Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Still Have Yet To See

Eleven days and counting…
Yes, I am getting anxious about my trip back home.  It's the longest I have been apart from my loved ones and I think I have done a pretty good job.  Up until now, I haven't really been "homesick".  Now it has set in.  Where have the past ten months gone?!  Ahhh so many mixed emotions.
Recently found on my pinterest boards…hints that I may be missing the cowhide and fiesta decor.  

I threw this little board together using my super skills I learned in photoshop class to highlight some of my recent pins that reminded me of home.  And no, this wouldn't be considered a "skill" in photoshop if you were wondering.  Since I finished my photography classes a few weeks ago, I have been really bad about practicing and editing photos.  I actually never edit any of my photos for the blog…not worth the effort.    

Since my classes are over, I have been looking for other things to keep me busy.  I seriously lucked out completely with an opportunity at Australian Red Cross.  They interviewed me last week for a volunteer position with their Young Parents Program.  Essentially, I will be watching newborns to four year olds for a couple of hours once a week (and more if I want) while their teen parents are getting education classes.  The staff are lovely and they are doing wonderful things for less fortunate mothers and children in the community.  Right away, I was introduced to one of the social workers who happens to be an American (from Virginia)!!  We had instant chemistry so naturally we exchanged numbers and agreed to meet up soon…
…which takes us to Sunday morning at The Grounds of Alexandria.  A coffee research and testing facility (per their website) complete with a gourmet cafe, lush garden, chicken coop, lemonade stand, and lots of outdoor seating.  Let's not forget the amazing architecture and delicious treats that won me over in an instant. By the looks of the hip crowd, I wasn't the only one who thought so.  
Lucky for me, Kait lives nearby and has a car!  She is also married to an Aussie which makes her way cool (sorry R).  We both admitted that we weren't usually one to reach out to a stranger, but I reassured her that it wasn't creepy.  One of the biggest (and best) changes that living abroad has brought out in me…putting myself out there and being open to others, striking up conversation with strangers and genuinely caring, and actually following up with acquaintances when you say "ya, call me sometime and we can do dinner?!".  
We both enjoyed a fruit cup (more like bowl) with yogurt and granola, but I can't wait to go back and try their lunch.  How could we not walk away with a few nutella and jam filled doughnuts hot out of the oven for the boys at home?!  More than anything, though, we enjoyed each others company.  It was so refreshing to hit it off with someone who I felt like I've known for years. Even after being here ten months, I was reminded that Sydney has so many cool places that I have still yet to see…and interesting people that I have yet to meet!
Later that day, R and I headed to an area called Hunters Hill since we had a rental car on hand for R's work trip the next day.  Having a car gives you so much freedom and we felt invincible around the city! Am I being too dramatic?  
We ended up at Clarkes Point Reserve where we watched people fish and fly kites…and admired all the fancy boats at the marina.
Saturday morning love…Lemon and Ricotta Pancakes.
Random iPhone happenings…
1.  Starting a new project/hobby
2. Two sleepy boys on a rainy day
3. Rainy days are followed by Teddy baths
4. With daylight savings in full swing, the sun is setting too early for my taste. I document the sunsets for R since he gets home after dark now.  
5.  I started a new thing by washing/cutting/preparing all my vegetables at the beginning of the week.  I was trying to cut back on wasting produce while eating more green at the same time...and the method actually seemed to work! 

To keep them fresh all week, I wrapped the sliced veggies in a damp towel and then sealed them in an airtight container in the fridge (for most of them).  This healthy meal literally took ten minutes to whip up! No excuses now.  Put the chicken on the grill with a pesto marinade, sautéed the onions and peppers, slapped some pb on the celery, and the beetroots were already ready to go!  Yippee.  And I wasn't going for technique or gourmet for all you food critics…just wanted a simple, healthy, and quick meal.  Side note: Australian cuisine is a fan of beetroot…even McDonalds burgers have them.  My only recollection of beets was soggy and out of a can.  Such a shame. If you are like me and never gave this great veggie a try, think again…but go fresh!  I boiled mine and then sliced it to eat again cold on salads or as a side full of antioxidants among many other benefits.  Ok, thats my rant.
To make the most of the Aussie holiday called Anzac Day (and a day off work for R), we met up with friends at Balmoral Beach.  We were so thrilled to see these two after Jackie was away on tour for four months.  And Steph is now halfway through her pregnancy and has a tiny belly to prove it.  Pregnancy definitely looks good on her!
Teddy and I watched from the hill as they went for a dip. We couldn't have picked a more perfect day to bask in the sun.  The evening ended at their place for a delicious teppanyaki dish and a girl chat while the boys caught up with fifa.  Some things never change...
Like I said before, my list of things to do in Dallas keeps getting longer.  I just have a hard time justifying shopping in Sydney when everything is so much cheaper in the U.S.  Thanks to pinterest, here are few items that I will be eyeing for my fall wardrobe and our upcoming trip to Fiji.  

