Wednesday, December 31

We're home!

Just a quicky to say that we're back home and the flight was fine, no hitches, but the wait in Houston was the suck. Back to work today but I doubt it will be a full day! We both slept well so that should help.

The fridge is bare so I really need to address that tonight, and we have more washing than you can poke at stick at. However we are full of wonderful memories. Hoping we can make it back to England soon. Updates to follow as soon as we find our feet.

Saturday, December 27

The wind up

Well it is our last day in Pavenham and we have had just the most wonderful time. Christmas was brilliant, really chilled out and so good to be with family. We took it easy in the morning then went to church with our adopted grandma, then Jo chatted to her folks in Australia while we sat around the tree opening presents. Lunch was a group effort (although Ruthie did the bulk of the hard work) and we ate at around 2. The food was brilliant, with a locally sourced turkey (slow cooked), pigs in blankets, three kinds of stuffing including a really old recipe for bread and onion stuffing, spuds, sweet potato, sprouts and bread sauce. I made the gravy but it wasn't tops because I didn't reduce it enough, but no dramas. We had grand plans for sweets but we were all so full that most of us opted to nap instead!

Today we've had more family to visit, another of Jo's aunt and uncles and another cousin, and we've all been hanging out and eating and going for brisk walks in the cold! Tonight we're heading to Elmswell (near Bury St Edmund's), our final destination for the trip really. We probably won't have the internets again until we get back to San Antonio on Monday night, so look out for some decent updates and pics after that. Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and sorry we couldn't really call or txt.
I promise I'll explain this picture later ;)

Thursday, December 25

Christmas eve and some pics

Well it is Christmas eve here in Pavenham and the boys are outside playing football (soccer), grandma is in the lounge reading the paper and Jo, Tim, Ruth and Bridget are in the kitchen talking and cooking and listening to carols. I'm at the laptop blogging with a mug of mulled wine... perfect!

Yesterday we caught the train to London and had a wonderful day touring and shopping and such. We went to St Paul's Cathedral, Covent Garden (which I loved) and a lot of other monopoly board places full of shops and people and wonderful buildings. We caught the tube several times and it was surprisingly uncrowded... well it was crowded but not too badly. Ruth's friend Katie was our fabulous tour guide and she did a great job while we school of fished behind her (luckily she's a tall lass). In the evening we went to a little Italian restaurant for dinner, then across to the Apollo Victoria Theatre to see Wicked! It took a while to get going but it was a wonderful show, and yes I even cried at the end.

Today we had a wonderfully restful day, we slept in until 11! (we didn't get home until after midnight and Jo and I both have filthy colds so go easy on us) We just had an invigorating walk along the river and down the back of all the cottage gardens and I managed not to fall down once!

And now, some random photos!

Covent Garden from the opera house

The interior of the St Pancras station (we could have caught a train to Paris!)

Is the Doctor in?

A Manchester canal

St Paul's

Tuesday, December 23

Heron House

We're having a great time here in UK Tour 08. Had a fab time with the Richardson side of the rellies. We toured Greater Manchester with Jo's Aunt and Uncle, including lots of great industrial history and canal tours and such (I love a good bit of industry). I liked Manchester much more than I expected, especially considering how cold and wet it was! Then Saturday night the cousins came to join us and we had an early Christmas dinner with all the trimmings including chestnut stuffing and apple cider jelly.

Sunday we headed up to Leeds with Jo's cousin Andrea and her chosen other half Ronnie (great lad). They took us to a fabulous outdoor German Christmas market for shopping and sausages and potato pancakes, wonderful in the cold! We spent a lovely day and a bit with them, then this afternoon they got us on the train to Bedford via London. I'm so glad we chose 'rail tour 08' over hiring a car, oh boy. We were both able to enjoy looking out the window and checking out the gorgeous countryside, so wet and green and non-texas like! The only downside was sharing the carriage with a group of obnoxious drunk folk. We had to change trains at St Pancras and while staring at the board waiting for our platform number to show and handsome pixie-like fellow came over to us and said "Hello, I'm your uncle Tim" and he was! He had cleverly arranged to be on the same train so we traveled the rest of the way chatting to Tim, brilliant!

Arrived in Bedford at around 5pm (in the dark of course) and met Ruthie. it's hard to explain how good it is to meet people who you have been looking forward to meeting for so long and feel like you already know, and there were no letdowns (except maybe on their part but we'll see, I have time to charm them yet)

So now we are at Heron House, hanging out with all the family like this is something we've been doing for years. Heading to London tomorrow for shopping, sightseeing, dinner and a show! More news soon.

[Had to edit this for horrendous spelling errors!!]

