Australia Articles

The Food Thing


I really wasn’t gone very long. I left Friday at midnight and was back to pick the kids up from school on Tuesday. I spent close to 48 hours on an airplane and the other 36 fully immersed in the Australian Rheumatology Association’s conference.

Now, when I say fully immersed what I really mean is that I spent a few hours having dinner with the team from AbbVie and Dr. Irwin Lim absorbing the subtle differences between American and Australian healthcare. It’s clear that, much like the US there is public and private healthcare. It seems though, that the difference in quality of care isn’t as disparate in Australia. To be fair I was sitting at a table with folks in pharma and medicine, they’re all working hard to provide care. When I wasn’t with the AbbVie team I was prepping for my talk or running along the river. Okay, jogging. Whatever, I was fast walking but I was totally moving. After flying half way around the world I really wanted to stay in motion. All that stillness in the air beats me up.

While I was gone Mr. G took the kids to Hooters and the Rolling Stones. My son slept through most of the Stones concert which I find to be totally inexplicable and my daughter liked the food at Hooters, which is easier to understand. There are chemists involved in those recipes, I’m sure it was delicious. Our friend was bummed that Mr. G missed taking the best picture of all, having Jane pose like she was filling out an application for employment. I will never be a good enough feminist to stop being overly protective of my own daughter.

The weekend is no big deal. Mr. G is perfectly capable of parenting and though he may miss me a bit, he’s perfectly capable of parenting solo. Monday and Tuesday mornings were probably a bit tricky. Our neighbor brought the kids to school and Monday afternoon my mom picked them up, hung out with everyone until Mr. G got home from work and then ordered everyone dinner from California Chicken Cafe, she brought a salad from home. The best part of having my mom pitch in is that when I came home there was a half empty bottle of Sangiovese and Mom’s homemade salad dressing to enjoy. Okay, the best part of coming home is obviously in the being home but at any age it’s really nice to have your mom take care of you and by taking care of my husband and kids she was taking care of me.

So as I rumbled around my kitchen this morning looking for something to defrost for dinner I found  this.

frozen pizza junk

Mr. G is obviously trying to kill the kids again. That man is too smart to be out in the world buying frankenfood like this. Now I have to go to the grocery store and return it. It’s not a matter of money, it’s a matter of principle. I’m unwilling to pay for that thing, whatever it is.

Of course I brought home good wholesome food for the kids.

kangaroo crocodile jerky

Shut up. I know…

While in the Virgin Australia lounges I stuffed a few of these in my purse for my Aussie friends here in the US.

vegemite solo packs

And as I was stealing food from Virgin Atlantic I smiled and thought about how our food ties us to each other, to our families, and to our countries. It’s good to be home. It’s really great finding my mom’s salad dressing in my refrigerator.

Moving at a Slower Pace



Volumes have been written on the need to rest and still more will be written because we don’t listen well the first time. I’m sitting on this little patio with the sound of magpies and cicadas as my only distractions. In the three days I’ve been in Byron Bay I’ve logged six hours of surfing, a half hour of hang gliding, two hours of Pilates, three solid meals a day, and more beer than I’d consumed in all of 2012.

I have slowed down and relaxed.

The residents of Byron Bay are unflappable. Half the downtown shops are closed with “back in 20 minutes” signs on their doors. They are seldom back in 20 minutes and if they are it’s only to leave again. That this disrupts no one’s bottom line is remarkable.

At yesterday’s surf expedition a Canadian got fake hurt. Yes, a Canadian was a boorish lout and all us Americans were both startled and a bit giddy. I wanted to make an announcement to the international group that the US didn’t have a monopoly on too-loud-asshats, Toronto had sent one of their very own.

You see he fell off his surfboard close to shore and legitimately bonked his knee. After that he he started howling for help and only after two surf instructors helped him hobble to shore did he tell anyone that moved that its an old knee injury and that his kneecap was “dislocated” but he’d popped it back into place. He also wanted a refund for day two of surfing because of his injury, oh he also couldn’t understand why he hadn’t been made to sign a waiver.

I need to reiterate. NOT AN AMERICAN.

Oh, and the release forms weren’t available because the xerox machine was broken. Clearly Australia operates differently than Los Angeles. Were we in my hometown the beach would’ve stayed closed until someone had a guarantee that they wouldn’t be sued. Had it been LA the fake injured Canadian weasel would’ve retained an attorney on his way home from the beach.

I don’t love the litigiousness of the states but I do love the fact that our businesses stay open during all of their business hours. I’m definitely feeling wistful for a city where everyone over the age of four wears their shoes.

There are no signs here that read: No Shoes, No Shirt, No Service. I think I’m ready for those signs. Even in Sydney there’s a relaxed vibe that allows for shoelessness and a general lack of grooming.

I look like a homeless woman. I’m weak and susceptible and should not spend too much time in a relaxed environment like this.

I have two cars that need to be reviewed and I can’t bring myself to make sentences from the bulletpoints. I’ve got a stack of books that I traveled with and I’m finding myself reading a children’s book, a book written for 10-12 year old boys actually. I’m sitting in restaurants laughing at fart jokes, which isn’t necessarily out of character for me.

I’ve been to Woolworth’s to buy Vegemite for friends and after I pack I’ll have my last dinner in Australia. The service will be spectacularly slow, because here in Byron Bay no one is in a rush. The food will be good because I’m breaking my only rule which is to eat at each restaurant only once. I’ve found one that’s so delicious I must return.

Tonight instead of reading Chicken Stu and giggling over a beer I’ll dig into The Cider House Rules and sip a local Sangiovese ever so slowly because tomorrow the pace quickens and the day after that it returns to the frenzy I’ve come to enjoy.