one.  JOIE flats.
five.  Sunnies
six.  Coral bikini

Monday, April 22, 2013

Miss Independent

The cliche phrase "absence makes the heart grow fonder"…blah blah blah…hate to say that it's the truth.  Just a few short years ago (seven to be exact..wow I feel old) R and I put our relationship to the test by doing the long distance thing our first year of college.  Well, we all know how that one eventually turned out.  Even though it was tremendously tough being apart during that crucial year (yes that's what I blame my "freshman fifteen" curse on), I stand by the fact that it was THE best thing we ever did for ourselves, and in turn, our relationship.  

Here we are now, attached at the hip, and spending more quality time together than we ever have. So, when R was gone all last week for work travel, I had a freak out moment.  I haven't been alone alone like this for a while now (please don't judge).  It was only four days, but it taught me a lot!
1.  I can be independent..and enjoy it!
2.  Having R gone made me even more appreciative of what we have and what he does for us.
3.  Living alone, I can get away with being more lazy around the house..but it also makes me more motivated to get stuff done at the same time. 
4.  I am helpless when it comes to feeding myself a substantial meal.  Let's be real, I only cook for R's satisfaction.  
5. Life is better with my partner.
I found myself doing those extra little things that I always think, "wouldn't that be lovely if I"...poured myself a cup of tea…made a fresh pumpkin soup…picked up coffee and snuggled in bed by candlelight…went to the beach alone to people watch, etc.  Insert any other cheesy thing you can think of.  I did it.  
I also did this. Organized my teeny tiny space of my so called closet.  I give it two weeks before it becomes a black hole again…
Teddy also struggled without his partner in crime.  He kept R's spot warm in bed at night and looked forward to late night FaceTime chats.  Maybe it was a lack of male dominance, but he seriously was so stubborn to the point that he assumed this [see third pic] position when I tried to put a leash on him to go outside.  I give up.  
If you really want to know what our sleeping arrangements are like when R is home, see above.  No joke.  Whoever came up with this sketch must have had us in mind.  
I think Anne "felt bad" for my pitiful self and invited me over for dinner one night.  I love that she still gets out her nicest china and goes into entertainer mode for me. We had a beautifully plated chicken curry with rice and veggies.  
We also had time to catch up with Belinda and Emilio.  She drove us to Balmoral Beach, where we had a picturesque picnic lunch and playtime!  I couldn't get over how lovely it was.  
The little guy is almost one already!!  Such a cutie with a big personality. He mastered eating chips with a fork and sharing them with Teddy.  What a giver.  We also had surprise guests show up…a family of kookaburras!  Only in Australia.
We lucked out with beautiful sunny weather and had a great afternoon. I can't wait to go back to this quaint spot!
Who knew sunglasses could be so entertaining?!  I love watching the mother and son bond they share.
After a week away, we were ready to have R back.  He surprised me with breakfast in bed and then it was off to the park for the day!  Guys, I think my husband has officially become a man.  He likes coffee…and I do too now for that matter.  What is Australia doing to us?                               
We also checked out Manly last weekend…and got our mexican food fix.  And what were the odds that we sat next to a couple from Dallas who just moved to our neighborhood in Sydney?! Small world.  
The sky on the ferry ride back.  Ombre effect.
The sweetest.
Date night at Hugos Manly!  We can't wait to go back.  And for no reason, R gave me this cute card and opal earrings! I couldn't get over how thoughtful it was…and that he picked them out all by himself.  Or was it Kevin Bacon? Ha.  I'll let you decide…
The West, Texas plant explosion made the front page of Sydney's Daily Telegraph.  See, I told you that the Aussies care about our news.  Anne always points this out to me..this time we were shopping for groceries when she found the paper.  I am so saddened for the close community of West, but it is encouraging to see so many people reaching out to help in times of disaster.
This week in the kitchen:
Strawberry Banana Breakfast Sandwich for a sweet Saturday morning surprise for the hubby
Quinoa Stuffed Sweet Potatoes with Scotch Fillet (even better as leftovers).
My best friend celebrated her 25th birthday last week…and it was the first one I have missed in seven years!!  I will admit that I shed a few tears with her over a FaceTime session when it hit me that I wasn't going to be there for her.  When I went back through my pictures to find a few for this post, I couldn't believe it….all of her cakes from 19-24 years perfectly telling a different story.  None can top her 19th bday…the infamously slaughtered "eiffel tower" cake that ended in tears.  You had to be there.
I am so lucky to have this incredibly caring, loyal, and hilarious friend in my life!  My college roomie and sweet friend also celebrated her birthday a few weeks ago.  I couldn't help but laugh when I came across this picture from her 21st birthday dinner.  In college, our group of girlfriends always went above and beyond to make everyones birthday special and memorable.  None will compare.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

April Showers

This morning I woke up to the shocking news of The Boston Marathon explosions.  There have been a lot of things said on social media sites, so I don't feel like exacerbating the topic.  

