Category Archives: food

Sydney Expat Interview Series Part 14: Favorite Sydney Restaurant

food, restaurants, Sydney Expat Interviews

Food, glorious food! Discovering new cuisine is one of the most entertaining and enlightening things about exploring a new place. Sydney hosts the whole world in terms of culinary adventures; so, I was curious about what places the expats have discovered to dine. I asked them to tell us about their favorite restaurant in Sydney.

This is the 14th in an 18 part interview series with expats living in Sydney. Please make sure to visit the fantastic websites of the participants linked below, and join me on Facebook for much more on expat life in Sydney.

Sydney Expats Share Their Favorite Sydney Restaurant

Name: Julia
Country of origin: UK
Lived in Sydney: 7 years

Sake in the rocks – modern Japanese, fantastic location. You can go for pre-drinks at the Argyle beforehand, as its next door, and the food in there is just amazing. Cant wait to go back! photo 1 (2)

Name: Debbie
Country of origin: England
Lived in Sydney: 10 years

Well, I can’t exactly claim it’s a favourite as I’ve only eaten there the once, but I’m Angus at Cockle Bay Wharf served by far the best steak I’ve had in this country (if not ever), I’d love to go back again sometime. photo 2 (2)

Name: “Bushranger”
Country of Origin: Serbia
Lived in Sydney: 6.5 Years

Toshiya – Japanese restaurant on Military Rd. in Cremorne. Somehow the chef, who came from Tokyo, really knows how to deliver tasty dishes and also cater to the local palette. photo 5 (2)


Name: Shane
Country of origin: USA
Lived in Sydney: 1 year
Shane blogs at Sea Salt Secrets

The Grounds of Alexandria in Alexandria.

See some of Shane’s photos from Easter at the Grounds … like this one! The Grounds

Name: Kirstie
Country of origin: United States
Lived in Sydney: Since September 2013
Kirstie blogs at Venga Vale Vamos

The Potting Shed in Alexandria (next to The Grounds, which is incredibly popular for brunch) is absolutely beautiful at night, with twinkling lights and lush plants from floor to ceiling, and offers delicious share plates. photo 3 (2)

Name: Melissa
Country of origin: USA
Lived in Sydney: 1 year
Melissa blogs at Leche Love

So far, Mad Pizza E Bar in Newtown. Both pizza and service are really good. photo 4 (2)

Name: Victoria
Country of origin: England
Lived in Sydney: 6 years
Victoria blogs at The Freedom Travellers

It would have to be Sokyo at The Star in Pyrmont. The most amazing modern Japanese food and cocktails! The service is fantastic and the food ticks all the boxes. We usually just ask the staff to recommend dishes and they always get it right. photo 1

Name: Dido
Country of origin: India
Lived in Sydney: 2.5 years

Nilgiri’s at St. Leonards – Dosa’s are to die for and go for a nice Sunday brunch with family and friends to enjoy the buffet @$25 per head. (Nilgiri’s is moving to a new location in Cremorne, as of August 2016).
photo 1 (3)

Name: Rachel
Country of Origin: England
Lived in Sydney: 4 Years

It’s not so much the restaurant, but a regular social get-together with friends represents my favourite restaurant, and not only because of the food. When I lived in Manly, for the best part of just over a year each Monday night would be spent catching up with friends over dinner at The Steyne pub on Manly’s Corso.

For the cuisine, I would recommend Provence by Antoine in Concord. Having been there just recently with my boyfriend – the food was incredible. It’s a small French cuisine restaurant with a great menu of authentic sourced food and wine and friendly staff, offering a real personal touch in their service. photo 2

photo 3

Name: Erin
Country of origin: Texas, USA
Lived in Sydney: 7 1/2 years
Erin blogs at TexErin-in-Sydneyland

The Oxford Tavern in Petersham for their BBQ pit on Saturday afternoons OR Chophouse on Bligh Street in the CBD for fantastic steaks.

photo 4 (3)

photo 4


Name: Caitlin
Country of origin: England

Lived in Sydney: 1.5 year
Caitlin blogs at Where’s Wallis

I love Toko in Surry Hills. The best sushi I’ve had in Sydney and fantastic décor and atmosphere. Tip: try to get one of the tables by the bar! photo 5

Name: Ashley
Country of origin: United States

Lived in Sydney: 2 years (in Newcastle)
Visit Ashley on Instagram

Because we have kids, we don’t tend to pop into real restaurants while in town. We have been to Smash Sausage Kitchen in Newtown which was so delicious. They had veggie sausages which kept me and the kids happy! The Bucket List in Bondi. It’s a buzzing atmosphere on the beach and full of model-type people. Everyone’s beautiful there!

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photo 3 (3)

Drooling, yet? Do tell us your favorite Sydney restaurant in the comments!

