Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas: 2012

We're still learning how to celebrate Christmas together, and trying to set up our own little family traditions, so Christmas this year was more of a work in progress than a happy fun holiday season.

Not that I didn't have fun. Christmas morning with the hubby was pretty nice. We're just still trying to find that balance between "we know this is based on a pagan holiday and don't feel entirely comfortable celebrating it just because it's become tradition" and "I LOVE CHRISTMAS!!!" (I am more the latter).

We both woke up a bit later than expected Christmas morning (Christmas Eve celebrations with his parents and siblings went on longer than expected because one of his brothers decided to do some unplanned deer hunting that was somehow legal even though it isn't deer season), and had to rush a bit more than I would have wanted.

I made the same delectable biscuits for breakfast that we had for Thanksgiving. I'm serious, these things are just the best ever. So light, fluffy, flaky, and full of flavor.... but anyway, topped a few of those with whats left of the homemade raspberry jam from last summer and the rest with melted butter and warm honey... Ooooohhhh.... they are GOOD. With a small cup of the coffee my sister sent us from Guatemala,  it was a perfect small and cozy Christmas breakfast.

Not technically a gift for him,
but he still liked it.
We had a few minutes to open gifts together , let the chickens out, and gather up this years gingerbread house and other food stuffs to bring before we had to get ready to leave for a family gathering.

I wasn't as surprised by the Britishness of Christmas this year, but more surprised at how my family's traditions have more in common with those of my German friend. Gingerbread houses and Christmas cookies: not such a big thing here. Where as my family would be chowing down on piles and piles of sugar, gingerbread, and spritz cookies, here, it's more about the puddings. And by puddings, it's more cake-like by American standards. So, British puddings. Which are GOOD. There's Christmas pudding (kind of like fruit cake, but with more spices and less like a brick), summer pudding (some kind of pastry thing filled with berries, and, well, that was it for puddings this year anyway. A pavlova also seems to company every single celebration of any kind here, too. All quite QUITE good, but I do miss my Aunt Christy's spritz cookies, and tearing into the gingerbread house together as a family.

My poor little house was mostly ignored this year, so I'm not entirely sure I'll continue the tradition. Well, maybe for our own little one (and do an uber tiny house!).

I went super simple this year, since I learned last year that the warmth and humidity in the air don't work too well with the frosting or melted sugar I use to glue the house together and then glue candy all over the house. So, instead, I used my totally awesome sandwich bag piping technique (read: I'm too cheap to buy real piping bags) and just did frosting designs all over it.

While not as epic as last years Ninjabread house (which I apparently never posted on and will now have to upload photos for comparison, and to puff up my little ego), I still liked this years, and thought it turned out quite well.

I still stuffed it full of Ninjabread men!
Rather than coat the whole thing with white frosting this year,
I opted for outlining tiles and then a light sprinkling of powdered sugar.
Not as cool looking, but classic and pretty I thought.
Also not as melty.
Last years house....
Normal front...
Log-splitting ninja out back
Darn frosting recipe I followed plus humidity and high
temperatures made for a drippy bendy house.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

New Nuggets

We have two new baby chick!

Well, by new I mean at this point they are a week old.

Our last batch of chicks is now nearly 3 months old, was early "abandoned" by their mother, but have been fending for themselves quite nicely, and has been moved from the broody and hatching cage (where we put mammas sitting on their nests and leave them until the chicks are about a month old) into the regular coop with the rest of the hens and the rooster.

Cipher, calm as can be, hatching her chickies
Back to the new baby chicks though. Our black hen, Cipher, decided that, no matter what I did to encourage her not to, that she was going to sit on some eggs. So we stuffed a total of 6 eggs under her (3 of her own, 3 Isa Brown eggs). We were hoping the Isa Browns would hatch, since that particular breed of chicken is an excellent layer and lays pretty large eggs, but the rooster, being an Australorp, is also of a breed of chickens that lay very well, as well as are good meat chickens. Basically, we were hoping to create a hybrid chicken that was as good a layer as the two breeds and mix up the blood lines a bit (our Australorp hen and rooster are at least half brother and sister, and there's only so long you can keep up with the interbreeding of chicken relatives before you end up with a bunch of lame hens).

Nugget number 2, peeping out from behind mamma's bum
The day before Thanksgiving, we were blessed with two new peepers: fuzzy tan, as we are calling them, Isalorps.

This time, mamma hen is so calm and tame, I was able to put my hand under her to check on the other eggs or even pull the chicks out and handle them. No problems. She doesn't care at all.

Sadly, only 2 of the 6 eggs hatched. Two of the Australorp eggs died while hatching, and when the remaining two eggs were cracked open (4 days after the hatching was done, mamma was fully off the nest, and the eggs were cold), they were completely rotten duds.

But we have two new adorable nuggets, and are enjoying our growing flock.
Pretty little chicks being fed by mamma
See? TAME! I held bread crumbs, mamma picked
them out for the chicks, and eventually the little
things started climbing into my hand to feed.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Thanksgiving Down Under: 2012

Another Thanksgiving in Australia has come and gone.

This year, Phillip and I debated between inviting his immediate family over, sharing a giant meal with the two other families in our assembly (plus his own family), or just doing it alone again.

Alone won out. Basically, cooking for us and two (well three really) other families, one of which contains nine hungry children (though one isn't on solids yet) would have been too much for me with the whole pregnancy fatigue thing. Then it was down to maybe just his family.

Honestly, I just got selfish with my holiday traditions and we had it, just the two of us.

