You Only Live Once, This Is How I'm Doing It!

Tag: vacation

An adventure down under

I was sitting in my hotel room on a layover in Pittsburgh and received a phone call from Joel-

“The Star Trek movie is premiering in Sydney on the 7th. Tickets go on sale in an hour. Can I try and get some?”


“Um, sure…? If you get tickets we’ll go.”

Honestly, I didn’t really think he’d get them. However, about an hour later I got another phone call. He’d gotten the tickets. Out of only approximately three hundred tickets on sale he somehow got two. All I can say is, he’s amazing. So began our whirlwind of preparations so we could leave for Australia in less than a week.

It wasn’t easy, but after several unsuccessful tries and almost twenty hours on two different planes we finally made it to Sydney. We left Friday afternoon and because of the time change we arrived Sunday morning. The premiere wasn’t until Tuesday night so we had a couple days to explore the city. Sydney is amazing. It is one of the most diverse, interesting, beautiful cities I’ve ever been to. I literally took over seven hundred pictures and I won’t bore you (although I have toyed with the idea of doing a sort of daily photo blog from my trip). Here are some highlights from our trip.


This was the view from our hotel room. That’s the Sydney Harbor Bridge.


The beautiful Sydney Opera House. This is where the Star Trek movie premiered.


We really were there!


Nothing makes me happy quite like cotton candy or, as they call it over there “fairy floss”, especially at a carnival in Sydney.


Beautiful view of the Harbor Bridge and Opera House from across the harbor at the carnival we visited.


Oh my gosh! I found Nemo!


We are so in love, can you tell?


Joel being his typical silly self.


Yummy fish and chips. Joel insisted we get some and I’m glad we did, it was delicious.


Gorgeous Sydney from the bridge at night.

Of course the real reason we went wasn’t to sight see, it was to see a movie. Just saying that makes me shake my head smiling. Only we would travel to the complete opposite side of the earth for a movie.

Anyway, Tuesday morning we were up bright and early to pick up our tickets and collectible posters.


Nerd alert!

Then it was time for the big night at the Opera House. It was the perfect evening. We got dressed up and walked the red carpet which was a dream come true for me.


I was born for this. J.J., call me!


Speaking of J.J. Abrams, here’s the man himself. No, I didn’t use the zoom for this picture, I was really this close to him.

The movie was surprisingly good. I’ve never been a Star Trek fan, I’ve only ever seen a handful of episodes. This movie was not your normal Star Trek. J.J. Abrams is brilliant and the movie was nonstop action. It kept me on the edge of my seat from start to finish. I actually really enjoyed it. Just don’t start calling me a Trekkie… yet.

Make sure to check out Joel’s blog for more Star Trek details and his perspective of the trip.

Spontaneous visit

The other day I got a message from Ineke, my former employer/host mom in Rotterdam. She was asking me when I was planning to visit them since Caroline was missing me a lot. I was feeling a bit spontaneous and the flights were wide open so I asked if they had plans that weekend. That was Wednesday. Friday we were sitting in first class, sipping champagne on a flight to Schiphol International Airport. An overnight flight and quick train ride later we were downtown Rotterdam.


Caroline and Me, we missed each other!


She and Joel had a lot of silly fun too.


We got to watch the boy’s judo exams Saturday afternoon. They both did very well and passed to the next level.


We also went with Ineke and the kids to the market and enjoyed some delicious Dutch treats, yum!


Nothing is quite like some delicious patat.


Speaking of Dutch treats, Ineke’s apple taart is to die for!

Sunday the weather was sunny and warm..ish so we decided to take a trip to Hoek van Holland.


Not quite so sunny and warm once we got to the beach but it was still windy.


It was a little too windy, this is one of the short times the kite actually stayed in the air. Most of the time it would go up and almost immediately come crashing back to the ground. Actually, the kite probably came crashing down shortly after I took this. For the boys it was pretty frustrating but it made for some really funny video footage.


Building a sand castle.


Happy couple. Can you believe it had been almost four years since we were last in The Netherlands together?

It was a really fun trip full of good food and even better company. I love my Dutch family and I wish they weren’t quite so far away. At least my job makes them seem a lot closer. *smile*

Hawaiian Getaway

Winter is Chicago is brutal and this winter was worse than most. Freezing cold tempuratures, tons of snow,  icy winds… It was extra awful. In order to get me through mentally I decided to plan a trip to an exotic location for the end of February for me and my little sister, Bekah. That way every time I walked outside and almost lost my nose to frostbite I could just tell myself that in just a couple weeks I’d be on the beach in my bikini. There were days I honestly didn’t think I could stand trudging through knee deep snow one more time but February drew to a close and my sister and I were on our way to beautiful Oahu.

Well, aloha to a beautiful rainbow that greeted us as soon as we stepped out of the airport.