Read Part 1: Expectations vs Reality
Read Part 2: The Most Memorable Sydney Day
Read Part 3: Your First Day in Sydney
Read Part 4: Drinking Like an Aussie
Read Part 5: The Birds of Sydney
Read Part 6: Australian Christmas
Read Part 7: Off the Beaten Path
Read Part 8: Questions About Your Home
Read Part 9: What People at Home Think of Australia
Read Part 10: Advice for Moving to Sydney
Read Part 11: A Sydney Weekend
Read Part 12: Australian TV
Read Part 13: Something I Miss From Home

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The Babycino

food, Little Aussie

“What does Mama love?” I asked my little Hushpuppy the other day.
“COFFEE!” she enthused, without missing a beat.

I know you’re with me on this one, sleepy moms and mums. It would seem my habit has not gone unnoticed even by the two year old who will declare forever lost a toy she just stepped on with her bare foot.

Given my daily devotion, my little charge has been coerced into accompanying me to endless cafes – quick stops for a takeaway fix or long coffee dates with other caffeine-addicted* mother friends (*which is to say, most mothers I know.). It only seems good manners that my constant companion, who has no say in her perpetual attendance at the roving coffee carnival that is my life, should have a treat of her own.

Enter the Babycino. Her commitment to the babycino is almost (*not even close*) as strong as mine to the real deal. She sweetly even tried to order one when the flight attendant came around with coffee on an airplane recently.

I thought I’d write this because I get asked frequently what, exactly, a babycino is. The question usually comes from friends without children, friends with young babies, or people overseas who know not of the Australian espresso coffee obsession. Those of you who are also proudly rearing babycino aficionados can just back me up here.

The babycino is a little cup of frothed milk, usually topped with chocolate powder, and in the really magical places, served with a marshmallow. $1 seems to be the standard-ish rate, though it varies widely. I’ve paid as little as zero dollars and as much as $2.50. No joke, more than an actual carton of milk! That hurts a person, ya know? Apparently baristas hate making them because it, I don’t know, messes with their zen or something, but I’ve found they’re pretty standard in most cafes, so I think most of them – to speak like an Aussie –  “just get on with it.”

Let me tell you what else the babycino is, besides a couple teaspoons of frothy milk –

  • It’s five two minutes of peace for me while we both enjoy our tasty, tasty beverages
  • It’s a sense of pride and belonging for my girl

She sometimes says that hers is a “babycino” and mine is a “mamacino.” I love that. In my world, it’s ‘cinos for everyone!

babycino1 babycino2 babycino3

Do you have a ‘cino lover in your family?
What do you usually pay for them?
Has your child successfully gotten any airlines to make one?

Sydney Expat Interview Series Part 4: Drinking Like an Aussie

food, Sydney Expat Interviews

One thing I’ve noticed about Australian culture, is that a lot of social life centers around beverages. Sydney is very proud of its coffee culture (almost as proud as Melbourne), and after hours, there’s not much more Australian than to share a couple of drinks with friends. So, this month I asked the expats what they’re drinking now that they live in Australia.

This is the 4th installment in an 18-part interview series. Please visit the other great bloggers linked here once you’ve read this post. And, if you like this content, join Between Roots and Wings on Facebook, as well! Sydney Expat Interview Series - Drinking like an Aussie

Question 4: What is your coffee order? And, what are you drinking at happy hour?


Name: Ashley
Country of origin: United States
Lived in Sydney: 2 years (in Newcastle)
Visit Ashley on Instagram

WOW is coffee different here! I’m used to going to Dunkin Donuts to get a fancy caramel swirl iced coffee! The iced coffee here is coffee, milk, a massive blob of ice cream, and whipped cream on top. I couldn’t continue drinking that every time I wanted something!!! My go to drink now is a decaf skim latte. You really can’t go wrong and it always tastes good. Oh and what’s up with Aussies not having drip coffee?!
My happy hour drink? Two words: Australian wine. There is so much Aussie wine, you just can’t go wrong having something local.

Name: Victoria
Country of origin: England
Lived in Sydney: 5 years
Victoria blogs at The Freedom Travellers

Almond Latte and sparkling water. It used to be champagne but I’ve given up alcohol for 12 months, yes, people think I’m crazy!

Name: Rachel
Country of origin: England
Lived in Sydney: 3 years, 6 months

I’m an avid tea drinker, and my favourite is Lemongrass & Ginger or Irish Breakfast from T2 store.

At happy hour, I’m usually sipping a G&T on Clarence or York Streets. My favourite bars include Lobo Plantation, The Rook, Stitch Bar, Barber Shop and also The Soda Factory in Surry Hills.

