Exploring The World

There’s nothing I enjoy more than exploring the world with my family and friends.  Last month, we were in the Bahamas for a fun and relaxing trip with family.  This weekend the Hubby is headed West for an adult hockey tournament with Goalielocks, while the Mayor will head to Epcot with school.  Jake will be working, which means I’ll have an entire Saturday to myself!  (Say what!?!?!)  If I didn’t have all these blisters on my feet from starting to run again, I’d probably go get a long over due pedicure.  I’m just a little concerned about picking up an infection with the blisters, so I’ll probably go shoe shopping instead.

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Before I get to my super Saturday, I have a 5K on Thursday night.  It’s all about the preparation with these races, which means I’m facing an uphill battle.   I’ve trained pretty steadily for the past two weeks, but it isn’t going to be sufficient to yield favorable results.  My goal is to get back under 30 minutes, but I don’t think this will be that race.  Nevertheless, it feels great to be running again.  To be clear, it feels good after I’m done running not while I’m running.

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Next weekend I’m headed to the islands for a well deserved momcation.  I can’t wait to be on a beautiful island with incredible women and incredible beaches.  Its been a hell of a first quarter and this is the perfect way to recharge my battery for the second quarter.   Honestly, I cannot wait to disconnect for a few days while in the company of great people.   Plus, you cannot beat the beaches in Turks and Caicos!

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One of my goals has always been to travel more and see different places.  The trips don’t have to be long, but just enough to get away for a bit and explore a new city.  Consequently, I’ve been thinking that for the boys’ birthdays, it would be better to take them on a weekend getaway than buy them something.   I love the idea of shared experiences over material goods.  I’ll let you know how that goes.  Lastly, Goalielocks hit the ice for the first time in earnest since his injury almost two months ago!

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Another Day In Paradise

Another day in paradise, here in the Bahamas. I started my day with a grueling run along the beach. To be clear, it was grueling since it was my first run since November. The scenery, however, more than made up for the difficulty of the run. Truly, it felt great to be able to run against. Although I have serious work to do before running in the Corporate Run.

After an awesome breakfast, we headed over to the cabana to setup shop. It’s a lot easier navigating this place when you have a singular meeting point for the entire day. Not too mention ample seating and areas out of the sun.

After getting setup at the cabana, A, the Mayor and myself headed to the lagoon to snorkel. I don’t know what the current water temperature is only that it is far too cold to be swimming it. It took me a long time to get acclimated to the water. Once I did, however, the snorkeling was fun and we saw a lot of fish.

After awhile we tired of the lagoon and headed for the beach. The beach is absolutely stunning, but there are street vendors on the beach that are a bit obnoxious. I have no patience for them. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a ton of fish in close to the beach and the jet skis were already all over the place. While there is reef off of the beach it’s a little too far from shore and too close to where the novice jet skiers are riding.

The rest of our day was filled with sun, sand and water. I enjoyed the rapids ride with H. We had a blast in our double tube. Meanwhile, the boys were all over the the place having a great time. We finally headed back to the room around 5:00, so I could get ready for an adults only dinner. Don’t worry the kids got fed! Moreover, I’m pretty sure they enjoyed their Dominoes as much as we enjoyed Nobu.

Nobu was fantastic albeit the last fish was slow to come out. I had left early since Goalielocks was needing to go lay down in our room due to a headache. J ordered the food for all of us and I’m so glad she did. I tried dishes tonight that I never would have tried if she hadn’t ordered them. All of the dishes were absolutely fantastic. I left full and satisfied, but not stuffed.

After a brief and very unsuccessful run in the casino tonight, I’m ready for bed. We have another action packed day on tap, so I’ll definitely need my beauty sleep! Good night all!

Sleepy Saturday night

It was a welcomed and overdue sleepy Saturday for the first time since August. We did nothing today, but relax, grocery shop and put a dent in the laundry. It couldn’t have been a better day for it as the afternoon and evening hours were cool and rainy.

The Mayor and Hubby went down to Fort Lauderdale to fish and hangout on our friends’ sailboat. It’s a tough life. I wasn’t feeling 100% and desperately needed to get the grocery shopping and laundry done, so I stayed North. Not to worry, however, as I’ll be headed down that way tomorrow morning to collect the Mayor and enjoy a nice brunch.

