Our Engagement Photo Session Down Under

As soon as we got engaged, we knew we wanted to get engagement photos taken in Australia – in the city we lived in when we got engaged!  It only made sense.

So, we got a recommendation from a friend/co-worker of Ben, Lauryn.  She used the photog for her engagement photos and he came highly recommended!  Jack did a great job including our 3rd subject: The City.

I have already posted all of them on Facebook so there is nothing new here. 🙂

Enjoy!

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BULA! {a Fijian Hello}

Ahhh…what a refreshing 4 weeks spent at home!  Well, refreshing isn’t exactly the right word.  While it was GREAT to be at home in the comfort of the states, hanging out with the ‘rents and spending much needed quality time with my Tillybear and my besties, we had some planning to do!  WEDDING PLANNING!

I know, it’s been a looooong while since I last posted.  I missed quite a few once in a lifetime events.  I’ll post about our trip home later.  Up first, FIJI!

Shortly after Ben and I got to Australia it was clear that we either had to take a trip to Fiji or Bali.  Both are equivalent to Americans taking a vacation in Mexico.  SUPER easy to get to!  After a few recommendations we decided on Fiji.  I mean…FIJI?!?!  A little because we didn’t want to feel left of out our families Thanksgiving celebrations, a little because I already had the days of work and a little because it was my birthday, we decided to go the week of Thanksgiving (and my 29th birthday!)

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Before we left my sister asked if we would be drinking a lot of Fiji water, which I hadn’t even though about!  Lucky for us, it was the complementary water at the hotel!  What else would it be?!  We were in FIJI!

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We arrived on Tuesday afternoon.  Our hotel was amazing!  The pools were beautiful and the view of the ocean was gorgeous!

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Every night, the hotel had happy hour with live music!

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And you had to hurry to get a good seat…

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The next day was my birthday.  I told Ben that all I wanted to do on my birthday was lounge by the pool…

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Have cocktails…

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Watch the skydivers land on the beach in front of our hotel…

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And not have to do a thing!  My wish came true!  It was the perfect birthday! That afternoon Ben and I went back to our hotel to get ready for happy hour when I found a bottle of Champagne in our mini fridge.  He had surprised me on my birthday with a bottle of champagne!  So that evening, instead of joining the other guests at happy hour we decided to enjoy our icy bottle of bubbly on the beach…in FIJI!

Now, this alone was PERFECT!  I kept thinking champagne on the beach in FIJI – what more could a girl ask for on her birthday?!

Well…Benny boo had more in store!  Once we were out on the beach, bubbly poured, he ran back inside, claiming he had one more gift for me.  Now, I wasn’t expecting another gift at all so this was quite a surprise!  He came back out with a wrapped box and it was clear to me what was in the box – HOT TAMALES candy.  I’m a HUGE fan and not having them in Australia makes them quite a treat when we can get a family member to send them over!  😉 😉

I opened my gift and sure enough, there was a box of Hot Tamales just begging me for me to dig in! Again, I’m thinking ‘champagne on the beach in Fiji with hot tamales – now, really, this is perfect!’  So without hesitation, I popped open that box and saw…

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Yep!  I have the most creative FIANCE in the world!  Shortly after, Ben got down on one knee and asked me to MARRY HIM!  **sighhhhh**

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Ben staged the look to capture in one shot…who knew I was marrying such a photog?!

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Now…on to the rest of the trip!  First, I must say, don’t go to Fiji if you aren’t super thrilled by lizards or frogs.  They were everywhere.  Frogs top my list of scariest animals so sleeping in a room with an inch crack at the bottom made me weary!

This is the best pic I could get of one of deadly creature…I cringe.

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The rest of the trip was a blur.  I spent most hours of the day staring my left hand and making the tightest fist a girl can make in fear of that beautiful diamond falling off my finger.  I swear, I might have even lost a little sleep thinking about my ring!  (and the frogs)

This was our most beautiful shot of the week.  Again, thanks to my photog fiancé!

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One of the days we decided to leave the hotel and head into the resort part of town.  The rest of the island (from what we saw) was a bit sketchy.  We grabbed lunch in the marina and got to do a little people watching.

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Although, I didn’t take any pics, Ben and I survived our first cyclone!  To us, it was just a rain storm but to everyone else it was a cyclone!

