Despite the fact that some parts of Australia had terrible weather (cyclone in the Northern Territory and torrential rain and hail in Melbourne), we had a lovely Christmas in Adelaide.
I started off my day with a three-mile run in a park near Al's mom and dad's home at 8 am. The park was full of walkers and joggers and dogs, and everybody was happy since it was a sunny and warm Christmas morning. Al's mom and dad were also out walking, and Al went there to run (although I never go with him since he runs so much faster than I do).
At 11, Al's brother Nick, his wife Anna, Al's brother Hamish, his girlfriend Ayzsa and her son Nate came over for mimosas and presents.
At 12:30, we arrived at Aunt Susie and Uncle Andy's new house in the Adelaide Hills for lunch. As usual, there were drinks and plenty of food!
We also had our assigned seats and our Christmas bon bons (they contain the Christmas hats, as you will see in a few pictures).
We had passed appetizers before the big meal, such as amazing homemade sushi, spring rolls, and smoked salmon tarts. After that, we had lunch. I filled my plate with roasted potatoes, green beans, incredibly moist and delicious turkey, and tomato pie (sliced tomatoes, onions, and crusty bread).
Most of the fam (minus myself) were from Adelaide, but there were also two uncles and one aunt from Melbourne.
I sat in between Uncle Tim and Jamie (my future father-in-law). I have fun no matter where I sit on Christmas since we are always a chatty bunch.
Soon after we started eating, we cracked open our bon bons and put on our Christmas hats. Festive, eh?
Instead of going out and buying presents for everybody there, we did a "Kris Kringle" gift exchange. Each person buys a gift with a $20 limit and wraps it in red paper. We then take turns grabbing presents. We did the same thing last year in Melbourne
when there were 30 people there, and it worked out very well.
I got a pairing knife and a dish-washing scrubbing bristle gadget that fills up with soap (I really can't think of the name of it right now...if there even is a name for it). I'm pretty stoked about them, but I'll probably trade for Al's Jamie Oliver's 30-Minute Meals
cookbook. He got the same thing last year for Christmas, and I really don't see the point of him having two of them. He doesn't, either.
We ate our dessert on the patio.
There were Haigh's
truffles, mini mince pies, brandy butter, Christmas pudding, cream, ice cream, and a saliva-inducing bowl of fresh raspberries. If you don't know what these desserts are, then look 'em up on the 'net!
I have zero complaints about the desserts. Everything was just perfect.
Soon after dessert, we got a visit from Father Christmas. He drove up the hill on Uncle Andy's jeep. Perhaps Andy let Santa borrow his car, which was very nice. We looked around for Andy during this ordeal, but we couldn't find him. Maybe he ate too much and had to lie down for a power nap.
We expected Santa to bring his reindeer, but he instead had his Little Helper named Lolla.
As soon as he got to the top, they made a dash for a the house. They had important presents to deliver.
We didn't see Santa after that, but we found Andy a little while later. I wonder what he was doing all of that time?
Santa also visited last year, but there were too many children present for Lolla to make an appearance. Alastair's family is just full laughs...yes?
I hope everybody else had a wonderful Christmas! I'll be in Adelaide relaxing until the first or second of January, and then we'll go back to Melbourne until it's time to go back to the States. As of now, I'm enjoying my relaxation and am not looking forward to going back yet!
P.S. Thanks to Penny for letting me steal a few photos off of her camera!
I don't want to rub it in, but it's very nice in Australia right now. I'm prancing around in a sundresses and thongs (....or flip-flops), and the sun is out until 9 pm. I have zero complaints here.
I've been working hard to keep in shape over the past couple of months with my P90X
workouts, and I don't want to lose my fitness abilities while I'm overseas for more than three weeks. Like many people, I have the tendency to get into "vacation mode" and stuff my face silly. Unfortunately, you gain just as much weight with "vacation food" as you do with "normal food". I've only been here for a few days, but here are some things I'm trying to do in order to avoid extra holiday pounds:1. Eat smart at the airport/on the airplanes (especially when you're traveling for 24+ hours)
Call me lucky or cursed, but airplane food makes me physically ill.