Saturday, December 20

Safe arrival

We have arrived, safe, warm and with bags. The flights were great and we even scored the whole row on the long flight, plus a strong tail wind meant the 9 hour flight was more like 7.5! Just outside of Manchester now with rellies on Jo's dad's side. Sightseeing tomorrow plus an early Christmas dinner, conplete with chestnut stuffing, yay!

More comprehensive update soon.

Friday, December 19

We're going to ENGLAND!

We're on our way! The usual last minute dramas (like me having an article due to the publisher...) but all is good. We managed to pack super light! Who says girls can't travel light :D

Anyhow, I'll try to post a few updates on the way and keep an eye out for some epic posts and pics when we return. We have phones on us but with international roaming please save calls for emergencies. We should be checking email fairly often though! Yay!!

Happy Christmas y'all.
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Tuesday, December 16

Christmas is in the air...bbrrrrrrr!

I'm starting to feel like we're living in the middle of some governmental weather test site! Yesterday it was pushing 90 (30C) and today it's a degree or two above freezing!! However, the cold weather is helping us get prepared for Thursday, when Jo and I grab our swag and head to chilly England for Christmas! We're really looking forward to it, even if it is the coldest start to a winter they've had for a while (30 years apparently...just our luck). I'll finally get a chance to meet a whole lot of Jo's relatives (and they me, scary prospect), from both sides of her family, which will be fantastic :D

Aside from the rellies, I'm really looking forward to some good cheese! Sharp and crumbly cheeses are almost non existent here, and most of the blues are French and creamy (which isn't bad, but give me a good Stilton and I am putty in your hands) Other than my hope of cheese I have no expectations, I'm just looking forward to letting this trip unfold as it may, and enjoying every second of it! I know winter isn't the best time of year but I'm sure we'll be back, plus the idea of Christmas with family was too much to resist.

It has been a fairly full week or so leading up to leaving. We've been house-sitting/cat-sitting again, which has been great in terms of having a washing machine (yep, we still don't have one) but a bit tricky flitting between two houses. We've also had Christmas parties a gogo, including a fabulous Norwegian/Swedish celebration with lots of baking and glögg (similar to gluvine), a decoration swap with the girls and the big work Christmas party with lots of good food and dancing contests.

Somewhere between all that and the packing we managed to get our packages out to Oz, a new record this year I think! We also got so disgustingly far behind in sending out our Christmas cards that they might just arrive in time for the next one. But we did manage to get our tree (twig) up and adorned.

Saturday, December 13

More conference sketches

I just scanned some more recent conference sketches. It's a shame that the only time I really get to draw now is when I'm at these things listening to people talk. I feel like I'm losing the knack. Anyway, I have a couple of projects planned that might get some of the discipline back, we'll see!

Who is the crazy person who decides to start conference sessions at 7.30am??

Wednesday, December 10

Morel and porcini mushroom pasta

I realise I promised I'd start putting recipes on here rather than just waffling on about food in general and I totally forgot.

Lorena furnished us with a couple of packets of very good looking dried morels, so I promised to cook her some pasta. I rehydrated them in water and a touch of soy in the fridge for a day, then kept the soaking liquid and gave the mushrooms a really good wash (morels tend to be on the gritty side because of that puckering on the outside)

I also had half a pack of porcini mushrooms in the freezer, maybe 8 caps and stems, so I decided to chop them up fairly finely to make sure the dish had plenty of that divine, rich mushroom flavour that will always remind me of Rome.

The big ones are the porcini, the little wrinkled ones are the morels and the greenery is fresh tarragon from our tiny deck garden!

Recipe as follows:
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
Half a cup of mushroom soaking liquid, finely strained
Half a cup of white wine (or vegie stock)
Half a cup of cream
Salt and pepper to season as required
Finely chopped tarragon and Italian parsley to garnish

Sweat the garlic and a little salt in the olive oil for a minute (before the garlic browns). Add the soaking liquid and the wine and let it reduce by half. Add the cream and mushrooms, stirring well to prevent curdling. Add pepper to taste and allow to simmer until the cream starts to thicken. Toss in some pasta and the fresh herbs, stirring well to coat the pasta, then serve! Enjoy :D

Tuesday, December 9

Deep in the Heart of a Texan part 2

Ok, a update on Tom. Like I said, he's one tough bugger. Tom is home (as of Saturday would you believe) and now he just has to rest and contemplate :D

It seems amazing to me how far they have come with bypass surgery, and that you can have your ribs cracked open, your legs stripped of veins and your heart manhandled and be home within days. Or maybe that's just Tom, remember what I said about high achieving. Anyway, keep up the happy thoughts and thanks to everyone who sent best wishes.

