Monday, November 30, 2009

I Work Hard for the Money

Dang, I am tired! This working stuff is hard! Like I've said before, I'm just doing general office stuff but I come home exhausted. I think it's a combination of not sleeping well and wanting to do a good job and not screw anything up through the day that leaves me drained by the time I get home. Don't get me wrong, I'm still enjoying it and everyone is still super nice and easy to talk to...I just had forgotten how much work work really is.

2 Sleeps until Boyfriend gets here!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thank You for Being a Friend

Today is the Hairdresser's baby shower (well I should say was as it is early Monday Morning Aus time and Sunday afternoon here). I wish I could've gone. I emailed the Hairdresser last week as I am trying to hunt down some Nerf guns for her nephews while I'm here and she assured me that she had a cute outfit picked out for the party and that she was going to be wearing heels, no matter how much they killed her feet! That is so like her :) The next time I see her she will be a mom (mum) and I can't wait to meet the little guy or girl and to see her and the Soccer Player be parents.

I wanted to say a big thank you to all my friends in Australia who have helped me and Boyfriend by filling out a statutory declaration letting the Australian Government know that Boyfriend and I are, indeed, a real couple and I'm not just after a green card. Knowing that you guys took the time to fill the forms out (and that you really do want me back in Aus with you) means a lot to me. It's nice that I/we can lean on you guys when we need it and that you all always deliver. I hope you know that I/we would do the same for any one of you! It's still Thanksgiving weekend here in the States, so if any of you guys are reading this, know that I am thankful for you!

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Way You Squeeze My Lemon...

Happy Black Friday to everyone! Hope you went out and bought lots of stuff you didn't really need/want, but got it anyway because the deal was too good to pass up :) Or maybe, instead, you stayed home/in bed all day still in a food coma? I had trouble sleeping last night, probably because I was too full and was really tired when it was time to get up for work this morning.Nae's food was amazing, as expected. The big highlight for me was this spinach salad with apples and candied pecans with a citrus vingarette that Nae whipped up both last night and tonight. I could eat that salad all day, everyday. I've got a dark picture of it, but it really doesn't do it justice.

I think she got her recipe inspiration from something she saw on the Food Network website and then tweaked it by adding some fresh squeezed orange juice in to the dressing, as well as some lemon zest and rather than doing the walnuts, she did the candied pecans instead.


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 5 ounces baby spinach leaves (about 5 cups lightly packed)
  • 1 Granny Smith apple
  • 1 tablespoon of orange juice
  • Pinch of orange zest
  • Candied pecans

In a small bowl whisk together the oil, vinegar, mustard, orange juice and zest. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Toss the spinach with the dressing until evenly coated then divide the spinach among 4 serving plates. Core the apple and slice it into matchsticks. Sprinkle a quarter of the apple pieces on top of each salad. Follow with the pecan pieces. Serve immediately.

She also made up a double batch of lemon bars and I had a peak at the website she was consulting while making it and it was from another Food Network friend, Emeril! These are always a big hit, but seem pretty time consuming as you have to squeeze and zest lots of lemons (my job yesterday) and bake the bottom layer before you then rebake it with the lemon layer added. Here is the recipe and a picture from the site, as well as a picture of our slice (can you spot the difference in picture quality? haha)

I thought this lemon looked kindof neat after it had been zested.

  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks), plus 1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter
  • 1 3/4 cups plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup confectioners' sugar, plus more for garnish
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt plus a pinch
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 2/3 cup fresh lemon juice, strained
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons limoncello, or other lemon-flavored liqueur, optional


Lightly butter a 9 by 13-inch baking dish with 2 teaspoons of the butter and line with 1 sheet of parchment or waxed paper. Butter the top of this sheet of paper with 1 teaspoon of the remaining butter and then lay a second sheet of parchment or waxed paper crosswise over the first sheet. The parchment should be cut large enough so that the sides are even with the top of the baking dish; this extra paper will function as handles to help you remove the lemon squares from the pan later. Set pan aside.

In a large bowl combine 1 3/4 cups of the flour, 2/3 cup of the confectioners' sugar, the cornstarch, and 3/4 teaspoon of the salt and mix thoroughly. Cut the remaining 12 tablespoons of butter into small pieces and add to the flour mixture. Using your hands, 2 forks, or a pastry blender, work the butter into the flour mixture until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Transfer the butter-flour mixture to the prepared baking dish and press into an even 1/4-inch layer along the bottom and partly up the sides of the pan. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

While the crust is chilling, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake the crust until golden brown, about 20 to 25 minutes.

