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28.12.09

Beginning a New Year

Ah, 2010. We’ve finally come into a new year with new opportunities to change and grow. I’m finally going to finish writing that novel, lose that twenty kilos, stop drinking and – Oh! Leftover Christmas pudding!

Darn. Maybe I’ll do it in 2011.

I have always regarded each new year with a degree of apathy, even growing up. While I recognize the cultural significance of coming into a new year, that’s where the bus stops. Wiping the slate clean for a brand new year sounds great, but it rarely happens when you have all those unfortunate New Year’s Eve incidents starting with kissing your girlfriend’s best friend at midnight (oops) and ending with smacking the wrong person on the bum while getting off the train to go home.

Of course, you might not wake up with memories of these incidents. If so, consider your slate cleaned.

I suppose what really doesn’t work for me in regards to the new year traditions is the New Year Goal List. Something like half the goals set at the beginning of the year will fail in one way or another by the end of January. Do you really have to wait that extra eleven months to give it another go?

I think not.

You could say that moving across the world has given me the personality trait of frequent self-reinvention. After all, you don’t truly know who you are or what you hold dear (and what about yourself you would like to change) until you leave it all behind for a significant amount of time. However, I have always been one to make goals throughout the year rather than at one particular point – especially not on New Years or my birthday.

Some people say that it’s too much pressure to make a goal or goals on New Year’s Eve. It’s all about bettering yourself for the year, which is huge and prone to failure.

Sure, that’s part of it, but I think it’s more of an excuse than anything else.

Look at it this way: You make the goal (likely not for the first time) to lose that twenty kilos this year. Australia Day rolls around, you have the dessert at your friend’s barbie and BAM! You’ve fallen off the wagon. Instead of getting back on, you think ‘screw this’ because it was your ‘new year’ goal and you’ve just screwed it up.

Magically, you don’t have to worry about the weight loss for the rest of the year. Oh, sure, you might think about it, but it won’t be the same quality goal (if a goal at all) as it was when you started because it’s not a ‘New Year’s Goal’.

And that is the kind of mentality I have avoided all my life, because I would much rather believe that there is never a better day to reinvent yourself than today.

This all being said, I don’t mean to pop anyone’s bubble of enthusiasm for 2010. I think a new year does represent something almost mystical in quality, like a new car still fresh with that ‘new car’ smell. The kind of thing that makes you want to take off your shoes before you drive so you don’t mess up the new floor mats.

But a new year shouldn’t be the only event that makes you feel that way. Add in your birthday and you have two starting points per year.

Yes, a brand new starting point is a beautiful thing, but it shouldn’t be exclusive to the new year. You can reinvent yourself at any time. I reinvented myself in October of 2006 when I moved here. I reinvented myself earlier this year when I became a permanent resident.

And they weren’t even on Mondays.

Make your goal list for 2010 and have fun with it, but try doing something bold or a bit strange. Start the moment you finish the list. Or put it away for a fortnight, revise and start then. (Revision is essential, especially if you’re inclined to vow self-improvement in the midst of old friends and older bottles of wine.)

In the end, it’s not about the day, it’s about the changes you want to make for yourself. Sure, January 1st is a good starting point, but you might be surprised at how different you feel about the whole thing if you start December 28th or January 4th.

Until next time...

25.12.09

Happy Holidays!

20.12.09

Café Review: Batemans Bay Bakehouse

When my husband and I travel, we don’t like to get stuck into any one place for food. We like to explore the area and take our chances. However, there are times when we find a place that is so good that we can’t resist breaking our rule and going there as often as we can until we have to move on…

Batemans Bay Bakehouse is a lovely corner deli style café on the main street of Batemans Bay you will likely drive or walk on if you’re touring around or looking for something to eat in town.

Gorgeous floor to ceiling windows around a modest eating area means being able to enjoy the sunshine and foot traffic while keeping away from the occasionally chilly breezes or rain while you eat.

BBB Courtyard

There is also the outdoor seating option, well protected from the sun by large café umbrellas with the added cool bay breezes and a quiet courtyard to gaze out at if you sit at the edge. Though a smidge crowded at times, this is my favourite option.

BBB Fresh Juice and Coffee

Fresh squeezed delicious juices and delicious build-your-own focaccias are my personal favourites off the delicious menu and open cakes/pies selections.

BBB Foccacias

If you’re going to stop here, you simply must build your own foccacia (or roll). With fresh, quality ingredients including many things from chicken to tasty cheese, you’ll be sure to get a foccacia (fresh or toasted) that you won’t forget any time soon. I went for a chicken, cheese and avocado fresh foccacia that I still drool about.

