A Very Important Shopping Trip and Spectre

Exams continued to march on and Shane continued to study. The very hard exams were up first so as exams continued, the pressure declined around the house which was a nice feeling.

Sometimes it’s strange to think about how life continues on without you at home. Luckily, the family is pretty great at keeping me in the loop. Candace even skyped me into her family movie night! They were playing clue!


After chatting with the family, Shane was hungry for lunch so we decided to go to Hungry Jacks which is the same as Burger King here in Australia.

It’s about a 10 minute walk from our house and has way better prices than you can find at home in Canada. They also have frozen cokes for $1 which they mix with Sherbet flavour! It’s super yum and a nice treat on hot summer days. They also use the most tv channel. It plays old music videos which Shane and I both absolutely love. Men in Black and the Blues Brothers!

We decided to walk across the road to Bunnings after lunch to grab a couple of small things. Bunnings is a huge hardware store – somewhat similar to a Lowe’s or Canadian Tire. They have really good prices on things and it always seems to be like good quality.

Check out the awesome truck at the intersection! Also… we found more than just a “couple small things”.

Check out this sweet double hammock! Shane and I discussed the purchase at length. We wandered all over the store… made a virtual pro/con list… then spent a few of my hard earned pennies and carried home the heaviest box of all time.

It was pretty easy to build:

And it fits both of us pretty comfortably!

Shane and I are both pretty big fans of the hammock:

The worst thing about the hammock is that getting out of it can be quite challenging.


Shane continued studying so to give him space, I grabbed a book and sunscreen. One cloud tried to show its ugly face but it honestly wasn’t able to put up much of a fight for very long.

Gettin my tan (burn) on!

Lunch break! And a sulfur-crested cockatoo came to keep me company! They’re nice looking but SUPER noisy… Here’s google’s images of them if you wanna see one up close. I took more pictures last week so you will get to see them up close at some point.

Time continued.. I helped Shane study. Not many photos of this. Mainly because the stuff he studies is sometimes terrifying and sometimes a little stomach churning. Every time I look at his computer screen get a little more worried about all that could be going wrong .. and that’s just my mouth! Thank god he’s not studying general medicine!!

The dental students have lots of terrifying exams at the end of the year but the worst by far is their “VIVA” (it doesn’t sound french at all- “V-eye” not “Vee” sound). The VIVA is an oral based panel exam with no limit on the subject matter than can be tested. It’s a pretty big source of stress for everyone. In an effort to be a good supportive girlfriend I offered to help Shane study. We studied for NINE hours! NINE! No breaks! NINE!!!!!!!!!

They have to dress up for the exam. Here’s a terribly angled photo of Shane in his suit. (It was like 40 degrees that week… poor guys had to walk 20 minutes in suits before their exams!)

He brought home terrible souvenirs…

That evening we went to one of Shane’s favourite restaurants to celebrate the completion of the worst exam! (Also, to relieve any stress you all have, he has his grades back from the VIVA and he did really well 🙂 ).

Temasek is a super popular restaurant in Parramatta. If you don’t have a reservation on a weekend prepare to wait a LONG time. Even with a reservation you sometimes still have to wait a while haha. They specialize in food from Singapore which I wouldn’t have normally picked as a first option but it is so good! We ordered Nasi Goreng (which is a traditional fried rice dish with egg on top) and Chicken Satay (which is chicken in peanut sauce with rice)

After dinner, Shane and I walked towards to mall and on the way we came across an archaeological  dig in the middle of the city!

We also walked past the Leigh Memorial Church which has a fair amount of history in the community. The church you see in the photos below opened in 1885!

We walked through the park next to the mall which you all have seen a few times – it’s where Jamie Oliver’s Trattoria is and the big water park feature. You can see that it’s all decorated for Christmas… which again feels so weird when you’re wearing flip flops and sweating haha.

The city of Parramatta was also flying a French flag to show support after the attacks in Paris.


Finally we reached the theatre! Well done Shane on booking our favourite seats too!

Shane and I both really enjoyed Spectre. Definitely not a top five Bond movie but fun to watch and we both loved the opening scene with the Dia de Muertos parade in Mexico. (Also Carmel from the future does not think that Sam Smith’s song should have won the Oscar! Bottom ten Bond songs.)

After the movie we went out to Max Brenner’s for some well earned desert.

These stores are decorated in a pretty cool fashion. You can see the big chocolate mixers in the photo on the left and then huge pipes that they claim carries the chocolate to the barista bar where they make all of the coffees and deserts. We don’t buy that the pipes are for anything more than decoration though haha. Shane and I discussed it at length.

We got hot chocolate and a sundae. You might want to grab kleenex to wipe up your drool/ tears of jealousy.

We defeated the sundae haha. Also check out that spoon!

We decided to walk to the Parramatta River (on the North edge of the city) after desert in an effort to burn off maybe one spoonful of the sundae haha.

Just a reminder that you have to remain constantly vigilant when out and about in Australia!

Miss you all!

Love you all!


PS. In real time I got a job so sorry these updates have been slower!


More Exam Fun

For people keeping score, the date we are at in blog time is Tuesday November 10th.

Shane had an exam on the morning of the 10th so I worked on some Christmas gift bracelets …


… then bussed into Parramatta to meet him for a celebratory lunch!

We went for Mexican food at Guzman y Gomez.

After lunch Shane went home to study and I trained all the way to Leichhardt to get more beads. Leichhardt is known as Sydney’s “little Italy” but I haven’t explored too much beyond the beads store… task for future Carmel!

