Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Driving rules

I know I am starting to get used to the whole driving on the left thing, because I had a moment of disorientation watching a US movie car scene the other day. I had a moment of "wait, what are they doing driving over there?" But I am far from all the way there yet. As I was walking downtown today to deposit a check during my lunch break, I was crossing a small side street that had a car waiting to turn onto the main street. As I would normally do, I tried to make eye contact with the driver to make sure they saw me and weren't going to pull forward while I was walking in front. I hesitated because the woman was looking down the street and totally unaware of my presence. But then I realized that doh! she was the passenger spacing out....

Monday, August 27, 2007

Bread update

Now that my roommate has gone back to Italy, I have given in to the temptation to start my science experiments for real. I am in day 3 of growing my sourdough starter. Wish me luck!


I haven't been blogging because I've been spending all of my free time agonizing over the house hunt, but no more! I officially have a place to live and can start spending my weekends doing other things!

I failed to find a place in Balmain, but I did get a lovely cottage in Glebe, which is my second choice neighborhood, and far far from a bad place to live. It has some added advantages also of being within walking distance to work, close to a movie theater, and on the light rail line. It has a rowing club and its own network of beautiful parks and harbourside paths.

It is also the neighborhood where I had originally intended to live. Funnily enough, I took a picture in Glebe when I was here for 24 hours in April that became my mental image of where I was going to live: it turns out that picture is around the corner from my house!

Pictures will follow shortly. And I take posession on Friday, and a top priority will be getting internet service set up, which means more pictures, more blog posts, more US phone opportunities and options.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Beer Bread

I've been obsessing about baking bread for eons now, and have given into the urges despite the poor equipment I have here and the lack of recipes. Basically, this means that I have reconstructed by memory the recipe for beer bread, which uses beer as the rising agent instead of yeast. It creates a dense, small loaf that has a nice beer-y taste. I have made two loaves so far, one using beer, the other hard cider. Both have been good, and satisfying to make, though neither would win prizes in the context of other homemade breads done with recipes and mixing bowls, etc.

My recipe is:
Combine 1 1/2 cups each of white and whole grain flour (the types of flour and relative proportions are up to you, as long as the total is approximately 3 cups). Add approximately 1 teaspoon of salt. Mix ingredients together. Pour in one bottle of beer or cider. Fold until the flour has absorbed some of the liquid. Add approximately one tablespoon of oil (I use olive oil). Continue folding the flour into the liquid until all of the ingredients stick together. Put the dough into a well-oiled pan or pot (I am using a small sauce pot, but the original recipe had me using a bread tin). Dust the top with something interesting: I've been using sea salt, but you could also do seeds or rolled oats or herbs. Bake for 45 minutes in a pre-heated oven at a little bit shy of the oven's hottest temperature (probably 450 F, though my oven is in Celsius and therefore gibberish). Let cool for a while before cutting.

I plan on experimenting with attempts to let the dough rise for awhile for the next loaf. Don't know if it will do anything though!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

More on Ibis

I posted a picture of an Ibis early on. But I have to say more about them.

I got my luch at the fish and chips stand next to the Imax theater on Darling Harbour. There is a flock of Ibis that live nearby in the palm trees next to a little water feature in the Darling Harbour horribleness. The birds pictured in that post are part of that flock. In addition to Ibis, the usual seagulls and pigeons hang out here. Not at all surprising, since there is lots of food (since there are lots of people) and it is near the water.

So on my way to lunch I saw a man sitting on a bench feeding the birds. And it was a flock of sea gulls, maybe a pigeon or two, and an Ibis. The Ibis was joining in enthusiatically pecking after bits of sandwich bread, and apparently in character Ibis are like gulls and pigeons and are considered by some to be pests. But the darn thing just looked so charmingly ridiculous, trying to fit in with the gulls with its long legs and crazy beak.

I guess you had to be there, but I really do love these birds!

Must stop fish and chips

Had them again for lunch today (well, just the fish. I don't order the chips, but you need to say both to be clear of what extreme sin I am speaking.) Must stop. But so good and reliably satisfying!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Ultimate Frisbee

Last night I got a taste of real Aussie life, joining in with one of my friends of friends and her informal frisbee team. They play once a week, fairly intense games but very informal, and then go to their favorite pub.

