Saturday, December 29, 2012

A Christmas Story: Megan on a Stick

Let me just begin this by saying that I have the best family in the world.  No, really.  Because I was literally across the world this Christmas, my cousin Lee Anne, had the hilarious/amazing/genius idea to create a "Megan-on-a-Stick," so that I could be a part of the family Christmas celebrations from afar.  I can't tell you how much this made me laugh, smile, even tear up sometimes.  I loved getting all of the picture texts and Instagrams of what I was doing at that moment in Phoenix.  Thanks, Lee Lee for making me feel like I could be in two places at once this Christmas!  I miss you!

In the days leading up to Christmas, I got to hang out with some of my favorite people: little cousin Connor, sweet G-ma (we had a great visit), and the lovely lady behind this little project herself!

I also got to go on some errands around town- which of course included a Dr. Pepper run (and a new hat?).

On Christmas Eve, I enjoyed a lovely dinner, but apparently I drank too much wine and wasn't able to make it to church :-) Or so I'm told...

While they were gone, I watched over the presents and ate Santa's cookies.  Oops.  (And, knowing me, I probably had some more wine)

On Christmas morning, I got to wake up bright and early with the members of the family crazy brave enough to take part in the annual Christmas morning sunrise family hike up Camelback Mountain.  It sure was early (and cold!), but we had a great time- and the sunrise from the top was beautiful!  I love that each year somebody (not in our family!) hauls a Christmas tree all the way up there!  I wish I always looked this good after a workout..

Thanks again family for helping me feel a little closer to home this Christmas!  I had a great time being in two places at once! 

Christmas Day Recap

Our first Australian Christmas shaped up pretty well!  We slept late on Christmas morning and when we woke up, we were excited to see that Santa had found us in Oz! 


We spent the first couple hours of our morning talking on the phone and video-chatting with each of our families.  I've said it a million times, but thank goodness for technology- I love that we can feel so much closer to our friends and family, especially on holidays like Christmas.  By the time we had talked with everyone, it was time for brunch.  We had a yummy egg casserole and pumpkin spice pancakes that I of course forgot to photograph. 

Then, we were finally ready to open our stockings and presents.  We were so grateful for our families who were generous enough to send gifts all the way across the world!  We are very lucky!  Being just the two of us, it was a little less eventful than the usual Christmas day present opening chaos/excitement that I'm used to from celebrating Christmas with a large family, but it was still fun. 

We had planned on trying to make it to the beach on Christmas day, but by the time we had talked to all of our family members, eaten, and opened presents, it was a little too late to do that.  We changed plans quickly and decided to take a walk around the marina and Spinnaker Park.  It was a beautiful day, and we had a great time just wandering around. I really need to go down there more often- it is such a nice park, and so nice to just be near the water and cooler ocean air.  

For Christmas dinner, I made my very first roasted chicken (Pimenton Roasted Chicken).  It turned out AMAZING.  You MUST try this recipe that I found on Pinterest, via my friend Anne.  It is so simple, and it turns out great!  The potatoes (and I added carrots too) that cook underneath the chicken are to. die. for.  I would almost make the chicken just to eat the potatoes.  Seriously- try it.  You won't regret it!  Not so sure how excited David was about it, but I was super excited that after dinner, I found one of my all time favorite movies on TV- "You've Got Mail."  I know it's not specifically a Christmas movie, but it still felt somewhat Christmas-y, and it was a fun way to end our evening. 

Of course we missed our families like crazy, but we ended up having a nice, quiet Christmas. No doubt I prefer the craziness and chaos of our big-family Christmas celebrations, but we made the most of our situation this year.  Hope everyone had a great Christmas! 

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Countdown

We're closing out Christmas Eve here in Australia- a day ahead of most of you.  Here's a quick look back at how I spent the last few days leading up to Christmas day!

I spent most of Saturday and Sunday baking up a storm.  I love baking in general, but this time of year, I feel particularly compelled to bake.  Many of the people we know here in Gladstone are out of town for the holidays, but I wanted to put together some Christmas treats for those who were still in Gladstone for the holidays. Solidarity, right? :-) 

I made:
-My mom/grandma's famous Hungarian Crumb Coffee Cakes
-New pinterest find: Buckeye Bark
-New Pinerest find: Snowball Cookies/Russian Teacakes

It was fun delivering these treats!  I'd really been having a hard time getting into the Christmas spirit this year, but this really helped!

Probably one of the best Christmas presents I'm getting this year is that my husband who has to work 6 day work weeks every week has two. full. weeks. off!  It's so nice to have him around more than just a couple hours a day!  On Sunday night, we shared a bottle of wine and watched Elf.  LOVE that movie! 

