Tuesday, November 18, 2014

This Will Change the Way You Think About Food

This improved my life.

From: http://www.bforbel.com/2014/09/22-things-about-food-you-probably-never-thought-of.html

Friday, October 3, 2014

Arina Comes to Dublin.

Two Years. Two years it had been since I saw my favourite Dutch friend Arina. The last time had been January 2012 in London to celebrate our Capricorn birthdays and to send me off on my one-way ticket to Australia. Two years was too long to be separated from someone I lived with for a year. We spent nearly every day doing nearly everything together. After only knowing each other for 3 weeks, we went galavanting across Northern Greece for two weeks; taking every mode of transportation to get there only forced us to get to know each other. The year wouldn't have been the same without her has my roommate, and after only a short plane ride, it was hard to understand how we had spent 2 years apart.

We had discussed all sorts of possibilities of what do to in Ireland: from going up to Donegal to a bus trip to the Cliffs of Moher to the Butter Factory in Cork, but we ended up just staying in Dublin. Catching up was the priority, sightseeing a bonus. I really wanted, and needed, to be around the girl who always has a smile on her face, who has a million ideas, who together we think we could save the world, who took a huge leap to start her own company doing what she loves, who laughs, who lives confidently and fearlessly, and who knows me so well. I felt as though I needed her to visit to inspire me again. I missed the long in-depth conversations we had about absolutely everything and anything. When apart, we talk frequently over various forms of social media communication and emails, but it's just not the same.

The first question one asks is, what do you want to eat in Ireland? And what does a Dutch person think of when she thinks of Irish food? Oysters. Wild, local Atlantic Oysters. So on a cold January day, when all of our unplanned plans blew out the window, we found ourselves on the Dart to Howth. Google had incorrectly informed us that there was a farmers market on that day, but when we inquired about it in one of the open shops next to the empty market space, he told us about some of the other highlights Howth has to offer. We walked up Church Street, a narrow steep road that led us through the quiet old village. As we walked around or back down we found a set of craggy steps that invited us to the Radio Tower, or well technically, Ye Olde Hurdy-Gurdy Museum of Vintage Radio. Much to Arina's disappointment, it was closed due to the off season, but we were able to enjoy the hill top views overlooking Howth's piers stretching into the shivering Irish sea. The sight of the sea in front of us and breathing in the fresh air made us hungry for what we came for: Irish oysters and a pint of the good stuff - a classic Irish combination.

We headed back down to the West Pier, home to Beshoff's, Wrights of Howth, and a load of other seafood restaurants offering fresh catches of the day and sea views. We each had an iced platter of 6 Clarendbridge oysters and a cool Guinness. Clarenbridge oysters come from Dunbulcan Bay in South Galway. They are native Irish oysters also known as European Flat oysters which have their own festival in the town of Clarenbridge at the start of every oyster season (September). We sniffed, sipped, slurped, chewed and swallowed whole, sprinkled lemon and dashed tabasco on our oysters. Sitting on high stools catching up on life over good food was exactly what we were looking for.

Our appetites quenched with aphrodisiacs we tipsily went back to Dublin to meet up with Rory at the Porterhouse on Grafton Street to sample some craft beers and what else? Another round of oysters. They were nowhere near as fresh as Beshoffs. More slimy than succulent. Ugly to the point that the quote, "He was a brave man who ate the first oyster" reverberated too true in our heads.

When we were reunited in Ireland, the list of things she needed to see and do here grew. Ireland has so much to offer - not only beautiful destinations but a whole island of food to explore. It has its own language she didn't even know existed. Ireland is also known for its people and as happy as were were together, we spent most of the time properly catching up - she will just have to come back to see, taste, and meet more of the country. 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Day After Thanksgiving.

Jess started a blog inspired by the fact that she wanted to keep track of all the recipes we had made for Thanksgiving. She likes to cook and take pictures of what she makes, but sends the photos to me and mum rather than posting all over Facebook and Instagram (that's my girl). She is also at the start of her adventure of living abroad in London. She doesn't know how long she's going to be there as it's a new life in its early stages, but she might as well keep track of all her stories and travels.

Follow her blog here

The day after Thanksgiving. A day of rest and digestion....
Prior to the day of feasting and stuffing our faces and staying up late, there were tentative plans of going into the city so that we would not be eating the leftovers that we slaved over all day but instead eating our traditional Dublin haunts like Elephant & Castle and Wagamama; there was talk of meeting up with second cousins in the city centre; and I had read about a upcycling demo from one of the local urban farmers that was happening on Sunday. What ended up happening? None of that. We moved from our beds to the couch and didn't move all day, except to eat and get drink refills. I checked my phone four hours after receiving a text asking what the plan was for the day. Oops. Rory and I relished in the fact that we hadn't sat and done absolutely nothing in absolutely ages so we dug into the two leftover cases of beer, although I think Jess' hangover was worse than ours, or maybe she didn't want to travel drunk - which we attempted to make happen.

Here's a picture version of what really happened on the day after Thanksgiving. I don't know if you can notice, but the bottle of champagne is actually proper, nice, waymorethanicaneverafford champange, that is not Cava or Prosecco (although there is nothing wrong with those) and is actually a bottle worth over 10 euro.

Her flight wasn't until 8pm so we had the whole day to spend with each other. No one wanted to part ways, but luckily, Christmas is only a month away so we have that to look forward to and start planning and pinning our Christmas dinner!!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Thanksgiving in Dublin.

