Sydney and the Blue Mountains

In December 2015, Bearface came to Australia to do some motorcycle touring and spend the holidays with us.  We spend most of Christmas Day at Hyams Beach on Jervis Bay, home of (debatedly) the whitest sand in the world (definitely the whitest I’ve seen), then drove to Sydney.  We stayed in Sydney for a week until New Years to watch the Sydney New Years fireworks, then on New Years Day, we drove to Blackheath in the Blue Mountains for the weekend.  Here are some pictures I took from those adventures.

Every one of my visits to Sydney includes a walk through the Royal Botanic Gardens.  This time, we actually went on one of the free guided tours and learned heaps of stuff and saw heaps of stuff we never would have known about from just walking around unguided.


Green leaves at the Royal Botanic Gardens


Little white flowers growing in the puddle in the middle of a giant flower

We went to Bondi Beach and walked the whole coastal track from Bondi to Coogee.  It was crazy windy and unseasonably cold but beautiful!  Pretty Boy wants to go to Bondi every time we’re in Sydney, and I’d be happy to walk the coastal track again and again.


Bearface, Pretty Boy, and me at Bondi and the start of our walk


This was about half way along the track, looking back at Tamarama Beach and Waverley Cemetery; we started somewhere on the other side of that far point


Sydney’s high end real estate along Gordons Bay

Something we’d never done in Sydney before, Pretty Boy and I took a ferry from North Sydney to Watsons Bay and walked around the South Head entrance to Sydney Harbour.  We also had tasty fish and chips from Doyle’s on the Wharf Take Away.


Downtown Sydney, the Harbour Bridge, and Watsons Bay seen from the top of Gap Bluff


Watsons Bay wharf

Snapped this quick shot of Pretty Boy while we were waiting for a table at bill’s in Surrey Hills.


Aspiring model in the making (not an advertisement for Ray-Bans… promise)

Even after multiple visits, we are still finding new things to do in Sydney and loving it just as much every time.

After Sydney, to get to Blackheath, we drove the long way around, taking the Bell Line of Road.  In Bilpin along the way, we stopped at Pie in the Sky Roadhouse for sweet and savory pie and picked up some local fruit from a fruit seller.  We also stopped at the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden in Mount Tomah.  I love all botanic gardens, and this one did not disappoint.  I am so keen to go back and spend more time there.


The botanic garden nestled in the Blue Mountains

When we were staying in Blackheath, Pretty Boy and I went on a major hike recommended in my Lonely Planet Guide.  Here is a map of the route we took.  We started at Perrys Lookdown, north of Blackheath, and hiked straight down the valley wall to the base of the valley, about a 300 m descent.  Along the bottom of the valley was the Grose River, magical Blue Gum Forest, and Acacia Flat camping area.  We passed a few other hikers on the way down and met some people camping at Acacia Flat.  After marveling at the Blue Gum Forest and wading in the creek, we decided to keep hiking in the valley, instead of going back up the way we came down.  We hiked along Govetts Creek to Junction Rock then took the Rodriguez Pass walking track up to Govetts Leap Lookout.  Along the way, we stopped and swam (in our underwear!) in a pool in the creek next to which we were hiking.  Ugh, I still remember how freezing that water was!  But it was refreshing on our tired legs and washed off the sticky sweat so I think it helped us get the rest of the way out of the valley.  We were tuckered after the serious climb up the side of the valley (400 m total ascent, 300 m of which were tackled on staircases at the very end) and had planned on having Bearface pick us up at the lookout, but that didn’t work out, so we walked back to the AirBnB cottage we were staying at via the Barrow Lookout, Braeside walk, and the city streets.