Friday, December 5

Deep in the Heart of a Texan

My dear friend Tom had six bypass surgery on his heart the other day, yeah six! I don't even know what that's called and I didn't know there could be so many things to bypass but he sure is a high achiever so why not this time too. Anyway, he is doing well and if he scares me like that again it might be me he wants to bypass...

So please, if you have any spare thoughts or prayers, swing them his way. Lord knows he could use them regardless...

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Wednesday, December 3

Sunday, November 30

Giving thanks

Thursday was Thanksgiving here and it has become an American holiday that we truly love. Christmas with friends sans the complexity of gift giving...Ok so it's all about the food and being happy!

This year we were cooking for 21 adults and 6 kids! Talk about huge, but we pulled it off just fine thanks in part to the helpful contributions of our guests. My job was a turkey, two chickens, three potato bakes, four boats of gravy (and a partridge...oh wait wrong holiday), bread stuffing, and making sure everything hit the table on time! We also had a second turkey, a baked ham, roast pumpkin/sweet potato/parsnip and such American classics as green bean casserole, whipped mashed potatoes and oyster stuffing, and this year we even had a Norwegian/Portuguese fish dish!

My turkey sure browned up well. Nothing too over the top this year, just butter, sage, pepper and some citrus in the middle. 

I cooked the two chickens (for those oddballs who don't like turkey) on the rotisserie of the BBQ so they were so tender and moist! Not that you can tell the difference but one is honey, soy and ginger and the other is spicy adobo. As usual I can never throw out a carcass so I have just now completed the epic stock making session of '08, totally worth it!

You can see some of the food here (we were still bringing it out at this point) but I'm sure you get the idea.

Then there was the dessert table! A lot of Aussie contributions here, 2 pavlovas, 2 lemon meringue pies, a heaving plate of lammingtons plus a pumpkin pie and a whole lot of fresh fruit.

As usual we had an eclectic but incredible group of people. Only 4 Americans this year, lots of Aussies, and representatives of Norway, Sweden, Canada and Ireland.

One of the long tables required to seat 21+ people...John and Jo are the masters of large scale entertaining now!

The other fabulously laid out table!

Thursday, November 27

Love not H8

While we were in Philadelphia we were lucky enough to have been able to join in with a National Protest for Equality (in response to the outcome of Prop 8). It was brilliant! So lively and a lot of fun. Amazing to see thousands of people get off their butts and march to city hall, and the Philly rally was just one of many across the country.

I put together a quick vid mostly so that you can see just how many smiling people were there, pushing love not hate. That's right, all the people way off in the background of the square were part of it too. The march nearly lapped the block!

And of course some pics :D

Our friend Claire commandeered someone's flag!

I have one other unedited video of us marching through the final part of the square to get to city hall. I'm so glad we happened to be in the right place at the right time! This one is a bit more energetic :D It's been a while since I was at a good protest! Gets the blood moving.

Finally, I just want to thank all our straight alies out there, from the bottom of my heart. You don' have to be gay to understand the injustices here or to speak up about it. Thanks to Mel for marching with us when she probably would have prefered to stay in the hotel with her glass of wine! And if there is anyone out there who thinks they care about us but also thinks that gay people should be denied the right to marry, for whatever reason, please please do me one favour and watch this video. Please. Six and a half minutes of your time and I promise it won't do you any harm.

Wednesday, November 19

The city of brotherly love

I'm finally home after spending a week in Philadelphia at the big annual American Society of Human Genetic meeting. Good meeting, my talk went well and lucky for me I escaped question time fairly well unscathed (I was really worried given the controversial nature of my subject!)

The hotel was decent, big rooms, and connected to the conference center by a covered walkway (bonus). Philly was cold but not as cold as I was expecting. The clouds barely shifted above the buildings for the first few days, but thankfully there was only minor drizzle. The scenes of city hall and the surrounding buildings at night were pretty speccy! Very Gotham City.

We were right in the heart of downtown with a big undercover food market just next door, stocked with Amish treats, a cheese shop and fried oysters! There was even a pickle stand! Wewt. We were also very close to Chinatown and some great food (including a surprising Chinese-French-Vietnamese fusion) which always makes me happy :)

I didn't get in a whole lot of sightseeing, mostly because the conference took up so much time and headspace, but what I did see I really liked. Philly is a historic city and the interp is well structured but also nice and simple. The architecture is just gorgeous, especially with the drizzly grey skies and rich fall colours in all the trees.

We wandered through quite a bit of the historic precinct, and did manage to see the Liberty Bell in amongst the throng of people desperate to take its picture.

