Friday, June 25, 2010

Little Difference #4


It seems there is only one type of cheese here "Tasty Cheese". Australians like their cheese old and sharp. Cheddar cheese here is white instead of orange/yellow* and my favourite type of cheese - marble - doesn't exist. Finding a mild cheddar cheese is pretty difficult and it seems like "harder" block mozza doesn't exist either (which is fine because I prefer softer mozza even though it's tough to grate).
It's weird to go to the store to look for cheddar and then get to the shelf and realise that all the cheese virtually looks the same - white/cream. I've spent many a grocery trips standing in the dairy aisle trying to find the cheese I'm after.

*this cheese isn't specifically labelled as "white cheddar" it's just understood that it's cheddar since other colours don't exist or aren't popular.

It's only in writing this post that I've learned that "Tasty Cheese" just isn't an Australian thing - it's an actual term to describe the age of the cheese (like mild, medium, strong, sharp, extra sharp, mature, old, or vintage, --- tasty falls between strong & sharp. At home I usually bought mild. I'd only get medium if that's the only thing the store had). It kind of cracks me up that the term is "tasty" and most packages have "tasty" in massive letters on the front. I always thought "you silly Australians, you don't have to tell me cheese is yummy!".

Any kind of pre-packaged thing (like side kicks type noodle dishes) that have cheese in it taste different because of the type of cheese that's used. Something I didn't really think about until I bought a package of noodles & cheese, made it and found that it tasted like stinky feet. Kraft dinner isn't popular here either. I bought a box once and again, it tasted weird. They have "EasyMac" but you cook it in the microwave, not on the stove.

I've also found that the "Christmas Cheese" phenomenon only exists at home. "Christmas cheese" is the cheese you buy around Christmas time for cheese platters. It ALWAYS seems to taste better (soft and mild).

I think it goes without saying that most varieties of processed cheese don't exist here or aren't popular. Most people put block cheese on their sandwiches rather than processed slices and I haven't seen cheese whiz or spray cheese anywhere (I bought a jar of "cheese spread" thinking it might be cheese whiz-y but it wasn't).

Temperature: +13C
Sunrise: 7:36am
Sunset: 5:09pm

Saturday, June 19, 2010

More adventures in eating weird fruit

Don't worry, this one didn't come from the sidewalk! While we were at the grocery store the other day I saw a basket of mangosteens and thought for $1.98/ea we'd give them a try!

The outside is a lot like a pomegranate but there's a thick flesh between the outside and the fruit inside (almost like the white stuff on really fresh grapefruit). It was actually a little tricky to cut it so that I got the outside off but didn't cut into the fruit.
The fruit itself is slippery and is kind of like a peeled grape. It tastes kind of... like eating a Johnny Pop-up. It has a slightly sweet fruit-ish taste but when I ate one this morning I couldn't help but think it tasted sort of like eating pop-ups. I think it would make a nice addition to a fruit salad though - a lot easier than trying to take the membrane off oranges (for reference the fruit itself is about the size of a Christmas orange - maybe a touch smaller).

So that's another one off the imaginary list of weird fruit to try!

Temperature: +10C
Sunrise: 7:35am
Sunset: 5:08pm

Saturday, June 12, 2010

A Bit of Knitting

I know I haven't done a lot of posts on knitting and there are a few reasons for it. My craft stuff is still in boxes - I have easy access to it all but it's a royal pain in the arse to dig everything out. I haven't really been in the mood to knit - I spend a lot of time thinking of what I want to knit and planning new projects but a lot of things don't get out of the planning stage. The most recent thing is that my hands have been really cold. I've figured out how to wrap my blanket(s) around me to cover my hands so I can use the computer but I haven't quite worked out something that works with holding knitting needles and yarn. I WAS working in a pair of fingerless mitts but the first one turned out too big so I have to rip it back.

Since it's been so cold, I've been working on (and planning) a series of slippers. I'm planning to make my own basket of "house shoes" for guests when they come over. This is something I first learned about in Germany. The concept of slippers (obviously) isn't new but the concept of having a basket of slippers by the door for guests is. Basically, in a lot of houses, you only heat the room you are in (each room has a radiator or separate thermostat) which makes the rest of the house pretty chilly so guests are offered slippers to keep their feet warm. I've always thought this was a cool idea and even toyed with the idea of buying a house shoe basket when I was in Germany. Here are some examples of a typical basket I found when I did a quick search - 1, 2, 3, 4.
Anyway, so because our apartment is chilly and I'm finding myself 1. wearing my slippers A LOT more than usual and 2. taking a pair of slippers when I go to visit family (like my grandmother does!) and 3. We're a shoes off house (which is not common here) I figured it's a good time to make a basket (it might encourage people to take their shoes off). This is an idea I've been carrying around with me for 8 years!

Firs thing is first though, I had to knit Glen a pair of slippers. He's been asking for a pair for a while. I was working on a thrummed pair but the first one turned out too small. I was going to make a pair of felted clogs but I think the felting part might be difficult. Our hot water tank is TINY and just filling up the washing machine on warm empties it. So I searched and found a pattern that looked quick, easy and most importantly warm. -Click- (ravelry link -- the website the pattern is on is only in PDF - I can link to that if anyone is interested).

