Thursday, May 11, 2006

Excitement, anxiety, and everything in between

I haven't posted in a few days for two reasons. 1) I don't have much to say. I'm not traveling yet, so I'm boring. 2) I'm getting ready to go. I have less than 3 days before I go up to school for Senior Week and graduation, and the day after graduation I leave for Oz, so I don't have a whole lot of time left.

I've started to have some more concrete anxieties, mostly about packing. I will be fine, size-wise; the luggage my parents bought me is well under the size limits by all the airlines, yet big enough for everything I want to bring. Weight shouldn't be much of a problem, either. I'm allowed 50 pounds each, in two bags (this is the standard for American-based flights, but check with each airline to be sure). I have one bag basically packed, and it is something like 45 pounds or so. The other is currently at 20-ish, and all I have left to put in it is a week's worth of clothes, so I will be golden. The problem comes in on the last leg of my flight. I'm flying Virgin Blue, which is Australia's "budget" air option (at least, one of them). As far as I can tell, I'm only allowed one checked bag, weighing no more than 50 pounds total. Eek. I'm hoping I can pull a fast one on them by checking my bag from Albany straight through to Townsville. Even though I have to get it to go through customs in Brisbane, maybe it will work? At this point, there isn't much I can do about it. I'll hope for leniency since I'll be coming off an international flight, and pay if need be. Blah.

My other main anxiety is financial, and I've had it for a while. Paying back student loans while trying to start living on my own won't exactly be fun. My mom is implying that she will periodically visit my bank account, which is very cool, but at the same time.... I kind of want to be able to make it on my own. But usually the realistic (and selfish) part of me takes over and says "There is no way you will last!!", so I just won't argue. Maybe I won't need her money, but I guess we'll cross that bridge when we get to it.

Other than that, I've been trying to basically move myself out of my house. Although I've been at school for the past 4 years, I've always had a room here and this is my home base. But, for the next few years, I won't be anywhere near here. My room is becoming the guest room, and I'm 100% okay with that, but it's a little weird to be moving out of it. I've already freecycled a bunch of my stuff, and thrown out/recycled the junk, but there are some things that I can't bring myself to part with, at least not yet. So I'm claiming the closet, and one of the dresser drawers, and filling them up with those things. It won't inconvenience my parents any, it's essentially the same as putting my stuff in the basement, minus the dampness and the spiders. And, that way if I need anything, I know where it is and can have my parents ship it over to me.

Well, I probably won't be posting a lot for the next few weeks, although I might get a few in during Senior Week. I don't even know if I'll have the internet at the house in Townsville, but I'll certainly keep everyone updated on my whereabouts and such.

Getting antsy....

Thursday, May 04, 2006

packing, round 1

I started packing today. Just the preliminaries; I obviously can't pack anything that I'll be using in the next 2 and a half weeks. So it's clothes I don't plan on wearing (don't ask me why I'm even bringing them), new shampoo and crap like that, books... you get the idea. And, being a total nerd, I took pictures. So, enjoy.

This one is my carry-on. The smaller blue pouch has face soap, makeup, and that stuff. The four little white boxes are my contacts... I don't want to risk losing them in my luggage, because they are expensive! That shirt is Andy's birthday present :), there are some snacks, and some contact solution. The front pouches have my jewelry, and I'm going to pack a change of clothes, my camera, more food(!) and my CDs (if they fit). Electronics and valuables should always go in your carry-on!

My big, main suitcase currently has a few books (I wish I could fit more!), underneath most of that stuff. Shampoo, soap, sun block, etc. are in giant freezer bags, and I stuffed the extra space with bathing suits and socks, just to take up less room. If anything explodes or breaks open, I can just throw the socks and bathing suits in the wash, rather than every single thing in the suitcase. Alse here is my snorkel and mask, my photo album, and a few miscellaneous things, like the hat and belt. I don't know what else will go in here, more clothes, I guess.

Here's the duffel bag. Right now I have my flippers and a few skirts and pants, rolled up to take up minimal space. This bag will probably fill up with clothes, since I don't have to worry about them breaking or exploding like some other stuff.

And here they all are, stacked up ever so nicely. The duffel still fits into the big structured suitcase, and my comfy travel pillow is sitting on top :)

So, um.... there's 20 minutes of your life that you'll never get back!

A few travel recipes

Here's a recipe for some energy bars that seem like they'd be good for travel, since they've got some good nutrition and stuff. Plus, you can freeze them after you make them, and before you head out (whether in a car, on a plane, or on foot) you can throw it in your cooler or bag, and it will be ready for you when you get hungry.

