August So Far
Let's pretend for a moment that this is Tumblr and look at some highlights of the month so far, based on the photos that are on my phone. ("Wait," the imaginary reader says. "You never put up the photos from the koala park in July." I give an apologetic little shrug and jump into the next paragraph.)

Mike and I went to a terrible cafe last month. (I wrestle with myself whether to reveal the name, living in a pop. 60k environment as I am again. Save it for Yelp, I suppose, where torches and pitchforks from those who like their sandwiches dry and their nachos inexplicable can't hurt me.) The good thing about the cafe is that it had food magazines to look at while waiting. I whipped out my phone (before the on/off switch broke - another story - so far I'm getting by) to take a photo of this recipe: Cheese and Potato Tart with Caraway Crust.

Then, after learning all about Sebago potatoes (which the store ended up not having so we got Nadines or Nicolas, I forget which, but it's always exciting to be exposed to new types of potatoes), I finally made the tart in one of our new "Microstoven" dishes, as endorsed by Gary off Masterchef (Australia).

I don't really know what Microstoven is, but anything that's advertised as dishwasher-safe, microwave-safe, freezer-safe, oven-safe, and cook-right-on-top-of-the-stovetop-safe, as well as being on sale, is worth a go. Plus, it's by Maxwell & Williams, which I think is sort of the Williams-Sonoma of Australia... or I maybe I just tell myself that because of the "Williams." (Fun fact: My gg-grandmother was a Williams who married a Williams. Also, Mike's gg-grandmother was a Wilson who married a Wilson.) Except, no, Maxwell & Williams don't go around purveying lemon curd, so I've got nothing.

Except my tart:

I Made a Tart

It was decent. The best part for me was the caraway crust. (Mike could have done with less caraway in it.) We both could have done with less butter on the sides of the pan bubbling down into the tart. (Note the gurgles, lower right.)

The next day or so I ended up forgetting to put it back in the fridge before going to bed, and so it had to be thrown away. Sad story, but decent tart. (Very mild but might be excused as mellow.)

I had better luck making a chromosome map:

Simplified Chromosome Map - 5 Aug 2013

I have more detailed versions of these that I've created in Photoshop by hand (Does "Photoshop by hand" make sense? I guess so.), but this is the one made with the wonderful tool at Only so many ancestors are allowed per map, so I restricted mine to great- and a few great-great-grandparents, using the nicknames that their grandkids (etc.) knew them by.

Short version (because this deserves its own post but when is that happening?): because of the DNA tests I've taken, I've been able to identify certain parts of my chromosomes as coming from certain ancestors. This is vital when finding new ancestors. ("Oh, you match me on chromosome 14 at position 25-50? Based on all the other people who match me at the same spot, I can tell you that you're somehow related to John Tooglewiggins.")

The person named "Nonna" on this map is my grandmother, who tested along with my parents. Having a grandparent test is the reason why I've been able to map out this much so far, so I'm incredibly grateful to her. My great-aunt on my father's side tried to test but it failed (as has happened on half the people I've tested, regardless of company), but hopefully the second time will work (as it has on everyone else). Cross fingers and toes, because my great-aunt is the only person left who can provide a "pure" sample of my great-granparents' DNA.

While I was making charts and tarts, I did so against a backdrop of recurring rainbows.

Another Day, Another Rainbow

Just Another Rainbow

They say it's a dry winter this year, but this Las Vegas refugee is pretty delighted.

Returning to food for a moment, as one will, guess what the number one soup in Australia is? Guess. Guess.

No Chicken Noodle Here

Pumpkin. Duh.

Mike did not prepare me for how much Aussies love two things: pumpkin (which is really more of a butternut squash, not the orange American jack-o-lantern fodder) and milk. Oh my stars, how much they love milk. Coffee milk. Banana milk. Spearmint milk. Go into a convenience store (also called "milk bars" - not kidding) and past the enormous "CHILL" banners ("Chill" is a brand of milk), you will find entire walls of milk, just in case you need to grab a pint to quench your thirst.

I don't drink milk - not for vegetarian reasons but because I dislike the taste and really hate the way it coats the mouth. I don't mind it in cereal or milkshakes (American milkshakes - an Australian milkshake is about the most literal interpretation of the word "milkshake" possible), or cooked into food, but drink a glass of it? Ew. I remember the day when I was a kid and I noticed that my Dad wasn't drinking milk. "That's an option?" I've been liberated ever since. So, seeing milk everywhere (spearmint?!) keeps me in a state of constant, quiet horror.

Pumpkin (squash) I don't mind, other than if you go into a restaurant and they have one token vegetarian item, it's going to be made with pumpkin... as is half of the rest of the menu. Pumpkin on pizza? Count on it.

Sticky the Cat

Last month my mother-in-law adopted two cats from the shelter, Sticky and Grace. This is Sticky. We have a photo of Grace that was taken by lowering a camera into her lair behind a huge chest of drawers, but the legal team hasn't given me the go-ahead to post that. ("It could just be a small pile of black socks. We don't want any lawsuits.")

Sticky is actually "Stiggy" now because (insert complicated reasons and local naming preferences). "Stiggy" makes me think of the Rutles, and I like the Rutles, but "Stiggy" is just... so... stiggy. (So I privately still call the cat "Sticky.")

