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From Challenges Come Changes

Hey there, how was your weekend? Mine was a busy one and quite a different one actually, full of challenges and a big change:  I started a part-time job!  To say I am happy about this is an understatement, since the last six months have been REALLY different for me. Besides quitting my full-time job, moving to a new country and becoming a student again, I wasn’t able to start working right away in Australia due to the Visa I was granted last year. The lack of an income stream is something that I certainly wasn’t used to…when you’re used to having your own money, it’s just plain hard not having it! I’ve had a job (sometimes even two or three jobs at once) ever since I was 14 years old, so I’m simply not used to not-working. I love having my own money and financial freedom, and I genuinely enjoy working, so not even having the option to work was extremely challenging.

Anyway, my student visa was FINALLY approved, so after many tears and a lot of stress (is it just me, or are money problems the worst cause of stress ever? Please tell me I’m not alone!), I applied for a few jobs, was hired, and began over the weekend. I’m working at a Café/Gelato shop right on the ocean, about five minutes from our condo. I’m so excited to be in a bright and happy environment serving gelato and coffee,  two of my most favorite things!
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On the downside, while I was very excited to be hired, I was also VERY nervous. So nervous in fact, that all weekend I was referring to my favorite quote to help get me through my shifts:

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I don’t know about you, but when I get nervous, I rely on feel-good mantras, inspirational quotes, support from my family and friends, and longggg talks with my Mom (Love you, Mom!).

Given that I’ve had many different jobs in all sorts of different industries, I whole-heartedly believe it doesn’t matter what the job description is, who you are, or how old you are; being the new girl is really scary. And being the new girl in a foreign country? It’s even scarier. I was worried about wearing the right thing, saying the right thing, doing the right thing, understanding customers… my list goes on and on.

So after two shifts in, I’m focusing on the positive. I did it, I’m doing it, and I won’t be new forever. After all, I’ve had my share of “new things” this year:
-I was the new girl at school (Uni), and I survived.
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-I was the new girl at boot-camp and the gym, and I survived (and made some great friends, too!)

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-And now I’m the new girl at work, but I know I’ll survive.
I’m confident all of the challenges I’ve faced this year are going to change me for the better.

So tell me, have you ever been “the new girl?” How do you cope with your nerves?
If you’re a student, do you have any tips for balancing school and work?

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Sinus saturday

Hello and happy weekend! This weekend hasn’t gone exactly how I’d planned thanks to a lovely sinus infection. When my parents were here, I came down with quite a bad cold that I pretty much ignored simply because I refused to be sick in bed while they were visiting. What first started as a sore throat slowly escalated to congestion and then turned into a stuffy nose…or so I thought. Anyway, fast-forward to this past Friday, and although I was still congested, I felt fine otherwise so I headed to spin class with a friend. When I got home my nose was terribly runny, along with other things that I’ll spare you the gross details of, but it wasn’t pretty.  I high-tailed it to the doctors, was told I had a sinus infection, and I’ve been on antibiotics ever since.  
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It’s been a real exciting weekend around here, full of tissues and medicine!

Thankfully Brandon has been away for work, otherwise I fear I would have passed this cold onto him, too! I’ve really learned my lesson this time, since it’s my own fault for getting sicker. I’ll admit I need to be better about listening to my body,  resting when I’m ill, and easing-up on workouts when I’m sick. Since I’m used to working out on a daily basis and I thoroughly enjoy being active,  I find it difficult to stop exercising even if I’m not feeling 100%. Sometimes it just feels good to sweat-it-out. Plus, living in Northern Australia has made this even harder for me because the nice weather is motivation enough to get outside and exercise! If I have the flu, that’s a different story, but with colds, I tend to keep exercising, which really made it worse this time around.

What about you? Do you work out when you have a cold? 

Despite this sickness, I still had a fun weekend with activities that were sinus-infection friendly, including:
The beach with girl-friends:
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Walking on the water:
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Making homemade salads and pizza:
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…And watching marathons of The Rachel Zoe Project:

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I have a serious addiction to this show, along with many other reality shows. I especially love Rachel because I walked by she, her husband, and their baby boy at LAX airport last year and said hello (to which she responded!!!), so I sort-of feel like I know her…sort-of. You might just call me celebrity crazy…

Anyway, I’m off to study, prepare for Monday, and hopefully kick this sinus infection to the curb!