Fern tree un-ferning in front of Pretty Boy on our way down to the Blue Gum Forest


We saw amazing plants and rocks in the valley


Bridal veil or Govetts leap falls being blown away in the wind; this was at the last bit of trail before Govetts Leap Lookout; doesn’t even do the ascent justice


Partway up to Govetts Leap Lookout, looking across the valley that we were hiking in all day

Looking back at the falls while ascending


Gazing out at the ground (and elevation) we covered


Pretty patterns cast by the light in our AirBnB cottage

An exhausting, amazing adventure!  It was one of the most physically demanding hikes Pretty Boy and I have ever done, but I loved it and hope to get back to the Blue Mountains again for more.  And all that hard work made our dinner that night at Vesta Blackheath so, so extra delicious.  I sat with my back to an old iron chiminea that had a fire burning in it the whole night and positively melted with exhaustion in the glorious heat.

On our way back to Canberra, we drove through Katoomba and stopped at Scenic World to see the Three Sisters.  Touristy Scenic World was very different from the rough wilderness of our hike in Blackheath, but the Blue Mountains are beautiful from either setting.


Three Sisters, limestone rock formations on the left of the valley


Water falls around Scenic World


Goofing around on the walking trails at Scenic World

We did so many things on that trip!  But these were the highlights of the pictures I took.  The Blue Mountains are only a 3 hours drive from Canberra so I have no excuses for not getting back there more often.

Lantau Peak and Dragon’s Back hikes

When Pretty Boy and I were in Hong Kong in November 2015, we did two big hikes: Lantau Peak at sunrise and Dragon’s Back.  Here are some pictures I took while on those adventures.

In the wee, wee morning at the beginning of our journey to Lantau Peak at sunrise, it took us some time to find a taxi at 3 am in Tung Chung, but we finally did.  We took the taxi to the Pak Kung Au bus stop where the trail is supposed to start.  As the taxi sped away, we sure hoped we could find the trail head.  The first bus wasn’t due for another 3 hours if we couldn’t…

lantau peak 1

Hoping we can find the trail head

We did find the trail and started the hike.  No pictures from the first few hours because it was still dark, but eventually, the sky started to lighten.  We weren’t yet at the summit, so we started powering up the steps, hoping to make it to the peak in time to see the sunrise.

the sky lightens

The sky starts to lighten

running out of time

The lighter it got, the more apparent it became that we were in a cloud

We didn’t make it to the very top in time for sunrise, but luckily strategically, we started on the east side of the peak, so the sunrise was at our backs rather than hidden behind the peak, and we saw when the sun rose over the low dense clouds, though it was still partially obscured by the cloud in which we were.

hazy sunrise

Hazy sunrise behind us

By the time we made it to the peak, the clouds were intermittent, so we’d be alternately blasted by sun and enveloped in chilly cloud (made extra chilly by how sweaty we were after racing to the top).  The view was also alternately exposed and obscured by clouds, but we hung out for about an hour watching different parts of Hong Kong and the amazing clouds come and go from view.  At one point, we could see all the way to Hong Kong Island.

the view

Other parts of Lantau Island peaking above the clouds

taking pictures of the view

Taking pano pictures of the view

on top of the world

On top of the world, less than 1 km above sea level

The peak is less than 1 km above sea level (934 m), but its still the tallest peak on Lantau Island and the second tallest in all of Hong Kong, so we felt on top of the world.

sea of clouds

Sea of clouds

tung chung

The city of Tung Chung, where we started our day, between a quick break in the clouds

sun and clouds

sun and clouds

We continued along the trail, down the west side of the peak to Ngong Ping and the Big Buddha.

steep cloudy decent

Steep, cloudy decent

south side of lantau island

South side of Lantau Island

big buddha and wisdom path

The Big Buddha and the Wisdom Path in the distance

We’ve visited Ngong Ping village and the Big Buddha (officially Tian Tan Buddha) every time we’ve been in Hong Kong.  Its one of our favorite places in the world because of the beauty, peaceful vibes, and tofu faa, though the energy was majorly disrupted on our previous visit by hordes of tourists visiting the kitschy tourist attractions that have been built up in Ngong Ping.  We discovered the key for us is to go after hiking to the top of Lantau Peak at sunrise!  The hike put us in a pretty exhausted, mellow mood, and we arrived in Ngong Ping before the cable car, Big Buddha, and all the other attractions opened, so there were essentially no other tourists (just a few devout followers and hard core cyclists).

big buddha

The Big Buddha

my knees hurt just looking at it

That’s were we came down from

temple gardens

Beautiful gardens around the temple in Ngong Ping

We waited around for everything to open at 8 am so we could walk up the stairs, visit the Big Buddha, and have tofu faa. We then took the bus from Ngong Ping back to Tung Chung for a shower and nap.

