What you should know before living Australian

Another fun challenge. Yay!

I have only been writing this blog a couple of months. Looking back at the various entries, made me realize that I have yet to tell you all the differences I have learned while living here in Australia. Keep in mind that I always prided myself with being a strong-minded, independent, New Yorker (aka low bullshit tolerance), single mother who found a way to do whatever I needed… done. Also keep in mind this is my first experience with living with a guy, whom I am not related to. Then throw in 4 boys and a couple teenage girls! So here goes.. pull up a chair, grab that cup of coffee and sit a spell.

1. They drive on the wrong side of the road…. on the wrong side of the car…. and these crazy people allow us americans to drive here on an american licence. *smacks head* (trust me it will not be the first time I hit myself!) What’s worse you ask?? The fact that in the states, I drove a 1992 Toyota Corolla, standard (that’s manual for all you Aussie’s), which is a tiny car. Then  I get here and have to drive a huge-ass mini-van. How else are we going to tow around 6 kids? All I have to say is thank god it was not a standard as well. Then the shift would have then been in my left hand, instead of my coffee.

Driving in Melbourne in crazy traffic in the far left lane (the slow lane…. which should be the fast lane!)

2. Now I know Australia is not the only one that says this but when I hear the word “Jumper”, I either think of the movie where the guy was sitting in the sun in egypt taking in the sights, or one of those little girls dresses my mother used to dress me in. Occasionally I think of a one-piece maintenance or mechanic’s uniform. I however, do not think of a coat, bommer-jacket, pull-over, zip-up hoodie, sweater or any thing else you would wear over your clothing before going outside.

Movie Poster for Jumper

 

 

3. “Good-day mate” really is used a lot. So is “No Worries”. The problem is that from where I come from when someone says not to worry about something, it usually means your paying $1000 to fix your car, your hot water tank it going to explode, or your office is “down-sizing”. Naturally “No Worries” is something to worry about. The first time I heard it was from a very nice woman taking a meal order at a restaurant. I asked for whatever sauce it was to go on the side instead of on the food. “No Worries” she said which made me think that not only was it not going on the side but she is going to spit in my food and add more spice so my mouth explodes. Turned out it was just the response used here and I really have “No Worries”. Who knew?

4. “The bench” is something to sit on… either at a picnic table or in the park. A bench is not the space in your kitchen were you prepare your food. That is called a counter. And to my Aussie kiddos…. seriously stop teasing me every time I tell you to put your lunch box on the counter next to the “ketchup” someone left out of the fridge. And yes… it is  “ketchup”, not “tomato sauce” because tomato sauce is what you add meat to, and serve over spaghetti hot. *smacks head*

5. To my new neighbors when you move into the vicinity of my house: please do not run for cover when I, the American, knock on your door. I’m only welcoming you to the neighborhood and handing you a baked good of which is usually made with pumpkin. Yes I said pumpkin seeing you have tons of it here and it tastes good in breads. And I’m sorry if I am confusing you because you eat pumpkin like it is a side of squash or corn here… it’s still good in breads and pies…and no I am not from Canada… but I get that a lot.

Kent Pumpkins remind me of Acorn Squash

6. Now American’s should know that Australian’s do not….. ever….. ride Kangaroo’s to work or school. So seriously stop asking them if they do. Your making us all look rather stupid. And also, they don’t drink Foster’s beer. That’s just some crazy gimmick that silly American’s think is accurate, but you should already know our news, advertisements and reporters are not the most accurate. (Ummm…. speaking of reporters.. did Romney really say that most american’s are idiots?? Relax, I’m paraphrasing! God, I need to sit with my politically charged friends for a coffee break when I come home for a visit!) Here, when you ask for a Foster’s, you will get the following: 1. a dirty look from the wait staff servicing your order. 2. Someone overhearing the conversation that over heard your accent (and yes, I guess when your here you are the one with the accent) will inevitably start laughing 3. The wait staff will probably ask you if your serious and follow it up with “We don’t carry Foster’s”.

