Europe 2012

I built this blog around my vacation to Australia and now that it’s over, I’m struggling to write about [anything, really].  I will share my next exciting adventure… EUROPE 2012!

I have a cousin that recently got engaged.  Now she’s getting married and lucky for the Salonga family, she lives in London and is holding her wedding there.  I’m very fortunate to have such an international family and have lots of cousins in the marrying age.  I feel less spoiled when I can say, “I’m going to Europe, but it’s for a wedding.”

I loved how thorough I was with the parts most memorable in my experiences in Sydney.  My mother recently showed my aunt our pictures from the vacation and I kept hearing her say, “I read that on Stephanie’s blog!”  I received positive feedback from many of you that motivated me to document my adventure and received complaints when I skipped a day of blogging.  I thrive off of having something to look forward to.

Even though we’re not going until late next year, a little bit of everything I do from here on our may possibly be Europe related and I will continue to use this as an avenue to share.

Although the decision will entirely come down to where me, Travis and my family will want to go and what we want to experience, I’m willing to hear suggestions.

Where have you been?  What have you seen?  Where would you go if you had the opportunity?

Oh, there I am!

Sorry for having been pretty absent recently after so many have come to expect daily blogs from me.  I’ve been really busy lately!

Between STILL unpacking/vacation laundry/catching up on work/hanging out with Jaxson/cleaning up the house that didn’t miraculously clean itself while I was on vacation, I was tired.  I saw what happens when I tired-blog (i.e. the last three Australia blogs, written during 100% jet lag) and I didn’t want any of my entries to suffer because I was forcing it.

I know you’re dying to know what I’ve been up to this week…

I’ve been saving money on gas.  $3.09 a gallon because of my $0.30 Smith’s gas reward?! It’s like we’re in 2010 (or 2009… I’ve been knee deep in 2011 prices that I can’t remember the last time I saw gas under $3) all over again!

I’ve been making hummus…

…. and having it every day since then.

 It was overly garlicky, so my plan to carry this in my car as a lunchtime meal was ruined.  I don’t need to be scaring anyone off with any I-can-smell-what-you-just-ate breath. Lucky for me, it lovingly waits for me to come home too.

I’ve been cheating on almond butter.

I’m still indifferent about the stuff.  I wanted to see how far into the nut butter world I could explore and it apparently wasn’t very far.  It doesn’t feel as wholesome (I think I really meant fiber-y) and is tamer in flavor than my precious almond butter.  I’m judging this all based on the finger I dipped into the jar though.  I’ll put this on some real food next week before I write it off.

I resurrected my George Foreman grill and turned it into a panini press.

I bought the gadget 5 years ago.  It was so terrible at cooking (really, drying) meats that I locked it up in a dark cabinet as punishment.

The thought of purchasing a panini press had crossed my mind recently until I remembered an article about not buying one-use gadgets and suggested to use a Foreman grill as a panini press instead of shelling out +$150 for one.  The verdict?

A perfectly crunchy panini.

I went to a beautiful wedding and witnessed two become one.

I regrettably have no pictures of the outside setup.  Regretted, because it was easily one of the most beautiful places in the city; especially beautiful since the wedding was set during sunset.  The wedding was filled with so many beautiful moments and I’m very fortunate to have been a part of it.

I’ve been hanging out with this guy..

 

and this guy…

 

 

 

 

Now, you’re caught up!

 

What I Ate Wednesday

Are you all ready for What I Ate Wednesdays?

I am.

Breakfast:

The chocolate banana espresso almond butter smoothie inside the almond butter smeared blender can only mean one thing…

Oh yeah.  I’m back in the game.

Mismatched cushion socks and all..

I ran an exhausting 5 miles today.  I maintained the same pace as I normally did and by the time I got home, I was nauseous as ever.  If my body was still jet lagged (which it’s not because I’m a super hero), it thought that it was around midnight Sydney time.  It was probably wondering, “What are you doing exercising at midnight?  Don’t you know you should be sleeping in your wonderfully firm hotel bed with the lush blankets and pillows/still drinking wine at the hotel bar?”

