Monday, March 18, 2013

Easiest Birthday Cake

Hello again!

Thank you all so much for all the lovely comments about our new condo.  We are really enjoying it and feel very settled already.

In other news, today is Justin's birthday!!  I won't tell you how old he is but you can always check out his profile page to find out - hehe.

Unfortunately, Justin had to leave last night for a business trip to Las Vegas.  Wait, is that unfortunate?  Sounds like a sweet deal to me!  Anyways, because I won't see him today we decided to celebrate his birthday last Friday instead.

Thanks to a new oven, flour and climate, I completely ruined my home made pizza dinner.  I was so disappointed with myself but what can you do?  Luckily, I was able to make an amazing birthday cake - everyone's favourite - Ice Cream Cake!

I can't believe how easy this was.  I bought myself a chocolate pie crust, 2 pints of ice cream, some hot fudge sauce, and one of those small gel frosting tubes so I could write Happy Birthday on top.

First, I allowed the ice cream to soften a bit so that I could smooth the first flavour, cookies and cream, into the bottom of the pie shell.  For the record, I was considering making a homemade Oreo pie crust, but the thought of having a leftover bag of Oreos in the house sounded too dangerous!

After sticking the 1st layer in the freezer for a few minutes to harden, I then added dollops of the hot fudge sauce for a chocolatey centre.  I wasn't able to smooth it out into a perfectly even layer, but you couldn't really tell when eating it!

I used Vanilla for the top layer so that the top would be smooth and light-coloured so that I could write Happy Birthday on top.  My "cake writing" is horrible, so I don't have a picture of it.  Once it was finished, I let it firm up in the freezer for about 4 hours, but overnight would have been better I think.

It was super delicious, sooooo easy to make, and I got to try out the "made in Texas" Blue Bell Ice Cream.  They have some amazing flavours including...RED VELVET CAKE!!! WHAT?!?!  Unfortunately it wasn't my birthday so I had to stick with Justin's favourite, Cookies and Cream.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Mostly Moved In


Justin left for Calgary yesterday morning so I'm missing you all a little bit extra today :)

Despite all the travel and crazy appointments we have had over the last few days, I've been able to unpack almost all of our condo and set things up nicely, which means that I'm finally comfortable with showing you all pictures of our new home.

Walking through the front door, this is what you'll see - Kitchen is on the left.
We are currently living in the Montrose area of Houston (which is the 4th largest city in the US).  We are within walking distance of a couple of restaurants and a Whole Foods (yay!) but most other things are driving distance.  Our condo is an 8 story building and we are on the 7th floor, facing into the complex, which means we have a great view of the pool.

Living room with Justin's long awaited TV
Our balcony, with pool below.  Hopefully I can keep some plants alive out here!

So far in Houston we have been getting beautiful blue skies and the temperature max's out at around 70 degrees Fahrenheit or about 20 degrees Celsius.  There is usually a cool breeze, which means I'm always packing a light sweater whenever I leave the house.  Don't worry, the temperature is slowly starting to climb where it will peak around July.  I've heard the summer months can be pretty unbearable.  Maybe I should get a part-time job at an ice cream store or something!

Kitchen - with Island and granite counters.  It has lots of space for all my gadgets!
Office Nook with Laundry on the right
Our Master Bedroom has great space, but I have no idea what to do with it all!  Any suggestions would be great.  We're also in the market for a bed frame and headboard.  I'm thinking upholstery, but any suggestions on that too would be great!!

Master Bedroom - right now, a little boring!
But loving the twin sinks and walk-in closet!
I'm really enjoying our new place.  We have signed a 6 month contract and can renew as long as we like.  I imagine we'll be living here for about a year before we'll be able to buy a house.  However, the place we've got now is pretty great and I'm not really in any hurry to pack up all our stuff again!