A couple months ago, Rory asked me if I wanted to celebrate Thanksgiving. I brushed it off saying, nah it's just an excuse to eat lots and to be with your family. Since my family is in America, I didn't see the point (but who says no to a legitimate excuse to eat lots??) Rory responded, I thought that because your family wasn't here, it'd be nice to do something anyways so you wouldn't feel left out not celebrating it or being there with them. That changed my mind. Not only was it incredibly sweet and considerate of him to suggest, but Jess had just moved to London so she could easily fly over for the weekend and we could show the Irish how to do Thanksgiving! So we set it in motion. First I bought Jess' plane ticket having recently been promised a slight pay raise. Second, we invited all of Rory's family to eat with us. Third, we created a Pinterest board and the swirl of ideas and indecisiveness surrounding the menu planning promised endless possibilities of culinary extravagance. Despite all the hours spent on Pinterest, I didn't do that much planning. Feeding and hosting 4 other people I barely knew but wanted, and needed to impress along with Jess and Rory and pleasing myself was no easy task, especially with the pressure I put on myself, but for some reason it all worked out rather flawlessly. Rory was in charge of ordering the turkey (a proper, good quality, non-supermarket one) which he handled with a couple phone calls (in Ireland, it's pre-Christmas ordering period) and ended up ordering one heavy enough to serve 8-10 people and a spiced beef from Colm Leavy's Butchers in Stepaside. Yes, there is a place called Stepaside.
Throughout the week leading up to Thanksgiving, I would take advantage of my one hour lunch break and scrounge the shops of Dublin to see what Thanksgiving-esque items they had. Fall/Autumn decorations were definitely out of the question as Christmas decorations filled the shelves with red and green. Pumpkin puree was not actually necessary (you can indeed puree your own pumpkin) but was part of our "traditional Thanksgiving" theme so that was found at Fallon & Bryne. I planned on buying bits and pieces along the way because I didn't want to end up with one giant bill - our kitchen was missing some staple herbs and spices and such so little by little it would all add up. Rory initially said that he would pay for it all because he suggested it and we were cooking it for the pleasure of him and his family to eat it, but I don't think he had any idea of what a Thanksgiving dinner (plus cocktails and canapes) actually would entail - especially with two Ryan sisters cooking and doing the entertaining.
The weekend prior through to the week of, all aspirations and motivations for prepping and making things ahead of time dissipated into the cold, dark nights of winter dormancy. Even the Thursday of the 28th we had a work pool tournament after work since all of our American emails and meetings would be put on hold while they celebrated across the ocean. There was no turkey that day, just some free pizza and booze in a dark pool hall then a quick Skype call at night with my family and cousins making faces over the computer.

Finally Friday, and I had planned a PTO day for a full day of prep. Rory also had a day off and planned to clean the house top to bottom, with his bad back. He was on a mission though, and by the end of the day, the house was indeed sparkling and cleaned in places that hadn't seen the light of day in years - AHA just kidding. After helping to clean and making final decorations with the kids, I went to the store to buy the big grocery list while Rory went to see Santa. I spent the afternoon jamming out to some music alone in the house while I made mum's mushroom tarts, sweet potato hummus, cranberry sauce and the courgette and Stilton soup. I thought that was plenty productive! By that time, it was time to pick Jess up at the airport. Even with Rory's bad back, I was grateful for him driving and despite it being nearly midnight by the time we got back, we rewarded ourselves for our hard work and Jess's arrival with a Kick -Off-to-Thanksgiving-in-Dublin drink at our local Blue Light. It was a clear night with the stars shining brightly over the Dublin city lights below. Two drinks there, then back home for some frozen pizzas and a bottle (or two?) of wine....bed at 4am!

Regardless, the next morning was like Christmas morning, waking up in anticipation for the day to come. Rory surprised us with American bagels, cream cheese, smoked salmon, and bacon and eggs - he forgot the coffee - but loyally went back out to get it. Not only was it an American breakfast for an American day of feasting, but Jess had mentioned last night how she missed NYC breakfasts like bagels and lox in London.

The cooking commenced around noon, with the guests supposed to be arriving at 3. Ambitious? Maybe. It whizzed by in a blur: I don't even know what happened or who did what, but Rory was incredibly amazed at how calm we were and there were no loud words or screaming in the kitchen. We were in our element. First things first was the turkey, which Jess (and her Italian-Thanksgiving experience)
was in charge of. Rory went to the store three times for more things that we needed and generously kept us hydrated with gin and tonics (gorgeous gin that Jess brought over for him, since they first met over goblets, literally goblets, of gin). Kale chips were baked until crispy and seasoned with garlic pepper, carrots and celery were cut to be dipped into the sweet potato hummus, and the cheese and crackers were set out to warm to room temperature. The mushroom tarts I had made the night before were suspiciously missing, so in the last minute we decided to make some more with the leftover bread and mushrooms. Team effort, guys.
Emeril's spinach, artichoke, and brie stuffing (aka dressing) was quite the feat of steps to assemble, but it is a Ryan favourite that literally leaves you stuffed. The white tiger bread (ROAR) hides its chunky white carbs under dark vitamin-packed green spinach and savory artichoke....and cream....and a pound of brie.
Jess made the desserts - pumpkin and apple pies and homemade honeycomb ice cream.
Rory made his crispy roast potatoes, rightfully bashed, and mashed the sweet potatoes.
We had to push back the guests arrival half an hour as we ran upstairs to change and look somewhat presentable.

I made some last minute name cards with Thanksgiving jokes:
"Why did the turkey cross the road? Because the chicken had the day off."
"Why didn't the turkey have any dessert? Because he was already stuffed!"
"Why did the turkey join the band? Because he had drumsticks."

Somehow, quite seamlessly, it all came together. Bottles of cava were popped just as everyone arrived. The table, with it's secret yet glorious extending capabilities was moved into the front room and decorated with American candy and candles. I don't know what anyone expected, but from their reactions, their first Thanksgiving exceeded all expectations. It was an exhausting day, exasperated by too much food and drink and laughs, but nothing that the Thanksgiving stretch couldn't temporarily cure. Classic favourites like Catchphrase and Gestures were a hit for those remaining and the Irish tried to teach us 30 Seconds, but there was definitely not enough brain power for that by that time. I'm not exactly who lasted long enough to eat dessert - late night dates, babies, and falling asleep on the couch broke up the party - however there were only one slice of each of the pies leftover in the morning.

I had only met Rory's family a handful of times before and we were meant to have get-to-know-you drinks prior to Thanksgiving, but those were cancelled so I was a bit anxious to impress - not only as his girlfriend, but as a host to their first Thanksgiving. Jess had only met Rory once before, but given a couple large gins and she was the life of the party - chatting away to everyone. Sure, they are really easy to get along with, but I'm so glad that she was there with me and even better, she wasn't awkward and silent (who, Jess??)

Was it a success? I think so. Was it extravagant? In the typical Ryan way. Are they all coming over for Christmas dinner? Highly likely. Was it worth it? Definitely. The very few leftovers and the overflowing bag of empty wine and beer bottles are testament to it all.
Made Collaboratively by Jess, Rory & Shauna:

Mum's mushroom tarts
Kale Chips 
Carrigbyrne Farm St Killian's Camembert and cream crackers
Sweet Potato Hummus with Crudites 

Courgette and Stilton Soup with garlicky unused stuffing-bread croutons

Jess and Rory's Turkey and it's juices gravy made by Niamh

Emeril's Spinach, Artichoke, Brie Stuffing
Ottolenghi's Roast Squash with Red Onion and Tahini
Shauna's Crispy Parmesan Broccoli with Garlic and Chili Flakes
Made up Cranberry Sauce with Rosemary and Sumac
Rory's Roast Potatoes
Mashed Sweet Potatoes (no marshmallows)

Libby's Pumpkin Pie
Martha Stewart's Apple Pie
Jess' Homemade Honeycomb Ice Cream

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Things I've Learned From Traveling #2

