Thursday, 28 November 2013

10 years on....

Last Friday I went to my 10 year highschool reunion.  I wasn't sure what to think going into the night.  I was initially hesitant, then nonchalant and finally really excited about it (split personality much?).

Upon arriving I was greeted by many familiar faces, most of whom look/act/dress exactly the same as I remember from 10 years ago.  If anything I feel like I've changed the most since highschool ended.  And it got me thinking about exactly HOW I've changed...

Gone are the days of rainbow coloured hair (yes RAINBOW), colour-coding my notebooks and folders (each subject had its own assigned colour), blatant disregard for authority, listening to heavy rock (what I refer to these days as "screaming music"), an unhealthy obsession with piercings and getting a drunk a lot (the last few can be linked).

My fashion sense has now become more refined - tailored, classic and fitted pieces instead of rainbow jeans with cut-off waistbands (I had a rainbow obsession ok?!!).  I've lost a bit of weight since highschool (you mean a strict diet of chocolate and buttered popcorn is NOT good for the waistline????).  I have the occasional alcoholic beverage but certainly no more than 2 drinks/night.  I'd like to say I'm less OCD than I used to be but I'm pretty sure I would be lying if I did.

Have you changed a lot since highschool?  How so?

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

We got the apartment!

This is old news if you follow me on le twitter or le instagram but WE GOT THE APARTMENT!!

It's a cute 2-bedder with timber floors (yay), flyscreen (triple yay), gas stovetop (so hard to find these days), built-ins and a beautiful bay window.  There's a beautiful park down the street with water views and it's a 5 minute walk from the train station.

The ferry to work will take me 20 mins vs the 1 1/4 hours it currently takes me on the train+walking.  I have a number of friends who live in the area.  It's closer to my parents and Tom's parents.  It's closer to the city.  Tom's train trip to work will take a grand total 3 minutes.

Excitement is a HUGE understatement.

Our lease starts on Friday the 13th (eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeek) so we'll move in that weekend.  Yayyyyyyy what a relief!!

Monday, 25 November 2013

Date Night @ Jamie's Italian

I'm going to be really unpopular here and say I didn't think Jamie's Italian was great.  I absolutely refuse to wait in line for food so we waited until they accepted reservations (you can do it on their website in about 10 seconds flat - super easy).  When we arrived there was a queue about 10 people long even if you had a reservation but it moved quite quickly and we were seated immediately.

I bothered to put a nice dress on
Our waiter, John, gave us menus and took us through the specials.  Obviously I had already had a sneak peak at the menu online and had already chosen my 3 course dinner haha (I am SO indecisive that this shaves about 20 minutes off our food ordering time).

Polenta Chips
The rosemary and parmesan flavours were delicious but I found these buggers painful to eat.  They were deep fried until they became really hard and couldn't be forked so we ended up using fingers.  They also cut the roof of my mouth trying to eat them so I stopped at 2.

Crab and avocado bruschetta
Super duper yummo.  The apple matchsticks added a wonderful texture to an otherwise mushy entree.  The highlight of the night for me.

Land and Sea Risotto
The tomatoes in this risotto were a great tangy touch but I found the capers completely overwhelming and ruined the dish for me.  The rice was a bit grainy and all in all I didn't think it was great.  Wouldn't order it again.

Black Angel Spaghetti
This was Tom's dinner (luckily because I didn't like it at all).  I've had squid ink pasta before but this had a really weird taste to it - I can't even describe the weirdness.

JI Epic Brownie
I originally wanted the Pana Cotta for dessert but they had run out so we settled for the Brownie.  I didn't like the Amaretto flavour to the ice cream - didn't think it went with the rest of the dish.  The Brownie was forgettable as was the drizzle of chocolate.  The only thing I enjoyed was the caramelised popcorn.

The service at Jamie's is excellent and prompt but I wouldn't come back here based on the food.  Maybe I had unusually high expectations of it because everyone's been talking about Jamie's since it opened, but I found the food to be of average quality.  Sorry Jamie!

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Click Frenzy

When I was on the train coming home tonight I was planning this blog post.  It was going to be about how great I am that I didn't succumb to any of the Click Frenzy sales.  3 hours later when I sit down to write this, I cannot claim superiority.  I failed.  Bigtime.

Asos got to me.

