Thanksgiving 2016 – Part II

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^^ These little cuties all together … it’s almost too much to handle.

Last Friday after Thanksgiving we packed up the car and headed to Pennsylvania to spend the weekend with my dad and stepmom, sisters, brothers-in-law and nephews. We had another Thanksgiving and my parents threw a little party for family to meet Lotte, so it was hectic, but a whole lot of fun.

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^^ Starting second Thanksgiving morning with donuts and coffee is pretty amazing in my books.

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^^ These two had a bit of a love affair going on, and it made my heart so, so happy!

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^^ Watching football with Papa. Hey it was a holiday, why not 😉

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^^ This cute little family …

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^^ Both Jude and Lotte’s faces crack me up in this picture!

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^^ Party food!

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^^ Back at my mom and stepdad’s on Sunday night we had a couple people over to meet Lotte, as well. One of my best friends from junior high just had her first baby, too — baby Miles — so Lotte got to meet him. That’s auntie Moe in the middle. I’ve known these ladies for oh-so-many years, and I’m just really grateful for their friendship.

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^^ Miles is only about 2-months-old, so I love that Lotte is his older, wiser friend 😉

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^^ This picture cracks me up! Look at my little Lotte makin’ moves on Miles!

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^^ Fell asleep in Aunt Stephie’s arms on Sunday night. She was totally exhausted after all her meet and greets, but it was just about the best time ever.

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^^ Grandpa Robert sure knows how to multi-task 😉

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^^ And suddenly, before we knew it, we were back at Newark for our flight home. Amazing how fast time flies when you’re having fun.

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^^ This little angel mostly slept and ate on the way back home, which was so nice!

And that was it — our incredibly hectic, fun and full-of-love Thanksgiving break. I hope you guys had just as much fun.

Now … on to December!

Bis bald, friends!

A First Plane Ride in the Books

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Well friends, someone had her first plane ride last Tuesday (and her second one back home to Denver yesterday), and I’m happy to report she did very well! It’s going to take me a couple days at least to go through all my photos of our trip, but for now I wanted to share this pic of Lotte looking out the window as we touched down back home in Denver yesterday. Whether you were old enough when you took your first flight to remember it or not, there’s just something so magical about it.

Bis bald, friends – I hope you all had a fantastic Thanksgiving.

To Tokyo, With Love

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Hi friends,

So last Thursday we left for Japan, knowing full well that we would have quite the journey ahead of us. With Chris running a marathon on Sunday that he was not prepared for (an injury caused him to cease training almost as soon as he began), and with me and my preggers self, the 13-hour flight alone could have been problematic.

Luckily for us, it turned out to be okay. With my trusty pair of compression socks and tons of snacks packed away in our bags, we were ready! That’s not to say that the flight time just flew by, but it definitely wasn’t as bad as my worst-case scenario mind was imagining it to be. I will take a hot sec to complain about one thing regarding the flight, though, which was American Airlines’ inability to get me a vegetarian meal. Chris had signed me up for that option when we first booked our flight, and heading out to Tokyo they didn’t have any set aside for me (luckily for the first meal there was an extra laying around, but for the second there wasn’t, which meant I went without dinner, and preggers me does not like going without meals!), and for the flight home we called to double check about that and were told we had to sign up for it within a 24-hour timeframe of the flight leaving? What kind of craziness is that? So I didn’t have the veggie meal heading home, either. Major bummer.

Anyway, once we arrived (around 5 p.m. Tokyo time), we set off to find the apartment where we would staying with Chris’s parents, which was this cute little place in Shibuya, which really turned out to be a great location not only for the race (Chris said it was a short warm-up jog to the start line), but also for our general touristing later in the week, since it was close to two major subway lines.