  • call up those distant relatives you've never met before to get some free accomodation or even a home cooked meal
  • leave time for flexibility
  • buy a dual-clock watch so you know what time it is at home and where you are
  • iTunes gift cards are great care packages
  • Don't be afraid to ask. You never know what the answer might be. 
  • talking to other people who are about to embark on similar journeys make you feel incredibly wise and well traveled - and gives you a chance to look back on all you've done. 
  • When on an airplane, always choose tea over coffee. You can't go wrong with tea. You can go very wrong with coffee. 
  • If you are going on a 13 hour flight, upgrade. 
  • Do your backward time-counting correctly. You don't want to be sitting at the airport for hours after rushing there in a cab, and you don't want to be panicking about making your flight while sitting on a bus. 
  • Sometimes promises have to be broken. 
  • Get a hard drive full of movies. 
  • Wearing the same clothes, looking at the same things, and not caring about what actually makes it home really makes the stuff you have at home seem new and feels like Christmas when you see them again. 
  • Send postcards. 
  • Even if you keep a blog, keep a diary. Write down everything. You will forget. 

A Story of Irish Hospitality.

The holidays were over, the family had left, and it was time to come to terms with the realization that procrastination could no longer be pardonable for thinking that all job applications would get lost in the employers' hectic holiday hustle and bustle. After weeks of writing to job openings I was over- and under-qualified for, and blindly writing to companies I would potentially like to work for, but offered no current job openings, I had made no progress. I had received no responses except for one that replied the position had been filled and the posting should have been taken down, and another one that was an automated reply stating that they received too many inquiries and a prospective email will not be replied to (if that even counts as a response.) The hopes that my furiously passionate cover letter and worldy CV might catch their attention enough to write back (I was desperate for anything) was all too soon becoming disheartening. Nobody in Dublin or London wanted to hire me. 
Usually my companion at my side, I had taken to leaving my phone in my bedroom; perhaps discouraged that neither employers nor friends had been calling me. However, with a quick glance at the phone one day, before I knew it, I had three interviews lined up. A phone interview with a company in London, an onsite interview in London, and another one in Dublin. I strategically organised it so I could go to the one in Dublin, catch a flight to London, have the interview there and be there if the phone interview promised an onsite second interview (it didn't) and then I could stay in London indefinitely for any other interviews that might come through after the masses of employers I wrote to finally got around to liking me - I was sure of it (they didn't). 
Everything was slowly coming together. As comfortable as I was in Donegal, hanging out with old friends and new flings, it was time to get a move on and head to the big city. Shoulder bag packed (I'm a light traveler) I headed to Dublin on the John McGinley and was set to meet up and stay with my friend who I had met in Perth, my first friend, and who was now back living in Dublin. I texted him when the bus was meant to arrive in. I texted him when the bus was late. I texted him as we neared the city. I texted him when I arrived. No response.  I called when I got off the bus. No answer. Optimistic me thought maybe he's working late. Maybe his phone died. I wandered around the city in the dark, quite comfortable with knowing the neighbourhoods well and thinking I still had a place to stay for the night and a friend to catch up with. Until it got unreasonabley late. I had headed towards the cobblestone streets of Temple Bar, knowing the bars would still be buzzing any time of the day or night, hoping to find a seat to rest my weary feet, tired from aimlessly wandering the city. I knew Temple Bar-bar (as I call it) always had live music and an enthusiastic crowd so I headed in there for some company and a pint. I sat down at a unheard-of free seat at the bar, utterly defeated. The bartender, a young blonde haired guy noticed my air of frustration as I collapsed into the bar stool with a heavy, discouraged sigh. I ordered a pint of Bulmers and asked if the bar had free wi fi. The brimming bar boasted a deafening multitude of international accents, but he stopped to pay attention to me. He listened as I explained my homeless situation and unresponsive friend, then offered his iPhone to me so I could check to see if my friend had contacted me via some form of social media, in case his textless and unresponsive phone had died. 
"You'll have to go outside the bar though because there's terrible reception in here," the bartender said as he handed his phone to me across the bar. I tentatively accepted it, thanking him as I put a coaster over my pint and walked out the door; a complete stranger leaving him with an unpaid pint and walking away with is iPhone. As I walked outside into the cool night air, I couldn't believe he had trusted me to walk out of his sight with his phone. I could believe that there was no online-word from my so-called friend.
Smiling as I walked back into the bar, I said, "You know I could have used that story before and ran off with your phone."
"I know, I thought about that the second you disappeared out the door, but for some reason, I trusted you. Any word from your friend?"
"Don't worry, something will work out, it'll be ok."
His words, although empty of action towards my situation, hinted at an unknown consolation. I nodded as I sipped my cider and wondered what the latest check in for a hostel was; it was nearly midnight. I fretfully mulled over my financial situation and how much a last minute room was going to set me back before my trip.
I kept checking my phone, as you do, even though it was right in front of me, one eye always on it, no lights had flashed on, no noise had beeped, but continued to check it...just in case. And as I did this, the bartender continued to keep me company whenever he could, reassuring me that I'd have somewhere to stay, and somehow managing to always keep my pint of Bulmers refilled and full without anyone noticing it, and without me paying a euro. 
As the lights to the bar came on at the end of the night and the bouncers tried to usher everyone out, the bartender told your one I was alright and by that time had invited me to stay on his couch. After his friendliness throughout the night and his trust of giving me his iPhone, along with the fact that I had no other option, I accepted the kind offer. His friends were coming back with a couple bottles and after a year of traveling around on my own in Australia, I figured this was no different than couch-surfing. The year abroad had taught me to trust myself and my instincts, and there was nothing foreboding about this situation. 
The next morning, as I left for my interview, he gave me a set of keys to come and go from his house as I pleased. Seriously? 
The generous, trusty Irish hospitality must have rubbed off some good luck as I was offered a job with the Dublin interview that day. It wouldn't be a career move, but a move to Dublin and out of Donegal. I almost didn't want to continue with the trip to London, and although it wasn't a complete waste of time as I was able to catch up with old friends and visit the beloved city again, it resulted in two more unresponsive friend experiences. For the second and third time all in that week, I had made plans to meet up with friends in situations where I was relying on them for an offered place to stay, and again, I was left quite literally in the dark, in absolute communicationless silence.  After a year of traveling around Australia where many days I woke up not knowing where I'd sleep that night, I had grown confident to know that something would always work out, but those three incidents that week, which were barely acknowledged let alone apologised for, nearly extinguished all hope or trust I had in people until I remembered the stranger who offered me the utmost friendly hospitality.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

When you’re struggling with something, look at all the people around you and realize that every single person you see is struggling with something, and to them, it’s just as hard as what you’re going through.

roonie's blog, roonie's thoughts.

