Monday, September 30, 2013

Old Family Photos

Monday, September 30: Share a photo of something old. Maybe something that has personal history for you, that was passed down to you, and that has special meaning to you. Tell us about it and why it's special.
If the majority of my material belongings weren't in storage (or a safe deposit box) halfway around the world, I probably would have chosen to share a photo of a pearl necklace that my grandmother gave to me a few years ago.  Or the necklace that has a small diamond in it from my great grandmother's wedding ring.  But since I don't have access to those things here, I'll share a couple old photos that have special meaning to me. 
This first photo is one of my favorites of my mom and dad.  I think this was taken before they were even married.  Aren't they so beautiful/handsome?!  And just babies! 
I also always love looking at old wedding photos- whether I know the bride and groom or not.  But in this case, I do :-)  These are photos of both sets of my grandparents on their wedding days.  How gorgeous are they?! 
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Friday, September 27, 2013

Dearest Facebook Friends

Friday, September 27: An anonymous letter to your Facebook friends. Be as snarky as you'd like. (but don't include people's real names.) 
I think it's easy (and was truthfully really tempting) to take this prompt down the route of addressing how certain Facebook friends of yours annoy you with their various annoying posts, political rants, bragging, etc.  And I'd be lying if I said I don't get annoyed by things like that on the daily- just like everyone else.  But truthfully, I've been pretty good recently about just removing people from my newsfeed who post things that annoy, offend, or upset me.  It's a surprisingly simple solution- they're still my Facebook friend, but no one has to know that I choose not to view their crap posts and status updates :-) 
So, since I'm trying to avoid going (any further) down that road with this post, I thought I'd focus on the positive.  Because after all, I really do enjoy Facebook and how it allows me to stay connected with people in my life.  Here goes:

Dear Facebook Friends,
Whether you're a family member, a former classmate, a childhood friend, someone I once worked with, a friend of a friend, one of my very best friends, or any of the other categories you may fall into- I just want to say, thanks for being my friend.  Some of you I talk to quite frequently in "real life," and some of you I might not have even seen or talked to in years, but I am still grateful that our paths crossed at some point and that we were at one point a part of one another's lives- no matter how big or small the role. 
It's amazing to be able to "keep in touch with" so many people that I otherwise probably would have completely lost touch with.  It's fun (and feeds my nosey tendency) to see what's going on in other people's lives and how they've changed (or stayed the same). 
Each year on my birthday, it's fun (and a little self-indulgent, I admit), to hear from so many of you.  Even if we haven't talked in years, it's nice to know that you're thinking of me- even if just for the 2 seconds it takes to type "HBD".  And I love that your little birthday wish or photo/status like allows me a brief moment to think about someone I hadn't thought of in a while or brings me back to a fun memory with you or to a time in my life I'd forgotten about. 

So thanks Facebook Friends, you're the best!  Some of you more than others ;-)  But still, thanks! :-)
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Thursday, September 26, 2013

A Change of Scenery & My August Snail Mail Collective Gift

Thursday, September 26: Go to a coffee shop. Order a favorite drink. Write about what makes you happy and what makes you sad. Or write about anything you'd like! Bonus points for including a photo from the coffee shop.
*if you can't make it to a coffee shop, at least leave your usual space and write someplace new.
I didn't make it to a coffee shop today :-(  However, I did take some time to leave my usual "blogging space" (butt planted on the couch in front of the TV), and sat outside on our patio for a while.  A simple change in location even within our home was actually surprisingly refreshing.  We purchased a nice little patio set when we moved here, but hardly ever actually use it- usually heat or bugs keep us inside.  So it was nice to sit out there for a while and enjoy some fresh air and "new scenery" before it got too hot. 

Since today is a bit of a free topic, I thought I'd take the opportunity to write about my Snail Mail Collective gift that arrived in the mail at the end of last week!  This was my second month participating in the exchange.  You can read about my first month in the exchange HERE.  The exchange was created by two great expat bloggers- Melyssa at The Nectar Collective and Chelsea over at Lost In Travels.  You can read more specifics about the exchange HERE.  But, the basics of the exchange are: you are paired with another participating blogger from a different part of the world, you spend a few weeks getting to know each other through emails and getting to reading that person's blog, and then at the end of it, you exchange a $5 or under gift from your country that centers around the specified theme for that month. 

