Tuesday, 31 July 2007

An omen?

7 large black crows have just swooped into our backyard and are marching back and forth in a line searching for something.

Monday, 30 July 2007

Wild weekend weather

We were planning to go to the beach on Saturday but due to a tropical thunderstorm we stayed indoors. The thunderstorm was MASSIVE and lasted for around 4 hours. There was heaps of lightning and thunder and our backyard was flooded by the torrential rain. The power even cut out a few times but came back on. After the storm we went outside thinking it might have cooled down but no it was still 30 degrees and humid! We are in the middle of hurricane season so these storms are normal for this time of year.

On a social front Andrew went to Laurie's birthday bbq on Saturday night and on Sunday night we had dinner with Darryl and Margaret while Lucy and Ava played with the water table and new roller coaster. We talked about lots of product of the week items and discovered that flutternutter sandwiches consist of peanut butter and marshmallow fluff on bread. Andrew will have to try this sometime!

Friday, 27 July 2007

Water fun

Today Lucy and I headed off to 'Fit for Fun' an indoor/outdoor play centre for kids. There was a 'big splash' event on so pretty much everyone I know with kids turned up (mum's group, neighbours, Aussies). Lucy was unsure what to make of all the noise and people at first but she slowly got into the swing of things squirting paint into her mouth and eating food off the ground besides playing with the water toys and balls. We had a great time but it was SO hot. Lucy is asleep now exhausted after so much excitement.

Thursday, 26 July 2007

Would you live at Mount Misery?

There are some kooky street naming philosophies around here. Try spelling these beauties over the phone - Whippporwill Lane and Okeechobee Road. When looking at houses I rejected a house on Seabuoy Court because I couldn't bring myself to say 'sea-boo-ey' instead of the Australian way of 'sea-boy'. Most 'suburb' street names have a theme for example US presidents, birds, flowers, trees, English and Scottish towns. Here are some of the more interesting ones:
  • Beatles related words including Lennon Drive, Ringo Drive and Abbey Lane

  • Geographical names like Lullwater Street

  • Country themes for example The Netherlands has inspired a set of streets like Windmill Way, Antilles Ct, Old Dairy Rd, Netherlands Drive, Rembrandt Ct and Vandyke Drive

  • Literary themes for example Wolfe Lane, Fitzgerald Road, Byron Drive, and Dickens Drive

  • US Civil war including Robert E Lee Drive, Beauregard Drive and Merrimac Drive

  • Native Indian terms including the following trails Cherokee, Mohawk, Seminole, Mohican, Navaho and Crosswinds

Wednesday, 25 July 2007


Here are some more quirky American things:
  • '2007' is pronounced 'two thousand seven' not 'two thousand and seven'
  • 'how y'all doin?' works for the singular. A little offputting when you're on your own
  • 'I'm sorry' is the sweet response when you tell of something bad happening
  • checkbooks have pictures and you can choose which picture you want to have
  • '00' is pronounced 'zero zero' and never 'double zero'
  • 'a couple times' instead of 'a couple of times'

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Product of the week - kosher salt

After hearing lots of good things about kosher salt from foodies and chefs on the Food Network we decided to give it a try. It is more salty than regular salt so you don't need so much. It has a good strong flavour. However why is it called kosher salt? Here is an extract from Wikipedia with the answers:

Kosher salt (sodium chloride) (or more correctly, koshering salt), is one of the most commonly used varieties of edible salt in commercial kitchens today. Kosher salt, unlike common table salt, typically contains no additives (for example, iodine), although kosher salt produced by Morton contains sodium ferrocyanide as a free-flow agent. Kosher salt has a much larger grain size than regular table salt, and a more open granular structure.

Kosher salt gets its name not because it follows the guidelines for kosher foods as written in the Torah (nearly all salt is kosher, including ordinary table salt), but rather because of its use in making meats kosher, by helping to extract the blood from the meat. Because kosher salt grains are larger than regular table salt grains, when meats are coated in kosher salt the salt does not dissolve readily; the salt remains on the surface of the meat longer, allowing fluids to leach out of the meat.

Monday, 23 July 2007

Weekend update

Friday night saw us at church for VBS (Vacation Bible School - like kids club). It was the closing night so all the kids, 55 of them, put on a small concert of the songs they had learnt during the week. This was followed by a hot dog dinner, jumping castles and a clown making balloon animals. Lucy and I had been at VBS a couple of days during the week to help with the nursery and it was really great fun. On Friday we took a pavlova for dessert which was a big hit. But I am sick of making pavlovas and was left with 16 egg yolks to turn into custard pots and home made strawberry icecream for Sunday.

Saturday was a quiet day whilst Sunday saw us have Jenny, Joe, Gabriel and Julian over for lunch. Our first visitors over for a meal! We cooked a lamb roast with our delay start oven and even had some D'Arenberg shiraz. The photo shows Andrew with Lucy and Julian who are 1 month apart in age.

