- New shampoo! From Aveda. I just can't get enough of the smell.
- The lunar eclipse. We got up last night just in time to see it at its peak. Did you see it?
- Yesterday was the longest night/shortest day of the year. It's all uphill from here folks!
- The cookies I made for my neighbor and hairdresser. I wanted to stick some in the mailbox for the mailman, but Lee said that was weird. (He's probably right.)
- My Kindle, and time over the next two weeks to get sucked into it.
- My sister has Now & Then recorded and waiting for us to watch when I get to her house (talk about a blast from the past).
- Also waiting for me when I get to her house? An afternoon of baking and decorating cookies with some of my favorite little people.
- My shopping and wrapping is officially DONE.
- Date night tonight! We're stuffing ourselves with Italian and then coming back to open our gifts to each other. (And give Sugar her gifts too!) Can't wait!
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Monday, December 20, 2010
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Monday, December 13, 2010
2. Christmas had me really stressed out this year. Even before Thanksgiving I was starting to feel all kinds of anxiety, like I was behind on Christmas and it wasn't even Thanksgiving yet. Now that cards are mailed, my house is decorated and my shopping is 80% done I'm feeling better and am actually looking forward to what's left on my to do list. Maybe that's because my to do list is now down to: attending two holiday parties and hosting one, baking cookies, some last-minute shopping, and wrapping presents -- all things I (somewhat) enjoy.
3. Speaking of stress though, you know the line in the song Home for the Holidays that goes 'From Atlantic to Pacific, Gee, the traffic is terrific!' What the hell are they talking about? Are they being sarcastic? I sure hope so.
4. We debated long and hard about sending out a Christmas card this year. Is it lame for a married couple to send a card? Should we just wait until we have a kid? Lee and my sister had almost talked me out of it. But then I realized that it's something I enjoy doing, and I LOVE receiving cards, so I wanted to return that happiness. The cards printed much darker than the proof, which I was a bummed about, but I still like them. Here's how they were intended to look:
5. My new addiction is Starbucks' salted caramel hot chocolate. I can't go in Target or Barnes & Noble now without ordering one.
6. I always try to save up a chunk of my vacation days for December, so I can have a nice long stretch off at Christmas and a few days here and there to get stuff done (I have to use up my PTO by the end of the year). Including time that the agency is closed, I have a full two weeks off at the end of the month. I'm very excited about that. Even though my to do list is a mile long, it's mostly filled with fun things like books I want to read and movies I want to watch.
7. Friday was one of my random extra days off. I don't think I took a second to rest all day long. My day = cycle bootcamp at the gym, shower, vacuuming up pine needles and glitter, pick up dry cleaning, post office, Panera for lunch, Target (with a salted caramel hot chocolate of course), pharmacy, wrapping presents, about 5 loads of laundry and packing for Charlotte.
8. Speaking of Charlotte, we headed there this weekend for Steph and Tyler's wedding, staying downtown at the Omni. We had an amazing time dancing and singing the night away at the after party, and at the after AFTER party. Again though, we're not cut out for that kind of shenanigans anymore, as we found out on Sunday morning.
9. What is up with this weather? It is NOT supposed to be this cold this early. I should've asked for more gloves and scarves for Christmas.
10. I'll be back later this week to show you our Christmas decor, along with a little DIY project I concocted last night.
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
One example of my OCD-ness: our entire mantel and fireplace is decorated in white and silver -- white poinsettias, white quilted stockings, silver stocking holders and candlesticks, white and silver ball ornaments. Mine and Lee's stockings have our name embroidered on them (in silver thread). I bought Sugar a stocking to match ours but instead of getting her name embroidered I bought a silver ornament from Pottery Barn that's shaped like a dog house that has her picture in it and her name engraved on it. I hung it on her stocking.
The problem? It came with red ribbon. I hung it with the red ribbon as it came but for three days it kept bugging the crap out of me. One shock of red in all of that white and silver. It just stuck out like a sore thumb (to me). So I did what any OCD-Martha-worshipper would have done: I dug through my craft box and found some silver ribbon and replaced the red with silver. It made me feel much better. I showed it to Lee saying "Now doesn't that look better?!" Of course he had no idea what the difference was and when I explained it he threatened to commit me. Oh well. That silver ribbon sure makes me happy.
