General


How NOT to buy a house in 3 months…

Usually, when a couple decides to buy a house, they spend months visiting potential new cities or looking at houses and patiently wait for that perfect house to  become available. You know, that dream house that you can picture your kids growing up in and you growing old in… Instead, we spent 2 weeks looking at houses and said this one! Crazy! Well… it was a bit more complicated than that.

We knew we were moving while still in Australia so I spent tons of time day dreaming on various real estate websites trying to determine the best place to look for a place to live. We were literally all over the map. The one thing we knew was that we did not want to live in New Jersey. Sorry Jersey… nothing against the state and all but it just wasn’t realistic with James’ office being in Long Island City. Plus, the tolls to Jersey are crazy expensive! Yes, my big brother lives there, but the commute was one of our key factors. James was determined to have a total transit time of less than 1 hr - that means from the time he walks out the door to the time his butt is at his desk. So, at least that was a starting point.  We also knew we couldn’t live in the city… as much fun as the city is, we got used to the suburban lifestyle in Sydney and the idea of schlepping the kids around the city on public transportation, cabs or walking just sounded horrific to me and the craziness and expense of public school - for 3 kids - well, that was an easy decision. So, that pretty much left us with lower Westchester and Long Island.

We toyed with the idea of Long Island City for a while but the schools didn’t seem so great. We thought maybe Queens but the parts we liked (Forest Hills) was way too $$ for what we wanted. So we finally settled on Lower Westchester and Port Washington and Manhasset as key target areas. James’ company helped us secure real estate agents in both areas and we started communicating with them before we came. So we had an idea of what we were looking for before the physical hunt.

Once we landed back in the US, we didn’t have much time. We left Sam and Noah with the grandparents in Southern California but had to bring Annabelle with us as I was still breastfeeding. James had a week before work officially started so the plan was to look together for a week and I would keep looking for a few more days. So, set off on a whirlwind house hunting adventure, and boy was it an adventure.

We started off in Long Island first, but for the oddest reason, our agent was located in Queens. We should have seen the warning signs early… but it was such a waste - she had no clue about the area we were looking in. We took the train to her in Queens and she drove us in her car to Port Washington. We had picked a bunch of houses we saw online that looked interesting and she made appointments to see them. For the most part, she was just our chauffeur. She could not tell us a thing about the area, the houses, the schools, NOTHING. I got excited when the buyers agent would be at the house so I could ask questions. It was a disaster… unfortunately, we had to get new representation.

The next day, we headed out to Lower Westchester which includes Pelham, Larchmont, Mamaroneck and Rye - all towns along the Long Island Sound and off the Metro North New Haven Line.  We knew of these towns but had never visited before but James used to pass through them everyday when he worked in Stamford.  Our agent, Barbara, picked us up at the train station and she was just the nicest woman we had ever met. She was also so great with Annabelle. Let me tell you, house hunting with a 5 month old is not a lot of fun. Sometimes the walk throughs would take twice as long as one of us would have to stay in the car with the sleeping baby and we’d take turns. Or we’d rush through a house with a crying baby. But Barbara was great and very patient. Her first course of action was just to drive us around town showing us where things were, getting us acclimated to the area, showing us the schools, giving lots of info on the area. Such a total difference from our time in Port Washington.  We went back the next day and on the following Saturday and we must have seen every house in our price range in all those towns.  It was crazy! On the days we weren’t in Westchester, we got a new broker who showed us around Port Washington and Manhasset properly.  Shelly was amazing. She knew her stuff. I finally realized what a good broker really meant. She was such a wealth of information.

Back in the USA!

 Back in September, James and I attended the Youths Off the Street Charity dinner at the Hilton in downtown Sydney.  Though I wish we had more time to do more charity work, unfortunately, we only get to do the bare minimum.  Luckily, James has been involved with this organization through work where he has helped mentor inner city kids in Sydney.  This dinner was to introduce scholarship winners to those who have been a part of the organization.  Some of these kids’ stories are very inspiring… I felt a bit unaccomplished next to them.  I hope these scholarships make a big impact in their lives… you never know the impact you have on another’s life - you just hope it’s for the positive.