On the last full day in Fiji, we decided to hop on a day cruise to one of the smaller islands.  Luckily, the water in Fiji is SO calm.  Even during the cyclone, the waves didn’t even rival those in the calmest Gulf Coast town.

This is a picture from the boat ride.  Not even a smidge of a wave!

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The boat took us to a teeny tiny island about an hour from the main island of Fiji.

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You could walk around the island in about 5 minutes.  They provided drinks and food for the day and other activities like stand up paddle and snorkeling.

We took advice from the American couple that we made friends with and immediately after landing on the island we raced to tiki hut!

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Then we each (me, Ben and the American couple, Carrie and Phil) took a noodle and sat in the calm ocean water while Paul, the boat tour owner, brought us brewskis!  It was heaven!

SOOO – all in all, Fiji was the best holiday of my life! Sun, cocktails, Fiji water and nabbed myself a fiancé! 🙂

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Day to Day Down Under

Since I’ll be headed back to the states in less than 3 weeks (!!!!!!!) and Ben to follow just a week after (!!!!!!!) I thought I’d show a few random things that we have been up to. People keep asking for updates but in reality we are getting pretty used to our new digs and life Down Under.

We, in the Southern Hemisphere, are in transition from Spring to Summer and with that comes no Daylight Savings Time (which gives us more daytime hours with YOU!) but it also gives us more morning sunshine than you could EVER imagine.  Now, to me, this is FANTASTIC…but to my boyfriend, this is the worst thing to happen to a Saturday morning since he was too old to watch cartoons without judgment. 😉  During the week, this early sunrise causes me to also rise around 4:45am…I try to lay in bed until a more acceptable hour – of 5:30 before getting up to start my day.  I make some tea and get right to work.  Ben follows around 6:30 and is out the door around 7:00 am.  We don’t mess around down here!

 

The day is downhill from there!  Work, Starbucks, eat, work, workout, eat, work and have a glass of wine with dinner before starting it all over again…now you can probably understand why there haven’t been many updates! 😉

 

A couple weeks ago we did indulge in some Friday afternoon drinks with some of Ben’s co-workers and much to our surprise we were in for a little summertime holiday parade. A group of little kids came parading through wearing Reindeer costumes, Snowman costumes,  and Angel costumes in the middle of weather the felt only like July!  It was such a bizarre feeling…until Santa brought up the tail of the parade waving from an Audi convertible.  My mind was blown. I was impressed by the mid-spring parade and since then haven’t stopped thinking about how weird it is that it’s probably cold back home.

 

This is us at HH – enjoying a few brews at The Pig and Whistle.

 

There are decorations everywhere and Christmas music is playing in Starbucks now so I’m starting to get in the mood…now we’ll just need to turn up the AC so high that I can make Chili and read a book by heat of the sun that is radiating off the windows in our apartment.  Perfect!

 

 

Now, like I said, we have just been living our normal life on the other side of the world but I’ve taken a few pictures lately that I wanted to share.

 

This is in an area of the city on the other side of the river called South Bank.  It’s a hip little area filled with great restaurants, lots of ice cream shops and boutiques.  Every weekend they have markets in the area which are always packed and a fun place to walk through.  Ben and I have been the past two weekends.  Last weekend we did a little shopping and this weekend we went to dinner on Friday night and walked around.

 

It’s a little hard to see but this is the view of the city from across the river in South Bank.

 

 

And this is the casino. Every single time we walk by I ask Ben if we can try our hand at a little Blackjack and he immediately say no.  He needs to be a bit more spontaneous, right?!

This is through Queen Street Mall.  This is the main street of shopping in the city.  It’s always bustling but the crown definitely gets younger (and bit drunker) as the night gets later. 😉

 

On Saturday, we were invited to a BBQ to say “Bon Voyage” as an American couple ended their Australian stay and made their way back to the states.  It was at Ben’s co-workers house and we had a blast!  This picture is just to brag on my culinary skills…I mean – homemade buttercream frosting…don’t mind if I do!

And finally, the weather of our weekend.  For the first time since living here, we experienced a REAL thunderstorm – or 15 of them.  Just like at home, the Spring storms rolled through the city on Saturday and Sunday.  They were the cracking thunder, light-up-the-sky lightening, hail, torrential rain type of storms.  We could hardly see the building across the street from ours during the rain!  And we could truly enjoy it every time a new batch of clouds brewed and threw down because we didn’t have a car to worry about hail damage or a little Tillybear ringing her bell to go outside.  I LOVE a good storm!