After all, those stockings aren't for the kids, they're for the holidays.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
First, one of the questions we were most asked about our trip was “how was the food?” I’ll be honest here –- it wasn’t really much to write home about. Sure, we indulged and had some great meals –- we were on vacation after all, so happy hour, appetizers, wine with lunch AND dinner and ice cream stops were the norm.
But have you ever gone anywhere that served “Australian food”? (And no, Outback does not count.) That’s because, a lot like us, Australian food is just a hodgepodge of other cuisines. They have Asian food, Italian food, Mexican food (albeit very BAD Mexican food), and your regular steakhouses and bar and grill-type places. And they’re still heavily influenced by their English roots, so things like fish and chips are standard fare.
Even though you can find pretty much any type of food we eat in America in Australia, it just wasn’t the same. Know what I mean? Even their McDonalds’ do things slightly differently. By the time we got home, we were seriously craving some sweet tea and Chick-fil-A.
One thing that was the EXACT same in Australia as it is here (well, except for the higher price)? Krispy Kreme donuts. I was super stoked to see these puppies in the airport.
They also have lots of Nutella in Australia. Much more respect for it there than here (as it should be!). Check out the grocery store real estate:
And when we went to Cold Rock ice cream shop (an obvious Cold Stone knockoff), they had Nutella as a mix-in. GENIUS! Why have we not thought of that here?! I got my normal birthday cake remix, except with Nutella in place of the chocolate syrup and it was abso-freaking-delicious.
We decided to branch out one night and eat at the Balinese restaurant in our hotel in Cairns. We ordered rijsttafel, which is a four course shared meal where you sample lots of different dishes.
Appetizer (those are hot coals in that mini-grill that the skewers are on -- very cool):
Some things were yummy, some were not so yummy, but it was a pretty cool experience and we were glad we tried it.
And one more comment about the food: Australians love their outdoor dining. I don’t think there was one single dinner (except the night we ate at McDonald’s) that we didn’t eat outside – on a patio, deck, or under an awning, overlooking an ocean, river, boardwalk or billabong. Now that I could get used to.
One of the downsides of our trip was how expensive everything was once we got to Australia. In the weeks leading up to the trip, we watched the exchange rate take a nose dive as the American dollar plummeted. While we were there, the Australian dollar hit a 27-year high compared to the US dollar.
Seriously, that WOULD happen to us.
So everything was more expensive than we expected. A meal at McDonald’s might cost $8. That’s normal for Australians (in relation to their salaries) and would have been fine if the exchange rate had been “normal” because everything would have been about 15-20% cheaper. But the exchange rate was pretty much even by the time you accounted for currency conversion fees.
This was a bit of a shock and a little disheartening, but we kept telling ourselves “at least the exchange rate was in our favor when we booked and paid for the majority of the trip.” And we decided within the first few days to throw caution to the wind and forget about how expensive everything was. No one wants to penny pinch on vacation and pass up that glass of wine or dessert. And we had paid A LOT of money to get there, so we were determined to enjoy it. And in the end, we actually spent a little less than what we had budgeted for, so it all worked out.
And now, for some lists (I bought a little notebook and kept adding things to my lists as we went along –- type A, even on vacation).
Things I Like About Australians:
- No tipping. Seriously. They pay their service people fair wages and you aren’t expected to tip. However, I have to say the service is noticeably slower. But once we got adjusted to the slower pace of meals, it was fine.
- No pennies! If your grocery bill comes out to $10.32 they round down (or up) to the nearest 5 cents.
- Tax is already included in all posted prices. This just makes sense.
- Their pepperoni is thick, spicy and delicious.
- They eat hot ham & cheese sandwiches for breakfast, which I think is cool. (But don’t expect to see any biscuits. In fact, biscuits in Australia are what we know as cookies.)
- Their cheddar cheese is white and sharp and umm umm good!
