~Alexander Graham Bell
"Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun's rays do not burn until brought to a focus."
~Alexander Graham Bell
I woke up two days ago overwhelmed with the "to-do" blues. My day was planned out by the minute, and I literally couldn't even read the books I had just checked out from the library because I felt over scheduled. Five minutes later, I was on facebook reading away. What is that?! "I'm done." I thought. Deactivate.
At first I was worried. Don't I need to be visible so everyone back home can keep up with me? Won't I feel out of the loop with all my best friends? I did it anyways. It is absolutely incredible how much more productive I am. While I'm still a bit frazzled with my ever present to-do list, I know that I'm chipping away at it (and - bonus - studying something I love) instead of wasting precious time looking at the computer screen. I signed on to the ole fb in 2005. It's now 2012. For as long as I can remember, the first and last thing that I have done each day is check my news feed.
I think I'm done with that for a while - maybe even until Christmas. So if you find yourself wondering what I've been up to, come check here - now I'll have the time to actually keep up with it.
If I haven't updated, know that my life looks like books, journals, classes, Rotary, and a thesis. And that I miss you. Below is a picture of Welly from the other day - we were showin the seal how we dos it.
Still love it here - guess that means I chose well! It does beg the question however - to stay another year or to not stay another year? (In the works) :)
You're beating me. I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up - ergo - I don't know what you should be about. Damnit.
Melbourne is the food capital of the world.
This is a bold statement. Especially coming from someone who has been to New Orleans. And Rome. While Adolfo's on Frenchman Street remains at the center of my heart (two words - ocean sauce), Melbourne offered up treasures in food I did not see comin.
Like any smart tourists, Holly and I gleaned our dining information from the locals. It turns out one can become good friends with said locals by spending an excessive amount of money at their place of business. (Holly, Lululemon cough cough). Okay, I joined in on the fun. A few hundred dollars later, I'm officially on the Lululemon train - please go buy their sports-bra (another life changer) - but that's another post entirely.
While Holly was trying on her mountains of clothes, I struck up a friendship with a lovely young lady in a highlighter yellow shirt who seemed very excited about a discussion concerning food.
I've come to find that you can trust these ultra fit people when it comes to food. If you can weed out the sissies on weird diets who eat too much quinoa and not enough ice cream, they're a real wealth of knowledge. Another clue, they tell you the names of actual dishes instead of the names of places. "BEST espresso martini of my life. Expensive as shit, but so worth it." These are the people you want to seek out. Holly and I left Lulu with an iphone list of places to visit - and trust me, we wasted no time. Within minutes we were seated at Moat, an underground bar that reminded me very much of The Library in Wellington. It had this sort of cigar lounge feel to it, something I really love. Unfortunately, we had to sit and drink for a while before we could be served any food. Shucks.
Round 1 - Moat http://themoat.com.au/Welcome.html
They aren't on the menu anymore, but the first dish was these gorgeous meatballs topped with a rich velvety tomato sauce and parmesan shavings. We licked the bowl. Next, potted prawns with butter, shaved fennel, lemon zest and spices. Finally, carpaccio of green mountain veal crusted in fennel pollen with caperberries, pink grapefruit segments, preserved lemon butter. There was probably some wine tucked in that meal too...
Round 2 (aka Dinner #2 on the same night - that's how we roll) - Panama http://www.thepanama.com.au/
Upon arriving at this off the beaten path gem, there was a couple screaming at each other in the street in front. The lady half of this couple started throwin punches at which point the gentleman ran into the street and almost got hit by a moving bus. Yep, we had found another great place.
This time, we mixed it up a bit with zucchini flowers stuffed with two cheeses, roasted red peppers, tomato, chilli and capers. We also had this amazing ceviche and chestnut cake, but neither are on the menu anymore. Trust me, they were gorgeous.
Round 3 - Polly Cocktail Lounge http://www.pollybar.com.au/
Bourbon Butter - Makers, PB, Butterscotch Schnapps, Frangellico, Cream
Espresso Martini - Wyborowa Vodka, Vanilla Liquer, Coffe Liquer, Espresso
After a very full day of eating, shopping, and exploring, it was time for bed. We didn't even make it past 10 pm. Amateur hour. Don't worry, we were up bright and early and ready to do it again the next day - a day that led us to the best places yet.
