Pieces of home

Contents of care packageMy mum is coming to visit soon. Yay!

She was here just 6 months ago with Dad to celebrate her birthday (which I completely forgot to blog about), so it was very unexpected that she would make the long journey again so soon. She either loves Colombia, loves to travel or loves and misses me… Most likely her reasons are all of the above.

The great thing about having Mum visit is the second 23kg suitcase of goodies she can bring me. And of course the simple fact that I get to hug my mummy and laugh crazily about silly things with her; we’re two peas in a pod in that respect. The post in Colombia is notoriously unreliable and cannot be trusted, which means care packages and online shopping are out of the question, unless of course you like throwing your money to the gale-force wind. While my aunt sent a small parcel before Christmas that arrived two days after Christmas, the two parcels Mum sent in December haven’t. The government contracted post company 4/72 said it could take up to 6 months to arrive and they can’t do anything about finding it unless they have a registered mail code for a service which Australia Post doesn’t provide for Colombia. I have little hope that either will arrive, and believe that some Colombian is now wearing Chesty Bonds singlets meant for mi novio and watching my friends’ Aussie film Blinder (doubt there’ll be a Spanish option there). This situation makes me cranky just thinking about it, and I think Mum secretly has some ulterior motive to come and give the postal company here a good ear-bashing along the lines of how she managed to arrive in Colombia before her parcels.

So, the goodies!! Mum will be bringing more items from my wardrobe, that is, what she hasn’t already brought over. I just hope she can find my pink heels which are probably stored in some plastic crate in her container.

I also took the opportunity to do some online shopping and have it sent to Mum. I bought some Bonds underwear because that is a staple. Did you know that here in Colombia that don’t let you try on white bras?!?!!? I don’t get it, are my boobs supposed to be dirty?!?! Anyway, I also bought some new pajamas because I like a slouchy style that is difficult to find here in nice patterns and colours ie. not cutesy prints on white or a bedtime version of the legging. Speaking of leggings, I also bought a couple of pairs of them too since I haven’t had much luck with the leggings here. Two out of three pairs developed a mysterious illness called “Camille is too grande for these poorly made, imported from China, tight pants” and have split while trying to contain my backside. This wasn’t just a seam split, but a failure in the fabric that saw it disintegrate and leave a huge gaping hole directly under the buttocks while riding my bike one Ciclovia Sunday; hardly a modest look for a girl in her mid-thirties and truth-be-told it’s scared me off buying more leggings.

My shopping spree wasn’t just all about me and my penchant for Australian brands, I also bought the boys some clothes. A tee and hoodie for D and a couple of singlets for mi novio because he is obsessed with showing off his biceps and rarely finds formfitting singlets for males here and so spends most of our shopping outings drooling over women’s active-wear. If I don’t feed his need for tight muscle-flashing singlets I’m convinced he will one day buy a women’s tank top and work a bit more on his pecs just to fill it out at the front.

I also bought a really cute dinosaur print doona cover for D. As it’s a kids print, the biggest size was a double and I’m now worried that his doona is queen size. That may require another shopping trip to buy a new doona for the dino cover…

I think that was about all the online shopping, but as if I haven’t already spent enough money on things just for the sake of it, I’m still toying with the idea of buying an on-sale Charlie Brown dress as she is my favourite designer and makes such flattering clothes for my shape and has great prints. I’ve also been researching fleecy-lined leggings/footless tights. I asked for a pair of these last time Mum visited since my one and only pair have started to emulate the dodgy street-bought leggings, but think they were either out of season or unavailable in Target or Kmart. Actually any hosiery in general is good. Cool colours and designs of good, non-ballsy quality are hard to find, and if you find them, chances are the biggest size still won’t accommodate the legs of an average sized foreigner who towers over most Colombianas and will leave the crotch hanging about mid-thigh height.

