Wednesday, February 24, 2010

FOOD, definitely not a four-letter word

I love food. It's not uncommon for me to finish a meal, and then find myself thinking about what I'll eat for my next meal. Hunger is over-rated. I stumbled upon a street market the other day but had just eaten. There was no room in the inn for any of the delicious-smelling Turkish breads filled with spinach and melty cheese. I actually found myself thinking I wish I could speed up digestion so I could be hungry.

As part of my female anatomy shouldn't I want my appetite suppressed, not expressed?

If it's not obvious already, if you're male and reading this it's either going to a) bore you or b) scare you.

Back home in Texas I've got all the usual female food issues. I obsess about calories, can easily rationalize an upward tic on the scale and will go as long as possible without washing my jeans because there is nothing fun about denim just out of the dryer. Every year I ask Santa to put willpower in my stocking, but instead he generally fills it with chocolate and candy. I was thinking recently that if a genie offered me one wish that (outside of the obvious serious ones) I would definitely ask for a really fast metabolism. Not fame, not fortune...the ability to eat fajitas as often as I want and never gain an ounce.

When I read Elizabeth Gilbert's "Eat Pray Love" a couple years ago I was so envious of her Italian food odyssey. So I too decided to take a vacation from calorie counting and put myself on the 'no carb left behind diet' for one month. My month is coming to an end, which is good because my back-end no longer fits in my jeans. My theory is that I'll spend the next month in Africa equalizing the damage I inflicted on it in NZ and Oz. It's been such a liberating experiment. And did I mention a delicious one too?

Gelato? Don't mind if I do! Lychee sorbet is my favorite down-under discovery. I've had some fantastic meals and tried all sorts of adventurous recipes that use one of my favorite foods - sweet potato. I had a steamed chicken roll in China Town on my bike tour a couple days ago, only to hear I was missing out by not having gotten the pork steamed bun (like a dumpling). I was in a touristy part of Sydney last night with expensive restaurants, so I took an illogical $22 cab ride to China Town so I could have a $1.20 pork bun. But my $23.20 bun was totally worth it. They also make fresh Emperor's Puffs, which are like donut holes filled with hot custard. Need I say more? The lamb and pork here is scrumptious and tender. And I won't even get started on the shiraz-viognier blends that have become a dear friend of mine.

Last night I dined with my new American friend Kristin who I met in Sydney last week while we were playing frisbee golf. A fellow food enthusiast, Kristin asked me if I wanted to have a wonderful meal while in Sydney, to which of course I said yes! We went to Buon Ricardo, and as they say in Australia, it was a beautiful meal. Those fresh figs wrapped in prosciutto and baked with gorgonzola cheese may have changed me forever. We had four inspired courses, and the company was fantastic too.

Knit clothes must have been invented by a woman, and one whom I adore. She should be honored as the Patron Saint of the Bloated. Yesterday I bought loads of nutrition/meal bars to take to Africa. I also bought yogurt and fruit for my last couple days in Oz as I reenter the world of healthy eating. I got an email from my stomach lining the other day begging me for mercy. Yet, I will not forget o ye my Tim Tams, you "two layers of chocolate malted biscuit, separated by a light chocolate cream filling, and coated in a thin layer of textured chocolate." In my nights under the African stars, I'll be dreaming of you.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Australia - Captain Kangaroo

I have been determined to see a wild kangaroo while in Australia. (by 'wild' I mean one in its natural habitat - although a roo drinking and dancing would be fun too!) Frustrated I hadn't seen one, I commented to a girl I met that "at this point I'd settle for a kangaroo carcass!"

My mom used to tell me to always ask God for exaclty what I wanted - to pray my heart's desire. She said that if we offer God a compromise He just may take us up on it! The same day I made the carcass comment I was driving in my car hire (rental car) and sure enough, dead kangaroo in the middle of the road. I couldn't believe it! It somehow left me unfulfilled in my 'roo desires!

The following day as I drove I was thinking about this little lesson learned when literally - at that moment - a kangaroo hopped right across the highway in front of my car! It was like God said - okay you got the point - I'll let you see an alive one now! I was so pumped that I made a few hoots and hollers as I drove along! (yes, I'm aware of my dorkiness)

A little life lesson from a smashed kangaroo, who'd have thought?!?

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Australia - "I'm a sailor, I sail"

I spent two wonderful days sailing the beautiful Whitsunday Islands. By day, the sailing is so enjoyable. By night, the boat turns into a floating torture chamber.

On Sunday night I booked a two -night sailing trip and a flight down the coast of Oz from Cairns. Since I was booking for a nearly immediate departure I perhaps skimmed some specifics, like oh say no air conditioning in the middle of the Tropics. You sign a waiver that indemnifies the sailing company if you get eaten by a shark or stung by a jelly. They really should have made me sign that I agree to be sweaty, smelly and sticky the whole time!

I was on 50 foot retired racing sailboat. Her name is Silent Night, although I suggested a rename to "Restless Night." During the day we sail though the turquise waters, stop for swimming and snorkeling, and my favorite activity - eating. ocean looked more like a giant swimming pool. We saw dolphins, loads of sea turtles and one huge creepy sea snake. The coral on this part of the GBR is so colorful I was in awe!

Not a bad view during morning tea!

