Give tuna a chance!

Give tuna a chance! 2

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As a rule, I try to avoid eating anything that resembles tuna salad at breakfast time. Call me crazy, but it’s a guideline that’s seemed to serve me well thus far in life.  Unfortunately, it’s also the reason it took me nearly 30 years to try Bircher Museli.

It’s not that I’ve never had opportunities to indulge the Swiss-style oatmeal — I distinctly remember encountering it at several breakfast buffets during various trip to Europe over the past fifteen years. But did I ever once try it? Absolutely not. It looked like tuna with raisins in it!

Yet for some reason I still can’t completely pinpoint, I decided to give Bircher Museli a try when I spotted it at a breakfast buffet in Sydney. Leave it to me to discover Swiss food in Australia, of all places.

After one bite, I was sold. Why had it taken me so long to try this magical breakfast porridge? (Especially as I actually like tuna salad.) And perhaps more importantly, how could I make it at home?

Fortunately, the answer to that question was just a Google search away. As soon as I arrived back in ‘Sota, I put my findings to work.

Bircher Museli Recipe

Simply mix all the ingredients in a big ol’ bowl, refrigerate overnight, and prepare to be wowed the next morning.

Bircher Museli

Wowed by the taste…NOT the appearance. (Although to be fair, my homemade version looked WAY less like tuna than others I’ve seen.)

You can eat your museli plain, or with a bit of milk mixed in. The recipe is nearly fool-proof, and welcomes improvisations like different types of nuts, fruits, and various other goodies. I’m excited to try a “tropical” version with dried coconut, pineapple and macadamia nuts. The best part? It keeps for a week (I’d argue it tastes better each day), so it’s a great breakfast to prep on Sunday and grab quickly during busy weekday mornings.

The recipe I’ve listed makes about six servings, weighing in at about 300 calories a pop. Each serving also packs a ton of energy-boosting “good” carbohydrates, not to mention 12 grams of protein. Not as much protein as tuna salad, but close. (And much more palatable with a hot cup of coffee at 7:30 am.)

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I cuddled it. (And then I ate it.)

I cuddled it. (And then I ate it.) 2

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Out of all the goals I had set for my Australian holiday, (and yes, I set goals for my vacations), one aspiration stood out above the rest.

I wanted to see a kangaroo. In the wild.

After hours spent peering out the coach window, my eyes scanning the Australian bush for even the slightest form of movement, my dream was realized. On the way to a surf lesson outside of Coffs Harbor, our group spotted half a dozen ‘roos basking lazily in the early afternoon sunshine. We even witnessed one hopping! I may or may not have gasped so suddenly, I nearly aspirated a Tim Tam.

But it got better. So much better. Hours later, we found ourselves at the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. Within the first fifteen minutes, I was cuddling Aukkie the Koala.

holding a koala

Fact: Holding a Koala feels more natural than holding an infant. (At least for me.)

He smelled strongly of eucalyptus and body odor, and clutched onto me for dear life. I kissed his head three times before asking the Koala handler, “Can I give him some belly rubs?”

“Absolutely not.” he responded with sternness and confusion.

You win some, you lose some.

I didn’t think my day could get much better. A wild kangaroo sighting and three-minute snuggle session with Aukkie? I hadn’t been that content since July 1997, when my parents finally agreed to get cable.

And then, I walked into this.

kangaroos currumbin wildlife sanctuary australia

Words cannot describe the one-acre area where kangaroos, emus and humans alike roamed freely. To call it the best petting zoo in the world would be a gross understatement. I must have spooned a dozen different ‘roos, offering kisses, pets and ear scratches to even more. The best part? No one was there to stop me from giving them belly rubs.

I must have spent over an hour mingling with my favorite marsupials, yet it felt like mere minutes. Turns out, time flies when you’re witnessing first-hand how simultaneously disgusting and adorable a mama kanga’s pouch is. Also? The abundance of hopping–a truly impressive feat to observe up close–certainly makes the minutes whiz by.

While the three hours spent at Carrumbin didn’t feel like nearly enough, I was able to leave the premises knowing I had achieved my primary goal.

Now, it was time to move on to objective number two — eating a kangaroo. (Clearly, emotional detachment comes naturally to me.)