What did you do this weekend? Do you watch Rachel Zoe? What’s your favorite reality show?

Any holiday is a baking holiday..australian anzac cookies

Hey there and happy Anzac Day from Australia! Anzac Day is Australia’s National Day of Remembrance, which stands to remember the service of Australian veterans. I had the day off from classes today, and nearly everywhere in town was closed, too. It really is a true day of honor.  I started the morning off bright and early with a sunrise service at 5:30 a.m. with some girlfriends. Despite the very early awakening, I am so glad I went. The music and words spoken were beautiful, and it was so nice to see such a big turnout to honor the veterans. I would say at least 600-700 people were there!
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Sunrise Service

In my opinion, any holiday is a baking holiday, so in honor of Anzac Day, I wanted to bake the traditional “Anzac Cookie” that I’ve seen all over Australia in coffee shops, restaurants, airports, and supermarkets. I just wanted to make it a bit healthier than the traditional versions.  I have tried a few Anzac cookies at various places and believe me, they are delicious, but I know they are full of butter…lots of butter! What made of butter, oats, brown sugar, syrup and flour isn’t delicious? There’s nothing wrong with these ingredients at all, I just wanted to use less of them! In my search to find a healthier  recipe, I found a keeper from Cooking Light. This recipe uses minimal butter compared to other traditional recipes, but still uses enough to yield a soft texture and buttery-like flavor to the cookies.

These cookies take only minutes to put together, and you only need one mixing bowl from start to finish. Less dishes=happy Meredith. Hope you enjoy these as much as I am!
P.S. the dough is pretty great too…I would know, obviously : –)

Healthier Australian Anzac Cookies
Recipe from Cooking Light
Ingredients
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  • 1 cup whole oats
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup shredded sweetened coconut
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons golden cane syrup (I used maple syrup and it worked just fine!
  • Cooking spray

    Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F (176°C). Line two cookie sheets with baking/parchment paper, and spray with cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. Combine the first 5 ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
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  3. Next, add the water, butter, and syrup; then stir well.
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  4. Pat/roll the dough into ball formation, using about 1-2 TBSP of dough per cookie, and space the dough out evenly on the cookie sheets. Then bake at 325° for 12 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove them from the oven, and let them cool. Once firm, remove them from the pans to cool completely on wire racks.
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  5. Eat them with vanilla ice-cream…that’s an order! : )

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I brought these to dinner tonight and my two girlfriends really enjoyed them. They said they tasted just like a traditional Anzac cookie…and they would know since they’re Australian! I’d say these are a winner for sure.

What’s your favorite type of cookie?
Oatmeal Raisin and chocolate chip are my top two!

sensational sydney

Hey friends! How are you?  I still have about a zillion more pictures to share from my parents visit, so I thought I’d highlight my favorite part of their visit first: our long weekend in Sydney, Australia.  I can’t say enough good things about Sydney. Not only is it a beautiful city, but it’s also very clean, walking-friendly, boasts spectacular views, is full of great food, and offers tons of sight-seeing attractions.  My Dad actually declared Sydney his new favorite city after only two days of being there,  beating-out his all-time #1 city San Francisco, which I think says a lot!
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My first trip to Sydney was last year, in July of 2012, before I actually moved to Australia. I was here visiting and Brandon brought me to see Carrie Underwood perform in the Opera House, which will always be one of my favorite memories!

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Best.concert.ever.
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Last year…wow time flies!

This trip, however, I was looking forward to seeing more of the city and learning more about the city, too. See and learn we did, and I loved every second!

Night One:
We arrived at our hotel, Circular Quay Marriott, right before dinner time, so we were able to have a drink in the Concierge Lounge and then get dressed up for dinner. Check out the view from our room!
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Dinner was eaten outside, overlooking the Sydney Harbour Bridge:

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I’m pretty sure the best part about dinner was this dessert:
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…Or maybe it was watching Brandon scrape his plate. Hmmm I can’t decide!

