Good Eats Australia

Macarons from Adriano Zumbo - cc license, christianocious

I didn’t appreciate the food in Australia when I studied abroad here. In fact, I didn’t like it all. I found most places we went out to dinner overpriced for small portions, and the food was underwhelming in general. I had a couple of memorable meals, but left Australia thinking it was not a country known for its cuisine.

Moving back here it has been a different story. I feel that I’ve unlocked a whole new world of dining out. I’ve tried new foods here for the first time (like Laksa) and have started to appreciate things that are unique or popular in Australia.

Here are a few of my favourite “good eats” that can be found in lovely Sydney and all around Australia.

It’s a world of new noodles in Sydney. All different types of different and delicious noodles that I’ve come to love and so many I’ve yet to discover. I was especially impressed by the Pork spare rib ramen at Gumshara. I don’t know how I went so long without ever having Laksa before.  I now celebrate Laksa Thursdays so I have an excuse to have it weekly!

Dumplings at Din Tai Fung have redefined what I thought dumplings could taste like. The Ayam Goreng (Malaysian style friend chicken) from Mamak is some of the best fried chicken I’ve had. Roti was another great new food discovery. I get hungry thinking about it.

Roti Canai at Mamak - cc license, avlxyz

Weekend brunch must be my favourite meal in Australia. It’s all wonderful, including everything from bacon and egg rolls to the full Aussie breakfast with eggs, mushrooms, baked beans, toast and tomato.  There is a beautiful coffee culture here and I love enjoying a flat white with brekkie.

If you have a sweet tooth, you’ll appreciate Australian chocolates. I love Cadbury’s Giant Buttons, and Arnott’s Mint Slice. Try Pavolova, it’s uniquely Australian. Macaroons are delicious little cookies that are all the rage here lately. I had my first Adriano Zumbo macaroons from his shop in Manly a couple months ago. It melts in your mouth. My favourite macaroon so far was in Melbourne at Scocolate. They won an award for Melbourne’s best chocolate macaroon last year (and it’s well deserved).

I enjoy some of the quicker to-go options here as well. Fish and chips on a summer day next to the beach puts a smile on my face. I like a “sausage sizzler” grilled up by the Queenscliff Surf Life Saving Club on a Saturday.

This is just a snap shot of the good eats in Australia. I can’t believe I used to tell people I didn’t like the food in this country. What was I thinking?

What are your favourite foods and restaurants in Sydney and around Australia?

Rules of Twitter: Are you following me?

A friend from the blogging world, Tim (aka @anotherguy) brought up an interesting topic related to Twitter this week. He tweeted “If I unfollowed everyone and instead put the people I follow into lists, how many of you would hate me forever?” 

I was surprised by this. I’ve had chats with Tim before online and he always seemed like such a genuine and relationship driven person. I seek out liked-minded people on Twitter to follow and enjoy it for that reason. I wondered why he had this outlook.

Unfollowing everyone on my list would worry me for a few key reasons:

1. Perception. Unfortunately people do notice when you unfollow them or if you follow no one. While I can have an intelligent conversation about why I’m doing this on my personal Twitter account with closer contacts and a certain circle of friends, I probably can’t have that same conversation with all 2,000 of my followers. That’s not even counting the people I have yet to meet online. As someone who builds online communities and works in social media I feel that I should be following others. Yes, sometimes I do care what others think.

2. New contacts. It’s a big online world out there, just waiting to be discovered. I want to continue following new people, so they will follow back and learn more about me as well. I’m interested in meeting new people in my industry, people local to me, those with similar interests etc.

3. Opportunities to connect. If I were unfollow everyone on my list I wouldn’t be able to receive direct messages (DMs). I know that I’m still very reachable by other forms of communication (which might even be preferred) but I would hate to miss even one “hello” from someone who is attending the same conference as me, sitting across the room.

Tim, being the smart guy he is, has been conducting a bit of social experiment to see what type of reactions he got from creating lists instead of following people on Twitter. I’ve asked him if he would share his thoughts on here.

Tim’s Thoughts

As Hannah put very clearly, that question I asked nearly a week ago has a lot of potential to backfire on the person who was trying to execute and experience that answer. “What will happen if I unfollow nearly 1000 people on Twitter and put them into lists?” Well, that question has changed a bit for me. Now I can ask, “What has happened since I unfollowed nearly 1000 people?”

