Friday, April 28

Name of the beast

The Beast

in the carpark at work
My car, affectionately dubbed "the beast" is in dire need of a name. Any suggestions?

Driving has been fine so far. The beast is lovely to drive. San Antonio was on it's best behavior as I drove to work this morning. I even made it through the junction of doom before I realise what was happening *phew*

Still, the quality of driving I've seen here is the worst ever, made even more terrifying by the fact that the town planners must
(a) either hate Texans and want to wipe them all out, or (b) have never driven, never been in a car and have no concept whatsoever about driving (or perhaps (c) San Antonio is one huge hot wheels construction set for a cosmic four year old, with the obligatory pieces missing, broken or chewed by the dog). The points of entry onto the highway are cleverly places about 50 meters before the highway exits, so if you want to get off (heaven forbid) you have to weave your way through the cars who have just entered! That is probably the single most ridiculous example of urban planning I have ever seen. And that's before you apply the various yield rules!

Talking on the phone is not only legal, I'm wondering if it might even be a license requirement, since everybody seems to be talking on at least one phone while driving. The most 'skillful' drivers do this while reading or looking at the enormous map they have spread across their steering wheel and dash. Staying in your own lane is clearly only an option for losers. At this point, I aim to be a loser.


View from my deck this morning. It really is worth getting up that half hour earlier! Mind you, this photo probably didn't do my camera much good...

Thursday, April 27

On a road to somewhere

I nearly have the car sorted. The loan is done, just finalising the insurance now (or I would be if they'd return my calls - my agent is having her garden sprinklers installed today so I'm dealing with someone else). If I do get it done I have to drive home tonight! Only marginally terrified!

Speaking of which, I'd just like to let you all know that my route to work and back involves negotiating this monster! I can barely work it out on the map let alone drive through it and come out in the right direction (while 'yielding' to oncomming traffic and all the other nutty stuff).

No dramas, right? or is that left...

Oh yeah, image taken from google earth yada yada

Hot tea

I've just had my first cup of tea in what feels like forever and oh boy it was good!

Have to remember to call it 'hot tea' here or people think you mean this syrupy iced stuff that you're supposed to drink by the gallon. I'm having trouble finding a good teapot too. Maybe that's why everyone where is so, I was going to say trigger happy but perhaps edgy will do... too much coffee and sugar and it's all so immediate. Someone needs to sit America down, put on the kettle and make a nice cup of hot tea.

Wednesday, April 26

Beep Beep

Well, after all the doom and gloom and giving up and going off in a huff I bought a car today! I wasn't really expecting to. There was one yard I was sort of interested in, but it was a bit far away, so we decided to go and have a look last night after work. As soon as I saw the car all rational thought went out the window! Luckily I had Joanne and Matt there (my Aussie contingent) to bring me back to earth and make me ask lots of questions.

No stinky 1998 Ford Taurus sedan or 2000 Focus full of dents or even Hyundais without AC, this baby is an electric blue, 2003 Chrysler PT Cruiser. My dream car! Some of you know that it's the model I had my eye on before I left Oz, but I just hadn't seen a second hand one anywhere here. I took it for and spin (yup, me driving again - little less scary) and it was lovely! See for yourselves (although if you want to drive it you have to come and visit!)

zoom zoom

I can't pick it up until I get the insurance sorted, which is not easy to do without a Texan license or a driving history here, but perhaps it's just not easy to do period. There's no MAIB on rego so it's all in the insurance, and the premiums are huge. But, since there's no way you could survive without a car here it has to be done.

You like it? I'm a happy Jac ^_^


my cows

I've been 'cow watching' from my deck. I think there are seven of them all up, including a little one who I call pinto, although they're not all in this pic. Longhorns (maybe that's their surname?). Don't ask me what they're eating though, it's all rock down there.

I've also seen some amazing birds from the deck. I bought some of those birdseed blocks in the hope of attracting some closer. Well, I'm trying to attract the squirrels actually but birds would be a bonus. Not sure what maintenance would say...

Apparently Texas has a pretty rich bird population, so I might get myself one of those 'what Texan bird is that' type books. I've seen a few around. There are some huge birds of prey that soar in pretty close. Amazing!

Tuesday, April 25



We had a huge storm last Thursday night. Lightning every 3 seconds or so and heaps of thunder. We even got a little rain! I woke up in the middle of it, got up and stood out on the deck, until it started pouring, but it was lovely!