Friday, 20 July 2007

Keep the vegemite down under

Today we had moms group at our house so we hosted an Australian morning tea. To celebrate Lucy and I wore our Cronulla tshirts, we put up our Australian map (which no one looked at) and we had toy koalas out around the food. We ate vegemite sandwiches, tim tams, caramello koalas, and pavlova. I made everyone try the vegemite sandwiches with some funny reactions. One mom thought it tasted like artichokes (which she doesn't like) and another like beer but all unanimously decided they didn't like vegemite (one mom couldn't even swallow her first bite!) But on the other hand they all loved the rest of the fare on offer especially the pavlova. [By the way I am having problems cooking pavlova at the moment because of the high humidity here.] A couple of moms took home sandwiches and tim tams for their husbands to try. We all had a great time together with the kids playing and the moms chatting. However Lucy needs to learn how to share her toys with other people. She was especially possessive of her new chair with her name on it. After everyone was gone Lucy sat down to lunch and decided that she didn't like vegemite sandwiches either!

Thursday, 19 July 2007

Australian Correspondence

One of the great things about living here in the US is getting emails from friends. When living in Sydney it felt kind of funny sending emails to friends close by as really you should catch up face to face or give them a call. With everyones busyness this sadly doesn't happen as much as we would like. However being here is the great excuse for email correspondence and I thank everyone who has been sending them through and updating us about what is happening in their lives and in Sydney. And by the way Lucy says hi to Sean and Jackson.

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Product of the week - Reese's puffs

When I saw these puffs on the supermarket shelf I couldn't resist buying them for product of the week. Andrew loves Reese's chocolates but he wasn't that enthusiastic about trying these. His verdict was "Not sweet enough, peanut butter doesn't work with breakfast cereal. These don't even come close to the delicious chocolately crunch of coco pops." Oh well. And they were on sale buy 2 packs get 2 free! The ingredients list isn't as bad as you might think with the top 3 ingredients being whole grain corn, sugar, and reeses creamy peanut butter. Corn syrup is a lot further down the list.

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Book Crossing

I released two books into the wild yesterday through BookCrossing! What is BookCrossing I hear you ask? It's like a literary geocache. Basically its about getting books off your shelves so that other people can read them. I released 'Everything is Illuminated' by Jonathan Safran Foer and 'Great Expectations' by Charles Dickens. I bought and read these books whilst here in the US. I'm surprised I've had that much time to read but sadly these are the only two I have read. Anyway BookCrossing is global so all you Aussies should think about letting go of some of your tomes.

Monday, 16 July 2007

Weekend gardening

This weekend we headed downtown to go to the Farmers Market. Local produce includes blueberries, tomatoes, zucchini, cantaloupe, butter beans, cucumbers and okra. Of course we stocked up on blueberries! Unfortunately like the last 2 times we have been we got there too late to get organic eggs - all sold out. We had lunch at a cafe on Front St and then icecream from Kilwins. Lucy loved the 'Georgia peach' but wasn't allowed any of the 'turtle' fudge we picked up.

Back at home we did some gardening! Outside Lucy's window was a large 'tree' which a gardener told me was actually a weed. I was in two minds about whether to get rid of it or not but the plant made the choice by collapsing in half on Friday. So we got rid of it on Friday night and prepared a space for a crape myrtle 'tonto'. Around the front we started clearing some space to discover two large unremovable tree stumps! Feels like we are back in Sydney! So we planted our anise shrubs around the stumps. By the way, the crape (crepe) myrtles are in flower at the moment and it seems that they are everywhere. It looks awesome and the range of colours is vast from white to pink to purple to red. April is azalea month, July is crape myrtle month.

On Sunday we had a 'potluck' lunch after church so that we got to catch up with a few people. Then back at home Lucy played in her pool launching herself in belly first.

Thursday, 12 July 2007


Having been in Wilmington for three months now you would think that I would have discovered this place earlier. It is an awesome craft shop!!! I have only been to A C Moore and was a little disappointed. I saw an ad for Michaels in a magazine, checked them out on the web and then headed over. 45 minutes and a full trolley later I was forcing myself towards the checkout. I realised I had a lot of stuff when the lady behind me asked in amazement what project I would be working on. An excellent variety + reasonable prices.

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

Land of the free (shipping)

Yes that's right! Today's topic is rebates, coupons and free shipping [thanks for the tip Liz]. When going shopping it pays to looks for the above mentioned items. When shopping at the store Linen 'n things I was asked if I had a coupon. Sadly I did not and I am afraid I probably overpaid as a result. Every retailer has some sort of deal on: 20% off the highest priced item, free shipping for orders over $75, or 15% off the total. I have found a site that lists such deals called retailmenot which is great for online shopping. I don't buy anything now without checking this site. The other cool thing about internet shopping is that if the company is out of state you don't have to pay taxes (which can save you a bit of money). Rebates are painful as you pay the higher amount at the store then you need to post the manufacturer a rebate brochure, copy of the receipt, barcode from the box and various other paperwork before they will post you a cheque in 8 weeks time.

