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16 March 2012

A friend of mine since the LiveJournal days {circa 2002} runs a mommy blog and is one of the reasons I decided to start a Blogger account.
She has the cutest little 16-month old girl :)
And today I have the pleasure of taking over her blog guest posting.

Why am I posting on a mommy blog?  Guess you'll have to come on over and find out ;)

Photo Credit

Tourists in Our Own Town

15 March 2012

Sometimes, tourists have all the fun.  They see everything with fresh eyes, and capture every beautiful part of a city.  To take full advantage of where we live, sometimes we have to adopt the tourist mentality.

Today, we did exactly that.

I arrived home from work, shedded the suit, grabbed the camera, and we were off.

Travel by ferry is an essential part of the tourist experience in Sydney.  It also just happens to be the quickest way to the Opera House.  Score for low-cost, open-air, on the water transport.

There's something so special about Sydney Harbour.  When the sun is shining, and the ferry carries you straight toward the Opera House and Harbour feel simply captivated.  There are certain places, and monuments, and conditions that beg you to take a photo.

The Opera House is one of those places.  I literally have hundreds of photos of the Opera House.  And yet, every single time I see it, I feel compelled to snap another.  It is so majestic, so grand in it's stature and placement, it simply demands attention.  I love it so much.  It takes my breath away every time.

We wandered around Circular Quay for a bit, before heading over to the Customs House.

Jeff was dying to show me the lobby, where they have a full model of the city under a glass floor.  It was very cool; however, difficult to capture on film.

After the Customs House, I wanted to wander through The Rocks.  Nestled under the Harbour Bridge, The Rocks is where it all began.  When British settlers {and convicts} arrived in Australia in the late 1700's, they first settled in this area.  Much of the history and architecture remains.

It's funny how I disdained history growing up.  My parents took me to Europe when I was 13.  At that time, I could not have been less interested in architecture or historical significance.  I wanted to know if our hotels had pools {they didn't} and if there would be cute boys {there weren't.}

Now?  I'm finally gaining an appreciation of what's old and beautiful.  It makes me sad that new construction seems to lack the quality and timelessness so easily found in older architecture.  I get giddy walking over cobblestone that's been around since the 1800's.  I love the stained glass windows, high ceilings, and attention to detail from that era.

To find such old, beautiful buildings, situated under one of the most iconic landmarks in Sydney?  Perfection.

Our Journey to Oz

14 March 2012

It was late January {2011} when I got the E-mail.  "Hey Emily, it's Nathan from Australia.  We met in Amsterdam.  Hey mate, just letting you know we have a couple of positions opening in Sydney...descriptions are attached.  What do you think?"

My heart skipped a beat.  I'd spent the months prior mulling over job decisions.  My job contract was ending in June.  And although several other positions had been offered to me, none felt right.  The funny thing about intuition is that it's very hard to explain to others.  It doesn't use logic.  Sure, the positions looked great on paper.  More money, a permanent role, career progression.  But my insides were screaming NO!  So I lied.  I told the managers that it wasn't enough money.  That the commute was too long.  That is just wasn't a good fit.

It was a leap of faith.  I had nothing lined up.  No back-up plan.  Just my faith in the Universe and my affirmations for the new year.


So there I was, on a chilly morning in January, sitting at my computer with my slippers on.  I was planning for the day.  Nothing special.  Until I saw the email.  Immediately, that same something inside me said YES!  This is the reason those other positions weren't right for you.  This is what's in store for you.  Then my brain kicked in.  Wait one second.  I need to talk to my husband about this.  And who's to say the company will approve it?  No one's ever heard of them transferring a sales rep across the planet.  And are you really ready to move? What about the dogs? What will our families say?  My mind was racing.  And yet, that small, quiet, unassuming voice was there.  This is for you.

J and I discussed the opportunity.  We talked about our dreams, our goals, what we wanted out of life.  It was an opportunity to expand our horizons, to spread our wings, to travel and explore and live in that faraway continent you have to turn the globe to see.  We also talked about our fears, our concerns, the impact of making such a decision.  When it was all said and done, we were excited.

We thought 2-3 years would be the perfect amount of time.  Long enough to get the full experience, but not too long away from friends and family.  We also thought the company would give us a nice relocation package.  We were wrong on both accounts.  When the offer came, it was for a one-year contract.  The open position was the result of a newly-created specialty sales team that only had guaranteed funding for one year.  The manager was very keen to have me on board, but couldn't swing much for relocation, as they would be investing significant funds into visa sponsorship.

Okay, now what?  We were already excited.  In our minds, we were already moving to Australia.  But we had to adjust our plan.  We knew 12-months would go by in the blink of an eye, so we didn't want to disrupt our entire lives.  For that reason, we found a couple to sublease our apartment {furnished.}  We also approached my sister about taking our dogs for the year.  Because Australia doesn't have rabies, the process for bringing dogs in the country is long and stringent.  It didn't make sense to spend over $10,000 and wait 6 months to have our dogs come to Oz for the 6 remaining months.  My sister agreed to take them.  {For the record, this was seriously SO heartbreaking and a very, very difficult decision.  Maybe I will find the strength to write about it at some point.}

"How can you say goodbye to me?!?"