Our tour manager Carolyn had informed Kayla and I that kangaroo is absolutely delicious, not to mention incredibly healthy. She cooked it at home on a regular basis and was able to provide some very helpful insight: kangaroo is best enjoyed when cooked medium rare.

Because kangaroo meat is so lean (similar to venison) overcooking it results in a tough, chewy, not-all-that tasty steak. In contrast, undercooked kangaroo can lead to some unsavory digestive issues which could prove particularly problematic while traveling. Medium rare, it was.

During our final night in Sydney, Kayla and I ventured to Nick’s Seafood Restaurant in Darling Harbour, prepared to have our taste buds wowed. I’m pleased to report that our meal did not disappoint.

kangaroo steak from nick's seafood restaurant in darling harbour, sydney

Kangaroo loin with pan-fried polenta and sweet tomato chutney

I cannot say enough good things about Nick’s, or the incredible dinner we had there.  The atmosphere was lovely, the view was stunning, and the food was the hands-down best we’d had during the entire trip. I left the restaurant feeling deeply sad it was over, and even more discouraged that kangaroo meat isn’t readily available in the U.S.

Oddly, I didn’t feel at all bothered over chowing down on the critters I had so lovingly spooned with just days prior.

kangaroo steak

The ultimate betrayal.

But I have no regrets. The kangaroo steak was so delectable, its continued to haunt my dreams even after leaving the southern hemisphere. Literally. While stranded at the Dallas airport for three days, I was able to catch a rare moment of sleep — thanks to some much-needed Ambien — on the airport-issued cot I had acquired. My sleep was so deep, it involved an incredibly vivid dream where I was eating–you guessed it– kangaroo steak. Unfortunately, the meat in my dream had been prepared incorrectly. I took a large bite, immediately discovering the ‘roo had barely been cooked, still completely cold and raw in the middle. Carolyn’s warning of food poisoning flashing through my subconscious, I immediately spit the steak out, hoping to avoid a foodborne stomach bug.

It was at this point I awoke, realizing my shockingly realistic dream had caused me to spit at least three large mouthfuls of saliva onto my cot. Not wanting to waste my Ambien buzz, I wiped it up with my sweatpants before immediately drifting back to sleep. I don’t think anybody saw me…but something tells me those Kangaroos at the sanctuary were snickering with vindication at my unfortunate spit situation.

Once again — you win some, you lose some.

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The 7 stages of layover

The 7 stages of layover 4

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After two weeks in the glorious Australian sunshine, I’ve finally made it back to ‘Sota! Unfortunately, in addition to 15 days down under, I also managed to log 3 days and 2 nights at the Dallas Fort Worth airport. So, while I’m sure you were hoping to hear about Kangaroos and Vegemite, I’ll first be making you suffer with me through a recap of what an entire weekend trapped in various American Airlines terminals feels like.

(If it’s any consolation, I promise there will be plenty of Kangaroos and Vegemite tomorrow.)

News of the impending layover arrived while my travel buddy Kayla and I were still at 15,000 feet on our 14 hours flight from Sydney. A terrible ice storm had hit Dallas earlier in the day, and while our plane would be landing, only ten flights were scheduled to leave the airport over the next 24 hours. Assuming a half-full plane to Minneapolis wasn’t a huge priority, I resigned to the fact that we would be spending a little bit of time at the airport.

I just didn’t realize how much time.

As soon as our aircraft landed we scurried off the plane and rushed through customs. Kayla and I knew the line for rebooking would be nothing short of hellacious, and wanted to secure a good spot in line. We did…but still had to wait an entire four hours before we were booked on a new flight home the following morning. That flight ended up being cancelled, as did the three other itineraries we would eventually be assigned. After two nights spent at the airport without so much as a hotel or meal voucher, we’d had enough. Some last-minute sleuthing revealed an early morning flight on Sunday that would have us back in ‘Sota by 9:00 am. Yes, it cost us $100 bucks each as it was a different carrier, and yes, it was one-hundred percent worth it. There are still over six hundred people stranded at DFW, and we likely wouldn’t have escaped until Tuesday if we had stayed with American Airlines.

Sure, our luggage is still in Dallas and it’s currently -10 degrees in Smalltown, but we’re home. When our airbus took off from Texas, it felt like a less life and death version of the scene in Argo where the Iranian hostages flight departs for America. I would have stood up and cheered had I not been passed out in my seat, enjoying the plush comforts of economy class. (After sleeping on a cot in an unheated terminal for two nights, seat 12F felt like a five star hotel.)

