick!

And now that I've got the car, I've realised the same applies to their roads. Traffic lights are weird and  parking rules don't make sense. Lanes suddenly merge without warning and people just make up rules as they go along. For such a polite society, it just completely goes up the creek with the anonymity of the streets.

2. You-right?
This is the standard version of their 'Hi, how are you?' Yet, it's not quite a full greeting and not quite a fully formed questioned. I'd usually answer with a 'I'm fine, how are you?', in which I'd occasionally get an odd look. Just say HI like normal people folks. And don't get me started on 'innit'.

3. Weather talk
It's easy to get sucked into talking about the weather. Usually because at this time of year, it's so bad! And not only is it talk about the current weather situation, English people love to regale you with what the weather was like this time last year. And the year that had that really bad weather. And then that year where they had a great Summer. And oddly enough you yourself find yourself talking about that long, cold Winter 2 years ago THAT YOU WEREN'T EVEN HERE FOR. It's bonkers.

4. Umm, excuse me, I don't mean to be rude but [insert completely innocuous statement]
If there is any a microscopic whiff of someone, somewhere out there in the entire universe being remotely offended to a question/statement/topic then the English will try to preempt this by inserting a series of 'beat around the bush' kind of words beforehand to deflect the impending offense. E.g. Our lovely house guests coming in and smelling Kevin's awesome cooking but instead of just going 'Yum, that smells great, what is it?' it went more like 'Hi, excuse us to interrupt, don't mean to pry, but what did you make for dinner?'

5. Bad English TV/celebrities
Eastenders, Emmerdale, Peter Andre. All these incredibly boring shows plague the TV day in and  day out. And to make it worse you go to work and people are then talking about it as well. I realise now why we watch so much American TV in Australia. Because stuff actually happens in them. We were seriously watching a show with our housemates which consisted of people on their couch at home watching TV and the point was that you were watching their reactions to TV. WHAT? Why?

6. Terrible Food
OK it's not all bad but sometimes you got to ask yourself why you're paying thirteen pounds for a shitty bowl of noodles when you know there's a delicious bowl of noodles in Cabramatta for half the price. For a country that's known for battered fish and 'hearty' food, it's been a dismal search looking for fresh, tasty and cheap food. The upside is, we're cooking a lot at home now.

7. Spitting
What's with the spitting? Everywhere you go, people are just hocking up their salivary juices all over the public pavement. One guy did it right in front of me as I was going by on my bike. Disgusting.

8. Bureaucracy
I guess because the country is so old and has so much history, people and the 'way of doing things' tend to get stuck at some point in the past. Just go to the bank and try to get yourself an account and you'll realise how backwards the service is. They just don't seem to have a proper protocol in place and people just  tend to make up their own processes as they go along, much like their road rules. Or doing tax! That's still an ongoing thing for me, 7 months after I paid my accountants  a hefty 200 pounds to sort it out. Sadly, people are either just stuck in the dark ages or a little moronic. Or a bit of both.

I was going to do a 9 and 10 but I ran out of steam. There are plenty of nice things to say too otherwise we wouldn't be here for another three years. But let's just say they better be reeeeal good after all this rubbish I'm putting up with.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Snippets of My Diary Part 1

My diary isn't an every day kind of diary. When I'm feeling extra philosophical or a little lost, I like to put thought to paper just to release the plug in my mind. I found myself reading through it today and wonder to myself 'did I write this?'. My own past thoughts inspire me in the present day and I'd like to share a few extracts here to again, remind myself in the future of certain things that shouldn't be forgotten.

Tired. Love does try at the patience. For it requires you to give so much. But would you expect any less from something that rewards you so richly? Like all energy in the universe, it can not be destroyed, just transformed. And if you want more love you have to feed it with your all.

I feel as if the love I give out comes back tenfold. You can never regret giving love. People are wonderful and deep down, we all just want to make a connection. To be accepted. 

Life is but a collection of memories. Beautiful moments. Sad moments. They stay with you the longest. They are the clearest.  Most things are fleeting. And memories, taken out of their original context, warp. They morph to give you different feelings. Often moments of extreme distress become comical later on. What was horribly disastrous at the time becomes insignificant. So rather than being swept away by that strong current, keep in mind the bigger picture.

'Keep calm and carry on'

This has become so popular because so many people need to be reminded. That life hurtles you forward regardless of what you want or don't want. Despite anything. 