Still working on the spare room - don't worry, it will be ready for your visit!
PS - That's Justin in the bow-tie!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Part 2: Packing Up and Saying Goodbye

Our last night in New Zealand was spend in Auckland.  Justin and I had a lovely dinner by the harbour complete with a bottle of Craggy Range Chardonnay (delish!).  But I could feel a sense of dread beginning to loom over my shoulders.  After landing in Singapore on January 8, I knew we would have just three days of solace before the movers came and packed up our condo.

I suppose I was also feeling a certain amount of excitement as well, but let's be honest.  I have moved four times in 5 years.  Two of those moves were cross-continental.  As much as I sometimes enjoy organizing my life, and getting rid of the "junk" in my home that I no longer feel I need, I was definitely not looking forward to sorting through all our belongings and making the (sometimes difficult) decision as to whether or not each item was worth the round-the-world journey.

Luckily we had a lot of help and support.  The moving company actually packed all of our items, literally everything except our clothes, and pretty much took care of everything.  Our wonderful helper Mila came by a few days later and thoroughly cleaned our empty condo from top to bottom.  This saved us hours upon hours of time.

So, the moving out part wasn't too bad.  It was then that we had to say farewell to some incredibly close friends.  You see, in Singapore you're family isn't always (or rarely) around for special events.  Birthdays, Easter, Christmas, Thanksgiving, St. Patrick's Day, you name it.

I think this is the main reason why friendships generally become so strong when living overseas because these friends of yours transform into your family.  They let you stay with them when you have no where to live, they host birthday parties for you, they cook holiday meals and dress up as Santa.  The friends I have in Singapore are absolutely priceless.

Which of course, was the most difficult part about saying goodbye.  Although between the parties and farewell dinners, we were actually able to celebrate our farewell in such a positive way.  Surprisingly, I didn't feel quite as sad as I thought I would, but then I realized that it was because I knew I would see them all again.  These people are stuck with me forever!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

My Crazy Move: New Zealand

So yeah, I live in Texas now...

The last 3 months have pretty much been the craziest experience of my life to date.  Since December 19, I haven't spent more than 5 nights in the same bed, which also means that I've been living out of a suitcase since that point!

Luckily, the main reason for that was because of the wonderful travel I have had the opportunity to enjoy recently.  I want to tell you all about my amazing trips soon but that will be for a different post!  Unfortunately, in between all that wonderful travel was copious amounts of packing, farewells, US immigration shenanigans, miscellaneous unexpected "moving surprises", unpacking, etc.  Needless to say, I am staying grounded for a little while and will spend the next few weeks exercising, reading some good books, and cooking in my own home!

All right, so let's start at the beginning - Part 1 of My Crazy Move: New Zealand

New Zealand is such a special and unique country.  There is an unbelievably spectacular climate and landscape - and after spending most of the year in Asia, it was great to get away to this country.  Some of you might remember that Justin and I vacationed in NZ 3 years ago and LOVED IT.  We knew that we would go back, and thought that our last Christmas in Asia would be the right time.  This time around we decided to stick to the North Island and visited the regions of Auckland, Waitomo, Taupo, Hawkes Bay, Rotorua, and the Coromandels.

Quick - name that beach!

By far, the highlight of the trip was the food.  At Cable Bay winery I enjoyed the best meal of my life, a tasting menu of all their highlights including lamb, scallops, salmon and two desserts.  Other culinary highlights included Mission Estates Winery, Craggy Range, and the simplicity of buying fresh berries on the side of the road.

We spent nearly two weeks in NZ and were lucky enough to enjoy several different activities.  Completing the Tongariro Crossing was definitely a highlight for me, even though I thought I was going to be thrown into the crater of a volcano due to the high winds.  Honestly, I have never seen a landscape similar to this place, it was almost like walking on another planet.  We completed this 18k hike on New Year's eve and needless to say, we were in bed before the clock struck twelve.

I am so glad that Justin and I took the opportunity to go to NZ together right before the move.  Unfortunately, we haven't had much quality time together since this trip, and it was good for him to take some time off work to do something enjoyable before he moved to the US, where things have been so stressful.  It was definitely a memorable holiday for the both of us.

Next post - Part 2: Packing up and Saying Goodbye