Name: Julia
Country of origin: UK
Lived in Sydney: 6 years

Regular Cappucino

(From Bean Drinking, Crows Nest)

(From Bean Drinking, Crows Nest)

Name: Dido
Country of origin: India
Lived in Sydney: 1.5 years

Flat white, 1 sugar, extra hot.
Beer or Wine (red or white)

Name: Caitlin
Country of origin: England
Lived in Sydney: 9 months
Caitlin blogs at Where’s Wallis

I’m a classic English girl and tea’s my drink of choice. Though I’m easing myself into Australian coffee culture with some Mochas.

Name: Mollie
Country of origin: USA
Lived in Sydney: 4 years

Skinny latte and Shiraz.

Name: Nom de geurre – “Bushranger”
Country of origin: Serbia
Lived in Sydney: 6.5yrs

Chai latte.
Happy hour – probably some good Barrosa shiraz.

Name: Melissa
Country of origin: USA
Lived in Sydney: 6 months
Melissa blogs at Leche Love

Cappuccino, but sometimes long black.
Young Henry’s beer for happy hour.

Name: Shane
Country of origin: USA
Lived in Sydney: 1 year
Shane blogs at Sea Salt Secrets

Long Black (espresso with water). Sydney has a superb cafe culture, rivaled only by Melbourne.
Wine is my go to drink because it’s the only comparable alcohol price-wise. Spirits and beer are so expensive!Happy Hour

Name: Debbie
Country of origin: England
Lived in Sydney: 10 years

Coffee is a boring long black (had to learn that one when I moved here, no such thing in the UK) and just a glass of white wine or a Rekorderlig cider.

Name: Kirstie
Country of origin: United States
Lived in Sydney: Since September 2013
Kirstie blogs at Venga Vale Vamos

From what I hear, Australia is a fantastic place for coffee, but I’m not a coffee drinker myself, so I’ll take chai tea lattes!
For happy hour, it’s all about cider. We don’t have nearly enough cider on tap in the U.S.

Name: Erin
Country of origin: Texas, USA
Lived in Sydney: 6 1/2 years
Erin blogs at TexErin-in-Sydneyland

I don’t drink coffee. I do drink strong black tea. I never drank hot tea until I moved here.
Happy hour? Depends on my mood – wine, beer, spirits; I share the love.

And you? What are you drinking?


Read Part 1: Expectations vs Reality
Read Part 2: The Most Memorable Sydney Day
Read Part 3: Your First Day in Sydney

Our Food Revolution Starts Here: Cooking With My Toddler

food, Little Aussie

headercookingIt’s just like me to always have food on the brain, so it’s no surprise, really, that when it comes to kid-rearing, our relationship to food has always been in the forefront for me. By the time she was 8 weeks old, I was obsessing on baby-led weaning. There was a period, during her particularly grabby-touch-everything phase that I was tempted to put a gate on the kitchen door to save myself a pile of sanity, but decided against it because I felt strongly that I wanted her to feel welcome in the kitchen. Even before her first birthday, I was looking forward to her reaching an age when she could work with me in the kitchen.

That day came not long after her second birthday. Delighted hardly begins to describe her joy when I pull the stool up to the kitchen counter and she goes “up, up, up!”. Cooking together has become one of our favorite activities. It often begins a little something like this:

Me: “Shall we make some pancakes for breakfast?”

Hushpuppy: “Cancakes! Up! Up! Up! Flour! Sugar! Eggs! Stirring!”

And, before she’s even finished her monologue, she’s whipping her apron and chef’s hat out of the drawer.

I’m writing this post about our love of cooking together in honor of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution Day. If you know me or have read this blog for awhile, you know that Jamie Oliver is pretty much an honorary family member around here (he doesn’t know about it, but he is), and I couldn’t possibly be more in favor of the idea of his Food Revolution Day. In short, he’d like to bring food education to all children to make their lives healthier and better. I agree with this so much. I can’t think of anything more connected to our health, security, and personal empowerment than food, and yet it’s not part of the curriculum in most places.

I’m so grateful that I learned to cook and make positive meal planning choices growing up. I don’t remember my Mom ever “teaching” me to cook. I was just always in the kitchen with her and picked it up, as children do. In that spirit, I wanted Hushpuppy in the kitchen with me as early as possible, and in recognition of the marvelous initiative Jamie (may I call you Jamie, Jamie?) has come up with, I present just a few of the reasons I love having my toddler in the kitchen with me.

A Lesson in Where Food Comes From

The most obvious reason to have a child in the kitchen is so that they learn to cook. Now, I don’t think Hushpuppy is going to be whipping up dinner while I sit in the sun with my Pinot Gris anytime soon, but she’s already getting the idea about the different components that go into various dishes that we make from scratch. It doesn’t just appear mysterioulsy on her plate fully prepared.

It’s a Science Lesson

See what happens when you add the wet milk to the dry flour? And if we add a little more?
We can look at the changes in texture, color, temperature, size and so forth. I love making pancakes with her because after we’ve made the batter, I let her watch while we put them in the pan. She can see that when the liquidy mixture goes into the hot pan (“Hot! Don’t touch it!”), it becomes solid. Every step is a science lesson.