The positives were discovering a good time (of day) for us to visit the Big Buddha and the amazing views.  The negatives were partial to heavy cloud cover and the amount of trash (and heavy odor of urine) left at the summit.  Results of the hike becoming so popular.  We were at the summit with people who had camped over night there in order to see the sunrise, though they didn’t look happy or warm to us.  I’m definitely glad we did the hike, and I would definitely do it again with an eye on the forecast and some garbage bags for picking up some litter.

I also think approaching the summit from the east was a great idea.  The approach from the west may be faster, but its also steeper, a prospect that terrifies me in the best of conditions.  I couldn’t imagine attempting it in the dark or in a cloud or both.  And if you’re running late (as we often are), the sunrise is still visible from the east.

Later on the same visit to Hong Kong, we went to the Southern District of Hong Kong Island to hike the Dragon’s Back, rated one of the top hikes in all of Asia, and visit Big Wave Bay and Shek O village.  We took all the trains and buses to get us there and back since we were staying in Tung Chung and met Dr. Sam in Wan Chai for dinner afterwards (2 MTR trains and a bus to get there; a bus, the longest trolley ride, and an MTR train to get back), but we love the public transport in Hong Kong!  It was all part of the adventure.

We were in the company of several other hikers on the bus that stopped at the trail head (though we were probably the youngest by half), so we knew we were in the right place.  So different from how we felt starting the Lantau Peak hike.  We hit the trail quickly and left most of the other hikers behind.  The weather wasn’t the best for hiking that day.  The views around us on top of the Dragon’s Back ridge were amazing but hazy, so the pictures aren’t very nice.  And it was crazy windy at the top of the ridge, so we didn’t linger too long.

that's some Miyazaki-type shit right there

Dragon’s Back ridge

After the top of the ridge, the trail wrapped around a peak in the Shek O Country Park and dropped us down in Big Wave Bay.


Trail through Shek O Country Park

Big Wave Bay apparently has the best surfing in Hong Kong, though they have a shark net at the bay entrance which breaks the waves up and makes them less nice for surfing.  The weather was still cloudy and dreary, but there were a fair few surfers out (even though winter is not the beach season to most Hong Kong residents), and Pretty Boy couldn’t resist.  He rented a board and played in the waves for a bit before we continued on.  We walked down the road to Shek O village, while the clouds finally clear off and the sun came out.

shek o headland

Shek O headland

welcome to shek o

Welcome to Shek O

We really enjoyed walking around and seeing Shek O, but I didn’t take any pictures of it.  It always amazing me that it only takes a few relatively short public transport rides to feel like I’m so far removed from the bustle of Hong Kong and the rest of the world.  Its one of my favorite things about Hong Kong.  After our visit and a really good cup of nai chai at the cafe across the street from the bus stop, we started our long trip back to civilization.

Jatz pecan pie, without Jatz or pecans, that is not actually pie

This story perfectly illustrates how I operate in the kitchen.  It starts with leftover egg whites.

The eggs whites were left over from the finger lime cheesecake I made last week.  Finger limes are a native Australian bush fruit with a very strong tart citrus-y flavor and hints of earthy muskiness.  I was given a bunch of finger limes at the end of summer by VIM2 and his parents, who grow them on their farm.  VIM2 has served finger limes in fruit punch and salads, but I thought a mild creamy dessert like cheesecake would go well with their strong flavor.  Pretty Boy removed all the fruit from the skins, and I squirreled them away in the freezer until I finally got the chance to make a lemon zest cheesecake topped with finger lime curd last week.  The cheese cake was a mix of these two Zoe Bakes recipes; the leftover egg whites coming from the finger lime curd.