Thanksgiving back home wasn't really much more than a big family get-together and a pretty fantastic meal. We really have never had more to go with the tradition than just that. But it was still somehow MORE than just getting together with the whole extended family (and sometimes a few extras) and eating until we had to be rolled around the house to get anywhere. I can't put my finger on it, but there was just... more to it than what was on the surface. Something about just the FAMILY together, a sense of identity as a family, a group, US. Enjoying being with each other to do more than eat massive amounts of delicious food. To sit and talk and joke and laugh (and here is where I start to get teary-eyed).

So when it comes to trying to introduce my own family traditions to a family that has never followed anything similar to it, I tend to just not want to bother with it and horde all the goodness to myself and my husband, and keep it within our own little family of, for now, two.

Though we haven't thrown out the idea of making basically the same meal at a different date to share with others, Thanksgiving is still ours while we're here. It's my American tradition.

So this year, again, I cooked things in small batches for days in preparation of our little feast. French bread was baked four days prior in order to sit and get stale for stuffing (and other purposes at later dates that require stale bread), pie crust was made and frozen, and the day before, I made some spectacular biscuits and pumpkin pie.

This years pie, though, was made with a butternut squash (here in Aussie land called a butternut pumpkin). Also, rather than roasting it, in the interest of saving time, energy and money on our power bill, I cut it into chunks and steamed it. It turned out to be one of the creamiest pies I have ever made. The taste was basically the same as using any other pumpkin, too, with maybe a bit more sweetness.

Day of was, of course, turkey roasting day. Stuffed absolutely FULL of stuffing, our little 3.5 kilo bird went in the oven along with candied sweet potatoes, MORE stuffing, and a random corn "pudding" concoction that was the result of two recipes I found online.

Carving the turkey. I think Phillip was trying to show off my bump.
Le finished table setting.
Biscuits, mashed potatoes (with ranch), stuffing,
turkey, corn "pudding", gravy, green beans,
and, Phillip's favorite, candied sweet potatoes.
Also some grape juice.

We're just adorable, us three.
Experimental butternut pumpkin pie.
Seriously GOOD. Topped with homemade whipped cream.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Playing with my food

Our little chicks that were still in egg form in This Post hatched about three months ago now. But, because of the whole "I'm growing a person and therefore quite exhausted" thing, I didn't get to tell how the hatching went, nor post photos of how adorable the little fluff buckets were (I say were because they've been going through that awkward chicken teenager phase and are not as cute looking now).

We ended up with three chicks. Five hatched but... momma hen stepped on one right after it had finished drying (this happens. Chickens are not very bright, even the best momma chickens do this). Then, momma hen got off the nest permanently in the middle of another one hatching. So, that one died too. Or it died in the middle of hatching and she got off the nest. Either way, we ended up with three little chicks.

Phillip built a pen and cage for them to stay in, so that 1) the cats wouldn't eat our chicks and 2) the other chickens wouldn't kill the little chicks. Again. Nature. This happens. It's what they do and how they establish pecking order. That, and sometimes chickens can be jerks. Like all living things.
Mamma Hen breaking apart grain for her babies
Such cute little balls of fluff!

We were hoping all three were hens. Hens have a purpose: eggs. More than one rooster around and you have fights for dominance and hens going off their laying because they're getting too much *ahem* attention from roosters (roosters tend to pay more attention to hens who are laying eggs, as, well, this would increase their possibilities of actually reproducing. Hens not producing eggs means no babies means roosters give less "attention" to the hens. Therefore, too many roosters means you have no eggs. Which was the main reason we got our hens in the first place. So, any roosters in this batch will get the ax. It is, however, a bit difficult to see what sex a bird is. With chickens though, the rooster's comb starts to develop more quickly than a hens.

We seem to have one rooster. Which, the city-girl side of me thinks is kind of sad, because he's quite friendly at this point. And, well, they're baby chicks. They're still kind of cute. The practical side of me knows though that, if we get too many roosters because we don't want to kill them, we're feeding an animal that, if anything, will give us more trouble in the long run.

This is what happens now when I bend down to feed them
Oh well. Practicality wins out. In the meantime, we're having fun giving our little chicks a nice life of leisure. Their idiot hen mother decided that two months was a long enough time to look after them and left them to roam on their own. So, they've become overly attached to Phillip and me.

I seriously love our little chicks. They're adorable and fun. If I go out at the same time each day, they'll run up and jump on my to roost on my arms and lap No pooping on me thus far... But practicality must win out. 'Tis the way of life well, nearly everywhere unless you can afford to be picky and turn food into some sort of religion.

Please oh please don't poop on my head!
We've got another hen sitting on half a dozen eggs. Tried to stop her (I'd rather have more eggs than chicks) but, she is determined. We've decided already that nearly this whole hatching will be going into the freezer in a year (home raised free-range chicken, yes please!).

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Joke was on us (Huge grin!)

So, why haven't I blogged in over two months?

Well, it turns out that, when I wrote my last entry We're Expecting, titling it as somewhat of a joke to get people to knock off with the jokes and question, "When are you having kids?"... I really was expecting.

A baby. Not chickens or a velociraptor or anything like that.

So, yes. I'm pregnant. We're pregnant. Coming sometime around Early May or late April (because babies just choose when to come, if all goes well). And no, we were not aware (fully, anyway) that while we were joking around about expecting little fuzzy fluffy babies, we were in for our own little bundle.