 

 

 

Now, in just a few short hours we’ll be drowning our sorrows over missing Thanksgiving at home in Strawberry Daquaris and Pina Coladas poolside in FIJI!  I mean, we had to jet set to avoid feeling bad about missing out, right?!  Stay tuned and See ya soon!! 🙂

 

 

Noosa (er)

Hello all! I know it’s been a while but I totally forgot about our little day trip…To NOOSA!

Since we moved here we have heard over and over again “You two HAVE to get to Noosa!”…”My favorite driving destination is NOOSA!”…”The best beach near Brissy is NOOSA”…soooo, you guessed it!  About a month ago, Ben and I hired a car and drove north to Noosa (or “Nooser” which is how it sounds with an Aussie accent).  It was a very pleasant, uneventful trip.

Our first stop was at a little cluster of markets.  We stopped to walk around and indulged in a brat with sauerkraut.  Oh my – was it GOOD! 🙂

Now you can see what Australians look like 😉  Looks like you could be in St. Louis, eh?

Next we drove a touch east to the beaches of Noosa.

Here is a pic of us driving on the left!  I think both of us are actually kinda used to this now…Yep, that’s me taking a picture as a passenger on the left side of the car!  I still walk to the right side of the car to get in about 8 out of 10 times though.

The rumors were correct!  The beaches of Noosa were divine!

We laid out for a couple of hours and took in the beautiful weather before heading into town to do a little shopping.  Unfortunately, there was nothing I couldn’t live without (which is RARE for me!) so we hopped back into our little Prius to make the 2 hour trek back to the big city.

Cairns!

Waste no time!  Just 2 weeks after getting my dive certification, Ben and I headed north to Cairns – the Australian city just a short boat ride from the Great Barrier Reef.   Yep, that’s right – I don’t mess around.  If I am going to be a SCUBA diver I’m going to dive in one of the Natural Wonders of the World.

Just kidding.  I’m not stuck up – just happen to be that lucky.  :)!

We have had the trip planned since we first arrive down under so by the time it got here we were SO excited!  Warm weather, beaches, ocean – YES PLEASE!

We arrive late on Friday night. Cairns is the quintessential beach town.  Tons of restaurants, ice cream, souvenir shops & tourists!  We had a quick bite and called it an early night.

Our Saturday morning started at 7am.  We were to meet at the dive boat which was luckily in the harbour right outside of our hotel.

The boat itself was an awesome experience.  It only takes about 35 people each day so there was plenty of room for us to walk around and get to know the other (American) tourists.

It was about an hour and half boat ride out to reef and we had two different stops so we had a full day ahead of us!  There was only one other diver on the boat with us.  Everyone else was there to snorkel the reef.  This was SO comforting being that this was my first real dive! I pretty much had the divemaster all to myself for questions and tips.

The first stop on the boat was actually a small sand island which was a bird sanctuary.  Now, my love for birds is almost at the same level as my love for fish (why I’m ok 45 ft below the ocean is beyond me) so while the lovely Eugenia (a 75 year old woman from Georgia) wandered around looking for an extremely rare bird species, I stayed far away from that island stuck to the view of the reef!

At my request, we *hired* a digital camera for my first dive experience.  At first Ben had the camera.  I was way too nervous about my first attempt at the underwater world so he manned the pics.  Those are the only good pics we were able to get!  When I got my hands on the camera the pictures look like Mason had his tiny little one year old hands on a digital camera for the first time.  Needless to say, the quality of pictures was pretty awful.  Here are some cool ones that we were able to take.

Beware – WAY too many pics below…

This picture is just to give you a little perpective.  This was our dive guide doing a snorkle tour.  He swam down to show everyone the clam

Aren’t the clams cool?!  If your shadow went over them they would shut real fast!

I know it’s hard to see so I made a circle over it…that’s right!  It’s a SHARK!

This picture is a little eerie. It took everything I had not to think about how many living (BIG) things was in the same body of water as us.  How weird!

See Nemo down there!

I loved looking at all of the tiny fish living in the coral.  It was one of the coolest parts!

