Posts Tagged café

Highs and Lows Come and Go

On our 30/40 World Tour, we would typically book our accommodation before we arrived in a new location. However, on the Oz Experience bus tour, we didn’t have much downtime to do research online. Because of the mechanical problems, we usually arrived at our hotel/hostel late and were so excited to have a bed for stretched out sleep. (Sleeping on a bus can get a bit cramped.) We also had to wake up early to cover the mileage the next morning, so neither the evenings or mornings gave us much time to surf.

Melbourne

Ms. HalfEmpty & Mr. HalfFull in downtown Melbourne

Everyone else on the bus tour had a reservation in Melbourne – even the backpacker teenagers! (I wonder if their moms booked it.) So Squatter made the rounds through Melbourne dropping people off at their various hostels. After my two nights on the tour, I knew I wanted a nicer place to stay. So we got off at the last stop and started walking toward St. Kilda.

We were tired and hungry at this point, which is not a great combo for a traveler with no idea where she is going and a heavy pack on her back. I don’t do so well with the unknown, especially under those circumstances. Mr. HalfFull often reminds me to live my way into the answers and embrace the unknown. But it’s so hard! I like to have a plan and direction.

Our goal was to find a restaurant with free wifi where we could eat and book a hotel like hobos with all our luggage. Even though we traveled light, I still found it a little embarrassing to have so much stuff at a nice restaurant. But they were super gracious at Phamish café and didn’t seem to mind. We were “phamished” so we ordered the sampler appetizer, which turned out to be a huge platter with all sorts of foodie deliciousness. It was quite a contrast from eating powdered eggs.

We didn’t find a lot of reasonable accommodation options in St. Kilda. There were a couple of fancy hotels, but they were rather pricey. I was leery of sketchy places after our last two nights, but reluctantly I consented to a hostel called The Coffee Place. I think its name and color scheme was the only reason I thought it might be okay.

When we arrived, I wasn’t so sure. It was basically run by kids playing video games. In other words, it could have been a frat house. I’m too old for this!

We went up to our room by climbing several flights of stairs. The door wasn’t secure like a front door; it was more like a lightweight bedroom door. Inside everything was clean, but very sparse. There was almost no furniture aside from the bed. However, there was one small built-in shelf with a coffee maker – after all, it was The Coffee Palace.

After seeing the room, I lost it. This was no palace. The tears streamed down my cheeks. There was really nothing wrong with the room; it was fully functional, clean, and spacious. I think I was just exhausted from the bus tour; I didn’t get my afternoon naps or sleep-in time in the mornings! Plus, I was an introvert on a bus full of people for three days. I was drained from all the interaction. I guess six weeks of being on the move left me feeling rather half empty – maybe even completely empty.

Phamish cafe

Ms. HalfEmpty enjoying cappuccino at Phamish café

We enjoyed Phamish café so much that we went back there for breakfast the next morning. I had a cappuccino and internet time…I was back baby! Plus, we were staying at The Coffee Palace for two nights, so I wasn’t lugging my bag around this time, and knew where I would be sleeping that night.

Mr. HalfFull loves sports; I become a football widow during the NFL season. We actually got married on a bye weekend for his football team! He also loves college basketball, and once again goes missing during March Madness. So he was super excited to have the opportunity to witness Aussie rules football in person.

It was game day, so we walked to the train station and were surprised that there were no ticket kiosks. A person on the platform informed us that you could buy tickets on the train. This seemed strange to us, but obviously we knew nothing about public transportation in Melbourne. So we boarded the train and found the ticket machine. We soon learned that the ticket machine only takes coins. What does an ATM not give you? Coins!

So we had no coins and couldn’t buy tickets; I felt like a fugitive. Hopefully, they would let us play the dumb American card. We really did have the best of intentions!

Melbourne Cricket Ground

Mr. HalfFull looking for tickets outside the Melbourne Cricket Ground

Finally, we arrived downtown at the enormous stadium that seats over 100,000 people. We were about to engage in some more illegal activity. We didn’t have tickets and were scouring the crowd outside the stadium looking for scalpers. We knew the game was a huge local rivalry between Carlton and Collingwood and thus, was sold out.

We didn’t find the shady people Mr. HalfFull was seeking, so we headed to the club ticket counter. The woman informed us that indeed the game was sold out, but she told us to look for scalpers and warned us not to pay more than face value. An employee advised us to seek out scalpers! Is scalping not illegal in Melbourne?

We walked all the way around the stadium with no luck. Mr. HalfFull didn’t seem so half full and resigned himself to the fact that we weren’t getting into the game. Then he spotted a guy with long hair, facial hair, tattoos, and rings on every finger. He looked like the type of guy you didn’t want to fight. Mr. HalfFull thought he might be a scalper. We hung around to listen to his conversation and learned that he too was looking for tickets.