Until a week or so ago, I had ZERO energy. Or, if I did, the half hour I had was put into doing something semi-productive, like washing dishes, or cooking something for dinner both Phillip and I could stomach. So, between near constant nausea (motion sickness bands, anything ginger, and lots and lots of bread helped most of the time!) and the feeling like I just needed to sleep all day left little time and energy for blogging. Add to that two months of pretending like I felt absolutely fine so people wouldn't suspect a thing and time home was mostly spent in a haze of fatigue accompanied by DVDs and much reading.

At the moment, I still seem to go only every other day with having a close to normal amount of energy. But, praise the Lord, I can eat again. I WANT to eat again. A lot. And again, thank God, I have been blessed with a husband who is good enough to me to let me give into my naughty cravings (potato chips, fries, Dominos pizza) only once in a while, and helps keep plenty of fruits and veggies around the house that I actually enjoy snacking on. And no, no abnormal or odd cravings. Nothing really I wouldn't NORMALLY eat either, just a more... intense desire to eat said foods. Like tomato soup at the moment.

Phillip has also decided to cook for us at least two days a week. Real, full meals. He's getting quite good too (last nights roasted chicken legs with potato and carrot with thyme? YUM!). He's just a wonderful helpmeet.

Friday, August 24, 2012

We're expecting....


Ok, so I might have some family members and close friends who read the post title and are a little mad about the fact that I'm talking about chickens and not babies (but really people, who breaks THAT kind of news to close friends and family via a public blog post?).


You may remember that last year at New Years a dog killed all but one of our chickens and our two ducks (I still get a little upset about the ducks.... they were cool ducks). A few months later, we ended up taking two pullets (young hens who had not yet started laying eggs) from my in-laws. We took one beautiful black Australorp and a half Silky half some other breed of chicken we're not sure of. Phillip ended up naming them Cypher and Hawk (but we usually end up calling them by their breed or their color and not their somewhat stupid names).

The thing about some breeds of chickens is that they can be good layers (like our red Iser Brown), good for meat (our little Australorp, though they're good layers too), and good for going broody. There's also breeds that are well known sitters (once they go broody they will not leave the nest unless you force them) or good mothers. Basically, chicken breeds are as diverse as dog breeds, and depending on what you want in your chickens, you get various breeds.

Hawk, aka, the yellow/tan one, sittin' on a whole bunch of eggs.
Spoiled girl, I bring her her own dish of food and water.
Hawk has tried to go broody once before, but outside of their shed, so we had to try and move her at night (chickens are funnily calm at night) so that she wouldn't get eaten by quols. Silly thing.... She decided she didn't like being moved to safety and got off her eggs. Which... was ok since we get to eat the eggs. This is the second time she's gone broody and she's chosen one heck of a spot to hatch her chicks again. It's about four and a half feet off the ground, where our chickens roost at night. So, chicks hatch, try to walk out of the nest and.... not pretty. Phillip is building a small enclosure to put her and the eggs in, to keep them cosey (and safe from plumets to death and out idiot cats, and neighbor's idiot cats) from scraps of wood and chicken wire. We'll move her there sometime this week since she's only got maybe a week left until the eggs hatch.

Apparently the nesting boxes I make sure are full
of soft, fresh hay are not good enough.
It must feel safer to hatch babies 2.5 meters off the ground.
Another fun fact about chickens: once they go broody, you can get them to sit on any eggs, not just their own. So, since our hens have been tandem nesting the little Silky has some Australorp eggs under her as well. We also were given a few eggs of unknown type (two were probably Australorps) from my in-laws  two days after she started sitting, and chucked those under her. (Well, next to her, because to put them under her you'd probably loose fingers she's so angry if you get near her). She (and the black one for some reason started helping) immediately started moving them underneath her.

The good thing? We should end up with a few chicks of multiple possible varieties. I'm hoping for at least two healthy hens to share with people or, well, more eggs, which we also share with people. The bad thing? Our one laying hen, little black Australorp, is still basically sitting on top of the broody Silky and laying eggs. Which that dumb hen then takes under her. So... we have no fresh eggs and will end up with a bunch of rotten and un-viable ones at the end of this sitting. The little lady has already pushed two very rotten ones out from under her, but is sitting pretty on at least seven more eggs.

Monday, August 20, 2012


Hmm, so there have been a few big things that have happened since my last "lazy blog". Perhaps I'll spread them out so as to encourage my lazy self to blog for my... 5... readers.

We bought a car.

It's a very Australian car. And it was from a family friend here who was, sadly, recently diagnosed with cancer and is quickly "going home to glory" as he says. This little old man is quite lovable, really, and I've only seen him and his wife maybe 5 times? But he knows my husband's family very well and the both of them are just... sweet.

So he said that he wanted to give my husband and his siblings first go at the car when he was gone, and, since the other two boys already have new-old cars, they thought Phillip and I should take it. Which was... quite a blessing (a very mixed blessing because, little as I know this couple, it's sad to think of him leaving us). This lovely little man decided that he'd rather be rid of the car and know someone was enjoying it before he died, so, we have it now.

$1000 for a '93 Holden Commodore. In very good condition. And... it's an automatic, which means I'm now really learning to drive here. Phillip had a little manual when we got married, still have it, but, I never learned to drive an automatic (hangs head in shame). And what with having to learn how to shift gears, as well as sit on the right-hand side of the car and drive on the left-hand side of the road on roads that are much narrower and have little to no shoulder to slide on to and are, at times, chock full of blind corners and people who like to drive in the middle of them because there is no middle line in the road... I just didn't learn much in his car.

Driving in an automatic here on the left-hand side, while easier than a manual, is still tripping up my brain a little. I may be used to it from the passenger side, but when I go to make a turn, instinct kicks in and I start to go into the wrong lane. Or if not go into it, instantly think "wait, no, that's wrong" and have to turn off instinct and actually really THINK about how I'm driving. It's almost like being a beginner driver again. Which is annoying.