The dress isn't really my style but I'm keen to try something different!

Love these shorts.

Then I found Cotton On.

Aaaand then I stumbled across this kids Sydney Swans jersey for $34!!

I had a baskets full at Bonds, Forever New and and Bendon Lingerie but I closed the windows and walked away.  What did you score during the Click Frenzy sales?

Market Tour and Cooking Class in Lima

This is pretty much the only part of Lima worth blogging about.  Lima is overcast for a majority of the year and we had a dodgy tour guide who I don't want to talk about.

I had booked a Market Tour and Cooking Class with Skykitchen - can't go wrong if they're rated #2 activities to do in Lima!

The Market Tour was amazing!  Honestly who would've thought a tour of a market could be that interesting?  We met Karla and Yurac at the markets and marvelled over how cheap their produce is (AUD75c for a kilo of potatoes!!).

Our first stop was the fishmonger where we saw a fish get filleted - the same fish we were about to use in the cooking class afterwards.  More on that later.

Karla told us how to choose fresh fish - clear eyes, meat bounces back when you push a finger into it, and it shouldn't smell fishy.

Next stop was the fruit section - I loooove fruit.  We were introduced to the plethora of fruits they have available in Peru.  Karla said they are able to grow such a variety of fruit and veg because of the diverse climates they have in the country.  They've got the Andes at heights of 6800m but then they have a coastline, and then there's the jungle.  We bought one of every fruit available and Yurac went back to set up for the cooking class.

Vegetables galore!!

We turned the corner to the meat department and I had to cover my eyes.  I had caught a glimpse of a de-skinned rabbit that still had furry paws and just couldn't handle it.  A Peruvian native saw me struggle to look at the rabbit and she sniffered and pointed at me, saying "it's delicious" - thanks old lady!!  Karla decided to skip the meat section (only after showing me brains and tongues of various animals) and fast forward to the spices.

And we found the Asian section of the market - bok choi, spring onion, gai lan.  Aaaand there I've just listed all the asian greens I know the name of (Kay as a bad asian is another blogpost).

We ended the Market Tour with cheeeeeeese.

We caught a 5 minute cab to Skykitchen headquarters where Yurac had prepared all the fruit we had seen earlier that day.

6 different types of bananas
Starfruit, persimmon, lucuma, can't remember the rest haha
Dragonfruit relatives, prickly pears and blueberries
Plantain chips
Citrus fruits
We prepared 3 different meals - Papa a la Huancaína (Boiled potato and hard boiled egg with curry sauce), Ceibeche (fish ceviche) and Ají de Gallina (chicken curry with rice).

Before: Papa a la Huancaina
After: Papa a la Huancaina
Before: Cebiche
After: Cebiche
Makin' some curry

Aji de Gallina

Thankyou Yurac and Karla for such an amazing experience!!

Friday, 15 November 2013

Weighing in on the Sydney property market

Real Estate has kept me busy/stressed ever since I got back from South America.  I mentioned before we went away that we got notice the owner of our apartment was putting it on the market.  Every Saturday we have to vacate the apartment so they can hold the inspections and every Friday night we have to do a tidy up.  (Not to mention coming home on Saturday arvo to find dirt walked through the apartment and balcony doors unlocked).  Then we were told they sold the apartment and cancelled all inspections so I brought my shoe+bag collection back into the apartment.  3 days later the sale has fallen through and they'll continue to do inspections, thanks.  Can't be fcked moving all my stuff out again which leads to stressful Saturday mornings leaving my apartment full of designer gear for the public to walk through.

So we decided to start looking for another place to rent.  We are further north than both sets of parents and moving south would mean closer to family and work.  So we've started the hunt for rental property in Sydney.  I'd rather get my 4 wisdom teeth removed again, honestly.

Here are some experiences I've had in the past month which given an indication of how crazy the rental market is (and we're only renting because the selling/buying market is even worse).

Apartment A was listed for rent with no inspection time so I called the agent.  He'll try do an inspection this weekend he says.  He gets my contact details and I stalk for an update on inspection times.  They don't end up doing an inspection that weekend.  The following week I call the real estate agent receptionist and am told they will hold an inspection this weekend but no time has been set so she takes my contact details and will call me.  They don't end up doing an inspection that weekend either.  3 days later I jump onto domain to check inspection times and see that the property has been leased.  I know that agents cannot accept an application unless the prospective tenant has viewed the property.  If they have done no inspections, how has someone managed to inspect, apply, put down a deposit, AND signed a lease??

