Macarons: The Final Chapter . . .

There, there, don’t cry!  It’s not really goodbye after all – of course I will continue to seek out macarons wherever I go!  Perhaps I will find some on my upcoming travels to Auckland & San Francisco – heck, macarons can even be found in Buffalo these days!  And of course I’ll be baking up a storm once I get home, so get ready! 😀

In the meantime, here’s a final look at the macarons I’ve enjoyed from Adriano Zumbo.  Many of these I actually had quite some time ago, I guess I just never got around to writing up this last post (sniff, sniff!).

Blackcurrant; Rice Pudding


This one was a bit too tart for my taste on the first bite, but I guess my palate adjusted because I wrote in my notes that the flavor grew on me.

Rice Pudding

The first thing to hit is the nutmeg, then the texture of the rice (very nice!).  The flavor reminded me a bit of Christmas cookies – maybe Mexican wedding cakes?  I guess it had that taste of icing sugar, but not too overpowering – sweet in a good way.

*For some reason I saved both of these macarons for the next day & unfortunately there was a noticeable loss of crispness to the shells.  This was especially true with the rice pudding.  Perhaps it was because I neglected to put them in an airtight container overnight.  Live & learn!

Licorice - Crispy-crunchy shell, gooey melt-in-your mouth cream filling - it's what I love best about these heavenly treats!


After taking my first bite, I had to scrunch up my nose a bit at this one . . . it tasted exactly as it should have, but I guess I had forgotten I’m not really a fan of black licorice to begin with – hahaha! 😉  It did grow on me (a *bit*) with the second bite.

"Chocoron" - The orange shell with yellow filling was not exactly what I was expecting to find inside!


All I knew about this macaron when I bought it was that it was coated in chocolate.  I decided to be adventurous & try to solve the mystery, setting aside the fact that Zumbo macarons are a bit like Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans (As Dumbledore says to Harry Potter . . . “I should be safe with a nice toffee one . . . Alas!  Earwax!”)

Hoping to find a relatively “safe” flavor inside (please no earwax!), I discovered what I believe was mandarin.  While I like oranges, mandarins in particular have always seemed slightly bitter in flavor to me & this was no exception.  The combination with the dark chocolate didn’t help in my opinion.  Oh well, so much for adventure!

Pear & Vanilla; Dark Chocolate

Pear & Vanilla

Tastes mostly of pear initially, then the vanilla (vanilla bean?) comes through & lingers on the palate.

Dark Chocolate

This one caught my attention because it said “Limited Time Only!”  I was also curious about the orange shell, but it turned out that there were no surprises here – which is sometimes a good thing! 😉  Nice dark chocolate flavor.

Caramelised Pumpkin Seed; Coconut, Green chili & Lavender

Caramelized Pumpkin Seed

I was so excited when I saw this macaron! . . . But unfortunately, it ended up being a bit of a disappointment, probably because I was expecting more pumpkin flavor, not really thinking about the fact that this was a pumpkin *seed* macaron.  It had heaps of silky cream filling, but the main flavor I picked up on was simply vanilla.  The pumpkin seeds gave this macaron a nice crunch, but without them & without knowing the name of this macaron, I wouldn’t have been able to guess what it was.

Coconut, Green Chili & Lavender

I specifically bought this macaron because of the strange combination of flavors. 😉  I could smell the green chili right away!  The filling, which I tried first, had a mild taste but a lingering “heat” to it.  I couldn’t really taste the lavender or coconut, I just sensed the heat of the chili on the back of my throat.  Perhaps the coconut was there more as a way to mellow out the chili.  Surprisingly, not a bad macaron!

So, there you have it!  And I can only imagine what zany new flavors Zumbo is conjuring up as we speak . . . Oh, what the heck – I suppose it couldn’t hurt to pop in one last time before I have to say farewell to Sydney & my Aussie adventure . . .


An Aussie Night Before Christmas


For this post I thought I would do a bit of show & tell – I am going to show you what Christmas looks like in Sydney & tell you the story of An Aussie Night Before Christmas (& yes, I bought a copy of this book, along with one called Christmas Wombat! ;))  So grab a cup of hot cocoa & settle in – this is going to be a good one! . . . Oh!  And be sure to warm up your voices – we might just sing a rendition of Jingle Bells (Aussie-style, of course!!) before this post is through! 😉

An Aussie Night Before Christmas by Yvonne Morrison

‘Twas the night before Christmas;

there wasn’t a sound.

Not a possum was stirring;

no-one was around.