But I can DRIVE! At least into Sheffield (the town closest to us) for minimal (and more expensive) grocery shopping, and to the in-laws place and my few friends that live, well, within walking distance (but only when it's rainy. I still enjoy my walks).

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

I am... very behind in blogging. And emailing.

I'm sure I have plenty of legit excuses, but really, I'm mostly really lazy about those things lately. Also, somewhat addicted to Pintrest.... If you've never heard of it that's probably a good thing (I console myself with the knowledge that I have tried at least most of the recipes I have found through it).

But hmmm.... so many mildly interesting things have been happening lately.

Firstly, the family over the hill that employ my husband and are also fairly good friends of ours just had their ninth child! The second girl. She's a quiet little thing (at least the few times I've visited) and, well, like most babies I suppose. (Really I am SO downplaying this because I think she's adorable and even though her mother seems to think that when I hold her and put her to sleep it's some sort of pain for me to keep her that long, I could do it for hours. She's just precious. As with the rest of her siblings, I'm completely in love with her). Now that they've got a routine back in place, I'm back to going up Fridays to spend a short amount of "woman" time with mamma and then play with the kiddos while she rests. At the moment, we're reading Eight Cousins, which we started months ago before girl number 2 came along. I... persuaded them to choose that one because it was about a young girl with seven cousins, all boys, and I thought they might find it amusing. And while it might be more tuned to female readers, the boys seem to like it so far, too.

Secondly, the OLYMPICS! We don't have a television. And things like Hulu and most other internet-aired television shows only work in the U.S. And I really wanted to watch the Olympics this year. Phillip knew this months before we even got married, and I reminded him frequently that I wanted to watch them this whole year we have been married. Why did I want to watch, you might wonder? Well, it's the Olympics, and it seems you just kind of HAVE to watch something, at least in part, that only occurs every four years. Also, Michael Phelps. I love the swimming.

Well, Phillip found a way that we pay a small fee and get to connect to a U.K. server and watch the Olympics through the BBC online. Or something to that effect. We still haven't watched most of it live, because of the time difference, and when things have to buffer it's really annoying. But it's the Olympics. And I got to sit, with my Australian husband, and watch U.S. swimmers just cane Australian swimmers. (Neither of us is overly patriotic, but this little rivalry we get going while we watch has been kind of fun). And... I still haven't gotten fully caught up on the events I'd like to watch. It involves our downloads and them being used up and our internet speed dropping back down to basically dial-up. It's annoying and seems primitive to me, but oh well. I'll see Phelps kick major booty late, but at least I'll get to see it.

Also gymnastics and judo. Possibly track and field. And basketball. I've really missed basketball.

Then there is the weather. It's been.... cold. But then I read some novel that takes place during a Russian winter and I'm ashamed that I can barely handle what I've begun to call "perpetual February" weather. It's cold, damp, and cloudy. With occasional bursts of sun and warmth, but mostly it's just been cold and damp. And it's been like this, it seems, almost the whole year I've lived here.

Yes! I have now officially been living here in Tasmania for a year!

And that, is the end of my lazy update. Here's to hoping it's the end of my laziness.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The one that got away

Phillip had most of last week off work. It's been slow the past few months, moving people, since the economy isn't fantastic and now, we're at the end of the tax year.

But for the most part, we enjoy his days off and use them to our advantage; either staying at home getting things done with each other, "shopping", or visiting people. The weather was so wonderful this last week though, that we talked ourselves into some fishing.

See, you can buy a fishing licence here for freshwater fishing and fish for a whole year (August to August) with that licence. Or you can go sea fishing for free. I'm not clear on the benefits of one over the other other than price and that you really can't catch trout as they only live in fresh water (and Tasmanian trout are apparently quite wonderful). 

But I digress. We went fishing at Port Sorell. The Jetty, to be precise. (Last time we went, we were at Squeaking Point at Port Sorell).

So when we got there, there was a kid standing around, looking to be between 12 and 14. And it's a school day, mind you, so my husband tried to make conversation with him (we found out he only goes to school Tuesdays and Thursdays, and was asking for a light for his cigarette), before he wandered off. We began fishing and caught a few very small flat heads (which, I found out the hard way, are 90% spines. Even when you grab them flat on the head, they're just full of spines) and the kid showed up again, this time with a rod and reel, and a small lure he began to randomly cast into the water, wandering all about the pontoon. 
I may have problems myself...

Then, as I reeled in to check my bait (we'd been getting lots of small nibbles and loosing our bait this way) I get a NICE bite, and reel in a decent sized Cocky Salmon! Phillip scoops the fighting thing into his net and the kid appears out of nowhere to reach into the net saying "I'll get it for you!" and GRABS my fish! TAKES the hook out, and runs to our bucket HOLDING MY FISH to get water into the bucket and put my fish in. 

He then starts poking at the fish, absolutely obsessed with it, and saying he wished he had something to catch fish with because his lure just won't work. So Phillip offers him a hook, sinker, and some of the chicken we've been using because, really, we've got plenty. This amuses the child for a good half hour or so, until his sinker slips because he tied it on wrong. So he gave up and, instead, started picking and biting at his finger. To bleed himself. "To attract the sharks" he said. 


