Silence Broken

Hello blogosphere!

After a very, very, VERY long hiatus, I’ve decided to come back to 13 Hours Later and re-vamp it a bit for the next stage of my life.

Since my last post in May of 2013, (yikes, 4 years ago!) quite a bit has happened to me. Here are some of the major highlights and updates:

August 2013 – I ran my first marathon with my mom by my side.

First Marathon
City to Surf Marathon 2013

May 2014 – I changed careers from journalism (thanks to redundancy) to travel, where I have remained until I began my maternity leave this week.

August 2014 – My youngest sister Nora came to live with us for 4 months and many MANY fun times were had. We still talk all the time about how much we miss having her around.

October 2014 – I got married to the love of my life and the man who brought me to his homeland of Australia.

Matt and Emma's Wedding
October 2014 Wedding

November 2016 – Nora and I went to New Zealand’s south island for a week long vacation through an Aussie youth travel company called Topdeck. We had unforgettable adventures, met cool people, and even got to bungy jump for what I can only assume will be just the first time.

New Zealand Trip
New Zealand 2014 with Nora

February 2015 – Our mini-honeymoon in Phuket

Thailand 2015
Phi Phi Island 2015

May 2015 – Matt and I bought our first house.

September 2015 – I went on a work trip to Mauritius. The fact that it counted as “work” still baffles me, it was an amazing trip!

 

February 2016 – I went back to school (I am studying Physiotherapy – the Aussie equivalent to Physical Therapy).

March 2016 – I celebrated my 30th birthday with an awesome murder mystery party with my closest friends. It was easily the most fun I’ve had at my own birthday since I was a child.

April 2016 – My family lost my beloved maternal Grandmother, a major influence and primary cheerleader in my life.

Grandma and Me
Grandma and me at my high school graduation

July 2016 – Dad and I went on a trip to Alberta, Canada where we mostly hiked and ate amazing meals. With motherhood approaching I’m so glad we took the opportunity to do something like that while we still could.

IMG_3811
Dad in Banff

September 2016 – Found out I was pregnant with my first child.

36 weeks
36+ weeks (taken in April 2017)

October 2016 – I completed my STOTT Pilates certification and am now qualified to teach matwork. (Will hopefully add Barre and Reformer Instruction to my repertoire in the coming year once bub is born.)

Matwork Course
Now qualified to teach Pilates

With my son’s birth now only 2 or so weeks away (you never know for sure), I’ve been contemplating how to best capture his life in a lasting and meaningful way that both he and I can look back on in the years to come. Originally I’d considered keeping a journal, but being one of many slaves to the Marie Kondo revolution, I am loathe to add physical clutter to my life at this point in time.

I’ve also been obsessed by goal-setting since around the start of my second trimester. I can’t wait for everything I’ll be able to theoretically do again when I “get my body back.” While my expectations are glaringly unrealistic, I can’t help but crave accountability as reclaim my cherished athleticism.

So the new plan is to use this blog as part “adventures in motherhood,” part “finding myself postpartum.” I am prepared to expect the unexpected, and I can’t wait to lay out my plans over the next few days. Stay tuned!

5 Ways to Love Your Back

Welcome to the first post in my brand new 5 ways segment.  I thought I’d start simple, though my brain is absolutely bursting with ideas.

Back pain is one of the most comment complaints I hear (especially at work).  Along with fatigue, it seems to be one of those things that plagues absolutely everyone.  I suppose what’s compelled me to write this piece is that it appears no one is willing to actually address their aches at the source.  To beat tough pain, don’t go straight for the Advil.  Here are my tips to love and care for your back:

1. Foam Roller: You’ve probably seen this contraption at the gym.  It’s great for all sorts of injuries and tightness, but did you know it can help loosen your upper back and shoulders?  One more reason I’m sad my sister Rachel isn’t around; there’s no one to crack my back!  For that satisfying crunch to release tension, use a foam roller.

*DO NOT use any unfamiliar equipment without consulting a professional. Gym trainers and instructors are happy to help, so have one of them teach you how to use the roller properly. Otherwise consult a physiotherapist!