This past month, I was paired with Louise from the blog Stars In Jars.  Louise just recently moved to London after a short stint with her parents in Ireland and a year teaching in South Korea.  It was fun to learn more about her and her experiences living in both South Korea and the UK! 

The theme for this month's exchange was "Under the Sea."  I struggled with finding a small gift to match this theme, but Louise was really creative with what she sent! 

My Snail Mail Gift (Please ignore the dead plants in the background...)
I felt very important receiving mail with a "Royal Mail" sticker on it :-) 
 I love that she sent me a copy of one of her favorite books The Old Man and the Sea!  And that card?  How cute is that?!  I'm a little card/stationery obsessed, so I really loved the card- and how even that tied into the theme.  I'm excited to add this book to my list of books to read- I feel like it's a classic that I should definitely have in my repertoire. 

Thanks, Louise! 
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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Two Houston Restaurant Faves

Tuesday, September 24: Review a book, place, or product.
Since I've been missing Houston a little bit lately, I thought I'd choose to review two of my favorite restaurants there!  One of the best things about Houston is the food.  Seriously.  I think I read a statistic at one point stating that Houston has the most restaurants per capita- so there is never a shortage of fun new restaurants where you can stuff your face. 
Restaurant Name: Zabak's Mediterranean Cafe
Type of Food: Mediterranean
What To Order: Start with a side of Hummus and Pita Bread AND a starter order of Falafel.  Their falafel is made fresh to order, and it is to die for!  For entrees, you can't really go wrong with whatever you order, but a few of my favorites are: Gyro Plate, Chicken Kabob, or Shish Kabob. 
Why It's Great: Mediterranean food is probably my favorite type of food after Mexican, and this place never disappoints.  Another thing that I love about Zabak's is that it is a small, "hole-in-the-wall" type place.  It is family owned and run- mostly by the sister/2 brother trio.  When we lived in Houston, we ate here probably 2-3 times a month, and I seriously felt like these siblings were my bffs.  They always remembered our names, were SO friendly and welcoming, and even could pretty much place our order before we even reached the counter (we're pretty predictable).  If When you go here, tell them David and Megan said hello! 
*Please excuse the photo quality of photos in this post.  My focus was less on photography and much more on stuffing my face. 
This is the Mediterranean Pizza- also a delicious menu option.
Restaurant Name: Bombay Pizza Company
Type of Food: Indian Meets Italian Pizzeria
What To Order: Do yourself a favor, and order a Sweet Potato roll (or two) as a starter.  Then, I would suggest ordering from any of the Specialty Pizzas.  My favorites are: The Slumdog and Mitul's Masala.  The pizza crusts are super thin and crispy and amazing. 
Why It's Great:  We actually found this restaurant through a Groupon I randomly purchased and we quickly became repeat visitors.  It's located in downtown Houston (although it looks like they now have a Sugarland location as well), which is a part of town we didn't visit too regularly, so it was fun to actually spend some town there- you can even sit outside!  The story behind this place is really interesting and unique- Indian/Italian fusion- crazy, right?  Nope, delicious!  In a nutshell, the restaurant was started by a mother-son team.  The son was trained in Italian cooking and cuisine, but always loved the spices and flavors of his mom's Indian cooking.  So they decided to combine the two and open this Indian-Italian Pizzeria.  If you want something unique and seriously delicious, and you live in the Houston area, go here- pronto! 
The Slumdog Pizza
Now that I completed that exercise in self-torture, I am STARVING and missing Houston and its good food even more.  Can't wait to visit and stuff my face at these favorites again!  In the meantime, if you're in the Houston area, please go stuff your face at these restaurants for me? 
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Life Lately / Currently