On Christmas Eve, I went to mass at this cute little church in Gladstone.  It was quite small, and by the time I got there it was standing room only.  This church has ZERO A/C, but luckily, it had been a cooler day because of rain that morning, so it wasn't too hot (remember, it is the middle of summer here).  I remember feeling this way when I went to church while studying abroad in Spain too, but it truly is so comforting to be able to go into a church (regardless of the language and regardless of where you are in the world) and have such a feeling of familiarity and predictability as far as traditions go.  I loved that I was literally on the other side of the world, but still was singing the same songs and listening to the same readings as I have every Christmas since I can remember.  

After mass, I drove by this pretty tree covered in Christmas lights in "downtown" (if you could call it that) Gladstone. 

For Christmas Eve dinner, we had quite a feast.  And believe it or not, all of these recipes were from Skinnytaste-one of my favorite websites for healthy recipes.  We had:
-Garlic Mashed Potatoes
-Roasted Parmesan Green Beans
-Spinach, Prosciutto, Mozarella, and Sundried Tomatoes Stuffed Pork Tenderloin

Honestly, I really do not consider myself all that talented in the kitchen.  I follow a recipe pretty well, and that's about it.  But I do have to say that this dinner turned out AWESOME!  I especially loved the pork tenderloin- and it really wasn't all that difficult. 

Off to bed now!  I hope Santa finds us in Australia tonight :-)  Happy Christmas Eve to all you US folks! 

Thursday, December 20, 2012


Gladstone is a small town. 
With only a couple main streets that you have to frequent to get just about anywhere. 
One of those main streets takes you right by the airport- the very small airport with only a few flights in and out each day. 
So it is rare that I happen to be driving by while a plane is departing or arriving.
I have to confess though, that when it does happen that a plane is taking off as I pass, I feel an overwhelming sense of longing. 
For a short moment, I wish that I was on that plane-wherever it was going. 
Because most likely it is headed somewhere closer to the things and people that I love.
It's almost like I'm jealous of the strangers crammed onto that plane and for a moment wish it were me.
It's not that I'm unhappy here, or sad all the time, or terribly homesick.
Because I'm not.  In fact I really do like it here. 
I know what an amazing (and temporary) opportunity this is, and for the most part am really loving this time.
I guess it's just a momentary reminder of how far away I really am. 
It's not that I necessarily wish I was somewhere else, because I know that is no way to live.
I think it's more that I wish I could be in more than one place at once. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

2 Years

Two years ago today- December 18, 2010, I got to marry my best friend.  It was a day that I will remember forever.  A day full of love, family, friends, fun, and dancing.  It was the perfect day, and I wouldn't have changed anything about it.  It was is also (still to this day), the first and ONLY time I have ever seen my husband cry. :-)

I don't think either of us imagined that we would be celebrating two years of marriage in Australia, but here we are!  And I wouldn't want to share this adventure with anyone else.  Happy Anniversary, David!  Here's to the next 2, 10, 20, and many many more... wherever in the world we may be celebrating!
And of course, I can't resist sharing just a few photos of that special day! :-) 
Ok, fine- I couldn't pick just a few, so here's a slideshow our photographer made of some of the highlights of the day.  Enjoy!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Deck the Halls!

Christmas has always been one of my favorite holidays.  I love the music, decorations, anticipation, shopping for gifts, and general good moods that seem to take over.  This year though, between knowing that I will be away from family and friends and the strange experience of having to celebrate Christmas during summertime,  it would be very easy for me to get all "scrooge-y" this holiday season.  BUT, I am determined not to.  I've been making every effort to get in the Christmas spirit this year, and one of the things that has helped the most is decorating our house!  And I've got to admit- for as few decorations as I was able to bring with us in our move, I think I did a pretty darn good job!  It definitely feels a little more Christmas-y around here! 
I started the Christmas-ification with this Pinterest-inspired take on a wreath.  Go here for the original link.
And what's Christmas without a fake tree?!
Before and After: 
So that's what Christmas looks like at our house this year.  Merry Christmas, everyone!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Things I Miss - The Short List

Although I'm living in a 1st world, English-speaking country that really has more similarities to life in the US than differences, there are certain things that I've found myself missing often.  Here are just a few of them in no particular order- and not including family and friends- because those are implicitly at the top of the list of course!

