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El albergue

El albergue

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Turquoise

As I sit floating in the gentle swells, I can’t help but smile. You know those big grins that kind of take over your entire face just because all the loose ends of your life have been neatly tucked out of view for a short while and everything feels right, wholly and completely right? That’s what has infected me.

Gone is the clamor of neighboring train tracks, cars, and kids. Gone is the dry brown of our inland suburb. Gone the stress of job searching and worrying about the future.

Right now at Hyams Beach, all that exists in the world is the rhythmic beat of the waves on the shore and a feeling of deep peace welling up out of the turquoise waters surrounding me. Kind white clouds frame the brilliant blue of the sky, matching the white sands that softly mark the edge of my turquoise haven.

I look down at my toes far below me, gently moving to keep me afloat – the lens of the water has turned them to turquoise as well, perfectly matching the polish on my toenails. I can even see the sandy bottom a bit farther down, ripples and swirls barely showing where the waters have been moving most.

And so humdrum and normal drift off to sea as I stretch out my arms and swim, soaking up as much of this beautiful turquoise as I possibly can, with a grin that just won’t quit.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Easter for three

Easter has always been a time of happy celebration for me – springtime, eggs, the empty tomb, lots and lots of family, and lots and lots of food. Through the past couple of years, it has changed a little bit to include more friends than family, and even the utter simplicity of surprise chocolate bunnies on hostel pillows in Prague one time. This year though, I got to go back a little to how it use to be, with family and lots of food included.

Ok, so the amount of family was a bit smaller, including only my brother Zach and his wife Kali besides me, but we sure as heck put in the spirit of the holiday, playing cards, relaxing, and cooking up one delicious meal after another to celebrate all weekend long.

Here are just a few of the things we concocted, just to give you an idea:

For dinner one night we had pan roasted chicken legs with cardamom and peppercorns, with the spicy seeds sticking to the caramelized and crispy skins. PLUS wonderfully cheesy broccoli with just enough cheese to be decadent but not so much that it didn’t still count as a vegetable. AND bulgur tossed with fresh green onions to lighten things up. Oh goodness…

Saturday morning, we went all out, blowing the innards out of six eggs in order to make baked egg cups, which, by the way, is something that you need to make RIGHT NOW! Taking the idea off one of my favorite food blogs, we partially fried up six pieces of bacon, coiled them around inside the cups of a muffin tin, added the finely chopped remnants of the other nights’ cheesy broccoli, and filled in all the nooks and crannies with the whipped eggs we had so laboriously extracted from their shells. Bake it all up and serve with some beautiful slices of fresh tomato and pear, and that’s what we were scarfing down in ecstasy as we contemplated how to paint our drying egg shells.
 
... and a little parmesan freshly grated over the top never hurt anyone, right?


That night, Easter eggs painted and done, we made the best tomato soup ever. No joke. Zach went from warily sidling around the kitchen and declaring that he was not a fan at all to rapturous delight and avowing himself number one fan in the few seconds it took him to taste a spoonfull of the finished product. My trick? I make it chunky, with plenty of sweetly browned onion and garlic hiding out with the tomato, and only just enough cream to smooth things out – this is tomato, and not cream soup, after all! Oh, and I’m sure the bubbling little pieces of baguette and Swiss cheese toast didn’t do much to hurt the mood either hehe.

Sunday was a lot of fun too. I tried my hand at a Spanish Easter staple – torrijas. Sort of like the Spanish version of French toast, it involved more baguette, a little honey, and a whole lot of long soaking in milk. The idea is to come out with something warm and slightly sweet, with chewy edges and a center soft almost to the point of pudding. It didn’t come out quite like the torrijas I enjoyed in Spain, but fortunately the only complaint the other two had was that there wasn’t enough baguette to make more!

After breakfast, we threw a lamb leg roast in the crockpot and jaunted off to church, happy in the knowledge that dinner was already on its way to being done. And oh, what a smell greeted us when we came back home! Mmmmm. We lazily took our time getting everything ready, going in stages as we paused to relax and watch an episode or two of our favorite tv shows, but by the time a neighboring medical student came down to share in the holiday meal with us, we had a regular little feast on the table – the lamb was practically falling off the bone, the mashed potatoes were piled high, the cauliflower was perfectly browned, the wine was in the glasses, and the gravy was swimming about in the finest of our gravy boats… ahem… coffee mugs...

Add on top the hearty oatmeal cookies I made afterward with dried blueberries, craisins, and chocolate chips, and it was a day to die for. So delicious.


 Now THAT, my friends, is how to celebrate Easter.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Filling in the gaps

In my last post, I mentioned the fact that it had been months since the blog before it made its appearance on the web, and all the several ones before that had only been the slowly drawn out retelling of the adventures we had when Mom and Dad came to visit way back when I first got here to Australia. And then I proceeded to do nothing about that statement. No clearing up of the matter, no questions answered. Well, that’s what today is about, my friends! Time to solve the mystery of Laura’s months of relative silence.

Did I get a job? Yes! I did! I got an entry level sales and marketing position with a startup specializing in direct marketing. I worked with large and small teams in public venues across the city bringing our client’s product right to the public, spreading awareness and expanding our client’s customer base every day. It involved a whole heap lot more extroverted bubbliness and gumption than I’ve been used to in any of my other jobs, and between commuting and meetings and working long hours, I was really quite tired pretty much all the time. And yet I don’t know where else I could have learned as much as I was able to in as short a time as I did. The management and environment was incredibly upbeat and positive, focusing on personal and business development, and I truly believe I’ve come out of it with some much more solid professional skills that I will be able to apply wherever I go in the future.
 
You have to keep everything dry on a rainy day!

Hanging out with one of my coworkers at the Leadership Meeting, an all-day event
with training from the Vice President of the company and a birds' eye view of the city.

So why did I leave this job, if I was learning so much from it? Well, looking at my list of goals for my time in Australia and how much time I had left, I decided that the best course of action would be to take a little time off to rest and then jump back into it with something a little different.


How different? What does that mean? Ummm… I don’t know yet. I’ll have to keep you posted….

Friday, April 11, 2014

To wrap things up


Well, there seems to have been rather an egregious delay in finishing up with Mom and Dad’s visit… Hmm… With four days left to catalogue and any inspiration from the moment long gone (it has been several months, after all!), there is only one thing for it – photo highlights!

DAY 13:
Lovely, lazy morning at the Pagoda Lodge, basking in the sunshine amid the happy jumble of the place.


Feeding the friendly ducks who ate right out of our hands.


Delighting in the joys of the quaint Mahoe Cheese Factory.


Sipping fantastic wines at the classy yet casual Marsden Estate Winery.


Picnicking with the wandering roosters in sunny Keri Keri.


Exploring the first building built in New Zealand.


Evening hiking through winding forest paths to a hidden waterfall.


DAY 14:
Lazily sailing about the Bay of Islands with the chilly breeze filling out the sails.


Kayaking off the boat around a lovely lagoon.


Trekking to the top of an island lookout, boat riding the gentlest of swells below.


DAY 15:
Morning hiking to Rainbow Falls, a good farewell to Keri Keri.


Clambering about Abbey Caves, getting a bit muddy and wet in our search for twinkling glowworms.


DAY 16:
Spending a few blissful last hours in the colorful bowers of the Auckland Botanical Gardens. 


All in all, good times, for sure!