Sunday, February 24, 2013

Quest in, quest out, quest in.

From Valentine's Day and beyond!

We had our first Valentine's Day in the same country this year. It was a wonderful day! Not everyone gets into Valentine's. But I love it! I started by baking cookies for Paul's Mum. We dropped those off the day before Valentine's. I also baked up some banana muffins for Paul to wake up to on Valentine's Day. While he was working his butt off at work I was at home baking my butt off. I had some conversation heart sugar cookies to make and decorate. I also decorated our service apartment a bit. We needed to pick up some wine for the occasion. So we went out to pick that up & got home just in time for a breath taking sunset. We had a delicious dinner prepared my my main squeeze, and dessert was prepared by yours truly.

I framed some areas on the map around Western Australia that have some significance to Paul and I.

Red jocks for obvious reasons!

Mr. F approves!

Conversation heart sugar cookies & Looper peeking thru. We really enjoyed the movie Looper. We've seen it a couple times already & still aren't finished dissecting it yet. So I picked it up for V-day!

Paul looking very suave with the rose he gave me. I also got a gift voucher for a colour and cut at a fancy salon! I've been complaining that I don't know where to go to get my hair coloured. He's such an attentive boyfriend :)

We sat outside before dinner to enjoy some wine and take in the sunset.

A pink sky on pink day! Is there anything better?!

My makeshift heart chandelier and our wonderful dinner!

We had salmon with baby spinach and baked potatoes.

Sunday the 17th we went to the cemetery with Paul's Mum and brother where Paul's Dad's plack is.  It was the biggest cemetery I've ever been in. There were head stones that dated back to the very late 1800's there. I wanted to take pictures. But couldn't decide if it was socially acceptable. After the cemetery Paul and I decided to do a bit of driving around to antique shops and touristing around Fremantle. We went to Memorial Hill. At the top of the hill is a beautiful structure to remember those lost in battle. The 360 degree view around us at the top of the hill was amazing! 

We finished our day with dinner at the Bather's Beach markets. Our go-to spot for Saturday Night eats and entertainment.

This past weekend Paul had to fly home on Friday and back on Saturday. We did a bit of moving around. We had to check out of our service apartment and into a hotel for a weeks time. Then check out of the hotel while Paul flew home and I moved into Casa De Dempsey on Friday. The Dempsey's were great to put us up for the weekend while Paul had to fly home and back to W.A. We had lots of fun with the handsome couple and their lovely girl (as per usual). Amy and I did some shopping while the boys played Daddy daycare We even got out to Bather's Beach Markets for some funky music and tasty food! Charlotte did her fair share of entertaining us. The weather is quickly becoming cooler in the evenings. Poor Paul had to give me his jumper. I was freezing.

On Sunday we checked out of Casa De Dempsey and back into the Quest apartments. We started our day at the growers markets with the Dempsey girls. We had a tasty brekkie and managed to pick up a fair bit of our fresh fruit and veg. Then we popped over to Mum's to pick up the rest of our junk. We did a bit more grocery shopping for everything else. Note to self to avoid the grocery store on a Sunday! It was a mad house. We finally made it to the Quest at about 2pm to check in. We got the car unpacked, then met up with Danny and Hayley girl for some ice cream. We all had some melty cones from Ciscerello's, and some running races with Hayley. Well, Paul and her Daddy did the running. I managed to weasel my way out of running. After the ice cream Paul and I wondered back to the Esplanade Park for a Concert put on for a good cause. There were several acts and demonstrations through out the day in a fight to keep a gas hub out of the Kimberley. The Kimberley is a large area of land up North in Australia. It is on sacred ground to the Indigenous people here. The Kimberley is a vast and beautiful place. I haven't been there yet. But I hope to get there sooner vs later. There are even dinosaur prints still preserved there!

We caught the last act which was the John Butler Trio. They put on a wonderful show. Such an amazing musician. He pulled out about four guitars, a harmonica, and a banjo. He even played one of the songs he used to play while busking in the Freo Markets from nearly 17 years ago. We listened to about four songs before we made our way back to the quest for some dinner.

Awkward faces in the background!