About the subway. Chris had purchased our PASMO cards (for the subway) and our Japan Rail Pass tickets (for the bullet train to and from Tokyo and Kyoto, as well as between Kyoto and Hiroshima) ahead of time, so we had those in the mail to bring with us to Japan, and it was amazing having them. We even opted to upgrade to first class for the JRAIL Passes, and I’m so glad we did. The bullet trains travel at about 200 MPH, but we were still on the train from Tokyo to Kyoto for about 2 hours and 40 minutes and for 1 hour and 40 minutes from Kyoto to Hiroshima, so it was nice to have that extra leg room, a foot rest, and a nice quiet ride. Another note about transportation in and around Japan — subway is definitely the way to go. We took cabs a few times (and they are super fancy cabs, at that! The doors even open automatically for you!), but they are expensive, so it’s not really economically feasible to use them for all your transportation if you’re in town for a while, like we were.

Anyway, moving on! It was late when we arrived at our apartment on Friday, but we ventured out with the Connors for our first (of many!) noodle dinners in the cute little surrounding neighborhood. A town that loves noodles? I can get behind that 😉

Saturday and Sunday of our trip were marathon-themed, as we went to the Expo Saturday for Chris to register and get his race bib, and Sunday was the actual race.

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^^^ Vending machines are everywhere in Japan, and they dispense mostly (if not all) drinks, even HOT coffee and hot chocolate! They’re pretty amazing.

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^^^ At the expo, gettin’ geared up!

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^^^ Signing his name into history on the Abbott World Marathon Majors sign. As we would come to find out later, Chris is one of only about 600 or so runners to have completed all six world marathons in the World Marathon Series so far. Ummmm … you’re pretty impressive, my dear.

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^^^ Honestly, all credit for getting around during our trip goes to this guy. The Connors and I were all too happy to give up transportation control to Chris, and we were well taken care of in his hands.

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^^^ Our little family of three was ready on race day!

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^^^ Chris will tell you this wasn’t his best race (because it wasn’t a PR, and it was a struggle to finish since he wasn’t able to train at all), but he finished in 3 hours and 36 minutes, which for any normal person would still be an insanely fast time. He’s now a six-time World Marathon Series Marathon F.I.N.I.S.H.E.R! Way to go, Chris Connor!

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^^^ Unfortunately a lot of the restaurants we ended up eating at had Japanese names (obviously), so I don’t envision that my posts will be a lot of help in the food department. However, I think it’s pretty hard to go wrong with food in Japan, and we ended up using Foursquare a lot to find places to eat, which is fast becoming my food app of choice when traveling. It has yet to let us down! So for dinner after the marathon, we found this adorable hole-in-wall (thanks Foursquare!) noodle shop that sits about 15 people max and had the most insanely delicious noodles I probably ate the entire trip. We waited about 40 minutes to get seated, but they take your order while you wait, so pretty much as soon as you sit down the food was at the table. Pretty genius, if you ask me!

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^^^ One of the things I loved most about restaurants in Japan was that at pretty much all of them the chefs making the food — and particularly the fresh noodles — were on display to watch. So. Much. Fun!

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^^^ And … the delicious meal. Yum!

And that was our 2-day marathon experience in a nutshell, folks! It was perhaps the final time that the Connors and I will be marathon spectators for Chris (another reason the trip was emotional for me!) — although I would never say never with that one!

I’ll be back tomorrow to start chatting about Monday and beyond, when we got really down and dirty with the touristy part of our trip 😉

‘Til then – bis bald, friends!

Should You Fly a Budget Airline? (Like Spirit Air)

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Hi friends. So back in the day when we flew out to Denver for spring break, we flew this little airline called Spirit. You may have heard of it, since it’s been in the news a lot lately for its horrible, terrible, no good very bad customer service. And for its fees. And for its delay record. And just about every other complaint you can throw at an airline.

Anyway, me and Chris, my sister and her boyfriend, we all flew Spirit for the first time when we flew out to Denver, and with all the uproar lately surrounding the airline, I decided to throw my own two cents in. You can read the whole post over here, but here’s a bit of an excerpt:

I fly a lot.