I haven't written for a while. This happens every so often when "life" happens. I realise this happens when I am not surrounded by inspiration. I don't like this. Day to day life should always be inspiring, encouraging to learn something new, and for sharing stories. But then again, I don't necessarily understand why everyone feels the need to start a blog about their kitchen tales thinking that other people are going to want to make what they made for dinner. But then again, people don't necessarily want to read what personal shit I'm writing about. Ok, so I won't share this post on Facebook or tweet it to promote anyone reading it, but I've always written whatever I wanted here. So there.

Dear Diary,

Just kidding.

When I came back from Australia in December (wow, 8 months ago - what have I been doing?) I was flooded with happiness being surrounded by my family and being back in Ireland. Then they left and the procrastination of "real life" had to end and endless hours of job hunting and searching had to come into fruition: applying for any job I was over and under qualified for, just eager to find a job in Ireland or hop on a chance to move to London. After a year of traveling and finally feeling like I was ready to settle in Europe, I was desperate to find the perfect job. As much as I appreciated the year in Australia, I missed being surrounded by the like-minded people who truly believed we could change the world together one nibble at a time.
Eventually, I landed a job that got me to Dublin. The job I had applied for had been filled, but they were impressed with my CV and after inviting me in for a chat, promised they would find a spot for me which, although starting off at the bottom as protocol goes, would quickly move me up. I knew it wasn't a career, but it was a move in a direction, and it was fun for a while. Fun I suppose in the sense that I enjoyed the people I worked with. And that can only go so far. The reality of the situation wrecked havoc on my skin and I had to quit. I was being emergency-taxed on a minimum wage salary trying to survive in a new city and was over-qualified in a dead-end job that literally lost all the desired promises of advancement the day I started. I am not one who believes that unhappiness in a job warrants any reason to stick around. Ironically, I was unemployed for two months, two months longer than I thought I would be, which was not necessarily the best for my stressed skin to try to live off a low paycheck to a non-existent paycheck.

Now I have a proper-paying job. It is just temporary. It is not in an industry I am passionate about. I'm still not entirely sure what the company even does. And I am not sure why exactly I was hired, except for the fact that I am completely competent and had a referral within the company....whom I had only met once before! The paychecks will finally be more than anything I've earned since I left NYC, which will be more than welcoming, but I've gotten quite used to counting pennies. I can only hope this will alleviate any financial stability related stress.

Needless to say, I don't think this job is going to offer me the inspiration I want to write about.  Not that I don't like the job, I do like it - I thrive off the overly positive feedback I've received from my work and thoroughly enjoy the sense of achievement and productiveness - but, not the inspiration for blog posts from UNISG, or from writing about seasonal food from the farmers market, or the travel stories from Australia. I don't need to blog about my job though because who wants to read that?? But some part of me feels like I'm not keeping up with my fellow classmates from UNISG. Some of them, if not all of them, are doing truly inspirational things with their lives that are dedicated to what they love: food. As I sit in my desk in my office reading these updates, I wonder how did I get here and can only take solace in the fact, that it will allow me to save, and that I'm in Dublin. I ache for that inspiration, for those stories I want to be a part of to share and to teach others, and to feel fulfilled in life. I'm determined that it will still come. I miss writing.

So, now here I am back in America for a week, with my skin never quite healed and my parents quite horrified. Having lived with eczema and used to it for 29 years is one thing, but being 29 years old and not having figured it out is another. Being allergic to work was a good enough excuse no one could compete with nor bestow hard feelings, but to be honest, my skin hadn't been healthy since I had returned from Australia. I know stress is a huge factor, but I clearly remember the minor anxiety attacks I had every day in Australia of not knowing where I would be the next day, not knowing where I would sleep that night, not knowing who I would meet, and not knowing how I would financially survive, but my skin was not scratched raw with stress. Maybe Ireland just lacks that Vitamin D that my skin became accustomed to and now craves (OK, that is a Fact and as my glowing freckled tan faded, I can completely understand why all the girls in Ireland are literally orange with fake tan).
Looking back since I left corporate NYC and America, I know the year in Italy was really good for me educationally - I was inspired and fascinated and surrounded every day with people who loved to talk endlessly about the same food related topics as me. But I lacked the confidence to know what to do with it. I know the year in Australia was good for me personally - I was completely on my own and forced to make my own decisions, to bravely grow up and believe in my own self confidence, to make new friends out of my comfort zone, and to learn how to survive yet do what I wanted. But I lacked the all-encompassing food-inspiration. After all that, those amazing adventures abroad, I felt as though I had gotten "that" out of my system and longed for a proper paycheck and a rent to pay on a place I called home. I wanted to compile all of my past experiences and push them towards something great in Europe. I always wanted to live in Europe. I always thought I'd end up in Ireland. I felt as though I could finally start to "end up." But, for whatever reason, I feel Lost. I absolutely love Dublin. It is a great city. I have fantastic friends, but no social circle. I like my job, but it's not a career. I have a life and a routine in a city I (think) I want to live in, but I feel lost. Sometimes I just want to pack up my backpack again and jump on a plane to South America, to feel the sun again and to speak fluent Spanish. But I can't just run off again where it is acceptable to feel lost.

After all that, for all the reasons I previously firmly asserted why I couldn't move back to New York are now in question. Am I really considering moving back to America or just feeling the itch for change again?
I don't know if it's because I miss the promises of big city life it offers.*
I don't know if it's because I'm on holiday mode and left behind the day-to-day worries and responsibilities of real life.**
I don't know if it's because I just really miss being around my family and friends.***

Is it really a skin disease or have I always felt lost? How can a baby in diapers feel that, yet scratch its skin raw? What is this dark shadow of my past? Why have I always had more of an affinity towards Ireland? Why do I have a funny accent and not sure where to call home? I might be Lost, but I am generally a calm, easy going, happy person, not twitching with panicked anxiety like it might sound like. My life is pretty fucking great I'd say. I was told twice this week to get off my ass and do what I want to do with my life; to take hold of my confidence and trust myself to be able to just do it. So I think as this looming panic of turning 30 sets in, that is exactly what I have to do. When I figure out what that is :)

I guess what I wanted to say, as I wrote this out in a middle-of-the-night-I-can't-sleep-mumble-jumble is that I want to start writing again. It will help me to find inspiration and to clarify overloaded thoughts. I know I'm not the only one who feels lost, but for whatever reason, my imbalance scratches till it bleeds.

I had two very different dermatological experiences in America, which I want to share about, and they coincide with my interest in learning more, understanding, and eventually hoping to teach about food as medicine. Yes, stress is a factor in what's going on, but it's slowed down my metabolism and my skin is lacking the absorbance of certain minerals and nutrients it needs to healthily thrive. Steroids help with post-itch infections, but I think if I can figure it out naturally, and figure out my allergies, I can cure it with food and natural remedies by understanding why my body is out of whack. Maybe I can start writing about this as a learning project.