In any case, we went to this dinner to help support this organization and ended up winning a couple silent auctions.  First, we won/bought a dinner at Aria and tickets to see the Australian Ballet’s performance of Edge of Night. Unfortunately, we didn’t find out until after we won the auction that the ballet only performed from Nov. 12 - 24th and the baby was due Nov. 17th… this proved to be a problem.  Luckily, we had friends celebrating their wedding anniversary in that time and were happy to buy the tickets for the ballet off us…

So, what does this all have to do with a photo session? well, we won/bought 2 silent auctions that night. The second being a photography session at Gap Studios in Frenchs Forrest.  Luckily, that is near to us as we had no clue when we bid on it. This would be our first real family photograph since Shanghai and we were excited.  We dressed up in blue jeans and white shirts/dresses and I have to say, the pictures came out great! See for yourself!

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So, today is June 28, officially more than 5 months since my last post. I think I win the award for worst blogger. I can come up with a litany of excuses which, to me, are all valid, but really… there’s no excuse. I’m not sure why it’s taken so long. I keep telling myself, “hey, I need to update the blog” but then, I just play “words with friends” instead - my new time sucker… damn these smart phones.  I guess I can actually update this from my phone.  I wonder if there is an easy Word Press app… haha.

 So, here is the plan… I will attempt to create blog headings for all those great moments I’ve already forgotten and will, hopefully, go back and pretend I wrote them in real time. We’ll see…

So, it’s not the end of January yet and I’ve already broken my New Year’s Resolution.  My blogging hasn’t been very fruitful.  I’ve been VERY busy!  My mother left last week and I’ve been fending for myself which is going OK, but which also means I have very little time for much else.  Thank goodness Annabelle is a relatively easy baby and Noah is improving everyday.

So, since Samantha’s birthday we’ve done a lot.  We were planning to go to the zoo on the Monday after, but it turned out to be a really HOT and very sunny day. We decided it best not to be out all day so just took it easy. I was still recovering from the weekend. So, instead we went on Tuesday which turned out to be 1000x better as the temperature was almost 10degrees cooler and a bit of cloud cover which is the ideal weather for walking all around a zoo.  I love Taronga Zoo because it is small. You can easily do the whole thing in a few hours and it has the best views of any zoo, anywhere.  I have an annual pass as well as a guest pass so it really only costs me $5 for parking so we try to go as often as we can but this is the first time we took all 3 kids - though Annabelle literally slept the entire time.  Since it was my Mom’s last day, I wanted to do something very Sydney-ish with her.  We watched the seal show, saw the new baby elephants and the new baby hippo.  The kids splashed in the water and rode the sky safari. All in all, a very lovely day.

The next day, not so lovely, as I had to take my mother to the airport and say goodbye.  How the hell did 2 1/2 months go by so fast? and I felt like we did nothing. It was all such a blur. I guess the first week was Halloween and just waiting for the baby to come. The second week the baby was born. The next two weeks was just getting used to it all. Then it was Thanksgiving and James and Sam went to the States. By the time they came back, it was a week before Christmas. Then it was New Years and we went up to Forster. Came back and went to a birthday party the next weekend and the Sam’s birthday, her party and then, that’s it… Crazy! I am just so lucky my mother could be here for as long as she was. Not every mother is so inclined to drop everything and fly to the other side of the world just to help their child so I appreciate her so much.  I don’t know how I would have done it without her.  She is my rock and my role model. I only hope to be as good as she is.

So, Mom left and James and I were all on our own.  On Wednesday, luckily James stayed home in the morning so I could take my mom to the airport alone which was nice. That afternoon, when Sam, Annabelle and I went to pick up Noah from daycare, I realized I totally forgot that Sam had a Kindy playdate at school.  Thank goodness Noah’s daycare is right next to Sam’s school or I would have totally missed it. So, I took all three to introduce Sam to her new schoolmates and to try to meet some new mums.  I actually met a few I liked and got along well so we’ll see how it goes. It was 5pm by the time we got home and I still had to make dinner.  Somehow, I whipped together a lasagna and it came out really great! By the time James came home, I just totally passed out.