More storms due this week ^_^

Grumpy day

Don't you hate it when technology lets you down, especially new technology! My laptop screen has just died. I don't blame it, it's too hot! SONY are coming out to fix it at some unspecified time, so probably within a week, or more given that Friday is a public holiday (that's right folks, we don't get Good Friday off but we get a holiday for 'the battle of the flowers' ???) So much for getting the net on at home, I know I should have done the phone first. Oh well. Lucky I have the external monitor at work so all is not lost.

In other news, car shopping is proving to be a total pillock as well. All I got on Saturday was hot and sunburnt from wandering yards while incompetent salespeople tried to guess how much the nearest car cost, then they'd go inside to air conditioned comfort for a moment (read 20 minutes) while we wandered about some more, then they'd come back with info on a totally different car, usually an manual (I specified auto) but sometimes an SUV or even a truck!. Needless to say it was mostly fruitless, aside from the sunburn, and there seems to be very little around in my price range from the bigger yards (they go to auction and I just can't risk it). I did manage to test drive a few though, so my first experience of driving in San Antonio was spent with an agent drooling over me while I was trying to listen to the car and keep on the wrong side of the road. I managed to stop at most of the stop signs! Going to look at another one tonight *sigh* Wish me luck!

Well, what a downer this update has been. Really, all is well. I'm getting busy at work - working on a project at the moment that will involve me going to Oregon next month. My bed has been delivered and it's just lovely to sleep on. Harder to get up in the mornings that with the airbed! I'm really enjoying the apartment and didn't even leave the house on Sunday. Felt all domestic as I did my 'chores' The house hardly had a chance to get dirty so didn't take me long to clean it - but I felt better afterwards (Jo and Lou would understand). I've been cooking up a storm as well, chili crawfish pasta, udon noodle soup, creole seafood stew (with okra...the okra here is amazing!). No sure what's on the menu tonight...depends on how the car hunting goes.

Catch y'all soon. All love-

Jac ^_^

Friday, April 21

For all my favorite Mortons

That's all of you by the way ^_^

Speaking of Mortons, can someone out there please send me email addresses for Russell and Sue, and for Al and Adrienne? (ok, this may be a test to see if anyone is even reading this blog)

In my fridge this week I have...

* Fresh pink grapefruit juice
* Organic 1% milk (or is that fat) in the hope it may taste more like milk than what I've been buying
* 'Australian Style' organic yoghurt - see above only replace milk with yoghurt!
* Fresh asparagus (yay, I get asparagus season again!)
* Free range organic chicken breast...I'm not going to ask why it's yellow
* A salmon fillet (because I can)
* Coke *sheepish look*
* Roquefort! (I didn't buy it though)
* Fresh corn, greens, mushrooms and other lovely vegies including half a tonne of okra because it looked amazing!
* Salted, whipped butter (I can't believe it's butter)
* Spicy V8 tomato juice - great with vodka but I don't have any
* Some cream left over from making the killer scalloped potatoes for Easter, and by killer I mean in a coronary kind of way
* Some leftover sushi and seaweed salad
* Sourdough muffins because they taste almost like real bread and are sugar free
* Also, a water filter jug because the water here is not really gross, but it's full of limestone, and between the heat and the air conditioning I'm drinking a lot of it

My freezer is full of edamame, gyoza and crawfish tail meat! I love the supermarkets here.


Thursday, April 20

Weird and Wonderful - part one of many

Strangest thing I've found this week:
Vanilla mint toothpaste! It's translucent brown and fill of silver sparkly bits. I had to buy it of course! It tastes weird, kind of like Wrigleys doublemint gum. There was also paradise fresh and cinnamint but picking the one I wanted was made easier by the scratch and sniff stickers on the sides of the packets. No joke! Paradise fresh smelt like some kind of fabric softener...blergh.

Also in the realm of weird and wonderful, when I walked out of my office yesterday I nearly stepped on a snake! Luckily it was small, ok, tiny. About 30cm long and very skinny, but he scared me! After that I did a web search of Texan snakes and really shouldn't have. There are HEAPS of them. Lucky I live on the third floor.