I used sized 9 needles and Lion Brand Wool-Ease that's been languishing in my stash since 2006. I wanted a nice thick slipper that would be warm so this seems to fit the bill. I sewed some thick felt onto the bottom so that they'll last longer AND it helps with not being able to feel the seam on the bottom. I think I sewed the bottom seam on the first slipper about 5 times before giving up - no matter how I sewed it, you could feel it.
I encourage people to go to Rav to look at the pattern because despite how my (poorly photographed) slipper looks, they're really cute. I couldn't be bothered stuffing the slippers and posing them nicely. These slippers and definitely a candidate for my house shoe basket - I might actually make a few different kinds of slippers just to keep things interesting.

(and yes, I still haven't finished my February Lady Sweater...)

Temperature: +11C
Sunrise: 7:32am
Sunset: 5:07pm

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Little Difference #3


This little difference is about navigating around the grocery store and other situations when you might need to find, eat or talk about food.

A lot of common foods have different names here.

Tomato sauce = Ketuchup
Biscuit = Cracker & cookie
Dry Biscuit = Cracker
Soft drink = Pop
Mince = Ground Beef
Capsicum = Red/Green pepper
Chips = Fries or potato chips
Hot chips = Fries
Lollies = Candy
Chewy = gum
Lemonade = Sprite/7up/similar

Using the words you're used to is either seen as cute/weird/funny (ie: Pop) or as American (ie: Ketchup).
A lot of people won't do/say something if it's considered American - like hanging Christmas stockings, putting Christmas lights on your house outside, Halloween and using a word like ketchup. This is a bit frustrating because a lot of things I'm used to -as a Canadian- fall under the "acting like/doing something like an American" and we all know how much Canadians love being confused with Americans. While I can appreciate keeping a country's customs and traditions alive and well, I don't see people shunning tea drinking and driving on the left because it's "too British".

Because I'm not ready to start calling everything by their Australian names (ie: Tomato Sauce), the situation I'm in will dictate what word I use. First of all, you're "outed" immediately at the grocery store/similar if you ask for ketchup and secondly I've been in situations where people just don't understand (or pretend not to understand) when you ask for something like green pepper. (Last week I had a girl at Subway repeat "Capsicum?" to me about five times -after I'd said green pepper- until I finally gave up and said capsicum.)
I'm sure in time I'll just be calling things by the Australian names and it will come naturally instead of feeling like an impostor when I ask for "chips".

There's also the issue of navigating the whole range of NEW foods. Things like lamingtons, pavlova, the incredible range of fruit, different kinds of cookies, crackers, flavours of pop, and candy. It's fun to go to the store and try different flavours of things you're used to (like Musk Lifesavers) or different flavours of hard candy (like Barley Sugar).

Finally, there's the issue of familiar products tasting completely different or not existing at all. Most people eat spicy mustard (the mustard I'm used to is labelled as "American Mustard"), mayo tastes different - kind of spicy, pasta sauce has a different more tomato/tinny taste, 2 minute noodles taste different, canned soup flavours are different, cheese is different (I could write a whole post on cheese).
When I get homesick, I crave food from home. It's a bit disappointing to buy say, a jar of pasta sauce only to have it taste COMPLETELY different to what you're expecting. Creamy type salad dressings (namely Ranch) and things made with cheese (kraft dinner) taste completely different. The only place I know of to buy Rice-a-Roni is in an American shop on the other side of the city and a box is probably too expensive for it to become a regular menu item.

Temperature: +12C (feels like: +10C)
Sunrise: 7:31am
Sunset: 5:07pm

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Little Difference #2

The Toilet is in a Separate Room

Most houses and apartments in Australia have the toilet in a separate room from the bathtub/shower and sink (some bathrooms even have a tub AND a stand-up shower!). I'd like to say it's not very common for the toilet to be in the same room as everything else but there's of course exceptions (Glen's brother's apartment is one exception). At home the opposite is true even though more new homes are building "powder rooms" there will usually be another full bathroom somewhere else in the house.

It takes a bit of getting used to not being able to complete 100% of your bathroom needs in one room. Going to a different room to wash my hands just seems weird.

Here is a picture of our toilet room and the bathroom right beside.

Another thing that is taking me a while to get used to is the fact that this little room is literally called "the toilet" and people talk of "having to go to the toilet". Glen thinks I'm crazy but I find all this talk of the toilet (and having to use it) a little rude and maybe a bit too direct. We were taught that we were to ask for "the washroom/restroom" in formal/public situations and the term "the bathroom" was used in less formal occasions. My mum denies this but I distinctly remember her talking to me before I went to school about making sure I asked for the "washroom" and not the "bathroom".

I don't know if I'm 100% sold on the whole idea of the toilet being in a separate room... I can see having a separate toilet room if you already have a full bathroom (toilet included) OR having a toilet room with a sink would also be not too bad. And because I'm having troubles with this whole calling that room the toilet, I've been calling it the "toilet room" which cracks Glen up (calling it the washroom/restroom just gets you strange looks).

Temperature: +13C
Sunrise: 7:27am
Sunset: 5:09pm