Double decker trains!!

There are tons of cute little shops all over Leichhardt and TONS of bridal shops.

It takes a long time to get to and from Leichhardt from Parramatta so I didn’t wander around too much. After shopping I got back to the train and settled in for the ride back.

The train I caught is a commuter train from the Blue Mountains into the city. You can see it’s much nicer than the normal trains because the commute is so long. They have bathrooms and everything 🙂

When I got home I entertained myself until Shane was ready for dinner.

The next few days went by much the same.. Shane studied and I did chores and crafts.


We live under a flight path. Look how sunny it gets!

After another exam we went to Hog’s Breath for their $9.90 lunch special haha

When we got there it was bright and sunny! But bad news was on the horizon…

We live no more than an 8 minute walk from the restaurant…

Shane and I celebrated the end of each exam by crossing subjects off of his study list.

As you can see even though it feels like exams had been happening for AGES there was still more to study so again, I had to entertain myself!

Good thing I’ve got sisters!

Brendon brought us iced frapps one day!!!! Best day ever! Shane also made lips out of bread haha.

We also continued to put the Thanksgiving table to good use! So much room for activities!


And that brings us to November 14th.


Miss you all!

Love you all!


The Day After, Swimming and Parramatta Park

So the day after all the liquor tasting Shane got up and made me breakfast! This is an example of a pretty usual weekend (read: fancy) breakfast for us.

It is: toast then guacamole then cheese then fried egg. The yolk pretty much HAS to be runny. So tasty.


That’s my only photo from that day. Certainly no selfies.

The NEXT day we tried making Auntie Rosanne’s Chickpea Chowder. Shane’s gallbladder was still a lil testy so we wanted to eat healthy haha. Thanks to Kendra for emailing me all of the old family recipes!!

Here’s a photo montage of us making soup and baked tomato chicken for dinner. These days were consumed more and more by Shane’s study schedule so there aren’t as many photos of us having fun 😦


Here’s Shane feelin’ successful:


Also, in case anyone is wondering, this is the best soup ever. Especially as leftovers. Its super filling, super creamy tasting and basically all vegetable! (and chickpea haha)

The Monday following was following the theme so far. Shane studied and I went on an adventure of my own.

Adventures are not complete without your Katy Perry Cat Glasses.


Here are a couple shots of the streets around the corner from our house. Basically this is what the walk towards the bus looks like. Maybe I can get a job at Rug World… (no one ever shops there.. it might be a front).

PRETTY JACARANDA TREES!!!! And also what the cross lights look like here. No white man walkin’ and no giant hand.

Ridin’ the bus into Parra:

I had to return some library books and they had the COOLEST system! At the external drop you scan your library card which unlocks the return door. After you’ve slid your books through it relocks! Not a bad idea to prevent vandalism!

After the Library, I decided to go for a walk in Parramatta Park. As promised, here is the road crossing legend.

The park has a large rose garden in the corner of the park near the city.

I’ll post some more pictures of the park below. In the middle of the park, there is a huge house called “Old Government House”. This was the secondary residence for the first ten Governors (Australia’s official representative of the British Monarch) of New South Wales. It was used between 1800 and 1847. It’s actually an UNESCO World Heritage site due to its association with mass convict transportation! It costs money to go through though so just photos of the outside here.

This is the Parramatta River winding through the park. You’ll see more photos of it in a future post when Shane and I take a boat ride down it (spoiler alert).

Super old bridge! The sign says: This Bridge was officially opened by his excellency Admiral Dudley DeChair K.C.D. M.V.O Governor of New South Wales, Tuesday 29th September 1925. (It also lists some trustees but that’s kinda boring so zoom in yourself if you wanna).

This bridge takes you North towards our house, the local stadium and the local swimming pool. Which was my next stop! Slides!!!! They cost money though… no dice!

Early afternoon was the PERFECT time to go swimming. I got a couple hours of swim time in before school was out and all the kiddies showed up for lessons. It’s a full olympic size swimming pool so those laps were a bit tougher. Huge dive pool and lots of kids pools here as well.

After swimming I walked home. Right next door is the stadium for the Parramatta Eels. They are our local NRL (National Rugby League) team! You can see the big lights over the tree and the stadium behind the parking lot.

Also I found this lovely sandstone building!

Turned out to be a prison…

After I got home, Shane and I heated leftovers for dinner. Date nights during exam time are less fun. (:P)


Miss you all!!

Love you all!


The Sydney Craft Spirits Fair – Part Two

Back again!

Who knew that a day of tasting liquor would turn into a two part post? Also that this would take so long to post! Feel free to skip this one haha…

So the next table up had a few different small distilleries represented.

London No.3 Dry Gin (England – $70). King’s Ginger from the Netherlands ($43) and two choices from the Medine Distillery in Mauritius.

  • Pink Pigeon Vanilla Spiced Rum ($80)
  • Penny Blue XO Mauritian Rum ($89)


Two bottles from this table were outstanding. First was the King’s Ginger which was just phenomenal. A number of people bought it while we were there but being tight on cash I had set myself a one bottle limit.

As it happens, the bottle for me was at this table. The Mauritian Pink Pigeon Vanilla Spiced Rum was unbelievable. When I went to buy a bottle (Chris got one too) we found out that they were 2 of 8 bottles in all of Australia (at that time). The Vanilla is hand picked and hand pollenated in Madagascar and then sun-dried in wooden cases for a year before infusing into the rum for 6 months. It was so yum and tasted almost like root beer in a way. I am so excited to try this rum again!! Eee!!