Not being an American I'm still trying to get my head around the concept of libery as it is used here. That confusion aside, however, there was some really beautiful interp on the way to viewing the bell, about civil rights progression through the years. Nothing on gay rights in that set but I was relieved to see the following 'monument' outside. More about that in the next blog post!

Wednesday, November 12


Hello internets, sorry about the radio silence following our little moments of history making. I'm off to Philadelphia today for the big annual genetics conference and I'm a little peaky about it (I'm talking) and I've had a lot of work to get done before I go, not all of which is finished yet! Oh well. Should be a fun trip, although it is much colder there so I've packed my woollies!

When I get back I have some Halloween pics to post and maybe a few other treaties...but that's not until at least next Monday. Pax-

Thursday, November 6

It's a new dawn

It's a new day... It's a new life!

Well, mixed feeling here this post-election morning. Absolute elation and incomprehensible joy that today, Barack Obama is President Elect of the United States. I can't believe I get to say that let alone be here to experience it. He's an incredible man and if he can pull of even half of what he hopes it will be just amazing for America. The US has always been a wonderful place for us in terms of living here but now I'm starting to feel the most incredible bubbles of love and maybe a touch of patriotism for this nation. Don't get me wrong, I'm an Aussie to the core, it's my home and I love it with a fierce loyalty and some level of blind passion. All I'm saying is that for the last 2-3 years here I've felt like I am in the world of the US but not of it. Now I feel a little more connected and, to continue the song quote, I'm feeling good.

However, back the the mixed feelings part. Texas is a red state, there's no denying that, so there was no spontaneous partying here. It kinda sucked talking to my online friends last night in Denver and even Canada where people were celebrating in the streets. Here we're walking on eggshells trying not to come into conflict with our friends and loved ones who we know voted red. However, in defense of Texas, when you look at the voting by county San Antonio, Austin and surprisingly Dallas were all Obama majorities! The other big downer is that it looks like Prop 8 passed in California (narrowly) which once again removed the rights of same-sex couples to marry. That's twice in Cali now, the poor buggers :( That one will have shockwaves through the country but we can only hope and pray that these things are getting nastier because they are running out of legs to stand on. Change is coming people, roll with it!

All in all, we watched history being made last night, sweet sweet history. McCain's concession speech was wonderful (linked below) and I'm hopeful that he will help with the next big task, which is to build bridges and begin to reunite this country that has been the grounds of a fierce two-year battle. I'm sure most of the country can at least unite in saying Farewell to Bush. Bring on January.

For those of you who missed the speeches, here they are:

Wednesday, November 5


[UPDATE: John McCain just gave the most impressive concession speech, so gracious. He has gone up in my estimation (although I always thought he was a good man, just not the right man). As for "caribou barbie"...]


Ok so it's only predicted at this point but wow. There is a love in my heart for America at the moment. Virginia - gold (well blue), Florida, finger's crossed...but even if the all go pink I think the fat lady is still warming up with her tralalas.

Back to juggling the idiot box and the laptop and this yummy plateful of apple pie!

Election update

For thems of you at home keeping an eye on this the NPR (public radio) site has really good coverage HERE.

The count on our TV screen is currently 174 to 64 in Obama's favour, with 270 needed, but it's still early days and the west coast haven't closed polls yet. Looks like the Dems have a majority in the senate already though!

It's an interesting night and we're still totally newbs at this.

Election night

Tonight is the night. We're off to watch the tallying. Fingers crossed for a no on Prop 8 and a yes to Obama as President!

And yay for passing 10,000 hits on the blog!

I'll try to post an update when we get home tonight. I wonder if we'll know by then?

Tuesday, November 4

I don't think we're still in San Antonio Toto...

A few weekends ago we finally made it to the botanical gardens and I'm really glad we did! It was a refreshing change, but I'll let the pics speak for themselves (mostly because we're going out soon and I have to run).

This lake was full of fish and turtles!

See, turtle! Well, if you squint you can see it. He's about 30cm long (good for soup?)

There were even random springs. Lots of limestone here and plenty of springs pop up from the aquifers below the city. Almost felt like being in a Roman grotto again...almost.

This is one of the big conservatories, and you can just make out the city skyline in the background. I am always surprised by the number of trees in San Antonio!

The interior of the conservatories was pretty impressive even without the 12 meter palms that you could look down on.

These beauties and more were in the orchid house (der) but I think this one looks like it has a tiny monkey inside it :)

This is one of my favorite kinds of orchids so I was stoked to find such a good looking specimen.

Not sure what these were but they sure are pretty.

And the obligatory head shot :D