Thursday, July 23, 2015

A Cold Drink On a Cold Day

It's the middle of winter in Sydney right now and while it's not as cold as it can get at home, it's still really cold in my opinion. Because I came over here in March and am heading home the end of August, I'll get three winters in a row this year. You read that right: three. Aside from the small stint of summer when I arrived here in March, my two weeks in roasting hot Vietnam in June, and the last bit of summer in Seattle in September (I'm hoping it says warm!), this year will be a cold one for me! 

Because I can't seem to escape the cold, I pretty much just throw all the rules out the window. As in: Who says cold drinks aren't for cold weather? This morning I made Cold Pressed Caramel Frappuccinos. YUM. I found the recipe on Pinterest through one of my favorite blogs, Minimalist Baker. Since I can't have dairy and I'm off of sugar right now, this recipe was sort of a dream come true. And it looked so simple!

The recipe calls for frozen almond milk and luckily, we had some that was homemade and already in the freezer. Ash makes her own almond milk quite often by blending almonds and water and then draining the chopped up mixture through a cheesecloth. It tastes so good and I love that there are no additives: it's literally just almonds and water. I know people have been making their own almond milk for years and while I've thought about making my own before, it's always seemed like too much trouble. Thanks to Ash, I've learned that there's a good chance I'll be able to handle making my own someday!

The recipe also calls for date caramel. While I'm still trying to decide if I like dates plain, they are delicious as caramel. And like the almond milk, the caramel is super easy to make and there are literally just dates in it. 

Here is the recipe from Minimalist Baker:

  • 2 cups (480 ml) Almond Milk
  • 2 cups (160 g) coarsely ground dark coffee
  • 4 cups (960 ml) filtered water
  • 15 pitted dates (200 g)
  • 3-6 Tbsp hot water
  • 16 almond milk ice cubes
  • 2 cups (480 ml) cold brew coffee
  • 3-5 Tbsp date caramel

Step-by-step instructions are here: Cold Brew Caramel Frappiccino

Note: There's more prep time the day before then when you actually go to make it. You have to freeze the almond milk, make the caramel (which doesn't take more than 5 minutes), and refrigerate the coffee until it's cold. It's well worth the wait though. Just plan ahead accordingly! 

Call me crazy, but this was one of the best drinks I've had in a while. If you try it, let me know what you think! Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

How To Speak Aussie

This video has been making the rounds on Facebook and it's hilariously accurate. Aussies literally shorten every word, or so it seems. It takes some adjusting at first, but after awhile, you start to see that they're on to something. I'm pretty guilty of using quite a few of these at the moment! We'll see if they stick when I move back to Seattle. ;) 

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Happy 4th of July

Photo credit

Happy 4th of July, my friends!

This holiday has been a little weird for me this year for a few reasons: 1. I've never been out of the States over the 4th before. Other than once when I was younger, I think. Either way, not since I can remember. 2. It's cold in Sydney right now. Like really cold. I'm pretty sure I've never worn a sweater with a scarf on the 4th before. Or in July, for that matter. 3. I didn't see any fireworks, which is one of the best parts of the 4th of July. 

That being said, it was a really good day for a couple reasons: 1. I got to spend it with two of my favorite Americans, Ash & Anderson, and our honorary American, Pete.

The Americans! 

 2. We celebrated Christmas in July with some good friends and had a lot of super delicious food. 

Group photos are hard so the photo quality is rubbish. ;)

The idea behind Christmas in July this year was to make your favorite Christmas foods from your country. Representing America, Ash made a turkey roast, sweet potatoes (the ones with the marshmallows on top - the best), and a peach crumble for dessert. And representing Germany, Julia made pretzels, and potatoes where you cook your toppings (anything really: we had tomatoes, pineapple, onions, ham, salami, mushrooms, corn, and cheese) on a hot plate at the table. I'm not sure where the Aussie themed food was...I guess it was because they weren't doing the cooking! ;)

Hot plate for the German potato toppings

Beautifully set table by Julia

Red napkins with stars shaped like a Christmas tree = Christmas in July on the 4th of July all in one! 

All in all, it was a great day! Lots of time with family and friends and good food. At the end of the day, that's all that matters! And to all the Americans reading this right now: enjoy the fireworks, BBQ, and everything American that you possibly can. I'd love to hear how you celebrated so I can live vicariously through you! 

Friday, July 3, 2015

The Blue Mountains

My Aunt Zoe and Uncle Bruce were visiting Australia the past couple of weeks. Uncle Bruce was here for work so Aunt Zoe came along. We're so glad we got to spend time with them! I don't even get to see them much as it is as they live on the East Coast of the United States, let alone living across the world right now.

Last weekend we rented a bigger car that could hold us all and took a day trip to the Blue Mountains. I've always wanted to go, but hadn't had the chance to check it out yet. It was a gorgeous day, though a little chilly, and the views were stunning.

