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When in transition routine is important... Keeping the good stuff is key!

Several people told us prior to our trip that keeping the good parts of your routine and habits is a helpful tool in making a smooth transition. Especially on a major transition like moving to a new country and working in a new environment (for Allison) or not working at all (for Greg). With this in mind we have tried to keep some traditions alive while also adding new routines to help improve our experience here.

Pizza Friday 1

Yes, we are talking about Pizza Friday! But we're also talking about other smaller things that have helped to keep the days clear for Greg and home feel like home for Al.

Pizza Friday, for the uninitiated is as simple as it sounds. Greg's family used to make (or more recently order) pizza on Friday evenings. They would tend to get pizza and eat up in the living room with the TV on in the background and engage before everyone went their separate ways for the night or the weekend. When Greg and Al started dating, Allison would try to come up to Bristol to make it in time (or Greg would save her a few slices) on the weekends they were in Bristol. On the weekends spent in Norwalk or Tarrytown, we started to make our own pizza on Fridays (often Al would make it before Greg could arrive due to traffic). However, since we moved in together circa 2018, we've been consistently making our own pizza on Fridays and added mozzarella sticks (Costco gives you the best quality for your dollar) to the regimen. On days where our plans conflict with Pizza Friday, we will often have Pizza Friday Observed on Thursday or Saturday to make sure we get it in!

Now that was more than I planned to write on the background, but now you are all up to speed and we can commence with the routines and habits keeping us grounded here in Australia!

Obviously, the first is Pizza Friday. A lot of people have asked us about what is different in Australia and what the food is like and I hope to get into that in more detail another day, but this is a great time to talk about some minor but important differences about food and cooking. The ingredients mostly all exist here, they have cheese and sauce and dough. If we get fancy and add toppings they have peppers, onion, sausage, mushrooms (but no true pepperoni we've seen yet). However, their ingredients are all different so we've done some experimenting like the true science/food nerds that we are...

The first sauce we tried was way too watery and had almost zero seasoning, the second one was good but not great, and the third one was just unacceptable (not sure exactly why, but Allison decided it was not to be used again for the mozzarella dipping), so we settled on the second one for now! The cheese seemed weird right from the jump, not sure if it was too fatty or what exactly, but it caused a lot of grease on our first few attempts (which led us to need a fork and knife to eat). We've since found a kosher mozzarella that works fine, but we will see if we stick with it or not. Finally, the dough. The dough was more consistent than other items, but it is smaller than what we are used to so we've had to adjust there. We of course do have a preferred dough (now that we tried 3 of them), but we have an acceptable back up if that is out of stock, which we do not have for the other ingredients.

The final note on Pizza Friday... the Mozz Sticks! Oh man, mozzarella sticks were hard to come by! Mind you we have four grocery stores within a five minute walk from our apartment (for some reason there are two Cole's stores so maybe we have three real options in Woolworth's (Woolies), Cole's and Aldi), but there was not a mozzarella stick to be found in our first attempt. We settled for a mozzarella-cube-thing that was fried and looked tasty, but it had no flavor and Greg would have tossed them our after the first attempt had Al not told him we should finish them. (Oh boy the combo of the flavorless mozz-cube and the watered down sauce was tough to get through on Pizza Friday 1!!) Long story, a little less long, we ended up trying another option from Woolies before we made a journey to Costco and found acceptable options (but not nearly as good as the US Costco sticks)! This past Pizza Friday (Pizza Friday 8, which was Observed on Saturday) was our best yet in the new apartment.

Oh, and the final, final note on this, which is more generic, the oven here is a forced-fan oven. Which means on top of the fact that everything is in Celsius instead of Fahrenheit on the dial, we have to account for the difference in how the oven heats our food, which for most recipes is suggested to heat at 20 degrees Celsius cooler than with a traditional oven. While were aware of this by the time we attempted Pizza Friday 1, Greg was not so fortunate the first dinner he cooked and it was, let's say, more well done then planned.