Apartment B was listed on late Tuesday afternoon (I know, because I now stalk domain MULTIPLE times a day).  I sent an enquiry about inspection times Tuesday night.  Wednesday lunchtime I receive an email saying a deposit has already been put on the property.  Again, how has someone inspected, applied for and put down a deposit in less than 24 hours?!??!  And the rent for this apartment wasn't even cheap - it was $700/week!!!

Apartment C we decided to just apply for without inspecting.  You can apply but they just can't accept your application til you've seen it.  Between Tom and I, we have a fair bit of money in our bank accounts (enough for a deposit on a $1M+ property), we both earn decent salaries, no bad credit history, we both own cars and I own property, and he is a Risk Manager at an Investment Bank for goodness sake.  And we got rejected.  Disheartening doesn't even begin to cut it.

Monday, 11 November 2013 with added Graduate Diploma of Applied Finance

Long-time followers of my blog will know I was completing a Graduate Diploma of Applied Finance.  Well last week I stepped onstage at the Ivy Ballroom (weird location for a graduation, right??) and collected my certificate.  I'm not sure how an Applied Finance post-grad qualification + an IT undergrad qualification is meant to help me at a Legal publishing company but I'm sure I've done stranger things.

I even got a University-branded business card holder as a reward for forking over $10,000 and sacrificing many hours and weekends to study.  I shouldn't be so cynical, it's all for my own education.... unless I didn't learn anything??

After this, I have decided to stay away from study for a while (apart from maybe a Project Manager certification next year?).  Maybe one day down the track I'll decide to do an MBA but certainly not anytime soon.  My boyfriend and I are study-ed out (he's a fancy pants and has a Masters of Applied Finance but he actually works in Finance which is a bit more helpful. And no we didn't study together - we actually did it at different Unis.  No idea why.  Add that to the list of stupid things I've done).

Dealing with altitude sickness

I'm writing this to help anyone travelling to an altitude and how to cope.

We went from Buenos Aires (0m above sea level) to Cuzco which is 3,400m above sea level.  Let me tell you it was tough!  Common altitude sickness symptoms include headaches, dizziness, light-headedness, difficulties breathing, nausea, vomiting.

In preparation, we took Ginkgo Biloba tablets for the 2 weeks prior to ascending.  Ginkgo is meant to be a natural alternative to western drugs (in Australia we have Diamox).  I had done some research back home and found countless stories of the side effects of Diamox.  Apparently you get really thirsty and drink bucketloads of water and need to pee heaps.  And apparently it doesn't actually help your symptoms, it just speeds up your heart rate so you can breathe more easily.  Anyway you can google yourself so I won't harp on about it.

Some research suggests Ginkgo is more effective, equal effective or not at all effective.  I figured given it's a natural plant extract it can't hurt to take it, right?

Aside from the Ginkgo, here are some other tips I have:

  • Eat lightly - eating a huge meal makes you feel terribly uncomfortable
  • Don't exert yourself physically - if you need to stop walking, stop.  If you need to sit down, sit.  
  • Drink coca tea - coca leaves come from the coca plant which produces cocaine.  Don't worry we googled it and you can't induce the psychoactive properties of cocaine from drinking tea made from coca leaves!  Most hotels will have coca leaves in the foyer - we had about 2-3 cups a day.  We even bought some coca lollies which didn't taste great.
  • Get proper sleep - and if you need to, have an afternoon nap
  • Drink lots of water
  • Don't drink coffee/black tea/Coke
  • If you can, climb altitude gradually to give your body a chance to "acclimatise" - ideally we would have gone from 0m to Lima (1,500m) then to Cuzco but I didn't know anything about altitude sickness when I planned the itinerary

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Peruvian Food

Peruvian food has a few major influences - Chinese, Mexican and Italian being the main ones.  We found meals were generally either realllllly salty or not at all salty.

Lomo Saltado
Think asian beef stir-fry plus potato chips/wedges.  Weird concept, right?  But oh so delicious!