- They make alcohol convenient. They sell Smirnoff vodka already mixed with Ocean Spray cranberry juice in a box-wine box. I need that in my life! And Jim Beam and Coke live happily together in the same can:
Things I Do Not Like About Australians:
- They don’t use ice (and when they do, they use very little).
- Their bacon sucks. (It’s more like Canadian bacon or ham. Not the fatty, crispy stuff we love.)
Things We Learned in Australia That Have Nothing To Do With Australia:
- People from around the world don’t wear deodorant. (I guess because we were in tourist spots most of the time, there were a TON of foreigners everywhere. Lee said he felt like he had gone to Asia instead of Australia. There were lots of Canadians and Europeans too. However, we didn’t see a single other couple or family from America. Maybe because it’s too expensive?)
- Lee will eat ANYTHING.
- They feed you well on flights. In the U.S., you can fly 5 hours and they only give you a drink. One of our flights was 50 minutes long and we got a cupcake(!), bottled water and soda. Any flight that's in the morning, no matter how long, you get breakfast (cold breakfast for shorter flights and hot breakfast for longer flights). The service on all of our Qantas flights was excellent as well.
- Glee is big, even in Australia.
- It felt like their pop culture is our pop culture. Their gossip magazines have different names, but still have Katy Perry and Brangelina on the cover. A lot of their TV shows are the same as or knockoffs of our shows. All the music was American -- Lady Gaga, Beyonce, I even heard some Gary Allen in the grocery store.
- Sports are BIG in Australia = rugby, cricket, Australian rules football, the Melbourne Cup (and other horse races). There was always one confusing sport or another on TV all day long.
- On one of our tours, we were with an Australian guy, a couple from Canada and a couple from Wales. The group started making jokes about Bill Clinton. I told Lee later that I thought it was interesting how they obviously had a lot of knowledge about Bill Clinton and American politics, yet we couldn't name a single president/prime minister/whatever they have from Canada, Wales OR Australia.
- It was Halloween there, yet it was hot and it was also prom season (since their school year ends in December). It was bit confusing to see people walking around in Halloween costumes and prom dresses at the same time. And it will be summer during Christmas. They go to the beach and have barbecues for Christmas. Weird.
- Suncream = sunscreen
- Surname = last name
- Biscuits = cookies
- Coach = bus
- Chemist = pharmacy
- Capsicum = bell pepper
- "How you going?" = "How are you doing?"
- Entree = appetizer
- Main = entree/main course
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
The view from our hotel room was pretty sweet as well:
And even better at night:
(Yes, we got suckered into paying something like $30 to ride that ferris wheel.)
The main attraction in Brisbane was our visit to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary.
We got to snuggle and have our picture taken with a koala. This little guy had just woken up from his nap, so he was all cute and sleepy-eyed:
What a poser:
One of my favorite parts was the "mama and babies" koala exhibit. I could have stood for hours watching these guys.
Up next was the Birds of Prey show. I'm still not quite sure how Lee talked me into this one. The trainers got SO CLOSE with the birds.
Right after this picture was taken, this owl got spooked by another bird and flew RIGHT AT ME. She swooped over the audience and up into a tree. One of the trainers tried for the rest of the show to coax her down, to no avail.
We visited some other exhibits:
The dingo ate my baby!
In case you were wondering, this is an owl eating a mouse:
Then it was time to chill with the kangaroos. We bought way too much kangaroo food and then headed to meet them. They were out in a field, most of them sprawled out relaxing. You could go up to them and feed them (although they weren't really all that interested in food), pet them, snuggle them, etc. It was amazing. I didn't want to ever leave.
Finally I had to tear myself away, as our tour bus was about to leave us. Our last stop was at Mt. Coot-tha lookout, with an amazing view of the city:
We spent an extra day in Brisbane, chilling and wandering around the city. Then it was time to head back home. To say I was excited about the 36 hours of traveling ahead of us would be a mistake, but we were glad to be making our way back to the good ole U S of A.
Thanks for being patient with me as I shared our trip with you. I've got one more Australia post in the hopper -- a wrap-up of sorts -- and then it's back to standard blog fare.