Sunday Breakfast 1

Staying with the cooking theme, we also have Allison's favorite meal of the week, Sunday Breakfast! This is something we've established on our own, but also partly formed from weekends in Bristol (when Al had access to cable TV for the first time in a few years). The main goal of Sunday Breakfast is not breakfast, but to watch HGTV (and specifically, if we can help it, House Hunters International). At least that is the part that came out of our weekends in Bristol. We'd usually eat whatever breakfast was on Saturday or Sunday in front of HGTV (Flea Market Flip was the original show because it was being played in syndication on the weekends in mini marathons like it does). Since we moved to Suffern; however, Sunday Breakfast has evolved. We now make breakfast sandwiches and (when we had access to US Cable) stream House Hunters International.

The food part of this is surprisingly consistent. We usually make bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches with everything bagels and Mexican style cheese. Again, the basic ingredients exist here, but are different. Bagels are not as hard to find as we thought, but they are definitely not NY Style bagels. We can't find "everything" bagels (or whole grain, which is the backup option) but they have a "seed" bagel that gets the job done and Allison will add some onion powder to the eggs when she cooks them. Bacon, too, exists but is slightly different. The first attempt at bacon got us a pack that had four slices of giant bacon (think like a very, very slim cut pork chop) that fit only one per sandwich. This was sufficient, but we have since found "streaky bacon," which is essentially the bacon you'd find at a US grocer.

The most important learning from Sunday Breakfast, however, is that our kitchen cannot toast a bagel, cook eggs on the stove top, microwave bacon (don't knock it til you try it), and boil water in the electric kettle at the same time. This was an annoying finding when trying to figure out how long to put the bacon back in for when it was a bacon-chop, but we survived and are smarter for it!

Now, you all must be wondering "What about House Hunters International!?!?!" Well, we (Allison) found a close approximation of HGTV here. But as we cannot stream shows at our leisure, we have to settle for what they are playing like we used to in Bristol when this habit all started. Fortunately, they watch a lot of American television here so we do sometimes get a House Hunters or House Hunters International to coincide with Sunday Breakfast, but not always.

Ok, enough about food (for now)... the other key to a good transition is not only keeping good habits, but letting go of bad ones or forming new, improved ones. So, let's give those some due. Allison is participating in STEPtember at work, a fundraiser that asks participants to get to that elusive 10,000 step mark every day for the month. She has done a great job so far, reaching the mark every day besides one (when the company gave everyone a day off to recuperate - yes, they even have a good work life balance in fundraisers here!) Because of this Al has routinely made an effort to get down to the hotel gym and it has given her an additional reason to get out of the house, especially on weekends to get a walk in around the neighborhood. In doing so she found a lovely park nearby which was unexpectedly secluded from the city noise and managed to drag Greg along on a few walks to Centennial Park, which was good for him too even though he does not have the goal of 10,000 steps a day!

Greg has also managed to get some exercise in, even though you wouldn't believe it based on his responses to being asked to go for a walk... while he had routine of getting a short run three in days a week (weather permitting) back in NY, he's added swimming to the rotation since we got here. With the hotel gym and pool so conveniently located, (and located indoors so there's never an excuse of bad weather to skip out on) he's only missed a workout or two since we arrived. Although the first swim was a struggle (luckily the deepest spot in the pool is only 1.5 m so that is reassuring when he feels like he might not be able to finish a lap), he's started to enjoy them more each day. He even got a kick-board to work those legs and core! (Kick-board laps are actually the hardest ones... who knew?!)

First Home Cooked Meal: Fajitas!

Anyway, that was a lot more than I expected to write about routines... other small things like eating dinner around the same time each night helped us adjust to coming right off the peak of summer in the US to the dark winter nights here in Sydney. We're sure we missed some things, but you get the point! Good routines are good! It's definitely made the day to day feel more like life than vacation, which is nice!

Greg's First Cooked Meal

Pizza Friday 1: Behind the Scenes

Pizza Friday 1: Final Product

Al's Secret Garden

Al's Secret Garden

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