We zipped out to buy our bottles and when we got back we tried Artenom Tequila. These bottles were incredible. I wish I had a picture because they were seriously Pirates of the Caribbean themed. After trying mezcal from the other booth though, I’m not sure that I’m sold on tequila anymore. I can’t remember what the numbers mean anymore but they weren’t years. I think the numbers had to do with the feet above sea level that each farm was at for the agave harvest. It affects the sweetness so they all taste very different.

  • Tequila Blanco 1580 ($103)
  • Tequila Reposado 1414 ($113)
  • Tequila Anejo 1146 ($128)

This next booth, called Mt. Uncle Distillery, was from Queensland (the state Brisbane is in). The distillers were a couple and super cute. The husband had designed a super sweet liqueur for his wife called Sexycat Marshmellow Liqueur. Chris declined to taste it! Shocking haha! It was tasty but I can’t imagine sipping on liquid cotton candy.

They had:

  • Botanic Australis Gin ($68)
  • Platinum Rum ($68)
  • Iridium Rum ($72) – this was the best spirit from this distillery in my opinion
  • Anjea Vodka ($72)
  • Sexycat Marshmellow Liqueur ($39)

Here’s a picture back at the booth – you can see the wife in blue.


I also managed to get a shot of the Fair Spirits Table (remember the quinoa vodka?)


This one was G’vine from France. They had two gins: Florasion Gin ($76) and Nouasion Gin ($80).


Next up was another New South Wales Distillery. Poor Toms Gin ($68). They had infused a few of their bottles with strawberry which was delightful!

After that, Chris and I decided to skip over the remaining booths and try the Brandy. If we had tried to get the rest it would have been bad news. You’ll see why…We missed out on: Kangaroo Island Spirits from South Australia (mistake they had a Limoncello), Broken Heart Gin from New Zealand, Blind Tiger Organic Gin from South Australia, The Melbourne Gin Company Dry Gin, Don Amado Blanco Tequila and Reposado, Germana from Brazil, Calvados from France, Armagnac from France, Mr Black Coffee Liqueur from NSW and Portobello Road London Dry Gin. Yikes. Obviously we had way less than a shot from each but it all adds up!!

So.. the brandy table!


This was pretty neat because I haven’t tried many brandies but this was very nice. They had three bottles on display but weren’t tasting the 40 year old haha. So we had:

  • St. Agnes 15 Year Old Brandy
  • St. Agnes 20 Year Old Brandy

Now what I didn’t know (but is probably obvious to everyone else) is that the age is the minimum age in the bottle. Apparently the 20 year old Brandy has a good amount of 40 year old mixed in!

The distillers had just won a big award so they printed off the webpage and proudly showed us. It was a little lost on me unfortunately. We had beers with lunch and then after all the tasting it was a little hard to learn about international brandy contests…


Here’s the fancy 40 year old Brandy that I did not get to try.


After the Brandy Chris went back to try more mezcal and waited around because the guy from Le Baron was holding a draw for a free bottle!!

I was like 80% sure that my number would be drawn so I did not want to miss this.

They didn’t draw F 06. Very disappointing. After the draw, the event was pretty much winding up. Most people went home and the different distillers were going around to each others booths to check out what they all brought to try.

Look at how empty it got!!

After the event, Chris and I were both STARVING so we caught the train down to circular quay to grab food.

Check out the view from the platform at circular quay!!

We went to a restaurant in downtown Sydney called The Morrison. They had great food and oysters were on special. Om nom nom.


After dinner Chris and I went our separate ways and I headed down to the opera house to record a birthday message for Gillian (whose boyfriend was putting together a happy birthday video). It was like a ten minute walk. (tops)

On the way, I passed this cool statue! Also this obelisk!

The statue is of Thomas Sutcliffe Mort. Mort (according to wikipedia) was an Australian industrialist who was known for improving the refrigeration of meat. He built a refrigeration and ice company in Darling Harbour… which is significant because he lived from 1816 – 1878.

The obelisk is actually really neat! It has two names: The Obelisk of Distances or the Macquarie Obelisk. It was erected in 1818 using convict labour and is the oldest surviving monument in the colony. It was used as the official starting point for all road distances in New South Whales. All of my information on this is coming from City Art Sydney (which is a pretty cool site with info on tons of art installations across the city). The site also pointed out that this obelisk was the symbolic peg which indicated the furthest reach of the British Empire in the early 1800s!!

Continuing the journey, I walked down to circular quay (where the opera house is). Behind the train station is Customs House where Shane and I like to go out for fancy fancy dinners. There’s a restaurant called “Cafe Sydney” which you can see up on the top floor. It has amazing views across the harbour. (and the BEST food)


This is the walk towards the opera house along the harbour.

Look at the ferries and the HUGE cruise ship!

The city skyline and the ferries. Behind the ferries is the train station (on level two) and a huge highway above that on level 3. It’s pretty cool infrastructure.


Here are some Opera House shots and an awkward selfie!


After recording a birthday message, it was time to head home and see Shane.

I caught a train and then Shane (who had LITERALLY studied ALL day) met me at the station to walk home.


I got off the train at Westmead and we walked through the Children’s Hospital. It’s home to one of the only Starbucks that I’ve seen here! I asked them when they’d be getting egg nog in for egg nog lattes and they literally looked at me like my face had grown scales… It seems that egg nog lattes aren’t a big thing at Starbucks here… (probably explains why they aren’t ultra successful).