2. Lighten Your Load:  We’ve all been hearing this one since elementary school.  Students especially carry way too much heavy stuff.  It’s important that your back not be burdened by too much unnecessary weight.  So if you’re going out for the day, my suggestion is to carry a small shoulder bag or satchel rather than your heaping handbag with your whole life inside.  Really all you need is your phone, wallet and lip gloss, right?

*A tip for dudes: Lucky you that a wallet in the pocket is all you need! Don’t forget to remove wallet and phone from your pockets before sitting down (I know that sounds obvious, but not everyone does it).  Sitting for prolonged periods with your wallet in the back pocket is extremely hazardous to your back!

3. Change Your Footwear:  I can’t believe how many people out there are killing their backs with bad footwear.  This was the first change I made when I was feeling the burden of daily back pain.  I probably tried 5 different pairs of work shoes before finding gold.  I never thought I’d say it, but I am a convert to the church of Crocs.  Nowadays they make simple ballet flats, so you can get away with wearing them to work.  They are super supportive, comfortable, and they have done wonders for my lower back.  Even if you wear them for the commute, it will help your poor back and feet to relax before you throw on the professional pumps at the office.  For guys having issues, they make plenty of feet and back friendly shoes for gents as well.  If you aren’t ready to sacrifice a bit of style, perhaps look at investing in some high quality insoles.

4. Double Strap It:  This is another change that is so simple I can’t believe everyone hasn’t already done it.  I know it can look a bit dorky, but wearing a backpack to work has really helped my upper back and shoulders.  Rather than spending significant periods of each day feeling lopsided by a loaded purse or a weighty gym bag, a backpack is big enough to fit everything you need without killing your back.  Plus with the free hands, you can hold your umbrella AND text at the same time!

5. Treat Yourself: Regular massage is a great way to care for your back and to release tension.  I recommend getting one once a month.  If you’re an athlete like me, remedial sports massage or even appointments with the chiropractor can be a great way to recover from training.  Massages don’t need to break the bank; check your local Scoopon/Groupon/OurDeal and you’ll find regular posts for discounted treatments.

And there you have it, my 5 tips to love your back.  See you soon for the next healthy helping of sound advice!

The Sounds of Summer

It’s been quite a busy spring, and I anticipate a crazy fun summer!  Sadly for me, a few of my friends will be away during their uni holidays.  Luckily plenty of us are staying behind to brave the 40+ degree heat (Celsius).  For my friend Claire and I, this will mean heaps of time to catch up on musical arrangements.

Back in July, I joined forces with some of my best friends to form an all-female a cappella group called “The Treble Clefs.”  Treble Clefs had its first gig a few weekends ago at a wedding.  We sang about 6 different songs, including a Shania Twain ballad while the bride walked down the aisle.  We got an onslaught of positive feedback, which was really wonderful.  It really motivated us to work hard to market ourselves well.  We still have a lot of work to do on the website, but I’ll be sure to link it when it’s ready to go.  I’m not really sure what the future holds for the group, but I’ve got numerous arrangements in the works, and it just feels so good to be singing again.

Aside from doing work for the a cappella group, I’m looking forward to another type of work in store for me this summer.  It’s nearly the end of my 6 months (allowed by my visa) at the hotel where I currently work.  So I’ve been frantically applying for new jobs so as not to be out of work at Christmastime.  I ended up landing a position at The Naked Fig.  It’s a beach-side cafe and restaurant that prides itself on being free trade, free range, organic, etc. 

The Naked Fig is actually part of a chain of Fig restaurants.  Matt and I had an amazing date last night at The Wild Fig.  It’s the latest in the franchise, and the closest one to our house.

I’m excited at the prospect of working at the beach.  I’ll try to take heaps of photos to give readers an idea of how beautiful this area is.  I feel like I hardly take advantage of living so near what are considered the top beaches in Australia.

The best part of my new job (besides the option of running out the door and into the ocean upon the completion of a shift) is the fact that I get to wear pretty much whatever I want as long as it’s black.  I was obnoxiously trying on everything black that I own to determine what is the cutest way to pull off my bright orange apron.