Large Red Kangaroo

7. Don’t ask for a hotdog in Australia. Really, you will cry. They are obsessed here with the “Sausage roll” which I like to call in our house as the “Aussie Hot Dog”. It is a beef sausage. Yes, I said beef. And its mixed up with things like carrots and veggies and rolled into a puff pastry so it looking like an over-sided pig in a blanket. They are yum and if you visit you really need to try it. Save the hot dogs for America. They are not very big on cheeseburgers either. I would say the equivalent here would be a beef pie. It looks just like a “Banquet’s” frozen beef pot pie. Tastes a lot like them as well, but the texture of the filling is more like a sloppy joe and they usually eat them with either ketchup (yes I said ketchup! Kids! *smacks forehead*) or BBQ sauce.

Sausage Rolls and Beef Pies

8. Here they have an “American” pizza. Here we go again… *Eyes roll and a smack to the forehead* This pizza is not american and whomever made it and told everyone it was, lied. Now being from NY, I know my pizza. Hot salami is not a substitute for pepperoni. And whatever happened to the cheese?? If your going to coin a pizza as “American” it needs to be thin crust, smothered in mozzarella and topped with greasy pepperoni so that when it’s baked, the oils in the meat and cheese coat the top of the pizza. No, what I would consider an “American Pizza” would not have ham, shredded meat, onions, chili? (Seriously) or anything else. Just pepperoni and cheese. Yes I love other toppings but that makes it something else entirely. I do love the pizza they have here though, just not the one previously mentioned. There are a couple of pizza places near our house they make a mean pizza. (What’s this you say… an egg.. you want to crack an egg on top of my pizza and bake it so the egg is just sitting up there on top of my pizza… seriously? That’s just so wrong on so many levels!)

9. Matthew is not a big seafood eater. Personally, I love it. I have yet to find a fish or shellfish I don’t like. I will admit I have had a decent variety of fish over the years, but some things I have yet to discover… like what it would be like to eat a shrimp (or prawn as they are referred to here) with their little head on. I tried to eat a lobster once like that and made my dad remove the meat because frankly, it freaks me out when my food is looking at me. And when you have a plate of 30 little guys just staring at you, it makes it difficult to eat them. I’ll pass on the shrimp unless you get me the headless kind.

10. Uggs are very unpopular here. Go figure. The only people who wear Uggs here, are tourists. You will get a dirty look from those Aussies around you for being silly enough to buy them. Luckily majority of Australians like us crazy Americans and we can usually get away with little fou-faux like wearing Uggs while living in Australia. Once Aussie’s know your American they usually giggle and forgive you. Mental Note: Wonder what would happen if you walked into a bar and ordered a Foster’s wearing Uggs?? Hmmm. might need to try that one! Hehe

11. And finally, before you visit is over… Where I come from, if you must find the need to gossip about someone who is pregnant, you would normally start out by saying “Did you hear that so and so is pregnant?” Now the first time I heard this one, I almost wet myself from the laughter. I figured it couldn’t be real, and then heard it again, then from my neighbor and even a reporter on the news. Here when you are talking about someone who is pregnant the phrase goes a little like this… “Did you hear that so and so “Fell” pregnant?” Yes I said fell. Like you fall ill from an infectious disease. It is just the Aussie Way.

falling can be an art form..

Now see what happens when you go from working day care for 10 years to being stuck in a quiet house all day. I talk a lot. Yeah I always did but now it is even worse.

I truly enjoyed your visit. And even though I am, and always will be a New Yorker, heart and soul, I really love being in Australia. So if your finished with your coffee, I’m happy to walk you to the door. Just let me go grab a Panadol (Tylenol) for this headache. You can put your coffee cup on the bench, next to the tomato sauce and sausage rolls. Here… you forgot the pumpkin muffins I made you….. Don’t forget to put on your Jumper before you go. Good’ay mate.

You want to come back for another visit? Just add my blog to your followed tabs. No worries! Have an awesome day!

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“Easy as Pie”…. who are you kidding??

It’s funny how many times I have heard the phrase “Easy as Pie”. All throughout my childhood I heard that phrase. I grew up in upstate New York near Albany where life seems to be a good mix of city and rural. You have your snobby yuppies, your country simple and everyone in-between. “Easy as Pie” was everywhere.. It wasn’t until this challenge was presented to me, that I would put it to the test. Just how easy was pie anyway? Let’s make one and find out, shall we?