The other thing I want to write about for inspiration is Dublin. It may not be as new, foreign, or exotic as Australia, but it is still entitled to exploration and admiration. As I stared into my computer one day at work, often escaping for brief moments to read worldly happenings online, I came across a blog as I was looking for things to do one weekend in Dublin. One of the Google hits read "5 Things I Hate About Dublin." Now, there is nothing I could think of that I hate about Dublin, but I was curious enough to know what people don't like about it to click on it. Lo and behold, it's an American in Dublin writing. Hate is a very strong word to describe the things he didn't like about living here, and his list of 5 things he loved didn't do any justification. As much as I miss writing, maybe my posts don't have to be as my-life-aspiring or food-related as I'm used to and just because I am living here, trying to feel settled, doesn't mean that I can't write the travel-type posts I used to while living abroad. Just because this is my current home and feels comfortable, doesn't have to mean it's mundane and not worth writing about. It doesn't have to be about what I had for lunch or describing my 12 minute walkable commute to work. But if this guy, this American in Dublin, can have opinions about Dublin, I want to share my thoughts on this city, this country, to show how much I like it, or what I don't like about it, and maybe even convince some people to come visit - check 3 already (yay Mum, Dad and Cristina!)

If this post doesn't make sense, good, because it epitomizes being Lost.

Good night, good morning. Hello.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

"It is a bit of a cliche to characterize life a a rambling journey on which we can alter our course at any given time - by the slightest turn of the wheel, the wisdom goes, we influence the chain of events and thus recast our destiny with new cohorts, circumstances, and discoveries. But for the most of us, life is nothing like that. Instead, we have a few brief periods when we are offered a handful of discreet options. Do I take this job or that job? In Chicago or New York? Do I join this circle of friends or that one, and with whom do I go home at the end of the night? And does one make time for children now? or later? Or later still? 
In that sense, life is less like a journey than it is a game of honeymoon bridge. In our twenties, when there is still so much time ahead of us, time that seems ample for a hundred indecisions, for a hundred visions and revisions - we draw a card, and we must decide right then and there whether to keep that card and discard the next, or discard the first card and keep the second. And before we know it, the deck has been played on out and the decisions we have just made will shape our lives fore decades to come." 
- Amor Towles, Rules of Civility

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

"I hoped we never had to realize all the opportunities we missed in this life."

Aussie Aussie Aussie Oi Oi Oi

If anyones asks if I had a favourite place while in Australia, I wouldn't know how to respond. It's not that I didn't like it, I just think that people don't understand it's enormity to warrant a single first-place prize for a favourite place. I have favourite memories, maybe, but everywhere is so incredibly different. It's comparable to traveling around America and asking if you had a favourite state, or around Europe and having a favourite country, let alone a revered city. Even though Australia has just 6 states, to travel just within one of those states is a ginormous adventure from one inch on the map to the next, which takes on average a 12 hour bus ride. That was the norm. You'd complain, but you wouldn't question it. Planning a trip to Australia can be overwhelming, which is why I booked a one way ticket with a year-long visa, but I was surprised by how many people just went over for a couple weeks' holiday, picking just one area to explore. There's so much I saw, and even more that I didn't see, I may just have to go back some day....for a visit. 

To sum up my Australian adventure, in definitely not 140 characters or less and in very much my own opinion, let me try to explain my eleven-month experience abroad Down Under. There are links to past posts about destinations and experiences that I would like to share, but not repeat completely again here. 

Perth*, in the very far west of Western Australia, is at least ten years behind the rest of the Australian cities due to its isolation, but it breathes booming potential. The perfect example is the restaurant chain Pie Face: when I was leaving Perth, there was a Pie Face that was just nearly opening; when I was in Brisbane, I was shocked to hear that Pie Face was open until 10pm; when I got to Melbourne, Pie Face was open 24 hours and a popular late night spot; when I got to Sydney, I was way over seeing Pie Face on every other corner; and now there is even a Pie Face in New York City. Perth will catch up. It is an attractive city with annually good weather - even when there are astonishingly loud tropical downpours, the sky still shines bright blue. It is an overly walkable city; well, city is a relative term purely dependant on the surrounding remoteness and walkable is a relative term dependant on my upbringing! Despite it's size and lack of apparent tourist sites, it actually offers a lot of attractions if you open your imagination to explore the area. It is close to the ocean and its hungry sharks; has a modern CBD; a small yet rowdy and fun nightlife overrun by Irish; has two AFL teams; close to Rottnest Island and quirky Fremantle; home to Gemma Ward, Heath Ledger, and Isla Fisher; contains the large, photogenic Kings Park; is the hub to the mining industry; exudes unfathomable wealth; can get away with charging $22 for toast and avocado breakfast dish; and sucks you in for longer than you want to stay. I wouldn't say Perth* is for everyone, but I liked it a lot.

To the north of Western Australia, I only went as far as Monkey Mia* in the Shark Bay Marina Park and  member of a World Heritage Site. Up there, the Outback creeps closer to the scantily inhabited coastline. 800 kilometres, 10 hours of driving, and only a dent made on the Western map, the ocean sparkles a brighter turquoise and the land flattens out to expanses of red dirt, dry bushes, and the danger of a kangaroo running into the front of your car at the exact moment in the middle of nowhere only because he panics during his temporary blindness from the lights of the car. The only other danger is of course breaking down. You could ride for hours without seeing another car, except for maybe one of the many terrifyingly long road-trains that dominate the drive. Even though you get the sense of being in the Outback, in the middle of nowhere, you aren't, and can't possibly fathom heading east where you really would be completely surrounded by the companionless red dirt. And even after all that driving, you may not accomplish what the adventure was for: to see a dolphin.

Less than 300 kilometres south of Perth is Margaret River, Western Australia's biggest wine region. Although the production is quite modest compared to the rest of Australia, it dominates the Australian wine market. Maybe only having experienced and visited much of the Italian wine world to compare it to, and especially from my stint at working at a winery further south in the smaller region of Great Southern of Western Australia, I feel as though Margaret River resembles Napa or Sonoma Valley. Almost showy like Disneyland. The area's wines are very popular, but not my favourite, and it seemed as though they were trying to make the most of their money from tourism with signs along the side of the street welcoming thirsty travelers to come in for a taste and buy wines directly from the source. Although there was one winery after another after another as you follow the wine map, each one has it's own distinct concept and background story that is unique to their neighbour that they use to their advantage to promote their wines: whether it is a luxurious estate with grandiose gardens perfect for wedding pictures, or a little wooden house with a family wine-making history that goes back for generations, or a corporately owned property by foreign investors who know how to market a world-wide popular label.

