Just a bit about the boat

We took a two week cruise on the Celebrity Solstice from Sydney, Australia to Auckland, New Zealand.

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It is a big boat!  And it even has a lawn club.

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It was beautiful up there.  Sometimes a bit windy, but the views were incredible.  And the grass is REAL!

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When we got on the ship, it was still decorated for the holidays!

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Our room was on the 8th floor.

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I took that picture right when we got on the boat and I was still out of my mind from all the flying and touring in Hong Kong.  I obviously never checked the photo because it sucks more than usual.  If you want to see more of the room, Celebrity has pictures on their website.  We loved having a balcony off our room, it just made the room seem so much larger.  It wasn’t a bad view either.

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Whenever we had a day at sea, we spent most of it at the pool.

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While G sat in the sun, I sat in one of those teepee like things and covered myself in a million towels.  It worked perfectly!

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I also went to a ton of glass blowing shows.  Glass blowing is fascinating.

Oh and we ate.  A lot.  Wow.  Every night at dinner, G ordered two appetizers, two entrees and two desserts.  And he always tried things that he’d never order at home.  Here’s a picture of his crocodile entree:

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Almost every night we went to a show.  There were singers, a magician, dancers, a violinist, and Celebrity has their own cast that put on a couple of shows, too.  It was fun to have something different to do every night.

These photos are from a “surprise” performance in the Grand Foyer one night.  This couple is part of Celebrity’s cast so we got to see them perform a few times during the cruise…very cool.

G liked taking pictures with the dancers:

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Needless to say, we really loved the cruise and the ship and it wasn’t a bad place to stay for a couple of weeks.

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And this sunset…

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The Order of Events

We’re back!!! And we had the most incredible vacation.  I’m going to do my best to give you a short recap of our trip with a few pictures from each city.  Ready, set, GO!

First, when booking flights for this trip, the least expensive flights went through Dubai or Hong Kong.  We decided that if we were going to have to take a kind of indirect route to Sydney, we should try to see as much as we could.  I found a flight that had a 14-hour layover in Hong Kong, from 7:00 am until 9:25 pm, so we booked it.  Our flight arrived in Hong Kong a little late, so we ended having about 8 hours in the city (after immigration, customs and getting back to the airport in time for our next flight).

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It was actually enough time to see a lot and we even made it to the beach.

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That’s the South China Sea!  Pretty cool.  After spending a day in Hong Kong, we boarded our flight to Sydney.  After 10 hours, we arrived in Sydney and went straight to the cruise ship!

We took a two week cruise from Sydney to Auckland.  It was raining so hard when we got to Sydney, but this was our view when we got to our room on the ship:

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Whenever we cruised before, we had inside rooms so it was pretty cool to (1) have a balcony and (2) see the Sydney Opera House outside.  It may not have been the most beautiful day, but having the opera sitting outside our window was pretty cool.

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After one day at sea, we made it to Melbourne.

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After another day at sea, we were in Hobart, Tasmania!  We went to one of my favorite places during the trip…the Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary.

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I really wanted to take a kangaroo home with us.  They were hilarious.

This is our friend, Bert:

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He wanted us to pet him and then he agreed to take a picture with us.  He thought we were pretty stupid.

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After two days at sea, we made it to New Zealand!!  After two days, we spent another day, we traveling into and out of Milford Sound, Doubtful Sound and Dusky Sound.

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The pictures really don’t do them justice, it was pretty spectacular out there.

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And cold.  We had to pack quite a variety of clothing for this trip!

The next day we made it to Dunedin for our third stop.  One of the highlights was hiking to the top of the steepest residential street in the world and almost having a heart attack: Baldwin Street!

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The views in New Zealand are incredible.

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Also, I was unaware that New Zealand is basically just a bunch of really steep hills.  It’s okay, though, because we were eating about a billion pounds of food every day on the ship.  Go us.

Fourth stop: Akaroa and Christchurch.  On our way to Christchurch, we stopped at a sheep farm.  Mary and Ross have owned this farm for 40 years and they still do all the work themselves.  Ross sheared a sheep and showed us how he uses his dogs to herd the sheep.  It was beautiful and just fascinating.  Also, I wanted to steal his dogs.