With the loose ends tied up, and after 3-weeks living out of suitcases between friends' houses and the Ho-Jo in Torrance {yuck!} waiting for the visa approval, we were ready.

On the night of May 22nd, 2011 we said goodbye to LA, and our adventure commenced.

5 suitcases and 2 backpacks

Slipper power
{Incidentally, I always dress like a hobo on planes and then wonder why I never get upgraded.}

That was almost nine months ago.  Where has the time gone?

It's time to start answering those hard questions of "What's Next?"  Those answers aren't sitting well with me, at the moment.  But I'll share them with you, nonetheless.  Stay tuned.

Tuesday Travel Diaries: Australia

13 March 2012

Hey everyone! It's Carley from Findingravity...Handshake, high five, fist bump into explosion--take your pick. I am SO happy to be here. I was psyched when I came across Emily's blog, because I've spent my fair share of time in the wonderful land of Australia. What was even more exciting, was when I read that Emily spends a lot of time in Newcastle, where I spent a semester studying, and a year later returned for five months of teaching.

During my first trip to Australia, I had the opportunity to travel all over the country. I saw some AMAZING places, but today, I'm going to dissect one particularly memorable trip.
Alright, alright, I'll stop blabbing. On to the goods!

The basics: where, when, & how long?
In 2009, after two months of "studying" abroad, the University Of Newcastle rewarded us with the equivalent of an American "spring break". While my friends back home were jetting off from the newly melted snow to celebrate Spring Break in their bathing suits, I had already spent ten weeks in tropical weather. My American friends and I decided to change things up and experience a different side of Australia. After researching various destinations we finally decided on spending three days in the Blue Mountains, a mountainous region in Katoomba, New South Whales, Australia.

What route did you take? And how much was the flight?
Haaa..*Nervous laugh*
Whenever I travel, I manage to get myself lost, it's just a natural reoccurring theme in my life. I couldn't break this trend just because I had been living in Australia for two and a half months. My friends Michelle, Sarah, and I arrived at the train platform promptly at 10 am. The round trip train tickets from Newcastle to Katoomba were 40$. We knew that it would take five hours hours by train. We would be taking a train from Newcastle to Sydney, and stopping at Strathfield to switch trains. Then we would take another train from Sydney to Katoomba, where the blue mountains are located. We didn't want to waste any part of the day. The idea was to arrive around 3pm, drop our things off at the hostel, and explore the town.

We asked the conductor which train we were supposed to board, and all three of us confirmed that he said platform four. After settling in our seats, we all realized we were exhausted. I set my alarm for an hour and a half, and we all took a snooze.

We woke up on time and arrived a half hour later, right on time. Except, it didn't look like Sydney. We exited the train and our intuitions were correct. It was a country looking town, surrounded by bush, and barely any buildings. We had all previously been to Sydney, and knew that Sydney was home to Darling Harbor and Sydney harbor. This place was home to farms, dirt roads, and a lot of grassy hills.
We tried to justify our mistake by convincing ourselves that we were at the wrong train station, and perhaps we switched trains further up the road. After following an old couple to their homes, assuming that they, too, were lost, we accepted the fact that the conductor must have told us the wrong platform.
We were in DUNGOG. Just 8 hours shy of our destination. We had to backtrack on a train to Hamilton, a station near Newcastle, where we came from. Then, we had switch to the train that should have taken us to Sydney. Lastly, we made it onto the train to Katoomba.. Stops and train swaps included, it was roughly an eight hour trip, which was meant to be a four or five hour trip. After a long day we were finally safe in Katoomba, home to the Blue Mountains.

(*Green is where we started, blue is where we were meant to swap trains, yellow is Katoomba (where we were meant to end up)....Red is where we actually ended up).

Who did you travel with?
I traveled with my good friends, Michelle and Sarah. Michelle is from Colorado,
Sarah is from South Carolina, and I am from New Hampshire.

(Sarah is on the left, I am in the middle, and Michelle is on the right).

Tell us where you stayed.
We stayed in a hostel called The YHA. When you travel and backpack around a country, you familiarize quickly with hostels. I think in America, hostels have a bad reputation after the horror movie, "Hostel" came out. It was only about 30$ a night, and we shared the room with a few other female travelers. There were safes that we could rent, a kitchen, shared bathrooms, and a computer pod.

Did you encounter anything unexpected?
Oh, you mean AFTER our eight hour long excursion? Well, sort of. There was a lady sleeping below Sara who snored really loud, so none of us could sleep. Sarah was on the top bunk, and tried shaking the bed to get her to stop. I had my debit card stolen while I was in the computer pod, which I canceled shortly after realizing that someone had taken it. Other than that, the three day trip ran smoothly. Sarah, Michelle, and I are all funny, easy going, adventurous girls, who can have fun doing just about anything. The whole trip was comical, exciting, and refreshing.

How accurate are the stereotypes?
There weren't any stereotypes of the people in Katoomba, but there are some pretty funny Australian stereotypes.
For example: Nobody owns pet koalas, BUT, we found a pretty big koala that we wanted to take home with us.