While the crust is baking, assemble the filling by combining the eggs, granulated sugar, flour, and lemon zest in a medium bowl and whisking until smooth. Stir in lemon juice, milk, limoncello, and remaining pinch of salt and mix well.

When the crust is golden brown, remove it from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees F. Stir the lemon mixture again, then pour onto the warm crust. Bake until the filling is set, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Grasp the waxed paper that lines the 2 longest sides of the baking dish and remove thebars from the pan by pulling up gently. The entire dessert should easily dislodge and come away from the pan.

Transfer to a cutting board and, using a clean knife, cut into squares, wiping knife after each cut. Place a small amount of confectioners' sugar into a small sieve, and sprinkle the bars with the sugar. Serve immediately, or refrigerate, wrapped with plastic wrap, up to 2 days, until ready to serve.

And just in case you aren't sick to death of turkey and all Thanksgiving related goodness, here are pictures of our dinner last night:

Sorry about the glare, I didn't even notice it until uploading it earlier and it's the only picture of a full plate I got.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

I Eat the Turkey and I Take a Nap

Nae is just getting started in the kitchen now. She's been prepping for the last few days and the turkey has been brining away. On the menu tonight are: turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce (homemade and the good stuff that retains the shape of the can), herb mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes with marshmallows and/or pineapple, homemade bread rolls, spinach salad with candy walnuts apples and orange zest, sauteed brussle sprouts, baked apples and for dessert lemon bars, vegan pumpkin pie (Nae's making it special for one of her roommates), or cream cheese pie. Did I mention there are only 4 of us?!? We have enough food to feed the neighborhood! Nae is a really good cook so I don't mind eating her leftovers for the next 5 days. I'll get some pictures later. I asked Nae for her recipes because everything she made last year turned out amazingly, but she said "Why do you want to steal my secret family recipes (that I got from Food Network)?" so we'll have to see if she comes around to sharing later. I think she is going to at least share her lemon bar recipe with me so I'll post that up with pics in the next few days. I'm really hoping she gives me her turkey brine recipe because she only started doing it last year and last year's turkey was the best I've ever had!

In other news, work has been going well. Everyone in the office is super nice. The work is fairly repetitive, but it makes the day fly by! Yesterday I got to taste test a new cookie flavor they are trying to perfect. It was good, but not quite there yet. I can't wait to see how it turns out. I was also able to grab a couple fresh cookies to bring home to the family last night- regular chocolate chip and chocolate chip darn good! We also have in a dark chocolate, walnut, and cherry cookie right now that one of the girls brought up for me to try because they are that good that they don't last long! I thought I wasn't working tomorrow and had planned to hit the Black Friday sales with Nae and Mom down in Monterrey, but I've been asked to come in from like 10-4 tomorrow so I'll be missing out on the shopping. A little bummed because it would be nice to hang out with them, but on the other hand I really need the money and could've told work that I wasn't available if I had really wanted to.

Yesterday I also learned that the homeless in Santa Cruz must have it pretty good. I went down to the beach on my lunch break to sit and watch the water while I ate my sandwich. I was pretty full after having one half and as it was a sandwich from Trader Joe's, the other half was still nicely wrapped, so I decided rather than let it go to waste I'd find a homeless person (there are normally tons downtown) and offer it to them. I hadn't even gotten away from the beach when I saw an older lady with a backpack on and a cardboard sign taped to her back that said "Need Food". I did a u-turn and rolled down my window and asked her if she'd like my sandwich. She said she was weird about people touching her food and she couldn't tell how fresh it was so no. My jaw just about hit the floor. She obviously wasn't that hungry! I brought it back to work and one of the ladies there happily had it, instead.

Only 6 more sleeps until Boyfriend gets here! I don't know how people do the long distance thing. I miss him like crazy, but then we get on the phone or a video chat online and have nothing exciting to tell each other. Boyfriend has also been on a tight deadline to get a new website up for Clinique and so he has been stressed, tired, grumpy, and not very talkative in general. There are times we talk and I just want to strangle him and I'm sure he wants to strangle me, haha! It's so funny because in real life we hardly ever fight or get super snippy with each other. I can't wait to have him here and get back to "happy couple" status.

Edited to Add: Just wanted to say a Happy Thanksgiving to all those Expats living in Australia and other places around the world! Hope you had a good one and were able to eat something that reminded you a little of home.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Sing For Your Supper

I made these tonight. They were pretty tasty and better still, they came from Cooking Light Magazine so they aren't even bad for you! We had them with roasted corn bits from Trader Joe's and I made sweet potato chips. It felt like hearty comfort food and that's just what you need through winter, I think, but this way you're doing it guilt-free.