Vacation will never be over.

Post-run snack:

A nectarine that Farmer’s Market-Kevin knew that I would like.

Lunch:

A mustard filled turkey sandwich… and I do mean mustard filled…

I love mustard.  If I brought the bottle with me, I probably would have poured some on the side and started dipping the sandwich in the yellow gold.

In the sandwich, I also managed to fit an entire tomato.
and

More farmer’s market goodies!  (The sweetest) Cherry tomatoes, basil, and feta cheese with balsamic vinegar.  A wannabe Caprese salad.  At least the colors are the same.

It was good, but eaten in my car underneath the generous Las Vegas heat, it gave me heartburn.

Dinner:

Fake meat skewers, a cucumber yogurt sauce, and roasted eggplant with whatever cherry tomatoes I had left topped with more feta

Yeah, that’s fake meat.  I’m not a vegetarian but I’m sure you can guess how they got me…

I can’t resist those little stickers!!!  It wasn’t that bad though.  I’ve grown up around fake meat for a lot of my life and actually like it.  I also know that it’s an easy go-to-protein that typically doesn’t require cooking (just reheating).

So the meat was good, my cucumber yogurt dip was not.

While at the farmer’s market yesterday, I asked FM-Kevin, “What’s that?”

“That’s a lemon cucumber.”

“What’s it taste like?”

“A regular cucumber.  It just looks like a lemon.”

“OK”

I knew I wasn’t going to be in the mood for cucumber in the next few days, so making a cucumber yogurt dip was my only shot of getting rid of it before it went bad.  So I threw together some greek yogurt, threw in some dill and cut up the cucumber.  Even the inside looked just like a regular cucumber.

The dip was mediocre and ended up not going well with the fake beef skewers like I thought it would so I pretty much left it uneaten on my plate.

Lastly, I made a tray of roasted eggplant and tomatoes.  My sister’s coming to watch Jax tomorrow and I always like having food around for her.  It was pretty yummy, but I overcooked it.  The eggplant’s peel took on a crunchier-than-should-be texture.

I was also really amused at how raw eggplant feels like foam.  Cutting it up, it reminded me of large foam pits that I had always dreamed of diving into, especially after watching marathons upon marathons of Nitro Circus on MTV.

Dessert:

A sliced banana with almond butter and chocolate chips.

I think I have an almond butter problem.

I ate this all while wearing…

It’s never too early to wear the souvenir shirts you bought for yourself.

So… what did you eat on Wednesday?

Sydney Food, part one

As it should serve on every vacation, the food was a huge highlight of mine.  I was able to incorporate some of the meals we ate in my previous blogs, but the rest of the pictures I took of the food I ate must still be shared.  We were there for 12 nights so you can imagine that I have a lot of pictures.  I might end up having to do this in several parts.

Pancakes on the Rocks (Darling Harbour)

“Hot N Troppo” – Buttermilk pancakes with grilled banana, walnuts, homemade chocolate sauce and chocolate ice cream.

While in Sydney, I told several people that we had eaten at Pancakes on the Rocks.  When they would ask me how it was, I said it was like the Australian IHOP.  Thinking back, I was way off with that comparison and likely offended Pancakes on the Rocks.  Sorry, POTR.

Travis and I ordered two dishes here, one savory and one sweet and split them.  This was obviously our sweet plate.  It was good.  As good as pancakes topped with chocolate syrup, chocolate ice cream, walnuts and bananas will ever be.

Blackbird Cafe (Darling Harbour)

“Wagyu Bresaola” – aged air dried wagyu beef with feta, spanish pepper cream, oregano, balsamic glaze and walnuts

This may have been my non-Quay favorite appetizer that we ordered our whole trip.  Side note: did you know they call appetizers “entrees” down there?  It’s a little confusing at first, but you get used to it.