We’d left on the table

some tucker & beer,

Hoping that Santa Claus

soon would be here;

We children were snuggled up safe in our beds,

While dreams of pavlova danced ’round in our heads;

And Mum in her nightie, & Dad in his shorts,

Had just settled down to watch TV Sports,

When outside the house

a mad ruckus arose;

Loud squeaking & banging

woke us from our doze.

We ran to the screen door,

peeked cautiously out,

Snuck onto the deck,

then let out a shout.

Guess what had woken us up

from our snooze.

But a rusty old ute

pulled by eight mighty ‘roos.

The cheerful man driving

was giggling with glee,

And we both knew at once

who this plump bloke must be.

Now I’m telling the truth – it’s all dinki-di,

Those eight kangaroos fairly soared through the sky.

Santa leaned out the window to pull at the reins,

And encouraged the ‘roos, by calling their names.

‘Now, Kylie!  Now, Kirsty!

Now, Shazza & Shane!

On, Kipper!  On, Skipper!

On, Bazza & Wayne!

Park up on that water tank,

Grab a quick drink,

I’ll scoot down the gum tree.

Be back in a wink!’

So up to the tank

those eight kangaroos flew,

With the ute full of toys,

& Santa Claus too.

He slid down the gum tree

& jumped to the ground,

Then in through the window

he sprang with a bound.

He had bright sunburned cheeks

& a milky white beard.

A jolly old joker

was how he appeared.

He wore red stubby shorts

& old thongs on his feet,

And a hat of deep crimson

as shade from the heat.

His eyes – bright as opals –

Oh! how they twinkled!

And, like a goanna,

his skin was quite wrinkled!

His shirt was stretched over

a round bulging belly

Which shook when he moved,

like a plate full of jelly.

A fat sack of prezzies

he flung from his back,

And he looked like a swaggie

unfastening his pack.

He spoke not a word,

but bent down on one knee,

To position our goodies

beneath the Yule tree.

Surfboard & footy-ball shapes

for us two.

And for dad, tongs to use

on the new barbeque.

A mysterious package

he left for our mum,

Then he turned & he winked

& he held up his thumb;

He strolled out on deck & his ‘roos came on cue;

Flung his sack in the back & prepared to shoot through.

He bellowed out loud as they swooped past the gates –


Well, now that I’ve got you in the Christmas spirit, are you ready for a little sing-a-long?!  I thought so!! 😀  Here’s a video of “Bucko & Champs” singing “Aussie Jingle Bells.”  Oh!  If you like what you hear, you may also want to search for some of their other well-known holiday hits, including such favorites as “Six White Boomers” (Careful!  You won’t recognize this tune, but you’ll be surprised how quickly it’ll get stuck in your head), “Deck the Shed With Bits of Wattle” & “Santa Has Got a New Truck” (which, sadly, I could not find a link for. :()  Totally serious, people – I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried!  You’ll see an ad for their CD at the end of the first video. 😀


Light Show at St. Mary's Cathedral

Christmas Window Display at David Jones Department Store

Doves at St. Mary's

Inside Sydney Opera House Concert Hall

The Madonna & Child

Nativity at Hyde Park

When Does a Traveler Become a Resident? . . . The Search for a Place Called Home

"Art & About" Festival on the streets of Sydney

As with my post on my first six months abroad, I have been both planning on (read: procrastinating) & dreading (yep, *more* procrastinating) writing this post for quite some time now.  As my days in Oz quickly draw to a close, I can’t even begin to come to terms with the mixed emotions I’m currently feeling.  I apologize in advance if this post is not as cohesive as it could be, but perhaps this stream of consciousness style best mirrors my current frame of mind . . .

Below is a letter I wrote to my parents some time ago:

Dear Mom & Dad,

I want to come home.  I wish I could.  Today is Monday.  Everyone in my tent is homesick.  We haven’t been doing much.  Remember you said Kelly’s mom might pick up me & Kelly, well I want you guys to come too.  I hate the songs we sing.  Last night it rained & today it rained too.  I hope the days go faster because it’s getting more & more boring.  Please right back soon. (Editor’s Note: This is not a typo, that’s just how I spelled ‘write’ at the time – oops!)

Love, Niki

Home Sweet Home - in cold & snowy Buffalo, NY

OK, so hopefully you’ve figured out by now that this letter truly was sent *quite* some time ago – as in over 20 years ago!! 😉  I was away at summer camp with a friend & clearly I was having a hard time. 😦

Fortunately life in Oz has not been quite so miserable (far from it, in fact), but that’s not to say it’s always been easy.  While I wouldn’t give up this experience for anything, there were definitely periods when I wished I could take a sort of “time out,” for lack of a better word (a vacation from my vaction, perhaps?), to visit with loved ones & experience the familiarity of home (Take bananas, for example – do you have any idea how much it cost just to get a banana here after the Queensland floods?  Try $15/kilo (that’s almost $7/lb!)  Oh, how I longed for a banana!  Fortunately prices have recently come down & I can once again afford the delicious fruit. :))

But here’s the thing – as much as my blog might portray my experience abroad as a vacation, of course it’s much more than that.  I do in fact eat more than just dessert – heck, I even cook my own dinner once in a while! (despite the lack of culinary skill I displayed in my Thanksgiving post, I do alright for myself ;)).

Nanie's Homemade Soup - Made by Moi!

I go grocery shopping.  I do laundry.  I vacuum & do dishes & rake leaves.  And although I know it was only part-time for six months, I worked in order to support myself.  And at some point along the way I stopped feeling like a traveler.  In fact, I think I almost stopped identifying as a foreigner (besides the accent – gives me away every time ;)).  But in all seriousness, in some ways, I started to feel more like a local.

I don’t think I can pinpoint the first time it happened, but I can give you some recent examples.  Like on my bus tour to nearby Hunter Valley – everyone else on the tour (besides my flatmate Mia) was truly a non-resident of Sydney (including the Melbournian on the trip) – visiting the city only briefly & staying with friends or in a hostel or hotel.  When the bus dropped us off back in Sydney at the end of the day, one of the girls from the tour asked Mia & I where we were going.  “Home,” she replied.  And then there’s the guy from Melbourne who asked me for directions just the other day . . . & I actually knew where to send him! (which, if you know me at all, is a pretty big feat since even in my own hometown my navigational skills are pretty hit or miss 0:-)).

Home Away from Home - My Flat in Sydney

So maybe you can understand why, although I’ll be going home next month, it also feels a bit like I’ll be *leaving* home.  I’ve become accustomed to the cars driving on the other side of the road, seeing (& tasting) every macaron flavor known to man each time I walk into one of Adriano Zumbo’s patisseries, hearing phrases like “how ya goin?” & “good on ya!” on a regular basis . . . I’m going to miss that . . .

Macaron Day 2011 Window Display

I thought I would have a clearer picture by now, but I still can’t fathom how this experience might shape the way I make decisions moving forward: What will I do next in my life because of the time I spent abroad?  I can’t imagine a future which doesn’t include more travel – there are so many places I still want to see.  But I also know that, for me at least, long-term solo travel can take its toll.  After months away from friends & family, I am aching to return home & hug my loved ones.  So I am torn.  Drawn to both adventure & comfort in equal measure.  Away for too long & I start to feel homesick; Stay in one place & I become restless.

As I once again ponder my next steps in life, I feel it’s appropriate to remind my readers (& myself) of the travel/life philosophy I wrote at the beginning of this journey:

Live in the Moment

Step Outside My Comfort Zone

Let My Heart Lead & My Mind be the Accompanist

Seek Passion in all its Forms

Although I don’t think it will ever be easy for me, I’m beginning to understand (on an intellectual level, at least) that it’s OK not to know.  That what comes next cannot always be neatly laid out like tomorrow’s clothes.  Sometimes it’s nice just to wake up in the morning & ask yourself, “What would I like to do today?”

Now before you scoff at how naive that may sound, let me clarify that I don’t intend for that statement to be taken literally.  What I mean is this – who we are & what we desire is constantly evolving.  Throughout our lives we continuously meet new people, develop new interests, learn new skills.

Lauren & I at Bar 99 in Glebe

I’m not going to pretend that it’s easy to sit with the not knowing – it’s not.  But maybe it’s not so important for us to be able to answer all of life’s questions; perhaps it’s enough simply that we are not afraid to ask them.

All I can really say for certain at this stage of my life is that I will continue to ask questions – of myself, of others, of the world around me.  I think that’s the best way to stay true to each of the ideals I’ve been striving towards throughout the past year.

So . . . What would I like to do today?  Today I think I’ll hop a flight to Queensland – Christmas on the beach sounds rather nice . . . 😉


An Aussie Thanksgiving

My flatmates as we prepare to eat our Thanksgiving dinner - Mia, Miel & Sarah

Macaron Day (Sunday, November 27th) was also the day my flatmates & I planned to celebrate my first Thanksgiving abroad (& their first Thanksgiving ever!)  They wanted me to have a taste of home, so they graciously agreed to help me prepare a turkey feast complete with all the trimmings . . . & they were quite curious to try candied yams . . . marshmallows?  On vegetables?!  Yes, we Americans are a strange bunch. 😉

I have to admit that I was a bit nervous about the whole thing – as the only American in the bunch, I was suddenly the “expert” & was expected to know things like how to roast a turkey – never mind the fact that I’d never done this before & pretty much the only raw meat I ever touch are boneless, skinless chicken breasts – I have to pull what out of where?!  :-/  I figured the least I could do was to purchase the bird & I’d already done (well, some of) my research & found a 3.4 kilo (7.5 lb) turkey at a local supermarket, so I knew exactly what I was going to get.  This was actually a whole turkey as we weren’t able to find just the breast, but it seemed relatively small so we figured it would work for the four of us (with lots of leftover turkey sandwiches for the week to come).  I decided I would wait until Saturday night after work to pick it up – since we have limited space in both our freezer & fridge, I figured this was the smart thing to do . . . Yeah – didn’t think about the fact that a 7.5 lb turkey can take up to 48 hours to defrost . . . now what?!

Fortunately my flatmate Mia is studying to be a chef, so I figured she’d have some tricks up her sleeve . . . & I was right!  After leaving the turkey in the fridge overnight we were able to finish defrosting it in cold water in the kitchen sink.  Even though Mia had never actually cooked a turkey before, she had some great ideas about how to prepare it.  First she “trussed” the turkey (I tried to tell her it was already dead & probably wouldn’t be able to climb out of the pan on its own, so I really saw no need to tie it up, but she just wouldn’t listen).  Then she seasoned it with oil, garlic, thyme, lemon & a whole host of veggies.  She even draped strips of bacon over the top to help keep it from drying out!

Our Turkey - all dressed up & ready to go in the oven!

The next big hurdle was just waiting for the darn thing to cook!  We didn’t have a meat thermometer, so we just had to keep checking it to see if the juices were running clear.  I don’t know about Mia, but I had a really hard time figuring this out!  We kept giving it another 15 minutes . . . & then another 15 minutes . . . until finally we were satisfied that we would not all die of food poisoning if we ate it. 😉

Is it done yet?!

We were all so proud of our finished turkey!!  But like good chefs & bloggers we had to snap a few photos before we could even think about eating.  We were like food stylists, crafting the perfect backdrops & searching for the best angles from which to point our lenses.  We decided the turkey didn’t quite stand out enough on the plate, so we made it a bed of lettuce to give it a little color. 🙂

My First Turkey! OK, I guess I already admitted I had nothing to do with it - it was all Mia!!

The “tree” in the picture below does not usually sit on our kitchen table but it made a nice addition to our autumnal theme, so into the photo it went! 😉

Our Beautiful Thanksgiving Spread

In addition to the turkey, Mia made the candied yams as well as some basil mashed potatoes! (way above & beyond, Mia!)  We got a basic recipe for the yams from my mom (yeah . . . I didn’t know how to do the turkey or the sweet potatoes – perhaps I should surrender my American passport? :()  Once I saw the recipe, I realized how simple the yams actually are – cut them up & layer in a casserole with butter, brown sugar & marshmallows & bake until potatoes are soft & marshmallows are brown . . . except that when we went to check on them the marshmallows hadn’t exactly browned . . . instead they had, well, um, disappeared!!  I was just about peeing my pants at that point.  But surely if that was the only thing to go wrong then I’d say we did pretty well.  We had a few marshmallows left so we just threw them on top & left the casserole in the oven with the heat turned off for a few minutes – I think they look pretty good in the picture above & I can vouch for the fact that they tasted fabulous! 🙂

OK, so if Mia made everything I’ve described so far, then by now you’re probably wondering what the heck I actually made!  Well in comparison, not much!  I made my aunt’s broccoli stuffing & I bought a jar of cranberry sauce – that’s it!  Sarah made a salad & Miel made a pumpkin pie & by the end of the night were all stuffed! 🙂

Miel's Delicious Pumpkin Pie!

As I wrap up this post, I can’t help but contemplate the many things I have to be thankful for this year.  The opportunity to live abroad & experience another culture.  The fact that I found work (in a cupcake shop, no less!) so easily & the fact that I have been able (& will soon be able again) to leave work in order to travel.  My newfound barista & macaron-making skills.  Finding wonderful flatmates to live with during my time in Sydney as well as several other new friends during my travels.  And of course the wonderful family & friends from home that I love & miss so dearly!  Looking forward to seeing you all in 2012!


Map of Australia

WA = Western Australia; NT = Northern Territory; SA = South Australia; QLD = Queensland; NSW = New South Wales; ACT = Australian Capital Territory; VIC = Victoria; TAS = Tasmania


December 2011
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