We're back in the Quest for another 26 days. As nice as it would be to be in our own home-we do have a fully furnished apartment with a kitchen and spa bath. We're in a more updated apartment this time around. We even have jacuzzi tub, and two bathrooms to choose between. I haven't decided which one Paul is banished to use. We've been in Western Australia for the better part of the last four months on and off, and we've got another month here. But if we can't be at our "home" at least we're here in W.A. which feels more like home. Paul is from here, so our weeks are filled with time with family and friends, and beautiful weather. We're not entirely sure what will be happening come April. But we do have a concert to go to. Hopefully we'll find out relatively soon if we'll be coming back again in April. But if I was a betting woman I'd be betting yes.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Macaron Mammas!

Yesterday Amy & I had our first crack at making Macarons. Macarons are an adorable pastry that look like two small buns with cream in between. They are generally found in upscale cafe's or bakery's. They come in a wide variety of flavours and colours. I first tried them because of Gossip Girl, and Blair Waldorfs obsession with them.

Amy has a couple of cook books with Macarons recipes. After reading through a few recipes our task looked to be more than we had first expected. Almost every recipe states that they are very difficult to pull off. Yesterday we decided to try our hand at this delightful pastry. Amy found a recipe for french chocolate macarons online. I believe this is the recipe we used. 
Luckily, Amy has a kitchen-aide mixer, and a food processor. We first put the dry ingredients into the food processor to begin the aerate process, then sifted the ingredients like the recipe recommends. 
Next was onto the meringue in the kitchen-aide. Each step was executed very, very carefully. 

After the meringue was ready we followed the recipe and poured the dry ingredients into the meringue in four lots; while Amy was folding I was pouring. Then it was time to transfer the batter into the pastry bag. This was another two person job. The batter becomes very sticky, and difficult to work with. If I tried this on my own it would be an epic fail. One person needs to hold the pastry bag while the other fills it. We drew small circles on the opposite side we were baking on for a size scale. They squeezed out of the pastry bag relatively easy. Refilling the bag was a very messy & sticky process.Then it was time to let them grow a skin & make the ganache filling. 

Amy chopped the chocolate in the food processor. Then she heated the cream on the stove top. The copped choc was moved from the processor to a small bowl & the cream was added. Then we chopped the butter into small squares & microwaved for only a few seconds to soften. The butter was added to the chocolate/cream mixture and stirred carefully. It was then put in the fridge for about 30 minutes. 

Most everything was done while little Charlotte was having an afternoon nap. While Amy was heating the cream Charlotte woke up and decided she wanted to give us a hand!

We ended up with about 25 separate macaron rounds. The recipe said we would have fifty. Turns out our circles were a bit big. We also had to taste test one or two along the way. We put the first tray in for seven minutes, then rotated the tray for another 4-5 minutes. We took them out and put in the second tray. The second tray we left in for seven minutes, rotated and left in for about 6-7 minutes. That small time difference burnt the other tray slightly. Once they were out of the oven we gave each other a high five & did a little dance. Then it was tea time for Charlotte. We let them cool for about 30-40 minutes.

 When it was time to remove them from the wax paper they were stuck. The wax paper needed to be scaled away with a small knife. This definitely shouldn't have happened. We're not quite sure what went wrong that way. But the wax paper came off relatively easy. It required patience and a steady hand to cut the paper off the bottom of each macaron. Amy did all but two. I nearly stabbed myself instantly. I'm no good with knives! Next time we might use a silicone baking tray & see if that helps.

Amy did most of the peeling while I filled them with ganache. The recipe says to push them together. I don't know if I agree with that. Some of the ganache came out the sides and they slid a bit on top of one another. Then it was time to put them in the fridge. The recipe also says to refrigerate for  24 hours. But there was no way we were waiting that long to enjoy them! We could only fit ten in the tupperware. So we shared two with the boys since they were stuck at work all day.

We did however put the rest in the fridge for about 2.5/3 hours. We went back to them after a delicious pad thai dinner prepared by Kieran. I can see why they say to refrigerate. Because the texture definitely changed in the fridge. Especially the ganache. It was more like what we're used to from the bakery. I think it was well worth the time and effort. We had a lot of fun & the boys reckon we need to start selling them! Maybe they can help next time. We'll see if they still think we should sell them after they see how long they take! The recipe says they take 1.5-2.5 hours to make. I think they took us just under 2.5 hours with two people,a fancy kitchen-aide & food processor. I think I would only ever make one flavour per day. After seeing how long one flavour takes any more than that would be quite a task. 

We had them with some vanilla ice cream & topped the ice cream with the left over ganache. I couldn't help but have two. I think I'm still full from last nights dinner and dessert! 

Great success! We might give another flavour a crack while we're still in W.A.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Weekends in the sun.