I’m a huge fan of different textures and contrasting flavors.  The beef was salty and tender, the feta was light and creamy, the balsamic glaze was sweet, and the walnuts were perfectly toasted.  We scraped the plate clean of the pepper cream, too.  I was afraid that it was going to be an aioli and be really heavy, but it carried a more cream cheese-like texture.

My only complaint was that it was served with a garlic bread.  I would have preferred plain grilled bread with olive oil.  The flavors in the dish were strong enough and the garlic got lost in the globe of savory.  That’s nitpicking though.  The bresaola was great.

What better way to end the post than with a dessert…

Ghermez Cupcakes – George St.

1 dozen mini cupcakes for $24

It’s funny that I’m including this in the post because I wouldn’t wish these cupcakes on my worst enemy.

After eating Yum Cha with my sister, we went to pick up a dozen mini cupcakes to take back for everyone.  They had so many promising flavors, including the Sticky Date featured here.

We took the long walk back to our hotel gripping the box tightly so that the frosting wouldn’t get smudged.  I handed Sabrina the cupcakes to take to her room, freshened up in my own hotel room, and met her back up with a hankerin’ for cupcakes.

I got up to her room and she already had a disappointed look on her face.

“They’re not good.”

I had a bite of the Sticky Date cupcake and it was like biting into a cupcake sized Communion host.  The cupcake was so dry that even if it was flavored with sticky dates, you wouldn’t have tasted it.  The frosting was worst.  It was as if they took cheap marshmallows, melted them, re-fluffed them and then used it to top the cupcakes.

One bite was all I need.  I bought Travis two; a banana chocolate and a peanut butter chocolate.  I didn’t even let him have them and told him to save his calories.

Left on the table at the apartment, the uneaten cupcakes miraculously disappeared by nighttime.  Maybe if you closed your eyes and thought they were croutons, they would taste good.

I am not above jet lag.

Dear Jet Lag,

You win.

Love, Stephanie

Before even leaving for the other side of the world, I had already put it in my head that I was above jet lag.  I had travelled from the west coast to the east and back with no problem.  I will barely need one day to recover and can return to work in perfect condition by Tuesday.

Well, as a late night Clarissa Explains It All episode and all of Food-Network-On-Demand-watched-at-2-am can explain, I am not above jet lag.  Jet lag spit on me for even thinking it.

I was a worthless blob of travel-tired yesterday afternoon and it carried straight into the late-night.  I had never felt so exhausted.

I had gone to bed around 10pm and was overly ambitious to get right back into my old running in the early morning routine, so I set my alarm for 5:30am.  In preparation, I even had a post-run 2nd breakfast of steel-cut oats soaking in milk and a smushed banana (I soak them overnight because it takes a really long time to cook but can’t trade a packet of bleh instant oatmeal for the good steel-cut ones.).

The funky looking tupperware has my wonderful oats sitting and waiting for it’s destiny.

Anyway, I finally went to bed around 3 and needless to say, I did not make it outside for a run this morning.

The oatmeal did come in really handy though.  Because I wasn’t active in the morning, I didn’t need my caloric-bomb of a daily smoothie and decided to eat my oatmeal as my first breakfast since I didn’t need it as a second breakfast anymore (You follow?).

It was helpful because this…

(A poopy mess of overnight steel cuts oats, cocoa powder, banana and almond butter.  I guess even though I don’t crave the smoothie, I still use the same flavor profile.)

Saved me from this…

It was the boss’s birthday today so there was a Nothing Bundt Cake hanging out in the office.  It was carrot cake too, a flavor I hadn’t yet tried.  I almost grabbed a piece until I realized that I was still really full from breakfast.  I walked by it a couple times.  Each time, it got smaller and smaller.  I thought that maybe if I hung around the office long enough, I would get hungry and there would still be a piece left for me.  Nope!  I was still full from my superhero steel-cut oats!