Tuesday, April 18

A room of one's own

I moved into the new apartment over the weekend! I was feeling really nervous about it on Friday because I hadn't seen inside the actual flat I was moving in to and I was worried about it being noisy or dirty, but the place turned out to be brilliant. Even better than I hoped for! Mind you, the move didn't exactly go as planned... The delivery guy rang me at 7am on Friday morning to tell me he had no bed to deliver! Chaos. Nice of Sears to ring me and tell me they hadn't shipped on time huh? After dialing about 12 different numbers and being redirected every time I finally ended up talking to a real person and convinced them to loan me an airmatress till the bed arrives. Not sure what they're going to do with it after I've used it mind you...

Anyhow, bed is now due to arrive this Friday, but we'll see. But back to the apartment. John and Jo got up early with me, waited while I signed the reams of paper work, then helped me move in. Most of the stuff I had bought was still flat packed so we had fun building all the furniture. The place still looks pretty spartan though, but I like it :)

I've included some pics below.

Sitting room

More sitting room... that's the window that leads out onto the deck.

Looking across to the kitchen from the sitting room.

As above!

Kitchen...nice big oven and HUGE fridge.

Bathroom...pre stuff stuff

Bedroom... sans bed

More bedroom... nice big window

Bedroom window that looks out over a big tree (no squiggles yet)

Last one, view from the corner of the deck.

Miss you all. I'll send my new address out in an email tomorrow. If you want it and didn't get it just let me know :)

Friday, April 14

IKEA and Houston


I went to Houston on Tuesday. One of the Aussies (Matt) had his passport and visa stolen, poor thing, and it has been a total nightmare for him to get sorted. He even has to leave the country to get a new J-1 visa even though he's already been approved once and is in the system on a registered program! Has to go through the whole application process AGAIN! Taught the rest of us not to carry our passports anywhere unless you absolutely have to (even though we're supposed to have them on us at all times). Anyhow, Matt had to go to the Australian consulate to get a new passport and IKEA was on the was so I went with him for the drive, and to do a little shopping ;)

Turned out to be a brilliant idea. The drive was fine, bit over 3 hours but we had a good run with traffic. I hear it can be dreadful. The roads were super straight and because it's so flat there wasn't much to see. We passed a gorgeous river that was milky blue due to all the limestone round here. I think it was the Guadalupe. Lots of gorgeous wildflowers too, blue and red and huge white ones. Not much else to look at. Huge plains of farmland and loads of motorhome (RV) shops along the way, out in the middle of nowhere. Mum and Dad, you would have been amazed by these things! They even had these little retro bullet shaped ones!

The outskirts of Houston looked just like San Antonio, except the roads were even scarier, and the buildings were newer. Not sure what the city center looked like, didn't go in the far. Ikea was just near the Australian Consulate, on the main highway in, so that worked out really well. The store was huge, even bigger than Melbourne (everything is bigger in Texas). I had already picked out my shopping list online and worked out my budget, which was probably the best thing to have done because otherwise I would either have panicked and run screaming or gone totally overboard. In the end I picked out one of the basic bentwood chairs with the natural coloured cover (I wanted black, just for cleaning, but they were out, but now I think the cream one is better). I also got a beanbag and a little $5 green stool that can be a table or help me get to the top cupboards. I picked up two small tables, one for a bedside ($7) and one funky square one in the same birch finish as the chair. Other than that, I found a cushion, a couple of lamps and some kitchen stuff including 6 red wine glasses for $5! All up it came to just under $250, which was pretty amazing. Biggest cost was the chair but it'll be worth it ( I had lots of fun, and got to try the most amazing Swedish chocolate that had a crispy toffee centre covered in a thin layer of really creamy chocolate. It was amazing! Worth a trip to Houston just for that stuff.

Have a great Easter. I miss you all. Much love ^_^

Random Easter bits

It's Good Friday in Australia and I'm guessing there'll be a whole lot of hot cross buns going down. I haven't seen a single one here, so someone enjoy one for me. I'll miss my Mum's, usually risen in the heat of the car (hot cars are good for something) and Jean's. Wow, that just proves how spoilt I am (proves, get it). Hmm, I can't make jokes here and I thought that was an American lack of humour but perhaps it's me after all ;)

Not much in the way of chocolate for easter here either, except on the small solid egg scale- not many big ones. For some reason jelly beans seem to be an Easter favorite. You can buy all sizes of plastic eggs that split in half and you fill them with things (like jelly beans). Also, there's lots of real egg decorating stuff available. Briony and Imogen, you'd love the Hello Kitty egg decorating kits. I think painted eggs are very popular. So are Easter dresses, very fancy, particularly for kids (mostly girls) and I'm guessing perhaps they're for going to church in?