I was asked at a young age by a close friend 'but don't you want to change the world? Do you just want to be one thing your whole life?'. I was too young to understand what he was asking me but 15 years later I find myself asking the same questions.

This is not a mid-life crisis. The name implies something is being destroyed. Yet it is the opposite. Something is being created. Your focus is changing. You awaken. You shed all the burdensome layers that you have worn and find that your true self is so much more  simple yet profound, aware. 

We always need to be evolving. There is nothing that is permanent in this universe. Perhaps it is easier to remain the same. Inertia. The resistance to change one's course. Yet why are people so resistant to change? Because they are afraid? Afraid of the unknown. When one can't predict the outcome. Yet who can lived a controlled life? And be truly happy from it.

For do we not live for the unexpected joys of life?

What will 2014 unfold? 2013 was all about transitions, the first brave leap. Sewing and terrariums, minimising and traveling. 2013 was a year of crazy activity. Now we are in a new year. maybe it should be a year of no expectations. There were just so many expectations in 2013.

Maybe it can just be what it needs to be without being all-consuming. Things I know about 2014. I will be living in London with Kevin. We will have housemates. I will be working on a casual basis. All these are guarantees and they are easy. Maybe this will be an easy year. 

Everyone has dreams. They're what moves you forward. You ache, you ponder, you grow upwards towards it like the branches of a tree. It nourishes you. My all consuming dream for the past 2 years was to be an year into 'living the dream' I sit and ask myself, right, now are you happy?

I have very few possessions, I've traveled all over, And to be honest, I'm not. I'm still that branch, reaching upwards. But I'm at a point in this dream I can't get going, yet I can't turn back...I was hoping it would be more like my New York lifestyle, but with more tea. I've lost the thrill of the chase. 

Life in London is perplexing! I know I've move over here for a reason. But at this point I can't seem to recall it. Since landing 6 months ago, I've pined for the buzz of NYC, the ease of Rio de Janeiro and the love of Chile. I've often dreamed of the sandy beaches of Sydney and the taste of Cabramatta. Maybe it's because Winter has set in and the cold, windy weather has completely disabled any fun thoughts.

Six months and I still feel like a foreigner in London town. I can't seem to connect to this grey city. I'm managing, but I'm not thriving. 

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Best Food in Sydney

So not only has this interim trip to Sydney been about people and Visa's, but it has also allowed me to be reacquainted with all my old favourite food haunts. Yes, my taste buds have been dreaming of these moments for the past 18 months and I have relished every second of it. Not a meal has gone to waste. So here is a list of my favourite places to eat for all those who care to follow in my culinary footsteps (in order of cravibility).

1. Bau Truong 
Cuisine: Vietnamese
What I eat: Lemongrass pork chop with broken rice, hu Tieu noodle soup combination, pho Tai (rare beef), bun Dac Biet (Vermicelli special) with a custard apple shake or sam bo luong drink
Average cost/meal:$12
Location: 42 John Street, Cabramatta or 250 Canley Vale Rd, Canley Heights (DO NOT go to the Marrickville one)
When is best to go: Lunch or dinner


2. Pork Roll
Cuisine: Vietnamese
What I eat: Pork Roll or chicken roll with the lot, no chilli
Average cost/meal: $3.50-4.50
Location: You can get it all ov
er Cabramatta and everyone has their favourite
When is best go: Breakfast or lunch, there is a 24 hour place on John Street though 

3. Mamak
Cuisine: Malaysian
What I eat: Satay chicken, roti canai, nasi goreng, fried chicken and a teh tehrik (stretched tea)
Average cost/meal: $12
Location: 15 Goulburn St Sydney
When is best to go: After the dinner rush NOT on a Friday/Saturday, don't go too hungry, there is usually a line

4. Vinh Phat 
Cuisine: Yum Cha (Chinese)
What I eat: Chicken feet, honey seafood spring rolls, prawn rice rolls, prawn steamed dumplings, sweet tofu
Average cost/meal: $6
Location: Shop 8/7, 40 Park Road, Cabramatta
When is best to go: Brunch - lunch time
5. Khuone Kham (formerly Selina's) 
Cuisine: Laos
What I eat: Ox tongue, paw paw salad laos style, sticky rice, ocasional larb
Average cost/meal: $8
Location: 8 Dale St, Fairfield
When is best to go: Lunch or dinner