As a result, I really try to limit what I eat while I'm in the air. When you're on an airplane for more than half of a day, one of the last things that you want is an upset stomach. In order to keep myself happy, I avoid any food that could trigger any sort of sickness (such as the mystery meat and creamy foods). I don't always clear my plate, but I'd rather get off the plane feeling slightly hungry than gravely ill. Plus, when you're not moving much for that many hours, you don't want to to be eating too much.
Flying is also another excuse to avoid any fried or heavy food several hours before getting on a plane. If I need to get something from the airport, I need to eat light and healthy foods and avoid beer. I want everything to sit well in my stomach.
I got a light snack at the Brisbane airport: three samples of cheese with crackers!
2. If you have a kitchen at your accommodation, use it.
Alastair hardly has any food at his apartment. Luckily, I packed some Annie's macaroni and cheese
just for that reason. I stopped at the grocery store for frozen green beans and milk, and I made myself a delicious and healthy meal that lasted two lunches. It was cheaper than going out for lunch, and I'm sure that it was healthier.
I know that we're going to eat a lot of our meals in restaurants, but we'll make sure to use the kitchen as well. Cooking healthy meals in the kitchen is a guaranteed way to avoid weight gain on your holidays!
Despite having a gaping blister on my right foot and a broken sandal (already!), I can say without hesitation that I love walking around Melbourne. Walking, of course, is one of the best ways to fit in exercise while away from home.
Alastair works in the city, and his apartment is about a 45-minute walk from there. A few days ago, I walked into town so that I could meet him after work. I got great views of the skyline for most of the way.
Along the river, I passed the sporting complex.
Melbourne has a lot of Christmas spirit!
They have Christmas windows, just like Chicago (and plenty of other cities!).
We went to TGI Fridays that night, although that really doesn't have anything to do with anything here. I was just surprised that their food tasted better than any TGI Friday's I've been to in the States. That's all.
Yesterday, we walked from Al's apartment to St Kilda, which is one of my favorite spots in Melbourne. There were so many people at the beach.
Walking is the best way to explore a new city. Unless the weather is terrible, your shoes are uncomfortable, or you have too much to carry, you have no excuse to NOT do some strolling. Your body will thank you, too.
4. Exercise. A little.
It's so easy for me to throw my exercise routine out the window when I travel. However, I don't want to lose my ability to do 25+ push-ups on my toes at once and do many crazy yoga poses that I was never able to do before I started P90X. While I'm not going to follow the program exactly, I'm still doing exercises as much as I can. Here is what I have done so far:
- Tuesday: 30-min interval workout on the treadmill in Al's building. I did a 5-minute warm-up, followed by 25 minutes of running. I'd run at a reasonable pace for one minute, and then I'd sprint for one minute. After that, I found a power yoga routine online. I'd post it...but I can't find it.
- Wednesday: I found this crazy workout on Pinterest:
Do it at your own risk.
Yesterday and today, I completed workouts from my P90X DVD booklet. I did Cardio X yesterday, and I did Legs and Back today. Instead of using my power chords to "mock" chin-ups, I used that time during the video to do push-ups and triceps dips.
I actually bought a travel toga mat from Amazon.com. I highly recommend this one.
It weighs one pound, it folds up easily in my suitcase, and it works very well as a yoga mat. I also brought my resistance bands.
I go to Adelaide tomorrow, and I'm not expecting to do any workout videos while I'm there. I do plan on running outside, doing my push-ups, and using my resistance bands.
If I don't see you before Christmas, then have a great holiday! Also, happy Hannukah to my Jewish friends!
Hi friends! I'm just letting you know that I'm leaving for Australia in four hours. I'll see you on the other side!
I had my last day of class today, which means that I'm going to spend the next week (until Wednesday afternoon) inputting data entry into my brain. That's just another term for "studying for finals". This is what my kitchen looked like before my parents got home from work:
The surface was literally covered in chemistry!
This is what my laundry basket looked like:
I wish I could say that this is a rare occurrence, but my laundry basket looks like this every week. I blame it on the fact that my laundry basket is small and that I wear bulkier clothes in the winter.