Stadium Family

Ms. HalfEmpty in the MCG stadium with the side of the family who supports the Carlton Blues

Our chances seemed pretty much exhausted when I overheard the conversation of a family nearby. They were talking about how it was too bad that “those two” couldn’t come. What? Two tickets?

So I butted into their circle and asked if they had two extra tickets. They did, but they were tickets for children. Bummer!

Stadium Family

Mr. HalfFull with the other brother who's a fan of the Collingwood Magpies

We started walking away when they said, “But we aren’t going to use them, so you’re welcome to try. Just walk in with us and be our kids for the day! There’s no harm in trying.” I didn’t know what the penalty was for using the wrong age-group ticket, but we had already ridden the train illegally, so what the heck! Weren’t the Australians descendants of criminals anyway? (Kids, this is why they tell you not to smoke because it’s just a gateway to more and more.)

The tickets worked and we all got in! The introvert had accosted strangers in a foreign country to fulfill Mr. HalfFull’s dream. It was amazing.

Inside MCG

Watching Aussie football inside MCG stadium

The stadium was huge and circular, unlike our oblong stadiums. It was impressive to watch these super fit athletes play with no padding. There was a lot of leg to tantalize the ladies. Plus, there were no big bellies like in the NFL. Even the referees were super fit.

The family we sat with explained the rules to us; they were so much fun. We tried to pay them for the tickets and buy them beers, but they didn’t want anything. They even emailed us a few days later to ask if we wanted to grab “a pot.” After looking that up online, I learned that it’s beer, not tea.

Meat Pie

Sampling meat pie at the stadium

We knew that meat pies are an Aussie football stadium staple. Even after our disappointment with pies in Sydney, we tried the stadium fare. It was okay. I guess they can’t make them like the flaky pastries in New Zealand because it needs to be self-contained and more spill-proof for the stadium.

Red Stitch Theater

Ms. HalfEmpty at Red Stitch Theater

That evening we had tickets to see a play called My Romantic History at Red Stitch theater. It was a super cute playhouse. Much of the play took place in the bathroom and the set consisted of three bathroom stalls. That brought our live theater count to six on the 30/40 World Tour.

Mr. HalfFull got his football and I got my theater. It was a good day all around, especially considering the tears the night before.

  • Do you make reservations before you arrive or wing it?
  • How do you handle the unknown? Are you able to relax and let things unfold?
  • Did you have a breaking point while traveling? What helped you get over it?
  • Have you broken the rules while traveling?
  • If you are not normally a sports fan, do you still think it would be interesting to witness in a foreign country?
  • Have you been surprised by the kindness of strangers?

Related:  All posts in the 30/40 World Tour series

Ms. HalfEmpty is a 30-something introverted realist, perhaps a pessimist. But she’s trying to see the world half full on halfempty4now.com, which she started in February 2011. Her worldview may not be all bad, as it probably helps keep her husband, Mr. HalfFull, grounded and out of trouble!

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Keeping Ms. HalfEmpty Full: Lean Meatballs

Meatball

A great meatball doesn’t crumble when you slice into it with a fork…delizioso!

In this second installment of my “Keeping Ms. HalfEmpty Full” series, I present you with an easy recipe loosely based on my Italian grandmother’s meatballs, as further clarified by my “meatballer” little sister.  This version has an improved nutritional profile for today’s carnivorous HalfEmpty wife.  Buon Apetito!

Half Full Mug

 

Lean Meatballs

From the kitchen café of Mr. HalfFull

Oven temp: 350°
Cook time: 30-45 min (ovens vary, ensure meatballs are brown)

Ingredients:

  • 1.25 lbs extra lean (95% or more) fresh Ground Sirloin —  this is usually the smallest package found at grocery stores
  • 6 slices of soft 100% Whole Wheat Bread, grated into bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup of Parmesan Cheese
  • 1/4 cup Skim Milk just enough to keep mixture moist
  • 2 Eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup chopped Parsley (fresh) — since fresh parsley comes in bushels, chop it all and freeze extra for later
  • Garlic (fresh minced or powder, to taste)
  • Sea Salt & fresh ground Pepper (to taste)
  • Oregano & Basil (dried, to taste)
  • Crushed Red Pepper if you like to kick things up a bit

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350°
  • Combine all ingredients in a large bowl until mixture is consistent (not dry)
  • Hand roll meatballs gently to avoid packing them too densely

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  • Place meatballs on rack in a pan and bake until brown

Ms. HalfEmpty loves these meatballs because in addition to tasting delizioso, they allow her to control her protein portions.  When this Italian soul food is paired with a small portion of fresh whole wheat pasta and leafy greens tossed in a vinaigrette, she easily gets her proper ratio of vegetables, carbohydrates, and protein.