Cooking together is a great time for us to talk to each other, and I share with her every step that we take. From this, she’s picked up an amazing number of new vocabulary words. She can identify all of the basic ingredients in baking. She knows utensils and dishes. And, she has a whole compliment of fantastic action words – on top of stirring, she knows “mashing,” “mushing,” “squishing,” “squeezing,” and probably a few other fun to say onomatopoeic gems I’m forgetting. It’s also great practice with her numbers, as we’re always counting out scoops or time.

All the Cool Kids Are Doing It 

photo (38)

…as you can see. She loves dressing the part and lately has been saying that she’s a “chef.” It’s great imaginative play.

Teaches patience

Oh, this is such a big one, and it works both ways.

Cooking is not an instant gratification sport, and that’s a challenge for a toddler to understand. She has to wait while we clear the kitchen counter, wash hands, and get our ingredients ready. She’s usually so keen to get going that I have to remind her of our kitchen mantra, “first thing’s first!” She’ll even say it to me, now. That doesn’t mean that she never gets impatient, but it’s small steps towards growing her patience for embarking on a process. First thing’s first!

The art of patience when it comes to cooking with a toddler is at least as big a lesson for me. I know you’ll be shocked to hear it, but she doesn’t actually perform every task with perfect grace. I have to remind myself to keep a calm tone when asking her for the seventh time to keep everything in the bowl as she stirs or the eleventh time to stop eating all of it. The other day, she spilled a cup of buttermilk all over the counter and floor in an act of toddler clumsiness. I was so frustrated, both about the cleanup and having wasted so much milk. It was a perfect teaching moment for me about literally not crying (or screaming) over spilled milk. I got her in on the act of cleaning up and poured out another batch. In the end, no harm done. Deep breaths all around.


At the end of every project, I make a really big deal about the fact that “we made this!” I want to be certain sure she puts it all together – that this yummy thing we’re eating is the same one we were working on in the kitchen. We can both beam with pride, even when our project looks as amazing as, say, our Christmas cookies…


…Nailed it!

Being Together

Big time Mom Confession: I’ve recently allowed myself to admit that I hate doing crafts with my kid. I know I’m supposed to love it, and we should be romping together in painty-gluey-cardbord-tubey fields of Pinterest-worthy-glee, but the thought just fills me with dread. Cooking and baking, however – that I can do. We both get so much joy out of our projects, we get plenty messy, and maybe even learn a few things along the way. We chat, and high-five, and in the end, we share a meal or snack together. I’ll take that over cleaning up finger paint any day. IMG_3745

It’s seriously a blast working with this little chef in our kitchen.


My Bored Toddler

An Easter of Living Dangerously

food, Little Aussie

This Easter, we have in our home a stash of contraband – objects considered so incendiary, so absolutely devastating to social order that they are banned in all 50 States. Should I try to bring them into the U.S., I could face up to $10,000 in fines on the spot.

Is it drugs? No…IMG_4339

A gun? Haha no, those things are totally fine!IMG_4341Their only known predator is the T-Rex.

(OK, maybe that part isn't totally true)

(OK, maybe that part isn’t totally true)

It’s actually this terrifying object… IMG_4338For my American readers, that is a Kinder egg. It’s a chocolate egg with a plastic toy inside. You may never have seen one because they truly are illegal, and the fine is reported to be $2,500 per egg if you attempt to import them. Just ask Customs and Border Control if you don’t believe me!

As a little gift, a friend brought me a box of four of them yesterday, hence the potential $10,000 fine should I try to cross the border.

Frankly, I was more concerned about my little daughter’s dairy intolerance than the choking hazard, but as she seems to be improving, we decided to let her have a go. For all my friends back home, I decided to make a little film of our risky behaviour. Just call me the Johnny Knoxville of candy.

Happy Easter from our family to yours. May you enjoy living deliciously on the edge as much as we do!

The Sydney Side: Night Noodle Markets

annual events, food

Every year that we’ve lived in Sydney, we’ve made a point of heading to Hyde Park for the fabulous Night Noodle Markets, and so I’m amazed to find out I’ve never written about them here.

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Each October, dozens of Sydney’s Asian restaurants set up stalls in the park where diners can come each evening and sample their cuisine in an al fresco setting. They’re usually one of the first events on the summer festival calendar, and they always get us in the mood for all the outdoor fun we’re going to have in Sydney over the following months.

Before Hushpuppy arrived, we would go after work and meet up with friends. If we were lucky, we’d get a table, or otherwise, we’d just grab a patch of grass (even the grass become a hot commodity at a certain point in the evening). Now that we have a child, we try to be a bit more strategic. It’s actually a great event to take children to, even ones as young as Hushpuppy (she was 8 months when we took her last year, and it was no problem). For us, the keys to enjoying the Night Noodle Markets with a young child are:

Last year's Night Noodle Markets.