As far as what I’m leaving it up to Mum to buy, Australian food is high on the wanted list. I’ve got a good stock of Vegemite and recently received a care package from a friend via her colleague’s parents who live in Bogotá which included Vegemite. Tim Tams are always in fashion (original flavour or the dark choc covered bites are the best). I also love, love, love Cherry Ripes and ask for Caramello Koalas which D loves (not sure if it’s because it’s chocolate or if he likes the koalas because they seem so Aussie to him). I usually also get Murray River Pink Salt, which if you are Australian you really should have in your house, not just for its great taste and cool colour but because it helps overcome an environmental issue and is one of the flagship brands coming out of my hometown. I also recently got pink salt from my friend so I think I have enough until the next visitor comes.

Other great Australian products I love are Lucas’ Papaw ointment for my lips, Thursday Plantation tea tree ointment for insect bites and, it’s a bit icky to say, feminine hygiene products. I have plenty of papaw and tea tree ointment, and can get by with OB tampons (even though they’re not as great or technologically advanced as my favourite brand back home) but I have been unable to find a good pantyliner here that is thin and doesn’t feel like photocopy paper, so I put in a request for those from Mum.

Living in another country makes you appreciate all the little everyday items from home, and due to their scarcity they become little luxuries. While I’m looking forward to Mum arriving with a suitcase of little luxuries and a taste of my homeland for us, I think she’s hanging out for the luxury of eating patacones, arepas, empanadas and mi novio‘s special arroz de coco.

What are your top three care package items from home? How do you get around unreliable mail services in Colombia?

Food find: Lula

While out and about doing our favourite thing on a Sunday (riding our bikes along the Ciclovia), hunger stopped me right in front of a cute little place I’d often admired but never stopped at. What captured my attention today was the sign out the front saying “Brunch 9 – 12”.

Brunch has long been a very special mealtime event for me. Seeing the English language word in a sea of Spanish made me nostalgic for the weekend brunches I would often have with friends and that I miss enormously. Brunch is a great opportunity to debrief from the previous night out, catch up with friends in a relaxed manner and of course to drink long and languorous coffees.

So I pulled the brake levers on my bike and told mi novio that we were going to have brunch. I think I also said, with a starry-eyed expression, that brunch is my favourite meal of the day and that before sampling any of the restaurant’s offerings I was already going to return with a colleague and also anyone else who comes to stay with us.

Lula is a bakery and coffeeshop with two dining areas, the front courtyard covered with an awning and with greenery all around, and the inside section with gorgeous wooden chairs with a vintage style oval pink and white fabric-covered back in one of those designs you usually see on fancy crockery.

We took the advice of the waiter, who upon asking if it was our first visit, suggested we start with the bread basket while we decided what to order. Out came a beautifully presented tray of assorted breads and croissants and four glass jars with wooden paddles stuck in the top. It looked divine. The smallest pot contained cubes of butter and the waiter explained the other three; a white chocolate and red berry cream, a peach, orange and almond marmalade, and a chunky chocolate and hazelnut spread. We set to work trying out everything from the fanciest bread basket I’ve ever seen. The chocolate and hazelnut spread was exactly like crushed up Ferrero Rochers. The white chocolate and red berry cream had that syrupy berry flavour mixed with the creaminess of the chocolate but my favourite was the runny marmalade which left the orange in the backseat and let the peach and almond flavours and textures dominate.

Our meals of baked eggs with bacon and asparagus and the Mexican styled fried eggs unfortunately didn’t live up to the high expectations the bread basket had set. My delicious and perfectly flavoured baked eggs could have been cooked a bit longer as the runny yolk only added to the thick creamy hollandaise soup they were served in, which was nigh on impossible to eat with a fork. Mi novio’s Mexican ranch style fried eggs lacked flavour and the presentation lacked flair.

As I think has only ever happened to me in Colombia, our lattes came out with the coffee topped with a dollop of froth in the cup, and the milk on the side in a teeny little jug for us to fill ourselves, and only reached three-quarters of the way up the cup.

Despite a few small disappointments with our meals and a sizeable bill for brunch, the bread basket trumped it all and we’ll definitely go back again; even if it’s just for the bread basket as that was the winner of the day.

