Monday, January 30, 2012

happy birthday harley!

Wow, how time flies. I can't believe Harley is 4 years old today! My baby is getting so big! I can still remember driving to Fresno to pick him up. My mom and I arrived at the lady's house, got a quick tour and were introduced to the pups. There were two puppies for sale, Harley and his brother. Harley was not only cuter, he seemed to like me a lot. I was pretty much sold right away. I mean, how can you not love that face?

playing with cousin Sonny

Before leaving to drive back to San Diego with him, we made a stop at Petco to get all the necessary supplies. A crate, some food, a collar and a leash. And of course a few "welcome to the family" toys. Then we made the long drive to San Diego and he was a perfect angel the entire time. He didn't cry or bark at all. The ideal road doggie. He has since made many trips in the car. When I moved to DC he road with us the entire way. He even snuck into a few hotels and may or may not have chewed on some of their furniture. Hey, he was a puppy, what can you do?!

Here are a few of my favorite pictures of Harley.
ready for a bath after a trip to the dog park
he loves the 4th of July!
first taste of snow!

wearing daddy's cover

his first beach trip!
his bad-a$$ photo. :)
Adopting Harley was one of the best decisions Matt and I made. He is not just our dog, he is a member of our family. He makes our house a home and adds so much joy, love, and humor to our life. He is our biddle spoon, our guard doggie, and one very lazy pup. Our life would not be the same without him. H ~ we love you! Happy Birthday! 

Friday, January 13, 2012

NYE 2012

I know this is a little late for a NYE recap, but I was busy posting all about the trip last week. :)

Our original plans for NYE was to go out but keep it somewhat low-key. I was thinking a dive-ish bar where we could get a drink in a reasonable amount of time and actually be able to have a conversation with friends. But then the words free cover were mentioned and I was game for a downtown adventure. We started off the night in downtown, but not in downtown if you get my drift. The benefit: available parking. The downside: a looonng walk to the bar. We met up at Darnell's place, had a few drinks and hung out for a while. We left the apt by 9pm and headed for the gaslamp. It was really cold out (but I was in a dress so my opinion might be skewed) and damn it was a long walk. 12 blocks. In heels. Definitely should have reconsidered my outfit, too late now.

We arrived at Henry's, where Darnell smooth talked the bouncer and got us all in for free. Saved us $40/person. And the place was packed! There was not a lot of extra space to just stand and enjoy your beverage. But, it was NYE, so we knew it would be crowded. We danced and had a great time! This was also the first time we took our new point and shoot camera out with us (I was super paranoid about dropping it!)...
trying to figure out the flash. haha.
got it. :)
silly boys.

We made it to midnight, just long enough to get in the kiss...
Then it was time to get the heck out of there, because Matty had a lot to drink and needed to hit up McDonald's. :)
drunk face...haha love it!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Cairns, Australia ~ Our last day...

Tuesday December 20 was the last day of our trip. Sad face. But we sure did a lot of cool stuff on our final day. We started off the day by sleeping in, grabbing some breakfast and then heading downstairs to meet up at the helicopter pad for our 40 minute reef tour. Yesterday we got to see the reef from below and today we get to see it from above. Our helicopter arrived around 10:20am and we loaded up. Matt let me sit in the front seat since it was my first time in a helicopter and you got the best view from that seat (he is so sweet).

It took about 15 minutes for us to get out of the area and to the reef. We flew around for a while and got to see Green Island, a little sand island, and even a sting ray! I pictured the reef as one giant reef. It is actually many smaller reefs and islands separated by a small amount of blue ocean. It is really cool to look out into the distance and see all the individual reefs scattered everywhere. The whole experience was very moving. It is listed as one of the seven wonders of the world, and for good reason. It is magnificent. It will take your breath away. I had always wanted to see the reef, and here we were, flying over it in a helicopter! It is officially off my bucket list, but I would go back in a heartbeat if I could.

Here are some of our pictures.
After our fabulous flight we were took a shuttle up to the Cairns tropical zoo. Matt really wanted to hold a koala bear and that was the place to do it! And it was a small yet awesome zoo. One of the best I have been to because they allow you to get up close and personal with the animals. We had so much fun!

Santa Claus came out just to feed the crocodiles (scary!)....

And we got to feed and pet the kangaroos!!! They were so cute and they
didn't kick us! Yay!! (I did feel bad for eating kangaroo after petting them)
Then we got to see a really awesome bird show. They had owls and hawks and they were flying so close to us they touched my hair! They were able to do some pretty cool tricks too.