Things have started to pick up at the Cookie Company so they've asked me to start working this week instead of next, which is great because every little bit of extra money helps. My first day is tomorrow and I'm super excited and hope I do a good job. Fingers crossed for me that I go in there and rock there socks off (or at least not make any major mistakes)!

Here's the recipe:

Southwestern Chicken Roll-Ups

Yield: 6 servings (serving size: 1 chicken roll)


  • 6 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 6 tablespoons (about 3 ounces) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
  • 6 tablespoons picante sauce
  • 6 cilantro sprigs
  • 6 tablespoons Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs
  • Cooking spray


Preheat oven to 350°.

Place each chicken breast half between 2 sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap; pound to 1/4-inch thickness using a meat mallet or rolling pin. Top each breast half with 1 tablespoon cheese, 1 tablespoon picante sauce, and 1 cilantro sprig. Roll up jelly-roll fashion, beginning at narrow end.

Dredge chicken rolls in breadcrumbs. Place rolls, seam sides down, on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray; lightly coat rolls with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes or until chicken is done. (We have a good nonstick cooking sheet so I didn't bother to spray it or them with the cooking oil and they didn't stick or burn to the sheet.)

Nutritional Information

257 (20% from fat)
5.8g (sat 2.7g,mono 1.5g,poly 0.6g)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

When the Sun is Shining...

Man, yesterday turned out to be the day for good news. Not only did I get that job, as I've already mentioned, but one of my friends got engaged and I found out that our friends in Sydney are going to be having a baby! You always hear the phrase "when it rains, it pours" well this is the converse of that "when the sun shines, it shines brightly!"

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

C is for Cookie

Wahoo! I got a job! I'm working for a local cookie company. They have a storefront downtown and a second location, where I will be working, where they actually make the cookies and have their offices. I will be helping them with their holiday internet orders. I'm excited and the woman who hired me seems really nice and so is the admin so I think it'll be a great place to work. And you should smell the place...pure heaven! This will not be good for my diet as they sell cookies there, too!

It will be great to have some Christmas spending money and to have some money to take back to Australia with me and be able to contribute to our household once again.

I don't start work until after Thanksgiving, but when I do, I will have diet friendly cookie pictures up on the site.

Twinkle, Twinkle

I don't know if any of you guys got up to see the meteor shower the other night or not, but around here it was more like a meteor sprinkle than a shower! I mean I did end up seeing 11 shooting stars in the hour I was out, but I was thinking this would be what it was like: "Whoa! Whoa!..Whoa!...Whoa!" and this is what it was really like: "...Whoa......Whoa.....Man, it's cold....Whoa............................Whoa.....Have I already said how cold I am?..Whoa......Ok, time to go inside I can't feel my face anymore" A few of the ones I did see were pretty spectacular with big, streaking tales so it was still neat to see, I was just thinking that the sky was going to be dancing with shooting stars.

Anyway, I'm off to go get ready for my big day. Have I mentioned I've got 2 job interviews lined up for today? No? Well, I have 2 job interviews lined up for today and I'm excited and nervous. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Meteor Shower, Meteor Shower

Don't forget the Leonid meteor shower tonight. I'll be up til 1am to check out what's going on in the sky around here. Luckily, it's a really clear night . Weve already seen 4 shooting star as we sat out on our balcony and it's only 8pm. I'm dreading how shockingly cold it's going to be later, but it'll be worth it to see the sky come alive!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Well We've Got the Land, But They've Got the View

Here are just a few shots from around the place. I really should have brought Boyfriend's camera over with me so the quality would be better on these, but I guess we'll just have to wait until next month when he's here for really sharp and clear photos.

This is the back of the house. We've got a fairly big saltwater system pool and the deepest jacuzzi I have ever been in. The big structure is obviously the main house which has a huge master suite upstairs, a big open living room and kitchen, and a half bath. Downstairs there is an office, another big bedroom, and a full bathroom, as well as some really big closets, a 2 car garage and a laundry/mudroom. The white low level building to the right is the poolhouse where I stay. It has a sitting area and a full bathroom downstairs and then the upstairs loft part has a bed. Below the poolhouse is the RV garage that my parents currently just keep boxes and stuff in. Out of picture to the right is my Mom's garden. She grew green beans and lettuce there this year, as well as tomatoes that didn't do well because the whole summer was foggy and they never got any sun. Directly behind me is this:

Although we are only steps from the beach, the land behind us is all agricultural area. Those fields are all heather fields and soon they will be a bright fuscia or orange color. The buildings you see are tons of different green houses holding the littlest of the heather plants. You can also see our pomegranate tree and one of two lemon trees we have. There is also a little lime tree back there that hasn't really taken off yet, but boy we sure do have lemons:

Year round you can go out to our one lemon tree and probably get about 50 lemons off at a time! It is so prolific. While I'm home I like to make fresh lemonade all the time and Nae makes lemon bars that my Mom, who normally has some pretty strong self control, goes nuts on.

