Friday, July 20, 2012

Not my favorite flight...

Okay, here's what happened. The Southwest flight from Sac to LAX was a dream. We even got there early. Which I guess is good, but it made the wait for the night flight longer. So I arrived at LAX on Thursday the 5th at about noon. My night flight wasn't leaving until 10:10 p.m. So, I basically hung out at LAX for a really long time. Hours later the flight is finally ready to board... and we waited. And waited.... and waited... Around 10:45 p.m. it is announced that the plane we were supposed to take to Aus had been grounded by the mechanics. There was some serious icing damage to the electrics in the wings (we didn't find that out until later) and the flight had been rescheduled for the next morning at 9 a.m. They had to wait for a plane to come in from Australia. So they put us up at hotels for the night. I think I got stuck at the Crown Regency??? It was after midnight by the time we got to the rooms, and we were all exhausted and annoyed. I got maybe 45 minutes of sleep, then woke up with a rash all over my forearms and the right side of my face. Apparently I'm allergic to whatever they washed the pillow cases in. It was fun. I thought at first that the place had bed bugs, because the rash initially presented with pinprick red dots. But within a half hour I had full fledged hives. It was great. I finally fell asleep on the couch around 4:30, and the wake up call to get us back to the airport came in at 5 a.m. Not a happy camper.

We all got checked through security. Again. And then we got loaded onto a plane. And were told that the flight was waiting on three passengers to show up at the gate. We waited for 20 minutes. Then were told that the passengers had been found! We cheered! Then we were told the passengers had decided to take a different flight to Sydney... and we'd be delayed another 20 minutes while their baggage was located. We groaned. Eventually we got off the ground. Smoothest take off I have ever been privileged to experience. We climbed up to about 25,000 feet before all the alarms in economy class went off. Fire Alarms. Some of us were alarmed. Sorry. Bad pun there. Actually lots of us were a bit freaked out by this, especially when the lights dimmed down to nothing, then blinded us when they came back up. Then off again and one again, and the alarm is going and the kids are either laughing or screaming... Then the alarm stopped, and the lights went back to normal. The stewards were still rushing around like speed addicted ferrets however, so we all knew something was up. The captain came on over the intercom a few minutes later and apologized to us all for the delayed flight, all three delays, and let us know that the plane was just fine, but that there was some sort of electrical fault with the economy cabin. *sighs* So, for the next six hours we got to deal with lights dimming and brightening, extremely loud music getting blasted through the intercom, the entertainment computers on the backs of the seats going down without warning and lastly (which didn't really affect us) the off duty area for the stewards had no air conditioning. Which meant that the poor stewards couldn't get away from us for 15 hours. We only had to deal with 6 hours of electronic weirdness. The stewards got to deal with 15 hours of severely irritated and pissed off passengers. What made it worse, was that it was a day flight. You can't just sleep and wake up in the morning. We got into Sydney a full 11 hours later than we were supposed to. It was great. Honest.

From the airport I had intended to just take a shuttle into North Sydney so I could be dropped off at the place I was going to stay for a week. Except by the time I trudged out of customs, I didn't want to bother with trying to figure out how to use a shuttle, let alone try to hail one. So, I went for what I did know. Which was the train system. I got a week pass for Trains, Buses and Ferries from the ticket counter. I love that all I have to do is get a pass for a week. Saves a lot of time and money. Then I took the elevator down, climbed on a train to Town Hall, and got off at Circular Quay. Got on the Ferry to go to North Sydney, and got off at my stop. The only hitch I had was that I had completely forgotten about all the stairs. Heh. Fortunately a very nice gentleman who was going out with his family helped me all the way up to the top of the stairs. From there I was able to just roll everything to the top of the street, take a left, and then up to the Lodge. I checked in, went up to my room, with the help of the front desk clerk, and pretty much just passed out. I was totally exhausted. I only got about 45 minutes of sleep on the plane, and then I was awake. I think I watched most of the movies they had on the flight. And TV shows. Given that I hadn't been sleeping well even before I got on the planes, I think I was awake for almost 3 days straight. I've done it before, but it is not something I am willing to repeat in the future. Although, given my track record, I probably will end up pulling marathon days again.

