Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Sweetness of Doing Nothing

image via
Sundays are probably my most favorite day of the week. I tend to fill the day doing things that will help me feel relaxed and ready for the impending work week ahead.  Sometimes I do things that spark my creativity, sometimes I practice baking, sometimes I do absolutely nothing.  Oh the sweetness of doing nothing.   

Today I think I'll finish a sweater project I started, give myself a manicure and browse through a couple magazines I purchased last week.  If I'm feeling so inclined, I'll meal plan out the week, clean out some of my closet and tidy up a few things around the apartment.  Nothing will be rushed and nothing will feel necessary. The only goal is to relax.

I find that whenever I give myself a lazy Sunday, I start the week feeling refreshed and ready, which to me is terribly important.  I also find when I don't give myself a nice Sunday, I get irritable and cranky plus I'm sure my productivity levels go way down hill. These days it can be so hard to get away from distractions even on the weekend.  Work distractions, Life distractions, Internet distractions can all affect me in both positive and negative ways  So for me, it's important to give myself even just a few moments to rejuvenate and forget the negative or even just plain out busy moments of the week before.  Sundays are my favorite time to do this.

I hope that whatever you're getting yourself into this week, you have even just a couple of moments to yourself as well.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

travelling through 2012

 “For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” – Robert Louis Stevenson
Last year, I declared 2011 "The Year of Fun." After a tumultuous 2010, I desperately needed to make and stick to my resolution of filling 2011 with nothing but fun. Miguel and I took every opportunity to try new things, find new places and live the life we've always wanted to live together. It was fantastic.

This year most definitely is The Year of Travel. As we reach into August and are now over half way through with 2012, I can't help but find myself reflecting on the past 7 months and looking forward to the next 5. One of the constants for us this year has been travel.

Gold Coast, QLD | Soaking up the sun at a beach side bar  



Port Stephens, NSW | Looking out for Dolphins







We ended 2011 with our first airplane trip together to the Gold Coast in Queensland and rounded up Christmas with a trip to Port Stephens with my immediate family. 

Lake Tahoe, California | One of my favorite family photos from the America trip
We moved right along into February where we took an epic trip back home to America to see our family and friends.  The trip was quick but everything I hoped for.  I got to see my sister who visited from Spain, spend time with my family in The Bay Area and even make a quick trip to Vegas with my best friend and some of my favorite friends from college. 


June saw us take a little Staycation over at Manly Beach which is just a hop, skip and jump away from where we live.  Even though it was super near by, it still felt like a little vacation and we got to experience a place we've never been before.  

Splendour On The Grass | Image Via

In just under a week, we will be travelling to Byron Bay where we will be experiencing first hand what it's like to camp at a 3 day music festival.  We've got our tent and sleeping bags all ready to go, and I hear the weather is going to be fantastic -- for the middle of winter anyway.  I don't even think excited is the right word to describe how I'm feeling.  I'm just beyond thrilled to be able to experience everything that Splendour has to offer. 

Bohol, Philippines | Image Via

In December we will be going to the Philippines to celebrate Christmas with more of my family.  My sister will be yet again coming from Spain, plus we have some cousins there that I'm dying to see.  The plans are to travel through Manila into Palawan and then eventually to Bohol. It will be only my second time back and I'm already beginning to count down the days.  

2012 has already brought so many blessings, but I'm still so excited to see what's to come.  After living in California for 18 years and not travelling much outside of the neighboring states, I feel so lucky to be able to have visited so many new places in just this year alone.  I'm a big believer of making your own dreams come true. If you can dream it, you can definitely do it. Especially travelling.  All it takes is patience and a little bit of saving every day.  Plus the thrill you'll get from seeing a place you've never seen before is something you'll remember forever.  I know I do. 

I have so much left of the world to see, but I'm confident that with each penny saved, I'm closer to getting to my dream destinations. Here's to finishing off 2012 strong, with more airplane rides to places unknown! 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Choco-banana Cookies

In my secret foodie dreams, I'm an excelent baker who bakes gorgeous cakes and pies and breads fresh daily to share with my friends and family without gaining any weight at all.  In my everyday reality, I'm an average-sub par lover of baked goods that really only bakes when the timing's right. Usually the timing feels right long after the sun goes down and my after dinner sweet tooth gets the better of me.