Last year’s Night Noodle Markets. Hushpuppy loved the dumplings.

-Arrive early. This year we arrived at 4:50 for a 5p.m. opening, which was perfect. We were able to get a table with no problems, find the stalls where we wanted to eat, and take turns getting food before the lines got very long or the kid got cranky.
-Know that there are no high chairs. We have a snack tray attachment for the stroller, which is the perfect Night Noodle Market seat for Hushpuppy.
-Be aware that there are going to be big crowds. There’s not much you can do about this, but for me at least, it helps to mentally go through how you’re going to maneuver crowds with a child.

Normally, I don’t have any idea what I’m going to eat. I just wander around the stalls and try to find the perfect combination of something that looks great coupled with a reasonable line. This has resulted in mixed results. I’ve had some incredible meals and some forgettable ones. This year, I decided to go with a plan. I consulted my favorite Facebook mother’s group for suggestions, and I got back the recommendation of Bao Stop. After looking at the pictures on their Facebook page, I decided that was my choice. photo 1 (7)The “baos” were sort of like little Asian tacos. The lobster one was in high demand, but honestly, the pork belly was my favorite. I also picked up an order of the sweet potato fries because I knew Hushpuppy would eat them, if nothing else, and just wow. They were unbelievably good, even better than the main course.

Partner-in-Crime had a crunchy noodle green curry from Longrain that he said was really good (too spicy for me, but that’s not saying much). I’ve eaten at Lograin’s stall in year’s past, and they are always delicious.

photo 2 (7)

I noticed that Gelato Messina had a stall this year (maybe they have in year’s past, but I haven’t noticed it before), and I was very curious. If you’re not familiar, Gelato Messina is a wildly popular dessert restaurant known for their many flavors of gelato. On any given evening, there’ usually a long line out the door to get in. They are not, however, an Asian place, so I wondered what they would have. Turned out, they’d put together several “potluck pies,” which were bowls of amazing concoctions with a mildly Asian bent. Here’s the one I settled on:photo 3 (3)copy

photo 4 (3)

I was so excited that I forgot to take a picture until I was well underway.

We also got a fortune cookie from Gelato Messina, whose “fortune” read:

photo 5Don’t think I’m not tempted to go back for just that very reason.

The Night Noodle Markets go on for a few more days until the 26th of October.




Australian Citizenship Party and the Incident With the Door

food, Little Aussie, parties

I’m laying very low and quiet with my kid, a lot of coffee, and Playschool videos today so as not to disturb any forces in the universe that might make this anything other than a quiet, uneventful day. 

After yoga on Friday, we had quite the unexpected drama. Hushpuppy and I had just finished with our weekly mums & bubs class and were in the lobby packing up, chatting to the other mothers. Hushpuppy was wreaking her usual havoc, attempting to infiltrate the trash can (rubbish bin, if you want to be Aussie about it), throwing potting soil on the ground, and so forth. The studio owner/instructor, who has know Hushpuppy her whole life, made a comment about how curious she is (i.e. – your kid is into everything!). True to form, Hushpuppy decided that she wanted to check out the smoke detector next to the door. I was standing right next to her telling her no, but am still unsure how the next split second transpired. Another mother walked out the door and, somehow, Huspuppy got her hand into the open space between the door and the frame. Her two bottom fingers became completely lodged in the door, and the door could not be moved in either direction to free them. None of us could believe what we were seeing, and poor Hushpuppy was clearly in a fair amount of pain and panic. One of the mums grabbed some baby massage oil to try to loosen her fingers, but it was clear that they were completely stuck. All I could do was sit and hold her, and talk to her, and kiss her head. For a moment, panic overtook me, and I started shaking and crying, but then it went through my mind that I’m the mother here – I did not have the luxury of freaking out. Hushpuppy needed me to stay calm and level-headed for her. The studio owner was quick to action, calling 000 (our 911), and the other mothers tried to be helpful, though there was little to be done. 
Seven hours passed and the ambulance arrived … OK, it was actually maybe 10 minutes, amazing time on their part, but for me it felt like seven hours. The paramedics tried to free her fingers with whatever tools they could find in the studio, but they couldn’t get her loose. They told me we’d wait for the fire truck, which was on its way. Three more hours a couple of minutes passed, and the fire fighters arrived. They sledge hammered a couple of large wedges into the door, freeing my poor little monkey, at last. 
I was so relieved to have her out, but still very worried about the fate of her fingers, as they’d been so stuck for a long time. I was sure they’d be broken, or worse, and I’d be lying if I didn’t say that the thought she might lose those fingers crossed my mind. Seeing them didn’t help – they looked flat  as pancakes – no, actually, much flatter than any pancake I’ve seen, and had large indentations from the door frame. The paramedics were so nice and said that there was a good chance her fingers would be absolutely fine, as their bones are so small at this age, but I didn’t know if they were just saying that to calm me. I got a hug from the studio manager and got to have a quick cry.
We rode to the hospital in the ambulance, thankfully only a short distance away, and the paramedics took turns trying to entertain Hushpuppy as we waited to be brought to the ER. They were the sweetest guys. She slowly started to calm, as we got to the waiting room, and was really happy to see her dad walk in the door a few minutes later (as was I!). By the time we were seen by a doctor a few minutes later, her fingers already looked immensely better. She was given some Panadol, which helped with her pain. X-rays were taken, and they found no breaks. I was amazed and overwhelmed. By the time we left, Hushpuppy was playing happily in the pediatric ER’s play area. I couldn’t believe how lucky she was to come out so unscathed. We took her home, fed her dinner, gave her a dose of Nurofen, and she slept all night without waking, certainly exhausted from her ordeal. I had a couple of glasses of wine, and also slept all night, needing my own repair from the experience. 
The next morning, Hushpuppy seemed as if nothing had happened, and her fingers were a bit red and swollen, but not so much that you would even notice if it wasn’t pointed out to you. It was a relief, especially because I needed her in good form. We were hosting a party that afternoon to celebrate Partner-in-Crime’s recent birthday and newly acquired Aussie citizenship. I had a somewhat ambitious menu planned, and needed a cooperative toddler to make it all happen. She was surprisingly obliging, and I spent the day in full-on food prep mode. My menu for our Aussie themed party was:
  • Appetizers (entrees, if you’re Aussie): Meat pies and sausage rolls (from frozen – full disclosure!), Vegemite sandwiches (ewww), fresh fruit plate. We also had a box of Anzac biscuits out that we set out, but completely forgot to open.