Monday, September 23: A "life lately" post. What you're up to, how you're feeling, how you're doing on your goals, etc. 
I'm going to approach today's prompt in the form of a "currently" post, since I'm feeling the need for a little structure I guess :-)
Enjoying: Day 2 of my two week school break!  The schools here have a two week break between each quarter.  I'm loving being a "lady of leisure" so far, but I am really trying to be at least somewhat productive.  This is the first school break I've had here that we don't have big travel plans, so I'm actually looking forward to some time to rest, relax, and cross things off the old "to do" list. 
Reading: Well, I should say, "about to start reading" The Book Thief.  A few friends started up a little book club, and this is our first book.  I've heard great things about it, and I'm excited because it is also going to be coming out as a movie soon!
Watching: You know me- always some form of reality television.  Right now, I'm pumped about the first ever Bachelor Australia.  I'm also excited about the new season of Dancing With the Stars (I think I may be the only person that watches this anymore) and The Voice. 
The Australian Bachelor- Pretty dreamy, right? (Source)
Looking Forward To: A weekend getaway to Hervey Bay for whale watching!  This is supposed to be some of the best humpback whale watching in the world- can't wait! 

I'm going to be singing Michael Jackson's "Will You Be There" every time I see a whale (Source)

Sewing: Yes, sewing.  I went to a little sewing class last night after much convincing from two friends, and I'd say it was a success.  It was really low pressure, and I actually really enjoyed it. I made a pin cushion as my starter project.
Feeling Grateful: to finally feel like I have a little group of friends here, and thus some semblance of a social life.  It was really just a couple months ago that I started connecting with some great girls here (fellow expats), and I am so happy to finally have girlfriends here.  It took nearly a year, but I'm so glad this part of my life here is finally falling into place. 
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Monday, September 23, 2013

Finding Comfort In the Uncomfortable

Friday, September 20: React to this term: comfort.

Comfort can mean so many different things to so many different people, and its meaning can change throughout your life depending on what's going on in your life at the time.  One thing I've realized in the past year or so is that (at least for me), it often takes going through a time when you feel uncomfortable to really realize what comforts you and what comfort means for you. 

Picking up and moving to the other side of the world was indeed a very uncomfortable life event.  As time goes on, I become more and more comfortable here, but in the beginning, I was very aware of how different and uncomfortable I was in this new place.  When the people, places, and things around you change drastically, it's hard to find anything that is comforting to you or that makes you have that "at home" feeling.  Everything is foreign, unexpected, confusing, and just plain different.  These are the times when you are very aware of what people, places, and things help bring you comfort.  I remember when after having been here for about a month, our shipment finally arrived.  I was overwhelmed with a feeling of comfort as I unpacked the boxes and boxes full of our belongings from back home- clothes, linens, photos, things to hang on the walls, even having my own kitchen and cooking items made me feel more comfortable and at home here. 

Over the past couple weeks, I've been very aware again of the things that bring me comfort, but this time for a different reason.  David and I are finalizing our travel plans for our trip "home" for Christmas.  This will be the first time in nearly a year and a half that either of us will be back in the motherland.  Now that I'm in that "going home countdown mentality," it's funny how automatic it seems for me to start making lists of things I want to do, people I want to see, places I want to go, and food I want to eat when we are stateside.  And these are all things that are comforting to me... things I don't have access to here in Australia.  It's almost like I'm all too aware that I will most likely feel that "uncomfortable-ness" after we return from our visit home, so I'm planning ahead to "stockpile" as much comfort as I can when we're home.  Let's not talk about how embarrassing it is though to realize how many things on my "to do" list are actually food-related.  :-) 

This gorgeous Phoenix desert landscape has become such a comforting sight to me over the years.
One of my favorite places in Houston - Discovery Green Park
Being away for Thanksgiving and Christmas last year was tough, but being able to see my family via Facetime was such a huge comfort during that time.
Comfort food = Mexican food (This isn't even "real" Mexican food since I found it in Australia, but it was as close as I could get).

In just a few months, I will hook myself up to an IV of my ultimate comfort food/drink- DDP.  And yes, that is my head on a stick.  You can read HERE about last Christmas when my family took "Megan On A Stick" along for all the Christmas festivities back home
One final thing that I've started wondering about recently.  I wonder, if after having really made this new place our home for over a year, if we will feel any of that "uncomfortable-ness" back in the US, if we will miss some of our new found comforts from here.  It will be interesting to see what feelings I have when it comes time to return after our trip. 