The Three Sisters

We stopped at one of the viewing areas straight away, took some photos, and then decided to go find a cafe for lunch. 

After lunch, we headed to Scenic World for the afternoon. Scenic world is an awesome way to see the Blue Mountains. There are four different rides/activities: The Scenic Railway, The Scenic Skyway, The Scenic Cableway, and the Scenic Walkway.  

Of the four rides/activities, my favorite was the Railway. While the others has amazing views, the Railway was the closest to a rollercoaster ride as you can get on the side of a mountain. So much fun!

Much steeper than it looks in the picture.

Heading down the mountain

We took the skyway across the mountain and back. Then we rode the railway down the mountain, took the walkway to the cableway and took it up back the mountain. 

Very glad this wasn't our actual railway car!

Taking the Cableway up the mountain

It was a really fun day! So great to spend quality time with family and check another place off my list of things to see in Australia.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015


I'm so overdue writing about Vietnam and I'm not going to even post very much right now. Basically, SO much happened on the trip that it is a bit overwhelming to think about posting about it. Overall, it was an amazing trip. If I didn't have the travel bug before, I definitely have it now! Here's a quick overview of the trip for now:

Favorite city: Hoi An. It was this cute little shopping town on the coast. We stayed two nights in a hotel there, which was the longest we stayed in one place the whole trip. Plus, this hotel was the only one of the trip that had a pool. That is a win-win, my friends. It was the cleanest, calmest, safest feeling town of all the ones we visited, in my opinion. 
Favorite activity: The motorbike tour in Hue. It's hard to pick just one favorite activity because we literally did something new every day. The motorbike tour was so much fun though. Some of the highlights were stopping for lunch at a monks house (amazing vegetarian food!) and riding through the rice fields.

Favorite food: BBQ in Nha Trang. Again, it's hard to choose just one meal or food that was the best, but the bbq meat was amazing. It wasn't the most relaxing or comfortable meal of the trip though because it was crazy hot (as in sweating like crazy while just sitting still) and extremely smoky. Plus, we had to cook our own meat at our table. I've decided I'm more of the type that like my food to be cooked before it comes to the table. If I wanted to cook my own meal, I would have stayed at home! But it was an once in a lifetime (maybe?) experience and the flavors of the food were delicious.
Those are just a few of the many, many amazing parts of the trip. Much, much more to come in the next few weeks! 

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Hong Kong

At this moment, I'm sitting on the floor of the Hong Kong Airport waiting for my flight to Hanoi. So far the trip has gone smoothly (aside from two security searches, an explosive check, and wandering the Hong Kong Airport for way too long because my flight didn't have a gate). The flight from Hong Kong to Hanoi is only two hours...a piece of cake compared to the 10-hour flight from Sydney. 

I'm not complaining about the flight from Sydney though. It was one of the best super long flights I've been on. At first, I was dreading it because when I checked in, I was assigned a middle seat "because the flight was really full and all the window and aisle seats were taken." Turns out that wasn't true at all! The two seats next to me ended up being empty so I had ample room. Extra space + two blankets + three pillows + good movies + back row (nobody disturbed me while I was sleeping!) = a very successful flight. 

I still don't totally believe I am heading to Vietnam! I'm really excited though and ready for the adventure. Wish me luck! 

Sunday, May 24, 2015

End of May

One of the few signs of Autumn in Sydney. The trees don't really change colors over here, which is something I realized I really miss.

I just realized that nearly a whole month has gone by since I last posted on here. Yikes. I could chalk it up to lots of things, but really, life has just been busy. Plus, how is it already the end of May?!?!

Early May was filled with my friend Rebecca visiting. So much to say about that so a separate post or two will be coming for sure. Mid-May was just the usual busyness of life. It’s funny: when I imagined what my life would look like in Sydney before I left Seattle, I imagined having more free time than I could handle. I even made a list of things I could do to fill my time if need be. Turns out I don’t really need that list. Life has a way of being busy or at least seeming busy wherever you are.

The end of May was filled with the stomach flu and getting ready for Vietnam. I leave on Saturday! So excited and a little nervous. I don’t totally know what to expect and it’s my first completely solo trip. In all my years of traveling, I’ve always either known someone at the destination or gone with someone. While I am meeting up with a tour group (so I won’t be completely on my own), it’s still something so much different than I’ve ever done.

Expect a whole lot of blog catching up in June! Though it just dawned on me that I might be able to post while I’m in Vietnam. I don’t expect a lot of down time (but what do I know, really?) other than maybe on my 13-hour overnight train ride. Yup. 13 hours. The longest of three on the trip. Oh and two, 10-hour flights. I certainly will have time to kill! We’ll see when I catch wifi though.