That's the view around here for today. Not much else is happening. I'm still job hunting and turning in applications online everyday and have yet to hear back from any shops. Keep your fingers crossed for me because I really, really need a Christmas job and the money that comes with it.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Runaway Train

What do you do when someone you care about is making really awful decisions for themselves? Do you step in? When? I am a firm believer in letting people do what they want because they are going to do it anyway. That's not to say that I won't offer an opinion or advice when asked, but I have found it to be true that people are going to do what they want and aren't going to change until they are ready.

This is true for me with my weight. This is true for other people in bad relationships. And now this is true for my Grandpa and his drinking.

But what do you do when the person's awful decisions are putting them on a quick path toward death? That's where we are at with my Grandpa right now. We decided to step in because while it's crappy he's doing this to himself, it is also really affecting my Grandma and Uncle and my Mom. Plus, he is endangering other people because he boozes all day long then gets in the car to go out for drives! It's sad that he is killing himself, but it will be really unforgiveable if he kills someone when he is out on the road drunk. As unbelieveable as it may sound and as much as my Grandma hates my Grandpa's drinking, she defends his driving and says he is a really good driver. On the other hand, she can't explain how one of their afternoon drives turned in to them getting lost in L.A. for over 4 hours last week.

So anyway, that was the main point of our trip down to Orange County over the past 3 days. Grandpa knows the consequences of his drinking and doesn't want to change so we can't do anything about it, but my Grandma really appreciated our visit and that my Mom was there to help with things she thought needed to be done for their household. Mom was even able to get a home nurse in to assess their situation and hopefully get them the help they need to make life easier around the house. Mom also spoke to the nurse about the drinking and driving issue and she said she would speak to his main doctor who would contact the DMV to get his license revoked.

Although my Grandpa was a bit angry that we were there and didn't really want to talk to us the first two days we dropped in to visit, yesterday he seemed back to his old self. It was nice to sit and chat with him for awhile and I'm glad he came around to us being there as it is a much nicer memory to have of him than one of him ignoring us.

It's a really hard situation to be in. I feel bad for him, I feel bad for my Grandma, and I feel bad for my Mom and Uncle. There is no good end to this and I realize and accept that. I wish things could be different, but you can't change things and you certainly can't change people. Rather than think about my Grandpa as he is today, I am going to choose to think of him and what he was like when we were younger-the man who taught us how to fish and who used to take me and Nae down to this really cool beach in San Diego to look for moonstones.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

California Here We Come, Right Back Where We Started From

Mom, Nae and I got up bright and early yesterday morning and road tripped it down to Orange County. We're here because my Grandpa is pretty sick and it seemed like our grandparents weren't going to come up north for Thanksgiving or Christmas so just in case anything bad happens to him, we've at least seen him this one last time. I might go in to a little more detail in another post about what's going on with him (let's just say that it's self-inflicted) but for now I'll just talk about the other aspects of the trip so far.

It's been weird driving around the OC. It's so damn smoggy and the traffic is ridiculous! I don't miss living here, but I do miss working at Jack's and surfing here and some of my friends that are still here. Other than that, this place doesn't feel like home anymore and I realize how happy we all are in Santa Cruz.

Bun came and picked me up last night and I can't believe it's been two years since we've seen each other. It was great and it didn't feel awkward that we hadn't seen each other in forever. We could just pick up where we had left off the last time. She was the good friend and took me to what I was craving- Pick Up Stix! Oh man, the house special chicken was just as good as I remembered it. It felt good and it felt like old times sitting and talking with her for hours over good food. I'm so excited, too, because she and at least one other high school friend, Ade, are supposed to come up sometime soon to Santa Cruz to hang out for a weekend. I can't wait to show them around all the fun stuff up there!