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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Teddy Bear Picnic

 Wednesday, September 18: Only photos
Here in Australia, this is the last week of school before a two week school break/holiday.  They run on more of a year-round/calendar year school schedule here.  Anyway, things are pretty laid back at school this last week before vacation- lots of class outings, etc.  Yesterday, I helped chaperone two classes who were going to the park at the Marina to have a Teddy Bear Picnic.  We picnicked with teddy bears, danced by the water, played with the parachute, and chased the birds.  It was a perfect day.  One that didn't feel a bit like work. 
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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Wine, Red Cups, PYT, and Papasans

Tuesday, September 17: A memory you would love to relive.
It's hard to pick just one.  Of course, there are obvious moments I'd love to relive a million times like our wedding day, the night David proposed, the trips that we've taken, etc.  But there is one much more ordinary memory that I'd love to relive that I chose to write about today. 
My four years in college were the time of my life!  High school? Meh.  It wasn't bad or traumatizing or anything, but I would never choose to actually go back to that time.  College, on the other hand, is a time in my life I would love to relive over and over again.  While all four years were amazing, I would say that my senior year was the best of them all.  I lived in an awesome house off campus with five of my closest friends, we were all just back from studying abroad, we could all (legally) drink... it was just such a carefree time. 
There is one memory in particular that I would love to relive from that year.  It was a weekend night, and as usual, we were getting ready to go out.  Which in the small college town we were in meant either a house party or the hole in the wall bar down the street.  My two best friends, Kate and Anne, and I would always get ready together in Kate's room since her room was the biggest and she had the best clothes to choose from :-)  We were drinking wine and feeling pretty fancy that for once it wasn't PBR, Natty Light, or some other crap beer.  My iPod was blasting Michael Jackson's PYT on repeat- it was our getting ready jam.  I don't even know if we ever actually ended up making it out that night, because at some point we ended up plopped on the floor and amazing papasan chairs in Kate's room just talking and laughing.  I don't remember what we even talked about, but it was one of those moments that just felt so perfect.  We didn't have a care or worry in the world.  In our wine-drunk state, we were extra enthusiastic and in love with whatever or whoever it was we were talking about at the moment. 
Just BABIES we were! 
Oh to be laying in that papasan chair again with a red plastic cup of wine in my hand, gossiping the night away with two of my best friends.  No jobs, no husbands, no real responsibilities, no time zones between us.  Just perfect!  I'm still very close friends with these two girls, and I love thinking about how far we've come since that day.  But I also sometimes wish we could go back to that time, even if just for a moment. 
I guess we DID make it out that night after all...
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Public Love Letter

Monday, September 16: Write a public love letter to someone in your life. (It doesn't necessarily need to be romantic.)
I took a bit of a less serious note with this "love letter assignment"...
I often find myself missing some of the customer service/friendliness/pampering that we are used to in the US, so I think that is why I chose this person as the subject of my public love letter/thank you letter today.  A little random, yes, but oh well :-) 
Dear grocery store check-out clerk,
You are my favorite!  You make my weekly grocery trip something I actually look forward to at the end of each week.  I love when I run across people who really and truly are happy and seem to enjoy their job- you are one of those people.  I don't care if there is a shorter checkout line, I'm staying put in your line.  Here's a few other reasons why you're just the best:
-You always greet me with a very typical Australian greeting of, "Hey doll, how ya going?"  I know you call just about everyone "doll," but it somehow makes me feel like we are BFF
-I love hearing stories about store happenings of the day... which kid screamed the loudest, rogue grapes on the floor of the produce section causing slips, shop-lifting attempts, etc.
-You are Type A and kind of an organization freak like me.  You pack the grocery bags like its a science.  It's pretty impressive to watch. 
-While obsessively and methodically packing my grocery bags, you tell the same story each week about how you know how important it is to pack the bags carefully because of that one time that someone packed your laundry soap with your bread, and your husband complained about a soapy sandwich the next day. 
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Saturday, September 14, 2013

A Self Portrait In Sydney

Friday, September 13: A self portrait
If nothing else, the prompt for today's post made me realize that I need be better about making sure that I actually get IN more of the photos that I take on our travels. 
I chose this photo, because it seems very Australia to me- if only my big ol' head wasn't blocking so much of the Opera House :-)  This photo was taken at the lookout point on the Sydney Harbour Bridge with the iconic Sydney Opera house in the background. 
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