Spring is here, which means the sunshine and rain, work and rest are coming and going in waves. In between the work and rain, we've managed to get out and about a bit and enjoy the warmer weather. In an unusual bout of decisiveness, Pickle took the reins on the weekend planning one Saturday...as it turned out, he already had something very specific in mind - our first trip to the movies since we've moved to Sydney. I know it may sound a little ridiculous that we haven't been to the movies for nearly two years (though we have gone several times while back in the States), but let me tell you, the price for a trip to the cinema here far surpasses this fact in ridiculousness. Particularly in this instance, as Pickle's plan involved seeing the most recent Star Trek film on IMAX in 3D. The movie itself cost a cool $70. We were smart enough to smuggle in our own "lollies", but not brazen enough to bring our own drinks, which set us back $10 a water bottle...a piece. That's just $10 shy of a Benjamin, friends (or a Melba/Monash if you're here). You can see where someone as...financially conscientious...as I would avoid the experience. I have to say, though, it was an awesome movie! I'm not a Trekkie by any means, but I LOVE the newest movie series, and it was definitely a great one to see in IMAX 3D. We hit up Westfield Sydney for dinner at Din Tai Fung and Max Brenner's Chocolate Bar for dessert.
Because Pickle unexpectedly took over the plans for that weekend, it worked out well for me to reassume coordination duties for the following weekend, during which I set aside Sunday for dinner in Chinatown and strolling around Circular Quay. I said it'd be nice, if we had to work one day of the weekend (which we were averaging at the time), if we worked Saturday so we could take Sunday as a breather before beginning the week again. We finally checked out Mamak, a crazy popular Malaysian restaurant in Chinatown that inevitably has quite a queue every time we walk past. Turns out, there's a reason: this was good stuff! We arrived just after the restaurant was supposed to be opening, but astonishingly, there was no line (this is THE only time I've ever seen this restaurant without a line out front at least 30 people long!). It was obvious the place had been open for quite awhile, so we may have just been lucky that the posted hours differed from their actual opening time that day and no one knew they were open. Who knows! Either way, it was our good fortune :) There's a window out front where the queue starts for patrons to watch the roti-making process, so I still stopped to watch even without the queue. (By the time we left, a small queue had started to form...)
Inside, we started with teh tarik for me (Malaysian milk tea, stretched to make it frothy) and I encouraged Pickle to order the cham (half milk tea, half coffee) so I could try it :) Mine was good, but his was better, as the coffee cut the sweetness and gave the drink even more depth. We ordered the roti canai (original roti) and roti planta (buttery roti - holy yum!), and both came with a spicy curry and lentil curry for dipping. We also had the chicken satay and ayam goreng (Malaysian fried chicken), which were tasty, albeit oily. Pickle closed with a banana roti dessert with ice cream (because it was obvious the roti was the star at this joint), but I had to try the ais kacang, described as "a concoction of red beans, corn, grass jelly, rose-syrup and sweetened milk on a mountain of shaved ice". I was skeptical about creamed corn on my shave ice dessert, but it added a really smart pop of salty/sweetness that I loved!
During dinner, we were talking about how nice it was to occasionally get out on a "school night" to enjoy our city, and Pickle suggested we start paying closer attention to the Sydney Opera House calendar to try to catch some more performances there, noting that he still regretted missing Ben Folds in concert at the SOH when he toured in 2014. I agreed it was a good idea. After an inconspicuous scan of the restaurant, I noted that I needed to use the restroom (apologies for what probably seems like a tedious and borderline inappropriate level of detail here, but this was part of my agenda). Mamak is a small place, and there was no restroom for customers that we could see, so we just headed out to Circular Quay, and I said I'd find one there. After leisurely strolling around the quay a ways and taking in the glittering evening view of the harbour, we found ourselves at the end of the line near the Opera House, where I recalled that I really could use a restroom. Pickle suggested trying the Opera House, so we wandered in to check there. After meeting back up from our respective restrooms, I asked Pickle if he'd like to stay for the Ben Folds concert. It took him about 45 realtime seconds to understand (after much clarification and confirmation) that yes, Ben Folds was there at the Opera House, and yes, we had tickets to his concert, and yes, this was all planned out and I'd had the tickets for nearly two months. Pickle was psyched after the shock wore off, and I have to say, I was pretty pleased with my ninja mind manipulation skills, as I'd been stealthily planting things in his subconscious for awhile. About a month ago, he was looking for his next autobiography to read, and I casually suggested Ben Folds, which led him to search for and read several interviews (there's no biography on Ben Folds). The night before the concert, while surfing YouTube, I suggested a few artists and then threw Ben Folds into the mix, which spurred Pickle down another Ben Folds rabbit hole. I have to say, I was pretty proud when he brought up missing Ben Folds at the Opera House completely un-prompted at dinner and of the fact that I was able to have Pickle guide me into the Opera House before I ever had to tell him why we were there :)
The concert was seriously amazing. The venue had such a personal feel for us, because, although the seating climbed extremely high behind us, it was a narrow hall, and we were in the first row that was not below the elevation of the stage. Ben Folds is currently touring with yMusic, a group of 6 instrumentalists out of NYC, and they were phenomenal! I didn't bother with taking many pics or video during the concert, but here's a fun version of "Capable of Anything" from their album So There. (fun fact: Ben mixes up his lyrics around the 3:00 mark, which should be "But you don't seem to think that you could ever fly so low or sink so high...")
The whole concert was amazing, and he arranged a lot of music from Ben Folds Five for the performance with yMusic, which was really cool to hear (he's such a fantastic composer/arranger!). Probably the catchiest little earworm was "Phone in a Pool", which we seemed to keep singing for more than a week after the concert. It's actually about an incident after a gig in New Orleans when Ben was getting calls and texts during his performance from people irritated that he wasn't answering. Annoyed (and drunk), he chucked his phone out the window and into a pool at the hotel (where Ke$ha, of all people, jumped in to save it). The episode made for an amusing little tune that really sticks with you...
It was a wonderful concert and a great night and I was psyched to be able to surprise Pickle so well (a tricky feat when you live AND work together)! The following Wednesday, we'd booked a workshop that was proooooobably a little more for me than Pickle (but he had fun too). I'd seen a local shop called Tiny Paradise listed as a vendor at The Grounds of Alexandria markets and checked out their website. They sell succulents, terrariums, custom pots and planters and kokedamas...I instantly fell in love with the kokedamas, and when I found that there was a workshop where we could make our own, I immediately signed us up. Kokedamas are a Japanese gardening method similar to bonsai, but the plant's roots are bound in layers of soil and moss and wrapped into a self-contained ball with twine. Often, kokedamas are hung suspended in the air from the twine used to wrap them (but we chose to keep our on the window ledge). The workshop was at the local library at Bondi. They had everything set up for us to make a tiny "practice" kokedama from a cutting as well as a larger one. We arrived early so we could strategically select our succulents...there was only one young woman and her mother there before us (who confessed they had the same plan), so we were able to pick four different plants.
We had fun getting out hands dirty, and I have a whole new appreciation for kokedamas...while creating them is a pretty straightforward process, it's definitely a skill! Despite our rookie status, our kokedamas turned out to be pretty adorable, so, naturally, we took a bajillion photos :)
Those have been some of the highlights for us lately. Looking forward to more good weather and breaks from work!