By the end of Saturday, we were BEAT!  Food, wine and bed!

Sunday morning we decided to take a day trip to Port Douglas.  It was a cute newer town about 45 minutes north of Cairns.

The drive was spectacular.  It reminded us of HANA!

We laid out of the beach…with caution:

After a few hours of walking around and laying out at the beach, we had officially finished with Port Douglas and continued on our journey north to the Daintree Rainforest.  We stopped at the Bruce Belchers Daintree River Cruise to take in some crocs in the wild!  I was a little nervous at first – afraid a croc would hurl its body at our flimsy pontoon but have no fear – our crocodile sightings were limited to 10 inch long baby crocs.

On our way back to Cairns we made one last stop at the Mossman Gorge.  Apparently this was a MUST SEE!  It was a little too cold to take a dip but still great to see and make the most of our trip!

The water was crystal clear!

 

Day three – somehow Ben knew where we were going!  I never saw a map or GPS and we never went back on our tracks.  He had somehow memorized a circuit – of WATERFALLS!

First we went into the Australian hinterlands – that means up a mountain!  It was a tight windy road but provides some amazing views of Cairns and the surrounding areas.  We ended up on the tablelands – this was mainly rolling farms.  Still amazing views!  We stopped off to see the cathedral fig tree – it was  MASSIVE!  There are a few of these fig trees in Brissy and their branches have hanging vines that root in the grounds and continue to grow.  They are really amazing trees!

We stopped off in a creepy little town.  I felt like I was about to be in a horror film! Luckily we made it out alive – with a tasty Aussie style burger, beetroot and all!

Off to the water falls!

And with that we were heading back to Cairns to check in for our 8pm flight home!

But not before we met a storm!  I took this as my chance to take a nap in the car while Benny got us back safe and sound.

I wouldn’t call it relaxing but it was SO FUN!

WAAYYYYY down under!

A few weeks ago I put my life in the hands of a 21 year old, bleached blonde, long haired Aussie boy.  No, I didn’t fake a drowning on the beach in Surfer’s Paradise a la Baywatch but I did get my SCUBA Certification!

I now have another form of identification in my wallet – my Certified Open Water Diver card issued by the Brisbane Dive Academy! And I LOVE it!

Here are some pics from my adventure WAYYYY down under…

 

We started out in the lap pool about 3 feet deep to help us get used to breathing under water and learning some basic (life saving!) skills.

 

 

 

We swam up and down the lanes (trying desperately not to look in the lanes next to us!)

 

 

 

 

Then things got serious – in the deep end!  We learned how to control buoyancy, share air and (most importantly) clear our masks when they were full of water! PHEW!

 

 

 

 

No, this isn’t a reenactment of the Dateline story of the American couple on their honeymoon but I really have no idea what we’re practicing!

 

 

Then on to the REAL stuff!  We did a total of 4 actual open water dives. The first was on day 1 and the other 3 on day 2.

 

This was the only other person in my course.  A lovely gentleman, of about 65 years of age – Fred.

 

Then it was my turn.  I some how managed to be geekier than Fred.

 

 

 

It certainly isn’t a sport for those that want to look pretty….

 

 

Before I knew it, the weekend was over and I am free to SCUBA dive anytime I want!

This was our crew – the woman on the left is a Divemaster in training, just along for Day 2 and observing – then Dom (the cute Aussie instructor- who Ben refers to as “Dom Ass”), me and Fred.

 

 

 

It was a BLAST and I’m THRILLED my loving boyfriend urged me to face my fears and do it!

Sydney – Part 3 (Finally, eh?)

Sunday was our last day in Sydney.  We were SO tired so we slowly made our way to hop on the ferry to Manly Island which was recommended to us by quite a few people (shout out to Aunt Bonnie and Amanda Boren!)

The ferry ride itself was the best part.  We got beautiful views of the city and harbor!

There wasn’t much going on on Manly Island but it was still beautiful.  TONS of little kids learning to surf, a few beach yogis and so many golden retrievers in one spot so I was able to get my puppy fix and tell a number of strangers about my little Tillybear! 😉

Here are a few pics from the ferry ride and Manly:

 

 

Manly Beach – see all those little kid surfers?!

 

 

 

 

 

See those dots on top of the bridge?  Those are people doing the Bridge Climb!