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After dinner, we visited Opera Bar, located underneath Sydney Opera House. It’s by-far my favorite bar of all time. Not only does this bar have an insanely unique location (you can’t get better views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge from here), but they also make such fun drinks… just look!
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Day Two:
On Saturday morning, we woke up bright and early with plans to head to the Taronga Zoo. Each of us purchased a 24-hour ferry pass for around $30 to get there, which was a pretty great deal considering we got to be on the water in the sunshine, and take as many rides as we wanted. We spent over 6 hours at the zoo, and I loved every minute of it. We saw everything from koalas and elephants, to giraffes and monkeys.

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The best part? The gondola lift leaving the zoo. You could see the entire zoo from up in the sky!
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Night Two:
We were quite tired after our fun-filled day, but we managed to save some energy for that night! Once we returned to the hotel and cleaned-up for dinner, we took the ferry over to Darling Harbour for dinner and fireworks. Darling Harbour is full of restaurants, shopping, attractions and more. They host fireworks every Saturday night around 8:30  p.m. (at least at this time of year), and they were fantastic! A perfect end to the evening, along with frozen yogurt of course : –)
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Fun on the ferry

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Overlooking Darling Harbour
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Frozen yogurt time!

Day Three:
On Sunday, we had two things planned. The first being a tour of Sydney Opera House and the second being a Hop-On, Hop-Off Bus Tour. If  I could recommend one thing to not-miss in Sydney, it would be the Opera House tour. Seeing it from the outside is spectacular in itself, but actually taking a tour and learning the history behind it was fascinating! It’s a must-do.
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Purple carpet on the tour!
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The tiles up-close.

The Hop-On, Hop-Off Bus Tour was pretty great, too. One 24-hour ticket purchase brings you all-around Sydney, and it includes stops such as the Opera House, Bondi Beach, the Botanical Gardens, and much more.  Plus, you can hop-on and hop-off as many times as you’d like in 24 hours AND you  get a pair of snazzy red headphones, too! Haha, seriously though, we loved these! 
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We hopped-off at quite a few places, including the Sydney Fish Market, Botanical Gardens, and Darling Harbour, where we visited Star Casino.
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The highlight of the casino? That would be the White Chocolate Salted-Caramel Gelato I had after lunch. If I could eat this everyday of my life, I’d be the happiest girl on Earth.

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Please excuse the half-eaten cone…it was too good to resist!

Night Three:
At dinner that night, Brandon had an meat pie, which was unbelievable. Definitely a must-eat when in Australia. We snapped some late-night pictures at the Opera House, too!
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Day Four:
On our last day in Sydney, we were able to make plans for the morning since we had booked late-afternoon flights, so we hopped on the tour bus and went to the Sydney Eye Tower. (I highly suggest  booking later flights if you can because it helps prolong the weekend. We were able to leave our luggage with the hotel for the day free of charge, and picked it up before our flight. It was super convenient!)  The Sydney Eye Tower overlooks the entire city and it is truly breathtaking. A perfect activity to close out a perfect weekend.
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The plane ride home called for a cup of tea and a longggg nap. We were all exhausted after a whirlwind weekend, but it was SO worth it. I love Sydney!

Now who wants to come visit me?!

Have you ever been to Sydney? If so, what’s your favorite part? If not, what would you want to see?

2 weeks of memories

Hi friends, hope all is well!  It is Monday morning here, and my gosh I have a case of the Monday’s. I’m generally not like this, but I’m blaming today’s Monday blues on two things:
1) This is my first day back to class after “winter” break
2) My parents vacation has ended and they have gone back home : – (

It’s hard to believe how quickly time flies when you’re having fun. Exactly two weeks ago, we were just picking them up at the airport and it honestly feels like yesterday! Oh how I wish I could turn back time. As I look through my pictures, I truly can’t believe how much we did just two weeks, and how much fun we had. I must admit I was very worried that my parents would have a hard time adjusting here.  Between the 24 hours of flying and the outrageous heat,  I thought they might never want to return, so I’m extremely relieved to say I was wrong. They both declared this “their best vacation ever.” The time I spent with them was two of the most memorable weeks of my life, and I’m forever grateful that they came all the way here to see me. Love you Mom and Dad!
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Since I took well-over 300 pictures in the last two weeks (clearly I am camera obsessed and have a slight problem), I’ll just share some of my favorites with you for now.  Some of the key highlights included: Holding koala’s, petting and feeding kangaroos, touring Sydney Opera House, watching fireworks in Darling Harbour, eating gelato almost daily, visiting the aquarium, and much more.  It was truly two memorable weeks.