And he was OBSESSED with my fish. He even grabbed it out of the bucket again to get it fresh water. And sat over the bucket watching it and playing with it. Which... you just don't do. You just don't mess with someone elses fishing things or fish unless they give you explicit permission. And here in Australia, they seem to really have a thing about "this is MINE" and you just don't touch other people's things. For example, in the States, it might be a compliment, something desirable, to have a stranger come up to you and ask to pet your dog while you're taking it for a walk. Here, you just don't. Don't do it. That's someone elses dog. Do not touch. So, if it's someone elses fish, and possibly expensive fishing equipment, you REALLY don't touch.

Phillip also caught a few crabs
So I convinced Phillip to just bleed it already so we could pack it up. Because by this time, I was afraid he would throw my fish back in. So he does, and the kid wants the head to fish with, to try and catch a skate. And at this point, we just want the kid to leave. It's one thing to hang around, talk, fish with each other, but he's getting far too hands-on with our things and we're not quite sure how to nicely tell him he needs to back off. But we give him the head and toss the bloody water from my fish into the water. 

10 minutes later, I'm reeling in again to check my bait and something SLAMS into my hook. I start reeling whatever it is in quickly, letting it run JUST a little, so I don't snap my line and I can tire it out a bit. Phillip grabs the net and runs to the side, looks in, reaches, and the kid steps in front of him. They're both yelling that it's a barracuda. Barracuda! Over a foot long! As Phillip reaches to get it in the net, and I continue to reel it in, the child GRABS MY LINE AND PULLS. If you don't know, this releases all the tension that is keeping the fish on the hook. I stop reeling because I'm afraid I'll cut this kids hands with the line with all the tension on it, and he lets go, stands in front of Phillip again (Phillip was trying to figure out how to scoop up the fish without knocking the kid into the water), and grabs the line AGAIN. 


We were.... upset. To put it mildly. 

And really, when you go fishing, how often do you really expect to catch something? Much less something you can keep? Much less something so COOL as a barracuda?

Olive oil, salt, dill, slice of fresh lemon
We went back to the same spot the next day, but ended up not staying because four people there had eight rods. Jerks. There was no room on there and I've never gotten such icy glares from old guys before as when we walked up to check things out. And the kid came back, too. He told us he couldn't fish there either because one of the guys had pushed him in before.

But, we got to eat at least one fish. And that's cool, right?
Random stir-fry of whatever veggies are in the fridge?
Left-over mashed potatoes?
Delicious rice and fresh fish?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

One-Year Anniversary

We celebrated our one-year anniversary.

Which, while being totally awesome (I mean, it's the FIRST anniversary of being married for one whole year, meaning we're officially no longer newlyweds), is just a little bitter-sweet to me. Mostly because it has now been (over) a year since I've seen any of my friends or family.

But more with the good memories of one year of marriage.

Phillip showed up, home from work, dressed in his full wedding suite. Tie, shoes, everything. With a massive bouquet of pink and white lilies, daises, and three roses (one for each of us, and one for our first year anniversary, he said). 3 days later, the rest of the lilies are still blooming and smell absolutely wonderful.

I made our rack of lamb (from that lamb we bought) so rare I think my mother-in-law would cry. It was DELICIOUS though. Best lamb I have EVER had. We ate it with plenty of roasted pumpkin and garlic-basil mashed potatoes. Phillip said that, with food this good, how are we ever going to find a restaurant better to eat out at? (since we very rarely eat out). I'm not trying to brag, really, but it was the best meal I have ever made. Or the lamb was, at least. Oh, and the lemon brownies we had for dessert. Which I found via pintrest. And have had tremendous success with.

So what have we learned in one year of marriage?

  • Phillip has an unhealthy obsession with pancakes. Which is partly ok because I make them pretty excellently, with oatmeal, linseed, and home-ground wholemeal flour.
  • NOT taking yourselves seriously all the time really helps, well, a lot of different situations.
  • Being honest with yourself first and then with each other helps smooth over a lot of potential (and actual) disagreements and arguments. 
  • I am a control freak in the kitchen and I have to leave the room if Phillip is going to make anything.
  • Men (or, Phillip) need to be told EXACTLY what is needed or wanted. Hints just don't work. Period.
  • We don't always mean what we THINK we're saying. Or what we say isn't what we mean. Asking and clarifying without malice solves a lot of things.
  • Talk. A LOT. About anything and everything. Genuine communication really is key to keeping things running smoothly. Even if that's saying "I just need 15 minutes of my own time." or, "thanks for leaving your smelly socks in the laundry room so they don't stink up our room."
  • It is O.K. to NOT spend all your free time together. 
  • Do things together.
  • The need to be romantic never stops. For BOTH of you.
  • Every day you CHOOSE to love each other.
  • You choose to fight. You can choose to defend your pride or respond to anything hurtful that's said. Or you can choose to show love and not say anything negative or retaliate. Walking away to let things settle down is O.K., as long as you both understand that that is what is going on. Sometimes, you'll realize whatever was making you angry, wasn't all that big a deal.
  • Pray for each other.
  • Find married couples who seem to have it together. Talk to them. Listen to them. You're not going crazy, what you're experiencing is normal. Or people have had it worse than you.
  • Unite over a common enemy if you're fighting with each other. Like the cat who decides to poop in the hallway. 
  • Laugh at things. Like the cat who pooped in the hallway. Or nearly burning down the house.
  • YOU, as a couple, are more important than anything. More important than family drama, more important than work and money, more important than assembly and church duties, more important than friends.
  • It's nice to just be with someone that accepts you for who you are, whether that's slightly crazy, obsessive, slightly controlling, or just plain weird.
  • We are both bigger nerds than we let on when we were dating or engaged. It's pretty awesome.
And... that's about it for now. Otherwise I (or we, Phillip has been sharing and laughing over this list with me as I write it) will start to sound superfluous. 