Goalielocks and I hit up Kohl’s before hitting up the aquarium store. We picked up a new led light for the coral tank. Of course, it would have been foolish to think I could get out of there with just the light. We picked up another snail and a coral frag. Suddenly, we have a real nano coral tank going on. Goalielocks has done a phenomenal job setting up and managing the tank.

While Goalielocks worked to acclimate our tank’s new inhabitants, the Mayor was busy fishing up a storm in Lauderdale. After fishing they enjoyed a nice dinner inclusive of mermaids, king crab and stone crab. Meanwhile back home, we enjoyed a tasty frozen pizza. Based on the pictures and videos, it would appear he and his buddies are having an amazing time. We’re heading to bed early since we’ll be losing an hour of sleep tonight and we’re heading to an early brunch in Fort Lauderdale. Have a wonderful evening!

Milestones

Last year was full of major milestones for our family with Jake’s graduation, start of college and the Mayors’ completion of elementary school.  It was a lot of big changes for our family, so much so that I completely forgot about this year’s forthcoming milestones.  Yep, this year Goalielocks will finish middle school and get his learner’s permit.  Whiskey Tango Foxtrot!  Can somebody stop time?

Last month, we completed the choice program application for his high school program.  Like his middle school program, he’s looking to continue in the medical choice program.  I still can’t believe that he’ll be starting high school.  It’s absolutely insane, but the scarier part is that he’ll be driving.

Its scary enough having one teen driver in the house.  Honestly, I’m not sure my heart, stomach and pocket book can handle another teen driver.  I hope my neighbors are prepared as well.  I have a new respect for what my brothers and I put my parents through when we were first driving.  Moreover, in South Florida you have the added worry of your teen driver having to contend with elderly driving and other crazy South Florida drivers.  In good news, once you learn to drive here, I’m pretty sure you could drive anywhere and feel comfortable.

Meanwhile, I started my 14 day vegan meal program that I purchased off of Groupon.   The meal plan from the Vegan Garden comes with 14 breakfast and 14 dinners.  Tonight’s breakfast was a chocolate muffin, which was very yummy.  If I hadn’t bought it as a part of a vegan meal plan, I wouldn’t have known it was vegan.  My dinner was a great dish of spaghetti and “meatballs.”  Fortunately, the spaghetti and meatballs were absolutely yummy.  In addition to being flavorful, the dish was filled with protein.   I complimented these meals with a vegan protein shake for lunch.    After my two-week meal plan is over, I’ll give you a full review and run down on the Vegan Garden meal plans.

Tonight’s song performed by Simon and Garfunkel is “Mrs. Robinson.”  I had to choose a song with the legendary Paul Simon as he announced his farewell tour today.   P..S. The pics are some of my favorites of the boys and my dad from our trip to Norway.  My dad taught my brothers and I how to drive as well as Jake.  I hope he’s ready for his new student Goalielocks!

 

 

We Made It

After two flights and a pit stop at MacDonald’s in Detroit, we finally made it to Chicago! This was my first time back in O’Hare since middle school. I remember the terminal walkways looked much bigger and much newer back then. Now it’s not so big and fancy compared to some of the newly remodeled airports.

Admittedly, I don’t eat MacDonald’s often. If I’m eating MacDonald’s, it’s either a desperation play or vodka made me do it. Today it was a desperation play as we didn’t have too much time between flights.

What a freaking mistake that was! I’m still feeling it! I ordered the artisan grilled chicken sandwich because calorie wise it was semi reasonable and it looked more gratifying than a single cheese burger. Wrong!

I was so hungry having totally forgotten to eat breakfast as we rushed to the airport. Despite this crazy level of hungry bordering on hangry, I couldn’t finish the sandwich. It was truly the one of the most vile things I have ever eaten.

Honestly, I would have been better off eating the soles of my shoes because they would have been less rubbery. As a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure they stole the rubber chicken from Carrot Top’s prop box and made into my sandwich. If I were him, I’d be mad that his prop was sacrificed for a subpar imitation chicken sandwich.

Now here we are in the Marriott seven hours later and my stomach is still angry with that sandwich. This is why I’m not going to be eating at Macdonald’s again sober. My sandwich today evoked memories of the horrific school lunches they served in elementary.