This is the Ronald McDonald House at Westmead. You can see that they have gorgeous jacaranda trees out front.

Walking home we passed the hardware store that I always talk about.. and since people have been asking – here’s a pic! And a bonus Shane/Carmel selfie!

Annnnddd that’s all folks! I promise to start catching up on the blog faster!! (Unless someone hires me … in which case all bets are off :D)

Miss you all!!

Love you all!!


The Sydney Craft Spirits Fair – Part One

During the week Andre was on reddit and noticed a post from a guy who had an extra ticket to Sydney’s Craft Spirits Fair. He’s American and new to Sydney as well so I decided to take him up on the offer of a free ticket! (Don’t worry, I took lots of safety precautions and he turned out to be super friendly and awesome.)

The morning of November 7th, Shane walked me to the train station. Can you believe this car on our street?

There are tons of cool birds that live between us and the hospitals! Here are like 8.

Jacaranda trees by The Children’s Hospital:

Shane and I took a train station selfie and then I went to meet Chris at Museum station downtown.

Chris and I went for lunch at a pub nearby and then headed to the fair. We actually had quite a bit to talk about – he’s 26 as well and originally came to Australia on exchange and then ended up loving the country and coming back after graduation. He currently works as a Project Manager for a large Australian company.

The event was held at a liquor store called The Oak Barrel in Sydney. They have a fairly normal liquor store in the front of their space and then a huge back room where the event was held. Chris told me that they usually do craft beer and wine events as well.


As we walked in, I realized that the event was very different than what I had been expecting.

Here you can see the long hallway out to the front of the store and street.

As we walked in, we were given a tasting glass, a pen, and a list of what they had available for tasting (and how much each bottle was being sold for at their members price).

Chris and I decided to start with lighter spirits such as gin and vodka first and then move our way to the darker rums, moonshines and brandy.

The spirits represented were from a wide variety of places in Australia and around the world. Each booth had either a representative of the distillery or the actual distiller there. It was really great to talk to each person and hear what made their product unique.

With our game plan in place, we set off to try Ink Dry Gin ($77) from the Husk Distillers in New South Wales (our state).


This gin was a cool purple colour, dry, and tasted super floral. You can see that they had their primary flavour influences in little glass jars – Juniper (obviously), Coriander, Lemon Myrtle, Pepper Berry from Tasmania, and Orange. Ultimately not my favourite but to be fair, we were trying these liquors straight and it was the first sip of the day which is bound to be a bit of a shock.

Don’t worry, not all of the liquors stayed so well in my brain.

Next up was another New South Wales Distillery: Ironbark Distillery.

They were featuring:

  • Ironbark Moonshine ($80)
  • Ironbark Barrel Aged Moonshine ($85)
  • Ironbark 313 Dry Gin ($71)
  • Ironbark Wattleseed Gin ($84)
  • Ironbark Chai Spirit ($68)
  • Ironbark Crystallus Vodka ($74)

Now, obviously we couldn’t try every single alcohol offered so I will admit that I regret not trying their Chai Spirits. We did try their gin, vodkas and moonshine. The moonshine was absolutely the stand out spirit from Ironbark. Especially the Barrel Aged Moonshine. This distiller told us that Moonshine is basically whiskey without the prolonged aging process in barrels.

After Ironbark came Fire Drum Vodka from Tasmania ($83). I was really excited to see a female distiller! One of the things that impressed me most about this event were the presenters at each booth. This distiller was able to tell us everything that went into her vodka, why it was different than other vodkas and what her process was.


Next up was a French distillery – Warenghem Distillery. This booth was one of the best decorated and they were the only ones actively collecting names and emails for future contact. In exchange, they offered an entry in a draw for a free bottle. The distiller clearly had his sales hat on! He’s the man in the promotional photo below.

  • Fine Glycine ($78)
  • Fine Etoile ($106)
  • Elixer D’Orange ($78)
  • Elixer D’Armorique ($82)


They had an orange flavoured spirit and two apple flavoured that we tried. The orange one was the best we tried from this table.

Next up came Diplomatico Rum from Venezuela and Monkey 47 from Germany:

  • Diplomatico Blanco ($59)
  • Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva ($93)
  • Monkey 47 Dry Gin ($80)
  • Monkey 47 Slow Gin ($85)

This representative was by far one of the best experts at this event. He took the time to show us how to properly use Monkey 47 Gin to make an amazing Gin and Tonics and he also taught us other cocktails that we could make for warm summer days. It was actually really nice to drink a mixed cocktail as a break from all the straight hard liquor.

He also gave me a bunch of postcards (which you can see on the right haha). Finally, I have to say that the Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva is absolutely spectacular. I went back at the end and begged him for a second taste of it. The bottle is the short black bottle on the far right of the bottles. It is one of the liquors that has really stuck in my memory from the 7th. I plan to buy a bottle when I have the money for it.

Next up was Catcher & Co. (New South Wales).

  • Catcher & Co. Monaro Moonshine ($50)
  • Catcher & Co. Aged Moonshine ($55)
  • Catcher & Co. Vodka ($50)
  • Catcher & Co. Gin ($55)


As we transferred to the next room, Chris got us bottles of water and we took a selfie!


Next… we tried – get this – QUINOA Vodka. Both Chris and I shared a look – like is this for real? Are the hippies going to put Quinoa in everything?? But man were we wrong. This was by far and away the best, smoothest vodka I have ever had.