While it hasn't been a terribly hard year of marriage, it's had it's downs. But overall, I'm really looking forward to many more just like it or (hopefully) better.

And, I'm curious, have any of my few readers any advice for the years to come, or things they themselves have learned? Share in the comments if you'd like, we'd love to read them.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Fourth... no, Fifth of July

We had a somewhat belated Independence Day celebration here.

I'm not overly patriotic (though a good rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner" will bring tears to my eyes, and no, I'm not going to give up my American citizenship unless someone forces my hand), but I like celebrating. Even a tiny little bit.

But, since the Fourth of July is not a world-wide holiday (though some Americans might be surprised by that), there were no fireworks, special town celebrations, or BBQs to go to. Instead, Phillip and I spent the day (he DID have the day off work, but more because no one was moving) at his parents house splitting more wood to help replace what we take to heat our house, and help clean up all the wood that, well, needs to be split.

And only 84% MEAT! Pork and beef. Mmmmm....
We ended up eating a Fourth feast on the FIFTH of July (though that would have been the Fourth back in America anyway... so if you ignore the whole time-traveling thing, it still counted. And anyway, most towns don't seem to actually set off fireworks or do anything celebratory until the weekend before or the weekend after the Fourth if it falls in the middle of the week).

So we found a new brand of hot dogs to try. They come in a can, and we were somewhat hesitant to try them, but figured they couldn't be that much worse than the ones we'd already eaten. But, I decided to make burgers on top of that, as well as a mountain of baked regular and sweet potato fries, in case the hot dogs were more than we could handle eating.

6 hot dog, 2 burger, and some random little bits to dip in jam.
While my hot dog buns didn't really turn out well for hot dogs, they tasted FANTASTIC (to be fair, the recipe called for potato flakes, which I had none of, so I just used more flour. And I probably used to much butte). Really, all that was wrong with them was they weren't flexible enough to open and hold a hot dog. I didn't care, I'll make them again just to eat with jam they're so yummy. The hot dogs though. Oh my. They're the best we've had so far, I think. Still not a great dog, but really good. Definitely a repeat.

We ate ourselves into oblivion. Fresh baked fries (though I'm now in the habit of calling them chips... assimilation), spicy Tabasco mayo for the sweet potato ones, fresh baked rolls for the dogs and burgers, and watching Psych with the hubby. It was a good night.
This isn't even half the amount of fries I made.
We operate on the thought that one can
never have too many sweet potatoes.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Hobart: Day 3

A small bit of Hobart and Mt. Wellington in
the background, topped with snow.
Our last day in Hobart pretty much revolved around my visa medical, which mostly involved a lot of waiting. All in all, the thing was less invasive than a middle school sports physical. Well, other than the blood draw, which still mildly freaks me out for some reason. I'm actually quite intrigued by things like that, but my body seems to refuse that the person with the needles and vial knows what they're doing and it will only hurt for a moment and starts to panic. I mean seriously. I have to mentally force my hand and arm to relax, do yogic breathing, lean back so I don't pass out, all that. When I'd much rather be looking at the blood pump into the vial thinking, "Oo! It's so DARK and NEAT looking! That is MY blood in that vial there!". Stupid body.

But the person who took all my samples, weight, and information was nice, as was the doctor who made sure I had normal health... things. He was actually really friendly and interested in how we'd met (through a Bible conference), and then our faith, God, and was just generally really nice.

Then the x-ray. we had to trek (not a long trek, really) to the private hospital, wait for my turn for an x-ray (to check for TB), ask them to put a rush on it since we didn't live in Hobart (we had to bring the results back to the medical center I had my physical at, and I guess it's common practice to just wait for days for results to come through. But that's a whole different issue that I know next to nothing about). So we spent several hours walking around Hobart's central business district again.

The ketchup was for the chips.
Vinegar went on the fish.
Well, the half we hadn't eaten already.
We walked a few kilometers to an army base that had an old hospital you could walk through.... for $10 a person. Which we skipped and just walked back to Mures, favoring food over touring a small building. Yes, we went back to the same place to eat. We just wanted more of that fresh well prepared fish, and for the price, they seemed the best. Again.

So we split an order of fish and chips (again, the fish was so fresh and clean tasting!) and ate in the crisp sea air in front of the very ships that caught it (at least I like to think they were the ships that did so. I really don't know).

More walking back to the hospital, receiving my x-rays, driving back to the medical center, dropping them off, and then finally heading back home over another 3-hour drive through, again, some of the most beautiful scenery I've ever seen. Really, I haven't gotten tired of looking at most scenes here, yet, after almost a year.

A lot of seeming emptiness. And fences. And mountains far in the background.

I couldn't help trying to take photos through the window this time.
The gum trees, surrounded by nothing, in the sunset, are beautiful.
Also those bumpy things are sheep.
This photo does NOTHING to give this scene justice.
I mean nothing. It was just beautiful watching the scenes go by in the fading light.

And yes, even though we were only gone two nights, it felt nice to come home to our own bed, and our pathetically needy kitten, who greeted us with much mournful meowing and didn't stop purring for hours.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Hobart: Day 2

Our hotel room was nothing fancy. Pretty stan dard and cheap. But we weren't really in Hobart for a grand get-away. Just the visa medical and some tourism. We stayed at Motel 429. The staff was wonderful. We even got a call before we reached the hotel to see what time we would be there so that they could be sure there would be someone to greet us and give us our keys (I'm assuming that this is because it was a Sunday and most things, if open Sunday, close early). The room was small and, I later noticed, had the exact same brownish-red laminate that our kitchen has. It also had the same shower door we have. This isn't really astounding, honestly, except it helped assure me that my dating of things in the house was fairly accurate. The was nice, warm, clean, homey, and comfortable.