Am I trying to be antisocial? Absolutely not. In fact, as my recent blog post about this explains, I am doing this to build my relationships with these people beyond what is possible on Twitter. These short 140 character messages are great, but just like Hannah has said before, they aren’t conducive for long conversations, they limit you on getting to know someone on more than just a shallow level, and there is almost no place for private conversations. Even the DM system is limited in this way.

So I’ve moved everyone over into Twitter Lists and said goodbye to my twitter-stream. I no longer follow anyone but the companies I am directly involved with each day, and my co-workers. At the same time, though, I’ve added many more people to the lists that I follow than I would have followed directly. In my mind, at least, my social network on twitter has actually grown, not diminished. I still reply to every tweet that mentions me, and I check those lists as often as I need to (which are organized quite well, if I may say so myself).

Where I now lack DM’s, I ask people to send me emails, or even give me a call. My address is available for anyone to contact me through, and if you ask nicely I’ll even give you my direct phone number. I want to get to know you as a human being, not you as a twitter handle. When I recently went to a meetup of webOS developers in San Francisco, everyone introduced themselves by name. While a few of those names were familiar, it was only after we re-introduced ourselves by twitter-handles that we recognized everyone around the table. Have we lost even that basic fundamental human way of identifying other people?

Plus, after that’s all said and done, I just need more time to get to my work, and Twitter takes away a lot of that time. I am a writer, a developer and a community aggregator. I am not a Twitter-Guru (is there such a thing?), and being one will not make me a better writer (it may, in fact, work against me). By refocusing my time spent on Twitter to being engaged with people who are engaged in topics that I am interested in reading about at any moment (and that I’m viewing through those lists), I am cutting out the clutter and freeing myself from wasted time reading topics that do not matter for the task at hand. If I want to read about webOS, I pull up the webOS Community list. And if I have some time to laugh it up, I grab my Just For Fun list.

The change has come with very few consequences. I’ve lost no followers due to the change, and the followers that recognized the change actually encouraged me to do so. I’m still connecting with those same people regularly through the lists that I follow, and even through other communications channels now. No one has spoken out against my decision in any way, unless they were questioning why I had made the decision. In the end, everything is actually going much better than I had originally planned. Heck I even get to write an article with Hannah over here! 😉

Now, maybe this won’t work for everyone. And with only spending a week with no “twitter friends”, I may not have seen some of the problems that might show up later on. For right now, it’s working great, and I plan on keeping it up for the foreseeable future. After all, it took me four days to get through the whole process of transitioning everyone over. Call me lazy, but I think I’ve forced myself to stay here for a while longer. Hey, testing never hurt anyone.

You can connect with Tim on any of his social profiles here and be sure to check out what he’s sharing on his blog, AnotherGuy’s Weblog. You could also follow him on Twitter but don’t do it because you want a follow back.

How do you feel about following others back on Twitter? Please share your thoughts.


An Exercise for the Mind: 30 Days of Writing

cc license, redcargurl

My first challenge of giving up coffee last month has come to an end. I definitely missed it and was quite happy to order a flat white with brunch on the first of the month yesterday.  While giving up coffee (and that morning caffeine) was good for my health, this month I decided to choose something from the list that was good for my mind.  I’m going to write everyday this month, either on my blog, guest blogging or in my journal.

I started a journal my junior year of high school and have been writing off and on since then. While I take my blogging more seriously, my journal is just for me and a great stress release when needed.

In addition to my own blog, I also have a few guest blog posts coming up this month that I’ll be writing for others.

I’ve wanted to write more often, so what better way to encourage that habit than by making it my next 30 day challenge.

Do you keep a journal or blog? Both? 

See you Later Sydney: Living in a City of Goodbyes

cc license, paulbarrogaA friend told me, not long after I moved here, that he has said goodbye to a lot of people in Sydney.  After only being here for a relatively short time, I’ve already started to say my own farewells.

I’m sure part of the problem will always be that I’m not from here. A lot of my friends are Americans and other expats. Even my coworkers at Switched on Media come from several different countries. It’s not surprisingly that people would come and go over the years. I’m not even sure how long I’ll be in Sydney myself.