Now. I know what some of you may be thinking – I was drunk and at this point any alcohol would taste good. Well – here are three of the awards that this Vodka has won:

2014 Double Gold Medal from the Asian Spirits Masters
2013 Platinum Medal from the Beverage Testing Institute
2011 Silver Medal from the SF World Spirits Competition


The booth was incredibly busy so I couldn’t get a good picture but they are based in the Cognac region of France and use organic, ethically sourced ingredients to produce their spirits.

At their table, they had:

  • FAIR Gin ($60)
  • FAIR Quinoa Vodka ($65)
  • FAIR Rum ($69)
  • FAIR Goji Liqueur ($29)
  • FAIR Cafe Liqueur ($29)

Next up came Four Pillars from Victoria (the state that Melbourne is in).

  • Four Pillars Rare Dry Gin ($68)
  • Four Pillars Navy Strength ($96)

Haha Navy Strength! I liked the tables that let you smell the ingredients that they used in the distilling process.


After that came the Tequila/Mezcal table … things went down quickly. Haha. All of them were from Mexico (obviously)

Don’t worry Mom and Dad, I didn’t try all of them!

The colourful bottles towards the back are Del Maguey Mezcal and the bottles at the front are Fortaleza Tequila. They look fancy with the agave on top eh?

Mezcal and Tequila are both made from agave but tequila uses only one type of agave (versus the variety which is used in mezcal) and they are both made with a different process. The distiller from Mexico at this table took a long time to tell us all about how the agave is put into these huge pits below the earth where they cook and smoke (which in turn gives the Mezcal a really cool smokey flavour). Afterwards to crush the agave they use a donkey on a track which walks around in a big circle to pull a manual crusher. All of these tequilas and mezals at the fair were artisanal so they use old processes specific to each farm which make a huge difference in flavour – even between varietals from the same parent company.

They had:

  • Del Maguey Chichicapa ($110)
  • Del Maguey Minero ($110) – this one was a favourite – super smokey
  • Del Maguey San Luis Del Rio ($110)
  • Del Maguey Santo Domingo ($110)
  • Del Maguey Crema ($84) – this one was really nice and sweet
  • Fortaleza Tequila Blanco ($127)
  • Fortaleza Tequila Reposado ($145)

This post has hit 1,400 words so I better cap it lest people stop reading!

Miss you all!

Love you all!


Cooking and Studying

After Amy’s visit Kendra proved herself to be a real MVP again and sent me word documents with all of the old family recipes!

I decided to make Grandma’s Chicken Tetrazzini recipe. So yum.

I was very proud of my prep work:

The next day I went on an adventure to the mall to give Shane some space.

They were all ready for Santa… which again, feels a little weird in 30 degree weather.


Shane and I shop at a cheaper grocery store when we can called “Aldi”. They have awesome cereals haha. Road Runner Choco Balls?


While at the mall I got a hair cut! Two people blowdried my hair! And it was $45 no tax and no tip!

I forgot to take a photo of it till it was wet and misting though…


Also! Even though it was early November, I still got super excited about the one house in our neighbourhood who actually decorated for Halloween!

Shane wasn’t feeling well earlier this week so while I was at the mall I picked up some feel better gifts for Shane.

A hot water bottle for his tummy, an eye mask (because our room gets SO bright) and the best mug I have ever seen in the history of ever.

Shane tried to blow up the hot water bottle but it was a horrible, horrible idea haha.


We also found a new use for our closet doors:


Shane’s study schedule is:

7-8 Gym
8-8:30 Breakfast
8:30-12:30 Study
12:30-1:15 Lunch and Free Time
1:15-5:30 Study
5:30-6:15 Dinner
6:15-9:30 Study
9:30-10:30 Free Time
10:30 Get Ready For Bed

Most days he studied till 11 or 12 though. So much book learnin.

Miss you all tons!




Living in Australia has been a lot of fun and being with Shane has been really nice (long distance can be really straining) but, to be totally honest, it has been a bit of a lonely experience. I’ve made some decisions which have made it more difficult to make friends (not working/being really careful with money). Don’t get me wrong, Shane’s friends are the BEST and Brendon and Andre are a ton of fun but everyone is so busy with studying (as they should be!) so it has been a little bit quieter than my life back home.

SO… when one of my FAVOURITE ex-impact colleagues told me that she was coming to Parra on business, it was extremely exciting!!! She has been really lovely to me – she has answered all of my questions about how much haircuts should cost, when one should tip (or as is the case here, NOT tip) – she also took time to call me on the phone when I got here and chat for a while.

I can’t describe how much I took all my friends back home for granted. Being able to just call a sister or a friend and head out for dinner is a luxury that I didn’t fully appreciate.

For weeks beforehand I planned and fussed about where to go for dinner. Shane, Andre and a few other dent students recommended the Bavarian Bier Cafe in Parramatta. It made a whole lot of sense for Amy and I to go to a good craft beer restaurant given that it was one of our favourite after work activities in Vancouver (we were just missing Michael!).

The restaurant location is really quite impressive, it’s actually an old church which has been refurbished into a restaurant.

They have huge vaulted ceilings and the light fixtures remind me of the lighting I saw in medieval buildings in Europe. Huge circular chandeliers that would have housed candles originally and then been lowered by chains from over a beam to be lit. You can also see some of the stained glass that they had in this photo.


Here is a better photo of the stained glass:


This is a photo of the bar taken in the opposite direction from where we were sitting. The booths reminded me of church pews with higher chair backs. It was a really neat place.