This morning, Nae has already been up and surfed for a few hours and now Mom is telling me it is time to go. We've got a full day with the grandparents and then are hopefully going to see some of our qausi-cousins and aunt. This afternoon we might stop at South Coast Plaza, as well. Yay, for real shopping! That is the one thing Santa Cruz lacks.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Rocky Raccoon

Lots of animal news from around here. We saw dolphins and hawks on our walk, as well as lots of little squirrels and a huge jack rabbit that I thought was a little dog sitting under a tree. Up at the UC Santa Cruz campus we had a deer with antlers walk behind us on the path up to the pool and saw two coyotes run in front of the car on the way down after practice. At night we've heard the coyotes do a weird laugh like call and last night we had 3 big barn owls hooting in the trees off our porch. When I went outside to bbq our dinner, two were on the wires near the pool looking in at me and calling again. Last night, the hot water heater was making a weird noise before bed so I had Dad come over an inspect it and down the back stairs and all around the pool were the biggest raccoon prints I had ever seen! They were still really wet, too, so we must have scared them as we came out to inspect! I have a bunch of pictures to put up from around our house and one of Nae coaching swim practice on Tuesday night, but they are being a pain to get off my phone. I will try and have them posted tomorrow. For now, here is a picture of a Pacific Tree Frog (Nae says) that hopped out of one of our plants the other day as Mom was watering the backyard. Sorry for the bluriness, he was really small and really hard to get up close to!
Oh yeah, and apparently we have a family of bobcats living a few houses down so I will try and get pictures of them if I see them.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Who Says You Can't Go Back, Been All Around the World and As a Matter of Fact There's Only One Place Left I Want To Go, Who Says You Can't Go Home

Friday, Mom and I spent the day hitting the shops on Market St. in San Francisco. I got a new shirt at Old Navy and a really cute beanie for $7 at H&M, it's one of those beret beanies that sit on the back of your head and I've been wanting one for about 3 years now. We also hit some expensive market and got supplies so that I could make the "Nicole Richie Chicken" for my parents. They both thought it was really good, too.

Saturday morning we got up and cleaned the apartment before making our way down south in to Santa Cruz. My Dad drives the 17 (a really winding highway that goes up over a mountain from San Jose in to Santa Cruz) like a maniac now that he has his fancy TT. We met up with Nae at Costco and ate a quick and ridiculously cheap lunch there. Nae then dragged me all over downtown Santa Cruz looking for pieces for her Old Greg Halloween costume. They had closed off the street and all these little kids were out trick-or-treating at the shops and there were some super cute costumes, like this one little boy who could barely walk who was dressed as a little chick and he toddled around and had the perfect body proportions so that he really did look like a 2 foot tall chick walking down the street!

If you haven't seen Old Greg and have no idea what I'm talking about, here is the video. It is a little rude and quite bizarre!

After we had all the pieces, we went back to her place where her roommate, the Camp Counselor, was out back drinking her favorite beverage of all time, Coors Light, and who gave me a big welcome back hug. I'm still trying to get her to come out and meet and marry Boyfriend's brother Bob because I think they are made for each other. We then headed out to Mom and Dad's house. It was as beautiful as I had remembered it and there were some new additions to the place that made it even nicer. The parents and Nae all had Halloween plans so I stayed in and had a mellow night of watching the World Series Game and Tool Academy 2.

Yesterday, Mom woke me up way too early and we went down to the beach with Dad and I made them do some bootcamp workout moves on the park benches. Mom wanted us to go down because she had seen a sick sealion on the shore and wanted to see if the rescue service she had called had come down to pick it up yet. As we walked up to it, there were these two tourist ladies circling it and taking its picture and nearly touching it. The poor thing was really agitated so Mom yelled at them to back off and finally they did. (Mom and Dad just got back from another walk down to the beach and said that the sea lion was gone so it either swam away or was picked up by the service, which is good because lots of times they just come up on shore and aren't rescued and die there.) After that, Mom was nice enough to take me to Target, where we got lots of bathroom/beauty supplies for me and some tacky Christmas earrings and brooches from the $1 section for all my friends back home for our Christmas in July party next year. Then we went to Trader Joe's and did the grocery shopping for the week. I was in heaven, but I tried not to go too overboard and kept in mind that I'm still on a diet until Boyfriend gets here. When we got home, Dad was gearing up to paint one of their patios and as it was gorgeous weather, I offered to help him.

Today I spent my morning applying to jobs in the area and figuring out how I get on to substitute teaching lists. I was told by one office that the list of subs is pretty long right now and it's near impossible to get work unless you know teachers who can recommend you. When I phoned another school district's offices they told me I might be able to get some work, but first I'd need to go get a TB test so I spent part of my afternoon down at the County Health Office getting the test done and I have to go back on Wednesday so they can look at it and tell me whether or not I am in the clear.

Tomorrow is supposed to be another gorgeous day around here- sunny and temps of about 80 so I think I will do my online job applications out by the pool and help Dad put another coat of paint on the patio. Life is good!