6. Bach Dang
Cuisine: Forrmal Vietnamese
What I eat: Crab or lobster if it's last then $120/kg salt and galic, Vietnamese style
Average cost/meal: $50
Location: 46 Canley Vale Rd, Canley Vale
When is best to go: Dinner only

7. Sugarcane drink

Cuisine: Asian

What I eat: Large sugarcane drink
Average cost/meal: $3
Location: There are two as you walk along park road, my preference is the one of the left if you are facing them directly
When is best to go: Lunch


8. Din Tai Fung

Cuisine: Chinese
What I eat: Spicy prawn dumplings with noodles
Average cost/meal: $16
Location:Shop 11.04,Level 1, World Square/644 George St, Sydney
When is best to go: Lunch or dinner


9. El Jannah

Cuisine: Lebanese
What I eat: 1/4 charcoal chicken with garlic sauce, tabouleh and chips
Average cost/meal: $10
Location: 4-6 South St, Granville
When is best to go: Dinner or late night snack

10. Doy Tao

Cuisine: Thai
What I eat: Pad thai chicken
Average cost/meal: $12
Location: There's a few of them but I went to 543/545 King St, Newtown
When is best to go: Lunch or dinner


11. Tan Viet

Cuisine: Vietnamese
What I eat: Crispy chicken with fat egg noodles, dry
Average cost/meal: $12
Location: 2/110 John St, Cabramatta
When is best to go: Lunch


12. 99 Butchery

Cuisine: Vietnamese butcher
What I eat: Spicy chicken spare ribs, nem nuong (pork mince kebabs), lemongrass and seasame beef. These are sold frozen in large takeaway containers to BBQ later on.
Average cost/meal: $9
Location: 99 Rawson St, Auburn
When is best to go: business hours


13. Gelato Messina

Cuisine: Gelato
What I eat: Salted caramel with white chocolate, blood orange, special flavours will rotate (live Anna pavlova)
Average cost/meal: $6 for two scoops
Location: A few locations now but I always prefer shop 1/241 Victoria St, Darlinghurst
When is best to go: Lunch time or post dinner treat

14. Ms G's

Cuisine: Fusion Asian
What I eat: Sweet and sour lamb ribs, yuzu slushy 
Average cost/meal: $20
Location: 155 Victoria St, Potts Point
When is best to go: dinner


15. Bourke Street Bakery
Cuisine: Australian bakery
What I eat: Pork and fennel sausage rolls, they no longer do lemon meringue tarts (devo'd)
Average cost/meal: $5
Location: A few locations but I always go to 633 Bourke St, Surry Hills
When is best to go: Breakfast or lunch

16. Roast duck 
Cuisine: Chinese Roast
What I eat: 1/2 roast duck and a bread roll from the hot bread bakery
Average cost/meal: $12
Location: Cabramatta, usually I like to go the one next to the large multi-storey parking on Park road but all of them are pretty good
When is best to go: Lunch

17. Fruit shake

Cuisine: Asian snack
What I eat: 5 fruit combo - jackfruit, watermelon, sapota, strawberry, pineapple
Average cost/meal: $4
Location: You can walk around Cabramatta and find these anywhere but I usually go to Kaysone sweets at 59 Park Rd Cabramatta

When is best to go: Lunch

18. Hurricane's

Cuisine: Steak and ribs
What I eat: 1/2 rack of pork ribs
Average cost/meal: $30
Location: There's a few locations - Bondi Beach, Darling Harbour or Top Ryde

When is best to go: Lunch or dinner

19. Pasticceria Papa
Cuisine: Italian pastries
What I eat: ricotta cheesecake 
Average cost/meal: $4/slice
Location: 145 Ramsay St, Haberfield
When is best to go: Brunch/lunch

20. Black Star Pastry

Cuisine: Cakes
What I eat: Strawberry/watermelon cake
Average cost/meal: $7.50/slice
Location: Two locations but I like 277 Australia St, Newtown
When is best to go: Brunch/lunch

21. Gelato Bar
Cuisine: Hungarian cakes
What I eat: Cherry and cheese strudel
Average cost/meal: $6
Location: Bondi Junction Westfield, Level 6, the Bondi Beach one got sold so not going there anymore
When is best go: Brunch/lunch

22. Pastizzi Cafe
Cuisine: Maltese pastizzi's and pasta
What I eat: Ricotta and spinach pastizzi
Average cost/meal: $2.50
Location: 1/523 King St, Newtown 
When is best: Breakfast/lunch or dinner