Amy and I obviously both started off with beers while we caught up. We chatted all about her wedding plans and what life was like in Australia for me.


Excellent beer. This is the Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse Hell Bier.

I would try to describe it but their website does a pretty good job at that already:

Tasting Note

Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse Hell is noted for its agreeable level of carbonation and its natural cloudiness.  A cloudy, top-fermented ale brewed from 2/3 wheat malt and 1/3 barley malt, hops,Franziskaner’s own strain of yeast and pure spring water, according to a time-honored Bavarian recipe.

The aroma and palate is reminiscent of banana, passionfruit and vanilla, married with a distinct clove-like character, typical of this style. Zesty carbonation up front with a  grainy wheat texture finishes light and satisfying.

Amy and I both opted to order Schnitzel for dinner – as you have to at a German restaurant!

Here’s mine – Swiss Schnitzel. It had ham and cheese over it with some sauerkraut on the side.


My one (major) complaint about the restaurant is that when we ordered, the waiter said “oh your dishes come with potatoes, how would you like them done?” “great, they also have a sauce with it – here are the types you can order – would you like one?”

I said yes because I thought it came with the dish but it was really $4 extra! Now this was already a $31 dish so I was pretty surprised and felt a little ripped off that they would present the option as if it were included and then have a fairly sizeable charge for it. It was also a very small amount of sauce.


So anyways, if anyone decides to dine here, be careful to clarify what actually comes with the meal and what is being offered as an up-sell. My mistake for being a silly tourist – upon closer review, it seems that they have at least one trip advisor complaint about this already.

Overall, the company was spectacular (11/10), the beer was awesome (8/10) but the food experience was disappointing (6.5/10). Next time, I want to try this Italian place:


After dinner, Amy and I went for a walk through Parra up towards the mall. It had been raining earlier but luckily the weather held nice for us.

This church is in the square where Jamie Oliver’s Trattoria is. If you remember my day one post. Jacaranda tree!! So pretty!! (I’m obsessed)


We ended up at Westfield where the movie theatre and Max Brenner’s is. (They say it like Max Bren-ah). We (foolishly) ordered sundaes and sat down to chat more.



Look at these things! We ordered one EACH! My god. After eating huge dinners! They weren’t expensive so we were kind of expecting like maybe a third of what came?


Needless to say, even after chatting and eating for an extended period of time, neither of us made it through our sundaes.


After all of that, Amy and I needed to really walk so we took a longer walking route back to her hotel.

On the way we came across a cool looking tree:


And took another selfie!


I had really missed Amy since she moved back to Australia and it was super awesome to catch up. Hopefully her work sends her to Parra lots more!!

Shane came and met me at the bus stop to walk home and we ran into Betty’s twin!


There were also a MILLION snails out! (Gross)


Shane wanted to hear all about my evening with Amy (he had to stay home and study) so we chatted for a while:


He learned about the dangers of getting fingers too close to teeth:


And then ultimately he told me he couldn’t goof off anymore and went to keep studying.


Exam time is serious business.

Overall, it was an amazing evening with a great friend. Hopefully Amy will make another blog world visit – Shane and I will have to travel her way next time!

Miss you all, Love you all!

(It’s been a fair bit of time since this really happened so really missing Amy again now! Come back Amy!)



Halloween! And Adventures with the Oven.

Halloween day was filled with important tasks.

I beat threeee cups in Mario Kart. Check it.

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It was 100cc. I’m still not very good. I can’t beat Shane.. or Brendon. Boo.

Halloween isn’t a big thing in Australia. No houses were decorated on our street and Halloween candy comes in 12 packs. (For like $5 a bag!) I think that given the influx of North American ex-pats, it’s slowly gaining momentum but on the day of, it felt pretty different to home.

Andre carved a pretty sweet pumpkin (the only one on the street). A lot of people were taking photos as they walked by.


We wanted to dress up and hand out candy – Shane went as a mad scientist and I went as a giraffe.

Getting ready photo:


Shane was pretty terrifying:


More costume photos:

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The weather was really not in the spirit haha


But Shane and Andre were. I would recommend expanding the photo to get the full effect of how creepy Shane looked.


Despite my fears, the night was super fun. We got a total of 10 trick-or-treat-ers. Some of which had KILLER costumes! We also had two random children that Andre gave candy to because they happened to wander into shouting range. I think the direct quote was “HEY!!!! Are you guys trick or treating?! No?? Do you want candy anyways??” And then all the Canadians ran outside to spread Halloween joy.

We sat inside watching Star Wars (and eating lasagna leftovers) while the kids wandered by. At one point a nice lady who lives across the street from us came and tried to give US candy… it was a confusing Halloween moment. But also super nice and cute haha.

Overall, it was a fun, chill Halloween. It was nice to try and represent the tradition in a way that would do home proud. One group of kids took selfies with us in our costumes and told us that we were the “nicest house so far”. Haha success!

The next day was Andre and Brendon’s turn to make family dinner (we do family dinners on Sundays). Andre bought a beer can chicken holder a few weeks back so tonight the dish was ginger-beer-butt-chicken with ginger-beer-butt-chicken-drippings-gravy with barbecued corn and broccoli. Healthy (ish) and delicious. I think that we would all recommend ginger-beer-butt-chicken and also Andre and Brendon’s mad kitchen skills.


Sunday night family dinner is slightly different than home… beer instead of milk. I’ll have to suggest it when I’m home in December.

