Tag Archive | australia

U.S.A. Bound!

Hey friends! I simply can not wipe the smile off of my face today. Seriously, just writing that title made me giddy! Today I am home-bound for the next five weeks and I couldn’t be happier.
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(Like my t-shirt? Brandon’s friends Lauren and Rob gave it to me when I moved! Maine-er for life!)

The last couple of weeks were pretty stressful due to having 4 finals, so I’m thrilled to be done. It is a great feeling to have my first semester of pre-requisites completed, and if I never see a library again, I’ll be happy girl. This was me in the library Monday-Friday last week:
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LOL. Don’t I look thrilled? I am SO looking forward to not touching a textbook over the next month-and-a-half. Thankfully, I survived exam week with the help of exercise breaks, a study buddy (hi Kristina!), lots of coffee, nutritious food, and help from Brandon around the house and in the kitchen. These were the highlights of my study weeks:

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A fruit&yogurt cookie for a Saturday studying treat

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Keeping hydrated while studying: water, cappuccino, iced coffee. #necessities

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A healthy-homemade dinner of pork with apples; recipe coming soon : –)

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A pretty cappuccino
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A much-needed running break!

Another highlight of the week was Brandon’s baking. Among other talents, he is seriously quite the pastry chef. Just look at this homemade angel food cake strawberry shortcake he made over the weekend:
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Let me tell you, after having homemade angel food cake, I’m not sure I’ll be able to revert back to the boxed version ever again. It was light, fluffy, and perfect!

Anyway, after my last exam yesterday, I rewarded myself with two of my favorite things: a pedicure and a little shopping to prepare for my trip. Does it get any better than a pedicure and shopping? I think not. Followed by a dinner-out with B, it was the perfect celebration to the end of the semester.

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And after a day of packing, I’m officially USA BOUND! See you from home, friends : –)

Do you like angel food cake?
I love it, despite being a huge chocolate lover! 

What do you do to keep busy on long flights (besides sleeping?)
I have 36 hours ahead of me and I need some new ideas!

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Never Too Old For Dress-Up

Happy weekend, friends! How are you? Having a restful weekend? I sure hope so. I’ve  rested for most of the day today because I may have had a littleeee too much fun last night.  A sure sign of this was that Brandon and I both woke up with headaches! Luckily, we were both craving the same thing this morning: scones. I  was just recently told about a bakery in town that sells fresh scones with cream and jam for just $3.00, so that’s exactly where we headed. Good, fresh scones that aren’t crumbly are extremely hard to come-by in my opinion, but these are spot-on!  We’ve become hooked after just two visits. Just look at these raspberry beauties:
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Anyway, I needed that cappuccino in a bad way this morning because we attended a masquerade ball yesterday evening (our first) and it was a blast. I felt like I was playing dress-up all night thanks to my mask. I must say, getting dolled up every once-in-a-while is so darn fun!
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Since this was my first masquerade ball/mask-wearing experience, I had no idea what to do with my hair. Most of my friends here got their hair professionally done, but I really enjoy curling/doing my hair (and I need to be saving money!) so I opted to experiment with a curly low side-ponytail:
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I was happy with my decision to wear it up, especially at the end of the night. I always find that when I wear it down and curly, it is just so straggly after a few hours. Not this time! : )
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Isn’t my date handsome? Winking smile
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The masquerade ball was put-on by the gym Brandon and I are both members of here, which I think is pretty out-of-the-ordinary for a gym to do! They held the ball as the concluding ceremony to their 12-Week Challenge competition that they sponsor each year.
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Basically, any gym member can sign up for the challenge, and while I’d heard this competition was always popular in the past, this year it was more popular because the winning prize was $10,000! Besides that, the winning personal trainer also received $1,000. Our friend Zac was actually the winning trainer, and Brandon had some fun stealing holding onto his giant check:
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“I always wanted to do this!”-Brandon

I really enjoyed the night as a whole. In addition to having drinks and a nice dinner with many of our close friends, it was so inspiring to hear the top-10 participants speak and see their ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos revealed. In total, the contestants lost 654 kilos (which is about 1,442 lbs!!!). Plus, I loved seeing people from the gym all dressed up that I’d only ever seen previously in work-out clothes!
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I owe a HUGE thank you to my Mom for mailing me my dress. I bought it last year for a black-tie event at Brandon’s company but haven’t had a reason to wear it since. I didn’t pack-it when I moved to Australia because  I certainly didn’t think I’d need many (if any) formal clothes as a student. It is easily the most comfortable formal gown I’ve ever owned, so I was excited to have the chance to wear it again. You are never too-old to play dress-up, at least not in my book!