Friday was going to be my real test having all 3 kids home all day long but luckily, we went to visit my friend, Shell, who just had a new baby girl a week before.  She’s a trooper and Baby Olivia is adorable.  She’s got to other boys Sam and Noah’s age so it worked out really well. The kids all played really well together with very little issue.  We were there all day.  Shell said she didn’t mind as it kept her kids busy too and we were able to catch up a bit along with our other friend, Rae. So it was a win/win. That made for a pretty easy day.

Then Saturday was a beautifully gorgeous day so we ended up heading out to Jamberoo! A big waterpark about 2 hours south of us.  We went with our friends, Christine and Rene, and their almost 3yr old.  I was really worried how we’d do with all 3 kids and just the two of us at a waterpark but it was actually a really good experience.  We’ve been there twice last yr so we knew what to expect so that helped.  But since it was the last weekend of school holidays, it was packed! But, packed in Australia is not even a light day back in the US.  We set up our tents and picnic baskets under some trees and tag teamed on the rides.  It helped that Christine and Rene only had 1 kid so they could take 1 of ours on the rides while I stayed back with Annabelle.  The weather was warm and comfortable - really the perfect weather.  The kids all had a great time.  Noah listened well and never ran off.  They ate their lunch and played nicely with each other.  It was so wonderful! And then, on cue, they both passed out on the ride home - Noah for the rest of the night.  We love Jamberoo.

We had lofty ambitions of going to another beach on Sunday as the weather was so lovely but I was just dead to the world Sunday morning. I don’t think I got out of bed until 10am (Thank you James).  I was totally pooped. I think the last week totally caught up with me and I was in no condition to do much so we kept it low key and just stayed home - though I did do 5 loads of laundry.  Now, typically, you’d say laundry, no big deal. How hard is it to put clothes in the washer and then in the dryer? But, I’ve become more Australian and am regularly hanging clothes out on the line. So, it’s a lot more work. And I started packing for Fiji since we leave early Wed morning.

So, today is Monday (well, technically early Tuesday morning) and I had a whole list of to do’s and all 3 kids to do them with. I was totally dreading it but I had so much to do.  I had 2 more loads of laundry to do before loading the kids in the car and heading back to Chatswood.  I had to go to the bank to withdraw money. Then go to the post office to order Fiji dollars. Then to the library to return Mom’s books. Over to the shops to reward the kids for being so good on the first three things with a smoothie from Boost and grab lunch. Overall, it actually went really smooth.  I used our double Phil & Ted’s stroller with Annabelle in the front in her carseat and Noah in the back seat. Samantha walked, though she complained almost the whole time.  Annabelle slept the whole time. Noah sat nicely in the stroller and Sam kept up.  And they ate lunch without any chaos and I didn’t have to yell at them even once - wow!  We went to a few stores to buy sunscreen, bug spray, shampoo, etc to get ready for the trip and it wasn’t bad at all. I can totally handle three kids on my own. That is until we got home.  Noah wouldn’t nap and Sam was getting bratty. I haven’t seen Samantha this naughty in a long time. I made her get off the computer (her favorite activity) and she had the biggest tantrum. She ended up in time out pretty much the rest of the afternoon. It was not pretty. And it was loud which then set off Annabelle. Noah was the good one for a change. I was exhausted and fed up and still had to make dinner. Ugh… by the time James got home, I was in a foul mood.  At one point, while I was cooking dinner, I actually drank a bottle of beer. I just needed something to cool me down (it’s super hot and humid today) and something to take the edge off. I haven’t had a beer in years and this one actually tasted pretty good.