It's a native fruit which has a custard-like texture and tastes, wait for it, like cookie dough.  For serious.  This stuff is amazing.  We couldn't get enough of it and Tom even went on the hunt for Lucuma ice-cream -

Inca Kola
This stuff outsells Coca-Cola in Peru!  So of course Coke goes and buys out Inca Kola.  It tastes exactly like Creaming Soda.

Quinoa has been around in Peru forever and it's an integral part of their daily diet.  They even have it in their soups.  Delish!

Peruvians eat this meat like we eat beef.  My sister and father ate it and said it was pretty non-offensive; not too gamey or anything.  Similar to beef if anything.

Pisco Sours
This is their national drink.  Pisco is an alcohol made from grapes to which they add lemon or lime juice (sours).  It is quite sour - not my thing.

Fish cooked in lime juice - simple.  Different parts of Peru prepare the fish differently - diced, sashimi or small fillets.  It's generally served with red onion and sides of sweet potato and maize.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Machu Picchu!!!!

Sorry it's taking me so long to post about my travels - between work, apartment hunting, social and family engagements I don't have much time left to do anything but sleep!

This time I've enlisted the help of my sister who has kindly recounted her Machu Picchu experience for you.

Apart from our cousin’s wedding, Machu Picchu was the second most prominent reason why we travelled to South America in the first place, at least from my perspective. I had seen the photos and heard people rave about it so I was looking forward to ticking something off my bucket list (note to self: actually write-up a bucket list so I can tick this off). Although, to be honest, there wasn’t much more anticipation other than getting to say to people that yes, I had been to Machu Picchu.

Actually getting to Machu Picchu was easier and much less arduous that I anticipated. We were picked up from our hotel at 6.30am by the tour company and they dropped us off at the train station. From there it was a very comfortable and scenic 3-hour train ride through the Urubamba Valley to the village of Aguas Calientes. We met our awesome tour guide, Jose, outside the train station gates and then hopped on a coach that took us to the entrance to Machu Picchu in twenty minutes.

Tourists in front of the PeruRail train


Beautiful scenery along the train journey

The crazy winding road we took from the train station up to the entrance of Machu Picchu

Once you walk past the entrance and step into the opening of Machu Picchu, you have to take a moment. It’s quite spectacular. This valley suddenly opens up in front of you but instead of just trees and grass, it’s an Incan village and a rather spectacularly constructed and maintained village at that. This village is situated on top of a mountain, surrounded by other mountains. Machu Picchu means “Old Mountain” and is not the original name of the village. No one knows the original name of the place because it’s completely undocumented. It was abandoned by its inhabitants when the Spanish were closing in but the Spanish never found the village – rather fortunate because the Spanish had this habit of destroying things they thought were threats to colonisation. 


Jose explained all of this to us and he gently guided us through this amazing place. We stopped to take pictures every 10 seconds so it must have been a pretty tough job for him. He pointed out the trapezoidal structures in the architecture, a stabilising measure to prevent great damage in the event of earthquakes, which apparently happens every 300 years. 


More trapezoids

Trapezoidal fun

See how the trapezoids are mirrored in the mountain background?

He pointed out the amazing irrigation that functions to this day, draining water from a spring, high up in the neighbouring mountain. He pointed out the mind-blowing masonry that allowed the Incas to build temples with the use of mortar; instead the Incas interlocked their stones but cutting and grinding them to fit perfectly with one-another. 

Seriously... how did they do this?!?!  Oh Hi Jose

He pointed out the multiple awe-inspiring nuances of the village: the precise orientation of the window in the sun temple towards the sun on the first day of the winter solstice, the path that lies directly between the peaks of Machu Picchu and Wayna Picchu, the large stone that mimics the silhouette of the mountain behind it, which incidentally also looks like a guinea pig, and the list goes on. This entire village makes you think that the Incas were crazy alien people who mapped out this village to precise perfection.

They have alpacas just roaming around

Towards the end of our tour, we took a break in the open area where palaeontologists hypothesise that the skilled workers took their lunch breaks. We sat on the edge of the village, overlooking the green valley below as the wind from the oncoming rain swept over us. I looked towards the peak of Machu Picchu were we would head to after Jose left us and where we’d take our obligatory touristy photos and I decided that South America was worth it. It didn’t matter if there were times in the trip when I was fed up and just wanted to go home. Machu Picchu was worth it.

Til next time,