Friday, 31 August 2007

Scary driving

One of the scary 'innovations' for road building here is having a centre lane which can be used by both sides of the road. It is popularly nicknamed the 'suicide lane' because it is a very dangerous institution esp. with the number of utes/trucks on the road. When turning left off a busy street you turn into the suicide lane very carefully to make sure that no oncoming traffic is also pulling in. You can pull in at any time, anywhere along the road. I guess the Americans don't believe in building dedicated turning bays. It is convenient in a sense but given the driving behaviour around here it is also very very scary. Driver beware!

Thursday, 30 August 2007

Coming up...

I've been wondering why I seem to have no spare time lately (apart from getting ready for Katrina and looking after Lucy) and I suddenly realised why. I've been planning 3 trips! Next week is the first of the three when we head off to New York for 6 days. It's been strange working out an itinerary as the guide books just don't cut it. In 2004 Andrew and I spent a week in NYC during the Republican convention. It was an amazing time with the streets full of protestors and police but surprisingly empty of tourists (a fabulous thing as there were no queues for the Empire State Building!) Thinking that we would probably never get back to this great city again we did all the big attractions as well as some little ones too. The only thing left on my list of must see items was the MoMA which was temporarily closed for renovations. So having visited the places that were top of mind this visit calls for some digging deep esp. to cater for a toddler.

So please send through some ideas about what to do. And yes we will be spending half a day at FAO Schwartz!

FYI these are the NYC icons we visited last time - Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Empire State Building, Brooklyn Bridge & Brooklyn, Jewish food tour, Guggenheim, Met, Evening concert at Lincoln Centre (great Chagall windows!), US open, Grand Central station, Chrysler Building, Rockefeller Centre, Central Park, Broadway musical Hairspray, Times Square, Zabars/Citarella/Fairways, Ground Zero, Century 21, Macys, B&H Photo, and Jacques Torres.

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Coughing causes

I've been coughing for over a week now and it is not very pleasant. At lunch the other day at Henrys I was coughing away and said to Katrina that I might go to the doctor. As we were leaving an old guy from a table nearby came over and mentioned that he had heard me coughing. He told me that it was nothing to worry about as it was just due to the pine needles! Pine needles??? Is this true? On the other hand the internet (a reliable source of truth) claims that pine needle oil is used in cough medicines. Can someone please bust/confirm this myth?

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Product of the week - Easy Cheese

Easy Cheese is one of the first products that I bought for product of the week. So why has it taken so long to make it to the blog? Simply because we were too scared to try it! However after mentioning it to Darryl next door he assured us that it tasted really good. So we got it out to try! The main ingredients are whey and cheddar cheese. Good start. Upon tasting I was surprised that the stuff actually tasted like real cheese. Its not something you would serve to guests but it seems to be ok if you like squirting cheese directly in your mouth. I won't buy it again but it wasn't nearly as gross as I was expecting. The whole orange cheese thing takes some getting used to but it should be noted that organic cheese is the normal pale yellow colour.

Monday, 27 August 2007


Katrina is in Wilmington safe and well. When she arrived in Boston she texted us saying that it was hot. She hadn't made it to the south yet to feel real heat! We have had a quiet weekend shopping and getting everything ready. Things needed to slow down a little as I am still coughing violently and Lucy is teething. FYI Today is the first day of the school year. This means that lots of programs are starting up in the next few weeks including Lucy's music classes. All the vacationers have packed up and gone home which will hopefully mean less traffic. Things that have been in limbo will be sorted out and life will get full and busy (and hopefully more routine).

Thursday, 23 August 2007

Cupcake Mania

I hosted another mom's group morning tea at our place yesterday. The theme this time was 'Magnolia Cupcakes'. I made the Vanilla Vanilla cupcake (with pink coloured icing), the Devil Food Cake Cupcake with Caramel Frosting and the Black bottomed cupcakes. All awesome but the devil one particularly great (even using Hersey cocoa instead of Valhrona). American butter makes all the difference - no mashed potato icing. With 10 moms,12 children and lots of buckets of toys it got extremely noisy! The cardboard house (now wallpapered and decorated) was a huge hit with both the kids and the moms. Everything was going well until Lucy had hysterics for 15 minutes due to teething pain. It cleared everyone out! Sort of a good thing but a bit embarrassing. So I got the moms to eat/take 3 dozen cupcakes and there are 2 dozen left for Andrew to take to work (or eat on the way to work).

Wednesday, 22 August 2007


Ok so here is the explanation for hushpuppies [thanks Julie]. A hushpuppy is deep fried cornmeal in the shape of a mini frankfurt. My southern cookbook tells me there is a distinct difference between North Carolina and South Carolina hushpuppies and claims the NC hushpuppies are 'gumball' sized. Not from what I've seen! They are usually served with bbq style foods like pulled pork and fried chicken and they can be quite dry if left in a buffet heating for too long. Easy for kids to eat but not particularly healthy. Much better to have grits than this fried up version of cornmeal. However I can now appreciate the use of deep frying as a cooking method. No one roasts anything around here as having a hot oven for a couple of hours heating up the house is not appealing. Throwing something into some hot oil for a few minutes and then switching off the heat is a far better way to go in this weather. Or on a different tack just go the salad route!

