Sunday, May 30, 2010

You Taste So Sweet For Only Me

Pretty much every Sunday night we go over to Boyfriend's Grandparent's house (Nan and Pop's) and before I left and since I've been back, I try and bring something to contribute to the dinner. Over the last three weeks I've made bread rolls twice that one of Boyfriend's cousins said was just about the best thing he's ever eaten, that lemon cake I put the recipe up for in April, chocolate chip peanut butter cookies, and tonight I brought bread and brownies. Seven of the local cousins were there tonight, along with an aunt, two uncles, and three baby second cousins; the crowded nights like tonight are always the most fun there.

It was my first time making brownies from scratch and I was pretty nervous about how they would turn out, but they were so good. They were a lot richer than store bought brownie mix brownies and by the time I got out to get a real serving (compared to the tasters serving I had before I put them out ;D ) they were all gone! Make these as soon as possible, you won't regret it!

Chewy, Fudgy Triple Chocolate Brownies

5 oz. semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped (For the first two ingredients I used a 100g-about a third larger sized bar than a regular sized Hershey's bar- organic, dark chocolate bar, chopped)
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into quarters (I used salted and omitted the salt later in the recipe)
3 tbsp. cocoa powder (I used Ghirardelli unsweetened cocoa powder I brought from home...yum!)
3 large eggs
1¼ cups (8¾ oz.) sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract (I added a 3rd tsp just because I always add extra vanilla)
½ tsp. salt (remember to omit if you used salted butter earlier)
1 cup (5 oz.) all-purpose flour

1 cup of dark or milk or semi-sweet chocolate chips

Place an oven rack in lower-middle position and preheat the oven to 350° F. Line an 8-inch square baking dish with foil and spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray; set aside. (I lined my baking dish with baking paper instead.)

In a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, melt the chocolate and butter, stirring occasionally until smooth. Whisk in the cocoa powder until smooth. Set aside to cool.

In a medium bowl, combine the eggs, sugar, vanilla and salt; whisk until combined, about 15 seconds. Whisk in the warm chocolate mixture until incorporated. Then stir in the flour with a wooden spoon until just combined. (Stir in cup of chocolate chips.) (It took me a while to get the flour evenly incorporated and I was worried it would affect the texture of the brownies, but they turned out fabulously – no need to worry.) (Unlike the original author, I found that everything incorporated very easily and I only stirred for about 20-30 seconds by hand.) Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and spread with a spatula to make an even layer. Bake until slightly puffed and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a small amount of sticky crumbs clinging to it, 35-40 minutes (Make sure you watch your brownies! I set my timer for 25 minutes and I think they were pretty much done then. I left them in for another 3 minutes and they came out with a slightly crunchy top and were thick and fudgy in the middle). Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool to room temperature, about 2 hours (I was in a hurry so I just left mine in the baking dish and they were easy to cut and remove when we had them a few hours later).

Remove the brownies from the pan using the foil and transfer to a cutting board. Cut into squares as desired. Store in an air-tight container. (I've never had brownies last long enough where I needed to store them in an air-tight container!)

I'm still waiting to hear back on the job. I'm not worried yet because the job only closed last Wednesday so I'm hoping I will hear from them by this Wednesday and if not, I will call and ask if there is anything else I can provide them with to help make their decision easier. I still really, really want this job!!

It's supposed to rain again over the next few days. I think it's rained for about 12-14 of the 17 days I've been here so far! If it's not raining, I'll get my walks in (though they aren't as nice without my Dad to walk with) and I've got lots of good things on the menu for Boyfriend and I for dinner this week so I'll be busy every night in the kitchen: Mu shoo Chicken, Roasted Chicken and Mashed Potatoes, Fajitas, Spring Rolls, and something else that I can't think of off the top of my head but is asian inspired.

Hope you all have had/are having a nice weekend. Enjoy that summer weather everyone in the Northern Hemisphere; I'm down here super jealous of you!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Cause I Can Picture all the Pictures of You and Me on Your Walls

Here is another big batch of pictures of what Nae has been up to in South Africa. She leaves in a few days time and I'm sure she is starting to get sad about it, but it seems like she has had such an amazing time down there and I know she'll make it back again if she sets her heart and mind to it.

The bridge Nae jumped off of. It is supposed to be the highest bungee jump spot in the world.

She walked off rather than jumped off.

View from the top of Table Mountain looking towards Lion Head.

Cable car up.

Nae called this a Daussie, which must be it's South African name. I know it as a Rock Hyrax. Can you believe these guys are the closest living relative to elephants? From what I remember of seeing them in Kenya, they are about the size of a rabbit.

Rock Hyrax contemplating a swim.