I’ve been feeling a little down lately about my immigration status.  I can’t wait until my visa comes through so I can have a bit of stability and take advantage of residency.  But then I remember all the great people I’ve met and the fun opportunities I’ve had.  And now I get to work at the beach!

This adventure of living abroad since college has brought me places I never knew existed.  I’m an incredibly lucky girl.  Recently I even saw two of the bigger current Australian celebrities!  I got to see the prime minister from about 20 feet away a few weeks ago, and this week I made a soy latte for one of the judges from Australia’s X Factor.  He was the first winner of Australian Idol so I suppose that would make him the Australian Kelly Clarkson. 

He caught me completely by surprise when I was busy making coffees (I’m often the morning barista at work, which can get pretty full on).  He came over to ask where he could get some orange juice.  I’m sure my eyes flickered when I recognized him.  I tried to be normal, but like I said, it totally caught me off guard.  We girls were all giddy the rest of the shift.  He was so nice and really good-looking in person.  It’s pretty surreal seeing someone in person when you’re used to seeing them on television.  Especially when you aren’t expecting it!

One Year Later

Well there you have it.  It’s been (over) a year since my initial touchdown on the sunny West Coast.  In these 12 months I have had 4 different jobs (and I’m starting training for the fifth on Tuesday), learned dozens of recipes, rediscovered my obsession with tea, found an amazing and tight-knit group of friends to call my own, reincorporated sports into my life, and over-scheduled myself almost every step of the way.  And all of this I’ve done with the best buddy a girl could ask for at my side.  Tonight we drove out to the beach before dinner to watch the sunset, and I told him he is still the person I most want to be around every minute of every day.

This past week we had our first “long” separation, tearing me away from him for three whole days and nights!  I went down south with my wonderful friends for Mike (Hannah’s boyfriend)’s birthday.  There were 8 of us on the trip and we rented a 4-bedroom house (cabin, to you Minnesotans) for the duration.  We drank tea, visited wineries, played pool, sat by the fire and generally enjoyed each others’ company.

My mother will confirm that I am not the world’s best packer.  I tend to fill my suitcase with books rather than clothes.  Knowing this was a purely social adventure, I was sure only to pack the one: The Weird Sisters.  I’d been saving it specially for the trip.  I’d read a review of it in the local paper.  The whole “it’s about three sisters” sentence was enough to get me hooked.

The trip was over before we knew it, which wasn’t so bad since we’d see each other at indoor soccer that same night anyway.  It was good to be back with Matt.  Our reunion hug lasted a longtime.  Poor guy had to stay home and work while the rest of us had fun.

The weekend prior to our sojourn, Hannah and I hit Burswood for dinner and a show.  (This is the giant entertainment complex where I work 4 nights per week.)  We had an amazing buffet and shared a bottle of cheap white, which actually didn’t taste too bad.  Then we excitedly headed over to the theater to take our seats for Wicked.  My girlfriends had chipped in for my ticket as a birthday present long ago, and we couldn’t believe the night was finally here!

Wicked is in town for a few more weeks.  Work’s been really crazy since it opened.  We’re booked every night it’s running, with myriads of diners fooling themselves into thinking they’re the only ones in the joint in a hurry.  Silly buddies.

I also finally started my job at the Duxton Hotel.  It’s easy as. (Hehe aussiespeak.)  I like the people and the atmosphere is quite relaxed.  They started me after the end of the financial year, making my tax return less complicated.  Matt has been anxiously awaiting our tax forms from each of our many employers, and today, we finally filled out the online applications.  I’m getting a boatload back, though it’ll probably be heading straight for my student loan payment account.

 

Red Velvety Goodness

On Thursday I was so stressed from the weight of this visa application, that I had no choice but to bake.  While cooking tends to stress me out even more, as I worry about every part of the process going wrong, baking I always find relaxing.  I love both, but baking really is much easier for me.  It’s what I learned to do first.

After Masterchef on Wednesday, I was dying to make red velvet cupcakes.  My friend, Colette, loves red velvet, but for her birthday cake we’d usually buy a box from Betty Crocker.  This was actually one of the first cake-like substances I’d made completely from scratch, including the icing.  And I don’t have an electric mixer, so it’s a bit of a strenuous process.