I'll get back to the second Sydney adventure soon. :)

Thursday, July 19, 2012


Judging from most conversations I've heard from parents who have sent their kids off the college, and from conversations I've heard from said kids, they
don't eat very well. They live on fast food, or potato chips, or most famously, 3 minute ramen noodle packs. As an alternative they may choose to go with cup o'noodle instead. However, all that is packed with something I have difficulty eating. Wheat/gluten. Which means, when I came here, I knew I'd be cooking for myself for the most part. Yes, I have found a couple of things that I can eat from the local on campus cafe. But it's only one thing. Green Chicken Curry. It's what I had for dinner on Tuesday... and then for lunch the next day.

So, it doesn't look green, but it sure tastes like green curry and it's got a healthy amount of veggies in there with all that rice. I got rice to go with it when I bought it. Originally I went down to the cafe to get Hot Cocoa, but ended up coming home with dinner! Anyway, it is very very good, and I will probably be getting more when I'm too exhausted to stand over a burner with a pan or pot.

Believe it or not I've only grabbed take-away once since I've been here... ok, that might be a small lie on my part. There was the smoked salmon sushi that I got for lunch the same day I got curry, but that was only once... twice. There was lunch in Perth this afternoon too...

Anyway, for the most part I've been cooking!

This was dinner on Wednesday!

It took less than 20 minutes to make and it was absolutely scrumptious! I didn't pick up the recipe from anywhere, but you can probably find something similar online I'm sure. This made two servings easy, so you could technically make it, and set half aside for lunch or dinner the next day. Easy to reheat in a frying pan or pot. Or if you MUST, you can use the microwave.
For reasons I will not go into, I'm not a fan of the microwave.

If you'd like to make this yourself, it's fairly simple. Here's what you'll need:

Chicken (whatever make and model you want)
Capers (preferably in their vinegar juices)
Green Beans (however many you want... within reason)
Garlic (one section should do)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Sea Salt in a grinder
Lemon (one should do ya)

I used boneless chicken thigh fillets, but you can probably do this with any piece of chicken you want... although I suspect that it turned out so well, because I was using the brown portions of the chicken. Breast or white parts may dry out kinda fast. Anyway, I went with thigh fillets off a chicken. 4 of them. In Aus they pack these critters up in little boxes which is darned convenient for marinating things.

First of all, during the afternoon put your choice of chicken pieces into a bowl, or use the little tub they came in, and dump in some Extra Virgin Olive Oil, a healthy load of fresh squeezed lemon, and ground sea salt, then cover it and put it back in the fridge and leave it there for several hours. Don't wash the chicken! I know everyone says to rinse it, but you'll be cooking these little suckers at some fairly high heat, and trust me, if you do the cooking correctly, it kills all the nasties that may be lurking in your chicken. If you don't cook the chicken right then... Just cook the chicken until it's white all the way through.

If you cut open your chicken and you see PINK; IT'S NOT DONE!

When you feel like cooking dinner, put a frying pan on the stove top, and dump in some Olive Oil. I usually just put in a splash, but you can add however much you want. Then get the garlic clove, put it on a hard surface, and use the flat side of a large cutting knife to smash it. This does two things. It shoves the garlic out of its wrapping, and it opens up the insides of the clove. Don't do anything else to the garlic after you crush it. Just take the wrapping off, and put the soft stuff into the pan. Then turn on the heat, up to medium heat or so. My stovetop has 6 settings. I set mine of 4, so maybe that's medium high??? Anyway, let the pan stand for a bit, and get out your green beans.

Wash off the green beans, then cut off the ends, and chop the remaining portion of the beans in half. You're not using the ends, so you can toss those. (sorry, I had to say that because someone is going to use the ends, and not the bean if I don't.) Then set them aside in a bowl for later. Also you should cut your lemon in half at this point, if you haven't already done it. Your pan should be relatively hot now, so go ahead and put your chicken into the frying pan. It may not immediately sizzle, which is alright. You sort of want these to slow cook for a bit in with the garlic.