Now in the past I have attempted to make pie. Some came out “Yummo” as Rachel Ray always says, others have been an inedible failure. Funny how it seemed to always shadow things going on in my life at the time. My last pie was pumpkin. The filling was not to bad, but the crust sucked like a child on a melting rocket-pop in the July heat of summer. Funny…. that’s around when I made the pumpkin pie. Hey, life in Australia is ass-backwards from New York where summer is winter and fall is spring. Ever since moving here, my life has been one busy rollercoaster ride from having my daughter and partner one week, to adding 3-4 boys under age 13 (my partner has 4 sons and shares 50/50 custody) the next. Then back to a shockingly quiet house the next (Myki lives on her new iPod, so she creeps around a lot and it is hard to tell she is here).

So back to this pie. Thanks to the pumpkin pie I made a couple of months back, I now have the rolling-pin and pie dishes. Naturally you must have two pie dishes because pie crust recipes usually make enough for a top and bottom crust. Well, what if you have a crumb top or open top pie? Now you have too much crust and if you split the recipe, the crust just does not taste right. So I might as well make 2 pies and freeze the second for a later event. Easy as pie…. bullshit. This pie has already turned into 2.

Now to pick a pie.. Berry? Rock Fruit? Custard? The selection is enough to make you nuts (OOOh , maybe pecan). How is it going to be topped?? Crumb, Crust or Open? Seriously this is supposed to be easy.  So I hit my favorite website. Mrs. Martha, as I fondly refer to her. Her website is essential in my house for most of my favorite recipes and therefore, my first recipe search place. She is probably the only person on the planet who would actually think pie is “Easy As…” So now looking at all these recipes I decide it would be cheaper to make this pie by getting whatever fruit is in season. In ass-backwards Australia, it’s strawberry season, so how about a nice strawberry-rhubarb. My gram used to make them when I was a kid and I have helped before. How hard could it be?

So my challenge started on a Tuesday. Everything above was settled. Luckily I planned grocery shopping for Wednesday. However, this posed more problematic than originally assessed. Shopping for meat and produce is done in 2 different stores, which happen to be side by side. No rhubarb and the strawberries.. not so yummy looking. Pfftt!! Then Myki had her first Softball practice smack in the middle of the day, after all they are on a 2 week break from school. After she had finished a very amusing practice (it’s been almost 4 years since her last softball anything!) we drive to our regular grocery store for everything else… also no rhubarb. Now I’m thinking don’t buy the strawberries until you know you can get the rhubarb.

Leaving the Queen Victoria Market

So Matthew takes the train to and from work on the days I need the car, yes we are still working with only one car… with 6 kids… Yeah it’s fun! But the station happens to be by another grocery store chain…. still no rhubarb. Now I’m just frustrated. Is rhubarb going to be like summer squash? (they don’t have summer squash here… they call it yellow zucchini and I have not found it anywhere!) but I’m not giving up. Matthew works in the city and 3 blocks from his building is the Queen Victoria Market. It is this super huge farmers market, flea market, meat and seafood market and anything else you can think of market…. all rolled into one huge city block. So on Thursday we drive into the city with Matthew and spend the morning between Myki’s favorite bookstore, a yarn store and the market. Guess what… they have rhubarb.. and yummy strawberries along with scallops and shrimp, so hey, let’s bang out some dinner shopping and get some fresh seafood while we are at it.

Myki and Xanthas with their rugby awards

Friday is a bust on pie making seeing I need to prepare the home for the invasion of boys (hiding a rather large Christmas Gift in progress, gluing down anything breakable, bathroom cleansers prepared and filled for the weekend. I’m sure you get the idea). Saturday is also a bust. Softball game, swim lessons, and a rugby presentation for Myki and Xanthas. They got their participation trophies and we ate yummy food in the rain. The presentation was at a zoo, where we had to pay just to get in to the event. It wasn’t cheap so guess what… rain or not we are getting our money’s worth. We walked around and took the bus tour and trudged through the puddles around 5pm. Just in time to cook dinner and die from exhaustion.

