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Ryan and I celebrated Thanksgiving on a Sunday with over twenty Australian friends, eager to share this American tradition with us.  There is something about celebrating a beloved holiday in a foreign country…

Having Thanksgiving in Australia heightened the meaning and significance of the tradition.  Yes, we all have so much for which to be thankful.  Not the least of which is our memories of Thanksgivings-of-the-past.  I was overwhelmed several times throughout the preparation with memories of Thanksgivings with my grandmother and her always-present-though-somewhat-irrational fear of running out of food.

Indeed, our spread of food was overwhelming; two turkeys, ham, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, corn-bread stuffing, sweet potato casserole, scalloped corn casserole, honey-glazed carrots, deviled eggs, salad, and rolls — much of which was made at the hands of our Australian friends.

Spread

We finished the meal with teas, coffees, and nine pies!  We had three pumpkins, four pecans, and two apple pies which were all delicious!

Pies

Ryan and I had the best time, despite a few obligatory meltdowns, preparing for the special day.  We sent invitations (Thank you, Paperless Post), bought food, found recipes, bought more food, found flowers, arranged the flowers with friends, bought more food, and cooked our hearts out.

TablesBut it was all worth it. We gave thanks with our Australian friends over a bountiful feast.  We gave thanks for our family and friends, in Australia and overseas, especially for those who’ve passed away but while they were here, they taught us the importance of gathering to share a meal with loved ones.  It was a Thanksgiving to remember.  And…we didn’t run out of food.  Grandma would be proud.

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Melbourne has a HUGE coffee culture and I can openly admit that we’ve assimilated quite well to that aspect of the city.  If you’re a regular reader, you’ll remember from my earlier post that it took us awhile to get used to the ordering system but now that we’ve been here a year and a half, we’re quite proficient in the language of Australian coffee.

Melbourne boasts some of the best coffee in Australia.  The baristas are trained and some consider their work to be an artform.  While I won’t go that far, there is definitely a difference between a good and bad coffee.  A good coffee makes you close your eyes, lick your lips, and say, “mmmm.” Australians, you know what I mean.  The only disappointment is that a coffee of this quality can cost anywhere between $3.50-$6.00…a lot for a cuppa Joe.

But all is not lost, dear reader.  A friend of ours recently told us how to make a homemade latte, without a machine.  It takes more time than just brewing a plunger coffee but as is so often the case, it is worth the wait.

Homemade No-Machine-Needed Latte

  • 2 heaping teaspoons/serving instant coffee grounds
  • Equal parts raw sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water/serving
  • 1 cup/serving milk (or you can use half water/half milk to make more of a cappuccino)

Whisk first three ingredients together for several minutes until you’ve got a wonderful froth and your kitchen smells like a café. Heavenly.

Split the froths between mugs.

Meanwhile, bring milk just to the boil but don’t let it burn.  Remove from heat immediately and pour into the coffee mugs.

ENJOY!

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1.  Yes, we are alive!  We have been uber busy (and slacking on blog posts) with my dad in town, lots of work, the Olympics, and {insert any other excuse I can think of here}.

2.  Speaking of the Olympics…all over the country Australians were disappointed with the performance of their Olympians.  On the other side of the coin, it was a great time to be American!  Even though we couldn’t see any coverage of the American athletes since all coverage of the games here was of Aussies we still watched the medal count like hawks.

3.  In case you missed it, “The Economist” magazine ranked Melbourne #1 for a second year as “Most Liveable City” in the world.  It should be noted that Adelaide, Perth, Sydney, and Auckland were all ranked higher on the list than the first US city, which was NYC.  Cost of living must not have been a factor in the study, which I found incredibly ironic coming from “The Economist”.  Read what the Aussies had to say about their first-place finish.

4.  We are jazzed about our return home in less than a year and making our list of things to do/visit in Australia before we leave.  Any suggestions?

5.  We’ve missed you.  I can’t wait to tell you what we’ve been up to.  Stay tuned…

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One year ago (give or take a few days) Ryan and I got a bit dressed up…

Stood up in front of God and our family and friends…

and committed our lives to each other.  Magical.  And then we celebrated.  And danced…

Three short days afterwards we headed to make our merry home in Australia, which meant our wedding reception felt like a going away party too.  Read our very first post about our adventure to Australia.

We marvel at all our life’s blessings in this first year of marriage.  It has been wonderful and amazing, full of conversations and learning more about each other, non-stop laughter, home-cooked meals, never-ending games of Rummy (most of which I win), nights out with friends, and traveling together around this half of the world.

Speaking of travel, to celebrate our very first anniversary we are currently at the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland!  Here’s to avoiding being eaten by sharks and poisoned by jelly fish so we make it to year two.  Happy Anniversary to Us!

*Amazing wedding photos were taken by Wendi Riggens

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Sometimes you have to forget all you’ve ever learned about portion control, good carbs versus bad carbs, and trans-saturated-you-will-die-if-you-eat-these-fats.  For our normally very health-conscious house, this was a few weeks ago.  Ryan was celebrating a Birthday and we had some left over apples.  Those are our excuses.  You know there always is at least one.

For Ryan’s Birthday I cooked him his all-time favorite Mongolian Beef.  I had been looking for a winning recipe, one that rivals our favorite Chinese place back home.   While I don’t know if I can claim the title yet, Ryan thinks it’s the bomb-diggity and who am I to disagree?  I use the Mongolian Beef recipe from Blog Chef (whose pictures look much better than mine…where is that natural light when you need it?) but I add a red peppers (capsicum, here in Australia) to mine.

I also serve mine with the very unhealthy…wait for it…coconut rice!  (Insert gasp here).