During our trip up to Perth to see Sticky (and Grace) (and Mike's mother), I got my first look at Fremantle, the port city adjacent to Perth. (Essentially it's part of Perth. I don't know if it's just Mike or if all Aussies are weird about when to call a place by its name and when to refer to it as just "Perth" or "Mandurah" or whatever city it's a suburb of. Back in the States, Mike had a hard time calling anything without a tall downtown skyline a "city." But, in the case of "Freo," I think people do tend to refer to it as a separate entity.)

A popular attraction is the Fremantle Markets on weekends and holidays; crowded, but they have some nice foods and wares, including some very decent Mexican. (Even though they use Danish feta instead of queso fresco and misspell "chipotle" consistently as "chipolte.") Just being able to get a black bean taco brought a tiny tear to my eye.

Decent Mexican in Australia

The markets are housed in a building that's been used for food/produce (wholesale, distribution, etc.) for over 116 years. Its current form (open to the public) has been in place for 38 years.

Fremantle Markets

Later we drove into Perth (actual Perth, downtown, or the "CBD" as it's always called here) and discovered that the best time to be in downtown Perth is on a Sunday afternoon at about 4 p.m. (This is based on the previous two trips where, by the time we found parking and paid out the rear-end for it, I just wanted to move on to something else.)

Perth CBD at Perfect Time

True, not much is open at that time (Tactics had just closed - wah!), but David Jones' food hall is open.

David Jones is sort of a Harrods for Australia, or maybe not really a Harrods. Selfridges? I don't know. (I haven't been to either in almost 30 years.) Saks Fifth Avenue? How about "upscale department store"? There you go.

Mike's grandfather once-upon-a-time was the general manager for David Jones in WA. (It was long ago and we were not recognized and hailed as store nobility upon our entrance.)

David Jones has a food hall of international goodies where you can find things like tortilla chips that aren't terrible and Frontera salsa. But, not for as low a price as USA Foods, aka the company that keeps many an expat's sniffles away. (Still, it's a bit depressing how many of those expats miss Velveeta.)

So we mostly just wandered around, and I was amused by the pickled walnuts.

Pickled Walnuts

(Then I came home and Googled and discovered that if I read more Dickens, I wouldn't find pickled walnuts so exotic. However, at David Jones' prices, they must remain a mystery to me.)

Speaking of high prices, we dropped into the Boatshed (two words? one word?) in Cottesloe (or do we say "Perth") so I could see Perth (or Cottesloe)'s equivalent to Whole Foods.

It was beyond crowded but the fresh orange juice was otherworldly, the ciabatta actually was ciabatta (where I live, they seem to hate bread with holes), and the black pepper Dutch cheese was actually affordable, but my favourite part was the dog parked outside.

Obedient Dog at Boatshed

(The dog was so happy when it saw its owners reach the checkout. Wag, wag, wag!)

My tail has not been wagging at all over our refrigerator, which has not been draining properly and thus not defrosting properly, eventually leaving us with about two workable shelves and a whole bunch of rock-solid produce. The repairman finally came on Monday, about 12 hours after I realized that the fridge had given up and stopped cooling anything at all.

We spent three days defrosting, during which time this was our fridge:

Temporary Refrigerator

(This wasn't how I planned to introduce the world to Ursula's fishbowl full of locally gathered seashells and the faux-vintage jar that holds our laundry detergent, but there you go. Admire away.)

Outside the apartment, one of the local cats sunned in front of the building (as they do), oblivious to the crabbiness that comes with drinking room temperature water for the better part of a week.

Local Cat

(Actually, I guess a cat would understand that. Maybe that's why he looks a bit crabby himself here.)

Have I ever gotten around to mentioning how so many Australians dislike cats? Aussies are (understandably) quite protective of their ecosystem here, and cats are a menace to birds, so... there it is. I'm used to people wrinkling their noses at hamsters (and other rodents) as pets, but cats? That's life on the flipside of the planet.

Last night we went up to Mandurah (an hourish away) for dinner with the in-laws. They have some grand travel adventures in the future (Dubai, Copenhagen, a translatlantic cruise), but unfortunately my father-in-law won't be blogging this time, so I guess I won't link. (The Internet cost is just too much, and he'd rather not do a write-up after the fact. Our common ground in personal travel recollections obviously finds a fork in the road there.)

Indian Restaurant Figurines

The shahi paneer was only outshone by the company (I think the in-laws and Mike were less thrilled with their decision to get the buffet) and we came home to a refrigerator that seemed ready for action again (after once more bailing all the water out of the bottom).

Today I get my chest X-ray, the last part of the immigration visa medical that I started on Monday. They had to take my blood pressure five times before it was normal, and usually I tend to be a bit below textbook normal. Everyone thought I had "white coat syndrome," but honestly, I think I was just so excited to be let out of the tower to see other people that I couldn't stop talking. A joke, but it's been a very weird year.

Tonight the weirdness continues as I'm so excited because it's Thursday. Thursday = LATE NIGHT SHOPPING. The grocery store will be open past 6 p.m., and our fridge is nearly empty, so let the good times roll! (But, until Mike gets home, I must finish trying to dry out the waterlogged cheese. I do try to cherish these moments, I do. Work will re-enter my life soon enough, and with two incomes will come the possibility of cruising again. After the chest X-ray is done, hopefully I'll only be one FBI clearance away from being allowed to come and go from Oz-land as I please.)

22 August 2013 |






Carnival Elation (2009)
Carnival Splendor (2009)
Carnival Spirit (2010)
Carnival Spirit (2011)
Carnival Splendor (2011)
Norwegian Pearl to Alaska (2012)