  • Mains (entrees, if you’re American): Kangaroo burgers (even the buns from scratch, thank you very much!), lamb roast, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, and prawn and mango salad.
  • Dessert (universal): Pavlova. Fairy bread for the kids. 

Click to make larger
We had a few decorations and P-i-C turned out to be an ace with the green and yellow streamers – who knew?! I’d spent some time crafting the party playlist, and P-i-C had put together a beautiful slideshow with images from our travels around Australia, both of which were cut short by some meddling little hands “helping” with the SmartTV set up. But, hey, here’s my playlist, in case you’re ever hosting an Aussie themed party and need inspiration. It would have been good.
Look at that skill with streamers!
Aside from the tech glitches, I think the party went well. We got to enjoy a few hours with some of our dear friends, people who have made us feel like we have a home here for the past four years, and some of the new friends who have come into our lives since having Hushpuppy. It was also fortuitous for me to have such a busy day after Friday’s drama so that I didn’t have the time or brain space to spend a lot of time replaying the terrifying door incident in my head.  Certainly much better to be able to focus on something constructive and positive. 
Aussie, Aussie, Aussie! Very glad that we have so much to celebrate this weekend.

Day 21: Tastes Like Home

expat blog challege, food

Prompt: Tastes Like Home

Every few weeks, we drive out to Costco, which is about an hour away. A couple of months ago, something terrible happened. They were out of Skippy peanut butter. Or, rather, they only had crunchy, which, I’m sorry, but crunchy? That’s just open mocking. So rude, Costco. It was a dark day.



Generally speaking, I adore the food in Australia. I love the variety and quality, and the fact that most of the stuff in the grocery store is not so loaded with complete crap as our processed food at home. I mean, I don’t think my beloved Tim Tam is a health food, but generally speaking. When I look in our pantry, I don’t see much in the way of junky processed foods, as I do most of our cooking from scratch. The one big exception is my dear Skippy.
I tried a lot of peanut butter when I moved here, and all of it made me sad. It just wasn’t as sweet and creamy as what I grew up with (read: it’s probably a lot healthier). I settled for something as junky as I could find, but my passion for peanut butter had perished.
So, when Costco Sydney opened, I made a beeline for the industrial sized peanut butter. Skippy tastes like home. It’s the brand that I grew up with, so to me, it is what peanut butter should taste like. In the days before every third kid was anaphylaxic from even thinking about peanuts, most of my school lunches were peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. And, we had a rule in my house that if you weren’t going to eat what was served at the dinner table, you could make yourself a peanut butter sandwich (we weren’t very picky eaters, and didn’t take that option too often, lest you think our parents were giving us carte blanche on PBJ for dinner).
Not that many of my friends ate Skippy at home, most of them coming from Peter Pan or Jif households, and for some reason, they’d tell me it tasted like it had mayonnaise in it, but then quickly say, “but not in a bad way.” This anecdote is appropos of nothing, but just thought I’d pass that along since we’re talking Skippy, anyway.
It’s so comforting. First, there’s this…
… that perfectly smooth layer in the new jar fills my heart with smiles. Sometimes, my mom would draw a little heart in there, and if that does not say a mother’s love is beyond words, I don’t know what does.
Then, there’s how beautifully it spreads. It’s just pretty. Finally, it tastes sweet, smooth, peanuty. I know it takes a lot of processing and a lot of junk to get it to taste like it does, but that’s how we do in America.
Based on exactly not one shred of science, I went wild with my peanut butter intake when I was pregnant, as I was determined to not have a child with a peanut allergy. A house without peanut butter?  I don’t even know what that looks like… By the time Hushpuppy was four months old, I was doing skin tests where I’d rub a little PB on her cheek and look for a reaction (that’s a real thing, I didn’t just make that one up). Thank my lucky stars, she has no problem with peanut butter. She’s decidedly a next-generation Skippy kid. And, in case you want to judge me for giving my baby junky spread on her toast, I’d like to mention that the health nurses advocate giving babies Vegemite here, so I’m not going to apologize.