Aspro Ble deserves a billboard. A book, a chapter in the Bible. I don't know, something. It's incredible. The food made me want to board a plane to Positano and lay amongst the whitewashed houses with all the goats. It's just beautiful. Lamb souvlaki, sagaki, calamari and prawn wontons with a lemon caper sauce, baklava, and loukoumades. At the end of this meal, I was beggin the good lord for mercy, because I did not think I could stand up from the chair. I used to think I didn't like baklava. When Holly ordered, I rolled my eyes in my head and thought "What is this, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants? Amateur hour over here!" I was wrong. This baklava changed my life with every. single. bite. I can't even talk about it anymore.
And finally, with the blessing of the great Annie Bergman, I visited her old stomping groups. Lygon Street in Carlton. For those of you who have never heard of it, imagine a street that smells of tomatoes and basil. A street full of italians and greeks all calling out for your business. "Basta! Basta! This is the one for you!"
An old Italian man stopped us as we were walking by. "What does this sound like to you? What kind of music ees dis?" "Um, I think that's techno. Definitely techno." "See son, I told you this was techno! Absolute trash." "Ladies, would you like a CD?" And along we went. Next door down - "You stop in here for lunch, we give you 30% off your whole bill." We continue walking, drawn down the street by the promise of that one hidden gem. Unlike yesterday, we came to Lygon Street unarmed with our arsenal of local knowledge, trusting that the wind would blow us in the right direction. (I ended up asking a lady at a kitchen store where to go. I couldn't risk it, but don't tell Holly). To Tiamo we go. I knew when we got there that this was the place. San Pellegrino in glass, the magic arrives. It is in the form of a truffle and mushroom handmade tortellini. With the eggplant and chicken parmigiana, absolute and utter nirvana. I was never sure what that naked baby was swimming after in the blue water, but I've finally found it. It is Tiamo chicken parmigiana. It is Aspro Ble Baklava. It is here, in Melbourne, the greatest food city in the world.
Occasionally you put something in your mouth that is holy shit good. There's just no other way to describe it.
In search of dessert good enough for a breakup (Melbourne is the perfect place to be if one finds themselves doing some relationship chopping) we ended up at Koko Black. The world's best food recommenders, the employees of Lululemon, pointed us in the right direction. This understated beacon of deliciousness was located on the Paris end of Collins Street, home to many a happy food experience.
It started with the "Belgian Spoil" - described as a "traditional chocolate platter including walnut brownie, two pralines, florentine, ice cream, and mousse. " Holy. Shit. Good. The ice cream tasted like a Disney movie - delicious, emotional, beautifully colored, deep in meaning while basic on the surface, just all of it. A ridiculous medley of tastes that took me by surprise. This mousse was the lightest but most decadent icing ever created. The raspberry puree in a dark chocolate ganache kind of sent me over the edge at this point. Holly and I exchanged nothing but curse words for about five minutes. That's it, just intermittent periods of silence and cussing.
Within twenty-four hours, we found ourselves back on Collins Street. The iced coffee, equally decadent, went right down the hatch and jacked me up for hours. We loaded up on chocolates for "our travels" (yea right, they barely made it into my purse) and continued the day in our chocolate induced reverie.
Look, I eat a lot of chocolate. I cannot remember a day in the last six months that I didn't eat at least a small amount. Embarrassingly, (judge free) I eat it for breakfast far too often. This is probably the reason I'm such a happy person. When I tell you this is the best chocolate I've ever eaten in my entire life, you should believe me. If you ever go to Australia, go to Koko Black. It beat all the European chocolate I've tried, and that's sayin something. Maybe they should sponsor me or send me free samples or something.?
June 11 was a very special day. Holly and I had embarked on our tour de Australia and were hitting the Great Ocean Road with full force. On day two of our long drive, we were informed that we'd be stopping. Koalas en masse lived along this stretch. After about a half hour of ecstatically searching through the trees, there were no koalas. Dejectedly, I moped around the little side street like Eeyore, feelin realll blue. Finally, one was spotted. High in the canopy of the Eucalyptus tree, there he was. I think. I could barely make him out. No matter, I stared up at him for a solid few minutes, crickin my neck and wondering how it would be received if I put my tree climbing skills to the test - just to become one with nature you see. I had not realized at this point Holly was not next to me until I heard a "Casey...come here." She was whispering. "What is this fool doing?" I thought. Why isn't she staring at this koala with me? "Fine, I'm coming." I followed her off the path and into some front yards. And there, 8 inches from my head - was a koala. A real, furry, grey eared, beautiful koala. My eyes filled with tears and I didn't breathe in case he heard me - just stood there staring. Holly started laughing. This is the first time she fully experienced my ridiculous love for animals...not the "oh yea, I LOVE puppies" kind most people have. This is the kind where you can feel your soul connect with theirs when you're around them - the kind where you feel a common empathy across the wavelengths that flow between your heart and theirs. AKA - It's freakin serious man.