I messaged Nae and said something along the lines of "Wow, now I know why they didn't put pictures of the rooms on the youth hostel website" before I realized that this was actually the prison at Robben Island, where the great Nelson Mandela was kept for many years.

Nae always finds a way to get her bronze on.

Nae said this was the best day of her life because she got to see 2 different breaches and got to tag a shark herself.

Coastline along Mossel Bay.

Near Cape Town.

Penguins in Cape Town.

A cheetah cub licking Nae's hand, or as my parents said was probably more likely, "A cheetah cub tasting Nae"

Lemurs sunning themselves at Cango Wildlife Ranch

Nae getting to pet cheetah cubs

Nae with white tiger cubs

Nae with adult cheetahs, she said they were purring the whole time

Feeding day at Cango, it's a donkey head!

African Rain Spider...looks like a bigger version of the Australian Huntsmen

Sunday, May 23, 2010

A New Hope

Image via

I finished my resume earlier today and submitted it to the University for that job I mentioned last week as an International Student Support Officer. I am actually really, really excited about it and after I read over the job ad again I thought to myself, "Yep, this is it, this is the job for me" so I am hoping I get an interview for it and with any luck will get the position. Keep thinking positively for me. I am trying to and I am even starting to have dreams about myself in the position so hopefully my mind is giving me a sign, somehow, that it is meant to be. We are getting way ahead of ourselves (and I know I'll be majorly disappointed if I don't get this position) and have already thought about what we'd do with my paycheck (save for a house, wedding, and honeymoon, as well as emergencies) and try and continue just living off of Boyfriend's paycheck. It would be such a great thing to happen for us. Plus, I could really use the confidence boost after having such crappy luck finding a job last year.

Boyfriend and I saw Robin Hood this weekend; it was pretty good. I liked it; didn't love it, didn't hate it. I agree with the one reviewer who Russell Crowe got mad at for saying his accent sounded Irish at times. The other big excitement from the weekend was that we went down to our local mall and they now have a decent Mexican fast food place there called Mad Mex. We both had burritos, which at $9.90 are pretty steep if you're thinking in terms of American pricing, but not bad for here. I liked that they actually had black beans and their chicken was seasoned decently. They put a lot of rice in their burritos and it is plain tasting white rice and nothing special so I'd probably skip it next time. Boyfriend got 2 different kinds of Dos Equis beer and they were $7 but worth it he said. We also ended up scoring free churros and some really good hot fudge dipping sauce. I think we'll be eating a lot of Mad Mex from now on because it's only a little bit more expensive than going to KFC or McDonald's and a lot tastier! I also see that Mad Mex are selling franchises right now so maybe if the University job doesn't pan out I could get my parents to invest in a Mad Mex with me and put one in up near the University and all those American kids desperate for some somewhat authentic Mexican food.

Monday, May 17, 2010

You Never Feel the Jet Lag Unless You're Trying to Fit In

I had forgotten how lonely life is here sometimes. I know, I know-there is always an adjustment period for a few weeks or even a month or two where I always think of home, but even without longing for home, life can be pretty lonely when you spend the whole day by yourself.

Yesterday was my first day home alone while Boyfriend was at work. We got up at 5, he left by 6, and I tried to wait up for him but he had a meeting with the London office at 6:15 and didn't get home til about 10 and by that time I was passed out. It also didn't help that it was raining so I couldn't go out and do my 10,000 steps.

I wasn't ever lonely when Boyfriend was here, working from home, and the days seemed to fly by, even if I didn't have any work to do. It was the same after Boyfriend left California; the days with my Dad flew by, even if all we did was go for a walk and grab lunch somewhere.

Luckily, L.C. and Baby Lo are coming over in a little bit to hang out, still no walk today, though, as the rain has not let up since Boyfriend left this morning. Once they are gone, I've got work to do for my Mom and I found a few interesting job ads that I want to send in my resume for, including one in the International Student Department at my old university. I figure I would make a good candidate since I was an International student there so I know what these kids are going through, plus I went to the University so I know the environment and ethos of it. I think if I can just find myself some work quickly then I will feel a lot better about everything. Please, please, please keep your fingers crossed for me and send some positive energy out in to the universe for me that my job hunt goes easier this year than last.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Took My Chances on a Big Jet Plane

So....Surprise! I'm back in Aus! This has actually been in the works for about 3 weeks now (I finally got all of my paperwork sent in to the Embassy, got and passed my phone interview, celebrated Mother's Day with my family, and then booked my tickets down here), but we wanted to surprise our friends and Boyfriend's family so we've been keeping it a secret.