A couple weeks ago, I had an over-ripe banana and a craving for something sweet and easy.  I thought Chocolate Chip Banana cookies would probably be the best use of the banana, so away I went. After a quick research I settled on Martha Stewart's recipe which goes a little something like this:


Ingredients: 
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
6 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 very ripe banana, slightly mashed
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips


1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter or line 2 baking sheets.
2. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.
3. In a large bowl, beat together butter, sugars, egg, and vanilla. Add the flour mixture and stir to combine.
4. Mix in the banana and chocolate chips until just combined.
5. Drop by the tablespoons onto the baking sheet, spacing dough an inch apart. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until lightly golden brown. Remove to cooling racks.

If I were you, I'd definitely make sure to complete the cooling rack step.  I left them on the baking sheet for an accidental minute while I was tending to other things in the kitchen, and all the bottoms of my cookies were slightly burnt. =[ Other than that, I think the cookies came out a bit too "cakey" for my liking and a bit substandard really. Maybe I didn't follow the recipe correctly? I mean she is Martha Stewart her recipes have to be good right? Right? 

For next time, I think I'll not over incorporate the ingredients, take them out of the oven after only 10 minutes and add 1 more whole banana and an extra cup of chocolate chips. 

Overall though, the cookies did their job -- satisfy my sweet tooth and get rid of my wasted banana. ;]

If you decide to take on Martha's recipe, let me know how you do!  

Monday, July 16, 2012

Currently


Loving: That I have a fridge full of groceries. There's this crazy sense of accomplishment I get whenever I pay for a full shopping cart of groceries or the month's rent.  Even after I've lived away from home for over a year now, I still feel lucky that I've never once worried about making sure we had enough food in the fridge or that I couldn't pay for the roof over our head.  In these harsh economic times, I know how blessed I am and I am thankful for this every single day.  Also, the food in the fridge this week looks extra good. We splurged about bought some lamb, I found a new organic breakfast yogurt that I'm really into and TimTams were on sale! 

Reading: I'm still reading Committed. The read isn't as smooth as Eat Pray Love was, and Gilbert's entire first section of the history of marriage is getting a bit (dare I say it??) b o r i n g. I'm struggling to get through the first section even though I find myself agreeing with a lot of what she has to say. I'm determined to get through it though. Stay tuned.

Listening to: Bloc Party. I forgot how much I loved them.  I was absolutely in love with Silent Alarm for yeaaaaars, and being a terrible fan, I never thought to listen to any of their newer stuff.  I found myself thinking of them today and found them on spotify. I'm so sad I've been missing out. EVERYTHING IS LOVE. even the remixes! (well most of em...)

Watching: Miguel play video games. Other than Masterchef and the random show here and there, I haven't been watching much TV lately. Oh wells. 

Anticipating: Splendour on The Grass! I know, I mentioned it last week, but it's only 2 weeks away now! woooooo hooooo! Another thing that's 2 weeks and a bit away is my 3rd year anniversary, but maybe I'll save that for the next post. 

Planning: My trip to The Philippines over Christmas break! Mostly I'm just looking into buying tickets for me and the mister.  We're meeting up with the rest of my family in the Philippines and I am beyond excited. Especially since my time off from work was just approved! 

Working On: Still working on being more organized. These things take more than a week you know! I'm also working on stepping up my cooking skills in the kitchen. I'm getting kind of bored of the 6 meals or so Miguel and I have on rotation.  Time to mix it up!

Wishing: That winter was ending soon.  The weather's been getting much sunnier, but the chill is still around.  I'm a warm weathered girl at heart, and winter is always such a killer for me. 


What are you up to these days? Feel free to share you Currently in the comments below. :]

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Sydney Spotlight

Vargabar Espresso, Newtown 

You know that half-hungry feeling when the afternoon hits and you know it's too early for dinner, but lunch seemed like ages ago? On a stroll down King st the other day, Miguel and I had that very same feeling.  We decided to stop in a cafe for a quick snack to help hold us over until our dinner plans that night.  For whatever reason, our usual cafe spots didn't seem so appealing and we were kind of in the mood to try something new.  Luckily out of the corner of my eye, down the street toward Erskineville road, I noticed Vagabarespresso. OH MY GAH.