Anyways, happy Monday everyone! It’s Memorial day back home (well, actually it’s Sunday back home, but if it were Monday it would be Memorial day...not sure if that makes sense. You catch my drift, right?), but a regular Monday here. Even though I’m not in America at the moment, I’m still thankful for all the men and women who have served our country.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Friday Adventure: Vietnam

Photo: Riding Vietnam's Reunification Train

How is it nearly May? My lack of blog posts the past week+ is proof that time is flying and I can’t keep up! Again, I do believe that time flies when you’re having fun so it’s all good.

Last Friday, our weekly adventure was more of an errand than an adventure, though one could argue that any activity could be called an adventure. Wow - I think I hit the record for the amount of times the word ‘adventure’ can be used in a sentence! Anyways, we made a trip to the Vietnam Consulate in the city so I could apply for my visa for my trip to Vietnam. Yup. You read that right: I’M GOING TO VIETNAM. Ah. So excited.

I’m leaving the end of May for a 11 day trek through the country with a tour group. I knew I was going to travel some while I was over here, but I was thinking more along the lines of Fiji or Bali (a week of lying on the beach? yes, please). Ash convinced me that Vietnam is the place to go though. She did the same exact tour 9 years ago and said it was the best trip of her life. That is convincing enough!

This adventure was sort of a two-part one since I had to go pick up my passport + visa from the consulate this week. My friend Rebecca is visiting (lots more on that to come!) so yesterday we ventured into the city with Anderson to pick it up. We took the bus into the city, met Ash for coffee, took the train to Edgecliff (where the consulate is), and then went back into the city to celebrate at the Max Brenner chocolate cafe (of course!) and then home again. Good day!

Tres amigos in the city

Buggy was chatting up a storm to random strangers on the bus!

Chocolate covered strawberries at Max Brenner

Much, much more on Vietnam to come!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Friday Adventure: Sydney Fish Market

Ash, Anderson, and I have decided that we are going to spend our free Fridays doing something different and exciting every week. Hello, Friday Adventures! Being the end of the week, we felt like we could easily fall into a patten of lounging around the house doing much of nothing (which believe me, there is nothing wrong with that!). There is so much to see and do in Sydney though so we might as well take advantage. I feel like my time here is flying - I've been here a month and a half already (!!!) - so I need to use my time wisely. 

Today, we went to the Sydney Fish Market. This trip was partly for our weekly adventure and partly because Ash wanted to stock up on some salmon. Honestly, it wasn't high on my list of places to see in Sydney. Those who know me well know that I am not a seafood person. At all. I am learning though and can finally add salmon to the list of foods I like. That is progress, my friends. 

First stop was coffee, of course. Isn't this menu cool?! It shows what is in each type of drink. The picture doesn't show it very well, but the white parts of the cups say 'milk'. Pretty clever. 

The smells were overwhelming. Ugh. It grosses me out just thinking about it now! And the seafood on display was not helping convince me that seafood is in fact worth eating. Ewwww. 

While we waited for them to make our fish no longer look like a fish (no skin or bones and in fillets, thank you very much), we went outside. The smell was better and the view is prettier - the market sits on the water. It was overcast and dizzily, but again, this Seattle girl wasn't bothered. And Anderson spent most of his time looking up at the birds. Oh to be that easily entertained. ;) 

It was a good morning! While I can't say it's my favorite place in Sydney, it was worth the visit. Plus, we got some good salmon, which surprisingly, I'm excited to eat. Ash is a very good cook, which definitely helps! 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Easter Show

I'm a little late to the party with this post as Easter was a while ago (or so it seems). Anyways, Easter in Australia is a big deal. It’s a four day holiday weekend complete with the Sydney Royal Easter Show and hot cross buns. Those are the big differences I noticed compared to the states at least.

While the Easter show sounds like it could be an actual show or performance, it’s actually more like a county fair with a fancy name. And in the city.

Pete, Ash, Anderson, and I went to the Easter show the Friday before Easter. Despite the rain and crowds, we had a great day exploring and eating our way through the show.

We ate lots of food: crumpets with nutella, coffee, dagwood dogs (corndogs) and cheese on a stick, lemonade, pork buns, nachos, and ice cream. Oh boy, that list makes me sick just thinking about it!
Nice try, Pete!  

We saw lots of fun sights:

A map where people places stickers to mark where they are from.
Ash & I proudly put our sticker in Washington. We were only two of four! 
The 'American' food at the show

But the most of fun of all was getting our showbags. What are showbags you ask? Only the best things ever! U.S. fairs take note. There is a shed full of stands with showbags. You buy a showbag for a small price and it’s full of things of a certain theme. For example, Ash and I both got a Style bag that had a purse, hat, scarf, sunglasses, hair thing, and many other random samples and things. They have lots of bags for kids, bags full of chocolate, and many other random things. So cool!

The showbag shed craziness 

Happy with our showbags!
Anderson got George from Peppa Pig for his showbag

Oh, and hot cross buns. Maybe I’m just uneducated, but I only knew they existed because of the nursery rhyme. Have you ever had hot cross buns? They're pretty good!