Getting ready to leave the rainy zoo..

Sunday morning comes along and now I’m panicking that our lovely strawberries are going to be a moldy mushy mess. This pie needs to be done today. Without fail! I hop online to look up Martha to find the recipe I tabbed. Not only does the link have a recipe but a cute little clip of making this pie with a guest on her show. http://www.marthastewart.com/901101/strawberry-rhubarb-pie

Almost ready to bake.

And well…. I didn’t double the recipe in order to make 2 pies when shopping, so now it’s back down to one! *shakes head and sighs at silly mistakes*

My crust soooo does not look like that! From start to finish it takes me about 7 hours. I know what your thinking…… I had to stop half way through to fix dinner. So the crust took about an hour to make, chill, roll and chill again. The filling and topping took another 30 minutes to put together and layered into the crust. Now that it is ready to go into the oven…. I had to put it in the fridge so I could cook dinner. *another head shake* Homemade calizones for 6 takes an hour when you have the smallest oven on the planet. I have 2 shelves in our tiny oven, therefore can only cook 2 calzones at a time. Once dinner was finally cooked, I put the pie in the oven. The aroma was amazing. The pie was bubblng and turning golden. The house smelled like my gram’s house on 4th of July weekend. The air was sweet and I was salvating like a dog in the hot sunshine. Waiting another 2 hours for it to cool. UGH! I have been looking forward to it since Tuesday, after all.Of course, just as I am getting ready to cut into this yumminess.. the damn phone rings. A quick chat with a new friend who asks about my weekend. I tell her about the game, the zoo and rugby. I tell her about getting kids into the shower, cleaning up dinner, back to school tomorrow and about my pie.  She asks me how in the world do I have enough time to make a pie with my life as hectic as it is. I just smiled and looked at the pie. “My life…” I pause for dramatic effect.. “My life is Easy as Pie”.

And life tastes pretty fantastic!

 

 

Should have been said long ago…

Dearest Grams,

It’s been a while since I have written you anything and I am very sorry for that. I know we talk all the time, but I know how much you like getting something in the mail so I thought I would drop you a line and give you a few updates since we chatted last.

As you know we have new babies in the family. Jaime’s son MJ is the most beautiful bundle of love. I was lucky enough to see him born, the way you where there for Myki’s birth. I couldn’t be prouder of my sister in that moment. She made it look so easy and I know I will have that memory for the rest of my life. I refer to MJ as my ol’ lil’ turtle because he had this old mans face with all these wrinkles that remind me of those huge turtles that can get to be 100+ years old. And of course, your daughter Cyn has added to her family another beautiful little man, Martin, which we prayed for everyday until he was home safe and sound. It was a long road for Martin but like everyone in this family, he is a fighter. They just turned 2 years old and I see pictures of them all the time, and usually can’t believe my eyes at the size of them. I get to hear them on the phone yelling and laughing and Martin even chats with me when I call. They are both very strong happy boys and I frequently joke that Cyn and Jaime wanted to turn the tables a bit and balance the boy/girl numbers.

Mike and Mandy are together and mom tells me they are good. I talk to Mike once in a while but it’s not easy with the time difference and the busy schedules we both have. They have also had another child, naturally a girl. Haha You know my love for girls. Pink dresses and lacy bonnets, little MaryJane’s and all things pink. What’s not to love. So that makes 3 girls for Mike… And a brand new house. Mom says its cute and that he has been working very hard on it. If there is one thing I know, my brother works hard.

So the big stuff that has changed. Remember Matthew? He is the man I would always be talking to on the computer when I would come up to visit. I know I would drive the family crazy walking around with a laptop chatting away half my vacations at your house. Well turns out I made that crazy move to Australia. I will not lie, it was not the easiest move. It took a lot of organizing and time. Lucky I was taught the how’s and when’s by some great women in this family. Other than the organizing and running around to get it all done, when it came down to moving, I was very much at ease with the decision. Matthew is an amazing person and I couldn’t be luckier to have him in my life.

