Leaving home and homeward bound


I have been home in Sydney for the past week to finalize a work visa for my new job in Seattle.  The trip, while being ‘immigrationally necessary’, has been the greatest gift. 

When I landed the position at Groundspeak two months ago, I was thrilled – and then a little sad.  I realized that it meant I would not see Australia, my home, for at least a year and a half. 

Hence, the reason I have treated this week as a gift.  The work visa was approved on Monday morning, and while I awaited the return of my passport, I enjoyed every moment of being home.

I have hugged old friends and chatted excitedly on the phone to others.  I have swapped stories, gossip, concerns and triumphs, catching up on nearly a year of absense.  I have talked at length with my dad, and spent an evening of laughter and tears at my aunt and uncle’s dining table.

I have indulged in many cups of coffee made by top-notch baristas, and stocked up on Jaffas and BONDS undies.  I have taken dozens of photos of the most beautiful coastline in the world, filled a ziplock bag with sand from Bronte beach, and raided my storage boxes for much-loved books I want to take back to Seattle.  I brought one suitcase, and I am taking two back.  I have a tan. 

And after just a week on Aussie soil, and my accent is as thick as ever (Ben calls it my Aussie accent ‘reboot’).


In a few hours I will be jetting across the Pacific Ocean on my way home.  When I get there it will be one hour after I left, which I love, because it feels like ‘time travel’.  I lost a Thursday on the way over, but am happily swapping it for two Saturdays. 

On arrival, after hugs and kisses, and unpacking and showering (is there anything that feels better after a long-haul flight?), Ben and I will head over to our friend’s place for their housewarming party.

I will get to hug my new friends, and swap stories about our escapades over the past week, and plans for our upcoming holiday season.  I will spend the rest of the weekend trying to get on Seattle time as quickly as possible, for on Monday morning I (finally) start my new job.  I cannot wait.

So, I leave home to fly home, just as I did a week ago.  When you have two places you call home, you are prone to twinges of homesickness, you will always miss loved ones, and you will sometimes slip into the annoying habit of comparing the two places – even if only to yourself. 

But you will also have more love in your life, more joy, more nostalgia, and more hope for the future than you can possibly imagine. 

I do.  And I am very grateful.  For all of it.

Turkey Burgers + Fresh Salsa + Sweet Potato Fries

The following recipes have been created in our kitchen, with a little trial and error.  We think we have gotten a perfect combination, and I wanted to share these with you.

These are ‘bunless’ burgers, and are so tasty, you won’t miss the bun (or the extra 200 calories).

We eat turkey because Ben doesn’t eat red meat, but you could make these with beef.  If you prefer beef, and like it medium or rare, omit the final step of cooking the patties.

Chipotle is a smoked chili, and readily available in the U.S.  You can, however,  substitute any chili you like – fresh, from a jar, powdered, flaked – whatever your taste is.

Cilantro = Coriander


1 package of turkey mince (500g or 1lb)
3/4c polenta (corn meal)
1 egg + 1 egg white
Chipotle chili (powder or canned) to taste
Salt (smoked salt if you have it)
Fresh cliantro
4 green onions chopped
Sprinkle of Cummin
2-3 T tomato paste
1 clove garlic

Make a handful of mixture into a 1/2 inch patty.

Heat a frying pan to med-high, add 1T oil (Vegetable oil is best).  Cook patties until brown on both sides.

Add 1/4c to 1/3c of chicken broth (liquid stock), turn heat down to medium and cover – cook another few minutes to ensure the patties are cooked through.  The broth steams the meat through and keeps it tender.

Makes 4 large patties.  Patties can be frozen in individual ziplock/freezer bags.


De-seeded and peeled cucumber
Ripe tomatoes
1/4 red onion
Fresh cilantro
Splashes of white balsamic + olive oil
Lots of lime juice
Salt and pepper
Chili flakes

Dice everything finely, mix together and refrigerate about 3 hours ahead of time.  Season to your taste.


Red onion, sliced finely (1 per 2 people)
Olive oil
1 tsp butter
Splash of white balsamic

Cook on medium until onions are caramelized, stirring regularly.

Assemble burgers on salad greens.  Top with a spicy BBQ sauce, onions and fresh salsa.  Serve with Sweet potato fries.


Scrub skins, cut into 1/4 inch rounds, lay on a plate and microwave until nearly cooked through (a few minutes – test with a fork).

Place on a foiled tray, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with favorite spice combo (Chili-based spices/Cumin is a good accompaniment) and salt and pepper.  Turn over and repeat.

Grill (under broiler) on HIGH until brown (about 4-5 minutes), and turn over to grill other side.

This is a really healthy and delicious meal.