Somehow, we survived. Now that we’re home, I can even laugh at the situation. Truth be told, we were already laughing during the situation. (There’s something undeniably funny about wearing the same sweatpants for four consecutive days and lugging your airport issued cot from terminal to terminal like it’s your lifeline.)

Yet since arriving in ‘Sota I’ve been doing more than chuckling at my three days of airport homelessness. I’ve been reflecting. How did we do it? Will my sweatpants ever feel clean again? Did I really need all of those cocktails?

That’s when it hit me — enduring a long-term airport stay-cation is oddly similar to experiencing a major loss. Dare I say it, in those 40+ hours in Dallas, Kayla and I experienced our own version of the 7 stages of grief. Allow me to illustrate…

The 7 stages of layover

1. Shock and Denial

waiting in line at the dallas airport

Did that small Asian woman really just shove the group of Australians in front of her with her luggage cart to secure a better spot in line? Have we actually been standing here for four hours waiting for a new flight assignment? This can’t be Texas…we’re still in Australia! There’s no ice because it’s still ninety degrees outside! 

 

2. Pain and Guilt

sleeping on a cot at the airport

This cot hurts my back. I suppose that’s what I get for convincing those poor women from Portugal that their flight would totally be leaving in the next hour like the gate agent had assured them, and that they didn’t need them anymore. I’m a horrible person. I deserve to be stranded at gate D22 without so much as a blanket or charged iPhone.

 

3. Anger and Bargaining

airport neck pillow layover

I hate American Airlines! I hate Texas! I hate my life! I’ll never dishonestly convince someone to give me their cot again if I can just get out of this airport!

 

4. Depression, Reflection and Loneliness

drinking bloody marys at the airport

I’m going to drink three bloody mary’s, eat two giant fish tacos in less than three minutes, and then sleep the pain away.

After that, I’ll hit up Dunkin’ Donuts.

 

5. The Upward Turn

airport layover

No. I’m not going to Dunkin’ Donuts. I’m instead going to see this fiasco as an opportunity.  In fact, I’m going to use all of this free time to better myself!

(Translation? I’m going to read the latest issue of Martha Stewart Living cover to cover if it kills me.)

 

6. Reconstruction and Working Through

I will not let the absence of showers turn me into a victim!

(This is how I found myself washing my underwear in the bathroom with an anti-acne face wipe at approximately 11:30 pm.)

 

7. Acceptance and Hope

I don’t care what it costs, I’m going to pay for a new ticket to get me out of this place for good.

Also? I forgive American Airlines for keeping my luggage in Texas all week.

Even if it means Jolie and Penny will have to wait until Friday to enjoy their new, Kangaroo hide rug.

(If that’s not moving on, I don’t know what is.)

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I’ve gone Aussie!

I’ve gone Aussie! 1

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As you’re reading this, I’m most likely lounging on a sandy beach, eating a delicious meat pie and gazing at frolicking Koalas.

Actually, I’m probably in an Ambien-induced coma somewhere over the Pacific Ocean — but I will be lounging on a sandy beach, eating a delicious meat pie and gazing at frolicking Koalas.

(Eventually.)

(Koalas can frolick…right?)

The time has finally come for me to reap the fruits of my labor and enjoy fifteen sun-soaked days in Australia courtesy of Tone It Up’s #BikiniSeries.

While I won’t be blogging — it’s really difficult to type and eat meat pies at the same time — you can still follow along on my Australian adventure! Want photos? Follow me on Instagram (username “katrinataylor”) where I’ll be attempting to single-handedly shut down the app with a digital army of kangaroo photos. Are all caps complaints about layovers and misspelled tipsy musings more your style? In that case, I recommend following me on the Twitter. Want to view the trip through the eyes of a slightly less crazy person? I suggest following my travel partner Kayla on Instagram and Twitter.

And, because I’m not sure how else to close out this post, I’ll leave you with a ridiculous photo collage that brings what I’m assuming is a completely inaccurate cultural stereotype to life.

barbie

Shrimp on the Barbie!!! Get it??

Uh…yeah. Me neither.

(See you on December 9th.)

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