I opened up this new jar today, good timing for this blog, and put Skippy right on my shopping list. Even though this one will last me awhile, I’ve learned to always keep one in reserve, lest we ever have to repeat the empty peanut butter shelf episode again.

Day 7: Foodstuffs

expat blog challege, food

Prompt: Since moving abroad, my pantry looks different because…

Hello, voyeurs, and welcome to my pantry!

I hang around a few Americans in Australia groups on Facebook, and the topic invariably turns to food. “Where can I get marshmallows/ranch dressing/streaky bacon/Mexican food that doesn’t suck?” have to be the most-asked questions. And, it’s amazing to watch a thread that has nothing to do with food devolve into a discussion about missing Taco Bell/hamburgers/graham crackers. It’s no surprise, as food is one of the most unifying elements in a culture. So, I dedicated Fridays in the blog challenge to food, since we’re obsessed with talking about it, anyway.
Today’s prompt is about how my pantry has changed since living abroad. 
Well, for one thing, I have a pantry, so that’s pretty big.
In terms of what’s in it, I pulled a few items out of the pantry/fridge that are staples for me, which I rarely or never used at home.

One of the main differences in my cooking in Australia is that I make a lot more Asian-style foods. We have so much exposure to Asian cuisine here, that it’s just naturally become a big part of my cooking. A few items that I always have on hand that I never used in the States – fish sauce, sesame oil, curry powder, red lentils, and rice noodles.
Spices that I never had occasion to use at home – Garam masala, Chinese 5 spice, tarragon, and cardamom (hey, try sprinkling cardamom on roasted parsnip. That’s my own invention, and it’s super, if I do say so myself). I pulled cumin out, too, even though I usually had cumin on hand at home, I only used it to make hummus. These days, cumin is my king of spices, especially since I have to cook low-salt for the baby. Whenever I can’t figure out what something needs, or it just needs a little spicing, I turn to cumin. 

Dukkah. Do y’all know about this stuff?!? It’s a dry mixture, which Wikipedia tells me is Egyptian, that is made from nuts and spices. It’s great for dipping bread into with some olive oil, and even better for coating fish for baking.

The other change in our pantry doesn’t have to do with moving abroad, but with having a baby with a dairy and soy intolerance. I now keep four kinds of milk on hand (regular milk for Partner-in-Crime and myself, plus almond, oat, and coconut milk, all which have specific uses). Coconut oil is massive in my home now, as it’s replaced butter in most of my baking, on top of about a thousand other uses. Coconut oil is great for you, and it’s going to continue to have a big place in my pantry, even if and when Hushpuppy outgrows her intolerances. And, you may notice yeast in there. That’s because I make our bread now. Almost all bread you buy in the store has soy flour in it, which is a no-go for my kiddo. It’s a good amount of work to keep up with it, but who doesn’t love homemade bread?
I thought of one more as I was putting things back in the fridge. Brown eggs. At home, I thought brown eggs were only for the fancy people. Here, they are all that’s available. I had a hard time with the eggs when I first moved here, and for a long time, could not eat them without feeling sick. I find them to be quite a bit richer than the eggs in the States. And, in some grocery stores, they are kept out on the shelf, rather than in the refrigerator section. Strange, but apparently perfectly healthy. Who knew?
So, my expats, that’s your food fix for the day. Sorry, I still don’t know where to buy Graham crackers.

Oops, I forgot to recommend a fellow blog challenger yesterday! Never fear, today I’m happy to point you over to another American in Sydney, Yvette at My Life and Musings. I’ve been reading Yvetter’s blog for awhile, after she was nice enough to leave a comment on mine. She has a really natural writing style and I like her sense of humor. Give her a read.