I enjoy the almost Zen-like ritual of creating a batch of meatballs on a leisurely Sunday with football on TV in the background.  [Aside from Ms. HalfEmpty:  cooking made Mr. HalfFull somewhat useful on football Sundays.  I don’t know if NFL Sundays will continue this fall, but I know he’ll still make meatballs and I may not be a football widow…win/win!]

Meatballs in sauce

Meatballs need to simmer in sauce

Once baked, I can put a few in a small pot of “basic tomato gravy” (a possible future “Keeping Ms. HalfEmpty Full” recipe) to simmer all day, and then freeze the remainder.  A great meatball (even the lean ones) should be tender and moist with absorbed tomato sauce, ensuring a light texture that doesn’t crumble when sliced with a fork.

Freeze Meatballs

Freeze meatballs so Ms. HalfEmpty can sustain herself when I’m away…happy wife, happy life!

One of my favorite ways to utilize leftovers is to fill a panini with thinly sliced meatballs, provolone cheese, sun-dried tomato pesto, and arugula.  Likewise, if you have pizza dough on hand, lean meatball slices are a perfect topping!

Finally, it’s important to consider Lemony Snicket‘s words of wisdom:  “Miracles are like meatballs, because nobody can exactly agree on what they are made of, where they come from, or how often they should appear.”

Mr. HalfFull is a 40-something extroverted optimist who spends his days teaching and coaching teenagers. He occasionally authors posts on his wife’s blog halfempty4now.com in support of his life’s work to help her see life from his sunny point of view.

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Keeping Ms. HalfEmpty Full: Healthy Zucchini Pie

Zucchini Pie Slice

Healthy Zucchini Pie slice -- delicious!

I’m pretty sure our wedding vows include my promise to be Ms. HalfEmpty’s personal chef.  When we first started dating, she lived nearby and would walk over for home-cooked meals in what she called my café.  Now that I think about it, it’s unclear if she was ever formally invited!  Regardless, since then I’ve perfected a few tried and true recipes she loves, and it seems like a fun idea to share them with her readers.  In this first post of my “Keeping Ms. HalfEmpty Full” series, I present you with a recipe loosely based on my Armenian grandmother’s Zucchini Pie, with a bit of nutritional improvement inspired by Ms. HalfEmpty’s healthier eating style.  Bon Appétit!

Half Full Mug

 

Healthy Zucchini Pie

From the kitchen café of Mr. HalfFull

Oven temp: 350°
Cook time: 45 min – 1 hr (ovens vary, use tooth pick test to make sure pie is fully baked)
Ingredients

Simple ingredients make preparation easy

Ingredients:

  • 3 small Zucchini, diced
  • 1 large Sweet Yellow Onion, chopped
  • 1 large Red Pepper, diced
  • 1 cup of Feta Cheese
  • 1 cup of Parmesan Cheese
  • 1/4 cup Canola Oil
  • 1 cup Heart Smart Bisquick
  • 4 Eggs, beaten
  • 3 tbsp Parsley (fresh or dried)
  • Garlic (fresh minced or powder, to taste)
  • Sea Salt & fresh ground Pepper (to taste)
  • Butter (for greasing 9″ glass pie plate)

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350°
  • Combine all ingredients in a large bowl until zucchini is coated
  • Lightly grease a 9” glass pie plate with real butter (Ms. Butter would approve)
  • Spoon bowlful of ingredients into pie plate, and bake until golden
Finished Pie

A golden Healthy Zucchini Pie hot out of the oven

Besides the simplicity of my grandmother’s recipe, what I really love is the versatility.  You can serve a slice of Healthy Zucchini Pie in the morning with a fresh-brewed cup of coffee, at lunch with leafy greens tossed in a vinaigrette, or even at the dinner table as the hearty side to a bowl of fire-roasted tomato bisque.  Ms. HalfEmpty is particular about getting her proper ratio of vegetables, carbohydrates, and protein at each meal, and one slice of Healthy Zucchini Pie does the trick.

I have been known to kick things up a notch on occasion (Emeril Lagasse would approve), and over time I have used this Healthy Zucchini Pie recipe as the canvas for using up any left over sundries in our fridge, such as sun dried tomato pesto, shredded Mexican cheeses, or even the remnants of a salsa jar after a leisurely Sunday watching football on TV.

And don’t get me started on how good bacon tastes when sprinkled into this (suddenly not so) Healthy Zucchini Pie recipe.  But as Oscar Wilde said: “Everything in moderation, including moderation.”

Mr. HalfFull is a 40-something extroverted optimist who spends his days teaching and coaching teenagers. He occasionally authors posts on his wife’s blog halfempty4now.com in support of his life’s work to help her see life from his sunny point of view.

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