Of course, you can get savoury pies, rolls, croissants, cakes, gelati, tarts, sandwiches, wraps… Do I really need to go on? It is a bakehouse, after all.

Bakehouse Coffees

Of course, a café review wouldn’t be complete without a bit about the coffee.

A good measure of a barista is how well they can follow directions when you’re specific about how you like your coffee. At Batemans Bay Bakehouse, they listen to what you want and follow directions to a ‘t’. A strong cup of coffee with a strong 4 cups rating, it was worth coming back for the coffee if nothing else.

Speaking of coffee, one thing my husband noticed while we were there is the barista on duty obviously knew what she was doing.

It’s easy to see this is a popular meeting as well as takeaway place. Prams and conversation a’plenty, I would be shocked if you ever found yourself sitting in the bakehouse alone. And, even then, I have no doubt that the staff would be great for a conversation.

Not only that, they remember what you like when you come in the next day. There isn’t much that will make you feel more valued as a customer than that.

I could definitely spend the morning or afternoon there enjoying the food and reading my novel.

***

Batemans Bay Bakehouse
Shop 6, Blandford Plaza
Orient Street
PO Box 1174
Batemans Bay, NSW 2536

(02) 4472 3999

18.12.09

The Next Step

Well, The Bloke and I talked to a GP on Wednesday night, asking every possible question we could think of about gallbladders, non-surgical alternatives and life without my gallbladder.

She said that January is 'quiet' for elective surgeries - yep, elective - so I shouldn't expect to have surgery until February if that is the route I decide to go with. With the surgical consult now not happening until after the holidays, it's looking like February is likely.

I was frustrated by the delay at first, but I realized that it gives me much more time to consider and try alternatives. As much as I'd like to live without the pain, I'd much rather keep my gallbladder. Surgery just plain doesn't appeal to me, so I am now putting more effort into researching natural alternatives.

Think what you want of natural treatments, but more natural living and alternatives have done more for me than hospitals and pre-packaged crap has ever done for me. If there is a way to keep my gallbladder, then I am going to go for it.

I must admit that I am nervous about passing stones my size, but people have talked about passing bigger ones.

As The Bloke said, it could be the non-surgical treatment I'm looking for. If something goes wrong, we have the hospital not even ten minutes away.

I know it probably sounds a bit risky, but all my options are risky at this point. Passing the stones is risky. Keeping them and living with the pain is risky. Having surgery is risky. I'm just choosing to try the risky option that has the most benefits (namely, keeping all my organs).

It's certainly an interesting way to enter the New Year, but I was the one who said 2010 would be a year of many changes...

16.12.09

Introducing...

Three new members of my body family - Thing One, Thing Two and Mimi

All three are a big pain in my gallbladder, though none are blocking anything important at the moment. They range from one being about 1/5th the size of my gallbladder (Mimi) to the largest being about 1/4th the size of my gallbladder (Thing One). (Thing Two is a middle size, but leaning more towards being as big as T1.)

Yep, I've gone and named my gallstones. I figure if I give them names, they'll be nicer to me. Even if I do plan on getting rid of them.

I confess to having looked at my ultrasound CD a few (or more) times. I know that one fourth of my gallbladder is only 2.5 centimeters (if that), but it's still weird knowing I have these three stones floating around inside me. Oh, they make their presence known often enough after the two early morning attacks in a row, but it's strange all around.

They look like beans.

Getting up every morning and checking to make sure my eyes haven't gone yellowish is certainly a new experience. They're pretty big, though, so I doubt they'll actually move to block anything. Still, I have to go to my GP tonight to give a heads up. They're supposed to monitor me until my surgery consult, but I don't know what they'll check in on that I can't keep track of myself.

I'm just hoping that this won't ruin Christmas or New Year's. The consult should happen sometime between now and next Wednesday, so I doubt they'd schedule surgery until after New Year...

...right?

11.12.09

Friday Funny - Noah in 2008

In the year 2008, the Lord came unto Noah, who was now living in Australia , and said:

'Once again, the earth has become wicked and over-populated, and I see the end of all flash before me. Build another Ark and save 2 of every living thing along with a few good humans.'

He gave Noah the blueprints, saying: 'You have 6 months to build the Ark before I will start the unending rain for 40 days and 40 nights.'

Six months later, the Lord looked down and saw Noah weeping in his yard - but no Ark.