The cafe itself, is a quaint little room full of cleverly shaped tables and chairs with the obvious purpose to fit as much seating in the tiny quarters as possible.  There's a platform a few steps above the first level and large windows with bench seats as well.  The staff is a tight group of four that bounce well off each other and seem to be constantly joking.  I liked the vibe they were giving off because it made me feel comfortable right away, which is something I believe is important when dining in a small space.


After looking over the menu, I settled on a smoked salmon toastie while Miguel got the fresh baked banana bread. The salmon toastie was delicious and the brie was melted to perfection.  I loved how all the ingredients tied together and the spinach helped take the toastie to the next level.  It was definitely one of the better smoked salmon meals I've ever had.  Miguel was completely happy with his warm banana bread drizzled with honey and topped with sliced almonds. We both got flat whites of which I truly believe was the best, most well prepared coffee I have ever had in my life. IN MY LIFE. The coffee was sweet and rich and the milk was frothed up perfectly.  We found ourselves sipping slowly in order to better savour the coffee. I'm still dreaming of it. YUM. 


As you can see from my scrunched up face up there, I was beyond happy to have found this new spot.  I can go on and on about how great it was.  The one negative I found, if you could even call it that, was that the blender was constantly running, making conversation a bit difficult.  Really though, that just made me want to order a milkshake for next time. I am so looking forward to returning next weekend for breakfast. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

EXTREME COUPONING!

image via
Today I stumbled upon a blog that was exclusively about couponing & rebating one's way to Disney World. Upon first glances, I was very intrigued and very doubtful.  How does one pay for her annual trip to Disney World by buying stuff? How does one save money by spending it? What exactly is a rebate? After delving a little further and doing some quick research, I've discovered the wonders of couponing. 

You have to understand that this kind of stuff is not popular in Australia.  Australia is a very expensive country with discounts here and there, but nothing too extravagant and nothing too excessive.  Australians (or at least Sydney-siders) don't do much of anything in excess. The food portions here are relatively small/average, the coffee cups are much smaller, (your tall is our grande) and Costco bulk buying is still a fairly new concept to Sydney. So couponing to get more stuff just doesn't seem to fit in to the "Aussie way of life"... at least in my humble opinion anyway. 

So fast forward to just a few moments ago where I'm researching (read googling) quite literally "coupons in Australia," and I've found nearly nothing... except 3 free powerball games via OZ Lotto for signing up which I obviously played. Other than groupon and spreets there really wasn't much to be found. Am I missing something? Do any of you folks know of any Aussie sites where I can begin this coupon obsession that is happening all over the states? Or am I right in assuming that the obsession is an American centralized habit of those trying to survive in the harsh economy + live in excess? 



Monday, July 09, 2012

Currently

Ferries move across the Sydney Harbour

Loving:  pixlr photo editor. Have you heard of it? It's an online photo editor that works similarly to photoshop and is so useful. I find it works best for when you're in a rush and need to quickly edit the odd photo, or if like me, you've changed computers and have lost photoshop because of it. I'm still debating on whether or not to get the latest version, but pixlr is convincing me I don't need it. I'm a fan of it's familiar interface and similar shorthand keys as well as its super beyond easy filter functions. If you don't have access to photoshop, I definitely recommend you try it.

Reading: Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert. Yes, the very same Liz Gilbert of Eat Pray Love. This is her follow up novel to that smashing success and picks up right where she left off. I am excited to read about her trip back to the States with her new beau and learn of the adversities they face once they try to start a life together living in the same country with very different citizenships.

Listening to: Spotify playlists of Splendour In The Grass artists. Splendour is happening in just 2 weeks, so I'm trying to get familiar with some of the artists before I see them live. Some artists I'm particularly excited to see are Azaelia Banks, Lady Hawke, The Shins and Bloc Party.

Watching: Survivor Season 24. It's a little known secret that I am a Survivor buff. I've watched every single episode of every single season practically ever since I can remember. I can still remember Elisabeth Hasselbeck before The View gave her fame in the Australian Outback, I can recount just how Boston Rob and Amber fell in love and then won the million...separately and I know that only one person has ever quit in the entire 24 seasons of Survivor. So yes, you can say I'm a fan. Well this fan has been pretty slack lately and I've only just found the time to catch up on the latest season. So I'm spending some time watching what I can when I can. DON'T TELL ME WHO WON!