We don't get any kind of holiday for Easter. Although... I won't be at work tomorrow (Good Friday) because I'll be moving into my apartment! Yay. Looks like it's going to be a warm one too (just for something new) so hopefully we can get most of the moving done in the morning. Seems to stay coolish till after 1pm at the moment, then gets stinky. Although, with 4000 monkeys here at work it's stinky most of the time, hot or not!

I'll put some new photos up after I settle in, and I'll do my best to get a home phone ASAP. Email me if you want the address.



Well, I've been here a while now (purposely not counting) and I've managed to sample the wings on offer across most of Northern San Antonio. For anyone who doesn't know what I'm talking about, I mean Buffalo Wings, those thrice deep fried bits of chicken wings covered, nay smothered, in bright orange hot sauce that sometimes even lives up to its name. You grab one, dip the already well coated morsel in either ranch of blue cheese dressing and stick as much of it in your mouth as you can while attempting to suck/chew off the pittance of flesh and crunchy skin before all the added goo goes all over you. The wings usually win. I usually order 10-12 with ranch. Traditionally they come with celery sticks too (to take away the pain of the hot sauce perhaps) but the chain wing places have started charging extra for green bits. How rude.

Anyhow, I've now had wings from the two big wing chains here, and from the local boozer (called the Flying Saucer and close to home, I knew the apartment was a good pick!) and the Saucer's wings win hands down. The hot sauce is warm but not insipid and not too vinegary, and the wings don't look like they come foom a pidgeon! They actually have some meat on them. All this was perhaps made better by the fact that the Saucer has my favorite Californian pear cider on tap and insists on serving it in vases. All good on 30+ degree evenings, which most of them seem to be now.

This image is from the very people credited with inventing wings, the Anchor Bar. Ok, so they don't look particularly apetising but you just wait till you have a plate of them in front of you. mmmm

Thursday, April 6

Downtown part 1

Hi y'all,

I finally managed to see some other parts of San Antonio. My dear friend Tom took me downtown on Friday after work and showed me some of 'his side ' of San Antonio. It was great, I really enjoyed it. The city itself has a great feel. I'll have to spend more time there to really work it out nut first impressions were kind of like the St Kilda side of Melbourne in the 70s, combined with 50s/60s America straight from cowboy films and something else... Lots of trees, huge old houses (stunning) and remnants of industry on the outskirts. The inner city was a max of tacky-land tourist (but that's all below street level on the riverwalk, and yet there's something magical about the riverwalk at the same time - I loved it) and some kind of suave home of business men in suits c1960. Like a john brack come to life (with a severe Mexican influence). I know that whole mental picture doesn't make any sense so you'll all just have to come to visit and see what I mean!

San Antonio hosted the first world fair 'HemisFair' in '68 and I think that was a bit of a boom time for the city, and it looks to me like a whole sections haven't really changed since! It's kind of cool. Makes me want to go to a barber though...weird.

I'm a bit deficient on downtown photos at the moment got dark before I really got into the heart of it, but I have a few. These first two are of the place we went to first, called "La Tuna". It was great. The brown bits all over the ground aren't dried leaves, they're years worth of bottle caps, millions of them!

This is the flour mill just near La Tuna, still working too! One of these has a shot of a rock train in it too. Noisy, but I like em. Huge trains (length)

This is the tower of life. Only one of the cool buildings in town but a good representative (too dark to get the others by the time we had dinner)

Finally, a little taste of the riverwalk area. Lots of places to eat along this section and heaps of people. No railings either, so walking along the edge is a high concentration affair!

Sunrise on Mt Wellington

I just found the one good feature of the Wrest Point casino. I used the controllable webcam on the top of the casino to watch the sun rise across Mt Wellington. It was beautiful! A gorgeous orange sunrise and even a little snow on the mountain :)

Sweet things

My lovely office mate, Vince, just came in with some Starbucks Fair Trade coffee AND a dozen Krispy Kreme! I've been trying to source the coffee ever since I arrive. I'd also been craving Krispy Kreme, and I couldn't believe I made it through two weeks without any. Photos attached so that y'all can drool :) They really are good. Better than good, they're fantastic. Don't think doughnut, think soft, fluffy, sugary bits of heaven.

I'll let you know what the coffee is like once I get a plunger (although, if I say that here everyone grimaces because they think I mean a toilet plunger...if they just made their toilets properly in the first place they wouldn't need them - or perhaps it's a diet thing too...)