There were 11 other passengers on the boat and a fun young group, with me being on older end of the spectrum. On the trip I learned that in the eyes of 17-year-old English blokes at 32 I am old enough to be a "cougar," that peanut butter and jelly belonging together on a sandwich is not a universally accepted truth, and that a rumor in the U.K. there exists that in the U.S. we don't use sarcasm in our interpersonal communications. I confirmed this my most sarcastic tone.

I hate to complain even a smidge about the sailing adventure, but I'll do so anyway. The first night there was no breeze, so sleeping in the galley was simply not workable. With my towel, top sheet and pillow in hand I moved to a space on the deck. Twice I was awakended because it was pouring buckets, and another time I was awoken by a bug who decided up my nose would make a nice landing pad. The rest of the night I lied contorted too uncomfortable to sleep! There was a former marine on-board and he said sleeping at bootcamp was easier than on a hard, curved wet deck. This is my bed - between the winches and the edge of the boat...which I was certain I was going to roll off and into the mouth of a shark.

The view of the stars from was mesmorizing. Just incredible - tons of constellations like the Southern Cross and satellites orbiting. Even with the miserable sleep, still a great trip. Dangling my feet off the side of the boat, or napping on deck was wonderfully serene.

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Saturday, February 13, 2010

Australia - Finding Nemo

I thought panoramas on land are gorgeous, but now I think God created His finest masterpiece under water! I did my first dive and two snorkles in the outter Great Barrier Reef. It must not be summer under water because school is definitely in session - thousands of fish swimming together. Literally.

(my pre-SCUBA concentration face)

This was my first SCUBA. There's something about an activity that in the on-boat lesson the instructor teaches you the hand signal for 'shark', and a separate sign for 'great white shark' that's a bit unnerving! It took me a couple minutes to trust my oxygen tank and then I loved the freedom of being able to stay under and go down 12 meters to socialize with the sealife.

I saw a huge variety of fish, scary stingy jellies, clams, sea cucumbers and coral. I even saw Nemo with his clown fish friends! The fish covered the full spectrum of colors and patterns.

I had this wow - I'm really diving the Great Barrier Reef moment today. It's a bucket list must!

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Location:Davidson St,Port Douglas,Australia

Friday, February 12, 2010

Australia - Crikey!

G'day mates!

I realize I said mate, but I'm actually anti early-adoption of foreign English words. I think I'd sounds totally ridiculous if I was all: had a great time with my mates. Right-o! There were a few bogens out last night. The road was chockers bc of a big car smash. Or back home if I asked the Starbucks barista for a 'flat white with trim milk' she'd look at me as if I had a a wallaby on my head! But I confess I have adopted sunnies (sunglasses) and brekky (breakfast) into my vernacular. They're just fun to say!

I'm now in sunny and very warm Port Douglas (north of Cairns, pronounced Cans). The ocean is a stunning mix of my favorite green and blue crayons. I will be doing my first dive from here off the Great Barrier Reef. (please no sharks please no sharks please please). Actually, in the summer you have to wear a 'stinger suit' so really it's box jellies I want to avoid.

I am spending the next two weeks on the western coast of Oz, and one night in the middle of absolutely nowhere in the Northern Territory Outback. My dad took me to see Crocodile Dundee. It was my first PG13 movie and the scene where Sue wears a thong into the croc-infested waters left a huge impression on me. Perhaps I will find Mick to take me on a walkabout too!

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Location:Davidson St,Port Douglas,Australia

Friday, February 5, 2010

New Zealand - Woman vs. Wild

But before I say who won that battle...

I'm staying at a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere in far north NZ. The farm has been passed down for five generations and is surrounded by rolling hills and cows in the dell. I literally woke up this morning to mooing - I opened my eyes and the cows had decided to chew their cud outside my room. The owner's husband is Stefano - a fantastic Italian chef who makes our meals to order from scratch. Last night was pizza, tonight was handcut pasta. I won't mention the platter of tri-berry pancakes he served me this morning for fear of sounding like this pig in our yard - whose cousin I munched for breakfast.

It's a warm and wonderful place and wish I was staying longer than two nights.

View during meals at the farm -

Today I hiked for five hours. Literally put one foot in front of the other for that length of time. I decided to hike to a cliff that's called the Duke's Nose. This is the Duke far in the distance - after 1.5 hours I came up on this view and was like holy crap - that's still really far!

About an hour in I was up to my ankles in swampy marsh - my cute silver addidas now a lovely shade of mud. I waded through creeks, jumped over rocks and hung on to branches for dear life. This is the trail - I felt like I was Kate in an episode of Lost!

I must have missed the week in Bluebirds when I was five years old when they taught about the importance of the buddy system! In all five hours I did not see one other person. It was peaceful; I used the time to think, pray and sing aloud with my iPod (the only non-peaceful part was when I started thinking about how it would be a good place for an axe murderer to hang out). After 2.5 hours I got to nearly the top - only to summit you have to rock climb up a very steep chain.

There was no turning back so up I went and when I made it to the top I had my own little Rocky moment! And the view made it worth it!

Now getting back down the chain was when the momentary panic set in and I considered sending my Dad an emergency beacon with my GPS coordinates! It was a strenuous and liberating day - I had no idea how tough I could be. So in this episode of Woman vs Wild, woman won.

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Location:Kahoe, Far North NZ