Prep: 5 minutes
Total: 30 minutes

Servings: Makes 6 servings

2 cups water
1 1/2 cups canned unsweetened coconut milk
2 teaspoons (packed) golden brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups basmati rice (about 13 ounces), well rinsed, drained
1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut, lightly toasted

Combine 2 cups water, coconut milk, sugar, and salt in heavy large saucepan. Bring to simmer, then stir in rice. Cover, leaving slight opening for steam to escape. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 12 minutes. Cover tightly, remove from heat, and let stand 10 minutes. Transfer rice to bowl; sprinkle with toasted coconut.

Later in the week we were discussing what to do with our left-over apples that were going to go bad.  I was leaning towards something healthy like, you know, just eating them.  Ryan, on the other-hand, wanted to try an Apple Tarte Tatin again and basically sat on me and twisted my arm until I caved.  At least that’s my recollection of how it went down.

Apple Tarte Tatin and I have a sordid history. It was the one recipe who bested me…bad.  I don’t need to reopen old wounds but lets just say it has to do with burning sugar and unwittingly subbing cayenne pepper for cinnamon.  Bad.  Anyway, I found a new ATT recipe from the tried and true, Smitten Kitchen and this one was a hit.

It’s not a set-and-forget recipe but who doesn’t enjoy bathing apples in caramelizing sugar and nearly a stick of butter?

One of my favorite things about this is that it’s not really about presentation.  The apples are supposed to be a bit messy and the puff pastry goes on top and is flipped on its end later so it doesn’t matter how it looks in the pan.

The hardest thing is the flip.  Once it’s out of the oven you have to flip it upside down.  I left this to my equal parts strong and nimble husband.  Then you cut and serve with a bit of cream.  As they say in Oz, You beauty.

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Superbowl Monday?

It had all the elements of a Superbowl game;

Two big teams going head to head in a big East Coast clash…

Fan-fare and hoopla…

Superstars paying tribute to our nation with America, the Beautiful and the National Anthem. I got teary, like I always do…

Two star quarterbacks battling it out in true-hero fashion…

Controversy over the half-time show (Was the lip-synching disappointing? Yes. Worth any sort of hoopla or major discussion? Not exactly. )…

And a down-to-the-last-second finale which ended in favor of the Giants…

But this year the Superbowl lacked a few things:

  1. The game was shown live but on Monday morning.  Not exactly a rousing and energetic time for me.
  2. Here in Australia we don’t get to see the hilarious (and expensive) ads because they only air this country’s commercials.  It makes sense but it really does take something away from the whole experience.
  3. And finally, we couldn’t celebrate the Superbowl with a big P-A-R-T-Y with lots of drinks and apps, and good friends.

The ironic thing is, I’m pretty sure if we’d been in the states to watch the Big Game it would’ve passed as almost any other Sunday.  I know it’s cliche but there really is nothing like being away from home to make you appreciate the things that you take for granted…the things that make America America, even if those things are outrageously overpaid and over-worshipped football players.  (Just sayin’.)  Regardless, the Big Game is something and I was a proud (and admittedly homesick) American expatriate on Superbowl Monday.

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It’s the week of Christmas and we’re in denial.  I guess the first step to recovery is admitting the problem so there you go.  It doesn’t feel like Christmas could possibly be just a few short days away.  It’s true this Christmas there are a lot of differences to our previous Christmases.  It’s our first Christmas as a married couple, our first Christmas away from family, and our first Christmas in Australia.  Heaps to deal with.

Aubree, one of our ex-pat friends here in Oz, made the observation in one of her recent blog posts that Holidays in Australia just don’t seem to be as big of a deal as they are back home.  It certainly feels that way.  But I’m beginning to think that the holidays don’t seem like as big of a deal here to us because they just don’t feel like the holidays.

Six Reasons Why it Can’t be Christmas

1. I just started listening to Christmas music this week.  Back home the Christmas music for me starts blaring in the car and on Pandora the day after Thanksgiving, at the end of November.

2. I haven’t spent time with my favorite men from “Love Actually”, Hugh Grant, Rodrigo Santoro and Colin Firth, and consequently have not yet had myself a good holiday cry.  “A pity,” I say in my best British accent.

3. It’s too warm to be Christmas.  Outside it’s 70 degrees and sunny.  There’s no bleak winter sky or icky ice and snow.  And I’m wearing shorts.

4. I haven’t had one cookie exchange although my mom did send us some cookies all the way from her cookie exchange in the US.

5.  Ryan and I haven’t had one argument about me losing my mittens.  Last winter we probably discussed my mittens no less than once a day.

6.  And the real tragedy is that I have only wrapped two presents this year.  It’s really a lamentable fact for me since I love to wrap gifts and wrapped no less than 30 presents last Christmas.  And no, we’re not that generous with our friends and family, that also includes the presents we got for the family we adopted.  🙂

Well, knowing full well that December 25th will come, denial or no, we’re still preparing in the small ways that we can.  First, we’ve set up our tree we bought together last year.  I took a picture of it next to a wine bottle so you can see how miniature it is.

Second, we’ve decorated our tree with ornaments from home, although somewhat half-heartedly.

Third, the angel still reigns at the top of our tree (and yes, Mom, I put the angel on top myself).

But most importantly we remember what Christmas is really about, the birth of our lord, Jesus Christ.

We’re ever-aware that this separation from our loved ones is temporary and a tradeoff for a once-in-a-lifetime experience while there are so many who are separated from their family this Christmas due to war.  We send our humble thanks to them and ask that God be with them and their families at Christmas and always.

And we give thanks for all our blessings, in Australia and in the United States.  It’s true that this special day is best-celebrated with loved ones but we know they are with us in spirit and in heart and this year that is more than enough.

Merry Christmas to all.  Peace, love, and joy.

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