And now it’s 12:26am and I’m writing this blog entry instead of sleeping.  Ok, off to bed to do it all again tomorrow. Wish me luck.  Only 2 more sleeps until Fiji…

Samantha’s 5th birthday is just 2 days away and I am so behind preparing for her party on Saturday.  Usually, I’m really on the ball planning what I hope to be a great party, but this year, I just haven’t been into it.  It’s a miracle I even got her invitations out, of course it was an email invite, but I did get it out 1 month in advance.  I was just informed this weekend that she wants a STAR theme - as in celestial body, not Hollywood.  I thought, hmmm, easy enough, but now it’s a bit harder than I imagined.  There just aren’t that many readily available, last minute star decorations.  So, I hit up the shops in Chatswood trying to find anything star related.  Since it’s still school holidays, there are tons of people out.  I thought I was having such great luck when I come upon a couple of teens pulling out of a parking spot in my preferred parking area - you know you have one too… where you’ll circle around and around before moving onto an undesirable level.  So I patiently wait to let them out and then begin reversing backwards to get into the right position - then crunch! Yup, I backed into the same car I was waiting on.  How the hell did that happen? Apparently, they were still waiting to pull out of the lane and I was only looking on my right mirror so as not to hit the parked cars on my right but they were partly on my side so I crunched a bit of their bumper with mine.  There’s a definite dent and side looked pushed out a bit.  SHIT! Luckily, she was a really nice girl and just so gracious about it. I gave her whatever details I could and she informed me her father would get in contact with me.  Here’s to hoping he’s as nice as his daughter.  It was a small dent but work will need to be done so we’ll see how it goes.  This is the first time since moving here that I’ve actually hit another car. I’ve prided myself on being a “better” driver than James as he’s had 1 very minor fender bender that wasn’t even an issue and has the more serious scrapes on the car, including cracking the entire back windshield while parking the car - that was one mighty expensive burger.  I’ve always held that over him so this will definitely even us out, damn… oh well.

There was nothing to be done so I continued on my shopping quest.  First, I had to exchange a ceramic piggy bank at Target because the one I had bought for the kids had a weird scratch on its nose.  Simple enough, right? Not for me… I was browsing the piggy banks looking for the right color. I pulled it out of the shelf and BAM! down on the ground it goes, smashed into lots of little piggy parts.  Now, this was not MY fault.  The box wasn’t even sealed properly.  The pig fell out from the side. But I felt horrible just the same.  The target employees were very nice about it and didn’t make me pay. They even brought me out a new pig.

After that, I roamed around shop after shop in search of STARS.  I found a variety of things and even made it to the grocery store thinking things were picking up. No major disasters so far until I get to the exit.  F**K! I’m over my 3hr parking limit by 3mins. So, I have to pay $5.  Why does this annoy me so much? I hate having to pay for parking.  Obviously, something is wrong with me when paying for parking bothers me more than causing physical damage to inanimate objects… note to self - get head examined… after the party.

2011 - I still can’t believe it. What happened to 2010? It literally just flew by. I feel like I say it every year, but each year goes by faster than the last.  I am thankful for this blog as it helps me remember all the wonderful things that we’ve done but unfortunately, I was very lax in 2010. I have maybe 10 posts from last year and still a few in drafts that I just can’t seem to get to, though I will - I promise.

So, in following New Year’s traditions, I am setting some resolutions. Here goes nothing:

1) Write more consistently on the blog! My goal is to write at least 3 times per week and aim for 5. Crazy, I know. Does anyone even care? Well, I do. I love re-reading these entries and I always have things in my head I wish I had written down so now I’m going to do it, damn it! Even if it’s a quick blurb about nothing.

2) Exercise. This is probably the universal resolution for all but really, I need to get my butt off this chair and do more than stare at the computer screen.  I don’t necessarily need to lose weight, I’m actually happy with my weight, it’s more the flabby parts that bother me.  I just saw pictures of myself in a swimsuit and it was not pretty. Plus, you know, being healthy and all.