Meanwhile, my boys feel that the current Chicago weather is nice and comfortable. It’s been a battle since we landed to get them to put on jackets, pants, gloves, etc. “It’s not cold mom.” Yeah, my arse it isn’t cold. I’m looking forward to rehashing this argument tomorrow as we leave for the rink bright and early.

Tomorrow will be a busy day with three games and two team functions. Fortunately, the games are all at the same arena tomorrow. Sunday on the other hand will be a complete disaster. It should be an interesting day as I attempt to make all games in different arenas across town! I’m heading to bed hoping that the nausea caused by that blasted rubber chicken sandwich will be gone tomorrow. Over and out from Chicago!

Exploring Undredal

Exploring Undredal

By far one of my favorite excursions in Norway was the day we spent exploring Undredal.   Undredal is a famous city on the Aurlandsfjord.  It is famous for having more goat inhabitants than human inhabitants.  It is also famous for having the world’s smallest wooden stave church. 

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Our adventure to Undredal started with a bus ride from Flam to Gudvangen.  At Gudvangen we got on the ferry to cruise the world famous, and UNESCO protected Naeroyfjord.  The Naeroyfjord is the narrowest arm of the Sognefjord.  It is rated as the number one natural heritage site in the world by National Geographic Magazine.  The cruise on this narrow fjord did not disappoint.

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The water of the Naeroyfjord is a beautiful and pristine blue green color.  Dramatic mountains rise out the fjord matched only by equally waterfalls.  The sides of the mountains are covered by grass and trees, which are perfect for the goats and sheeps that inhabit them.  Unquestionably, there isn’t an adequate superlative to describe the beauty of the Naeroyfjord.   Consider the fact that this Florida girl and her son Jake spent the entirety of the Naeroyfjord cruise on the top of the ferry, so we wouldn’t miss a minute of the scenery.  We were utterly transfixed even as we were pelted in the face by ice pellets and the blistering cold wind.

We soon turned into the Aurlandsfjord and headed towards our destination of Undredal.  The town looked absolutely magical as we made our approach to the small dock.  Undredal has the appearance of a quintessential Norwegian Fjord town. The buildings of Undredal are colorful, well kept and inviting.

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When we disembarked, we met our guide who would lead us on our walking tour of the tiny town.   As we gathered with the rest of our group near the pier.  A short teenage boy/girl approached as we waited. It took a moment, but we realized that Mark was a guy and our guide.  He had to be younger than Jake most likely a high school student in town.   Mark was absolutely wonderful.  As a tour guide he was perfect, he was knowledge, engaging, funny and entertaining.

There is not a ton to see in tiny Undredal, but it is absolutely worth the visit!  Our guide took us to the raging river showed us the old school, and where we’d go for our cheese tasty.  The piece de resistance for our tour, however, was the smallest stave church in the world.   At its inception 1147, it was even smaller than its current iteration.   In the 18th century, they added own to the church.  Even in its larger iteration, it is only 39 ft x 13 ft with 40 seats.

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Most noteworthy in spite of its small size, the church’s interior packs quite the punch.  The sides of the church and ceiling are home to very interesting religious murals and paintings.  Norwegian churches, unlike most European churches from the Middle Ages, incorporate both Christian and pagan themes.  In addition, this is the only church where you will find a painting of Satan on the ceiling.  According to local legends, the townspeople of Undredal felt by putting Satan in their church they could keep a better eye on him.  I guess its that whole “keep your friends close and your enemies closer” thing.

If you sit in the benches, you can see where a board parishioner had carved a drawing into the wall.  The artists painted the ceilings with stars, biblical figures, angels and as noted above satan. Lighting in the church is provided by candles and a very unique deer antler chandelier that was a gift from the Germans.  In contrast, the alter area is simple and beautiful.  I can’t imagine going to church or holding a wedding in such a small church.

Despite its size, the Undredal and its small wooden stave church pack quite the punch and are well worth the journey.  If you are jumping off from Flam, it is pretty easy to get to Undredal and you have several options.  Moreover, I highly recommend taking the Naeroyfjord cruise option as cruising the Naeroyfjord is truly spectacular.    The particular excursion we chose included a bus to Gudvangen, the ferry to Undredal and a van back Flam.  In addition, it included a walking tour and a goat cheese tasting in Undredal, both of which were amazing.   This was the perfect excursion for families.  We were travelling with family members from 7 to 87 and each and everyone of us enjoyed the day trip.  