P.S. Thank you so much for your kind words and prayers for my dear friend Michelle and for the people of Boston. Michelle has had her third (and hopefully final) surgery, and while she is still in the hospital, she is on the road to recovery. Please continue to keep her in your thoughts and prayers.

2 weeks of memories (April 8-April 20)
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Day at Townsville’s Aquarium!

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I’m feeling 100x better after writing this post…one of the reasons why I love writing so much! Such.great.therapy! In the next few days, I’ll be back with a full Sydney recap of our long-weekend there, too.  Hope you  have a fantastic start to your week!

What do you do to beat the Monday blues? How was your weekend?

A Blessed 27

Hello from beautiful Sydney, Australia! I can’t believe how quickly this past week flew by…between my parents arriving, my birthday, mid-term exams and flying to Sydney, this week was non-stop, but in a good way. I was truly so overwhelmed that I didn’t even attempt blogging once, so I apologize, this is long overdue!

My parents timed their visit just right in order to be here for my birthday and my winter-break, and since they probably won’t be coming back anytime soon, we planned a long weekend of sight-seeing in Sydney. So far, it has been a memorable weekend, and it just started! I’ll be back with more pictures next week, but in the meantime, here’s some highlights from my blessed birthday week :)

My Visitors <3

My Visitors <3

Workout clothes from B!

Workout clothes from B!

New Lulu Lemon  gym bag from my best girls :)

New Lulu Lemon gym bag from my best girls :)

Plane to Sydney!

Plane to Sydney!

Perfect day

Perfect day

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Sydney Harbour ferry :)

I must say, if my first week of being 27 is any indication of how the rest of my year will be, then bring on the late 20’s!

A Special 27

Hi there and happy April 3rd! Today is a very special day in this house…it’s Brandon’s 27th birthday! It has definitely been a happy day down-under. I have always considered birthdays to be very special, I think in large part because  my family has always been big on celebrating, but I also just really enjoy taking an entire day to celebrate a person. It makes you feel special…right?

Anyway, you know what’s even more special about having a birthday in Australia? It lasts longer! Brandon’s had a 36 hour birthday. Yesterday when he woke up it was his birthday, and today when he woke up it was STILL his birthday. Isn’t that neat? If that’s not a reason to celebrate, I don’t know what is! However, one drawback of this is obviously that our families aren’t here to celebrate with us, so I tried to make it as fun of a day as possible. Here’s some highlights:

-Hanging up a Birthday banner: I love birthday decorations, and my Mom always put banners up for my sisters and me, so I am simply following tradition! ( I also bought balloons but completely failed at blowing them up because I can’t tie balloons to save my life!)
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-Cookies ‘n Cream “27” Cupcakes: Oh.My.Gosh. These are my favorite cupcakes in the world to make AND my favorite cupcakes to eat!
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-Birthday presents: 3 shirts and a couple of un-pictured work-out items, too. I really need some creativity help with boys’ presents, I find it so hard to think of new ideas! Any suggestions?
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-27th Birthday dinner at Ciabatta: Best restaurant in our area, that’s for sure. We ate every last drop of food on our plates. Dessert included a homemade Italian Crustoli with Salted Peanut and Caramel Ice-cream, which tasted like heaven-on-earth!
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-Birthday  “Skype” session and present-opening with Brandon’s parents: Brandon received his birthday package from his parents this morning,  so he opened his presents with them via Skype, which helped make it seem like we were all together. Thank goodness for technology.
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All in all, a special birthday for my special guy. I’m so glad we were together to celebrate, and I am not wanting today to end. Love you, B!

P.S. I’ll post the cupcake recipe soon…it is a winner!
P.P.S. Thanks to my twin sister for the care package I received yesterday! Now I’ll be eating Easter Candy until June! (Not that I’m complaining…I cried I was so happy).
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Does anyone have any birthday gift ideas for males? When is your birthday? Anyone celebrating soon?
My sister and I turn 27 on April 9th…5 days away! Eeeeek!