3) Keep my house cleaner. Those of you who know me know that I am a horrible housewife.  I think I’m a pretty good mother (though, I could still be better) but the whole keeping the house part, well, I’m not very good at it.  It’s just so unsatisfying to clean up the house to only have it look like a disaster again the next day, or sometimes in this house, a couple hours.  I just can’t be bothered.  I’ve gotten better over the years… if you had seen my teenage bedroom, you’d be so amazed. My house will never look like Martha Stewarts or anything on HGTV besides Hoarders, but I can try. That’s all I can do, is try.

4) Launch project FTG. I don’t want to talk about this too much as it’s still has a ways to go, but I hope to get this little project up and running very soon, then you’ll never hear the end of it. Keeping fingers crossed.

4 resolutions, that’s not bad. Of course, I have lots of other things I need to work on but these are the main ones I’ll check on at the end of the year. And if 2011 is anything like 2010, I’ll do the year end review tomorrow.

’til then, I wish everyone a very happy 2011 and may this new year bring you love, joy and lots of blessing!

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This is our second year staying in Australia for Christmas and again, I have mixed emotions.  It’s so odd not being “home” with all our extended family during this festive time… driving from house to house and eating tons of food, doing gift exchanges and having so many kids running around.  I do miss it so much.  But being here in Sydney with just our little family (along with my mother) has also been nice.  You don’t have to worry about dealing with both sides of the family and trekking all around to see everyone but it is a little bit lonely.

Growing up, we used to do really big Christmas celebrations.  Though I’m Catholic now, I grew up in a very relaxed Budhist household so Christmas was always much more of a family celebration time than anything religious.  For the longest time, I didn’t really even relate Christmas to Jesus. I knew of the stories but conveniently separated it from the gift giving and eating.  It was like Thanksgiving - an American holiday meant to get together and have fun, which we always did. My mother is 1 of 11 children, most of whom live in the Southern California area so we would all get together and everyone got gifts, so there were presents everywhere.  I remember each kid taking pictures with a pile of presents in front of the tree.  Of course, as we got older and as more cousins were born, we started slimming down the gift giving, but it was always a fun time.

But this year, we got to continue some traditions we began last year… such as the kids helping James set up the tree and decorate while I sit back and take pictures :)

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and the finished product:

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merry-x-mas-28.JPGwith presents

I’m trying to start a new tradition (we’ll see if it’ll continue next year) of making some homemade ornaments to start to replace the plain balls currently on the tree. This year, I tried to do a playdough type ornament with cookie cutters and paint.  I was worried it would be a disaster but it actually turned out pretty great and the kids had a lot of fun doing it.

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And of course, we had to get pictures taken with Santa Claus.  I opted for the less posed mall Santa picture and just had the kids take a pic with Santa when he came to Story Time at the library.  Much smaller group, and free!

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We are also very lucky to have a great group of friends here to help celebrate this festive time.  Our friends, Rochelle and Malcolm invited us over for a casual pot luck and secret Santa for the kids.  It was a beautifully sunny day and the kids had great fun and we had awesome food and conversation. What more could you ask for?

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So, on Christmas Eve, we decided to invite some other expat friends of ours who also do not have family around to celebrate.  It was nice sharing the dinner with some other good friends.  It was also a great excuse for me to get back in the kitchen.  Since Annabelle was born in Nov, I didn’t get to do my usual Thanksgiving feast so I did a Christmas feast instead.  I made a honey glazed ham, prime rib au jus, yorkshire pudding, steamed brocolli, roasted butternut squash and stuffing.  Yummy! And it all came out really great, if I do say so myself.

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We had a pretty late night so Christmas morning wasn’t as early as it could have been.  Noah was awake at his usual 6am time but we were able to hold him off until Samantha woke up.  But once they were awake, they tore into those gifts without hesitation.

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So, even though we’re thousands of miles away from our family and friends, the kids did not miss out on all the gifts as their aunties and uncles graciously gave James lots of pressies to bring back with him when he was in NY and LA in Nov/Dec.  Our kids are truly blessed with wonderful people in their lives.