We finished the cheesecake quickly (cheesecake is one of Pretty Boy’s favorites), but I was only able to get Pretty Boy to eat half the egg whites for breakfast so we still had some egg whites leftover.  We were also at the very end of a grocery cycle, meaning I’d been scrapping meals together from the last of all the ingredients we had in the cabinets until we went shopping again.  It also meant we were really low on ingredients, particularly the ingredients I could have used for baking desserts: out of eggs, out of all flours, and out of most cooking oils.  I was thinking about making a pavlova, which mercifully doesn’t need flour or oil, but we didn’t have any fruit to put on top of it.  Pavlova led me to thinking about meringues, which lead me to thinking about a dessert introduced to us by VIM2’s parents, which they called Jatz pecan pie.

Jatz pecan pie or 4-ingredient pecan meringue pie is a super simple meringue.  3 egg whites are whipped to stiff peaks.  1 cup of sugar is whipped in until glossy.  1 cup of chopped pecans and 22 crushed Jatz crackers are folded in and it’s baked at 180°C for 20-25 minutes.  That’s Jatz pecan pie.  Sometimes you can get fancy and add vanilla extract.  (Jatz crackers are similar to Ritz crackers but with a slightly crispier/crunchier texture as opposed to the biscuit-y/crumbly texture of Ritz.  They’re delicious, and we regularly eat a whole box in one sitting.)

Simple, uses egg whites, few ingredients.  It sounded like the perfect recipe to make when I was low on ingredients and had egg whites to use up.  Except I didn’t have Jatz… or pecans.  So this is what I did.  I used 5 sheets of crushed graham crackers instead of the Jatz.  I used ¾ cup of almond meal instead of chopped pecans.  I added vanilla extract because I’m fancy.  And because I once made a really interesting dessert called Huguenot torte, I also added our last apple, chopped into tiny cubes.  Baked at 180°C for 25 minutes.

The dessert turned out alright.  It could have used a little flour like in the Huguenot torte because of the extra moisture that the apple brings, but with the ingredients I had, I couldn’t have done anything else.

This is the meal cycle we’re gotten into: we (mostly I) pick out a few meals/recipes to make.  Then, I write a grocery list based on that meal plan and we go shopping.  After the planned meals get made, there are always some leftover ingredients and produce.  And I start getting creative.  I use whatever protein and produce we have on hand and make up a few more meals.  A typically dish from this point in the cycle is some kind of vegetable lentil stew with rice or naan.  When the vegetables run out, then it’s just dhal and rice or naan.  And the cycle repeats.

I’m not sure why I’ve gotten so stuck on stretching the time between grocery store trips as long as possible.  Part of it is that I get anxious when there’s too much food in the fridge or pantry.  Too much food increases the changes of something going bad or being wasted, and it looks and feels cluttered to me.  I am also a really big fan of efficiency.  I’ve started calling it the ‘E’ word, as in ‘You [Pretty Boy] know I can’t resist the ‘E’ word!’  If planned right, grocery stopping in one big trip is more efficient in terms of time and money, than many small trips.  Mostly though, it’s just one of my ‘things.’  Pretty Boy always offers to run to the store when I get ideas for tasty things to cook but don’t have all the ingredients.  And we can walk to the store, buy something, and be home in 10 minutes.

But still, I usually just don’t want to do it and have learned to make do, often to the extreme, sometimes to a fault.  This is the pattern we’ve gotten into after over 2  years of feeding ourselves.  It works for us, and I still eat the faults!

Three smells

In the last day, I have been hit with three different smells that strongly evoked my time in China in 2001-2002.