You can find all of the photos from this trip here: Photo Album

Vacation Planning

Vacation planning for families is no joke.  With a trip like that you can’t just plan things willy-nilly.  When planning a big family trip, especially overseas, a lot of careful planning and consideration must go into it.     We took over two years to plan the Norway trip given the cost, length of travel and number of people going.  My brother took point on the itinerary booking the Norway in a Nutshell tour.  Meanwhile, we booked a car and mirrored their stops.

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Renting a car in Norway was fairly easy and was reasonably priced through Hertz when booked with our AAA discount.  Driving in Norway was fairly easy and straight forward.  The roads were significantly narrower and full of roundabouts.  In stark contrast to South Florida, Norwegian drivers were adept at the roundabouts and very congenial drivers.  I didn’t hear a horn once.  Norwegians are serious about their speed limits with speed cameras littering their road ways.  Thank God for Waze and its speed trap warnings.  Waze and Apple Maps worked perfectly in Norway.

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Food is ridiculously expensive in Norway no matter which route you take. MacDonald’s set us back $60 in Bergen and that was fast food.   The lodging, however, was reasonably priced.  Hotels were nice as they often came with a complimentary breakfast that was quite impressive.  Our hotel in Trondheim, the Radisson Blu, had one of the most incredible hotel breakfasts I had ever seen.  The Air BnB’s worked perfectly for our family in Oslo and Bergen.  It was great to stay in the neighborhoods of these cities and away from the tourists.   Near our Air BnB in Bergen there was a great local coffee shop that had the most incredible coffee and treats.

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As I look to our next big trip, a couple of things I will keep in mind.  First, under no circumstance will I accept a compact car at the rental counter- no way, no how.  Secondly, the car was nice as it gave us a great opportunity to see the Norwegian countryside and cities, but it was slow going.  Next time, I think we will look to combine car, train and boat to see more of the country.  Thirdly, I will take out a second mortgage to cover the cost of food.  Lastly, when abroad it is not necessary to eat enough pastries to make up for the last two carb free years.  #lessonlearned

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Flam A Picturesque Hamlet

Flam is a picturesque hamlet at the end of the Aurlandsfjord.  Surrounded by mountains and the beautiful fjord, you couldn’t imagine a more beautiful, serene or more Norwegian place.  On the surroundings hills and mountains, the farmers let their sheep and goats roam freely to find the best grass.  It was even more beautiful that I had imagined.

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Our first night in Flam, we met our family at Flamstova for dinner.   Our dinner was incredible, but the kids had grown weary from sitting at the table.  My cousin Jessica and her husband Jeff volunteered to take them out to see the sheep in the pasture.  With the kids gone, we could enjoy the remainder of our dinner in relative silence.

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Meanwhile the kids were in seventh heaven as they fed the sheep that ventured near the fence.  Colin had his first run in with the prickle of a stinging nettle he had picked to feed the sheep.  He learned his lesson and was more careful when he picked the grass.  The kids loved the animals we would see grazing freely throughout our Norwegian travels, but the opportunity to be up close and feed them was even better.

We made several more visits to the sheep before leaving Flam including a walk behind the fence to find some good fishing spots.  The boys, particularly the younger two, had to visit their sheep named Jeffry.  All of the kids enjoyed feeding and interacting with the sheep.   They loved to watch their silly antics as they ran down the mountain or assaulted their mother for milk.  It certainly isn’t something our kids are accustom to seeing.

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It was awesome to see the how freely the sheep and goats were to gallivant about the mountains finding the best grass.  Each morning the farmers would let their herds out and then each night the farmers would bring them back home.   How they got them to come down the mountain, I don’t know, but each and every night they’d return home from their pastures.

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An Afternoon in Vigeland Park

Our last full day in Oslo, we made a mad dash through several amazing museums.  My favorite as you may recall was the incredible Viking Ship Museum.  After an expensive pizza lunch we headed out for our afternoon adventures: the Munch Museum and Vigeland Park.

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My motivation of course for going was to see Munch’s masterpiece The Scream.  Unfortunately, after its second theft and subsequent recovery, it is not always on display.  The painting was damaged as a consequence of the second theft and is undergoing restoration.  In hindsight, I would have instead opted to peruse Oslo’s National Gallery that has The Scream on display (there were 4 copies.)