Possibly Mistaken for a Prostitute in Australia


I spent the morning around The Rocks at Sydney. It’s a beautiful section of town where you look over to the iconic Sydney Opera House at the other side of the harbor while enjoying high end shopping (hello Burberry!) next to street vendors. Just after midday I hopped on an airport shuttle where I sat next to a really interesting man who is the general manager for a luxury cruise line in Chile, which is like: Hello new dream. I need to go to chile with my family and be on a cruise with 60 other people.

So I explained it to Mr. G in an email like this:

Also in a strange turn of events I’ve decided the four of us need to take a trip to Chile if you want to take a four day cruise.

And he responds with this:

Cruise scares me

Followed almost immediately by:

One more word…pirates

And a few seconds later:

One more…sleeping in piles of your own shit

Okay, he has a point, three really.

So I follow up with:

Small boat. Luxury boat!

And his last word was:

And I watched Life of Pi on airplane today and the boat sinks and they all die

Which is awesome. I can really see how he’s coming around and I’m pretty sure I can book Chile for December.

We get to the airport and I exchange cards with my new Chilean friend.

The trip to Ballona is a short one and I find myself seated next to a man my father’s age with a kind face. He lives between California and Australia and has just been to Sydney to celebrate his adult child’s birthday there. He’s also wearing a sports coat on a Sunday. I don’t know why this matters.

As we arrive at the airport he asks me how I plan to get to my hotel and I explain that I’ll take a taxi, “That’ll run you $100.” He exclaims and offers me a ride. Apparently it’s only a few minutes out of the way and he’ll be driving his ex-partner as well. I start to ask what the ex-business was when a woman kindly shakes my hand and explains that they were just celebrating their son’s birthday together. That kind of partner.

This is a kind couple and serial killers don’t have good tailors and lovely ex-whatevers so I hop in the front seat of the car (some people are ridiculously generous) and accept my ride to Byron Bay.

Well, in addition to a lovely ride down the coast my hosts drive past my hotel, up and around the shore and to the lighthouse. I take notes about the best places to eat and drink, where Mick Jagger stays and which beaches are good for long boarding. I have a sense of the town as we’ve driven it’s main streets now and I do believe I’ve struck gold with these people.

When we finally get to the hotel my seat mate carries in my luggage for me, I shake his hand and get his email address so I can pop him a line. I owe this man a spin around LA and a snooty lunch. So he gives me his name, number and email, we shake hands once more and I turn to the hotelier who asks me who that was.

I smiled and explained that I’d hitchhiked in. Then I asked her if they could charge back the room to my credit card because I’d accidentally brought too much cash.

Which is when her smile dropped for just a moment and I realized she thought I just might be a postitute.

Packing and Worrying


I’m headed to Sydney in a few short hours. Here are my worries in no particular order:

  • Alexander will miss me
  • Jane will not miss me
  • I’ll forget to look right and get run over by car
  • While I’m bleeding the street a poisonous snake will get me
  • Neither child will use facial soap and they’ll use bar soap ruining their skin forever
  • My mother will give the children Froot Loops, Twinkies and Diet Coke. This is the most realistic worry, look what I found in her kitchen two weeks ago. twinkies at my mom's house
  • My husband will miss me
  • My husband won’t miss me
  • My husband will wear wrinkled or dirty shirts
  • My suitcase will be overweight
  • I’ll forget to pack something I need
  • My hairdryer will blow out the adapter

Once I get on the ground in Sydney things will be fine. I’m sure of it. Or am I?


Moderate Productivity and Trip Planning


Jane is home sick today. It’s brutal because I had the cold she’s developed and it lingered. Yesterday was the first day in ten that I was really able to exercise and I got punchy. Now I’m home watching her sleep, snort and snuffle. Since it’s really just a cold there’s nothing I can do but watch her and simmer soup.

It’s a horrible feeling for both of us.

I’ve put a pot roast in the Crock Pot. Yes, that’s right I said Crock Pot. My friend Mike swears that mothers who love their children never use a Crock Pot and judging by the cream of mushroom recipes out there I’d inclined to agree. But I need to have this thing simmering for six hours and I can’t stay home every second with Jane and I worry less about leaving an appliance plugged in than leaving an oven turned on. Also Crock Pots are good for making soup. So I’m going goyisha and trying this contraption with something other than a chicken carcass and hoping for the best. I do have pasta available as a back up plan in case of total failure.

I need desperately to dig into the medical bills.

$15,000 medical bill


Currently Cedars is expecting $15,000 from us in just 15 days which I find fascinating since our family out of pocket maximum is $4,000 for the family for the year. Of course it was easy to get a verbal “oops” from the kids at Cedars but I’m still looking to get that in writing. Of course I want to mark this as a rant pending on the state of healthcare and the ridiculousness of charging $36,000 for an outpatient surgery that the insurance will cover for $5,000.

At the same moment I’m planning a couple of trips. I’m off to Australia to speak at the Healthivate Conference in March but it would be unthinkable to travel half way around the globe and not see the Great Barrier Reef so I’m planning a side trip to Cairns and seeking out a small liveaboard vessel. Of course that means I need to SCUBA dive and I’ve never done that. It’s a good thing I live near the ocean because I see a PADI certification class in my future.

I also see begging in my future. This looks like an expensive hobby.

Can you recommend a liveaboard around Cairns? The stories look alternately glorious and horrific with tales of unmatched beauty and overstuffed quarters. Of course the thing I’ve decided to worry about is the fact that I’ll need to read a book (the kind with paper and pages) instead of my Nook.

I’m also planning my return to the Amelia Island, only this time I’m bringing two 11 year old boys with me. Wish me luck.