And with that our first weekend trip was over!  Time to head home….and SLEEP!

 

Sydney Part 2

Day two started with a bang – Ben and I were on the hunt for the correct public transport to Bondi Beach.  Just a train ride and bus transfer and we were there.  Bondi Beach is a GORGEOUS beach town.  Lots of surfers, fish and chips, runners and ice cream!

Our plan was to do the ~2mi beach walk from Bondi to Coogee.  It was along the cliffs overlooking the ocean.  This turned out to be my favorite part of our trip.  The beaches and water were so tempting!

We didn’t do much but walk so here are some pics –

 

 

 

 

 

Above: If you look closely you can see the yoga class in the back…I’d go everyday if that was the backdrop!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Above: there were quite a few pools just like this – filled with ocean water that flowed over the side and was pumped back into the pool.  Loved these!

 

Yep, that’s a cemetery along the cliffs!  Or as Ben says “Now, that’s life after death!” 🙂

 

Once we made it to Coogee Beach we hopped on another bus back to Bondi for fish and chips and an ice cream cone before heading back to the city.

Back in the city, how could we pass up a little shopping…throw Ben in Lululemon and me in Zara and we were both perked back up in no time! J

We went to dinner downtown at a restaurant that was tucked back in an adorable alley –

It’s hard to see but there were about one hundred bird cages illuminated and hanging over the street! We actually saw this alley on one of our favorite Aussie reality TV shows so weren’t about to leave before eating here!

Then it was time for cocktails on the harbour!  It was one of those moments when you can’t believe you’re actually sitting there!

 

 

 

My new favorite cocktail made with my new favorite fruit: passionfruit!  Passionfruit is everywhere.  My latest obsession is Passionfruit Chobani yogurt. 🙂

 

With one more day to go that was it for the night!

 

Sydney – Part 1

A couple weeks ago, me and Ben took our first domestic flight during our Aussie adventure to SYDNEY to celebrate Ben’s birthday!  We hopped on a Qantas flight sometime on Thursday afternoon (Ben’s actual birthday.)  The first pleasant surprise of the trip was the food and drink on Qantas – cheese, crackers and olives and wine!  American Airlines could probably take some hints… 😉

Just like in Brizzy, by the time we arrived in Sydney, around 8:30pm, everything was closed.  We wanted a casual dinner so within moments of seeing a corner pizzeria, we were sitting down with sharing a bottle of wine, bruschetta and a pie.

We had an early start on Friday morning.  We were signed up to do the Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb at 9:55am.  We wanted to take a little of the city in before the climb so we got up early and took a walk down to the harbour.

After a brief walk around we made our way to the Bridge Climb.  I didn’t realize before starting but the climb is quite an ordeal.  The first hour was all prep.  We had to take a breathalyzer and sign a waiver before doing anything else! After that, we were fitted in our suits, issued a headset (to later hear the guide through the wind) and other goodies to keep you warm (i.e. fleece jackets, hat, gloves, handkerchief, etc) and walked through a bridge climb simulation.  Before we knew it we were heading outside!

Each climber was given a belt and on the belt was a harness that immediately clipped on to cable that ran the length of the climb.  Once you clipped in there was no way out – thank goodness!  It was quite interesting; the guide went through the history of the bridge and surrounding area which was actually really neat!  But once we got on to what we were there to do, we were climbing ladders, shuffling along beams and walking a steady incline over Sydney Harbour!  The view was incredible!  Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take our own pics but here are a few (lo-res) pics that the guide took along the way.

By the time our feet were firmly on the ground, it was about a 3 hour journey and totally worth it!

Ben and I were a little wobbly from holding ourselves up against the 60kph wind and ready for lunch.  Again, Sydney wanted to show us just how cute of a city it is – just a couple blocks away we stumbled on a random market filled with tents for the surrounding restaurants so we picked up a burger (for me) and a chorizo sausage (for Ben) and headed back down to the harbour to eat while staring at the opera house.  SO COOL!

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Needless to say, by the end of day one we were beat!  But we carried on…to a fantastic Malaysian restaurant – Chinta Ria – which vies for one of the best meals I’ve ever had!  They’ve really perfected how to cook their mussels and beef while providing their patrons with a view to remember of Darling Harbour.  I’d definitely go back! 🙂

More on our Sydney adventure soon…