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Product of the week - egg whites

Loyal blog readers will know how many pavlovas I have made in the past month. I haven't kept count but it is a lot! A byproduct of making pavlova is having left over egg yolks. Andrew thinks this is a good thing because then he gets custards, creme brulees and homemade ice cream. Unfortunately for him there are not enough hours in the day for me to be constantly making desserts. So imagine my delight to discover a carton of egg whites in the refrigerated section of Walmart. The ingredients are: egg whites. 100%! Nothing added. Nothing taken away. The only downside is that they are pasteurised. On a taste test it is impossible to tell which pavlova is from fresh eggs and which from the carton (must be all that sugar and cream). It is a great time saving to have the eggs ready to go. And by the way there are 8 egg whites in the carton the perfect number for a large pavlova.

Monday, 20 August 2007

Working weekend + eggs + heat

Saturday morning we ventured off for breakfast at the Goody Goody Omlet House. I say ventured as we were a little worried about what we might find when we got there and I hadn't heard the word 'goody' since reading The Crucible in high school. The first thing we noticed was that they had a sign on the door stating that they don't take debit or credit cards (not a good thing for us as we never have greenbacks so this led to a quick detour to a nearby drive-through ATM) GGOH is a small orange roofed building with 5 booths and 10 bar seats and for takeout orders they even had an old fashioned telephone with a genuine ring. We got a booth (and high chair) and whilst the menu had lots of choices we decided that because it was an omlet house we better order omlets (or at least have eggs and not pancakes). Lucy, being a true Shire hobbit, settled in for second breakfast quickly eating her toast and grits and asking for more in a loud grunting way. She looked very cute so the waitress forgave her throwing things on the floor and even lent her a book to read. The omlets/scrambled eggs/bacon/grits/biscuits were excellent and the service fast. Note that when the menu says 'sausages' they mean little round patties of sausage meat not the long 'hotdog' shaped version we are used to. We had a great meal here and we are likely to return. Interestingly it is the first place where there have been both black and white people. Usually it is just one or the other but it was great to find a true mingling of people here.

Apart from church and our monthly church luncheon (lots of fried chicken and hush puppies) the rest of the weekend was spent working in the garage. Andrew built a workbench and put up lots of shelves. Then we moved all the stuff out of the guest room into the garage. So the guest room is almost empty! Which is a good thing... now we can get it ready for our first guest.

Just for the record, it is SOOOOO HOT. It is so hot that it is unpleasant to go outside as it is regularly getting to 35 degrees+. The grass needs mowing every week and the plants are growing like crazy. Its the combination of thunderstorms providing lots of water and the heat. Even Andrew's fingernails are growing faster than ever. We are living in a greenhouse!

Thursday, 16 August 2007

The glass is half full

I've had a few comments lately that life in Sydney can be routine, mundane and just not interesting enough to write about. Not true!! Sydney is an awesome city. I used to write a little known blog about Sydney, the regular everyday goings on whilst working in a regular every day job living a normal everyday life. And I reckon it was a more interesting blog than this American one. The trick is to look at the world with different eyes, to take on the attitude that life is exciting and to see the beauty around you in everyday things. Life here for us has settled down into 'normalness' yet there are still good things to blog about. Of course I don't blog about the traffic jams, cleaning the floor under Lucy's high chair three times a day or what I had for lunch (because no one really cares anyway!) but I do look out for the quirky and interesting. And Sydney has plenty of that! Check out the link if you have run out of ideas for your blog. [I haven't read this book but the author is an excellent blog writer]

On a different note altogether I noticed that the in-store cafe at Walmart is called 'Blimpies'! Is this meant to attract customers or describe them?

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Product of the week - Shrek

Andrew was sent off to Costco for a few items but ended up wandering around looking (and buying) extra things. [The problem with this is that everything at Costco is in bulk!] He saw these Shrek themed lollies with a picture of Princess Fiona on the side so he thought he would buy them as a present for me. We opened one of the many little packets and out flew these techno-coloured jube like creations. The aqua coloured castles look particularly unappetising. Unfortunately they tasted even worse than they looked so we were left with a giant box of inedible lollies. Solution: Andrew took them to work and the other 63 packets were quickly digested by work colleagues.

Monday, 13 August 2007

Weekend roundup

Friday night saw us stay at home due to a 5 hour thunderstorm. It was so loud that at 2am Andrew and I were both woken up at the same time by a 5 second rumble of thunder that sounded like the house was being bombed. We are getting together hurricane supplies just in case.

On Saturday morning we headed off to the Wilmington Children's Museum for Mud Day. It is a fantastic place that is not museum-like at all. It is more of a play centre with differently themed rooms like science, grocery store, circus etc. Outside there were pools of mud, slime and a muddy slip and slide. Lucy was plonked in the mud but did not like it! She preferred the clean water pools. We then had a Southern buffet lunch at the Roudabout Cafe nearby.