In the past seven months I’ve flown Qantas to Australia, Icelandair to Iceland, JetBlue to Florida and … drum roll, please …Spirit to Denver.

In case you’ve missed the news recently, Spirit isn’t exactly a luxury airliner – nor are they No. 1 in customer service. In fact, they’re dead last – drawing complaint rates that were more than three times higher than the second-place airlines from 2009 to 2013

Here’s the thing though: The price was right. The available times worked out … and I had yet to read all the awful reviews the company consistently racks up. (And, for the record, has chalked up to simple misunderstandings.)

So, was it worth it? In my own personal opinion — yes, and here’s why. “

Love ’em or hate ’em, take ’em or leave ’em, I’d love to hear your own thoughts on the budget airline?

Bis bald, friends!

 

Our Icelandic Adventure: Day 1

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Hey friends,

As you all know by now, Chris and I returned home from our (awesome. amazing. unreal. fantastic. insert-fabulous-adjective here) trip to Iceland late last night, and I’ve been busting to share the info and photos with you. Alas, a full day of work has kept me from doing so until now.

Anyway, moving on. Coming home from a trip like this. just. plain. sucks! But going through all the photos and writing down the memories here to keep forever … well that’s just really fun.

Here we go! Day 1 in Iceland began last Friday, at around 6 a.m., Icelandic time ….

After a quick (and somewhat cramped) overnight flight from JFK, we landed at Keflavik Airport a little before our expected arrival time of 6 a.m. Which was actually 1 a.m. NY time.

Who needs sleep when you’re young?!

We had booked a shuttle transfer from the airport to our hotel, the Best Western, ahead of time, which I would highly, highly  recommend since it was so easy and cheap (approximately $15), and you do not want to get to Iceland and have to worry about how you’re getting to your hotel, since if you’re staying in Reykjavik, it will probably be about an hour away. Like I said, we stayed at the Best Western Hotel Reykjavik (Trip Advisor reviews can be found here), which was a tad off the beaten track from downtown Reykjavik (about a 10 to 15 minute walk to the city center, I’d say) — but the front desk ladies were always completely lovely and extremely helpful, and a decent breakfast was included, and the price was right … so really, I’d say if you don’t mind walking a bit to get to the really hopping part of town, it’s worth staying at the Best Western.

Of course getting in at 6 a.m. and arriving to our hotel around 7 a.m. meant we couldn’t check right in. Instead we stored our bags and hit the streets! The cold, dark streets. Neither one of us really had any idea where we were going (and it stayed that way for about a good 20 minutes, I’d say. Why didn’t we just ask for directions?!), and the sun doesn’t rise until about 9:30 a.m. in the winter in Iceland, but none of that mattered — we were on an adventure! We spent the morning walking around downtown, drinking coffee at Te & Kaffi (also read about it here), stumbling upon the most adorable and classy violin-making shop I’ve ever seen (note to self: take up the violin again), and checking out some of the local stores in the downtown area, most of which don’t open until the sun has fully risen by 10 a.m.

Photo 1^^ The gorgeous church that pretty much starts the main drag of downtown Reykjavik.
Also, this picture was taken around 8 a.m. Nary a glimmer of sunlight in the sky!

Photo 2^^ Umm, right?! How amazing is this violin studio??

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photo 4^^ One of these things is not like the other …

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During our wanders we also happened upon The Laundromat Cafe, which I had read about and knew I wanted to visit. The place has a seriously adorable, 70s-style laundromat downstairs, while the upstairs doubles as a restaurant by day, bar by night, and all-around bookstore (they color code their books, like I do!) and people-watching heaven.

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Oh, and my eggs and tomatoes weren’t too shabby, either. (As it turns out, Icelanders are pretty proud of their tomatoes. They consider all other tomatoes grown from outside of the country to just not be good enough … and after tasting theirs, I can see why.)