Continuing south of Western Australia through the Great Southern Region, you find yourself again completely surrounded by stark emptiness. Instead of red dirt though, there are overlapping fields of "happy" grazing cattle and mesmerising perfectly-planted rows of blue gum trees. Tall trees line and shadow the sides of the meandering roads. Kangaroos, either dead on the side of the road like an overturned table, or sneakily trying to get drunk off of the trellised wine grapes, are more populated in the area than people. From where I lived at the winery, 45 minutes was the standard average driving time to get anywhere, either to the mountains of the Stirling Ranges in the east or to the hippy towns of Albany and Denmark along the very southern coast where the popular beaches join the emptiness of Western Australia to the north with the solitary Southern Ocean with nothing beyond it until Antarctica. Working at the winery was probably one of my favourite experiences. I learned so much about wine production and was surprised to learn I could adapt to live in serious remoteness with housemates of spiders, mice, possums, and more spiders. 

Besides the childhood dream of seeing penguins in Australia, and of course see the sexy Rod Stewart in concert, one of the things I really wanted to do was take the train across the continent from the west to the east through the Outback. Not a single person I told thought it was a good idea. Everyone thought I was nuts, completely out of my mind to want to spend that time or money in the middle of nowhere.  No one understood my fascination with the red dirt as I tried to explain or justify a desire to want to see and be a part of the Outback as it is such a encompassing embodiment of what makes up Australia that not many people experience. I relished in the thought of being on that train with endless views and to be alone. Although I still do fancy the idea, rationality got the better of me and it was more practical to go east by airplane. I didn't make it to Darwin, but mum and I did go to Alice Springs and Uluru in the Northern Territory. Alice Springs* was a bit of a disappointment and it would be the only place throughout my travels I wouldn't glorify or necessarily commend going. I would, however, urge people to go, just so they could see it for themselves, maybe only for one night, and definitely as a stop to go to Uluru. At first I think we lamented a bit over deciding to go, regretted is not the right word, but now looking back at my time in Australia, I am appreciative that we did go because I know it would be somewhere I would have wished I had gone to. Uluru* is definitely worth the trip and I think if we had organised it better, both mum and I would have liked to spend more time there with our hiking boots and warm-weather clothes on.

I never went to Adelaide, but heard quaintly nice things. Heading east, the Great Southern Road* is a must drive. It is do-able in a day either by yourself or with a tour, or you can break it up and spend the night along the way. The Twelve Apostles* is an impressive sight by no exaggeration. The rest of the drive, with the observation look out points along the coast, are less awe-inspiring, if not repetitive*.

The south of Western Australia had a reminiscent Mediterranean climate, but Melbourne, in the South of Victoria is overall distinctly European. My experience of having grown up and survived many cold New England and Irish winters arrogantly convinced me that Melbourne couldn't be that cold - it is Australia after all and my backpack was only filled with summer clothes appropriate for 30 degrees! I was wrong. Melbourne*, as it is part of Australia, is still built to be like an Australian city despite it's long winters of cold rains and drafty winds. I was made fun of for wearing the same pink wind-breaker all the time, but it was the only one I had and there was always a chance it was going to rain during the day. Possibly because of the weather, Melbourne is European in lifestyle as well. Cafes are little niches found down past corners of secretly unassuming alley ways, coffee culture rules, pop up art galleries attract the stylish and the interested, and during the summer, everyone flocks to the beaches to soak up the first warmth of sun - comforted only by the common paleness of everyone else. At the same time, Melbourne also feels very much like Asia. Chinese, Japanese, Malaysian, Thai, Vietnamese, Taiwanese, Filipino, and Cambodian restaurants seem to dominate every street. I lived off $2 sushi rolls. The architecture is unique, artsy, and often so mind-boggling that it would endlessly stimulate any architect or design student. It appears to be a very young city, especially with the presence of the University in the city centre. Although I walked everywhere in Melbourne and the tram system was diligently efficient, I still felt a bit overwhelmed and unable to get a clear grasp on the city. Each surrounding neighbourhood has it's own distinct personality that attracts different crowds. I also don't think I "did" Melbourne "right." I always had one foot in, one foot out. Working two jobs only to leave, but wanting to stay.

Melbourne to Sydney is either a 14+ hour bus ride or an hour and a half flight. Fly. Sydney is a city better than expected. In saying that, I'd dare say it is the most visited destination in Australia with the most iconic sights, but remember that I also chose to fly to Perth first, where not as many people visit, so my overall opinion and preliminary assumptions might be a bit different. Actually seeing these magnificent monuments and symbols of Australia in person exceeds any expectation previously seen on TV or on postcards. Sydney Harbour* is an obvious example, but Manly Beach* is the first place I really felt a sensation for witnessing what is portrayed as Australian, or the perceived stereotype we learn from the movies. Sydney, the capital of New South Wales, is a really immaculate, handsome city - I have consciously noticed that in general about Australia on how well they proudly look after their places. Despite all the characteristic hustle and bustle of an international city, Sydney exudes a familiar, comfortable demeanour. I found it amusing that everytime I asked someone for the direction of Central Station, they would point, then warn me that it was a very far walk and I would be better off catching the train or bus. And I would smile in response as I knew, but assuaged their concern to their satisfaction by saying I just needed to know the direction - then off I would go, walking the entire way, not far at all.

An overnight bus ride from Sydney leads you to the ever popular Byron Bay*. The tour books say people come for a day and stay for a month. I booked for 3 nights and stayed for 5. It is generally the first or last stops along backpackers' trips up or down the coast. It is a small coastal town filled with people who are eager to catch some rays, surf, and start their partying at Cheeky Monkey's, or people who are soaking up the last of the sun and the waves and one last party at Cheeky Monkey's. Always Cheeky Monkey's. You can't go there without anyone telling you you have to go there, or without anyone asking if you have been there. Byron Bay = Cheeky Monkey's. Ok, a bit of an exaggeration, but they go hand in hand. The town has a sort of hippy eco-friendly vibe with a straightforward laid-back surfer attitude. The beautiful beach and the walk around the lighthouse to the most easterly point of mainland Australia are really worth the visit, as is the more private beach, Tallow Beach, popular to surfers and seagulls. Byron Bay will always be the start of my east coast travels and the start of a beautiful friendship.

Nimbin*. What to say about Nimbin. Just go. And laugh ridiculously at the day.