In the afternoon we headed over to Topsail beach but when we got there it was raining! Lucy still got some bodysurfing in as the water was warm! It was literally like bath water because it had been so hot and sunny during the week. I know I am prone to exaggerating but when I say that it was 100 degrees last week it truly did reach those heights on the farenheit scale. After drying off at the beach we headed over to Rick & Erica's for dinner.

After church on Sunday Nicky & Susan (with Caleb and Rachel) came over for a lamb roast and pavlova. We are doing 'cultural exchange' with these native North Carolinians who are teaching us all things Southern so in return we are teaching them about Australia. Caleb was very excited last week as he thought he was going to Australia for lunch. Unfortunately for him patting some stuffed kangaroos and koalas was the closest he got. Vegemite still not a winner.

Friday, 10 August 2007

Walmart - cheap and nasty or inexpensive and wonderful?

Lucy and I had a trip to Walmart yesterday. Whatever people say about Walmart (Michael Moore et al) their prices are extremely low and their variety wide. Where else can you get a lifejacket, a carton of milk and some paintbrushes in the same store? For all those bargain hunters or cheapskates out there here are some examples: we bought an A4ish sized notebook with 70 pages for 10 cents (school supplies are on special), 3 gallons of drinking water for $1.96 (hurricane supplies), 4 ribbon bows for Lucy for $1.96 (her fancy ones were $8 each from a childrens clothing shop) and a pair of shorts for Lucy for $1. And while we were there we picked up a life jacket so that Lucy can go boating ($15.64), a shower curtain for $10 and paintbrushes for Lucy (a couple of dollars). On the downside there are lots of scary things at Walmart apart from bullets. It is the place I look for product of the week (there are a few good ones coming up) and having looked at the meat section once I haven't ventured near there again (btw what are pork chitlings? actually please don't comment as I just checked wikipedia on this point and it is not a good answer) I usually only buy named brand products here that I know and usually save quite a bit of money but I prefer to shop at Harris Teeter and Costco and only go to Walmart occassionally.

PS Don't forget to add tax to the prices

Thursday, 9 August 2007

Smell the roses

The garden is a place that you feel close to God. It is great to have an established front garden even if there isn't anything around the back. When we moved in things were a little overgrown so I did a LOT of pruning especially on the roses. Unfortunately the first crop of flowers was eaten by Japanese beetles but our second crop is yielding many flowers. Last week I cut 12 roses and yesterday another 7 with more to come. They smell awesome but don't last more than a few days once picked.

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Product of the week - Butter boy

In the food world Andrew has three weaknesses: sugar, salt and butter. Whilst some of you may think that sugar is his greatest weaknesss I think that butter takes the top honour. So when I saw Butter Boy at Bed, Bath and Beyond I couldn't resist buying him. The butter here comes in sticks (113.4g or 4oz or 8 US tablespoons or 1/2 US cup) which is very convenient for cooking. The stick of butter goes into butter boy's torso, his head comes off and then you rub the butter onto your corn cob (or whatever).

Monday, 6 August 2007

Wet weekend

Well it has been a wet few days but it hasn't been raining. Rather we have been swimming every day! Thursday saw us at mom's group for an afternoon swim in the babies pool at Marsh Oaks. Friday we headed over to Leland to visit Mary Lou for lunch and have a swim in her pool (complete with fountains and spa). Saturday we headed to Wrightsville beach to make sand castles and swim in the Atantic which was then followed by a play in the sprinkler with Ava in the afternoon.

On a social front we had a pizza dinner with Darryl & Margaret and a hamburger lunch with Dean & Debbie (with Brianna, Braidyn and Bryn). We also got some gardening done on Friday where we put in some path lights at the front of the house and Andrew worked on the sound desk at church for a few hours. It is the exact same model as the sound desk at Hurstville! We need a rest.

Friday, 3 August 2007

Go the Hawks!

Given all the strange American things we are encountering sometimes I forget that Australian things can be weird too. Take for example this funky tshirt I bought at Genki in Melbourne. It says 'I love footy'. In Australia I used to get the question 'what kind of footy do you like?' but when I wear it here everyone asks me 'what is footy?' And sadly no one much cares when I tell them it means football. Thanks to mum and dad I have been able to keep up with the latest footy news and even watch a Hawthorn game on DVD.

Thursday, 2 August 2007

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Product of the week - Cheerwine

In North Carolina Cheerwine (the cherry different soft drink) is supposed to be more popular than pepsi to a factor of 10-1 and its been around since 1917. So on that basis we bought a 12 pack that was on special at the supermarket to test it out. What is it? Cheerwine is cherry soda and called cheerwine on the same basis that ginger beer is called 'beer' ie it is not alcoholic. However the taste is something to behold - pretty much artificial cherry medicine flavour and not something you want to take more than a sip or two of. It states on the can "artificial wild cherry and other natural flavours". How can it claim 'other' natural flavours? The ingredients list is scary: carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup, caramel colour, phosphoric acid, natural and artifical flavours, caffeine, citric acid, sodium benzoate, red. So next time we have a party we'll be pulling out this carton but I think only native North Carolinians will be cracking open a can.