'Noah!' He roared, 'I'm about to start the rain! Where is the Ark?'

'Forgive me, Lord,' begged Noah, 'but things have changed.

'I needed a building permit.

'I've been arguing with the inspector about the need for a sprinkler system.

'My neighbors claim that I've violated the neighborhood zoning laws by building the Ark in my yard and exceeding the height limitations.

'We had to go to the Development Appeal Board for a decision.

'Then the Department of Transportation demanded a bond be posted for the future costs of moving power lines and other overhead obstructions, to clear the passage for the Ark 's move to the sea. I told them that the sea would be coming to us, but they would hear nothing of it.

'Getting the wood was another problem. There's a ban on cutting local trees in order to save the spotted owl.

'I tried to convince the environmentalists that I needed the wood to save the owls - but no go!

'When I started gathering the animals, an animal rights group sued me. They insisted that I was confining wild animals against their will. They argued the accommodations were too restrictive, and it was cruel and inhumane to put so many animals in a confined space.

'Then the EPA ruled that I couldn't build the Ark until they'd conducted an environmental impact study on your proposed flood.

'I'm still trying to resolve a complaint with the Human Rights Commission on how many minorities I'm supposed to hire for my building crew.

'Immigration and Naturalization are checking the green-card status of most of the people who want to work.

'The trades unions say I can't use my sons. They insist I have to hire only Union workers with Ark-building experience.

'To make matters worse, the Tax Office seized all my assets, claiming I'm trying to leave the country illegally with endangered species.

'So, forgive me, Lord, but it would take at least 10 years for me to finish this Ark.'

Suddenly the skies cleared, the sun began to shine, and a rainbow stretched across the sky...

Noah looked up in wonder and asked, 'You mean you're not going to destroy the world?'

'No,' said the Lord. 'The government beat me to it.'

Picture This...

(Or 'You Know You're in Melbourne When...')

You're standing across the four lane highway (two lanes each way) from the train station, waiting impatiently for the pedestrian light to go green. The rain is pouring down, turning into big, wet water bullets with the force of the wind.

You hold your umbrella at a 45 degree angle. One, to block the barrage of water bullets. Two, because holding your umbrella any other way would snap it faster than a twig in the hand of an angsty teenager.

And yet, the impossible happens: As you're staring across the highway at the equally frustrated people over there, the sun shines.

Only visitors to Melbourne take note of this.

You look around in disbelief. You still see the menacing grey clouds filling your view of the sky. The rain is still pelting down on your umbrella and everyone else. Your inability to move your umbrella tells you that the wind is still blowing just as fast.

Yet, there is a little patch of sunshine nearly all the way across the highway and more that twice as wide.

Welcome to Melbourne.

6.12.09

Café Review: Theobrama Chocolate Lounge

Two notes before we get started on this review:

1. Remember to forgive the quality of the pictures – they’re taken on a phone. (Unless someone wants to play Santa and send me a nice handheld digi camera.)

2. I’m a chocolate addict.

Theobrama

The Theobrama Chocolate Lounge is one of those places you look at and think, “It would be very naughty of me to go in there…” That’s exactly what I thought in the months the place was open and I would walk by. However, after mentioning the place to my husband, we decided that, for the good of the people and in the name of research, we just had to check it out.

With hardwood floors and sleek design focusing on clean lines and earthy colours, Theobrama gives you the feeling of walking into a classy lounge without being intimidating to the average person off the street. Even if you are feeling a little intimidating, you are likely to see a pram or three around the place letting you know that it’s family friendly.

If you like to chat and/or read while you’re enjoying your café fair, then you will enjoy the comfortable dark chairs (to go with the dark wood tables) which are perfect for longer stays.

Overall, it’s a nice lounge-type area with space well-used. It does start feeling a little squished when it gets very busy, but there are always tables just outside if you don’t like being around that many people.

Choc Display 1

With dozens of quality chocolates – from chocolate cigars to the traditional individual gourmet chocolates (pictured below) – Theobrama is the stuff of dreams for chocolate lovers and the stuff of nightmares for anyone allergic to chocolate.

Choc Display 2

The staff have always been nice and smiling (why wouldn’t you be when you were working in a chocolate café?), but you shouldn’t expect to hold a long conversation with them. The place is usually fairly busy and they have a lot to do. Even so, they make you feel welcome.

Of course, I may be a chocolate addict, but we can’t review a café without mentioning the coffee.