When the chickens looks like it's turning white on the bottoms and side, get a lemon half, and squeeze the heck out of it over the chicken pieces. Then add salt, and flip the chicken over. It'll probably sizzle this time, and possibly spit at you, so be careful. Then add about half the bottle of capers to the pan. You want the juice in there too, so don't freak if you end up with that in there as well. Move everything in the pan around with a flipper or spoon, or tongs or whatever.

Just let it cook. When the chicken looks like it might be done, carefully cut open the biggest piece of chicken and see if it's white or almost white inside. If it is, then add your green beans, and use the second half of the lemon at this stage on the entire pan. Keep everything moving in the pan from this point on. Stir, or flip, but keep it moving. When the green beans start to look a little like your fingers after too long the bath, your dinner is done!

Hope you enjoy!

If you're wondering what type of wine would go well with this? I have no idea. Sorry. This is what went with my dinner. I'm really not into alcoholic beverages.

Anyway, whatever you have with the food, the dish is best enjoyed while it's hot. I know this because I had 4 mouthfuls of it while it was hot, and stopped because I knew I'd inhale it if I didn't stop there. So, I emailed Mom the recipe, and then went back to it while it was warm. STILL good, but it was better when it was hot.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Room...

Those of you who were waiting for the 'Hell Flight' installment, will have to wait a bit. Family wanted to know what my room looked like, and how I was settling in. Truly settling in, I think, will take some time. Little things will tell me that I've settled in, such as, not having the bus driver yell an answer at me (which was sort of his fault because he was mumbling, and I could not hear him over the screaming 2 year old). Or not having to ask the at the library if I needed to get an library card, or if my student ID worked for that as well. It does.

Also, it might interest some of you (those that teased about coming here to find a guy) to know that a great many people here have, in the course of attempting to be polite, addressed me as 'Sir'. Someone other than myself would find this incredibly insulting. I, however, find myself rather amused. Most of these episodes happened when I was wearing on of my baseball caps. I suspect it is highly unusual for a female here to wear such a thing. Perhaps I am wrong. But I am still highly amused. :) So, I say to those who said I was coming to find a guy.... I don't think it's gonna happen. Sorry. Given that they already think I'm a guy. ;)

*small pause while I laugh.... a LOT*

Anyway! On to the pictures of my small studio apartment. Believe it or not, I once occupied a room smaller (and MUCH colder) than this. If you don't believe me, please feel free to check facts with my sister and parents. They can testify to my former room's tininess. So, here we go.

That is my front door, with a really big electronic lock on it. One of many on this building. If I forget my room key, I'm screwed. Heh, kidding. I just have to call an Resident Assistant, and they'll glare, huff, and let you in. And possibly charge me $10 for bothering them with such foolishness. ... There's the little kitchen, stove top, microwave below (so I can microwave my knees... which is why I tend not to like microwaves) and a sink and drainboard. There's lot of cupboard/drawer space below, and under the sink, management has hidden a vacuum. Which I do intend to use... eventually. I'm not a terribly messy person.

And if you turn you back on the front door and small kitchen, you have my work space, bedroom, bathroom on the left, and clothes storage on the right. There is a little heater attached to the wall next to the bed, and it works pretty well. I tend to use it at night as it gets a bit chilly in here. During the day it's fine, but at night it cools off quite impressively. It's actually fairly spacious for a studio apartment. I was expecting a lot less floor space. Oooh, and I lucked out! I got a corner apartment, which means I got two windows!!

That's the window on the right wall past the storage area, and then there's one above my bed, although the shade it closed on it. Night time and all, it helps keep the heat in. Mr Kitty snuck into the picture. I didn't realize he was there until after I uploaded it. Anyway, I'll leave it that way. :)

Next up we have my work desk! Complete with shelves to hold work materials and stuff for fun. Which I generally need a lot of when working my way through confusing materials. Or for when I just need something to smile at. If you're wondering what I was watching on the computer, it was a Midsomer Murders episode, and I'm not sure which one. I've been watching a lot of those. The item hanging off the side there is my coat, which SHOULD be hanging in the closet, but out of place stuff makes me feel more comfortable. Hopefully there's nothing embarrassing laying out for all to see... then again, I'm not sure I care.