The first smell was of coal.  It came from the fire we had in our fire pit in our courtyard last night.  We were burning exceptionally hard wood.  Expensive, fancy firewood purchased from the home improvement store.  The hard wood had burned down to hot, hot embers.  And the smell sent me back to wintertime, biking through the undeveloped alleys in Beijing to get to my host family’s apartment.  The alleys smelt of the coal burnt by the people who lived and worked in the rough structures that made up the edges of the alleys, burnt to heat their homes and cook their meals.  I remember the winding alleys, my host grandfather biking to school with me in the morning and picking me up in the afternoon for the first week to guide me through the maze, at first how scary the alleys seemed at night, how later they were so familiar and comfortable and part of my life in Beijing.  How once, I found a (seemingly) coal-dusted Harley Davidson stop tucked back in a corner alley that I rarely traversed.  How that seems like a dream now.

The second smell was of home-brewed rice liquor.  It came from the red wine on Pretty Boy’s breath.  It was cheap red wine that he was drinking with the burritos he was eating for dinner last night.  I’ve smelled many different alcohols on his breath, but there was a sharp, sourness to the smell last night that sent me back to the Miao villages I visited in the Yunnan province in southwest China.  Walking into the villages, we were often met by villagers dressed up in traditional outfits, who meet us with some form of a welcoming ceremony.  I remember walking along lines of people in black fabric, elaborately accented with bright pops of pink, blue, and white.  Large silver pieces.  Singing.  And at the end of the walk into the village, at the end of the line of people, someone standing with an animal horn filled with home-brewed rice liquor that we were offered to drink.  I remember the sourness and the bite of the alcohol and the bits of rice still floating in it.  I remember seeing the murky rice liquor later in a glass, murky but not murky enough to completely obscure the floating bits.  I remember the roughness of the lives the villagers lived.  I remember feeling like, at times, they were putting on a show for the tourist dollars.  I remember, at other times, the food and homes they shared generously with us.  I remember a man laughing at us because we couldn’t shell and eat sunflower seeds as well or as fast as he could.

The third smell was of cold dry morning air spiked with exhaust, wood and coal burning, and food.  It came from the path I bike to the office every morning.  This morning, the air was the coldest and driest it’s been so far this year.  Exhaust came from the cars on the roads that the path crosses.  The burning likely came from some of the houses that line the path because some homes in Canberra still use wood or coal fired furnaces or fireplaces for heat in the winter.  And breakfast.  The combination sent me back to the bustling street on which my school in Beijing was located.  Lanes and lanes of cars and bicycles and pedestrians every morning and afternoon, bundled against the cold, going about their daily lives.  I remember one of the streets somewhere around my school or host family’s apartment was called Xin1 Jie3 Kou3 Wai4.  I remember the grippy, reddish surface of the pedestrian flyovers, like the top of a skateboard.  I remember how everything was a little faded, how everything became gray or dark gray: the cars, the clothes, the road, the buildings.  I remember pulling my hat low and blending into the rush.

It must be so different now.  Almost 15 years later.  I can’t believe it’s been that long.  I don’t know why so many smells triggered memories of my time in China in such quick succession.  Maybe it’s because I was looking at pictures yesterday of my old friend and classmate from China.  Maybe it’s because the smell of the cabinet under my sink often reminds me of my time in China, and after two years of living in our townhouse, I still can’t place why the smell reminds me of China, and I had my head in that cabinet two days ago.  So many of my China memories have faded, but these smells brought back some memories so sharply, memories that I haven’t thought about in a very long time, memories that I am grateful I still have.

We brought the Halloween to Australia

We threw an awesome Halloween party, and brought all the Halloween to this place that hasn’t quite embraced it yet.

Most of our October was occupied by preparations for the party.  Earlier this year, the plan was to again co-host a party at a friend’s house.  We did this last year at VIM2’s house, and the plan was to co-host a party this year at the house we used to live at in Dickson.  The party last year was great, though Pretty Boy and I didn’t get to do as much party planning and preparation as we wanted to (like the party didn’t have a theme beyond Halloween), because it wasn’t our house so we could only do and move so much there in the day or two before the party.  Plus life, life keeps us busy always.  Side note, last year we were a cos-play version of the Cheshire Cat (me) and a Mad Hatter from the 2010 Alice in Wonderland movie (Pretty Boy):

me as the cheshire cat

pretty boy as the mad hatter

halloween 2014

When we found out not too long before Halloween that our friend had too much going on to co-host a Halloween party with us, we were stuck.  Our choices were: (1) no Halloween party or (2) put on our big-boy Halloween pants and host the party ourselves.  I was hesitant to commit to option 2 since I knew it would be a lot of work and clean up and I thought our place wasn’t the best party house, but option 1 was pretty much not an option in Pretty Boy’s mind, so we decided to throw our first ever, real-life adult party for Halloween 2015.