*Mexican Food 
I think I could conceivably be OK with the fact that there aren't Mexican food restaurants here IF the general ingredients to make some of my favorite dishes were readily available.  But they're not.  I get so frustrated when I find a recipe I want to try that includes typically Mexican food ingredients, because I pretty much know I won't be able to find those ingredients. 
Don't even get me started on the imposter that calls itself Target here, because it is really just upsetting...
Well, the Oprah Winfrey Network to be exact.  Yes, it's true, I'm an Oprah fanatic. And unfortunately I let myself get addicted to her shows (mainly "Oprah's Next Chapter") in the months before we moved.  I got excited the other day when I saw O Magazine in the grocery store... until I saw the $9.99 price tag!
*Diet Dr, Pepper
My life blood. Honestly, I don't know how I've survived over 3 months already without it.  Coke Zero will do as a substitute for now, but that doesn't mean I'm happy about it.  There is just no replacing good ol' DDP. 
*Tall buildings, freeways, crowds
Basically all the things you find in a big city.  I very much feel like a city mouse living uncomfortably in a country mouse's shoes.
*Online shopping
Australia as a whole is really not too big on online shopping.  It's probably good for our bank accounts, but oh how I miss Amazon and all the other amazing online shopping in the US
*Being within 1-4 hours of the same time zone as my friends and family
My brain is on auto-calculate CONSTANTLY adding or subtracting hours to figure out what time it is in any given place in the U.S.  I've got a very limited time frame each day where "acceptable phone talking hours" overlap between here and the U.S.

All those things aside, I do try to remind myself that these are very minor things (well aside from DDP and Oprah, of course).  And I also know that whenever it is that we move back home, I will be thinking of all the things I miss about life in Australia.  But until that time, please, all of you- go enjoy these things for me! :-) 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Australia House Tour Before/After

When we found out we would be moving to Australia for David’s job, one of my first concerns was where in the world we would live.  We were lucky though because we didn’t have to deal with the stress of house-hunting in a foreign country – although the image of us on HGTV’s House Hunters International did cross my mind. J  David’s company provides housing for their employees who move here, so all we had to do was show up at what would be our new house when we arrived. 
David arrived about a month and a half before I did (July), while I stayed behind to wrap things up with packing, selling our house, and some last visits to family and friends.  David was able to move right into the house when he arrived (even though our belongings weren’t there yet), because the houses the company provides are pretty much fully furnished.   Here are some photos of the house from right before David moved in.  A couple of the photos show empty rooms, but don’t worry, the furniture in those rooms WAS moved in before he arrived. 
This is the view of the front of the house.  The photo on the left shows our street- our house is the one behind the Subaru, and the photo on the right is the front of our house (ignore the date- it was taken right after it was built).  Don’t you think the houses here look pretty different than what we’re used to in the US?  They all have metal roofs to help reflect the heat, but I still just can’t get used to that. 

After walking in the front door, there is a little entry way with a door into the garage and access to the laundry room- which is actually a pretty nice size.   

Then you move into the main area of the house.  This part of the house is very open- kitchen, living, dining in one open area.  This view is taken standing in the kitchen looking out toward the back of the house.  I love, love, LOVE houses with lots of windows and natural light, so I was happy about that feature of this house. But MAN, the sun here is just SO strong, that I swear I get a sun burn INSIDE our house.
These views of the kitchen are taken standing in the living room, looking back toward the front of the house where.  Again, see the crazy amount of blindingly bright white everywhere?!

Looking back toward the living area, there is a patio off the back of the house.  The house itself is on a hill, so although you can’t see it from the front, the back part of the house is raised above ground.  Our patio looks over the main street coming in to the neighborhood.  We do have a backyard, but you have to go down stairs to get to it. 

Off of the living room, to the immediate right is the master bedroom.  Kind of a weird setup if you ask me.  This photo of the master bedroom was taken before the bed was brought in- I promise you, David didn’t have to sleep on the floor.  The master bathroom is a nice size, but so weird that there is no door between it and the room itself.  This is especially annoying when your husband wakes up to get ready for work at 4:15 every day. 
There is also a small office:

And two identical guests rooms with one guest bathroom.  These photos are of just one of the guest rooms. 
So, that is pretty much how the house looked when I arrived at the end of August.  And actually, it stayed this way for another six weeks or so while we waited for our moving shipment to arrive.  We had a 1,000 pound limit on what we could bring over, so while I would have liked to have brought all of our furniture, decorations, etc. (because, let’s face it, the furnishings in the house aren’t my favorite), I couldn’t.  The only furniture that we did bring was: our bed and mattress (best idea ever!), David’s favorite chair, a rug, and a limited amount of general house decorations.  The rest of the shipment weight was taken up by clothes and kitchen gear.  Also complicating our ability to make this place more “our own” is that the landlord does not allow nails in the walls.  We are only supposed to use 3M hanging strips, and only 2 items per wall.  On the positive side, it does keep things simpler, less cluttered, and we just generally have less “crap” around.  Although don’t get me wrong, I do miss every single little thing that is in storage back in Houston and can’t wait to be reunited with it all (although I’m sure I will have forgotten what is even there by the time we return).  So anyway, here’s how the house looks now after unpacking our shipment, moving some furniture around, and creatively making do with what we have.