Because of Holly's brilliant execution of the koala mission, no one followed us, ensuring that we had prime time access to this leaf plucker. After about 7-10 minutes of intense eye connection with the koala, I realized that he really wasn't that interested in me. Was I green and in the form of a toxic leaf? Nope. I think this sealed the deal as the end of our relationship, but I still had a hard time walking away. As we sat back down in our little bus a few minutes later, I broke out my little blue notebook to pen down some thoughts. I am not sure what happened to my penmanship at this juncture (not that I've ever had any) but the stuff that ended up on the page is barely intelligible.
From these scribblings, some real gems - "Furry grey ears, heart almost stopped." "Freckled nose and long dark fingers. Pluck from the leaves as he snaps them from the limbs." "Wondering if he was real. He looks like a little bear, fat and soft. Maybe yoda. My heart feels happy."
The next day, we headed to a mini wildlife refuge. For ten bucks, you could have a "koala encounter." I'm not sure how much closer I could get to one, but Holly looked at me when I was considering. "Yea, right. Go give them your money." Oooookay. Great days in Australia.
The late Garner Wayne had quite the way with words. For instance:
"I'll be yours and I'll be true and I'll lay lots of eggs for you. I'll be yours for the rest of my life." Followed by lots of chicken clucks.
New Zealand has us on a lot of things. Country music is not one of them. For your listening enjoyment, have a listen to this classic New Zealand country song. Happy Wednesday!
Tom Farrar, devishly handsome in his double-breasted blazer, is also celebrating his birthday today. He is turning 82. As we are new friends, I take this shared date to strike up a conversation with Tom. I wonder – what was New Zealand like when he was my age? Eighty-two seems like a lot of years. What has he learned in all his time?
On the eve of my 25th birthday, I’m lost in thought. What have I learned in these years? What has Tom learned? And have we – so far apart in space and time – come to any of the same conclusions? “Travel. A lot” he says. "Do it young. It will change your life, your perspective, and your relationships. Education is hugely important. It has the power to change your life completely.” Another check. “Don’t try and give advice to your kids about how grandchildren should be handled.” I think I’ve got a while to worry about that, but I’ll file it away nonetheless.
I walk home from our Rotary meeting carrying Tom’s words, and wondering what he'd say if I actually gave him time to reflect on his years. What has fifty years of marriage taught him? Maybe I'll corner him another time on that subject.
While sitting in my Development Policy paper, I make a list – twenty-five lessons for twenty-five years. When I lay my head down to sleep, the gears in my mind keep turning, forcing me to get back to my computer and write. I'm not sure what other lessons are headed my way in life, but I can only hope I learn them in such a blazing and wonderful set of years as the last 24 have been. How will I ever be able to top them? Some might feel regret at all the should have and would haves behind them. Not me. I'm happy, fulfilled, and ready to mold the next 25 into something even greater. I wonder, is it even possible?
I’m not sure what Tom would have to say about this list, but I hope he thinks I’m on the right track.
I’ve never had a birthday quite like this one. I’m absolutely amazed by the friends I’ve made here – how every single one has something inside of them that absolutely radiates. Like sunshine, they’ve brightened my birthday in New Zealand.
Birthday Eve started with a birthday song serenade from twenty wonderful ladies and gentlemen from Wellington South. Next came a team Alaska versus Arkansas jenga tournament win ($100 bar tab yeyeaaaaaaa!!), followed by some birthday cake shots (and maybe some tequila shots) at my favorite bar. http://www.thecross.co.nz/
On the morning of the 31st, I woke up to a cloudless sky and sunshine. I swooped Kaitlin up for a walk into town - an apple turnover at Le Moulin and a walk through the always impressive Moore Wilson's (Whole Foods on crack). Next it was back to school for presentation prep at which point myself and my lecturer dressed up as "goodwill fairys" and tip toed around the classroom (throwing candy and dancing like fools). After the presentation ended, the entire class sang Happy Birthday. There I was, covered in glitter with a magic wand, angel wings, and a tiara on my head thinking "I'm in the right place." A dinner of fajitas, cake, movies, and margaritas was the cherry on top of this wonderful day - with the most wonderful people in the most wonderful place. Thank you everyone for making me feel so special.
"Go forth on your path, as it exists only from your walking." Saint Augustine