And throw a party we did!  I got right on the planning and organizing.  There were 4 Halloween party planing tasks, each of which had subtasks.  The main tasks were costumes, decorations, food, and entertainment.  Some of the inspiration and ideas are collected on a pinterest board here.  We decided on costumes (Zombie bride and groom) and food (Mexican) first which lead to our party theme: Day of the Dead Zombie Wedding.  We made an invitation using and got to making our vision for the party happen.

party invitation

For costumes, Pretty Boy bought a button down and blazer from the second hand store and set to them with a metal grinder (not recommended), file (recommended), scissors, and a lighter to distress them enough to match his already-very-distressed work pants.  I combined a cream skirt and linen tank top I already owned with “sleeves” made from tights with the feet cut off, a homemade flower crown veil and bouquet, and some jewelry.  The flower crown veil was my favorite part.  I tied tulle and dollar store, fake flowers onto a headband with fishing line, and hot glued in a few black plastic spiders.  For the bouquet, I used black paint to painted the flowers from another dollar store flower bouquet, then hot glued some black painted gummy worms (called gummy snakes here) in among the flowers, and tied chicken bones around the base.  The last part of our costumes was makeup.  We did a makeup trial the week before Halloween, and Pretty Boy came up with pretty standard Zombie makeup with face wounds made from liquid latex and fake blood.  I did a combination of lady Zombie makeup tutorials from the internet and the signature, under-eye blush from one of my favorite Minnesota burlesque performers: Musette the Mistress of Mischief.

Concurrently, we started working on decorations for our place.  Even though we got an awesome care package full of American Halloween stuff from Pretty Boy’s mom (called mum here), we decided we wanted a really creepy Halloween vibe and a lot of the care package stuff was just too cute.  I mean look at those socks and ghost lanterns!

Pumpkin socks

mini ghost lanterns

There wasn’t a great assortment of Halloween related stuff for sale in Australia, so we mostly made our own decorations.  They are still working on understanding Halloween, and the market is small, so Halloween stuff for sale is just different here.  This for example:

not so giant bag of candy

When has 20 pieces of candy ever been considered a “GIANT VALUE BAG” in the US?  Isn’t that just a normal bag?

Keeping with our creepy Zombie party vibe, we hung Christmas lights (called fairy lights here) inside and outside, decorated the windows with cut up and stretched garbage bag garlands inside and outside, and a black feather wreath for our front door.  We put white spider webbing on the window glass and sliding glass door and brown spider wedding on the walls.  Our normal wall art was covered with spooky skull art prints.  We covered the inside flat surfaces with black or cream pieces of fabric and placed on top beef bones and a variety of glass bottles and jars with tea candles and long taper candles.  Pretty Boy organized a fire pit and fire wood for our courtyard.  A lot of the decorating ideas this year were sourced from Martha Stewart.


This was mid-week, as we were slowly adding decorations. We hid all the plants in the garage for the actual party.

creepy candles

So creepy, right!?