I got the recipe off allrecipes as per usual.  My favorite thing is looking through all of the comments and making my own modifications.  I found one woman who’d blogged about it, so I went to her site and took my cues from there.

It took a large chunk of the afternoon, but every part of the process went beautifully.  The batter was incredible.  Probably the best I’ve ever tasted (if I do say so myself).  They turned out really amazing.  Very moist and soft.

I ran into some issues when I made the icing.  The recipe called for far too much and I ended up throwing half of it away.  I didn’t want it to be thick and chalky, so I added about half the amount of icing sugar.  It turned out thinner than I’m sure it was supposed to, but it had a light and creamy quality.  It was a mix of cream cheese, sour cream, butter and sugar, but the taste has a light, lemony tang.  It’s ever so slight, but it’s there.

Since the frosting wasn’t too thick, it spread out of the cups quite quickly.  I had to be really careful.  I sprinkled them generously and there they are.  Two days later and the icing isn’t congealed and hard, it’s still as smooth as the first day.  I would recommend an adjustment to the level of icing sugar if you do attempt this recipe.

I brought one to work last night (as promised) for my supervisor, Jen.  As she was eating it back of house, the chefs pointed wildly and began telling her about the catastrophes of Wednesday’s Masterchef (when the contestants forgot to buy the red food coloring).  I laughed and admitted to them my inspiration for making them.  Head chef came out and starting singing the Betty Crocker song, and I loudly protested, “How DARE you? I made them from scratch, FROM SCRATCH!”  It was a nice moment.  You know when the chef starts teasing you that you’re an accepted member of the kitchen.

Yesterday was also the big day for my visa application.  I turned it in first thing in the morning.  Here is a photo of its sheer girth.  I am so happy it’s finally out of our hands.  We did have a few mishaps in the turn-in process, but it’s all over now and I feel an enormous sense of relief.  I have to work all weekend, so I won’t be celebrating anytime soon.  But after sacrificing a lot of sporting commitments this week, I finally get back out on the pitch Sunday morning.  I cannot wait!

Oh! Before I sign off, here’s the link if you’d like to make your own red velvets: http://www.carrottopmom.com/?p=290

6 degrees between me and everything else

Almost three weeks ago now, I started a new job at a lovely fine dining place called (A)Lure.  While I missed the Subi terribly at first, it hasn’t been too bad a transition.  All restaurants are basically the same once you chisel down to the core.  Sure it takes a bit to learn the menu, the “sequence of service” (I hate that expression with a fiery passion) and the general hierarchy of the place.  But once you’ve clicked in with the vets of the joint, you’ll never fall from grace.

I’ll be loathed to part from the one particular friend I have made.  Her name is Amy and she’s in a hotel management program at uni.  She studies half the year and works during the other half.  It’s been quite awhile since I met such a driven 19-year-old.  What has struck me most about this girl is her open attitude to life.  She’s from a small country town several hours out of Adelaide in South Australia.  She’s very close to her family and she’s definitely a self-starter.

One thing we bonded over immediately was French.  She’s dying to learn French, and is fascinated to hear all about my life.  She’s also a newly avid reader.  She informed me her parents never really read to her as a child.  As a result she’s never been a fast reader nor has she been an enthusiastic one until now.  Books had just never been her parents’ passion.  It scares me to think how many kids grow up in homes without books.  Amy is lucky to be so studious and ambitious, but what about all of the other kids out there who simply miss the literary boat?

Amy also shares my passion for cooking, which was the topic of our latest conversation on Tuesday.  She learns to cook as part of her studies, and I couldn’t be more jealous!  We talked about techniques and recipes and everything in between during our 2-hour break between service.  I told her how working in restaurants has allowed me to explore food in a way I’d never been open to in the past.  Half of the things I was unwilling to touch as a kid are now some of my favorite foods due to exposure in the workplace.  I still cannot believe it took me until I was 21 to learn how much I love mushrooms!