The front of the house pretty much the same except for a few potted plants.  Ignore the dead grass…
Entry way. Laundry room to the left, garage and guest room to the right:

 Living area (facing out toward the back of the house):

A little storage/display area I faked:

Patio with a few added plants/flowers as well as some patio furniture.  This spot allows me to be an excellent neighborhood spy (I’m so nosey!):

Master bedroom now with our beloved bed and mattress: 
Oh- and take note of the ridiculous lamps- so stylish, right?  There are about 10 in the house- and every house that David’s company has furnished.  I will throw them out the window when we leave- they make me nuts. 
Guest room aka YOUR room when you come visit! :-)

Yes, I know it's not much different from the first set of pictures.  And trust me, I know even more so that this is a far cry from stylish and carefully decorated.  BUT we did the best with what we had, and it does FEEL much more homey now, and THAT is important since this will be home for the next 3-4 years! 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Ninjabread Men

On Friday, my friend Kim invited me over to make gingerbread men and watch a holiday movie.  When I got there, she told me that when she had sent her husband out to get a gingerbread man cookie cutter, he had returned with ninjabread men cookie cutters instead.  Aren't they funny- and way more exciting than plain old gingerbread men anyways?! 

This is the recipe we used (Gingerbread Cookies).  They were yummy and super easy, but if I were to make them again, I would probably add more spices (ginger, cinnamon, and cloves) and maybe even some more molasses.  The ginger taste in these cookies was very subtle, and I usually like a stronger ginger taste/spice. 
Once you finish making the dough, you are supposed to refrigerate it for about 2 hours- just the perfect amount of time to watch a holiday movie, so that is what we did.  We watched “The Holiday.”
After the movie was done and our dough was ready, we got back to our ninjabread men.  Here’s how they turned out:
In progress...
Final product!
These Ninjabread men didn't last long at all in our house- they barely made it through the weekend.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

First Pinterest Craft Attempt

I’m fairly certain that I was one of the last people on the face of earth to jump on the Pinterest bandwagon.  I didn’t join until just a few months ago.  My reason being that I have a pretty addictive online personality- meaning that I get addicted to things like Facebook, blogs, etc. and then end up wasting more time than I’d like to admit.  I KNEW I would be obsessed with Pinterest so I purposely refused to let myself join for quite a while- especially while I was teaching (although now I kind of regret that seeing as how there are so many awesome teacher resources).   At any rate, I finally bit the bullet a few months ago, and I was right- I was almost immediately addicted.  J 

I have been pretty good about trying lots of the recipes that I’ve pinned, but I had yet to try anything crafty or DIY-y.  (Side note: I wish Pinterest would add a label or separate board or some way to mark the pins you've actually tried/created.)  Because we weren't able to bring very many decorations or wall hangings when we moved to Australia, I decided I would try and make a frame that would let me display multiple photos while at the same time covering up some of these blindingly white bare walls in the house.  Here was my pinspiration: 

I was surprised to find out that Australia has a few of the same thrift stores we have in the states.  Here in Gladstone, we have a St. Vincent DePaul and Salvation Army.  But in true Aussie fashion, they must be abbreviated as Vinnie’s and The Salvie.  I’m trying not to shake my head and/or roll my eyes at the excessive amount of abbreviations here in Oz as I type this…   Anyways, I found the perfect frame at Vinnie’s for two bucks!  It was a pretty rough-looking white when I bought it, so after cleaning it up, I spray painted it blue.  I forgot to take a before picture.  Oops.  After it dried completely, the rest was super easy.
 I just used twine to create three rows for hanging pictures and secured the twine to the back with tons of hot glue. 

 Then I used the mini clothespins (or pegs as they call them here) to clip the photos into the frame. 

I like that I can easily change out the photos at any time.  I think it turned out pretty well for a first time Pinterest craft by someone who is not particularly crafty!  I’m thinking about trying to make a Christmas wreath (similar to this one) for the front door next.  You can follow me on Pinterest at username: Meggers315!