Coffee

The coffee is lovely, full flavoured and not watery or bitter. Experience has taught that you have to specify exactly what you want with a long, strong macchiato (so you don’t end up with a long or short black), but it’s worth the specification here. For coffee lovers, it’ll likely be a hard tossup between a nice cup of coffee and something chocolatey.

Chocolate and coffee. Does it get any better?

I recommend the dark Belgian (always go Belgian – it’s worth it) chocolate mocha frappe and my husband recommends (after the coffee) the hot chili chocolate in a mug, which is an experience in itself…

Hot Chilli Choc

Down to the line of chocolate dribbled down the side of the mug, the hot chocolate (or chili chocolate) is one of the few things in the world that looks just as good as it does on the advertisements. Definitely go for a mug, though, so you get the experience of the small candle underneath to keep it warm.

My reader rating for Theobrama is easily a novel, as you can easily seat yourself away from the entrance and hustle n’ bustle of the shops nearby. The view out the windows isn’t exactly inspiring, but we’re talking reading here, not birdwatching.

I could happily spend hours in this place, but for the sake of my waistline, I’ll make it a treat kind of place only.

Definitely check it out.

PS. They do offer gift certificates. Ahem.

***

Theobrama Chocolate Lounge
Shop G17/18
171 – 175 Maroondah Hwy
Ringwood, VIC 3134
9847 0661

http://www.chocolatelounge.com.au/

2.12.09

The New Australian ...And the Not-so-White Christmas

As you have probably figured out by now, I like to keep track of anniversaries and whatnot. This winter will mark the third Christmas I have celebrated in Australia, and by gosh, I think I’m getting used to having summery Christmases.

When I celebrated my first Christmas in Australia, I had a wonderful time with my husband, then boyfriend. He hadn’t celebrated the holiday for a few years, so it was special in many ways for both of us.

Even so, my brain never quite caught up to the fact it was Christmas because I didn’t have my hot chocolate, my flannel pyjamas or, more importantly, my snow. For me, my first Christmas was like what Christmas in July would have been like back in the States.

When July did come around the next winter, I finally figured out what the feeling of ‘Christmas in July’ was all about. The weather left me feeling like I should be celebrating Christmas then, not seven months before or waiting another five months.

For my second Christmas in Australia, I felt something similar, but less so. I attended my first Australian Christmas barbie complete with friends, laughter and Christmas pudding with brandy butter. Our friends even participated in a friendly house-decorating competition (complete with lights and music) for the enjoyment of the suburb that reminded me above all else of Christmas in the States.

The following July – this past July – I waited for the ‘Christmas in July’ feeling. I waited for the winter weather to get me wishing, just a smidge, for Christmas lights and hot chocolate.

But it never came.

Instead, this year, I feel like I’m finally settled in to Australian Christmas way.

Though I am writing this a few weeks before you read it, the Christmas madness has already begun. Santa is already taking pictures with the little kids in the shops, the decorations and gift baskets are out and the advertisements for Christmas sales are going full blast. The shops are already busier and the companies are seeing the spike in their profits.

Yet, I didn’t think about the Black Friday (the shopping kind that happens in the US every year on the day after Thanksgiving) insanity. Heck, I didn’t really think about Thanksgiving, except for a moment of wishing I had some pumpkin pie on hand.

Slowly, I am starting to lose the association of red and green as being THE Christmas colours, as they are so often used in nearly every decoration I ever owned or saw in the States.

While I wondered about going to see some snow this past winter, I no longer find myself wishing for it as the holiday and the New Year approach.

I haven’t heard a single Christmas song played anywhere yet (for which I am very, very thankful) and can still enjoy my shopping without being forced to listen to cheerful, chirping voices that wouldn’t want to be anywhere near me on a bad day.

Cool drinks and meals that don’t involve a lot of hot oven time are on the agenda because of the possible heat instead of meals with long roasting time that will heat up the house as a byproduct of all that cooking and baking.

But even as I’m getting used to all this, the fact that I can go to the beach and swim on Christmas still makes me smile. And giggle in a slightly evil way if I’m feeling wicked while my friends in the States are complaining about the cold. (Some things should just plain stay new to you no matter what so you can reap the enjoyment again and again.)

Yes, Christmas here is different, but not as different as it was before. With each passing year, things are more enjoyable. More comfortable.

More me.

Sometimes I miss the ‘newness’ of it all, but finally feeling like everything surrounding me is the normal way of doing things is so much better. Finally feeling like I’ve found my place and truly settled in…

Well, I’ll even give up my slightly evil giggle for that.

Wishing you wonderful holidays and an amazing new year.