Flaxen Cereal Bars
4 c. rice crispies (or whatever cereal, granola would work well too)
1 c. corn or rice syrup
1 c. brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. ground flax seed
1 c. nut butter (try combining more than one type to get 1 cup)
1 c. dried fruit and/or nuts (chop it up if it's in big chunks)

In a small sauce pan, heat nut butter, syrup, and brown sugar. Don't let it boil, but warm it up so it's fairly runny. Stir in flax seed and vanilla. In a large bowl, combine cereal with fruit/nuts. Pour the nut butter mixture over the cereal and stir well, until it's all combined. Press the mixture into a well-oiled 9x13 inch pan. Refrigerate for a few hours, then cut into 24 squares or 12 rectangles. Wrap them in saran wrap or waxed paper, and keep in fridge or freezer.

These are the same idea as the other ones, but bite sized, with more ingredients. The original recipe called for apricots, which I absolutely hate, so I subbed them with more dried berries. It also called for honey, which is, like, so totally not vegan.

Granola Bites
2 Tbsp. sliced almonds, toasted
1 3/4 c. quick cooking rolled oats
1/3 c. unsweetened dried apples, finely chopped
2/3 c. unsweetened dried blueberries, cherries, and/or cranberries
2 Tbsp. raw sunflower seeds (hulled, obvi)
2 Tbsp. unsweetened coconut flakes
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 c. nut butter
1/4 c. sticky sweetener, like maple syrup or corn syrup
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Place almonds and 1/4 c. of the rolled oats in a food processor, and process until they become fine crumbs, about 15 seconds. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine remaining oats, dried fruit, sunflower seets, coconut, and cinnamon. Add nut butter, sweetener, and vanilla. Sumbine well, until mixture begins to stick together. Form mix into 1 inch balls (heh heh, I said balls), coat lightly with the almond/oat crumb mixture from before, and place in an airtight container. Separate layers with plastic wrap or waxed paper. Refrigerate for 4 hours, or overnight. Makes 36.


This isn't explicitly about travel, but whatever.

In, like, a week and a half, I'm going up to my uni for Senior Week. It's the week immediately following finals, culminating in the graduation ceremony on Sunday. It's a week of parties planned by some senior class committee, where you buy a $35 wrist band and you get free drinks (and snacks like crackers and stuff) at all of the events. And, since everyone is finally done with all of their work (or, they should be), there are a lot of non-organized parties as well. Food-wise, I'm not too worried. If I eat in the dining halls, they always have some vegan options (some times, lots of vegan options). More likely, I'll be cooking meals with people and living off the leftovers. It probably won't be my healthiest week, as most of my calories will be consumed in the liquid form, but I will be fine.

My family is coming up on the final Friday, 2 days before I graduate. My mum wants to have a graduation party for me on campus, since I'm leaving for Australia the day after I graduate. Okay, that's nice of her, and the party is more for my family than me, so I am not going to argue. A few weeks ago she asked me what kind of food I wanted. We tossed around a few ideas. There was the obvious--veggies, bread, a few types of salad. And I was trying to think of something vegan that would be easy to make in large quantities, and would please a lot of people. I suggested having a bunch of pasta with different kinds of sauces on the side, like pesto, marinara, puttanesca, and whatever else we could think of. My mom put hot dogs and hamburgers on the list, and I didn't say anything, wanting to keep the peace.

A few days later I realized that chili would be an easy crowd-pleaser. We settled on the Black Bean Chili with Cilantro Pesto from Vegan Planet, which I've made before for some school event, and everyone loved it. And, we could make it ahead of time and throw it in the freezer. Then, when Mum and Dad make the three-hour drive up to school, they can bring it up frozen. By the time they get to school, it might be starting to melt a little, but it will still be very cold, at the least. More likely, it will still be mostly frozen, and we can stick in a fridge on campus. (There we go, that's how it ties in to travel. Freeze things before car trips and they stay cold for a long time, especially if you pack them into a cooler.)

Well. Mum mentioned that she was planning on making a "meat sauce" so people can murder-ize the vegan chili if they want, "or they can put it on their hotdogs or whatever if they want." Aside from the disgusting hot dog thing, I think having an optional meaty add-in is insulting. The chili is good! It doesn't need meat! It's perfectly healthy, and filling, and tasty. The night she mentioned that, I guess I was feeling a bit more fiesty, because I said "I don't understand why people can't go one meal without meat." Because hey, it's my graduation. And it's just one meal. My mum didn't say anything, and I don't really know what the plan is now. I just feel like a total shit the more I think about it. I should have said something the first time it came up, instead of waiting. Now, I'm tempted to concede on the hotdogs and hamburgers (ew, but the smell of them cooking is going to be so gross), but not the meat sauce. It completely undermines the vegan-ness (veganity?) of the chili, and I don't want it there. But, another part of me just wants to say no meat whatsoever. Because I'm the star of the show, at least for that one night.

This is a really weird situation, because I never, ever argue with my parents. I don't want to start something big, and the fact that my mum didn't even say anything in response to my little challenge makes me feel really bad. Bah! This is the first semi-negative experience I've had with my parents regarding my veganism, and I don't know what to do!