After present opening, James made a lovely breakfast and we then went to church.  Surprisingly, there were less people in church on Christmas day than on a regular Sunday. Maybe most went on Christmas Eve or midnight mass.  It was great arriving only 5 mins before mass started and still be able to get seats.

After church it was only 10:30am and we still had the whole day ahead of us, so we we did what lots of other Australians did on Christmas day, we hit the beach!

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Annabelle slept in her car seat the entire time we were at the beach so no good pics of her to include.  We had a great time. It did get a bit windy and chilly by the end but I couldn’t imagine a better way to enjoy our Aussie Christmas.


So, I’ve always considered myself a pretty good cook, or at least that’s what James says =).  I truly enjoy cooking and hosting parties but I’ve never been very good at baking.  I enjoy randomly throwing things together to make savory main courses or appetizers but the exactness needed in measuring for baking has always seem to be too difficult for me. From ruined cakes to gooey cookies, for some reason, it just never worked well for me, until recently.  I’ve discovered the hidden baker in me. Granted, she’s still very much the amateur but I’ve found myself wanting to bake more and more. So, this blog post will be about my recent successes and failures with butter and sugar.

Success: Blueberry muffins.  Sam’s pre-school has a twice a year fundraiser where the parents bake a variety of sugary things to sell at the quarterly market day.  Since I missed the last one when I was back in the US, I thought I’d lend my support this time even though we’ve already pulled Sam from the school and she wasn’t even here for the event.  I had frozen blueberries in my freezer so figured, why not. Plus, the day before was Annabelle’s 1 month birthday so I wanted to celebrate with a small cake and thought a muffin would be perfect. Not like she could eat it anyways. So, I found a recipe on www.food.com or what was before known as www.recipezaar.com - my go to recipe site. I also use epicurious and foodnetwork.  I like being able to search for recipes with the best ratings and testing those out. Why bother trying a recipe that no one else seems to like.  So, here’s the recipe from Kittencal:

Ingredients:

Directions:

Prep Time: 15 mins

Total Time: 40 mins

  1. Set oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Set oven rack to second-bottom position.Generously grease 12 jumbo muffin tins, then cut out circles of parchment paper (or waxed paper) to fit into the bottom of each muffin tin.
  3. In a large mixing bowl using an electric mixer blend the flour with sugar, butter and salt until mixture resembles a fine meal (reserve 1/2 cup of the mixture and transfer to a small bowl; set aside to sprinkle on top of muffins).
  4. In a small bowl mix together baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and lemon zest to the remaining flour mixture; mix until combined.
  5. In a bowl whisk together buttermilk with eggs and vanilla to blend; add to the creamed mixture; gently mix just until combined (do not over mix!).
  6. Carefully fold in the blueberries or chopped strawberries.
  7. Divide the mixture between the muffin tins.
  8. Sprinkle the reserved streusel over tops of muffins.
  9. Bake for about 25-30 minutes, or until muffins test done (if using frozen berries baking time will increase slightly).
  10. Cool for about 5 minutes in tins then carefully lift out to a rack.

 I made 19 muffins - 18 for the market day and 1 for Annabelle.  Since Annabelle couldn’t eat it, Noah gladly obliged and swallowed the thing practically whole so I had no clue what it tasted like. He seemed to like it but he’s not too picky when it comes to sweets. So, I was a bit nervous about how they would sell.  At the market day, we priced each muffin at $3 each. For the first 10-15mins, no takers. Kids came by and we’re easily  handing over $2 for some rocky road (chocolate covered marshmallow thing) but my beautiful muffins just sat there.  Then this older couple came by and each bought 1 - yeah, my first sale. Then nothing. 10mins later, the couple came back and guess what, they bought 10 more muffins.  He old guy LOVED it. He was raving about it.  Success! Then, the last 6 seemed to just fly off the shelf.  So, for 18 muffins, I netted the school $54 bucks.  Not bad for something that probably cost me $6-8 to make.  So, this is my go to muffin recipe - and it’s pretty easy to do.  Noah has been asking for more.

