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Australia Loving…2013

I have to admit, I am not used to saying “2013” yet. Maybe once the semester starts and I’m writing the date down everyday, but until then, it just sounds funny.  Anyway, given that we’ve been back from the states for over three weeks now, I wanted to share some new things I’m loving so far “down under” this year.  All my friends and family back home, please don’t hate me for the beach pictures…I know how cold it is back there. I am thinking of you and hopefully sending warm weather your way!! Here’s some things I’m loving in Australia so far in 2013:

1) Beautiful sunsets. The pink sunset on this night in particular was extraordinary to look at. Check out the view from our balcony!
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2) Street markets on Sunday’s. There was a giant bouncy house in the middle of the street, and a refrigerator full of meat being sold on the sidewalk. Random, but funny!
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3) Freshly brewed American iced coffee. This my friends, is what two iced-coffee obsessed Americans brought back in our suitcases. Our freezer has room for only this, and we don’t mind at all. Thank you Dunkin’ Donuts!
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4)New work-out clothes. I swear, new clothing makes any workout better!
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5) Australian marketing. I am learning more and more Australian English each week, and some of the names, labels and/or packaging of particular products crack me up! Chocolate chips are “cooking buttons”, ketchup is “tomato or red sauce” , the paper towels are patriotic and well, the Nutri-Grain box is the star of the show in my opinion!
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6) A new favorite of mine: champagne-for-one bottles. I tried this on the flight back and fell in love.  I know my girls back home would love this, and at $5 a bottle, it’s quite affordable too!
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7)Healthy homemade meals. Crockpot chicken cacciatore, chicken noodle soup, stuffed peppers and zucchini fries are some dinner highlights from the last few weeks!
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8)Overnight oats. These are my new favorite breakfast. I mix 1/2 cup oats, 1/2 cup skim milk, 2 tbsp vanilla yogurt, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, and then stir and refrigerate it overnight. In the morning, I add my desired toppings, such as blueberries, a scoop of peanut butter, raisins, and almonds. This keeps me full for hours and I genuinely look forward to it every day. This will be my go-to breakfast before classes each day!
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9)Summer (in my  normal winter). I can’t get enough of summer in January. Still loving the palm trees and the beach!
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10) My health, friends, and family. After taking quite a fall at bootcamp and suffering an over-eye cut and black eye, I am grateful to be on the mend! Thanks to all my caretakers!
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What are you loving this week?

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There’s no place like home

My two weeks home in America has come and gone…insert sad face here. As much as I didn’t want to leave my family and friends, the one thing I didn’t mind leaving was the snow.  After just two months in this tropical climate, my body did not have the easiest time adjusting to the cold weather. After two snow storms in two weeks, by the time we boarded our flight home I was more than ready for warm weather!

Weather aside, I’ve quickly  learned that the hardest part about going home is going to be leaving. Really, what’s better than home? Familiar faces, places, people, smells, stories, and best of all…family. Here’s some pictures from our special Christmas:

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Best cupcakes ever

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035My twin and me <3

 

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059Nana
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068 In Boston with my best girls <3

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Of course, while I was home, I also baked…. a lot. Although most of it went undocumented, I did snap a few pictures of my personal favorite baked good over the holiday: Peppermint Oreo Truffles. I found this recipe through Pinterest, and immediately bookmarked it as a MUST-make! I blogged about regular Oreo Truffles last Christmas, which are always a hit recipe in our family, but these added a “Christmas” feel to the simple treat. Plus, if you’re like me and love anything with a mint flavor, you will love these!

Peppermint Oreo Truffles (Recipe from Kraft)

  • 36 reduced-fat Oreos
  • 1 (8 oz) pkg reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1 tsp peppermint extract
  • 1 bag white chocolate chips
  • 2-3 crushed candy canes or peppermint candies (for decorating)

Directions

  • Line a cookie sheet with wax paper and set aside. Place the Oreos in a food processor and blend until finely crushed.  In a mixing bowl, blend together cream cheese and peppermint extract. Add about 1/4 of the cream cheese mixture to the crushed Oreos in the food processor, blend, and then continue to add in the cream cheese until the cream cheese and Oreos are thoroughly combined, so it looks like the picture below.

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  • Now, scoop the mixture out with a spoon (or your hands) and form into 1 inch balls. I lined my hands with plastic sandwich bags to do this, because the mixture is a bit sticky!  Place the truffles on the prepared cookie sheet, and put them in freezer for 10-15 minutes.