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Does anyone else hate paying so much money for a dress and only having the chance to wear it once-or-twice?
I do, so I was ecstatic to wear this a second-time around. It makes me feel like I got my money’s worth : )

Have you ever been to a masquerade ball?
Do you like to dress-up?
I love it, and I’ll find any excuse to do so!

A tough week calls for chocolate

Hey friends, how was your Memorial Day weekend? Just think, you only have 3 work days left! I don’t know about you, but I used to love the feeling of 4-day weeks in my corporate job. Waking up on Wednesday thinking it’s Tuesday and finding out it’s mid-week is nothing short of FABULOUS. Anyway, my weekend wasn’t a long one, but it was still a good one nonetheless! We had a fun Saturday that consisted of:
A walk along the water:
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(Such a nice pose he did for me  LOL)

Homemade scones from Hervey’s Range Tea Rooms:
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(Cinnamon apple for her, blueberry for him)

Tourist activities:
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Laughing like crazy at the movies:
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Noshing on delicious pizza:
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(minus the olives!)

…and seeing the perfect sunset:
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Loving these unbelievable sunsets!

I loved everything about this day because it was just fun. I REALLY needed it before the crazy week I knew I was about to have/am having (last week of classes + exam preparation + work + studying =chaos).  Unfortunately, Saturday came and went too quickly and Monday began a tough week of craziness. In my opinion, tough weeks call for chocolate and this week is certainly no exception! When I’m stressed,  my favorite thing to do is bake (just like my Mom), so I figured a nutritious snack to get me through all of this studying wouldn’t hurt.  I loved the last protein bites I made but I’ve been wanting to experiment with a different kind, and I wanted to involve chocolate. So that’s just what I did, in the form of Chocolate Almond and  Coconut Energy Bites. My inspiration for these was this beauty:
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I was ecstatic when I read Kristy’s blog and found out that Almond Breeze Chocolate Almond Milk was available in Australia. I incorporated this into these bites, along with cocoa powder and chocolate chips to fulfill my sweet tooth. The protein in these bites comes in the form of oats, sunflower butter (or any nut butter) and quinoa flakes. Protein and chocolate? Yes please! These have been a perfect pick-me-up all week.  I’ve eaten them as pre-and-post work-out snacks, taken them to class and to work to eat on my breaks, and have thoroughly been enjoying a few for dessert each night. If you try them, I hope you like them!

Chocolate Almond and Coconut Energy Bites
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Ingredients:
1 cup oats (I used whole oats)
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup quinoa flakes
3 TBSP unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup slivered almonds (or your nut of choice)
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 cup maple syrup or honey (I combined the two)
2/3 cup nut butter (I used sunflower butter)
1/4-1/2 cup Chocolate Almond Breeze Almond Milk

Directions:
1) Combine the oats, coconut, quinoa flakes,  cocoa powder, almonds, raisins, and chocolate chips in a large mixing bowl.
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2) In another mixing bowl, combine vanilla, syrup/honey, and nut butter. Pour this onto your dry ingredients and stir well, slowly adding-in the chocolate almond milk as you stir. (I needed a little under 1/2 cup of almond milk by the end to get the mixture to the right consistency).
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3) Cover and chill the mixture in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. Then roll into ball formation.
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I rolled half of mine into shredded coconut for an extra garnish, but that is optional! 
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Store in an air-tight container in the fridge and enjoy!
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I think you could classify me as borderline obsessed with energy bites at this point, but I’m okay with that. Off to study and enjoy a couple of these gems on the side : –)
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What are your go-to de-stressing activities?
My top three are baking, shopping, and exercising!

What foods do you crave when you’re stressed?
For me, it’s chocolate and pizza!

three things thursday

Hello there and happy Thursday, how has your week been? First, I wanted to say that both Brandon and I are so saddened by the devastation that has occurred in Oklahoma.  Our thoughts and prayers are with all of those affected <3

On another note, I can’t believe how quickly this week has flown by!  One more week of class is complete and I have just one more to go (not that I’m counting or anything) : –)
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I was just a litttttle excited to be off to my last lab of the semester!

I’ve actually been quite productive on the study-front this week, so I am hoping (fingers crossed) I’ll get enough accomplished tomorrow so that I can take most of the weekend off from studying. We shall see. Anyway, last Thursday I shared three things that had kept me on track and focused all week, so I kept that in mind for this week, too. Here’s three things that helped keep me focused and productive this week:

1)  Staying organized:
I’m not sure what I’d do without my planner. Maybe I’m stuck in the dark ages, but I just can’t get used to an electronic calendar or planner.  I know there’s Google Calendar and zillions of other options, but I have always felt like I NEED to see something written in my planner for it to be a legitimate plan. Also, call me crazy but I love buying a new, fun, decorative planner each year. I always look forward to it because it makes it seem like I’m starting out the year with a clean slate!
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2)Rotisserie chicken to the rescue:
I struggled with meal-planning this week because I wasn’t really craving anything and I knew I wouldn’t have much time to devote to cooking dinner each night. All I can say is thank goodness for the easiness and versatility of rotisserie chicken. Most of the time, it’s actually cheaper than buying fresh chicken breasts here, and it saved me so much time! Plus, we ate it for multiple meals. First, I added it to a vegetable risotto to give it a protein boost…

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…and then I used it in a South-western  black-bean quinoa stuffed pepper meal. I’ll share the recipe soon, I was so happy with how they came out!