By the time we made it back outside it was snowing gently — the perfect Icelandic weather! We made our way slowly back to the hotel (not before picking up some wine at the local store for later) to finally check in and take a nap before heading back out into the day. (As a side note, I’ve already mentioned that the sun doesn’t rise until 9:30ish in the winter in Iceland, but it also sets around 5 p.m., so if you’re a daylight lover, you really need to plan your time wisely to make the most out of what little you’ll get of it if you travel here in February. I wasn’t quite sure how I would take the fewer hours of daylight. As it turns out, I didn’t mind it even one tiny little bit.)

After our nap, we headed over to Cinema No: 2, which I had also read about, to take in two videos — one on the formation of Iceland and its geography and people, and another on the Northern Lights (for which we would have a tour to try to find ourselves the following night). The Cinema was small but super cozy, with couches and an old-school popcorn machine and a lovely man in a warm sweater to take your money at the door. The “movie screen” is really a projector screen, and the videos themselves seem pretty old, but it doesn’t matter. The history of Iceland and its nature and the Northern Lights have been set for years, so there’s really not much updating that needs to be done. On the other hand, it’s a bit expensive (about $30 for both of us) … but it was worth it. A very nice thing to do on your first day in Iceland. Just be sure to double-check the times if this is something you’d like to do on your own trip. The Cinema isn’t open all day (I believe we went around 6 p.m. to catch our movies), so it would be a shame to head all the way over there and miss them.

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After the movies we went straight to Micro Bar, a tiny little bar located behind the lobby of The Center Hotel, practically directly across the street from The Laundromat Cafe. (Also check it out in this list of the 11 coolest bars in Reykjavik, which I really wish I had seen before we left for our trip. But that’s okay … I think we did just fine. The trick is to just ask the locals … but more on that later!) This funky little place is actually a microbrewery, and we were able to sample four of their most delicious beers for the low, low price of $20.

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I think here might actually be a good place to mention prices in Iceland. Ummmm …. they be expensive!!! And we live in Manhattan, friends, so when someone from Manhattan calls another place expensive? Well, you just know it must be true. I’ll get a bit more into the finances of Iceland (or lack thereof) in day three, though, because that’s when we learned all about it. For the purpose of today’s blog post, let’s just put it out there that if you travel to Reykjavik, be prepared to drop some cash, friends. It’s one of the best places I’ve been in the world (What?! Did she really just say that?!), but it’s no cheap place to visit.

All of this detracts, however, from the awesomeness that is Micro Bar. It has such a homey, low-key vibe, with subdued lighting and tasty snacks and lovely bartenders, and the most adorable paintings of mountains (each with something tiny and surprising to find that makes it different) on the walls — this is a must while in Iceland.

I guess here is also a good place to tell you about what our original plans were for Friday night. As anyone who has ever read anything about Reykjavik or has been there will know — on the weekends, these people know how to party! They party hard and loud and long into the night. Like, they start the bar hopping around 12:30 or 1, friends. This is no joke. So knowing this was a Reykjavik ritual that we would most definitely be partaking in, we thought we’d grab a quick drink and dinner early, then head back to the hotel with some wine from the local liquor store (conveniently located near Micro Bar), some snacks from the grocery and take a quick power nap before heading out again around 12:30 or 1.

For dinner, we had originally tried to make a reservation at Fridrik V, but unfortunately we couldn’t get in. Then we read about Snaps (which also made that top beer places list I linked out to above), but they were pretty booked when we tried there as well. (Don’t worry, we did make it to Snaps, eventually.) We instead stumbled on Noodle Station, a hole-in-the-wall Thai soup store that smelled delicious and had lots of locals eating there. So that’s where we ate our first night, and it was spectacular, friends. To be fair, I’m going to go ahead and just say that we didn’t eat anything bad, per se, at all on this trip. (You can pretty much assume this means we didn’t eat any traditional Icelandic food — like whale, or Puffin. Ummm…needless to say I’m okay with that, and so is Chris.) So the Noodle Station on Friday night was delicious, but it wasn’t our best meal. Still, it’s worth a shot for lunch or if you’re in need of a quick nighttime meal, for sure.