But, I will say that once again after seeing a tragedy like this unfold in America from afar is alarming.  By taking a "foreigner's" perspective and watching the Australian news coverage, I am so saddened for our country and the violence that has been shown lately.  It's hard to feel safe anywhere now and that's the reality R and I will be facing when we move back and fear for our future children.  I have noticed that the Australian government and media are always so supportive and in tune with what is going on in the U.S.  My thoughts and prayers go out to the victims' families, the injured, and the medical staff and volunteers helping at the scene. 

On another note, I wanted to share this picture that my grandmother emailed me the other day.  
This is a page out of a Montgomery Ward's Catalog in 1934…it puts into perspective how much change can occur over an 80 year period.  $1.98 for loafers (which are back in style) and $2.98 for a silk gown.  What a steal!             

The past two weeks...
Weeknight shenanigans.  Opera Kitchen for dinner.
To the world it's a full moon, but to me it goes way beyond that.  A ferry ride home I will never forget!
Where does an unmarked door in an alley way lead you to? The Baxter Inn.  Duh!
…followed with perfect sushi at Toko and a movie to complete our date night. We always have fun with these two!
Emergency!  Last week I woke up to Teddy looking pitiful with one eye closed shut.  After a few hours of no change, Anne and I rushed him to the vet where he was poked and traumatized all to find out that he was okay.  A foreign object must have irritated it and enabled a pain response which was healed with some anti-inflammatory meds.  The next day he decided to be stubborn while I was making the bed…so I made him part of the pillow display.  Fair enough.  
A week of chocolate experiences with Anne and her Japanese friend that we are helping learn english.  We enjoyed our tea paired with a fancy chocolate and mousse.  
Random moments.  
Admiring my new sandals, dumpling love, an owl on our street corner, Queen Mary cruise ship in port, and a fluffy cotton candy sunset.  
We have been meaning to invite our neighbor and dog sitter, Anne, over for dinner and finally got around to it!  I love this action shot that R got of me teaching her how to use a potato ricer all while cuddling Teddy.  Such a special lady and a wonderful friendship we have developed!
Using my new Fresh and Light cookbook by Donna Hay, I served Lemon and Mozzarella Roasted Chicken with Green Beans and Garlic Mashed Potatoes for a classic dinner.  We enjoyed her company and need to have her over more often! And you can tell that Teddy doesn't mind the attention either.
Rain or shine….the view never gets old.  Rain seems to be the current theme in April.  Unfortunately for us here, April showers do not bring May flowers like the saying goes.
 To go with the rainy days, I whipped up some Chicken Tortilla Soup to keep us going for the week.  I always tend to make double for leftover lunches but R always forgets to bring his to work so it's more for me!
Last week in the kitchen was all about leftover produce and meat...
A hearty bowl of spaghetti bolognese and salad, roasted peppers and chicken kebabs, vegetable stir fry and brown rice, and breakfast for dinner.  

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Travelog: NSW South Coast Roadtrip

To be quite honest, I didn't think I would make it two weeks into this blogging thing before giving up.  Now 55 posts in, I'm so glad I've stuck with it (sort of).  Originally, I wanted to do a quick post every day…and that realistically became twice a week…and now it's just whenever I'm disciplined enough to sit down and think about it!  I've been slacking lately and have weeks worth of adventures I need to catch up on.  