Sydney in general seems to be place where people are always arriving and leaving from. Aussies love to travel. In fact, to leave a job to go traveling for several months is not unusual.  I love the culture of travel here; it’s far less common where I grew up.

While I’m obviously happy for friends who travel or return home after being away, there is definitely a sad side to it. It makes me think about my time in Sydney. I question if I should be home with my family instead. I’m happy here, but I do have moments where I wonder if I should be away.

Have you said a lot of goodbyes in Sydney?

My 30 Day Challenge Blog Project

I’ve decided to take my blog in a new direction (no this isn’t an April Fools’ joke). I feel that I’ve been fairly professional up until this point. I’ve mentioned before that this blog is my online home. My CV and portfolio are here. I list this blog on my LinkedIn account. That professional part of my life is clearly important to me, both online and offline, but I’m ready to start blogging on a more personal level.

I want to start writing more for myself and less for an audience, because I know that in this approach, you find community.  That’s what I really want the goal of my blog to be, to connect with people. That’s why I love Twitter as a social networking platform. I love connecting and constantly meeting new friends. I know that I have to be willing to “put myself out there” to find what I’m looking for in blogging.

Starting this month I’m creating 30 day challenges for myself and writing about my experiences.  It’s one month to learn a new habit, walk in someone else’s shoes or perhaps learn something about myself.  Some of my challenges will be good for my physical health and others are meant to be good for the soul. There are no rules, expect for the rules I give myself. I don’t plan on blogging everyday but I would like to blog more often than my disgraceful once per month schedule I’ve been on.

My first challenge? I’m giving up coffee for 30 days. I love having my coffee every morning. I love the coffee culture here and I know this challenge is going to make me rather grouchy for the first week and a half. I do enjoy my morning coffee, but I don’t like the idea of “needing” caffeine to stay awake.  I’m spending a lot of money on coffee (maybe around $100 a month) just to stay awake and it’s feeling a bit routine lately. I’d rather drink it less often and really enjoy it when I do have it. I’m giving it up for 30 days so I can detox and not depend on the daily caffeine.

I’ll see where this project takes me, perhaps in future months I’ll take suggestions on 30 day challenges. For now, I have a decent list to last me through the next year and a half.

What blog project are you working on right now?

Lessons in Public Transport

cc license, das21

What I’ve learned in seven months of not having my car…

1. I really miss driving. I miss both the convenience of having a car and the actual act of driving around. I find it relaxing. I keep thinking about getting a car so I can have my freedom back.

2. Despite my whining, public transport is actually wonderful some days. I like when the bus flies down the bus lane, past stopped traffic in the mornings, or when you want to go out and have a few drinks and don’t need to worry about driving home. The ferry ride from Manly to the city is beautiful. I ultimately save money and never have to look for parking. These are all times that I’m happy being car-less.

3. Sydney buses don’t follow the time schedule. They not only come late (which I would expect) they often leave early or just never show up. I can’t stand when my morning bus the E50 leaves early because it’s mostly commuters who show up the same time every day. It irks me.

4. Technology does assist in making public transport better. There is an iPhone app called TripView that quickly helps you to plan trips in Sydney on trains, buses or ferries. It’s been a huge time saver and great tool since I found out about it. Free Wi-Fi on the ferry ride is another little modern day bonus that makes me smile (when it’s working).

5. Relying on public transport has helped me achieve my goal of daily self-reflection. Last year, Artie Isaac put the idea of taking 30 minutes each day for silent reflection. Thanks to my commute to work I practically have no choice now. I get about two hours each day, if I want it (assuming I’m awake for the morning bus ride). I spent a lot of time in silent thought.

Moral of the story is that I miss driving but it’s not the end of the world and I’ve gotten more and more used to it. I’ll probably move closer to the city (by the trains) at some point and feel even less inclined to make a vehicle purchase. Until then, I’ll see you at Manly Wharf kids.

What lessons have you learned from taking public transport or are you car dependent, like me?

Who Do You Blog For?

cc license, Maria Reyes-McDavis

I used to think the answer to the question, “who do you blog for?” was an easy one. I’ve always blogged for others. I created a Xanga in middle school and wrote about jokes, music and posted photos my friends would like. I started my current blog at university knowing it was a way to communicate with professionals in my industry and have my voice heard.

When I sit down to write a post I have the mindset that anyone and everyone could potentially read it. My grandma, my boss, my best friend or a stranger I’ve never met. It helps me keep a very professional tone but it also limits me. I don’t write freely.

I’ve read some really great blog posts lately that I know come from the heart (thank you Lori). It’s bloggers who write with a passion and intensity as if they are writing in their own personal journal that no one will ever see. I find it scary to put yourself out there but at the same time, inspiring. It creates a connection with the reader that I think most bloggers constantly work toward.

So I’m wondering… Who do you write for? Do you write for yourself or others?

Welcome 2011: What’s Next?

cc license, Rob & Jules

I know that 2010 was a big year for me. I graduated university, moved away from home (far away from home) and started a new job in Sydney. It was a lot of life changes that seemed to happen rather quickly.  Now sitting here and reflecting on New Year’s Eve, I can’t get the question of “So, what’s next?” off my mind.

I’m not keen on New Year resolutions but I’m a huge fan of setting goals. The goals I’ve worked toward over the last part of my life were fairly structured; go to college, play on the university tennis team, volunteer 300 hours, graduate, etc.  School provided me the environment where I could succeed with a four year deadline.

Now my goal setting timeline seems far more open ended. There is no deadline (besides the ultimate deadline of life) or graduation day to time them. I know it’s time to create my own milestones, but I’m not sure what they look like yet.  Do people measure their time by accomplishments, places they’ve lived, lessons learned or something else?

I’ll be writing down my goals for the next year, 5 years and 10 years in this coming week. I don’t have all the answers of where life will take me, but I’m also not satisfied being swept along with the current. 2010 might have been a big year but I plan on 2011 being even better.

Happy New Year Friends!

What are your big plans for 2011?

Sipping on some Coffee Culture: Australian Edition

cc license, adactio

“Make your coffee at home to save money.”

That’s one thing my mom kept reminding me before I moved abroad. Be smart and save money in little ways. A cup of coffee might seem like a small cost but when you add it up over weeks and months it adds up. A good idea but I’m running into one small problem…

I’m buying coffee every day. I’m living in a country that loves their cafes and coffee.  Not only do I buy coffees out, I’m actually buying more coffees out than I ever have before.

There is a rather lovely culture around coffee (and tea) in Australia. Almost all of my coworkers either go on coffee shop runs daily. There are so many local cafes to choose from and they all take their coffee very seriously. It’s made properly and never rushed. My first week here I stood impatiently waiting for my coffee to be ready. I’ve learned quickly that is the wrong approach to take when it comes to ordering your coffee here. I have to remind myself to pause, wait, and relax.

I also like when going for a coffee becomes an event. At home I would make coffee in the morning as part of a caffeine habit. I never thought about it or enjoyed it. It was a mindless, early morning act. In Australia I like to sit and enjoy a coffee, ask a friend or coworker to come along or meet someone for coffee because it’s an occasion.

What is the coffee culture where you’re from?

Two Months In: An Update for Home

Two months have flown by. I realize I’ve been slacking with updates home and it’s tough to keep up with answering emails to people I care about. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m geographically distant, there is a 14 hour time difference or if it’s just the fact I’m still finding my day to day schedule. It feel likes freshman year of college. I have lots of free time when I don’t need it and no free time when I really could use it.

It sounds cheesy, but living here still feels like a gift every day. Despite my fear of actually being in the ocean, I’m learning to love it. I listen to the sounds of the waves at night from my bed as I fall asleep. In the morning I bring extra shoes for work just so I can walk across the sand in my flip flops on my way to the bus stop. The ocean looks different every morning too. Maybe it will be less impressive once I’ve been here awhile but I still find myself mesmerized watching the waves.

I’m meeting a lot of new people. It’s fun but can be exhausting. Making new friends feels a bit like dating. You worry what the other person thinks about you. You try to be yourself but don’t really feel like yourself when you’re hanging out with people who don’t know you.

I love going exploring around the city and finding excuses to go new places. I live on the northern beaches and everyone jokes about it being far away (it’s not that far). I guess there is a stereotype of people who live in Manly never having a reason to leave Manly. I’m still enthusiastic about going to the city for events and meeting up with people. There is so much in the city I want to see and areas in Manly I haven’t even seen yet.

I just wanted my family and friends at home to know that I think of them often, even if they haven’t heard from me lately.

What’s new with you?