On the way back to our hotel for some wine and our (what was meant to be a) power nap, we stopped at the grocery store for some cheese and crackers. We were also hoping to find some playing cards (which we without fail always forget to bring on trips), and when they didn’t have any for sale, the lovely man behind the counter who rang us up actually ended up pulling out a pack from behind the register and just giving them to us completely for free. I mean … how lovely! It was really a small act of kindness that made our night.

So that was pretty much our first day in Iceland, friends! I’m going to spare you the expense and just say we never made it out Friday night (100% my fault), but did get out with the crazy crowd on Saturday night … and it was every bit as much fun as everything I had read.

But more on that tomorrow. (That and a little thing called the Northern Lights!)

Bis bald, friends!

 

Travel Alert — Our South American Trip is Planned, People!

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So after much, much, much planning, research, debate, blood, sweat and tears on our part, Chris and I have finally locked down a South America itinerary that we’re — well let’s just say it — absolutely ecstatic with! Here’s how it goes:

We’ll arrive in Cusco, Peru a couple days ahead of our 5-day tour of the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu with Cusi Travel. That tour looks a little something like this:

Day 1 – Cusco City Tour
Day 2 – Sacred Valley Tour
Day 3-4- Inca Trail/Machu Picchu 2D/1N
Day 5 – flight to Quito

In Quito we’ll connect with our second tour group, Southern Explorations, for our 12-day tour of the Galapagos Islands (I can’t breathe when I type that I’m so excited) and the Amazon Rainforest. That tour includes jungle walks, butterfly sanctuaries, canoe rides, bird watching, canopy walks and zip lines in the Amazon, as well as walks along Darwin’s Way, snorkeling with Galapagos penguins, sea lion, giant tortoise and Blue-footed Booby meetings, and so much more, in the Galapagos.

We’ll end the trip with a little over a week at an all-inclusive beach resort in Tamarindo, Costa Rica.

I don’t think I really need to tell you guys just how excited we are for this trip. It’s the trip of a lifetime, and we feel more than a little lucky to be able to go on it.

Oh, and in other news … we leave Thursday for our trip to Iceland. That snuck up on us! Can’t wait to share all that info and the photos here with you guys when we’re back. As a heads up, we’ll be taking a Northern Lights tour, as well as a Gulfoss and Geysir Express Afternoon tour and a trip to the Blue Lagoon.

Bis bald, friends! Here’s to really livin’ it up in 2014!

Photo courtesy of Cusi Travel

 

 

 

Our Aussie Wedding Extravaganza!

Hi friends,

So we’re back home safe and sound (booo!), and things here have been a bit hectic since we landed. (You can thank our cat and her terrible lungs, which have now been fixed, thanks to the surgical team at the Animal Medical Hospital and our dwindling bank account!)

Anyway, I finally have some time to blog today, so I’ve upgraded to a better photo package which hopefully should keep me blogging for the next couple of years. Fingers crossed!

Back to our epic adventure, this trip really was separated into three parts:

  1. Our time spent in Bathurst with all of our amazing friends and family for our (fourth!) wedding celebration and the baptism of our niece/Goddaughter
  2. Our honeymoon at the Great Barrier Reef
  3. Our last weekend in Sydney before we left, which just so happened to coincide with the International Fleet Review where over 20 ships from around the world docked in Sydney Harbour. (Plus they had the largest fireworks show Australia has ever seen … and Prince Harry was there!)

As I like to do (to keep the trip lasting longer, and to stop your eyes from glazing over at one ginormous post), I’m going to break my blogging about this trip into the three sections accordingly.

So back to last Tuesday, we had boarded a Qantas flight to Australia …

Continue reading “Our Aussie Wedding Extravaganza!”