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This is Ross giving commands to one of his dogs:

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The dog was a million miles away bossing the sheep around:

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The dog and the sheep are just up and to the right of that single tree on the hill.  It was incredible how quickly the dog ran up there to get them.  He was so excited.  Here are a couple of pictures later when the dog had moved the sheep almost to the bottom of the hill.  Pretty impressive!

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After Ross showed us all the fun sheep stuff, Mary had shortbread, sausage rolls, coffee and tea ready for us.  We got to enjoy everything while sitting in their beautiful backyard.

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I wanted to move in.

Fifth stop: Windy Wellington.  When I say windy, I mean you-might-f*cking-blow-over-and-fly-away windy.  Even Mr. Chicago, G, said it was the windiest place he’s ever been.  It was so windy, I couldn’t stop laughing.  I loved it.

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Did you know that Wellington is New Zealand’s version of Hollywood?  Well, it is…thanks to The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films.  It’s also where we found George’s twin!

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Aren’t they so cute together?!

We had another day at sea after Wellington and then landed in Tauranga.  George was really excited about this stop because we had a private tour booked to go to HOBBITON!  Hobbiton is a living set where The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies were filmed.  They have full-time gardeners working to keep everything looking beautiful and I think our tour guide said that 4,000 people visit every day.  Also, the set is something like 90% real.  There’s even a garden that has real fruit and vegetables growing.  The gardeners get to take the ripe stuff home with them.  Pretty cool.  Oh and did I mention that it’s beautiful?

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They made us do this:

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I apologize.  Gross.

Oh and here’s a favorite, Bilbo Baggins’ house at Bag End!

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I think there are 44 hobbit holes at Hobbiton, all of varying sizes.  It is pretty amazing.

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We took something like 500 pictures at Hobbiton so apparently we though it was cool.

Next stop: Bay of Islands

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Last stop: Auckland

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We disembarked the ship in Auckland and spent the day there.  That night we flew back to Sydney for four nights.  Fortunately, the weather was much more like summer!

Bondi Icebergs Pool at Bondi Beach

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That’s G walking on the right.  We both went swimming here because it was so f*cking hot I thought I was going to die.  The humidity was crazy.  So crazy.

The next day we went surfing at Manly Beach!

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I’m a horrible surfer, but we had so much fun and the water felt so good.

We also had plans to climb this little bridge:

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At night.

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We spent our last night in Sydney at the opera watching La Boheme.

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It was a beautiful opera and a great way to spend our last night of vacation.  We took over 5,000 pictures on this trip so yeah, this is just a taste of it.  I will probably do a few more posts about our trip and the cruise ship.   Needless to say, we had a fabulous vacation and it was a great way to celebrate our 10th anniversary (6 months early)!

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Vacation Time!

We’re on our way to SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA!!!  And I can hardly wait.  It’s going to take us about 8 million hours to get there so that is going to be really fun.  Here we are at the airport before our first flight:

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So fresh and so clean!

We have a (planned) layover in Hong Kong for 14 hours and we’re going to see how much sightseeing we can do.  It’s supposed to be raining the entire time we’re there so that should make things interesting.  We also won’t be showering until we get to Sydney on January 5th…can’t wait to see how those pictures turn out!  Whoa.  I feel bad for whoever has to sit next to us from Hong Kong to Sydney.    I mostly feel bad for myself because I have to sit next to dumb G, who will most likely smell like sh*t.  Cool.

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Merry and Bright

I’m happy to report that I’m sitting here enjoying a candy cane and coffee.  And I’m ALL ALONE!  Yes, I love it.  We celebrated last night (Christmas Eve) and G is working today until 4:30 pm.  While we had a really great night with the family, I love that we have no plans today.

I’m watching The Holiday right now and we’re going to watch Love Actually tonight.  I usually watch that movie every year, but I just found out that dumb G has never seen it!  So, it’s time.  He’s not that excited about it, but I don’t care.  That’s the Christmas spirit, right?!

I’ve been meaning to show you a picture of our beautifully decorated house!

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George did a splendid job.  Speaking of decorating, I’ve recently become a big fan of streamers!  They are so fun and super inexpensive.  I hung some up for our gathering last night and I think they’re so festive!

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That’s what they look like from outside the house…and this is what they look like with a creepy bastard George staring at you from inside the house:

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Bing is not as happy about streamer situation.