Anticipating: Christmas time!! Is that silly? Lots of amazing things are in the works for Christmas time this year, and I'm just so excited to see everything pan out. My sister will be visiting from Spain for the entire holiday period and my best friend is potentially coming for New Years. It will be so awesome to share with them what my life is like here on the other side of the world.

Planning: our trip to Splendour. We'll be camping with some friends at a campsite just outside of the Belongil Fields, and since it'll be our first time camping in OZ, we have absolutely no camping gear. ... like none.. at all. So we have a lot to buy, plan and list out. I of course want to buy everything under the sun just in case, but Miguel will probably have a better idea of what necessities we'll really need. 

Working On: Being more organized in work and in my personal life. A little organizational skills never hurt nobody.

Wishing: That plane tickets weren't so expensive. I've got a few little trips in the works between now and Christmas and I know it'll be really draining on my bank account. BUT HEY! You're only young once right? I've got the whole world to see, and I'll be damned if I let money stop me from seeing it.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Sydney Spotlight


Hello and welcome to the very first edition of Sydney Spotlight! Every week I will endeavor to feature a new Sydney locale in the hopes to spotlight the vibrance of the Sydney community and also push myself to try out new places. It will be part adventure, part intrigue and all excitement. Sydney, I am learning, is an awesome city with much to offer, and I think it's important for me to catalogue my findings as much as I can. So today, I will share my latest in cocktail bar musings, Jester Seeds. 

Jester Seeds - 127 King Street, Newtown, 2042, NSW - 02 9557 7008

Jester Seeds is located at practically the end of King St, (just past the Marly for all you locals) where shops begin to change from kooky clothing into almost exclusively book stores and restaurants. It is for this reason I believe, that Jester Seeds is still rarely known.  Having been opened since before last Christmas, Jester Seeds is still fighting to find it's legs amongst the sea of well known cocktail lounges and pubs on King.  In all honesty, I wouldn't even have known of it's existence had I not seen it from a taxi window on my way home from the city one night. However, spot it I did, and I am oh so happy to have found this little gem.


From the front of house, the place looks rather tiny, but after ordering your drink at the bar, make your way through the tiny hallway and you'll find a large room furnished with sofas and lounges with the odd table and chair lining the wall.  Even past that room is an outdoor courtyard. Between those two rooms plus the front of house, you can easily fit 100 occupants. The thing is though, the place was practically deserted. The majority of the patrons hung about the courtyard while a couple loitered in the front room.  Miguel and I decided to make use of the large room in the middle, as we enjoyed the coziness of the decor and took joy in feeling like we had the whole place to ourselves. 


The menu itself was rather small, but featured an extensive array of cocktails. I found myself drinking the Applesinth the entire night, which was a lovely concoction of apple juice and absinthe, while Miguel dabbled between the Penicilin and Mr. Harley Quin.  I thought the Penicilin smelled ridiculously strong, but I think Miguel appreciated that the drink lived up to it's name and "cured" him for the night.  All drinks were good and were priced around the $16 range which is pretty standard for Sydney. I was particularly impressed with the bartender's skills and care with slicing up the orange peel that balanced on the rim of my champagne glass. I find it's little touches like that that made the experience enjoyable.   


Had it not been for the lack of vibe, (especially on a Friday night!) I think I'd be more inclined to come back.  Instead, I'm suggesting it as the go-to place the next time my group of friends gets together.  All in all, Jester Seeds is the perfect mix of good cocktails with a laid back attitude.  The staff is fantastic and the place looks great. I get the feeling that with just a little more time and maybe a little more advertisement, Jester Seeds will have it's fair share of returning customers, that it so obviously wants and deserves. Next time you're in the tail end of King St. with a couple of good mates, I definitely recommend checking it out! 


Saturday, July 07, 2012

hello, weekend!


Happy Saturday, folks! Miguel & I are off to a family birthday party, but after that I should be back with a couple cool posts to follow.  I'm planning on sharing a banana + chocolate chip cookie recipe as well as starting a new feature which will showcase some of my favorite Sydney spots.