So, that basically completes the tour of my room. No, I will not be showing photos of my bathroom. Who wants to see a bathroom??? It's nothing to write about, I can tell you that much. Although, there is a nice picture of my freshly made bed, with clean sheets, nicely lit by the morning sunshine. Sadly, a thorough washing did nothing to soften the linens. They're still scratchy and will undoubtedly succeed in giving me a rash. The good news is, the duvet cover no longer smells like moldering fish, which I suspect can be blamed squarely on the packing material it arrived in. :)

Yes, sadly it does resemble a prison bed, but at least it's comfy and warm at night. Which is all I really ask.
... now, to do something about the sheets....

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Life Turned Upside Down

Okay, first off I apologize for not getting this up with all due haste upon arriving. Due to some odd circumstances with a certain airline that shall remain only slightly nameless (because I might end up mentioning it accidentally), my trip to college got off to a bit of a rocky start. Rest assured though, I got to my new college and am settled (settling in still, really) into a new life.

But before we get to that, I guess I should give you all a clue as to where I
went? Okay, here's a clue.

Sorry, the pigeon made me do it.

Here is the real clue. It's a big clue, so I'm hoping you'll all get it. A word of warning however, it gives you a clue to where I am, but not my percise location. I'll give get to that later. I DID however spend a week here, mostly sleeping and goofing off.

Sydney would've been a great place to go to University, because I know how to get around there. I'm familiar with most of it, and I know where not to go, but alas I couldn't find the classes I wanted, nor do I think I could've afforded the tuition. Although those may have changed since the last time I looked. Who knows. It IS certainly one of my favorite places on Earth, and I loved my time there. Given half a chance I'll be back there at the drop of a hat. >:)

I guess I should start out by explaining that I had trouble finding a school in the States that I actually wanted to attend, and could afford at the same time. I was told I would be put on a wait list. Or my inquires were never answered. Or I was told "Yes! We'd be very happy to have you! Just give hand over your arm, your leg and any future children you may have." Or the application fee to even see if I could get in was more than a month's salary. While I wasn't making a huge fortune every month, it was still a healthy chunk of change, and I didn't want to part with that just for a 'Yay' or a 'Nay'. I'm exaggerating a bit.

So, one day, in a rather disillusioned state, I found myself looking at a study abroad program for a school I wasn't even attending. I might not have been attending the university, but they had a large amount of partner schools from all over the world. Which is how I found myself trolling through all these schools outside the U.S. and asking them questions about what classes they offered and how much it would be and a bunch of other things. Two schools got back to me. One in Germany, and one in Perth, Australia. I ended up going with the one in Perth. :)

So here I sit in a studio dorm room, with very little of my acquired life around me. When I say acquired, I mean stuff that makes me smile. Stuffed animals, action figures, books, posters, wall scrolls, etc. Yes, I know I sound like a kid, but I still love all that stuff. I did bring some of it, but not as much as I wanted to. I figured I'd better keep what I brought limited, considering I'd be living here and would end up buying a lot of stuff that I'd need. Surprisingly, I haven't gotten much. Just little things, that caught my attention. We're talking the frivolous items, like a key chain with a little robot at the end, and a wooden collapse toy. One of those things were you push the bottom, and the figure on the top collapses, but snaps back into place when you let go? I don't know the real name for those, but they're amusing! Everything else is for basic living needs. Towels, some dish ware.. a mug with Bugs Bunny on it. Okay, so the last may have been crossing the line into frivolous. ;)

It is a very different life I stepped into. Well, not too different. College/University is familiar in that there are still large buildings in which you sit down to learn something, and you're surrounded by people draped in backpacks, shoulder bags, and looks of glassy eyed exhaustion. There are still the coffee shops that serve all kinds of food I can't eat, (gluten issues) but would love to have anyway. One of the cafes here serves a really good Green Curry, which I scarfed down faster than I should have. They also make excellent hot chocolate! Another has sushi, which I've sampled and found to be pretty good. Especially the smoked salmon rolls... ohhh those were good. I haven't found all the nooks and crannies yet, but I'm working on it.

I'll have to tell the story of the flight from hell (possibly haunted) next time. Although I think some of you have already heard it. Could be wrong.