LulaCalle 116 No. 15B-78, Bogota
www.lula.co

A night of firsts

On the yellow bus
Excited to be on the yellow school bus

Kansas City got really exciting tonight as I filled the evening with a number of firsts, starting with my first visit to Chipotle to pick up a burrito for dinner.

Chipotle is a chain of Subway-like Mexican that has taken America by storm. I’ve heard so many people ooh over it, but had never ventured in until Hiker Buddy Brian and I popped in for a quick bite before heading to another first, a professional soccer game.

We then drove to the game in Hiker Buddy Brian’s black Mustang convertible, my first ride in a convertible. That was quite exciting and I felt super cool as we drove at 70 miles an hour on the freeway with the wind blowing wisps of hair around my face and with me playing my fingers in the wind.

The brand new Sporting Kansas City soccer stadium is right next door to Kansas Speedway, so we ended up parking in the speedway parking lot fairly far away from the stadium. I started to get giggles of excitement as I saw those iconic yellow school buses in the lot and I predicted that they would shuttle us to the stadium. I could scarcely contain my excitement as that prediction came true and I was soon climbing aboard one with the awe and wonder of a small child. Whilst they cannot hold a candle to the school buses kids in Australia travel on, and are historic relics that somehow keep plying the bus routes with the bare minimum of fittings, I was completely enthralled in the experience and emerged hot and perspiring but jubilant.

According to Hiker Buddy Brian, scalping is de rigour and an accepted practice in America. As we didn’t have tickets for the game, which had already started, I was looking forward to that first experience too, but there were no scalpers and we had to do a lap around the stadium to get to the box office.

Watching Sporting Kansas City
Excited to be at my first professional soccer match

Inside, we found vacant seats close enough to our allocated seats down the end closest to the Sporting Kansas City supporters who were cheering loudly and bringing a crazy, festive atmosphere to the ground. I couldn’t help but smile and be in a good mood.

Shortly after sitting down, we saw Kansas City score the very first goal in the newly built stadium. They’d only played one previous game in the venue which was a draw at nil all.  Confetti burst out from behind the goals, the crowd jumped to their feet and cheered as loud as their voices would allow them. It was so much fun.

I bought a bag of peanuts in their shells at half time, because the cashier had a little sticker on front of the register saying “Would you like peanuts with that?”. I wasn’t sure what to do with the shells as it is a messy process and I’d never eaten them at a special event. Hiker Buddy Brian told me to throw them on the ground. My littering sensibilities struggled with this. I looked at him and said “Really?” and he was like “Yeah, of course, they come through and clean everything up afterwards.” I was still hesitant. If I didn’t throw the shells on the ground, it would be easier for them to clean up, but the only other place I could put them was back in the bag with the ones I still had to shell and eat. I tentatively tossed one on the ground under the seat in front of me and felt desperately naughty. I then countered with the argument “why would you want to throw them on the ground and make a mess at your feet”. But with little other choice and hankering for salty peanuts, I threw the shells on the ground, kicking them under the seat in front of me so as to avoid getting the shells and skins between my toes.

It was so much fun. A night of calculating firsts and then to top it all off, from the safety of the apartment, we watched an amazing thunderstorm sweep across the city with flashes of light, cracking lightning bolts and some claps of thunder that made you feel as if you’d been cuffed behind the ear.

Corn chips – essential travel companions

Corn chips, I’ve found, are a great way to meet other campers.

After a wander around Kanab, Utah where I popped in to a documentary screening during a local festival (incidentally where I was asked very seriously by one lady if we have popcorn in Australia) I came back to my campsite to find I had neighbours.

The guy running the campground intercepted me on the way back and said “You have some neighbours, I thought they might be able to entertain you.” He’d said something similar to them when allocating their site that he’d put them next to the Australian girl.

Anyways, the three Swiss guys next door turned out to be great company, something that was cemented as we were sitting around having a drink and I pulled out a bag of corn chips. As one thing leads to another, so the corn chips led to us cooking chicken curry and rice together for dinner and then pancakes in the morning.