After a few hours at the zoo we headed across the street to picture perfect Palm Cove.
postcard worthy

It was windy and warm and so relaxing out there. We walked along the beach, put our feet in the water, soaking it all in. Then we headed to a bar that was right on the beach, grabbed a patio table, and enjoyed some beers as we people watched. It was perfect. We grabbed some dinner at a local Thai place and then headed back to the hotel for a relaxing, low key evening.

It was the trip of a lifetime. I had always dreamed and hoped that someday I would see New Zealand and Australia, but I wasn't sure it would ever happen. But after seven long months of deployment and lots of saving, we made our dreams come true. We got to see and experience so much.....Bungy jumping (twice), wine tasting, the Fiordlands, scuba diving, helicopter ride, etc. And we got to do it all together. We made some unforgettable memories that I know we will be talking and reminiscing about for the rest of our lives.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Cairns, Australia ~ Scuba Diving

After disembarking from the ship we quickly made our way to the airport so we could catch our flight to Cairns. The flight was an easy and relaxing 3 hours. When we landed we were shocked at how hot is was outside! It went from a cool 60's to a steamy and humid 90's. I knew it would be warm, but I don't think you are ever fully prepared for it. We grabbed a cab and made our way to the hotel, The Shangri-la. The hotel was right on the water, overlooking the harbour and the beach. There was a mini mall and a ton of restaurants on the bottom level of the hotel, and we were blocks away from downtown and all the nightlife.
After dropping off our bags in our room we Matt decided we should go for a run. There was a great path along the beach that was about 6 or so miles round trip. I did not make it that far. The heat got to me quickly and I just couldn't keep up. I went about half way and then turned back. Plus I just wasn't in the exercise mood. Matt stuck it out for much longer, and was a sweaty mess when he returned. We showered and changed and decided to go grab some food and walk around the city.

All the shops and restaurants are bundled together in a 4 block radius, making it very pedestrian friendly. And because of the reef and the rain forest, it is a big tourist town, especially for student travellers. There was a hostel on every corner and young people everywhere! A complete 180 from the cruise where we were one of the few young couples on board. We were excited to check out the bar scene and headed straight over to Courthouse (a bar that used to be the city's courthouse), where they had $3 coronas. Sold!

As we were walking back to the hotel we stumbled upon Gilligan's, a hostel/hotel. When we were making reservations for Cairns we briefly considered staying at Gilligan's. It was cheaper, had good reviews, and it seemed like a place where we could make a lot of friends. Thank goodness we decided against it. Think Mexico during spring break. Yea, no thanks . College students everywhere, people drinking and swimming, hanging off balconies drinking, up until 4am partying. Sometimes I wish I could still party like that, but unfortunately I am an old married lady now. But we did enjoy hanging out at the bar and scoping it out. And the pool did look like a lot of fun!
After our fix of music and beer we made a stop at the grocery store for beer and snacks:
rice crispys? rice bubbles? easily entertained

That evening we went out to a nice dinner at a restaurant nearby, then rented a movie and called it a night. We had to get up early to scuba dive the next day and did not want a hangover. Good call by us, turns out the seas are very rough as you make your way out to the reef.

Monday morning we got up, grabbed some food, and walked over to our dive boat. We eventually boarded, filled out paperwork and grabbed some coffee. We were all encouraged to take sea sick pills if we get motion sickness because it was going to be a very bumpy ride. Matt said he would be fine, I was a little nervous and didn't want to ruin my day by getting sick, so I took the pills. And thank god I did! I would say almost half the boat was puking their guts out. Yuck.
this poor guy was sick all day long.

We listened to instructions from our dive master and learned all about the fish we were to leave alone. The was a "shooter" fish that was likely to attack you if you got too close to it's territory, and one actually bit a girl the day before. I was quickly trying to memorize all the information. I did not want to go home with teeth marks from a fish, no thanks.

After a 45 minute ride we finally arrived at the outer reef. We geared up and hopped right into the water.
the water was so blue and warm!

All the divers wore thin lycra suits for protection. It was jellyfish season and we didn't need to get stung by any of them! We did 3 separate dives with a short break in between each. We saw nurse sharks, clown fish, clams, sea turtles, lots of beautiful coral, and a few of those territorial shooter fish. Here are some underwater images the photographer took:
We actually stuck our hands in the clam shell and got to feel how soft it was! We also got to pet the turtle! Our dive instructor was feeding him so we each got to swim up and touch his shell and his fins. It was really awesome! And we actually touched the Anemone, where the clown fish lives, and the ends stick to your fingers. It was pretty cool.

Here we are, having the time of our lives scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef!!!
I sorta look distraught in these pics, but that's only because I didn't smile. I was super happy!

We also did a little bit of snorkeling after our dives. We had the time and I wanted to be in the water as much as possible! I wanted to soak it all in and really enjoy my experience out there. I don't know if I will ever be able to see the reef again, so I needed to see as much as possible! We also had some relaxation time on the boat, where we soaked up the sun and took some more pictures.

It was a perfect day outside. I am so glad we were able to make it up to Cairns so we could experience the reef. After hours out in the water and the sun we headed back to land.
our hotel in the distance

After showering and relaxing for a bit we walked through town and stopped for dinner at Ochre restaurant. It was recommended to us by some friends for the great local cuisine. And boy was it delicious! I decided to branch out, I had the kangaroo for dinner! It was actually really good (I wish I had a picture). It was a lot like steak, except a little gamier, and apparently much healthier for you. I couldn't bring myself to try the crocodile, even though it was another local favorite. After our fabulous dinner we walked to a nearby pub for some drinks. We quickly made friends with some travelling Germans and spent the rest of the night drinking beer and bar hopping with them.
We took the garland off the bar and decorated ourselves, this was actually the boys idea.

and we picked up some awesome hats at our final bar

It was such a great day! We got to experience the ocean and the reef, then the local cuisine, and finally the city itself. I could not have asked for a more perfect day.

Up tomorrow: Our last vacation day~ the reef from above, a really awesome zoo, and picture perfect beaches!!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Somewhere in the Tasman Sea

Our final port visit of the trip was Bay of Islands, unfortunately we never made it there. The weather got really bad overnight, not to mention the rough seas, and we were unable to pull in. Usually a pilot boat meets the cruise ship and helps it navigate the waterways into the port. The visibility was so bad the pilot boat couldn't meet us, which also meant the tender boats would not have been able to get us safely to shore. So we missed out on seeing the Bay of Islands. Big bummer. To make it up to us, the Captain of the ship drove us out and around the storm and we got the most amazing weather of the entire cruise! We got to sit out by the pool, in our bathing suits (not bundled in towels) and tan burn. It was fabulous! I was so happy to see the sun I didn't put on any sunscreen for the first 20 minutes, BIG mistake. I was a lobster from the neck down for the rest of the trip. But I was a happy lobster so that's all that matters.
me, before the burn of 2011. haha

We read our books and drank some ice cold blended drinks. Ahhhh so relaxing! And then Matt got sucked in to a belly flop contest. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He didn't want to play at all, but got "told" by the cruise director that he would be volunteering. haha. Being the good wife that I am, I happily documented the event.


Even though he doesn't have a belly, only abs of steel, he actually won the water displacement challenge. He got second place overall after they completed the loudest, most painful belly flop portion. He took home a really nice silver medal. :) And we celebrated with more spa time.

The following we day we got to do something really cool. We took an all access tour of the ship.
super excited!

For a small nominal fee a group of 15 people got to see it all! We got a tour of the kitchen....

And the many, very organized freezers where they store all the food.
Matt is pointing to the "Ice Cream" freezer......and that is all the Ice Cream!!!
Thumbs up for Corona!
milk, does a body good
One of our favorite waiters.............and the best sign ever. perma-smile.

We also saw all their admin offices, laundry facilities, trash/recycling, etc. It was really interesting to see how much work and effort goes in to making the ship function properly. All of the people work so hard and are really passionate about their jobs. And each job, no matter what it is, is vital to making it all run smoothly. It's a well-oiled machine.
soda can Christmas ornaments in the recycling department
the engineering room. Where are all the hot guys shovelling coal into the burners??

Our last and probably coolest stop was The Bridge. We spoke with the Captain for a bit and then one of his Officer's game a small presentation. They let us take as many pictures as we wanted and even sit in the Captain's chair!
Our room is right there
Matt, checking out the and the helo pad!!
the view straight down....hello ocean.
chilling in the Captain's chair. hehe

This little excursion was one of my favorite things we did! And it was the perfect thing to do while we were at sea, lounging around all day. If you ever go on a cruise, ask about the all access tour, it was really fun!

The next morning we pulled into Sydney bright and early. We woke up just as the sun was coming up and got to see the most amazing views of the Opera House.

After 14 days at sea, touring the beautiful country of New Zealand, and experiencing all it has to off, they made us leave. :( We were very sad to go, but also super excited for the next adventure....Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef!!