And, it was stocked with your basic Australian necessities, like Nescafe instant coffee in travel pouches. This seems to be the coffee of choice in most homes we go to. People here like it, I think it tastes terrible. I mean just terrible. I avoid drinking it when we visit anyone for a hot drink if I can, unless I am in desperate need of a caffeine pick-me-up. Thankfully, we had some instant coffee of our own, all the way from the U.S., thanks to a wonderful friend back home. While I may not like Starbucks, their Coffee Via is wonderful. Especially for instant. So Phillip and I were able to enjoy some delicious sugary caramel coffees (a real treat, for sure), rather than endure Nescafe, or have to pay for coffee. Because we're just a coffee family and it's more than just a caffeine boost in the mornings.

The mini fridge also came well stocked with Tasmanian's own Boags Draught (visit the site, it's fun). But,. neither of us wanted to pay $5 for a beer, or are particularly fond of Boags anyway. But hey, it's Australian, and Tasmanian! So of COURSE the hotel needed to stock it.

Monday was our sight-seeing day. Unfortunately, the big attraction, Port Arthur, was closed that day, so we trekked 20 minutes out of Hobart to Richmond, instead, to visit another convict gaol (which is apparently how ye olde England spelled "jail" back then). Also, ALL of Port Arthur is gated off, and you pay a lot to get in (though I guess not a lot based on the amount you get to see), and can't see any of it without paying. So no self-guided tours. Someday, though, we hope to make it there.

The Richmond Gaol, built in 1825
But Richmond was just as old, if not as historic and famous. But it was interesting and fun and a beautiful little town. The gaol was fascinating. You pay $7 per person to walk through it, and they have very well placed signs that you actually WANT to read because there's JUST enough information on them to make them interesting, but not enough to make you want to stop reading (or I'm just a nerd and I'm really enjoying learning about the history of this island). Then there are interesting tapes playing in the background. Either bits from trials or the mumblings of angry prisoners. The Richmond Gaol is also pretty run-down and used looking, but in a nice way. It's kept up, but hasn't been restored. So you get that real old and historic sense from it.

Click to enlarge, but man did England come up with
harsh sentences for things like, stealing bread
Really the gaol was probably the highlight of the trip (well, that and eating at Muers and celebrating with my husband). It was just interesting. Reading bits about some of the prisoners who were more notable, the treatment (or mistreatment) of men and women in the gaol, how most of the people RUNNING the gaol were actually former convicts themselves and were sometimes still just as corrupt as the prisoners themselves (though, does that ever really change throughout history?). Also, you could shut yourself in the solitary confinement cells. They were TINY. And DARK. And the day we were there, COLD. It was icy that day. And heat or cold, all the prisoners got was a wool blanket, their woolen garments, and maybe some sort of pillow-thing. Of course, when Phillip went into the solitary cell, he ca+me out of the darkness talking about how you would still be able to do body weight training in there. There was also a man-trap. Imagine a bear or rabbit trap. You know, the kind from cartoons with teeth and a spring. Now imagine one large enough to trap a man's leg. And probably totally destroy it. And big enough you can't drag it off into the bush while it's attached to your leg.

Phillip playing prisoner
Down the hall to be clapped in irons

Richmond Bridge, on the "Convict Trail"

We toured around Richmond a bit more, and, pretty as the town was, there wasn't much more to see, except more old buildings, and it really was just cold. So around 2PM we ended up driving back to Hobart, but not without a stop at Wicked Cheese for a free cheese tasting. It was GOOD. Good enough that, on our budget (though mostly because I convinced Phillip to splurge for his birthday because he loves cheese) that we bought some whiskey cheddar.

Walking around Hobart more, we ended up in a free museum, the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (TMAG) with some surprisingly good exhibits for, well, a free museum. They featured some Tasmanian art work, old and new, and then we wandered into their Arctic exhibit celebrating... something. The first Australian expedition or science or something. I was mostly taken with all the equipment, stories from scientists, and the display of taxidermy baby Emperor Penguins. They even had a case that opened and you could touch two specimens. Kind of gross, maybe, but still, cool. The museum was just really neat, and again, being the nerd/geek that I am, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. we overheard a little girl (3 or 4) ask her dad where the dinosaurs were and an attendant telling her dad that they were in storage at the moment, because the museum was undergoing some construction and expansion. So as impressed as I was at the little they had, this place sounds like it might be much more interesting.
Disturbing? Maybe a little. Interesting, educational, and fascinating?

Also, we treated ourselves to coffee. Really good coffee. 

We ended our cold day out of walking scarfing down massive burgers at a place called The Hogs Breath, because it was a good mix of lots of food for not a lot of money, and after walking all day eating only fruit, nuts, and some cheese samples, really hit the spot.We spent the rest of the night watching Olympic Highlights and Bear Grylls, wondering how in the world that man manages to drink and eat the things he does.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Hobart: Day One

Part of the requirements for applying for my new permanent residency visa are having a health check. This health check, however, can only be performed by doctors/centers who are certified to perform such a check. The only place in Tasmania that contains said doctors and centers is the state's capital: Hobart.

By car, it's about a three-hour drive (as opposed to driving by truck, which my husband does on occasion). This meant that we could either make a day trip of it, waking up ridiculously early and leaving whenever the health check was finished, or we could spend the night at a hotel.