My trips to Texas and Tennessee in May are distracting me…R and I are already salivating over the bbq and fried chicken we will be consuming.  Every day I continue to add to my "To Buy in Dallas" list and I fantasize about going to Target for one stop shopping. I'm glad I miss home.  It makes me realize that we will be ready to move back next year.  In the mean time, we are still trying to comprehend this amazing opportunity.  This little road trip down south reaffirmed our love for this country and simply how beautiful it is!!  We couldn't get over it
Rise and shine! Early morning drive through Royal National Park.  I also learned my lesson to never turn down a brekky roll at a hole in the wall cafe.  Luckily the hubby was nice enough to share once we realized how amazing it was (even though he should have made me suffer for initially being a brat and saying "I'm not eating here, it's dirty!"). 
About two hours in, we hit Sea Cliff Bridge for a windy road that led us along and above the coast.   
If you don't call this spoiled, I don't know what is….Teddy seriously loved every minute of the journey! 
There were so many national parks and lookouts to drive through that we had a hard time narrowing it down.  Luckily there were road signs everywhere and points were clearly marked.  We chose to catch a glimpse of Fitzroy Falls and all 262 feet of rushing water to the bottom.  
Then, we ventured to nearby Kangaroo Valley to drive across Hampden Bridge and enjoy a quaint afternoon.  The bridge was built in 1897, making it the oldest suspension bridge in Australia. Don't blink because the ride across sure goes fast!  Good thing we actually stopped at "The World's Best Pies" shop off the main drag out of curiosity.  The Texans in us saw the sign and thought, "yummy I would love to try the apple pie!! Just like home…".  After about two seconds of walking in, we realized the joke was on us.  R and I looked at each other with big grins both trying to play it cool that duhhhh we remembered we were in Australia, and here they do pies with meat and veg!  I am serious when I say this…best "pie" I have ever had!!!  Obsessed.  And to think we almost drove past it (we actually did drive past it at first glance, but quickly made a turn around).  
A long dirt road separated us from this breathtaking lookout over the valley.  Not going to lie, though…R and I literally sprinted back to the car after we thought a cheetah (irrational I know) was chasing us.  At least that's what it sounded like!  We never figured out what it was.  Probably a bird in the trees ha. See, we try to be outdoorsy and adventurous..but you put us two together with our irrational fears and it ain't pretty or rational whatsoever. Isn't my man supposed to be the one to protect and calm some sense into me?  Instead, mine just runs right behind, encouraging me to go faster.  Gotta love him!  
Roadside pit stops…farms, dairy sheds, and cheese shops!  Sometimes I fantasize about country life.  Do you think I could pull it off?  
After calling about a million places that couldn't accommodate THE dog (or us for that matter) on the popular Easter weekend, we finally found a spot 4.5 hours south of Sydney.  We were pleasantly surprised with the town of Narooma and our motel-esque accommodation (with a private, fenced in yard for Teddy).
My favorite moment of the trip was this.  Aimlessly walking to find a bite to eat, we came across this scene right next to a crowded fish and chips shop.  Wow is all I can say.  The water was so calm, a flock of birds were taking a dip in the distance, and two dads and their young sons were hunting for crabs on the shore nearby.  The sign to the park read "A good days fishing with plenty more for tomorrow".  I think I loved it so much because it was unexpected and unplanned.  
Day 2 we ventured 20 miles farther south to Tilba for the village's annual Easter festival.  Another spontaneous thing that we're glad we found! R referred to it as "Westchestertonfieldville" in regards to it's perfectly quaint and surreal surroundings. If you've ever seen Mr. Deeds you would understand the name. 
I mean come on…"The Tilba Teapot", baby calves just hanging out, giant clowns blowing bubbles, vintage cars, fairy floss (aka cotton candy), french homeware stores, and the most picturesque "parking lot". Ha we sure got a kick out of this refreshing take on life!  
Maybe we were swayed by our love for the countryside and quaint towns, but when we got to the capitol city, we weren't as impressed.  Here we were now in the middle of nowhere bush land with a futuristic structure built in central Canberra where Parliament stands.  Hmmm…in unison, R and I both agreed we felt like we were in The Hunger Games, arriving at The Capitol of Panem.  
The structure itself was quite intriguing and the architecture surrounding made it fun to run around and snap a few shots.  That was about enough of the city…maybe we just didn't give it a chance.
Dashboard confessions...
Cows!!  Feels like home….but not.  I appreciate them more now for some reason..and I think they are purrdddy.  
Life on the road, featuring divo Teddy.  We successfully managed to bring the dog along without leaving him once all 72 hours plus! Call that obsessive or accommodating…and we really had no choice otherwise.  It worked out well for our low key weekend but I don't see it happening anywhere else. 

Other than that, I finished my photography/photoshop classes last week so now it's on to the next thing.  It's about darn time I get out there and volunteer where I am needed most!!  I'm almost embarrassed to say that it has taken me this long to find a way to give back to the community.  I am really excited for a few potential opportunities that have come up!
More reason to miss home, our good friends DD and Lacey just became parents!  Their baby girl is healthy (and super cute and snuggly in this pic!) and we are so thrilled for these two who are going to make a great team.  We wish them the best and can't wait to meet her!