Success: Banana Pudding.  At this same market day, I decided to go above and beyond and make 2 desserts.  I had 3 really ripe bananas sitting on my counter and my last attempt at banana bread didn’t go so great so thought I’d make my favorite Magnolia Bakery’s Banana Pudding with Vanilla Wafers.  If you’ve never had one, go get it. It is so decadently yummy.  Magnolia Bakery is probably best know for their cupcakes but I think they’re a bit overrated and too sugary, but the pudding, is to die for.  So, I found this recipe and I’ve made it a few times. It’s not exactly the same but it’s pretty close and super easy to make.  The only problem is, you really need to use Nabisco Nilla Wafers in this recipe and these DO NOT exist in Australia.  I’ve tried using other similar type cookies, but nothing seems to really work.  So, every time we go back to the US or someone comes, I tend to bring over a box of these just to make this dessert. (I also usually ask for French’s Fried Onions to make green bean casserole for Thanksgiving).  Australia also does not have Jello instant vanilla pudding. They have their own version but it’s just a bit different but it seems to work OK.  In any event, I made the pudding and presented it in individual plastic cups and a whole nila wafer on top for added emphasis.  Unfortunately, this only made 10 cups worth. We priced these at $2 each. It took a while to sell as people looked unsure about what it was, but once a few people tried it, the rest went fast! so, score, another $20.  Not bad. Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients:

Servings:

12

Directions:

Prep Time: 30 mins

Total Time: 4 1/2 hrs

  1. Blend the water, pudding mix and sweetened condensed milk until will mixed.
  2. Refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.
  3. Whip the heavy cream until soft peaks form.
  4. Fold the pudding mixture into the whipped cream until well incorporated.
  5. In a trifle bowl layer wafers, sliced bananas then pudding mixture. Continue until all of the mixture is used up ending with the pudding mixture.
  6. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  7. **Cooking time is refrigeration time.

Success: Oatmeal Raisin Cookies.  Not sure what got into me, but one day, I just felt like eating oatmeal cookies. So, Samantha helped me whip up a quick batch and it came out great. I also made extra and froze a log of it so I can just pop some in the oven anytime I have guests or need a quick fix.I feel so Martha Stewartish.

Failure: Chocolate Chip Cookies.  As many may know, I am not a chocolate fan, but to my dismay, the rest of my family LOVES chocolate so I relented and decided to try and make them happy.  But, unfortunately, it didn’t come out very good. Not sure what went wrong. It was way too soft and flat. Plus, I didn’t use the right chocolate chips. I got chocolate buttons and apparently that’s not the right kind to use. Not sure if I’ll try chocolate chip cookies again any time soon.

Failure: So, I got really adventurous and thought I’d make some cookies as gifts for Sam and Noah’s teachers.  I got this weird desire to make French macaroons. They are so pretty and the recipe looked pretty easy.  Well, it was a total disaster. First of all, I think I need a new egg beater. Most recipes tell you to use your stand mixer. Well, I don’t have one so sometimes I just improvise. I have an electric egg beater that I use to whip things up but one of the beaters broke, so there is only 1 beater left. I’m not sure how that changes things but it takes forever to whip cream or egg whites. And the thing gets super hot. Hmmm, I really do need a new mixer. anyways, maybe I didn’t whip the eggs enough. I definitely whipped it for a long time but it just didn’t get stiff properly. I tried to split the batch and make half pink and half green. Both came out as light brown, flat circles that were too chewy and not pretty at all. Such a disappointment. I tried to make the buttercream filling which was even worse. It was all just too sad. I even bought a new icing bag but that was even worse as the filling seemed to be oozing out of the fabric of the bag. Oh well. In the end, I just scrapped everything and bought some crappy lotions to give.