Now, everything is clean and folded.
I also brought back the veggie chili recipe
that I made earlier in the year during Adelaide's winter. I topped it again with non-fat Greek yogurt, but I changed the cheese. Since I can easily get my hands on Mexican-inspired cheese in America, I sprinkled that on top (which melted right into the warm chili...YUM!). I also used quinoa again in place of lentils. It's a great winter recipe, and it's so simple to make.
Awkward Laura Photos
I got a message from my friend Laura today asking if I had any awkward pictures of her my our childhood (it had something to do with her work). I mentioned Laura in one of my most recent posts
about my Harand Camp reunion, because we went to camp together for at least four years! Naturally, we took tons of pictures together. I didn't have any on my computer, but I dug out my old photo albums, pulled out a few good ones, and scanned them.
Here are some of my favorites!
Below: Laura and me in our room in the summer of 2001. We were getting ready to perform the musical "Grease"
(we did a performance for the parents at the end of every session), and we just teased our hair. When I don't straighten my hair, I have a huge afro mop of curly hair.
There's Laura dancing to "Cool Rider" a few hours later!
My roommates for that summer: Laura, Stacey, Jess (in front) We were dressed up for our banquet, which happened at the end of every session. We always had chicken kiev and chocolate cake. Charlie's Angels was also clearly a hot thing at the time.
This picture was taken the following summer. We had a dance (with a DJ, I think) every session, and we always got to dress up as something. Here is how I labeled us in my photo album (from left to right): Baby Spice, Hula Slut #1, PUNK, Hula Slut #2. Obviously, I was very mature for my age.
Real names (from left to right): Mimi, me, Laura, Jessica
The same year, my counselor planned a spa night for us for my 16th birthday (I always had my birthday at camp). We ordered pizza and watched Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion while covering our faces in masks and cucumbers. I remember having fun.
Sometimes, I really wish that I could go back to those days. Actually, I wish it a lot. Those were some of the best times of my life. I'm so fortunate to keep in touch with many of those girls. They are irreplaceable to me!
Time to go back to data entry! Catch y'all later.
Happy Monday, friends! I hope everybody had a wonderful weekend. I had a great one myself, and my dad's dinner from Sunday night was one of the reasons I liked it so much.
On the menu:
Oven roasted grouper with chopped apples and onions
Multigrain Pilaf (with a few extra additions)
Steamed broccoli with melted cheese
When I move out of the house, one of the things that I will miss the most is my dad's healthy cooking. Interestingly, my mom also started cooking once a week. She hasn't cooked a meal for us since I was a wee little girl. My dad enjoyed taking responsibility for the cooking, and my mom liked baking. I wasn't a deprived child. Anyway, my mom's cooking has been a great success! She made bread from scratch twice, and I always think it's very impressive when people do that. She even kneaded the dough by herself, since we don't have a bread maker.
New Gym Equipment: Goodies or Baddies?
Since I started P90X
, I've been using a resistance band (roped around our elliptical machine) to "mock" my pull ups/chin up, etc. If you don't have a pull up bar, they show you how to work the same muscles with a band. It's not as big of a challenge, but it still works. I never really considered trying a pull up bar until my mom came home from the store with one from Iron Gym
Being my impulsive little self, I immediately ripped it out of the box and assembled it. After looking around the basement, my mom and I realized that the only place we could use it in our basement was over the door of our utility room.
It doesn't look welcoming at all (I am actually scared of utility rooms and still somewhat believe that monsters live in there), but I figured that it should be fine. If I disappeared in the basement for more than a few hours, hopefully my parents would figure out by then that a monster probably grabbed me and gobbled me up in the crawl space. Then, they would have wished that they believed me about mythical creatures down there.
My mom also bought a Body Fit mat to cushion my joints. I've wanted one of these for a while, because I worry about jumping up and down
on our concrete basement floor. I used it to run in place during my warm up tonight, and I didn't feel any pain in my shins at all. This mat is a keeper. I'm looking forward to using it for plyometrics tomorrow.