I've never played Ultimate before, and was shocked that I didn't totally embarrass myself, though they were also very nice about all the times that I did flub plays I shouldn't have flubbed. Lots of running, which, despite all of the walking of the past month, came as a bit of a shock to my system.

Fish and Chips

On Saturday during my house hunting rounds (fruitless this week) I discovered the joys of fish and chips. Actually, really just the fish part--I've discovered you can buy the battered deep fried fish without the french fries, which makes them marginally less disasterous for the arteries...

But really, it is divine. Now the challenge is to not eat them for every meal!


It really has been too long since I've last posted. I've been writing posts in my head, but it is hard to implement with the bad internet connection at home.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007


It is official. "My" house is not going to be my house. Bummer.

However, there is a new house nearby that was just listed, and right on the street that is in one of my Balmain photos below (the middle one of three that has water at the bottom of a steep hill). So onward ho!


One other event of note today:

I actually took the buses recommended by 131500, the Sydney transport guru website to get to and from the agent. They leave from the Queen Victoria Building in the CBD and take highways to get to Balmain, so the walk to the stop in the CBD seems far, but the bus is super fast, comes ever 10 minutes or so, and stops right near "my" house. And there are a series of sky walkways that get you over various busy roads and deep gorges so the walk isn't too long. Through fairly horrid Darling Harbor tourist hell, but it doesn't take long. Furthermore, it is just a couple blocks from the ferry to Balmain, so if I see the ferry pulling away as I get there and don't feel like waiting a half hour, I can get to the bus without too much walking in circles.

Round trip to the office and back, including the visit with the agent, took just over an hour.

The bus is the one referred to in the picture as being on Montague.... [Errr. The photo refuses to load over my slow home connection, so I'll post it later....]

Legal alien

I am now officially allowed to work for pay in Australia! My visa came through today, so I am being paid as of today. Woohoo!

It was odd, though. I all of a sudden felt obligated to actually do something for a change. A feeling that is quite unfamiliar these days. I actually did do some work this afternoon, too, after getting back from the agent.

Hope is painful!

I went to the real estate agent's office today to see if the apartment had been given to someone else and it hasn't. As of 3 pm today, the agent was still waiting to hear back from the owner. So there is still hope. Agony.

Monday, August 6, 2007

More Balmain

I didn't hear from the real estate agent yesterday, so the probability of getting "my" house has plummeted. Very very bummed about that--went to bed last night homesick as a result. Nonetheless, the thing I am most excited about is the neighborhood and I have until October to find a place. So. Stiff upper lip and all that. Here are more pictures of Balmain (a park, a view from a steep street, and "my" house.

Sunday, August 5, 2007


I think I have settled on a neighborhood (or suburb as even city neighborhoods are called) for my permanent place. It is called Balmain and is a peninsula on the southern shore of the harbor, just to the west of the CBD. It is utterly gorgeous, with most of the land on a high bluff above the water. The streets are pretty steep and you often turn a corner and are greeted with a surprise vista of water or city skyline. I've got an application in for a house there, so keep your fingers crossed for me! I'll have better pictures when I can combine camera, computer, camera cable, and internet....


Now for more cheerful stuff. One fun thing about Sydney is all of the bizarre birds you see. One common one here is the Ibis--a totally ungainly creature! They are pretty big birds and like to roost in palm trees, so they sometimes have trouble staying on the palm frond, since it moves a lot under their weight.

Preliminary accommodations

I really do intend to write here regularly. One reason I haven't is that internet connection at home is terrible. I happen to have my laptop at the office today, so I can post some of the pictures I have been meaning to share.

First things first, I have to complain about my temporary apartment. It is horrible in a sneaky sort of way. The set up of the building is bizarre: it is a converted woolshed, now a hotel with residential apartments mixed in. All of the rooms are around a vast interior atrium with each floor a web of catwalks to the individual apartments. Most strange of all is the second floor, which is actually where I most often leave the building. (There are exterior catwalks to transport and easier access to Harris St., which is where all the shops are). This is the floor where there is actually floor, rather than catwalk. And, in keeping with the attempted illusion that this is a courtyard rather than a hallway (all of the apartments have widows that look out onto it), apartments on this floor have strange little fenced in areas around their doors. Some people have put lawn furniture out there. But it is hideous! The light is weird and there is constant blowing sounds, probably from the ventillation system. The picture here is of this second floor.... gross!