Mykalyn came with me, of course and as funny as it sounds, it has been a very natural progression of going from an only child to one of 6. Matthew’s boys (the younger 3) spend half their time here and consider her just as much family as they do each other. Matthews older 2 are here less frequently but always seem comfortable around Mykalyn so I hope they too will build that relationship, in time. I couldn’t be happier with everyone’s progress. Matthew and Mykalyn act as if they were just always there for each other and Myki brings tears to my eyes when she calls him dad, or refers to the boys as her brothers.

It’s funny, I was ironing Matthew’s shirt for work the other day (god I’ll be happy to be able to work again-I still hate ironing) and there was a stack on handkerchiefs. In moment’s like these I can’t help but think about Gramps. Matthew reminds me so much of him. His soft-spoken, reserved way about him, but when he is engaged he can be laughing with that deep boisterous laugh and teasing someone for something. The way he always went to work looking pristine with his handkerchief in his pocket and the respect of everyone he knows. Those goofy limericks he would sing when the kids weren’t around. Matthew even makes me laugh in that way only Gramps could do. Matthew even did the ultimate…. not intentionally but it brought tears to my eyes and a laugh to my soul. He was in the bedroom messing with the TV while I was in the living room watching some show, and somehow he made our machine go on the fritz and it was changing channels all over the place. Turns out he didn’t know that would happen but it reminded me of when Gramps would tease you by changing your soaps using the remote from the back room. When Matthew did it, I could even hear you yelling out in my head “Bob, would you knock it off and change it back” with a little laugh out of him in satisfaction. Those memories have always made me feel so happy. Just knowing how lucky I was to have been a witness to it. To be part of it. And now having these moments for myself. It’s come full circle.

I wanted to tell you how lucky I am to have you in my life. You will probably never understand the sheer volume of knowledge I have learned from you over the years. Spending almost every vacation and holiday in your presence has been the biggest gift I could have ever gotten in all the years I have been in this world. You taught me to be kind and compassionate. That soft-spoken has its advantages, haha even if I am still the loudest one in the room. You taught me how to cook, to listen, to laugh, all at the same time.  You taught me how to understand, to appreciate those I love and the things I have, to always lend a hand and work hard. How to cry. To be in the moment but plan for my future. You and Gramps taught me how special true love is. What it looks like and how to nurture it. Both within yourself, and each other, but you also showed me how to teach my daughter those same things for her future. You taught me that life is not always as you think it will turn out, but that the living happens every day and that’s whats important. You are my guide and my rock. And I know that if ever I am having a hard time understanding the path of my life, that I can tell you anything and you will be there to listen.

I need to call mom and tell her how lucky I am to have her as a mom as well. Without her driving every dime she could save, into some crap car so we could spend our free time with you. She made huge sacrifices for the 3 of us.. not because she had to, but because that’s how she made it through her day. She lives for her kids, even now that we are all grown with kids of our own. I would have never learned these lessons without her. She has been an amazing mother, and until I moved away from everyone, I would never have understood any of these life lessons.

This hasn’t been the easiest letter to write. I originally sat down to write a letter to my 16-year-old self for a personal project. But in that moment, I felt my time would be better spent writing to you. You have been such an important part of my world and even if I didn’t always show it before, I wanted you to know now. It’s been over 2 years since I have written you, so I felt this was long over due. It’s been 2 years since I have heard your voice. Gotten those amazing hugs that I loved growing up. I wish I could have made it to your funeral, to have said goodbye, but instead I was with Jaime sharing in the moment MJ was born, as I know that’s where you would have wanted me to be. You always had a way to celebrate life, another lesson I hope to understand some day. Until then, we talk every day, sometimes my family thinks I’m going crazy. I frequently blurt out “I love you” and they all yell it back. And I always have a smile on my face when they do because I’m thinking about you and Gramps up in heaven watching over my wonderful family. My only regret in life… that they will never meet you and Gramps in person, to see all the wonderful things that I could see growing up.

I love you always,

Your favorite Granddaughter (Haha, I won’t tell the others, if you don’t)

Kimberly

 

Love you for always.

 

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