I did, however, grab one of these to eat my packed lunch on later…

Why all the Glee themed party supplies and paper plates?  My boss bears a ridiculously striking resemblance to Mr. Schuester.  I had noticed it when I first met him, but chalked it up to just being a really big Glee fan.   I felt relieved today when some of the girls from the office chose a Glee themed birthday to further point out the similarities.

So to summarize my points…

  • You are not above jet lag.  No one is.
  • Make overnight steel-cut oats
  • Eat overnight steel-cut oats
  • Stay powerful against what is likely a moist, perfect, flavorful carrot bundt cake

In case you want to make your own overnight-steel cut oats…

Chocolate Banana Overnight Steel Cut Oats

  • 1/4 cup steel cut oats
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 ripe banana, cut into small pieces
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
Combine this all and let it sit overnight.  In the morning, microwave for about 2 minutes.
I topped mine with a tablespoon of almond butter for opulence.  I suggest you do the same.

Last day!

My last full day entry in Sydney ☹.

When our last full day in Sydney rolled around, we knew it was now or never. We had gotten ready early and headed to The Rocks to position ourselves within close proximity to both the Harbour Bridge and the Royal Botanical Gardens and the Sydney Opera House.

We had chosen to eat breakfast at Lowenbrau Keller, a German restaurant/bar/bierhall. I had what they mention as a traditional Bavarian meat plate.

 

Notice how the egg yolk takes on an orange hue, rather than the pale yellow that the eggs have here in the States? That’s supposedly because the chickens are happier down in Australia.

During breakfast, we decided that even though it looked as though it may rain, we were going to deal with it and do the Harbour Bridge climb. We decided earlier in the week that we could do without it, but knew that we would just feel better knowing what the climb was all about.

 

The climb was great. We had a really informative climb leader that led us through the bridge’s history and fun facts. Was it scary being up that high? Nah. You were strapped in pretty well and you can tell that it’s a well-thought out and safe adventure to go on.

My favorite part?

The jumpsuits. The climb required that we change into provided logo’d jumpsuits. Because there was a chance of rain, we were also required to wear nylon rainpants.

You know how you traditionally have googly eyes for your significant other? Well, we went into changing rooms to get into our jumpsuits. We stepped out and I immediately got the hots for my honey. I adored the way he resembled an 90’s gym teacher and that the only thing missing from his outfit was the metal whistle.

I loved the outfit so much that I have one on order for him.  Tonight, I shall be calling him Coach Canga.

Since it was our last night, we had a big party in my mom’s apartment where everyone got to share their thank you’s and goodbye’s.

Taronga Zoo

We heard it all throughout our trip. “Aww!  You came here on holiday and got all this rain!  It never rains this much here!”

Ain’t no stoppin’ us!  By Friday, we realized that we couldn’t hope that the next day was better and do everything then.  Rain or shine, we decided to go visit some Australian wildlife and decided that the Taronga Zoo was our best option.

It rained from the moment we left our hotel.  We kept hoping that it would let up with no such luck.

All that said, if you were to ask me what my favorite afternoon in Sydney was, I would pick the ridiculously wet, numbingly cold (from being so wet) afternoon at the zoo.

It was a fantastic day.  Because it was raining, the zoo was free of people; just full of animals.  I felt like we had the place to ourselves.  We hoped from attraction to attraction without anything besides puddles of water stopping us.  With umbrellas in hand, we did the entire zoo in two hours and enjoyed every minute of it.

 

 

As we were leaving, Travis met his favorite friend from the zoo.



 

The sea lion was likely the highlight of the zoo.  It was in love with Travis.  It followed him where ever he stepped.  It even said bye!  I had never seen a grown man fall so in love with an animal

The Taronga Zoo is a beautiful place.  The area is covered in large trees and greenery that it helped give that rainforest effect.  Travis and I were in such high spirits this afternoon, allowing the rain to be only a minor hitch for us.

Our jeans half soaked in rainwater, we grabbed a late lunch/early dinner and had the best pizza I can recall.  Even though I opted for risotto, the pizza quickly overshadowed my meal and became the only thing worth mentioning.

Another yum.