My latest awakening revolves around fresh tomatoes.  I made a pasta salad with fully plump and uncut cherry tomatoes for Matt’s surprise party the other week.  While tasting the finished product, I forced myself to stomach an uncooked tomato to really get a feel for the whole dish.  It went beautifully with the orange and yellow peppers, the mozzarella, and of course, the chorizo.  I try bites of raw tomato every now and again in attempts to entice my taste buds into accepting them into their repertoire.  Finally, SUCCESS!  I am especially excited because I can now include tomatoes in my omelets.  Though it still may be awhile before I’m incorporating them into my sandwiches.  That will certainly be the last frontier.

When I lived with my dear friends, Colette and Maureen, I was the resident Eggmaster.  I made us eggs all the time.  Scrambled, with a bit of cheese and whatever else we had in the house.  We ate so many eggs that I’ve hardly ever felt in the mood for them since.  This morning was a rare occasion.  Tomatoes were the only useable ingredient in the house, so I had my very first tomato omelet with black pepper (which I only realized I liked while working at the Subi).  We also happened to have multigrain toast in the house, making it a perfect breakfast.

Switching gears for a moment, I have to recount this incredible occurrence from last night.  It was the player of the month dinner for Floreat Athena Football Club, and all the teams gathered to eat, drink and cheer on the victors.  The announcements started with the social team, then us (the women’s) and proceeded to work its way up through all of the men’s teams to the 1st team (the boys who are out there making the club proud, in theory).  The guy they called up from the first team is an import.  They said he was Welsh, and as he strutted up to the podium, lightning struck and I realized I’D MET HIM BEFORE.  I said as much to my teammates and they assumed I was either joking or insane.

Afterward I approached him and we confirmed it.  His name is Mark, and he and a friend of his gave my friend Megan and I a more personalized tour of Wales last April.  I still can’t believe I recognized him.  It made sense when I first made the connection, because in Wales he’d explained he was a professional football player.  There are seemingly 100s of soccer clubs in WA.  What are the odds?!?

This encounter got me thinking about connections last night.  How strange that it took less than a year for me to run into someone I’d met outside Australia.  So many things had to fall into place for me to meet him again.  Plus, had he not won player of the month and had they not mentioned he was Welsh, who knows if I’d have even made the connection?!

But chance encounters are not the only sort of connections on my mind.  Books, food, music, everything I love is a result of someone else showing me the light in one way or another.  From working in restaurants, I’ve discovered I love blue cheese, quiche, mushrooms, black pepper and hundreds of other little foods.  In France, my friends and their families introduced me to rabbit, profiteroles, foie gras, pumpkin soup, and countless other dishes.  I feel I’m merely a few steps away from every food and fragrance in the world.  All of this travel and all of my experiences since leaving Edina, MN when I was 18 have expanded my horizons in ways I never imagined possible.  I am the luckiest.

Surprise Attacks

Matt has been spoiled rotten with two birthday celebrations this year, and it’s not even real his birthday until Monday.  I haven’t been at liberty to write about it of late, but we (his friend Danny and I) threw him a surprise party.  I know it was a shocking and incredibly humbling experience for him.  The aim was to show our love and appreciation and I think for some it was an awesome excuse to wear a costume.  The theme was the letter M, and some people went out and got very creative with it.  We even had 3 Mad Hatters who managed to look nothing alike!

Part two of the festivities occurred today.  Matt organized for all of his friends to go paintballing at a place about 1/2 hour outside of the city.  I’d never been before and I have to say it was a really fun experience overall.  I did get one shot to the head, which hurt like heck, and at one point my gun malfunctioned, but I still managed to go through 600 pellets in 6 or 7 rounds.  100 of those bullets I won by being the first person of my team to reach a “bomb” being protected by our opponents.  Once you’re hit, you’re out until the next round, so I was quite proud of my own stealth.  I did have quite a bit of help in the form of backup from my fabulous teammate and friend, Lauren.

Besides planning stuff for Matt, I did manage to get a good job right as I was leaving the Subiaco Hotel.  I was devastated to leave that job, but now I’ve completed my first week or so at (A)Lure.  It’s a fine dining restaurant and quite high brow.  I like the people and the management are great, but I do still miss my old job.  I suppose I need to give it a little longer to get a better feel.  Many of the girls I’ve started bonding with are actually leaving in a few weeks.  We have new staff starting next week, and I’ll be glad not to be at the bottom of the food chain soon.