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3) Maximizing my time outside:
Fresh air truly does wonders for me.  To take advantage of the beautiful weather, I opted to study outside on our balcony multiple times, studied outside before and after classes rather than opt for my usual table inside the library, and exercised as much as possible outdoors, too.  I felt more awake, revived, and just felt happier. I love the outdoors, and I am especially loving Autumn in Australia!

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Thumbs down to Anatomy…thumbs up to outdoor studying
(Please excuse the hanging laundry!)

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Can’t beat that sunrise after my work-out on Wednesday : –)

So, does anyone else use a planner or am I seriously stuck in the dark ages?
Do you ever buy rotisserie chicken? If so, what do you make with it?
I often just shred the chicken and use it as salad toppers and inside of wraps or sandwiches, but I really enjoyed adding it into meals this week!

Three Things Thursday: A Balancing Act

Hey friends, happy almost-weekend! We are in the home stretch and it sure does feel good! I’ve had a busy week of studying and work, so I am ready for a day or two of relaxing.  I truly can’t believe I’ll be taking my final exams in 3 weeks. Where did this semester go? I am already starting to experience those familiar anxious feelings I vividly remember having near the end of every semester at Bryant University when completing my business degree.  You know the nervous, heart palpitations, exhausted, anxious feelings, and the “how am I ever going to remember all of this stuff” thoughts?  I fear those may become a daily occurrence around here, but I’m going to try my best to not let that happen.
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(I loved that quote!) Source
Now that I’m 4 years older (and wiser, I like to thinkWinking smile) this time around back in school, my goal is to continue to maintain balance throughout my days, even while studying and during finals. During my years at Bryant, I was terrible at keeping a balance within my life. If I had an exam, I would lock myself in the library and simply study for days and days. I look back now and cringe because I know I wasn’t eating properly or sleeping enough, which are both very important factors in preparing for exams! Now that I understand the importance of taking study breaks, fueling  properly, getting enough sleep, continuing to exercise, and just ‘living’ in general, it’s very important to me that I keep-up with a good balance. That’s my goal and I’m sticking to it!

Anyway, to help me achieve my goal, I thought I’d turn ‘Three Things Thursday’  into three things that have helped me maintain a balance each week until finals are over. So, here it goes! This week:

1) I cooked a casserole:
I attribute this week’s balancing act success to a great meal I made on Tuesday night: Taco-Inspired Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie.
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I always seem to forget about casseroles and their benefits. Most of them create meals you can eat for multiple days that are perfect for leftovers and reheating, they taste better as the days go on, and for the most part they can be relatively inexpensive to make. This was simple and delicious, a major hit in this household!   I’ll post the recipe soon : –)IMG_2833

2) I squeezed in exercise when I could:
I don’t know about you, but exercise is my outlet. It clears my head, makes me feel ‘up’ when I’m down, and is just something I enjoy. Although I consider myself to be a 100% morning exerciser, my new schedule with work and studying just doesn’t allow me the time I used to have to work-out when I want to most mornings, but that’s okay. I am listening to my body, sleeping later when I know I need to, and just fitting  in exercise when I can. It surprised me, but I’ve really enjoyed all of the evening runs I’ve taken. I’ve seen some beautiful sunsets!
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3)I made time to laugh..and eat ice-cream:
When I’m stressed, I really have to remind myself to take a chill-pill, and then I talk to my twin sister. Last year she made a career change and went back to school for a nursing degree, so she’s gone through all of the classes I’ve taken and had the similar stresses I’m having now. She lets me vent and our conversations always end with a smile. Plus, the pictures we send each other never cease to make me laugh, either!
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(We really miss each other…but her dogs always help cheer us up!)
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Oh, and a soft-serve cone always helps too : – )
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What’s your favorite casserole to make?
What are your tips for maintaining a balance in your life when you get too busy?
If you’re a student or you’ve been a student, what did you do to stay healthy during finals?
I always try to get 8 hours of sleep per night during exams, stay hydrated, and eat nutritious meals. Your brain needs lots of fuel for all of that knowledge!

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?

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?