For food, I decided on Mexican food because I miss Mexican food so much and its so festive.  This was the menu:

The tamale and guacamole recipes are my go to recipes for those dishes.  I made the tamales with rendered beef tallow instead of lard and served them with the garlic, creamed corn but not the swiss chard (called silverbeet here).  The recipes for red rice and black beans were new to me, but the Homesick Texan blog comes highly recommended from the Smitten Kitchen blog, so I thought I’d try them out, though I veganized both by using water instead of vegetable stock and vegetable oil instead of animal fat.  The coffee caramel tres leches cake was another new recipe from a trusted source.  The main reason for picking these dishes was to create a well rounded meal; the second reason was pre-cook-ability.  I outsourced the guacamole to a friend and bought chips and salsa, but made the other things over the course of a week.  I prepared and froze the tamales on Monday, cooked and froze the red rice on Tuesday, cooked the black beans Wednesday, and made the tres leches cake Thursday.  On Friday, the day of the party, I used bamboo steamer boxes to cook the tamales and reheat the rice, heated the beans and kept them warm in my slower cooker, and make the whipped cream for the cake.  Since I’d already placed the tamales and rice in steamer basket and the beans in the slower cooker pot, it mostly just took turning the stove and slower cooker on.  Sourcing Mexican cooking ingredients and beverages was not easy and required at least 4 or 5 stores, but I got everything I wanted, even the epazote in the black beans, which I’ve never used before.

The food turned out great!  The beans were much spicier than I anticipated , which some of our guest couldn’t quite handle but others were absolutely thrilled about.  I’ve made the black beans and red rice again since the party because we loved them so much.  The tres leches cake was good, but I like Martha Stewart’s plainer tres leches cake better.  And with another Martha Stewart reference, I will acknowledge that none, I repeat none, of the recipes are used are from Mexico.  Texas, Indiana, Minnesota, Georgia, but not Mexico.  I wanted to find Mexican sources for my recipes, but I don’t currently have any trusted Mexican sources for Mexican recipes and I didn’t have the means or time to test recipes before the party (you know I don’t trust random recipes off the internet!).  So here, when I say Mexican food, I’m talking about an Americanized take on Mexican food, though as I continue to cook Mexican food in the future, I want to find more sources from Mexico.  Though admittedly, Americanized Mexican food is the kind of Mexican food I have a taste for, the kind I’ve eat in Minnesota.  Its a struggle.  Even Epicurious named an American-written Mexican cookbook in their Epicurious Cookbook Canon (I still want it and the Southern cooking cookbook on that list), though I’m interested in this one now too.

Lastly, there was party entertainment.  This involved getting a DVD of the Rocky Horror Picture Show to play on the TV on repeat during the party, making a Spotify playlist of Halloween-ish/spooky/party songs we liked, and setting up pumpkin carving stations.  We had a lot of fun putting together a really crazy and diverse collection of songs for the playlist, but it worked out.  If you have Spotify, you can listen to our Halloween mix here, featuring everything from Michael Jackson to Modest Mouse, Nina Simone to Lady Gaga, and everything in between.  The pumpkin carving stations went completely unused.  Pretty Boy and I carved our pumpkins before the party, and no one brought pumpkin to the party to carve (even though I instructed them to), but that’s alright.  Big orange pumpkins here are rare and out of season October, so they’re very expensive.


mandala pumpkin

My carved pumpkin

jack skeleton

Pretty Boy’s carved pumpkin.  Love to oogie-boogie man in the moon!

We had so much fun with all the party preparations.  We put a lot into the party, but had so much fun doing it all that it never felt like work.  If anything ever did start to feel like work, I crossed it off the list and we just didn’t do it.  Here’s how the decorations turned out:

front of housefront door

living room

dining room


kitchen banner

And then I think the party went great too.  People came in waves throughout the night, as people will do at a party.  I made way more food than was needed, and it was supplemented by tasty things brought by friends, like salad, homemade wheat tortillas, and hummus.  I couldn’t stop saying “farty paux pas” when I was trying to say “party faux pas” about someone messing with the music.  Many more people came in costume this year compared to last year, which was great, including some amazing homemade costumes and other creative get-ups.  Someone did come covered in glitter with a can of silly string; the silly string cleaned up alright… we’re still working on the glitter.  And here we are under the fairy lights in our courtyard with the party in full swing:


practice makeup

Closer view of my flower crown and practice makeup the week before

It was awesome.  We might make a tradition of it.  So until next year, Halloween Pretty Boy and Halloween Pretty Pie say, “RAAAARRR!”

favorite picture of our costumes