But for now, I'll leave you with a song for the moment inspired by my latest purchase, plane tickets to Splendour on The Grass!  Have a lovely weekend!


Monday, July 02, 2012

Currently



Loving: This new blogger's platform. I've been on tumblr for the last 3 years, and it's kinda refreshing to start anew and see where blogspot takes me.  I'm really excited for what the future holds for this little bloggy, and I'm even more excited to cultivate this passion of mine.

Reading: Not much to be honest.  I've just begun to read Assumption by Percival Everett, and I'm going to be very honest and say that I'm about 15 pages in.  It hasn't really strung a cord yet, but I'll continue on and see how it goes.

Watching: Masterchef Australia Season 4. Apparently 60% of the Australian population watches Masterchef the 6 nights of the week it's on.  It's that addicting, and that good.  I also love that it gets me inspired to be in the kitchen and try new recipes.  I find that every Masterchef season, I cultivate my baking skills a little bit more and try a couple of new recipes.  Oh and I'm totally rooting for Ben or Amina to win.  Are you watching? Who do you reckon will take the prize?

Anticipating: Going into work tomorrow. There's a mini dilemma that needs to be taken care of first thing in the morning, and I'm dying to just get it completed, if only to get the nervous jitters out of my system.  Whenever something work related gets brought up once I've left the office, I get pretty jittery about it.  I hate the feeling, but the only solution I know of so far is to just fix the problem the best and quickest I can.  Hopefully tomorrow morning won't be too crazy.

Listening to: Of Monsters and Men. Have you heard about them? They're amazing. Their popularity is slow growing in Australia, but I don't know a single person that has listened to the album and has had one bad thing to say.  Little Talks is my absolute fave track, but everything else on the album is just as good. Do yourself a favor and listen here.

Planning: on baking some banana bread this week! ...or maybe banana muffins. I still need to find a good recipe and allocate sometime after work to do it.  I haven't baked in a while so it should be fun.

Working On: Not being so lazy when I get home.  These last few weeks I've been getting home completely drained and feeling lack luster.  I need to snap out of it! I feel like I could be filling up my time with so many projects/things to do that have fallen by the wayside.  Like my nails! and fixing the art on my walls! and cleaning my dresser out! I've also completely stopped working out. yeeesh!

Wishing: That I was in California.  I've been in a state of homesickness lately and can't stop thinking of my grandmother.  I'm dying to take a trip back home just to visit her.  Thank goodness for the wonders of technology and getting to chat with the family back home.  It makes the distance feel much smaller.

& that's it! Thanks to Megan for the inspiration behind these posts and thanks to Danielle for encouraging me to try one! These currently posts will be a new Monday feature on Praxsmiles.  What are you up to? Feel free to post one of your own and let me know how it goes!

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Outfits Of The Days 1, 2 & 3


If you follow my tumblr you know that I usually post OOTD's few and far in between and usually just once at a time.  These last couple of weeks have been busier than most, so I'm uploading the best 3 in one post. Not much to say about them except that each one made me feel girly and pretty even though they are starkly different from the other.  When life gets busy and hectic, I think that's when it's most important to wear your best or favorite clothes.  When you look good, you feel good and it's during the most hectic times that the extra boost of confidence really helps. I tried my best to practice that philosophy during the work week, and this is what I've come up with.   

Outfit 1:
Scarf: Dangerfield 
Caramel Sweater: Zara 
Dress: SES
Stockings: Sportsgirl (so thick & warm & comfy! I def suggest you grab a pair) 
Shoes: Sussans 

Outfit 2: 
Top: H&M
Maxi Skirt: Cotton On (it's this really amazing thick lace material with a warm underlay. AMAZE for the winter time and is currently on sale! go go go!!)
Necklace: Gift from my mom
Wedges: H&M Vegas
(I'm sorry the detail on that particular photo is so terrible. I'll work on doing better.)

Outfit 3:  
Hat: Gift from my sister
Grey Sweater: Zara
Neon Belt: Dotti
Jeans: PacSun (I live & die for their jeans, bc they are the only brand I've come across that does petite sizes that fit so well. Any recs for a good petite denim brand in OZ?)
Shoes: Rubi Shoes
Arm Candy: Assortment from flea market, sportsgirl & lovisa