(Left to Right: Me in the black shirt, Sarah in the middle, and Michelle on the right)

Anything you hear about Australians being laid back and welcoming is completely true.
They really do embrace that whole "no worries" thing.

Tell us about the food.
We stopped at this INCREDIBLE restaurant on our way back from hiking one day. The balcony overlooked the blue mountains. I remember having a chicken schnitzel. There was also this really great restaurant we ate at before we went home called The Common Ground Cafe. The inside of it resembled a tree house, and it was really cozy.

Were there any must see’s?
This is the fun part! There were SO many must see's! I would definitely recommend venturing to the three sisters once you're in Katoomba. They are in the heart of the Blue Mountains. The three sisters are three rock formations, named after an Aboriginal tale of three sisters from the Katoomba tribe. They are truly a sight worth seeing.

I also recommend taking The Giant Stairway through the Blue Mountains. We only climbed down about half way, because the whole climb takes about two hours. You get to see the Blue Mountains from all different angles, and the stairs lead you right up to the face of one of the Three Sisters.

Lastly, there are some gorgeous trails surrounding the Blue Mountains. The three of us decided to just start hiking to see where our own curiosity would take us. We found some really cool waterfalls. The Blue Mountains have this really authentic, organic feel to them. There was no hype, it was just about getting to know the nature of our surroundings.

Do you have any regrets?
Not a single one! I don't even regret getting lost on the train! I was with two of my best friends, and we made the most out of it. Plus, it made for a pretty hysterical story.

Would you go back?
I did end up returning to Australia a year later to teach high school English. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get enough time off to visit the Blue Mountains again! I will definitely return during my next trip.

Anything else you'd like to share about the trip?
Yes! There is a cable car that runs right between the Blue Mountains, and we didn't know about it until we had already started hiking. I would definitely recommend going on that. Unfortunately, I can't vouch for how sweet it was, but I was able to take a picture of it, and it looked like something I would have done had I known it existed.

Thank you SO much for journeying back to this trip with me, I had so much fun. Having nothing but a backpack, nature, and each other for company, was an experience that I will remember forever. I'm so glad that I was able to see a side of Australia that people don't usually think of, past the sandy beaches.
Feel free to read about more of my travels on my blog, or follow me on twitter @carbarton


Carley--thank you so much for sharing your adventure with us!  J and I visited the Blue Mountains last August and loved it.  It's such a beautiful place :)

If you enjoyed reading about Carley's trip, please consider checking out her blog.  The thing I like about Carley's blog is that it's no-frills...just great writing.  She doesn't really do link-ups or giveaways {that I've seen}, she's just a very funny and prolific writer.

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Tuesday Travel Diaries

Recipe Love

12 March 2012

You should know that I'm not a great cook.  Somehow, I made it to adulthood with a love for eating, and a loathe for cooking.  Naturally, that's a problem.  For my waistline and my pocketbook.  When we lived in SoCal, we probably ate out or ordered in four nights a week.  Not only that, I was hosting tons of work dinners at fancy places where they make brussel spouts melt into a buttery puddle of deliciousness on your tongue.

So when we moved to Sydney, we decided to make some positive changes.  Going from two incomes to one would require it of us, and we knew we'd be healthier for it.  In the last 10 months, I'm happy to report that we're averaging 2-3 restaurant meals per month.  Much, much better.

However, we are still working on finding recipes that we both like {I'm vegetarian, he's not.  I like mild.  He loves spicy.  I could live off fruit.  He's never eaten a banana...or pineapple...or grapes....or strawberries.}

Here's one I found recently that we both agreed was a winner.

Of course, I didn't follow the recipe exactly.  I added lots more zucchini, and mushrooms, and black olives {the one ingredient that hubby and I both *love* in everything.}  I also used less pasta.  When I make it again, I'll add even more veggies and even less pasta.

However, this recipe is pretty fool-proof and delicious.

Of course the cheese burnt.  I had the heat 15 degrees lower *and* it had only cooked for 1/3 of the time.  Our oven is seriously possessed!  But it was still oh-so-tasty :)

  1. Boil pasta.
  2. Chop up lots of zucchini (5+) and pan-fry them in a little olive oil.  Add mushrooms with just a few minutes to go.
  3. Once pasta and veggies are cooked, put them in a baking dish and mix 'em up.
  4. Add lots of cheese (we used 3-cheese for pizzas...moz, parm, and ???)
  5. Bake for 10ish minutes or until cheese is melted.
  6. Enjoy the deliciousness!

Happy Monday, peeps!  Mine was very good--had a great day in the field with my boss.  I'm thinking maybe he was my lucky charm.  The day involved a customer of mine, who is quite elderly and a very senior doctor, flipping the bird to the car behind me.  The car was upset because I was stopped to talk to said doctor, and was, thus, blocking his way into the parking lot.  It might have been the oddest, AND awesomest {is that a word?} sales call ever.

P.S. Hubby and I have tickets to the opening night of Hunger Games in Sydney.  Woop.Woop.

P.S.S. Let's be friends outside the blog.  We can be Twitter friends or Facebook buddies.  Whaddya say?
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