The beginning of November is ‘scary freak out time’ in the world of dental students so I tried to make myself scarce and let them study. Thus, adventures in raisin bread!

(From scratch!)

I used this recipe which the boys seemed to like but I wasn’t really a huge fan. I found it a little bit dry and it was a huge struggle to hand knead in all that flour. The dryness may have been my own fault though because I struggled with the cooking time… a lot haha.

Here is the dough rising. You can also see that the homemade table transitioned into a giant fruit bowl for a week or so.


Here’s my floured counter for rolling! Only we don’t have a rolling pin (or a wine bottle) so I kinda poked it into submission.

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Continuing the theme of not having proper kitchen equipment, I realized after making two loaves worth of bread that we (Andre) only had one loaf pan. So I also made raisin muffins! Exciting!

Here they are ready for the oven!


Here they are happily baking in the oven!


Here they are horrifically burnt by the oven!


We peeled off the tops and ate the bottoms… Shane was very supportive about the burnt raisin bread … things.


Andre made some suggestions about oven temperature and cook time… which worked out very well for the bread!


Check out how swirly it is!


If anyone has a better handmade raisin bread recipe send it my way! This was like a 60% success.

Miss you all!

Love you all!


October 27th – October 30th

I think that I had neglected to show our bottom floor in my previous photos of the house so, when I took out the garbage and recycling, I took some photos of our garage space.

Here is our garbage and recycling. Each unit gets one green bin of each. The yellow lid is all of our recycling mixed together (it’s about the size of a green garbage bin back home) and the red lid is household garbage. This is just outside of our garage. There is curbside pickup weekly for garbage and recycling is once a fortnight.


This is what the common garage space looks like. You can see that our garage is open and our trash bin is on the right.


Here is the inside of our garage with the door open over my head. We have a small storage space to the right in that photo and then a long space to the back. It technically is a two car garage but I think it would be really tough if you actually had two cars. You can see that we have a cage in the back, a small workshop and some shelving for things like paper towel, toilet paper and spiders!


Here’s the work bench. A bit different than dad’s haha. The guys use it for dental work.


Doesn’t everyone keep a shoe box with dental models in their garage?


The rest of the week was fairly uneventful. I complained incessantly about my egregiously injured foot. (I forgot my insoles for my shoes which are a half size too large D: )

Toe flap! Shane offered to amputate but I’m good at healin’.


After all that rich food downtown Shane and I went back to chicken, rice and vegetables haha.


I went back to the library. Looks and works the same way as home.


Then I put out a blanket in the backyard and enjoyed the sunshine. I got super weird tan lines on the back of my legs. Would not recommend.

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Shane and I gave up on chicken, rice and vegetables and ordered pizza from Crust. It’s super gourmet and so yum. Shane had strongly recommended it so it was hard to resist haha.

We got a Moroccan Lamb pizza with Olive Feta Squares (as a breadsticks like thing).

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To continue the Italian trend, I also decided to make lasagna. It was a huge hit – I can’t really share my recipe because its super tweaked and it seems to change a little every time I make it but I took photos of some of the process:

Here’s the meat sauce simmering away. I let this go for as long as possible to help all the spices blend and deepen. Lots of garlic.


Making the cheese sauce. Mozzarella was super expensive when I went to buy supplies so that’s actually cheddar. Cheddar is white in Australia. It’s also not called cheddar. So technically thats ‘Tasty cheese’. The name is accurate so I guess that’s a plus.

The small bowl and cutting board have freshly chopped parsley. I had to youtube how to chop continental parsley! I don’t think I had used it before! The broader leaf parsley has a way nicer texture. It isn’t spiky when you bite.

Also that’s Masterchef Australia on my laptop. I needed some cooking inspiration haha.


Beginning assembly:


And the cheese sauce:


Another meat layer on top of the noodles (I couldn’t find ones that you can pre-cook! Which I prefer for texture reasons… oh well)


I had more meat and cheese mix than would fit in the pan so I made a mini lasagna! Shane and I just had it this week (late November) haha.

Here are the two end products. One for the oven and one for the freezer. (Yes, that’s a pot – we don’t have a ton of baking dishes!)

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This is the lasagna after sitting in the sauna for a bit.


Shane and Andre found my phone while I was distracted haha. Jokes on them though! My eight followers will see their silly photos!

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Here is the final product. Pretty okay dinner if you ask me! And it lasted a TON of meals for all four of us! Om nom.

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Miss you all! Love you lots!

xox Carmel



The Best Day Ever

Okay guys. Hang onto your hats because this was an amazing day that I am so excited to share with you all!

Monday, October 26th

The day started off pretty normally.. Shane and I had leftovers for lunch before he had to run to lecture in the afternoon. I hope that Ian sees this and gasps with horror from Shane and I eating leftover dressed coleslaw. haha


The day may have started normally but as it turns out, Shane surprised me with tickets to go see one of my favourites stand up comedians – Danny Bhoy! If you are unfamiliar with him, I strongly, strongly, strongly recommend that you go check out his comedy specials.

Subject to Change is what got me hooked. It’s on Australian Netflix but not Canandian (even though it was filmed in Montreal)!!

So after Shane got back from his lecture, we both got ready to go out. I needed advice from sisters and friends on which dress to wear:


We both did hair and makeup:


Shane finished first so he helped me:


We had to run to catch the bus so a nice couple photo was taken there! Also I was really proud of how I did my hair haha.


We were going the whole way into the city so we had to bus and then catch a train.