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Anyway, a few of us had to work yesterday and no one really felt like cooking anything so we decided to order take-out!  While we all enjoyed making a big feast for Thanksgiving, we were happy to have one less thing on our to-do lists for Christmas.  In order to switch things up a bit, we ordered Thai.  Such a good idea.

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We had salad rolls, pad thai, curry, spicy eggplant, and more!  It was all so good and everyone really loved it.

After filling our plates, the real fun began because I brought out our selfie stick.  I got one a few months ago (only because it was $2) and wanted to try it out.  Apparently, I need to practice a bit because the pictures are just ridiculous.

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The kids were excited about the selfie stick:

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Kai really wanted to be in the picture…I don’t know wtf I’m doing.

Instead of trying to blend in with everyone, I ended up right in the front of the dumb group picture.

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And Elijah is hidden by Kai.  Yeah, I need practice.  Oh and little Kennedy missed the group picture because she was napping.  My sister ended up having to wake Kennedy up because she didn’t want her to be up all night.  Kennedy was not happy about the situation.

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But don’t worry, once we started opening some gifts, all was right in Kennedy’s little world.

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The boys got some lightsabers that they were so damn excited about and a couple of us almost lost an eye.

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Ken decided that we needed to open all the presents under the tree and I’m a pushover so I let her.  I had a present under the tree from a friend who lives out of town.  I knew the gift would likely not be kid appropriate, but I let her open it anyway.  And she even agreed to model the gift for me!

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Notice anything about her shoes?

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Have you ever seen anything more perfect?!  And festive?  Me neither.

On that note, I’m outta here.  Hope you have a wonderful day and weekend.  Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy Festivus, Happy Everything!

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Family, Food and the Holidays

This post is brought to you by my insomnia.  Why is that when you don’t have to work, you are up hours before you want to be?  What.The.F*ck.

I know you’ll be shocked to hear this, but we’ve been spending a lot of time with family these days.  I know, we always get together.  That’s how we roll, I guess.

I took my nephews to soccer practice a few weeks ago and it was pretty cute.

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Kai is in the orange and black jacket and he’s holding Kaz’s hand.  Kaz was pretty pissed after he fell down a couple of times so Kai was helping him get back in the game.  Kai’s practice was after Kaz’s so it was so cute to see him help Kaz and NOT play.  I really like that Kaz gets pissed off all the time.  One thing goes wrong and Kaz starts raging.  Kids are hilarious.

Then we had Thanksgiving!  We hosted it for the second time and I decided to get a bit crafty.  I bought some gold paint and painted these pumpkins:

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It took about 40 coats to cover the orange pumpkin skin, but I love them and they are sitting on the mantel now.  And then I made a banner too!

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As you can tell, Bing was thankful.  For sanitary reasons, I had to move the table after I took the picture because Bing thought it was a new bed for him.  F*cking cat.

And for Thanksgiving food I made these vegan dinner rolls from Minimalist Baker:

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I also made Minimalist Baker’s vegan green bean casserole.  Both dishes were such a hit (even with the non-vegans!!) that I made them again for Friendsgiving a few days later.

I was dying to decorate for the holidays so I’m surprised I was able to wait until the day after Thanksgiving.

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We recently moved our furniture around and started using the fireplace so it was fun to put our tree in a new location this year.  And after painting the walls white last spring, I really love this space!  And I think it looks great at night too.

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I haven’t taken a picture of the lights George hung outside, but he did a really great job.  We are pretty festive around here this year!

And speaking of being festive, Laura and Hart hosted our annual swag and cookies get-together this year!  We used to go to my mom’s house, but since they moved to the city, Laura and Hart were forced super excited to host!

And look how excited the kids were:

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From left to right, that’s Natalie, Kaz, Kai, Julia and Kennedy.  It took a few minutes, but eventually they were fighting and destroying everything playing nicely together.

I know you missed seeing George in all these pictures so here you go, Laura and George:

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And some of the girls:

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Ken is super thrilled to be with us.

I haven’t taken a picture of our swag, but trust me, it looks beautiful.  Oh and I have one more food creation to share!

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Vegan maple pumpkin bread!  The recipe makes a lot of bread and it’s really good.  Easy recipe and festive.  Win-win.

We’re going to a Gospel Christmas show tonight and I’m really excited.  This will be our third time attending.   My brother and sister joined us last year and we have a group of 16 people going this year!

Party time.

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