Food is meant to be shared and I’ve learned that corn chips are made for sharing. So now every shopping list starts with a bag of corn chips.

Dining out, vegan style

Sage cafe in Echo Park
Our felafel bowls

In between errands and vintage shopping, Michele and I found our way to Sage Vegan Bistro on West Sunset Boulevard in Echo Park.

Michele had expressed her desire for a nice vegan lunch and after a quick search on the very helpful Yelp website, we found one that had good reviews and was conveniently located in between locations.

I have to admit that, like hippies, vegans kind of scare me. All the reasons I would give would label me hypocritical, the food equivalent of racist, intolerant and other such negative phrases, so I won’t go into details, suffice to say that I would not choose to go into a vegan restaurant if it was purely up to me. Vegetarian yes, vegan no.

Sage came as a big surprise to me. It was a lovely old converted building with enough of the old exposed bricks to add character without being cliched. The corner location and double height ceiling meant that light streamed in and made the place seem airy (not airy fairy I might add). Brown wood tables were organised in neat lines and there wasn’t anything kitschy, divey or cliched about the place. In fact, it was my kind of cafe.

Just beating the lunch rush, we had the pick of the tables and I was pleased to see others in the cafe who broke the mold of what I see as a vegan. Our waitress with the matching blue nails and dress was lovely and very helpful. The menu was diverse and had great choices that weren’t off the planet but were fresh and modern. Neither Michele nor I could go past the felafel bowl, and it was exactly what I needed as an antidote to all the Mexican food I’ve been eating lately.

So I’ve chalked up my first LA vegan experience and am glad Michele wanted to go vegan for lunch because otherwise, my pompous, ignorant self would have missed out on discovering the kind of cafe I could become a regular at.

A parcel!

Arriving home after a day of sights and shopping with Movie Lass, I had the elation you get when a big box with your name on it is waiting for you.

Contents of care package
Yum!

My friend Cathy had posted a care package to me filled with all sorts of goodies from home. It was so lovely.

It included:

  • TV snacks
  • Uncle Toby’s muesli bars
  • Wagon Wheels
  • A tube of Vegemite
  • A pack of Saos
  • Wizz Fizz
  • Anzac biscuits
  • Vanilla essence
  • 2 packs of Chocolate Ripple biscuits
  • Recipe for chocolate ripple cake

Topping it off was a lovely card emblazoned with the Mae West quote

Too much of a good thing can be wonderful!

So now I can make a chocolate ripple cake (love, love, love) for our upcoming Easter lunch and have an Anzac bikkie or two on Anzac Day next week.

Thanks Cathy, you really brightened my day and I can’t wait to share these bits of home with my friends.

I’m the caterer

Okay, so I have the far more official title of Production Coordinator for our short film, but my duties have extended to catering.

Today was the last pre-production day before we start shooting tomorrow. Which meant that everything needed to be locked down, picked up and delivered to our location. While Gin and Devoir were picking up lights, cameras and maybe some action along the way, J and I were at the supermarket. Three supermarkets actually. I was shopping for catering supplies to feed 16 people for two days and she was getting art department props, stuff like apple juice to be pretend beer and baking soda for pretend cocaine.

We went through the running order for the shoot and where things would be. All this new jargon floated around as they ‘blocked’ the scenes and called out code words to each other which maybe one day will make sense to me (just not today).

Then it was back to the ranch for me to finish on the breakfast items of little egg & spinach filo tarts, muffins and the cupcakes for afternoon tea. I ran out of time to make the pavlova, so I hope to have time tomorrow night to do that. I’m sure people could do without it, but it’s such a lovely Australian touch for our new American friends who have come on board to help us make this film.

I’ve just printed out the lunch menu, for which we are ordering food to be delivered, so I think I’m about sorted. Now I just need a good rest before I have to leave the house in 7 hours for my first day on set.

Yes, I’m nervous. Yes, I’m scared. I have no idea what to expect. But none-the-less it’s going to be exciting. And very cool to be on set with my buddies making a movie.