Some friends asked me what the date was and I told them that it was still going…


Haha oops! Sorry Shane! Full attention!

We got off the train at the Queen Victoria Building – which is one of my favourite places in Sydney. We’ve gone there every year and it has all kinds of high end shops including a Dr. Seuss Gallery!!! It is the BEST. I’ll go take photos soon. There’s also a bunch of stores that I can’t even pretend to afford. It was all decorated for Christmas (which feels weird because it is SO hot)!! It’s a gorgeous old building with a huge statue of Queen Victoria outside.

It was very busy with the evening rush hour in effect


The building has these amazing cuckoo clocks… aren’t the lights pretty? They call them “fairy lights” here.


They also had a HUGE tree decorated:

The base was really cool looking:

It was decorated by Swarovski. The sign says:

“Celebrate. The tree took 92 people 44 hours to bring to life. It’s 6.5 Tonnes of christmas delight. 65,150 lights that sparkle bright and 82,000 crystals that shine day and night.”


I would have loved to stick around longer but we had to run to our dinner reservations so we left the QVB.

Sydney is such and old yet modern city so it’s really neat to see where the architectural styes intersect.


This was right next door to our restaurant! The Great Synagogue. Congregation founded in 1828, Synagogue erected 1878.

The restaurant Shane booked us into was called Bambini Trust Restaurant and Wine Bar. It has won “Australian Gourmet Traveller” awards so we knew that were in for a pretty amazing treat.

It’s a very dim and romantic style restaurant with huge chandeliers.

We started off with an amuse-bouche from the chef. It was an arancini ball with a spicy aioli.


We also ordered a bottle of 2013 Hugel Gentil from Alsace France. It’s a Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, and Riesling blend. It was very light, sweet and fruity – Shane and I both enjoyed it.

They brought this super high quality olive oil to dip sourdough rolls into. Very yummy.


Our main courses were unbelievable. It’s making me hungry again writing about it.

Shane ordered ‘Mary Hill Farm’ Lamb with Roasted Jerusalem artichokes, Cavelo Nero and rosemary jus. Do you know what cavelo nero is? I’ll answer after the photo but add your guess to a comment below!


Did you guess Tuscany Kale? It is also known as black kale or black cabbage. I tried some of Shane’s and it was excellent. Much better than any kale I’ve ever made!

My dish was Confit of duck with Polenta Bianco, Pancetta and Blood Orange. The blood orange made such a difference in the dish. It was so decadent – every bite was phenomenal.


You can see the side that we ordered behind my plate: Warm salad of Cauliflower with Sweet Potato and Goat’s Curd.

After our mains, we ordered desert!

Shane ordered: Torta Caprese “Isle of Capri” Flourless Chocolate Cake with Mandarin ice-cream and Grand Marnier Salted Caramel Sauce. Look at the plating!


I ordered Affogato Drowned in Toschi Nocello with Frangelico Liqueur.


You can see two scoops of Vanilla ice cream with a biscotti and then two glasses. The one at the back is a shot of espresso and the one at the front is Frangelico. Reminded me of Pa and the fancy liqueur glasses that come out after dinner.


Sooo yummy. After dinner, it was time to walk over to the show!

Downtown Sydney is quite fancy and looks very nice at night. Prada store! Also an after dinner selfie!

Here’s our approach to The State Theatre:


And here’s the show announcement! He also performed at the Opera House earlier that week.


The State Theatre was incredible! Here is Shane next to Danny Bhoy’s poster and the entrance way into the theatre.

Like most buildings in Sydney, the architecture was incredible. It opened in 1929 and has beautiful Art Deco features that are so characteristic for that time. It’s one of my favourite styles so I took a hundred thousand photos.

Shane got us amazing seats. Look at how roomy this theatre is!! Look how close to the stage we were! At one point a (drunk) woman in the audience started heckling.. and wouldn’t stop so Danny Bhoy jumped down off the stage. He was like 5 ft. from where we were sitting.

This is looking around from where we were sitting:

Selfie from our seats:


We took a funny selfie and noticed that we had a friend haha. He must have noticed when we took it because he was gone by the second one. lol!

One more more pre-show photo:


Unfortunately there was no photography allowed during the show so just imagine like 20 photos of Shane and I laughing super hard.

After the show we walked up to the edge of the stage and took some photos inside the theatre. The photo from the back of the theatre is actually just outside the ladies washroom! The entrance is in the main show hall!

They had busts of famous composers! I’ll only post two but there were TONS of busts and statues.

Outside the main hall I took more photos of the detailed building:

Shane found a cool water fountain:


In addition to famous composers, they also had Roman goddesses for inspiration (I already posted one above).

Even the floor was amazing – I included the photo with shoes for size context:

Even the signs in the theatre were super ornate. It reminded me a little bit of the tower of terror at Disney/ California Adventure. (Everyone do the Brittany!)


We took final photos with the signs and then departed.

It was POURING rain… and neither of us had brought umbrellas… oh well haha

The city of Sydney is still looking out for us!


We came across a store with super cool door handles:

We walked back to the QVB to get out of the rain before catching our train.

The Coach store was doing some cool holiday decorating (I’m not kidding, this mall is swankier than anything I’ve seen in Vancouver).

The UGG store (where’s Ash’s and my slippers were born!) had what I think is potentially the best chair ever made.

After that, it was a train and a bus back home.

Isn’t Shane the best boyfriend in the whole world? He really knows how to plan a date night.

Miss you all and love you all!