Retailers are also big into pushing membership. I have joined up with 4 different supermarkets (Harris Teeter, Food Lion, Lowes, Costco), the local health food Co-op, and 2 booksellers (Barnes & Noble, Books-a-million) just to get the weekly specials. My keyring and wallet are overloaded with tags and cards that need to be scanned during the purchase process. I'm not sure that this membership thing inspires the loyalty they may be looking for but it enables me to buy goods at normal prices.

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Product of the week - cool whip

We had heard of cool whip but weren't quite sure what it was. It is basically high fructose corn syruppy white mush. The photo of Andrew was taken prior to tasting. He was excited by the prospect of a new unhealthy sugar rush but the reality was that he didn't like it much. In fact I think it got thrown away when we cleaned out the freezer to move house. He'll just have to stick to the jet puffed marshmallow creme.

Monday, 9 July 2007

Foggy but humid

Around 7am we looked through the windows and saw fog! The birds were chirping, the fog was mild and it kind of looked like autumn in Katoomba. We were under an illusion that it was cool outside until we opened the door and walked into 31 degree heat. The humidity is fairly high (71%) so it makes it feel hotter than the recorded temperature. There are thunderstorms predicted for the next 10 days with temperatures ranging from a minimum of 21 to a maximum of 33. It is only going to get hotter as August is supposed to be the worst month of the year.

Sunday, 8 July 2007

More weekend highlights

Another busy weekend with new friends...

Friday night saw us next door with Lucy and Ava playing with a water table (plastic table with two big bowls where you put the water in and then the toddlers have fun scooping out the water with cups and throwing it around). Andrew came home from work and couldn't find us until he jumped over the fence. Lucy had a ball!

On Saturday Terry, Petra and William invited us to have high tea with them at the Wilmington Tea Room 'enjoying tea by the sea'. Located on Water St we had a great view of the huge thunderstorm going on, with lightning hitting the main bridge. We had a 'full tea' which comprised of many sandwiches, cakes, scones and cookies. Alas no clotted cream but the ham and cheese sandwiches were on cinnamon swirl bread, an unusual but tasty combination. William had a 'wee tea' for kids and Lucy just played around with the cheese sandwiches and flowers. Even with Andrew there we couldn't finish all the goodies on offer.

On Sunday we had lunch at Andy & Melba's and met Kathy from Glasgow. We had a great time talking, eating and playing with space shuttles. Then off home to eat strawberries and cream while watching (for 3.5 hours) Federer defeat Nadal in the Wimbledon final.

Thursday, 5 July 2007

Independence Day

Yesterday was the 4th of July and we had a holiday! It is the biggest holiday on the American calendar and everything from cars to houses to children is plastered in American flags. Even stone lions in gardens were wearing red white and blue (rwb) hats. We got into the spirit of things by wearing rwb clothes (Lucy), eating an all-American breakfast (Andrew) and eating rwb cupcakes (Fiona). We started the day at Wrightsville beach with a swim followed by brunch at Sweet and Savory. Wimbledon was next followed by a party at Bob & Carol's with an amazing fireworks display (that Lucy slept through). Fireworks tents popped up all along Market Street to sell to eager customers that had not had the opportunity to go to Myrtle Beach in South Carolina to buy rockets, roman candles and other more interesting fireworks. Even in church last week we sang 'God bless America' (well everyone else in the congregation sang and we listened in)

Having been in Boston the other week where we saw the balcony where the independence declaration was first read we thought that this was the birth of the new nation. But interesting North Carolina was the first state to declare independence through the Halifax Resolves on April 12 1776 where it was voted unanimously that North Carolina declare independence from Britain. But don't worry about us becoming too Americanised. We have a little Aussie flag in our front garden and an opera house lamp in our window. And we are looking forward to next Australia Day where we can put on a real BBQ with lamb chops and pavlova.

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Product of the week - cooking equipment

I've mentioned before the great variety of goods available in the US and here are some of the cool cooking things I have purchased. Starting at the top left and going clockwise: roul-pat (red and white mat), herb cutter, breading trays and egg rings. The roul-pat is a non-slip silicone mat that is non-stick so it is used for rolling doughs, icing etc. The great thing is that you don't need to flour the bench anymore, just the rolling pin. You can press out the dough on it, wrap the roul-pat around the dough and refrigerate. Then when ready you just get it out of the fridge and roll out the dough. The herb cutter is a great little machine that has 4 blades that you roll back and forth on herbs to cut them up. The three breading trays link together neatly and are great for preparing schnitzels. The egg rings have flip up handles which makes for easier handling. Ok so none of these items are essential cooking items but they will make life a little bit easier and cooking a little faster.

Monday, 2 July 2007

Weekend highlights

This weekend we had a number of social gatherings, two of them unplanned. Isn't great when you have the free time to just go out when invited!

First up was Rory's birthday party on Saturday at Steve & Michelle's new house. We had a great afternoon tea with lots of the other Aussies to celebrate Rory turning 1.

After church on Sunday we had lunch at the Atlanta Bread Company with ex-New Yorkers Jake & Julie (with Andrea and Angelina!)

And Sunday evening was spent at Daryl & Margaret's house (next door) where Lucy and Ava played together and we met John & Jaimie over a hotdog dinner.