I arrived at 6am on Thursday morning after an empty and uneventful flight and stayed the night at Crowne Plaza Darling Harbour. Luckily, they had a good rate going for the night because I find staying at nicer hotels when I first arrive, they are more apt to let me in to a room as soon as I arrive, which is what happened when I walked in the door there at 8am. After having a nap, I walked down and met Boyfriend for lunch near his work. It was so good to see him again and of course he teased me for being awkward and nervous on seeing him again. I then sat along the harbor for a while and watched a guy catch 3 fish in not more than 15 minutes before going back to the hotel to sleep some more. Boyfriend came to the hotel after work, got changed and took me out for a special dinner to one of our most favorite restaurants- Malaya. At about 8:30 (0r 3:30 am CA time) I was ready to pass out. The next morning we got up, hit Starbucks, then walked the length of the harbor down to Boyfriend's work. I spent the day shopping at a little asian grocery store and in the fruit and veggie section of Paddy's Market, loading myself down with even more stuff to try and lug on the train with us later! I also brought Boyfriend the other half of my lunch and found a Medicare office to sign up for the free healthcare I am now entitled to. Overall, doing all that walking back and forth across the city, I did about 18,500 steps for the day...over 9 miles! Friday night I was exhausted by the time we made it back to our house on the Coast.

Saturday, I was wide awake from 5am so I started unpacking all of my luggage while Boyfriend slept. We then went to visit his Grandpa and bring him some American souvenirs. Arushed fter that we rushed to the grocery stores because Boyfriend had invited our friends over for a barbecue that afternoon. When they arrived, I stayed hidden in our room for 15-20 minutes and I heard the Teacher and the Hairdresser ask Boyfriend if there was any word on when I was coming back. Once they all got settled and weren't expecting it, I jumped in to the doorway and they all looked at me stunned for a few seconds processing that I was actually there. I think I yelled, "Surprise!" before everyone jumped up to hug me...only the Teacher had hypothesized a few days earlier that I might be in town. It was a really fun night, with much to celebrate- my return, our engagement, and I finally got to meet the Hairdresser and Soccer Player's baby and he is gorgeous! We even discussed the possibility of having our wedding in California because our friends said they'd love to have the excuse of a wedding to come out and finally see some of the U.S. It is all so exciting to think about and the boys are really pumped to come over and buy guns (OMG!) and start hunting raccoons, haha!

After we ate and the baby was asleep, we sat outside around our barrel fire. We weren't super loud, as there were only 6 of us (the other part of the group was at a motocross thing) and our fire wasn't particularly raging, when we heard fire trucks in the distance. They got closer and closer and we said, "Imagine if it was for our fire" when 2 fire engines and a police car pulled up in front of our house! When the boys went out to meet them, the firemen asked if they were at the right house because they couldn't see our fire, but someone had called 000 (the Aus version of 911) to report it. They came in to the backyard, took one look at it, and left. I just wonder which neighbor a) could see it to begin with and b) called emergency services without coming over to check it out up close? As I said, we weren't too loud because there wasn't a lot of us and we had a baby inside sleeping and it was only about 9:30 so I don't think we were bothering anyone. Oh well, it added even more excitement to the night!

Anyway, I am really missing my family, but it has been nice to be back with Boyfriend and to see my friends after so long. Later today, L.C., Lo, and Bob Marley are stopping in for a visit then we have Sunday dinner at Nan and Pop's and they nor any of the aunts, uncles, or cousins know I'm back so it'll be another fun surprise!

Tomorrow, I join the real world again and begin the job hunt.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

And Sometimes When You're On, You're Really...On and Your Friends They Sing Along and They Love You

The other night Mom and I celebrated Mother's Day early. I took her to see "An Evening with David Sedaris." He is a favorite author of both of ours and an incredibly funny guy. You may have heard him on NPR's "Thisweather American Life" or seen his equally funny sister, Amy, on a late night show like David Letterman. We laughed until we had tears in our eyes. My favorite part of the night was a story he told about getting stuck in airports and when he made the comment "I wondered if they were just being petty and judgemental like me....because I could go on for hours" I was dying because that reminds me of all the bitch sessions I've had with friends over the years. It was a great night out with my Mom and I would recommend for everyone to go see David on tour if you have the chance.

Other than that, not too much to report. We have been having some seriously nice weather and I have been taking full advantage of it by laying out and working on my tan before I eventually return to Australia and winter. There are tons of things sprouting in the greenhouse and I have had fun going out each morning to see what has happened over night out there. Haven't heard too much more from Nae but she assures us she is ok. Boyfriend seems to be pretty lonely and bored a lot on the weekends, but our friends have been really good and invited him out to lots of things to keep him company. They have even discussed with him the idea of coming out here for either just a trip or in conjunction with our wedding so that is a very exciting possibly for he and I to discuss and then for us to plan with everyone!

I've got my fingers crossed for some big, exciting news to share with you guys sometime soon (i.e. getting my visa and going back to Australia) so keep your fingers crossed with me!