This weekend started out beautifully. Friday afternoon for me was spent at the beach with my almost Sister in law, and nephews. It was a hot one! Jordan jumped right in the water & Christian kicked and punched the water. They are a hilarious duo. We all got stung by a small jelly fish. Or at least Ness and I did for sure. Can't say for sure with the crazy boys. It was the first time I've gotten stung. We hit the beach generally at least once a week. So I've been pretty lucky so far. The sting definitely hurt. But it didn't leave a mark on me & as far as I know there's no damage! After the beach the boys did a bit of climbing at the playground. Then it was time to head home for dinner. Poor Paul had a crazy day at work while we played at the beach.

After the beach Paul & I got out for an evening jog once the temperature had cooled down. I'll be doing a 5K jog in July. So I need to get my endurance up. Luckily, I have quite the trainer to keep me motivated. 

Saturday was another hot one. But we had some errands to run. I somewhat mastered my numerous attempts at a victory roll in my hair. I was extremely excited about that. It also gave me a chance to wear one of my Grandma Smiths scarves in my hair; which I love to do! We started our day with a much needed coffee. Then we headed off to the E-shed markets. There are several different stalls in a large building with different souvenirs and the like. We picked up a few things then peeled toward the post office. We made it just in time to the post office to get a very important little boys birthday gift in the mail. Then we did a bit of thrift shop wandering. After all our running around I decided we deserved a beer. Freo was crazy busy this weekend. So we didn't have the easiest time finding a great spot to people watch at the bar. But we eventually found a couple seats together. We saw a guitarist on stilts, a lady in all pink, a dude with an adidas track jacket zipped up (mind you it was about 100 degrees F). We sat next to an older gentleman at the bar. He picked Pauls brain a bit. He asked him if he was single, even though we were holding hands. I guess I was chopped liver. After we finished our beer we headed home for lunch. 

Then once the temperature cooled it was time to pick up Mum and Pauls brother for some eats. We had dinner at the Bathers Beach Markets, just down the road from our serviced apartment. Paul dropped us out front and parked the car. On his walk back he noticed dolphins! Yay! He came back and told me. I obviously jumped out of my seat & sure enough there were about four dolphins swimming right on the beach. They were so close to the swimmers. They must have been gobbling up some of the fish. We watched them for about five minutes & decided it was time to eat. These dolphins were at the beach right near where we're staying. I walk past this beach nearly everyday on my way into Freo to run errands. Only about a five minute walk. 

We had a wonderful dinner with Pauls Mum and Brother. There was some live music. One guy and his guitar. Then one girl and her guitar. Both were wonderful. I'm constantly amazed by the raw talent of the buskers here. Mum tried cous cous for the first time. To which she said she quite liked. Mick had Mediterranean, which he also loved. Paul had some quesadillas. He was happy. But wished he's tried something more funky. I had two sweet potato sliders. They were exquisite! We finished our night by driving past the strip in Freo where all the drunks hang. It's prime real estate for people watching.

Sunday was another busy one for us. We went out for an iced coffee and small eats at a cute little restaurant right near the beach. Then we did a bit of lazing at the beach. Our plan was to enjoy the beach then head to the grocery store. But my bladder had other plans. I recently watched a doco on nat. geo. about a man that peed in a river. He had a fish fly up his member. I then decided I didn't want to evacuate my bladder in the ocean. So we had to b-line it back to the quest to use the toilet. It was such a lovely day & still so early. There were some markets going on at the park down the road. We decided to walk through the markets and walk to the grocery store instead of driving. I spotted a fairy floss stand, or cotton candy. I haven't had it in over a year. So I had to steal some cash from Paul to fill my craving. Then it was off to the shops. We picked up some veg. at the Freo markets. These were like a sweat lodge; filled with loud and pushy people. We got our fresh veg. and peeled! We made it out of the grocery store relatively unscathed. Unfortunately, the walk was a bit much with heavy groceries. Both of us came home with blisters between our toes from our thongs (flip flops). Paul also insisted on carrying the bags, because they were quite heavy. 

After our walk to the shops Paul thought we deserved some wine. So we headed out one last time to pick up a couple bottles. He was right. It was nice treat to end our busy but not busy weekend. 

As time continues here I feel luckier every day. I miss the hell out of my family and friends in the states. But I couldn't have found a better person to have moved for. Each day is better than the last. I've now been to Western Australia, Darwin, and Sydney. I've seen kangaroos, dolphins, and jelly fish. I can't wait to see what the future has in store for us.