Surfers Paradise* is unlike anywhere else in Australia. The safety flags that allow swimming in the ocean mark a small breadth and the beach is not the best looking in Australia, so where the name came from is a bit of a mystery, unless you Wikipedia it and read that it is ranked as one of the best beaches on the east, in which case, I am wrong. The name is clearly one of the draws as a popular tourist destination. The existence of the high rise buildings lining the coast also exemplify this popular spot proving that everyone wants a sliver of the view. If you don't like shopping, or theme parks, or clubbing nightlife, then this isn't the spot for you. The nightlife, including the mini skirts and the proper shoes, is spectacular, but expensive if you don't do it properly* but during the day, I was bored. It was the first place that I would have left with a bit of a bizarre impression of the place, but it was all about the people who made the place. Surfers may not be everyone's cup of tea (you won't be drinking tea there) but for me, it will be one of my favourite memories - and to be visited again two more times.

Brisbane* was better every time I visited. Third time's the charm. I visited the first time with mum, unsuccessfully to find a job or a new home there, then a weekend getaway to visit Ted, and the last time for the duration of my stay in Australia. I like Brisbane. It's energetic, sunny, attractive, walkable (or is that just a habit of mine??), jay-walk free, tidy, London-like, San Fran-like, bigger than Perth, open later than Perth, architecturally stimulating, outdoorsy, well-fed, cultural, bustling, dive-y, modern, hippy, hilly. Each of the ten bridges that cross the Brisbane River and connect the city are architecturally different, one with built-in benches to sit and enjoy the views. There was a devastating flood the year before and barely a trace of damage left today, except for lines marking the walls that measured how high the water raised. Nothing like the remaining traces of flooding in New Orleans. There isn't much night life in Brisbane, or so I found, but it is bustling with it's constant sunshine. There are the brightest purple flowering trees and sprawling red Queensland trees that just brighten the city, to an appreciative admirer in awe. 

Noosa is lovely. It's quaint, it's posh. It's a hotspot for celebrities, wealthy retirees, and surfers.

Rainbow Beach, the gateway to Fraser Island, has a remarkable beach that goes on for miles and a tiny little town seemingly only existing to suit the people passing by.
Fraser Island* is one of those trips you have to do while traveling the eastern coast. As the world's largest sand island, it is a World Heritage Site with some of the purest fresh water on the planet that will be-numbingly knock off any goon hangover. It is a bumpy adventure that is guaranteed to be filled with laughs. Watch out for dingo's, just cross your arms over your boobs if they come near you: it's a subtle gesture guaranteed to scare them away. Fraser Island is beautiful, but I never had a grasping moment where I thought, this is exactly what I've come to see. Maybe it was because I was too busy laughing the entire time to notice - entirely possible. But because of this experience, I really got a boost for my future travels that proved to me I can do this on my own.

There are stops along the coast between Rainbow Beach and Airlie Beach*, but a 12 hours bus will bring you there directly. As the bus pulls in and you squint in the morning light after an uncomfortable cramped semi-sleep, your eyes will immediately brighten when you see the absolute twinkling colour of the ocean. It shouts clearly in your head that you will like this place immensely. There is pretty much just one main street that leads through Airlie Beach, which doesn't have a beach at all but a man-made lagoon. Although there are day trips to the Whitsundays, most people go on boats for 3 days and 2 nights. There are innumerable amounts of boats, which all have their own personalities attracting different crowds for various experiences whether it is diving or partying or old people. Old. Ha. The trip around the islands is breath taking and relaxing and the underwater world seen through diving goggles is sublimely beyond words. Being stuck on a boat with a group of people for 3 days and 2 nights insists you become friends, or at least friendly, with them. The scenery is spectacular, but it is the people that make the trip memorable. After the boat trip, the cherry on top is a flight over the Whitsundays. There are different lengths, prices and trips of the flights, but the best, most worthwhile, and obviously the most expensive is the one that includes the Great Barrier Reef. Absolutely. Amazing.

Mission Beach* is tiny. Unless you are planning on skydiving over the Great Barrier Reef and landing on the beach or if you want a quiet couple of days to yourself, there really isn't much else going on there. I did hold a baby wallaby and saw a lot of wild ones, but yeah.

The road up and along northern Queensland is tropically 
spectacular. Really mesmerising and breath-taking with all sorts of vegetation and mountains to occupy any boredom on a typically long bus ride. Cairns* is as far north as I went. It's a mini city with an old country feel. It's easy to walk around, either around the harbour where restaurants and hotels take the place of hostels and backpackers or through the town with the outside dining and tourist offices offering all sorts of travel packages. The sun is warm, the nightlife is fun, and the swarming bats love it. I liked it more than I thought I would and would definitely like to go back again to see more of the Great Barrier Reef and the rain forest, but for me, the stop was just to head back down: a two hour plane ride instead of a bazillion hour bus ride.

So, as you can maybe see, all of Australia is extraordinary. There is not one place better than the other and the people are truly what make the place, the memories, and the experience.  Traveling up the coast, or down as some did, it seems as though the Australian coast is only filled with backpackers. There are sights to see, people to meet, parties to be had, skins to be tanned, native animals to be held, tours to be taken, animals to be scared of. Some people have it all planned out with a limited time frame. Some people leave room for flexibility. Some people stay in places longer than anticipated, but everyone is passing through. One bus to another, one city to another, one beach to another, one hostel to another, one group of friends to another. The cities have a different mentality, but they are also cities with all the amenities and shops found in other cities around the world so it is easier to stay and find a home there, but they just happen to be really far away from home. The good weather is definitely part of the appeal. The warmth of the sun makes it hard to leave and the thought of living anywhere else with cold and rain and snow is almost unfathomable. Australia lacks a bit of history and a bit of culture. I know it's there, in a minute sense compared to the rest of the world and it's not as evident or all-surrounding like it is in Europe. I missed that.  It's very Westernised; not much of a culture shock at all. When I arrived in Perth, I honestly thought I had just flown for twenty eight hours to arrive in California with funny accents and cars driving on the wrong side of the road. My sister asked me why I wouldn't just live in California if it was so similar to Perth, but I didn't have an answer. I didn't want to live in America and I wanted to like Perth and Australia - I did, I do -  I think I just wanted to find a home and was looking for it in the wrong place. Australia is also very American in the sense that it is a fairly new country where most of the Australians still have parents or grandparents who are from Europe. So for me, to stay there for another year would feel like just another year living abroad. I miss it already to be honest, now that I am writing this back in Ireland, but in all the unique, different, odd, and stunning places I went to in Australia, I was incredibly lucky with the tremendous experiences I had, the iconic places I was able to visit, and the unforgettable people that I met. For all the reasons, or lack of reasons, for going to Australia, I am glad that I did. I'm glad I went when I did. And now it's on to what's next. 

