More downtime

Last night our ISP had some big problems. That's right, for once it really WAS Internode and not Telstra. Stranger things have happened.

Anyway. This is just to say that if you couldn't load our websites earlier, that's probably why.

We have a new car.

Or it SEEMS like we have a new car anyway. Wednesday Darrin couldn't get it started to go to work. The night before it had to be push started both times we needed it. So Wednesday morning we push started it and Darrin took it to the shop down the road, where they told us what we suspected already: the alternator was dead as a doornail. It must have been dying for weeks, because when the wipers went across, the radio would cut out for a second. And yesterday Darrin said other little problems (like the fuel gauge not reading properly in the morning, and the engine sputtering and/or dying at low RPM) seem to be fixed as well. Hooray.

Um, the cat beat me up...

We have two cats. And once the little one had been around for a few months, these two cats started to play together. And chase each other. And they do it even more now that we give them canned food once a day. And they were playing & chasing the other (early) morning while Darrin was reading before bed. Not easy to fall asleep in those circumstances, but somehow I managed to do it. And then I felt the claw in my face. By this time Darrin had finished reading & turned the lights off, so I couldn't see who'd done it. We think it was Biscuit because of what I'm about to describe, and because when I woke up with this pain in my cheek he was right there going "Prrr?" So I was just gonna roll over and try to get back to sleep, when I felt the blood on my cheek. Great, just what I want at 2:30 am, having to get up out of my nice warm bed and clean my face off. Being a head wound it had bled all over the left side of my face, all the way down to my chin. And we're not talking about one streak of blood either. So I cleaned it up to reveal a cut about 1/4 inch long (if that) right under my eye. Then later yesterday I noticed a bruise next to it. Pretty sure the little one couldn't put enough force behind her paws to do that. Darrin's theory is Calico ran across the head end of the bed, and Biscuit went to whack her, missed, and hit me instead.

Oh, and you know how when you're half awake you don't think properly? Maybe that explains why when I came back to bed I was trying to hide my face under the blankets because I believed "that cat is out to get me!"

Things I haven't been asked in Australia

1. Upon entering a restaurant: "Smoking or non?" All restaurants are smoke-free, with the exception of pubs, but then it's restricted to the bar area.

2. After stating smoking preference: "Would you like a table or a booth?" The only places that have booths here seem to be fast food shops. And ONE Fasta Pasta in Golden Grove.

3. Ordering from the menu: "Soup or salad?" Usually you get the whole meal together, and sometimes your meal comes with choice of salad or vegetables.

4. At the supermarket: "Paper or plastic?" I've been to ONE shop where they gave me a paper bag with my purchase, and it wasn't a supermarket. The standard is plastic, unless you bring your own calico bags, which a lot of people do. South Australia is getting rid of the plastic bags entirely in the next few years; Kangaroo Island already has.

5. Also at the supermarket: "Do you want drive-up?" Hahaha. Supermarkets don't have drive-up. Neither do banks. I haven't even seen a drive-up ATM since I got here. The only places that have them are fast food places.

6. At a fast food place: "Do you want fries with that?" They're called chips.

Even more confusion!

Last week I ranted a bit about Italian food and how I didn't know what any of it was, and how hard it is to find plain tomato sauce in the supermarkets. Well. Last Friday night we went out to tea with some friends, and in the restaurant's menu they actually EXPLAINED what all the sauces are! How very nice of them. And I found out that Napolitana is the plain tomato sauce, and Bolognaise is the one with meat. Apparently anyway. Doesn't much look like a meaty sauce in the jars at the supermarket. Really, one of the brands I checked, the only difference between the Napolitana and the Bolognaise was that the Bolognaise had capsicum (peppers) in it. No meat listed in either one. So perhaps I'm still a bit confused on the issue. Darrin says "I think you're supposed to add your own meat." Er, okay, but can't you add meat to any pasta sauce anyway? Anyone wanna tell me if this is true?

In other news, I bought new shoes yesterday, and a new cutting board, and lots of groceries.

Food culture shock

In the years following World War 2, Australia became home to thousands of Italian immigrants. This of course means that there's a big Italian influence in Australia's culture. And I've found in the last year and a half living here that Italian food just doesn't appeal to me.

I think we all know that Italians are known for pasta. And I used to love the stuff too, but having given it up over a year ago, believe it or not, I actually find the idea of eating pasta kinda repulsive. So the supermarkets are full of it; you've got about half of one side of the aisle devoted to dry pasta, and another section in the refrigerated area for fresh pasta. And the sauces? They pretty much line up the other side of the pasta aisle.

So I go into this aisle looking for some tomato sauce. And I see sauces with weird names like bolognaise, napolitana,, okay, where's the TOMATO sauce? You know, the stuff you can spread out on a pizza base? The stuff that doesn't have huge chunks of tomato and onions and peppers/capsicum all through it, and weird herbs I've never heard of? No such thing. If you want that, you have to get tomato PASTE and add water & spices yourself. Or you can buy these tiny little 140 gram (er, about 5 ounces I think) containers of pizza sauce for a dollar each. And amazingly enough, you really CAN buy "Spaghetti sauce" with meat, but it's way up on the top shelf.

Then there's dining out. You enter this restaurant, and it's...a cafe. And not the kind of cafe most Americans from small towns would be used to, either. This is the European style cafe, with tables and chairs and stone/linoleum floors and high ceilings that spells NOISE. These places are crowded and noisy and it's really hard to have a conversation when you can't hear the other people at your table over the noise of the people at everyone else's tables.

So you're in the cafe. And this style of dining means you go to the counter and order your meal, then pick a spot to sit, and they'll bring it out to you. Not a problem so far. But then they hand you the menu. Half the stuff on cafe menus I don't even recognise. The other half I might know what it is, but since it's based around bread or pasta, it's not really a good idea for me when I suspect I'm wheat sensitive. So what CAN I eat? Well, they've got a couple salads, but the dressings are all vinegarettes. Sorry, but I just can't see how I'd like a dressing based around vinegar, having tasted a couple. Plain salad? Boring. Glass of water, thanks.

I miss going into Perkins or Country Kitchen or some other family restaurant, being seated in a BOOTH with padded seats and carpet under my feet, looking at the menu and finding TOO MANY choices rather than too few, and starting off my meal with a nice green salad with Ranch dressing. I miss looking on the back menu page to find the drinks and NOT being met by a silly wine list. I miss knowing what all the items on the menu are, and being able to pronounce them, even if I didn't like them.

This is sickening.

I read this article a couple weeks ago and decided right then and there that I will never, ever, EVER buy another product containing aspartame. I mean, I was already avoiding it because I think it tastes horrible, and because it's been linked to so many health problems, but then I read the article's comments about Stevia (a herb used as a sweetener in South America for practically forever, with no related health problems) and how much trouble they had getting it approved for ANY use in the United States, thanks to the company who owns Nutra Sweet basically bribing the Food & Drug Administration.

I dare you to read the entire article and defend this behaviour.

Here's a quick update.

I am still alive. So is Darrin. So are both cats.

Winter started two days ago and it is cold. It is even colder because this house doesn't have efficient heat and does have leaky windows, and we lost the big sheet of plastic we stapled over the bedroom window last winter, so we have to go buy another for this year.

We have not seen Star Wars yet, but most reports are good, and we're hoping to soon.

And that's about all I have to say right now. Bedtime.

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