 

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  • Crush your candy canes at this point, and set aside. Then melt the white chocolate chips in a double boiler while the truffles are hardening in the freezer. Once melted, remove the truffles from the freezer and dip them in the melted chocolate, evenly coating them. You’ll have to do this pretty quickly, because the chocolate hardens in minutes! To do this,  I used a toothpick to pick up each truffle and roll it in the chocolate. Return the truffles to the baking sheet and immediately sprinkle the tops with crushed candy canes. I dipped about 3 truffles at a time, and then sprinkled each with the candy canes, so that the candy would stick to the chocolate! Once you’ve completed this process, store your truffles in the refrigerator.

 

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These looked adorable on the dessert table and tasted delicious, too. Now I miss Christmas…What was your favorite holiday recipe this year?

Australia lovin’…mid december

Brandon kindly told me my “week-count” is a bit delayed for my “things I’m loving” posts (what a gem…ha!) so I’ve decided to scrap the “weeks” and just go with a time-frame instead. This past week Brandon was out-of-town for work, and since I’ve arrived in Australia, this was our first week-long separation. However, since we’re pros at the long-distance thing, it was A-Okay. I have to admit though, I sure missed him…especially at dinnertime. I have gotten used to cooking for two people, so reverting back to recipes-for-one was interesting. Anyway, when Friday rolled around, I was so excited for him to be home! We had a fun-filled holiday weekend together, but we both had a hard time coping with the news of the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut. No words can express the sorrow we both feel for the victims and their families. Brandon and I grieved and prayed, and truly wished we were with our loved ones back home to hug them.

Now we have just 48 hours until we’ll be on a plane back to the U.S.A., and we couldn’t be more excited to see our families and friends. Life is so fragile, and we truly need to remember to be grateful for everyday. I’m grateful to be here, and so grateful that we can go home for Christmas. I’m also grateful for the things I loved in Australia over the last week-and-a-half:

1) Pretty coffee-wherever you get a latte here, they are always beautiful! It almost makes me want to not drink it….almost!
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2) Betty Blue Café- hands-down, this has become my favorite brunch spot in town. I can’t decide what I like better-the sourdough toast or the outrageous portion sizes. I gawk at each meal being brought out of the kitchen. Take a look at my scrambled eggs and Brandon’s breakfast burrito! If you visit Northern Queensland, this is an essential stop.
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3) Animal print sparkling water bottles. These.are.awesome. I’m also a firm believer that a fun water bottle makes water taste that much better!
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4) Discovering light Cadbury vanilla ice-cream. Best buy of the month, seriously. As you can see, our entire household agrees!
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5) Outdoor exercise (minus the humidity-please excuse my forehead sweat). It is still unreal to me that I can be outside in shorts and tank-tops in December!
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6)Healthy lunches and dinners – Including sherry beef, corn, veggie burgers, sweet potatoes…yum!
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7)Breakfast for dinner. Yes I ate pancakes out of a shaker…Yes they were AMAZING.
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8) Getting a pedicure. Finally, I really needed one!
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9)Holiday baking & holiday parties-I made the winter white chocolate and pretzel holiday bark in my previous post for the party we attended, and had lots of fun with my handsome date :)

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10) Skype with my favorites-can’t wait to see these two SO soon!

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Things I’m loving in australia…week 4

Holy WOW time flies. As of this week, I’ve officially been in Australia for one month, I officially became a “Queenslander” due to registering my car, and I officially have a debit card with an Australian bank. Wooohooo! It’s the little things that make all the difference, I’m telling you.  Quite honestly, it has been little things every week that help remind me ( and Brand0n!) that we have so much to be thankful for, and help us not feel so far away from  home & our loved ones.  That being said, here are some little things I loved this week:

1) Finding American goodies in town (thank you, Tandy !) Although they were a bit pricey (fluff  at $6.99 and M&M’s at $3.00 per box),  it still made my day/week/month/year…seriously.week4.13

2) Taco salad nights. Doesn’t get much better for a healthy Mexican option than ground chicken taco mince meat, crisp lettuce, freshly roasted veggies and homemade tortilla crisps!
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3) Mini ice-cream cones (best portion control around if you ask me!)
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4) First Christmas tree sighting in Townsville!
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5)A weekend getaway to Magnetic island with my love.