Phillip and I decided that we would go for two nights, spend an extra day doing the tourist thing (since I haven't seen much of Tasmania or Australia other than the few towns we live by and one night in Melbourne), go out for a nice meal, and just enjoy ourselves and relax together, almost like a sort of mini vacation/ celebration of our nearly-one-year-anniversary. And to kind of make up for the fact that, in spite of our "one date a month" rule, we have allowed ourselves to get too busy or taken up with things this year to keep that up, even with very small at-home dates, and just wanted to spend some time together with no distractions. At least for one day.

We arrived Sunday night, after driving through what is some of the most beautiful and breathtaking scenery. Tasmania is just plain beautiful. And this is just the small portion of it that I've seen. Driving on the Heritage Highway was stunningly beautiful. Rolling misty hills surrounding golden or green plains, massive gum and other eucalypt trees scattered across pastureland and eventually joining into small clumps of trees and meandering into forest. The sky was nearly completely clear, except for a few massive clouds, so sunset was spectacular. And the thing about Tasmania is, the air is just CLEAN. There really is something about the atmosphere here, the air, that is just clean. So colors look crisp, clear, un-muddled, except by natural fogs or rains, and sometimes the smoke from houses. So driving along this highway through almost nothing but pastureland, what I saw was just... natural. I saw why Tasmania is called "Your Natural State".

Not that this highway went through nothing. We did go through a few towns. Like Baghdad, Epping Forest, and Brighton. We even passed The Walls of Jerusalem and the Lower Marshes (that last one made me feel very in the mood to read Lord of the Rings). But they were all so small, a few seconds and they were behind you.

But it was all only three hours. It was... weird. I'm used to 5+ hour road trips with, mostly my cousins, and a few friends. Depending on who I travel with, we have very few, if any, stops in that 5 hours. And pass a lot of nothing. Traveling 3 hours with my husband was, well, an entirely different experience. Especially when you get into a road-trip state of mind (you have to mentally prepare, you know), and you're done before you even feel you've started. But that's Tasmania, for you. At least the habitable parts. Small.

Unfortunately, we had dinner reservations we had to make, so we didn't stop to take photos of the beautiful scenery. You'll just have to take my word for it. Or look stuff up on Google Earth or something. I can't even do the "roll the window down and take photos while moving fast and HOPE they turn out well" because my brother-in-law broke the window a few years ago. It doesn't roll down ever. It leaves you with a nice trapped feeling.

Us, after a very satisfying meal
Dinner was at Mures. I larg-ish place on the docks in Hobart that apparently has it's own fleet of fishing ships. So, fresh seafood DAILY. Phillip and I were starved and ordered the two-tiered seafood platter that had cold dishes on top and hot ones on bottom. Basically a nice sampler platter for two. It. was. Delicious. Everything on there (except for maybe the first oyster, but only the first as the second was one of the best things I've ever tasted, and the muscles) was delicious. And FRESH. I mean, I've had fresh fish before when I've gone fishing with my dad and actually managed to catch something big enough to eat. But this... you could taste the difference. And prepared really really well. Really, I could rave about it all day, but that'd be more boring than the rest of my writing. So we'll just leave it at fresh and delicious, shall we?

The next day, Monday, we spent wandering around Richmond looking at historic buildings and landmarks, and further wandering around Hobart itself. But that is for a later entry, as I am tired and want to go to bed.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Marry HAD a little lamb...

One of the (surprisingly many) benefits to living in the middle of nowhere is plenty of land and having friends who raise animals on it.

My husband's family is friends with just such an family, and we just bought a yearling lamb from them.

The lambs were delivered to the abattoirs last weekend, and this Friday, we got the meat. Came out to about $6 a kilo for the lamb (which is what the sale price is on BBQ lamb chops at the butcher we frequent).

Not only is the a free-range lamb (not sure if there is any other kind?), raised by people we know, but it's cheap. And tasty. We ate some last night, right after I'd divided up the cuts into two-person-meal sized bags and put them in our freezer. The whole lamb, by the way, will provide us with over a months worth of meals.

Back to cooked lamb, though. Neither of us are big fans. Unless it's roast lamb. Roast lamb is fantastic. Lamb most other ways I'd had before, not so much. It's just... gamey, tough, and, well, it's lamb. But it's everywhere here (the unofficial meat of Australia I think. I haven't looked it up), so I looked up and invented a few recipes, and now we quite enjoy eating lamb (which is good since, you know, we bought a whole one).

The first night of lamb was something I have affectionately titled "Goin' on down to Egypt Lamb". Because it's made with as many leeks and garlic as I can put into it. It's a funny name if you like Bible humor.

But anywho, I chopped up some of the undersized leeks from our garden (I'll be the one planting the leeks next season. Or at least making sure it's done properly by a certain husband of mine). Salted and seared the lamb chops a bit, threw in the leeks, chopped some garlic and threw that in, and then used the chops to kind of stir the whole concoction to coat them a bit with leek-y garlic-y goodness. Put in a tablespoon or so of water, put the lid on and let them cook away.

It's delicious. Unless you don't like leeks or garlic or red meat.

*Note: I am aware that you're not meant to use the green part of the leek. But these leeks were severely undersized. And we really really wanted leeks, so I caved a bit and used only JUST a little of the green bit, right were it starts to go from white to green.

Also, those mashed potatoes were full of New Zealand spinach, also from our garden. I've taken to putting it in mashed potatoes because it's a really bitter, and sometimes it's just easier to use one pot instead of two, or adding a steamer.