Much of the prep can be done ahead of time, and the cooking only takes 10 minutes for the patties and fries.  Therefore,  this is a terrific meal to make when friends come over, because you won’t have to spend a lot of time in the kitchen.


When the pieces come together: Part Two

Our accommodation the first night of our weekend was with a lovely lady called Barbara at her B&B in Port Angeles, Ocean Crest.  We arrived just before dinner and she showed us to our room.  It was very comfortable, had its own bathroom, and just next door was a little sitting room for us.  Barbara was thrilled to hear an Australian accent, as her beau is keen to take her to Australia next year and she was full of questions.

She took us through our dining options for the evening, and made reference to ‘Twilight’ several times.  I then noticed the Twilight paraphernalia featured on a bookcase.  Apparently, there is a book out there called Twilight, and quite a few people have read it, and many of those people come to the Olympic Peninsula to see where Bella (the heroine) and her vampire lover, Edward ‘live’.

The story is set in Forks, Washington, and we were 60 miles away, but that didn’t mean that the Twilight business is not thriving in Port Angeles too.  It was our first taste of how far reaching this phenomena is.

We opted not to go to ‘Bella Italian’ – a favorite amongst Twilight devotees, but instead chose a seafood restaurant on the water.  It was a good pick and I had Dungeness crabcakes (Dungeness is just up the road from Port Angeles) and Ben tried razor clams.  Both were delicious, especially the unusual razor clam, which is large and meaty and quite a bit sweeter than crab.  After dinner we discovered a cozy wine bar, and sat down to taste some California reds.  We would have stayed longer, but one of us would have had to play ‘skipper’ and it is just no fun watching your love drink lovely wine while you sip water.

Barbara, a pro in the B&B business for eleven years, not surprisingly made a fabulous breakfast the next morning.  While we enjoyed pancakes, eggs and bacon, we heard more of her story – recently divorced, but seemingly happy – and about her son who runs a resort out near Forks – yes, the Forks of the novel, Twilight.

We  kept a close eye on the weather through breakfast.  That morning we were supposed to be going kayaking on Freshwater Bay.  However, I awoke to a very stiff and sore shoulder, so Ben was going it alone.  Even though check out time was 11am, Barbara had generously offered for me to stay on and ‘chill out’ until Ben got back around 1pm.

As I ate, I looked out at dark clouds and incessant rain, and a niggling thought popped into my head: ‘It’s still officially summer’.  I pushed aside the disheartening thought about the demise of my favorite season.  I needn’t be selfish, as I wasn’t the one who would get very wet.  Luckily when I called the kayaking place to cancel, they said they only had the two of us booked, and it was probably best to call it off all together.  Ben seemed very happy about that.

Instead, we decided to go wine tasting.  (Hooray!)  We said a fond farewell to Barbara, and as we drove out of the driveway saw this little lady:

Doe a deer...

We then went to Camaraderie Cellars and Harbinger Winery.   Both had some lovely wines, which were presented by lovely people.  We killed a couple of hours, and made some dents in the plastic, but you have to when you taste good wine that you can only get at the cellar door.  Wine tasting at cellar doors is a ‘regret-less endeavor’ only if you buy what you like when you’re there.

We were a chatty pair as we drove again past Lake Crescent, and on towards Forks.  We would stay that night at Manitou Lodge, which sits nestled in the coastal rain forest, just west of Forks.  A couple of hours before check in, we pulled up outside Three Rivers Resort and Cafe, also just west of Forks.  We knew that the cafe (owned by Barbara’s son) had its own ‘vampire menu’, but it was at this time that the whole ‘Twilight’ obsession started to hit home.

Inside the cafe is this sign:

Treaty line
Treaty line

which I am sure people thought I was photographing because I am a fan.  I’m not; all I know is that the books – and now a film – exist.

We later learned that next weekend is a huge celebration in Forks to mark Bella’s fictional birthday.  Her birthday part is being held in a church, because, as you all know, vampires can’t go into churches.

It is an intriguing pursuit, this whole Twilight obsession.  It has me more than a little curious, so I have asked Ben to put the film on our Netflix cue.  I am not too keen to read the book, but I will check out the film.  At least we can say ‘We’ve been there”.  We ate our burgers – which were terrific – and played two games of Yahtzee, both of which Ben won – but only just.

After lunch and a short drive we were at the coast at LaPush, Washington.  It was spectacularly beautiful, but the most inhospitable I have ever seen the Pacific.

A storm was raging, waves crashed and the whole scene was of gray debris.

The town itself was not beautiful, rather a lonely, decrepit town I can imagine is only visited because of the views from it shores.

It was time to go to our accommodation, so we headed away from the coast and deeper into the forest.  Manitou Lodge is the sort of place that actually looks like its name.  It is big and rustic, with stone and timber walls.  On entry we were faced with a giant staircase and a grand room with a long dining table, four leather couches and bookshelves lined with old books and games.

It is a place that could be either the scene of a horror movie, or the backdrop for a mini adventure.  I was hoping for the latter.  We were shown to our room, the Lady of Guadalupe:

Both of us were keen for some indoor R&R, because the rain outside was unrelenting.  After I nested for a few minutes, much to Ben’s amusement, I chose to have a hot bath, and he chose to read about Seattle a hundred years ago.  Both of us enjoyed these solitary pursuits, and then we came back together, and headed downstairs to see what we could see.

We scoured the bookshelves for games or interesting books, all while maintaining our library voices.  There were 4 other people in the grand room, and all were reading, so we whispered.  We then hit the jackpot with a 600 piece Star Trek puzzle.

I looked at Ben as though asking, ‘Are you game?’ and he looked at me as though replying, “Okay.”  We cleared some space on the table top, and began our task.  Five hours, one and a half bottles of wine, two cheese croissants, and a bag of popcorn later we called it a night.

There were many pieces missing – we guessed about 50 – and it was too dark in the grand room to discern between dark blue and black, so we left a few patches unfinished, but overall it was a hugely successful and fun endeavor.  Whenever either of us found the place for a tricky black piece with a sliver of color on the side, we earned a ‘well done’ and a kiss from the other.

We grew new-found respect and appreciation for just how clever the other is (keep in mind that we already had heaps of both, so this is saying a lot).  The hours flew by.  I can highly recommend puzzling as a good bonding experience for couples who are rained in on an adventure holiday.

This is how we left the puzzle for anyone keen to finish it:


The rain was still with us the next morning as we bid farewell to Vampire Country.  We had survived!

We were driving the long way home, south, then east, then north up into Seattle.  It would take about 4 hours if we didn’t stop, but of course, we wanted to stop.  We chose Ruby Beach.  It was a fluke, because there are a dozen places to stop and see the ocean on the drive, but we’re both glad we got to see this:

And these examples of natural graffiti art:

We ‘souvenired’ some of these pebbles, and they now sit proudly in our home.  My favorite is the perfectly round stone Ben found.  It is 6 inches across and now sits next to the television.  I should also mention that we got very wet on this excursion.  We both had waterproof jackets, but the rain and wind were in full force – it was wild and woolly – and we spent the next hour of driving, drying off.  (Well worth it though!)

The rest of our drive went by quickly, although we did realize about 2 hours down the road that I had left my perfect pillow in the Lady of Guadalupe (they’re sending it to me).  Lunch was breakfast at Denny’s.  It is kind of a cheesy place to stop, but is always clean, and the breakfast is great.  Good ol’ Denny’s didn’t disappoint, and gave us the energy we needed to get home.

We packed a lot in, but as I said before, the success of the weekend was as much about what we skipped as what we saw.  Wine tasting is a much better way to spend a rainy day than kayaking.

As always, thank you to my darling Ben.  He is the best travel companion (and life’s companion) this girl could ever hope for.

And the boys want to know where we’re all going next…

Tahoe and Squirt are ready to go

When the pieces come together: Part One

What makes a perfect weekend?  What are the essential elements that must come together to create a weekend of ‘Kismet’?

Well, this past Labor Day long weekend we discovered that the perfect weekend can be as much about what is omitted as what is included.

The night before our departure I suffered a night of insomnia.  They come up from time to time, and usually at inopportune moments like this one.  I awoke to a rainy morning, an achy neck, a recurrence of a niggling sore throat I have been fighting for weeks, and a bad mood.

Ben was a trooper.  I was a trooper. We managed our morning like seasoned travelers and were showered, fed and packed without too many snippy words.  We loaded the car in the rain, and made the early ferry (7:55am) with several minutes to spare.  We would ferry from Seattle to Bainbridge Island, then drive across the island and over a bridge onto the Olympic Peninsula.

The boys were excited.


I wanted either coffee or sleep.  I opted for sleep and soon discovered that the fully reclined passenger seat of Ben’s car combined with my awesome pillow (which I take with me everywhere) is the PERFECT way to travel long distances.  I was out like a light.

When I emerged from my coma, we were in Port Townsend, a pretty town on the north-eastern tip of the peninsula.  My friend, Todd, had tipped us off that it is was a great spot, so we detoured off course to fit it in.

Driving in we saw this:


The weather in Port Townsend was what my dad would call ‘wild and woolly’.  [It is an expression I have grown up with, so I know that it means ‘really windy and a lot wet’, but now that I have written it into this post, I am wondering how the ‘woolly’ part comes into play.]  It had stranded these two boats on the shoreline, and when we got out of the car, it threatened to blow us out straight back of town.

We opted for a safe haven in the form of the nearest coffee shop, where we drank tea, and ate American-style scones.  Ben asked for soy milk, but we were informed that they didn’t use soy milk, because it is VERY bad for you.  Sure. Okay.  Whatever you say.

After tea Ben suggested we walk through the town a bit.  For me the day was only just coming in to focus, so I said yes, despite the weather.  I needed to wake up fully.

In Port Townsend

We discovered some gorgeous architecture that has been lovingly restored, and many galleries.  I bought a few little trinkets – gifts mostly – including a giant sand dollar from the curio shop.  It now sits with our African Goddess and our Indian Elephant – three continents represented in one corner of our living room.  The people we met were lovely and chatty, and I know this is a place I would like to go back to sometime soon.

Moving on from the windy town, we made our way south and then west towards Port Angeles.  We would be staying at a B&B there later in the day, but it wasn’t even lunch time yet, so we pressed on towards the Sol Duc Hot Springs.

Lunch was an impromptu stop at Granny’s Cafe, an old school diner on the main highway.

Catsup and Creamer

I believe it is solely for this reason that people stop there to eat, and has nothing to do with Granny, the food, or the collections of ‘things’ that fill every horizontal surface.



The food was, at best, passable.

Fed, we hopped back in the car, still on course for Sol Duc Springs, and took a detour to Lake Crescent, where we saw our first glimpse of sun that day.

Driving to Lake Crescent

The Lake is in the Olympic National Park, but holiday homes pepper its shore.  From one angle I could have sworn I saw how it must be at the height of summer, even though the true temperature was closer to 58F (15C).

Lake Crescent

As we left, the rain came again.  After winding around the south side of the lake – a beautiful drive – we turned off the highway and into the central part of the national forest.  We overshot the hot springs and drove instead to a trail head for, among other destinations, Sol Duc Falls.  It was only sprinkling lightly, but had clearly rained heavily at some point, because the trails were dense with mud.

Just as I pointed out a beetle for Ben to avoid stepping on, there was a sharp pain in my hand.  I quickly pulled off my glove, thinking that maybe a spider had nestled in there over the summer, but no.  A yellow jacket hornet had stung me through my glove and it hurt like hell.  A quick detour back to the car to dress my wound, and we retraced our steps back towards the falls.  We were rewarded for our efforts – and my pain – with this spectacular sight.

Ben at Sol Duc Falls

And looking further down river:

So lush

We made our way back to the car while I watched carefully for attack hornets.  Back at the car we met a lovely group of middle aged people who had been stranded by a dead car battery.  Fortuitously for them we happened to be parked right next to them, and could give them a jump start.  “Thank goodness,” said one of the women.  “We were so worried that the people on either side of us were off trekking for days on end.”  She had no way of knowing that trekking for days in the rain is my closest idea to hell, but we all agreed that our car’s proximity to theirs was ‘great luck indeed’.  Sometimes you meet the nicest people.

Feeling good about our small act of kindness, we drove a short distance, grabbed our swimsuits and paid admission to the Sol Duc Springs Resort.

I kind of knew when I saw first the ‘hot springs’ – essentially giant hot tubs stuffed with tourists and their splashing children – and then the filthy change rooms, that it would be a short visit.  I was disappointed for many reasons.  Mostly, I had looked forward to the hot springs because my neck, shoulders and upper back had been chronically sore for days.  It was becoming hard to sit, sleep, stand and move – which pretty much didn’t leave much time when it didn’t hurt.

I had also been to the hot springs in Aguas Calientes, Peru, which were beautiful, exceptionally clean, and set into the side of a mountain, so my expectations for the Sol Duc Springs were high.

The stench of sulfur did nothing to ease my aches, and I wished it was a better experience all around – especially for Ben, who was experiencing a hot springs for the first time.  I stayed in as long as I could, but when I saw the 30th strand of hair float by, and then a band-aid, I got out, quickly showered and dressed.  Ben was not too far behind me.  Before leaving I filled in a comment card, and as this post goes to press, I received a lovely email from the management apologizing for the state of the facilities and offering a free pass for us both on our next visit.  Hmm.  Thanks, but we’ll think about it.

It was time to head to our accommodation for the night and I looked forward to getting clean and dry and out of the outdoors.  Sometimes, Adventure Chick.  Sometimes, Princess.  Princess was ready for a bath!

Part Two: Where Vampires Dwell

More photos from the weekend