Success: Pizza crust. Ok, not a dessert but I’ve also gotten into baking homemade bread. I’ve tried to make homemade pizza crust before and they’ve all come out pretty dense and tasteless. When I’ve used other recipes, I end up with a tough ball of dough that doesn’t seem to rise very well. I happened across this recipe for this “master dough” that can be used for a variety of different breads, including pizza dough, so I tried it, and SUCCESS! What’s even better is that it’s a no-knead  recipe. You just mix it all together and let it rise - that’s it. And it comes out fantastic. I just made it today and made one thick crust pizza and one thing crust and both came out so yummy. It’s a winner and a keeper. I made a full batch and will attempt to make cinnamon rolls in the morning. Here’s the recipe:

2 3/4 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 tbl granulated yeast
1 1/2 tbl salt
1 tbl sugar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
6 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1. Mix the yeast, salt, sugar and olive oil with the water in a 5-qt bowl, or a lidded (not airtight) food container

2. Mix in the flour without kneading, using a large wooden spoon.

3. Cover (not airtight) and allow to rest at room temperature for about 2 hours. You can use the dough at this point, or refrigerate and use over next 12 days. If you refrigerate at least overnight, you’ll develop better flavor in the dough. If you only want to make 1 flatbread, just pinch off a grapefruit sized piece of dough to use…keep the remaining covered loosely in the refrigerator. You can freeze the dough as well…but I haven’t tried it, because honestly, it’s so good that the dough never goes unbaked for more than 4 days.

Success: croissants. OK, maybe not a 100% success but not bad at all, but a total pain in the a**. I don’t know why I thought making my own croissants was a good idea but I did it. It took forever to do and in the end, the final result was OK. Not amazing but just ok. For all that effort, it just wasn’t worth it. Next time, I’ll just buy it from the bakery. Actually, if they sold them here, I’d just buy the Pillsbury one in a can. I love those things. So buttery and flaky. Too bad they don’t sell them here.  When I asked a couple friends if they sold pastry in a can, I got really weird looks. The things you take for granted in the U.S.

I’m soooo sorry. If there is anyone still out there who reads this blog, I apologize for my lack of updates. I really have no excuse… well, I always have excuses, but none that even I would buy. I’ve just been lazy, busy, non-motivated, etc, etc… It’s not that we don’t have a lot to update on, I think it’s the fact that I have so much to update on that the very idea of writing it all up properly makes me just want to curl up and go to sleep. But I should, I need to. This is my only documentation of our lives as my attempts at keeping a diary consistently fail me.  But when I do go back to this site and re-read previous postings, it makes me so happy to relive all the wonderful moments of our lives that now I’m back to being motivated. I can’t promise anything as I have so much to catch back up on but I will at least try. That’s all I can do, right - try? Plus, I kind of have a deadline or I’ll never catch up.  I have about 4 months because come November, my time will be even more sparse. For those who haven’t heard (and most haven’t as I haven’t really made a PR statement) - we’re pregnant! and by we, I mean me.  If I could make James carry this child to term, I would, but alas, technology has not advanced enough yet.   Though, you’d never know I was pregnant as I continue to do all the same things anyone else would do, like travel 14 hours each way from Sydney to LA with two small children, by myself - but hey, anyone would do that right? or spend 4 days in Vegas and staying up until 5-6am each night… pregnant? what? who? not me…. Am I confusing you? Maybe it’s because I’m typing this at midnight when I should be asleep like the rest of the members of this family.  What is wrong with me? Well, all will become clearer as I get my blogging fingers back in shape.

 So, posts hopefully to come - some day:

1) My mother’s visit from January - March 2010 plus our trip to New Zealand (lots of pics for that one)

2) Noah’s second birthday!  We didn’t really have a proper party but it should still be documented.

3) Another applepicking trip

4) Move out of our apartment (away from our mean neighbor) and into our first real house (even though we’re just renting)

5) Trip out to California  for Annie, Sam and Noah while James held up the fort in Sydney (and played lots of golf and poker). This will have a lot with trips to Knott’s Berry Farm, Sea World, Disneyland, Big Bear and of course, Cindy’s wedding!!!

6) updates on the pregancy…

so, lots to come. we’ll take it one day at a time and see how we go. But now, at least you have an idea of what life for us has been like the last 6 months.

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