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After our brief visit, we headed to a more kid friendly location.  The Vigeland Sculpture Garden, which is on the opposite side of Olso was our next stop.  Thanks to the Oslo’s incredible public transportation system it is easy to get anywhere in Oslo.  We took the T-bane (Olso’s Subway) to the nearest station and walked down the hill to the park.

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Vigeland Sculpture Garden is a must see if you ever travel to Oslo.  First of all, it is free.  This is great because you’ll spend a lot of money on food in Oslo.  For other attractions and free public transportation, your best bet is to buy an Oslo Pass.  You can buy an Oslo pass for 24-48-72 hours.  It definitely pays to have the Oslo Pass.

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Back to the Vigeland Sculpture Garden, which displays the life works of Gustav Vigeland.  The city of Oslo gave Vigeland a studio, where his eponymous museum is now located. Vigeland Park is home to Vigeland’s sculptures and incredibly beautiful gardens.

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The Monolith was carved out of a single block of granite and is located at the highest part of the park.  This is where our Vigeland experience began.  The kids were able to run free and explore the sculptures surrounding the monolith.  There were plenty of giggles emanating from the kids as all of the sculptures representative of man’s life cycle were nude.

While the kids giggled and climbed on the sculptures exploring the cycle of life, we were happy to photograph them as we took in the beautiful sculptures.  As they climbed, we ambled through the various sculptures.  Vigeland’s sculptures truly captured all of life’s cycles in beautiful and honest depictions.  The monolith is truly an exquisite piece of art.

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The kids got thirsty quick since it was a bit hot, by Oslo standards, the day we visited Vigeland. Near the bridge there was a tourist shop that sold water.  As the kids caught their breath and rehydrated, we were able to take in the beautiful sculptures on the bridge.   The sculptures on the bridge depict the children, men, women and their relationships.  The most popular sculpture is the one of the crying boy.  My favorite sculpture was the one that depicted a father juggling his children because it reminded me of my Hubby and my boys.

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If you find yourself in Oslo, Vigeland Park is an absolute must.  It would be the perfect location for a picnic lunch between museums.  Lastly, Vigeland is great for families with kids. Parents can enjoy the artistry of Gustave Vigeland while the kids can run freely about the park.

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Dinner

Our second night in Bergen, our goal was to have dinner as a group.  This is no easy feat as there was nineteen of us including six children.  My sister-in –law found a great restaurant that happened to be  brewery, happened to be on the water and happened to be able to accommodate our large group.

As we enjoyed a post-hike beer with my brothers and their families, my sister-in-law Brandi managed to get all nineteen of our orders.  Before we left the brewery, Brandi had already placed our dinner orders for that evening.   While this was at the directive of the restaurant, it was a genius time saving move for all involved.

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Me with my mom, my grandma, my aunt Kandy and cousin Jessica
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Me with my mom, my grandma, my aunt Kandy, cousin Jessica and niece Priya

After chilling in the AirBnB and freshening up, we headed back to the Brewery for dinner.  For the first time in almost two weeks, I was wearing a dress albeit without heels.  We headed back to the brewery, this time all freshened up, to meet our family.

No sooner had we gotten to the table, Goalielocks and the Mayor headed over to the shuffleboard tables to meet their cousins.  The tables were a gift from god!  We were able to enjoy our drinks in relative peace as we waited for our food and discussed the trip.

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As soon as the food came, the Mayor devoured his king crab and caviar.  I struggled with my mussels.  Goalielocks ate the steak we were supposed to share and left me with the mussels.  The pear cider, which was completely addicting, was the perfect complement to my dinner.

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We decided to take some group photos since we were all together, my family, my brothers’ families, my parents, my grandma, my aunt and uncle and my cousin Jessica and family.  Thankfully we chose the one day I got dressed up and did my hair.  After over a week of casual dress in yoga pants, tanks, hoodies and not doing my hair, it felt great to be dressed up and not so casual.

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The resulting photos were absolutely sublime and ones that I will cherish forever.  It was a very special trip for my family to Norway and the cities’ from which are family emigrated from.  It, however, was even more special since we could share it with our extended family.

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