As for the other purchase, I'm not sure if we're going to keep it. I did a few rounds of chin ups/pull ups during my workout today (assisted by a chair), and then it slid off the ledge while I was dangling on it. Then, it happened again. I'm lucky that I didn't get hurt. I'm thinking that it's not on there correctly, so I'll play around with it this week. I'd really like to use it to improve my strength, but I also don't want to break any of my bones.
I also don't (really) believe that monsters live in my utility room. I am, however, afraid of pipes. That might be a story for another time.
It's nearly winter, which of course means that it's Soup Season! We had Cedar Lane
Chopped Vegetable and Barley Soup in our fridge, so I heated it up and tried it. It's wonderful! The soup is so thick and full of veggies, which I love. It was actually so thick that I added some vegetable broth to it. I also sprinkled on parmesan cheese and devoured the bowl. If you live near a Costco and have a membership, you should take this home with you!
Sweet dreams, friends!
Jewish or not, we have a tree every year. We cover it in blue and white, and it becomes a Channukah bush. Last night, we decorated it.
I've been away for a few years, so I'm not up to date with all of our ornaments. Here are my current favorites:
The Cardinal on a Branch
The Flying Angel Mutt with a Bone
The Humane Society Loves Christmas Trees/Channukah Bushes
AND our Personalized Puppy Ornaments! I didn't even know that we had these. It was a little sad, because we have two additional ones for two dogs that we don't have anymore. These ones make me smile, though!
When the tree was done, I had a slice of home made pizza and a glass (or two) of wine.
I love Friday nights at home!
Hello friends! I made this recipe back in October, but I waited a while to post this since this is the perfect winter comfort food!
Here is what you need to make this tasty Turkey Spaghetti Bolognese dish (makes four servings):
- One large carrot
- 2 stalks celery
- 1 red pepper
- 1 white onion (or 1/2 large onion)
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1.25 lbs lean ground turkey (can substitute ground beef or soy product)
- 6 oz tomato paste
- 14.5 oz diced tomatoes
- 13.5 oz whole wheat spaghetti
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Oregano (or any other spices that you want to add)
- White or black pepper
- Worcester sauce (for added flavor-not required)
- Vegetable broth
- Parmesan cheese (DUH!)
I started out by finely chopping up the veggies and garlic. There are many ingredients going into the sauce, and you don't want it to be too chunky (unless you like extra chunky sauce).
Once the veggies are chopped, warm a pan and throw them in there. Poke them around for a good 15-20 minutes, or until the onions start to brown.
Next, add your ground protein. I picked out Extra Lean Jennie-O Ground Turkey Breast
. The extra-lean meat is a few extra dollars than the others, so it's really up to you whether you want to pick that one or not.
Dump the contents into the pan and use your spatula to poke around at the meat. Turn the heat up a little and quickly break the meat apart. You know that you're done when it looks slightly brown and crumbly. This shouldn't take more than a few minutes.
Next, add the tomato paste, the diced tomatoes, and a cup of water to lock in the moisture. Put the cover on your pot (you need to cover it with something) and simmer on low heat for 20 minutes.
While you're cooking your sauce, you can make the pasta. Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the box/bag. I use whole wheat pasta, but you can use anything that you like.
When you go back to your sauce, taste it and figure out what else it needs. My dad walked in the door just as I was finishing this up, and he added all sorts of goodies to add in flavor. We threw in mushrooms (we gave them enough time to cook), garlic powder, worcester sauce, white pepper, and vegetable broth. If you don't have vegetable broth, you may have to add more water so that your sauce doesn't get dry.
Soon, we were ready to eat! Of course, I added parmesan cheese.
This was the first time that I ever cooked a real meal for my parents (pathetic, right??), and they loved it so much that they went up for seconds. I made it again last week with fusilli (short, spiral-shaped pasta), and they gobbled it up again. They are picky eaters, so I know that this dish is a keeper!
This is also a great way to get your fix of veggies. If you have family members who don't like vegetables (or if you don't like them yourself), this is the way to sneak them into food.
Happy Weekend, friends!