An Aussie Christmas

annual events, expat issues, food, holidays, Sydney

This year marked my third Australian Christmas. I remember the first two as both sort-of-nice and sort-of-sad (2010’s very strange trip is here. 2011, spent quietly with friends, seems to not even have warranted its own post). This year, I decided that I was approaching the holiday all wrong, and determined that I needed to, not just accept, but actually embrace that Christmas takes place in the middle of summer, and that either ignoring it all together or doing anything that tries to recreate a Norman Rockwell North American holiday was just going to leave me melancholy and disappointed.

So, this year, I undertook Operation Aussie Christmas.

Step 1: Ban all songs from the White Christmas oeuvre from my holiday playlist. Instead, put in heavy rotation “Mele Kalikimaka” and Tim Minchin’s “White Wine in the Sun” (Stand warned, if you don’t know Tim Minchin, he’s a humorist and a bit of a cynical atheist, who has written an Aussie Christmas song that ends up making me cry every time).

Step 2: Choose the festivities. Going to the beach is a big thing to do for Sydney Christmas, but my aversion to crowds led me to decide we’d have a picnic at our favorite park – Blues Point Reserve, which is rarely crowded and features the most marvelous view of the Harbour I’ve yet to find. I’m loathe to even mention it here, lest the best kept secret in Sydney get out!

Step 3: Plan the menu. I opted for a cold ham, cheese, a prawn salad, fruit and a pavlova for desert. These were all cool, light dishes that required minimal heating of the oven, but still felt festive.

Step 4: Under the tree. (Our little tree hasn’t changed much over the past 3 years). Partner-in-Crime and I are both starkly practical when it comes to gifts, so he chose to have me gift him some accouterments for his new Kindle. This year, though, I picked out something a little more impractical. Our dear friend Tanja is a brilliant jewelry designer, so I asked for a couple of her pieces. The week before Christmas, we went to her apartment/studio and I picked out exactly what I wanted. She custom made my beautiful necklace on the spot, and mailed the bracelet a couple days later, so I had something shiny under the tree to open. After a few other little odds and ends, a charitable donation to Heifer International from my mom, a couple of boxes of baby gifts from friends at home, along with some Christmas crackers, we really felt overwhelmed in the gift unwrapping department!

Step 5: The best laid plans. By Christmas Eve, all was well underway – grocery shopping done, presents wrapped, pavlova prepped, we’d watched National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, and we spent the stiflingly warm afternoon in the pool. I was hot, but I was also elated, as this was exactly how my new Christmas fantasy had unfolded in my mind – sunny, toasty, and super casual.

Then, it started to rain. And overnight, the temperature dropped 20 degrees. It proceeded to rain for the entire Christmas day. I was glad that I had decided to preserve one North American Christmas tradition – cinnamon rolls for breakfast, which now seemed perfectly in place in all their warm, comforting gooeyness.

We devoured the better part of the plate of rolls, opened gifts and had a most delightful Skype date with my family, who really were wrapped in full Currier and Ives style Christmas regalia (minus the snow). We then rented “Elf” from i-tunes, and its slapstick silliness and sentimentality perfectly fit my Christmas mood. By the sappy end, it was late afternoon, and with the rain still falling, we sat our picnic blanket down in the living room, cranked up “Indie Holiday” on Pandora and shared what I do believe was the nicest Christmas picnic I could have asked for.

Christmas in Australia doesn’t end with Christmas, as the next day is Boxing Day, a holiday which really makes no sense. Despite its vague origins, it’s a good excuse for prolonging the holiday and post-Christmas sales. I had only one thing on my agenda for Boxing Day, which was again heading out to watch the start of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race. This year, we got to Middle Head National Park with our leftovers picnic in time to get a most amazing viewing spot. It was still a little chilly and quite gusty, but the sun returned so it was actually a beautiful morning. 
I had to snap a cheeky shot of this couple in front of us – epitome of Australian picnic culture.
11:30a.m. No plates for their sandwiches, but you’d better believe they have wine in actual wine glasses!
Because of the wind, a lot of the boats had their bright spinnakers up, making for a particularly beautiful start to the race. Last year, we were not positioned well to see the actual line up for the race start, so this year, we were absolutely enamored with the whole scene: Over 70 sailboats lined up on the world’s most beautiful Harbour, waiting for a cannon to mark their start, and then taking off to sea towards one of the most difficult boat races around. It’s spectacular. 

Wild Oats, the winningest Sydney to Hobart yacht, took off with a massive lead and is still ahead 21 hours later.
Hordes of spectator boats, along with the racing sailboats.

This wasn’t the Christmas I grew up with by any means, but since we plan to live here for at least a few more years, I am elated to have finally found the secret to actually enjoying Australian Christmas, rather than just accepting its inevitability. It was a unique celebration, for sure, but I could not asked for a nicer one.