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6) Watching Brandon eat gelato for breakfast…yes breakfast.
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7) Baking my first cupcakes here in the best cupcake liners around…thanks Julia!
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8)Healthy cooking: including overnight oats, coconut shrimp, stuffed peppers, and Greek pasta salad.
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9) Exercising in the sunshine
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10)Pandora and Michael Buble Christmas music… Enough said.

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What are you loving this week?

Things I’m Loving in australia…week 3

Hello again!  Is anyone else speechless that it’s nearly December? Brandon and I say to each other almost daily that it feels like July here, so this past weekend, we decided to kick off our holiday season by bringing American Thanksgiving to Australia. It definitely helped get me into the holiday spirit and besides, we really didn’t want to miss out on turkey, pie, and all the fun everyone was having back home! So together we shopped, chopped, baked, stayed up VERY late, and served up a “Friends-giving” for 14 of our friends. While turkey day was definitely the highlight of last week, here’s some other things I loved:

1) Mail from home…thank you Mom and Julia!
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2) Cadbury Crunchie Chocolate bars…or really any Cadbury bar, seeing’s how the average size chocolate bar here is the size of a water bottle. King-sized chocolate bars for a regular-sized price? Sign.me.up!
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3) Running to views like this ( so Beverly hills 90210-ish, don’t you think?!)
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4)  New friends
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5) Homemade pizza nights with my sweetie
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6) New furniture to hold the (way too many)clothes I brought.
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7) Witnessing Brandon make pumpkin AND apple pie from scratch. So proud, so proud.
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8) Palm trees and the beach.
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9) Late night cooking with my favorite.
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10) Friends-giving Success!
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What are you loving this week?

Things I’m loving in Australia…week 2

Where does the time go? I ask myself this on a daily basis, because I’m honestly in shock that I’ve been in Australia for over two weeks already, and even more shocked that Christmas is exactly 5 weeks away. Unreal! I must say that it absolutely does not feel like Christmas here, given that the temperature has been in the high 80’s-low 90’s every day. However, taking a quick trip to the mall earlier this week helped get me in the holiday spirit. Thanks to the copious amounts of decorations and holiday music, I left smiling. Oh, and of course,  leave it to Target’s Christmas collection to leave me $60 poorer, but still smiling.

Anyway, besides Target, highlights of this week included watching the solar eclipse, seeing (and feeding!) my first kangaroos and a koala, marking an anniversary with my love, finally feeling brave enough to drive by myself, and joining  a local gym. Here’s some more of what I’m loving this week:

1. Running on castle hill (look at that view!!)

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2. First kangaroo and koala adventure

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3. Fresh fruit bowls with muesli every morning
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4. The legit stairmaster outside our door (otherwise known as Jacob’s Ladder). I may have said this last week, but it deserves another shout-out. Best.workout.ever.(and it’s free!)image

5. My first attempt at healthy Australian baking…Muesli bars (yummy recipe coming soon!)week2bars

6. Surprise mail from one of my besties back home. Love you Julia!
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7. Thoughtful gifts from Brandon, love these colors!
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8. Skype dates with my favorites
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9. The flowers around every corner
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10. Celebrating a year of happiness with my one-and-only
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What are you loving this week?

Things I’m loving in australia…week 1

I truly can’t believe I’m living in Australia…and with my favorite guy on earth?! No way. Sometimes when I say it out-loud, I honestly have to pinch myself. I had hoped in my lifetime maybe I  would travel here for vacation, sure, but to live? Not in a million years.  After months of packing and unpacking, leaving my job, my family and my friends,  I survived  72 hours of traveling with 3 changes of clothes, countless granola bars, and more downloaded “real housewives” and “say yes to the dress” episodes than I’d like to admit! Just one week later, I am feeling settled and enjoying my “new” life.   Here’s a glimpse at the things I’m loving…week 1!

1. Running on this:
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2. Homemade iced coffee by Brandon
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3. Wheetbix bites cereal
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4. Australia’s “mutli-grain” cheerios
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5. Morning runs in November, in sneakers that remind me of my twin
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6. Motivational signs while running
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7. Enchanting trees wherever you go
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8. Australia’s “fro-yo”
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9. Skype dates with Mom!
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10. Living with this guy
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What are you loving this week?