And if anyone really wants to know, my favourite part of Australia is the stars. Absolutely. 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Thank you 2012 for Australia. 
Thank you Australia for an amazing eleven months of uncertainty, flexibility, the sun, the anxiety, the new friends, the old friends, the laughter, lots of laughter, the promises, the expectations, the disappointments, the funny accent, the support, the love, the confidence, all the travel experiences, the physical pain, the indecisiveness, the opportunities, the options, the learning experiences, teaching me to grow up, facing fears, overcoming fears (mostly of spiders), the beach-perfect curls, the gracious hospitality, for penguins, the lasting friendships, the expensiveness, the unexpected intrusions of beauty, letting me drive on the other side of the road, the Southern Hemisphere stars,  the terrible work, for all the photographs, stories, and memories, the tan, for everything turning out the way it was meant to....
Thank you for the entire year.
Thank you for bringing me there, and thank you for bringing me home. 

For some reason, I still find myself putting myself into the same anxiety-ridden life-changing situations of moving from one place to the next, not really sure where I am heading, but thank you for preparing me for it, again and again.

My Last Meal in Australia

Only appropriately a crocodile pizza and a kangaroo pizza. 

The Australian Heritage Hotel in the historic neighbourhood known as The Rocks, with finger-touching views of the Harbour Bridge and Sydney's Opera House, is the oldest continuously licensed pub in Sydney. They not only exclusively sell Australian beer and wine, but pizza toppings such as  Pepper Kangaroo with roasted capsicum and cranberries, the Coat of Arms which is half emu and half kangaroo, Saltwater Crocodile marinated in a spicy coconut cream with Thai herbs, the Australian with double smoked ham, eggs, mushrooms, and BBQ sauce (like that combination could be called anything else) or the Queenslander with crispy bacon, and pineapple - how is Queensland anything unlike Hawaii?? I would easily, happily and hungrily go back to try the Tandoori Chicken, Roast Peking Duck, Pork Belly and Spicy Chorizo topped pizzas....or any of the other salads and non-pizzas offerings on the menu. Not vegetarian today! With a cold Australian cider, it was the perfect meal. The perfect goodbye. 

Oh, and saltwater crocodile is in fact considered to be a marine animal, in which, I am allergic to....along with all the other swimming fish. 

only in oz.....(maybe)

She had dumps like a truck truck truck
Thighs like what what what
Baby move your butt butt butt
I think to sing it again
She had dumps like a truck truck truck
Thighs like what what what
All night long
Let me see that thong

'Tis the Season in Sydney.

Sometimes promises have to be broken for something bigger; something more close to home. Sometimes you don't have a choice in agreeing to a promise. Sometimes when you hesitantly make a promise, you know in your heart of heart it's not going to happen. It wasn't feasible, possible, logistical, rational, defensible or even financially-responsible to stay in Australia for a promise. I couldn't bear to break it, I felt terrible, but I knew that I had to do it. Sometimes you have to make your own decisions, hopefully with good intentions, even if they hurt people knowing absolutely that that part is not part of the main objective. Even when it appears to be selfish, there's always another side to the story that might not be regarded, that could be for the greater good if you take the time to consider it. 

As it turned out, I wasn't flying out of Brisbane. When flying out of Brisbane I had to connect in Sydney anyways. And as it turned out, both my parents and I thought I would be returning to Sydney for Christmas so I had left a bag of things there I didn't need for traveling and they had mailed some Christmas presents for me. So, I had to go back no matter what. Because of my broken promise, I booked to spend two nights in Sydney to make up for it. But I don't think it was enough. Things were miscommunicated, plans were not met, and words were said. Instead, I spent most of my time wandering around Sydney as I had wanted to explore it on my own, with one last goodbye, and one last attempt of Christmas shopping before it would become Duty Free. All I could think of was going home, getting on the plane as fast as possible, seeing my parents and surprising Jess. As much as I didn't want to leave Australia, or say goodbye to the friends I had met, I just wanted to be home. 

Monday, December 31, 2012

Last Weekend in Australia: Surfers Paradise.

After Michal left, I had one weekend left in Brisbane. In Australia really. It was a really peculiar sensation that I don't think I ever actually came to terms with. I just seemed to be going through the motions, trying to absorb it all without realising what I would be leaving behind, except fully aware that I would be leaving summer to go back to winter. Jonny came home from work one day saying that he was invited to go to the Gold Coast for the weekend - Surfers Paradise specifically. As I had spent enough time in Brisbane and didn't want to over stay my welcome, I had thought about going there for the weekend anyways so it worked out that we would have one last weekend together and C & J could see more of the country. Funny how some things just work out so perfectly! I had talked up Paul's Backpackers Big Night out bar crawl a lot - I really should do their marketing or be one of those girls that sign up suckers on the street - which excited C & J and Paul said he could see if he could get a deal for them. We booked a bus down for Friday night and were on our way. 

28th floor.

 Friday was usually Paul's day to himself, when he could do absolutely nothing, but he met up with us after he finished work and we had finished our little bout of shopping and sightseeing around Surfers. I was still desperate for some Christmas presents and still empty-handed. Instead of a night of Breaking Bad and Philly, Paul invited us around to his place in the Q1 building and promised us a night out on the town.
coastal sunset views from the tallest building.
  He always joked that I lucked out with my first and only couch surfing experience as I got to - a couple times - stay in the nicest building in Surfers and go on bar crawls for absolutely nothing. I would respond, yes this is very true, but more importantly, I think about the friend I made from my first and only couch surfing experience. And Paul could say nothing more to that except to agree by smiling.
 Once again, I was absolutely thrilled that I could introduce my friends to my friends and they not only got along really well, but really liked each other. I couldn't have been happier.
I just had such a fun weekend, with had my camera in my hand, so please forgive all the photos that I want to share. There's not much to say, except for giggles and smiles and the pictures to prove it.

My friends are mad talented...
My friends can dance.
My friends are strong and cute.

My friends are good looking.
They are really good at hat stealing (like me) and dancing (unlike me).
My friends have the cutest relationships. 

My friends like to eat Skittles that are free in the bar and give them away to rando's who trust us enough to eat them out of our hands.

The following day was spent wandering around the shops and stores, uselessly, again. As much as I was looking forward to going home for Christmas, I couldn't get in the holiday spirit. Maybe it was the 30degree weather, or the fact that I was wearing shorts and t-shirts for as long as I could remember, or that the beach was just a block away. None of the stores seemed to have anything that would be deemed worthy of bringing back as even souvenirs, let alone Christmas gifts. So, I did what I usually do, and am best at: I went to eat. I went to my favourite little Thai place I had been to before that was down a little alley way and had a huge plate of spicy veggie pad see eww noodles that I couldn't resist eating the entire dish - even though the two big lads next to me didn't finish their meals...
Saturday night ultimately came and it was time to round up the backpackers. Time for my last night out before the last of the good-bye's. I couldn't have asked for a better night.