What a beautiful contrast it was, from ice and snow to sun and warmth.


They call it paradise and now I know why.

I didn’t have a whole lot planned for our days there because the main goal was to relax and enjoy the warmth. The one thing I did schedule was a surfing lesson for the two of us. I thought it would be a fun little adventure and where better to learn to surf than in Hawaii, right? I had no idea how much fun it would be! Plus, the part I thought would be difficult, standing on the board, wasn’t hard at all. Actually the hardest part was all the swimming I had to do to get back to the waves. That was a work out like I’ve never had. I’m officially hooked now and eventually I need to live somewhere that surfing is part of daily life.


Yum, ice cream!


Bekah and me in front of Diamond Head.


My sweet sister. I love her so much.


Obviously we had to see hula dancers.


Yep, this is heaven.


Bekah and me relaxing on the beach. This was the main goal of our trip.

It was a great time spent walking around the island exploring, shopping and of course, plently lying on the beach. It was amazing.

My Little Dutch Holiday

I was feeling rather “homesick” so I decided to take a trip over to my second home, The Netherlands. Reason number 53 why I love my job: I fly standby and was lucky enough to get seat 1F. Yeah that’s right, first class baby. Ah! It was amazing. I ate a delicious meal, watched a movie and then laid my chair back and slept like a baby until it was time for breakfast. This is how an airline can treat their employees like crap and still keep them around because once you’ve flown somewhere like that it’s hard to imagine going back to seat 36E, back of the plane, middle seat.

Anyway, I got there without a hitch and feeling very rested I hopped on a train and made my way to Rotterdam to see my lovely Dutch family. It was a really fun, relaxing several days where I was able to just blend into their everyday life again and hang out with my girl. It was great. Then at the end of the week we celebrated Sinterklaas with Ineke’s sister Thea’s family. They were the family that I helped out three and a half years ago in Romania when their youngest was born.

Here are a couple pictures from my days there:

My little princess loved playing with my hair. She actually wasn’t bad at doing braids.

One of my favorite winter time treats over there is an oliebol. It’s a deep fried pastry dusted with powdered sugar and it typically has raisins in it although you can get many different varieties. It’s kind of like a giant donut hole actually. They only make them from mid November to early January.  They are absolutely delicious!

My iPhone was very popular with the kids because of the games. I barely got it back from them, haha. (I guess we know what will be on the list for next Sinterklaas, huh Ineke? *wink*)

For those of you who don’t know about Sinterklaas you can read about him here. Basically, Sinterklaas hands out gifts on the eve of his birthday in sacks like these.

Sinterklaas hid these in the basement of Thea’s house and left a note so the kids could discover them later.

Think there were enough? Sinterklaas even knew I was there somehow. Thanks again for all my beautiful presents Sinterklaas *wink*.

Another tradition is writing poems that tease the receiver of the gift and/or hint at what the present is.

Caroline is getting so freaking big! When I first got there she was only one, now she just turned six and she could read her own poem (with just a little help). *sigh*

Speaking of growing up, here is little Sam who I last saw when he was born! Now he’s three and absolutely adorable. If you look carefully at his mouth you can see he’s already had plenty of the candy that he’s eyeing.

So my visit this time was short but sweet. It was great seeing everyone again and hearing Dutch all around me. It just feels like home over there. As icing on the cake I even got a first class seat coming back home! It was a lot of fun and hopefully it won’t be too long before my company sponsors a trip back there for me. *crosses fingers*

Most amazing day ever

Today I took my mom to Discovery Cove to do their “trainer for a day” program. Swimming with dolphins is something my mom has talked about for as long as I can remember so I’ve always wanted to be able to do it with her. Here are the pictures from our amazing day.

Mom and me before

We got our official V.I.P. passes.

Mom and me with dolphins

Here we are with our dolphin, Capricorn!

My dolphin kiss

He’s the stud of the group… and he has good taste, obviously.

Fin ride

We got to ride on his fin.

Belly Swim

My mom got to ride on his belly (she doesn’t look happy or anything, does she?)

Foot push

I choose to do what they call the foot push. What you can’t see is there are two dolphins pushing both my feet. Ah.mazing.

between two dolphins

Here are the boys that gave me a ride, Capricorn and Diego.

Our fabulous day also included interaction with other animals.

Me and bird

Mom with bird

We got to feed all kinds of beautiful birds.


We also got to hand feed stingrays which was probably my second favorite part of the day. It was pretty incredible.

The day involved so much more than I got pictures of so those were just some of the highlights. Other highlights included: seeing a stingray give birth, petting a shark, behind the scenes tours of the park, snorkeling in their coral reef, delicious food and so much more.

Everything about the day was perfect and it was more than I even imagined it would be. Tomorrow we’ll visit Seaworld. Look for more pictures here soon!

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén