Europe at Christmas Time!

Hello from Europe!

Our family loves an adventure whether it’s been well planned or an impromptu trip. Our Christmas celebration in Europe was the later but it didn’t make it any less magical. Cory had to work in Germany and England, and he let us tag along!

Cory was already in Germany for a conference so this was my first time solo parenting it on an international flight. These little expert travelers were as amazing as I expected! Even at 10 and 8, they are so good to understand why we should sleep at specific times to help us get on the right time zone. I also travel with sleep masks for them and it is a huge help!

Upon arrival, we got big hugs from Cory….and Jess and Jack! Jess is a part of the Australian family I lived with 19 years ago. She now lives in Switzerland with her husband and son and drove up to Munich to see us. We trained into the city to our hotel ApartHotel then head straight to Hofbrahaus for delicious sausages, German beer and the best atmosphere seeing a band playing and people dancing. It was everything I had hoped it would be! Cory and I lived in a very German neighborhood when we lived in Chicago; and, each part of Germany we’ve visited has brought back fun memories of our time there.

Next we went straight to Marienplatz to experience Germany’s #1 Chriskindlmarkt. It was quintessential! There are so many vendors and people around but of course we had to get some treats. Teddy picked a chocolate covered banana; I got a Nutella crepe; Bea some sweet candies; and Cory gluhwein. When you get gluhwein or any hot drink here, it comes in a mug you can keep or give back and get your deposit back. Marienplatz is home to the New Town Hall with an amazing clock tower that displays life-size figurines coming out of the clock when it chimes. However, in the winter, it only chimes once daily at mid-day.


We waked rested the next morning to hotel lobby breakfast and great smiles from 19 month old Jack and Bea and Teddy ready to play with him! Cory joined us this morning to take the train (which was helpful as we couldn’t find a lift anywhere and he helped Jess carry it up and down stairs) to Deutsches Museum. When we got there, we found out it was closed for an electrical issue. Who would’ve guessed!?! We chose an indoor activity because it was cold and a bit rainy. Luckily, it never poured so we didn’t melt! On to the Royal Residenz but turns out it’s not stroller friendly and our little buddy was napping….so moving on! Instead we walked around to Odeonsplatz to see where the Nazis rallied before World War Two. It was quite eery standing here as you could see the road where the troops would have marched the streets. Of course, while we’re here, it hosts a stand to buy Christmas trees. We have found stands like this all over the different cities we visited along with super fun Christmas lights. The one thing we didn’t hear much of on our trip was Christmas music.

Spatenhaus was the perfect lunch setting and delicious food! I had German salad with cold sliced sausage, onions, gerkins, cucumber, tomato. I usually go for the heavy sausage, sour kraut, German potato salad meal so this was quite different and refreshing. Who’s ready for our second ChriskindhlMarkt. You can find these markets all around town and they’re all a bit different in vendors as well as size. This was a smaller one but had a fun kids’ section with animatronics. We have no idea what they’re saying but so fun nonetheless! I got delicious chimney cake dipped in cinnamon sugar with Nutella in the middle…Yum!!!!! It was worth my fingers being bitter cold while I ate it! Work called for Cory so he headed out and we tried the Residentz again as Bea really wanted to see the Schatzkammer/ Treasury aka Crown Jewels of Germany; unfortunately, it wasn’t as great as we hoped. Things don’t always work out as you plan!


After some much-needed time to play in the hotel lobby (you always have to tenor your “going” when kids are involved), we had dinner at *Pivasta Restaurant for Afghani food. It was delicious food with dumplings, chicken tekka, etc! We do love middle eastern food! Our hotel lobby provided more fun with books, games and viewing of the World Cup so stayed and chatted for a while. It’s quite fun to be in Europe during the ending of the World Cup as it’s a much bigger deal here than it is in America.

After breakfast the next, we tried again for Deutsches Museum. Luckily, it’s open but the train isn’t running because of an accident….so we walked! It’s a super cool science museum which is always fun to have Cory around for these types of activities as he’s our resident science expert! The museum has vintage airplanes, chemistry, physics and musical sections and lots of technology. The kids’ favorite part was the interactive section; you could rent a ball to watch it go through a maze which all age kids enjoyed! We ate lunch at the cafe here and it was undoubtedly the best museum food I’ve ever visited!

After a walk back to the hotel, Jess packed up and we all played a bit in the lobby before she and Jack headed out. We had the best time with them! She is the sweetest, most patient momma and Jack is one lucky little boy! It was so fun to see her as a momma! The kids were so sad when they left! We got lots of hugs! 

Kids and I walked around the Marienplatz again before meeting Cory for dinner at Hackerhaus. This traditional German restaurant is located where Hacker beer was originally brewed starting in 1417AD! It was everything you can imagine with the staff wearing leiterhausen, the chairs carved with intricate designs and more. It was also the best pork knuckle I’ve ever had and amazing weinerschnitzel too. It was such a fun dinner as a family with so much laughter! Herein lies why we travel to experience new cultures and to be together as a family!

Munich was so fun and getting to be with Jess and Jack was just the best! After a leisurely morning in our great hotel set up with two rooms (kids were on rollaway beds) plus a washer in our bathroom, we train to the airport. All went smoothly especially since Cory has a card for airport lounges around the world; it is always the cleanest facilities with food and drinks. It spoils us traveling this way and just makes the whole experience so much more relaxing. This lounge even had a kids’ area with easels with butcher paper and markers. What fun for the kids!

We arrived in London and decided we should’ve rented a car. Thankful goodness for National Car Rental and ease of renting a vehicle with Cory’s status. Cory also talked me into getting a manual car. I can drive a manual and have driven on the other side of the car and road before….but never that combo. Here goes nothing! We quickly checked in at London Heath Marriott before meeting Cory’s colleagues from Splunk and McLaren for an English pub dinner at Three Horseshoes. They were so kind to include me and the kids on this evening and made us feel so welcome! I was an even prouder wife tonight as I told Cory they wouldn’t have taken us all out for an evening if they didn’t really respect and appreciate him. It was so fun!

Now, let the ultimate Go With Daddy day begin! Cory worked at McLaren Technology Center today and he was so excited to be there! We dropped Cory off to work and I drove us to Windsor Castle. I drove the manual better than I anticipated; I made it without stalling out or taking any wrong turns which was very surprising! The sun was shining and a beautiful day to be outside; we got to Windsor Castle in time to see the changing of guards as it doesn’t happen often (or even every day) in winter. This castle is the only castle used by all British royals. The guards change and the bagpipes and drums make it a ceremonial occasion. We also didn’t want to miss the State Apartment to see Queen Mary’s dollhouse. It was worth the short cue to see all the intricate pieces of the doll house from actual wine in the wine bottles to real books/words on the pages in books to actual songs played on the tiny records. Unfortunately, you couldn’t take any pics.

Then it was time for our tour of the McLaren Techology Center and we were all giddy! The tour was so fascinating and held Bea and Teddy’s attention. We learned about Bruce McLaren who was always pushing the limits in racing; even though he was killed at 32 years of age, his legacy lives on with the success of his company. We saw so many amazing McLarens, the trophies they had earned over the years, and even the inner workings of making gear boxes and other parts to make the cars for 2023 even better! We saw a 450,000 piece Lego McLaren! We also met the McLaren eSports Shadow team who won the 2022 F1 eSports season!

Then the most exciting part of our day was seeing McLaren driver, Lando Norris strolling down the boulevard (as they call the main walkway of the center). We were upstairs (it’s all glass everywhere in the building) and had a great view of Lando as he looked up to see us, grinned and waved! Our day was made! Cory had a broadcast tonight with the McLaren Shadow team so we left him to work and headed back to our hotel. Truly, the ultimate Go With Daddy day seeing Cory in action and a big part of his job that he loves so much! Thanks for letting us tag along, Cory!

With Cory’s work, we try to tack on some vacation days of sightseeing which is what came next. We had an early, uneventful flight to Prague. The Czech Republic is a new country for all of us to enter; going through customs was a bit different than any other country we’ve entered though. The officer made us split up one adult and one child at the desk and thoroughly looked through the pages of our passports. The officer made sure her stamp was not on a new page of our passports. I wonder why! We were staying in an AirBNB this time and the owner had arranged an Uber to our apartment. We’re staying in Prague 1 which is the heart of the city! Having the extra space with two bedrooms and two baths, kitchen, living room and laundry as opposed to a hotel room is quite an upgrade. Teddy immediately set up their toys in their bedroom so he could feel at home.

Now let’s check out the city! After a quick lunch, we enjoyed their biggest Christkindhlmarkt in Old Town Square along with seeing U Minuity which is the most interesting house in the square that juts out into small extensions with biblical and classical motifs. Old Town Hall has a 600 year old astronomical clock that strikes at the hour by mechanical figures. Their Christkindhlmarkts are different in size from Germany…ie smaller ones around every corner. We each got a yummy treat again. Cory and I drank gluhwein but I tried the white kind; it’s too sweet for me. I like the red better. We also had to try some treats! Teddy and I got chocolate waffles on a stick and Bea picked a Nutella filled crepe. We love walking around exploring new cities but we’ll layer up more tomorrow as it was cold cold today. U Spirku for tonight’s authentic Czech food dinner; I tried the traditional roasted beef with gravy, cranberries, dumplings and whipped cream…delish! The kids split a pork knuckle and Cory got ham, duck and beef combo dish with the ham being his highlight! Also, the beer here just tastes better! Czechs were the original Budweiser company before America took it over.

Happy Saturday to us as we took it easy this morning because we had an early lunch reservation at La Degustation Boheme Bourgeoise. Cory was over the moon excited! From start to finish, it was obvious that this was a Michelin Star restaurant. Their five-course meal with pairings was quite the experience! After that we needed a good walk so we headed toward the Prague castle where we crossed one of the many bridges and walked up many steps. We should’ve been counting! St Vitus’s Cathedral is the most beautiful Gothic cathedral in Europe; it even has a mosaic of the Last Judgement put in 1370! The history in Europe is unreal and especially in Prague as it was mostly untouched during World War Two unlike the rest of Europe. Another Christkindhlmarkt around the palace area too! St George’s Basilica that still looks like it did when it was built in 12th century! The hits just don’t stop in this area with Lobkowicz Palace then we walked over the Charles Bridge viewing their towers, domes, cathedral spires, etc. It’s so picturesque here!

Our apartment is close to Wencesla Square; the Statue of St. Wenceslas is where people would come to protest the Nazi and Communist parties in years past. Like I mentioned, it’s quite cold in Prague (and even more so today) so we chose less walking and to see some of the sights via the historical tram cars. We got off at Petrin Park to see the Mirrors Maze which provided lots of laughs! It was a fun hike to and from where we also found the neatest lunch spot…Peklo Restaurant. It’s a restaurant located inside a cave!

We waked up to snow and more coming down; we had been hoping for this! Again, we’re in a great location to easily walk to the train station for our train to Budapest. Prague’s train station is super nice with a really fun, very detailed Lego train station inside. It’s still snowing as we head out on our longest (seven hours) train ride of the trip. We arrived to find a cab who gave us a good deal to get to our VRBO that’s tucked away in a courtyard style apartment building. The apartments are on the outer rim with courtyard in the middle. We found an amazing place for dinner at Vendiak…best meal in Budapest. I had a lovely Julius Meinhl fruit tea and potato soup, Cory had roasted pork bravas style and kids weinerschnitzel. It was all delicious!

As it turns out our apartment wasn’t as advertised; so when the kids waked, we let them know we wouldn’t be staying at our apartment again. They were thrilled! Sometimes you get lucky with a rental (like in Prague) and sometimes not. However, sometimes you just need your tried and true hotel and we used points for a room for the next night at Ritz Carlton…upgrade! Both the apartment and the Ritz are on the Pest side and we’re so close that we can walk to the hotel.

Once we got settled at the Ritz, we were off to explore. First up, St Stephen’s Basilica, one of chief landmarks of Pest as well as the city’s largest church. This dome (along with Parliment’s) are most visible in the Pest skyline and has 150 different kinds of marble on it. It was a beautiful cathedral where we were able to take the lift to the top for a full view of the city and the Danube River. The Danube is what splits the Buda from the Pest side. Another Christmas market was being set up outside the cathedral; we’ll be back to check it out tonight.  

Next up, cab to the Buda side…on the left bank of the Danube, this hillier, older part of Budapest has amazing views of the Castle Hill area and a scenic lookout in front of the Hungarian National Museum including the Chain Bridge and the Parliament building. The Chain Bridge is the oldest and most beautiful of Seven Road bridges in Budapest. We’ve heard this area is even more brilliant at night! The fisherman bastion is also located here and we explored the white stone towers, arches and columns. We gave some change to a Ukrainian man playing his accordion here. We saw lots of support for the people of Ukraine in Prague and Budapest. Tonight we bundled up to see Budapest lit up on a riverboat cruise (with Legenda) as we were told it’s the best way to see the city. They were right! It was spectacular especially seeing all the bridges and Parliament building. We also saw the Freedom Statue which overlooks the city for protection.

Dinner tonight was enjoyed at Rezkaka which had great food and fun, live music with a violinist and a cimbalom (similar to a hammered dulcimer). On our way back to the hotel, we couldn’t let our only night in Budapest go by without a walk through the Christkindhlmarkts. Like I mentioned, they all have a different vibe. We enjoyed a light show on St. Stephen’s Bascilia and stayed out too late, but so many fun giggles in the process!

If you have followed us, you know we love zoos. So we checked out the Budapest Zoo and had it mostly to ourselves since it was so cold. We don’t mind the cold! We saw a new animal we’d never heard of or seen before, a dhoule. We made friends with a sweet, shivering squirrel monkey who came over to see us even though he was clearly very cold! We saw Bea’s favorite animal the red panda and Teddy’s favorite, from the day, was the sugar glider. Right beside the zoo, you find Hero’s Square with lots of statues of kings and heroes from 997 to 1300s. Their history goes back so far!

Hero’s Square

Back to the hotel to have a late check out. Honestly, picking a hotel chain and having status is so worth the extras and convenience! We had lunch in the lounge before we left. Then we got to the train a bit early, but Cory figured out that the train station had a business lounge which you can use when you buy first class train tickets. So, we headed that way to wait on our train and eat a small bite. I so appreciate that Cory always looks at the perks when booking trains or flights; they come in handy especially with kids! On to Vienna where we’re greeted with warm smiles, as always at the Marriott, and the kids are treated to chocolate wafers and a stuffed hedgehog for Teddy.

Today in Vienna was a day for walking. We walked to and toured St. Stephen cathedral which was beautiful and a building that began construction almost 1000 years ago. Wild to think of that long ago! The cathedral is located in a plaza that’s full of energy and I can tell it’s going to be even better seeing the Christmas lights when it gets dark. Another day, another Christkindhlmarkt we happened upon while walking around. The kids got treats but then we found Cory’s ultimate Vienna treat…kasekrainer at a street vendor. It was even better than he described! On we walked to City Hall to find another Christkindhlmarkt and the neatest ice skating trail. It wasn’t just a circular rink but had a pathway to skate through. The kids and Cory had a blast doing this. Bea is quite good as she roller blades at home! Teddy fell a handful of times but always got back up and kept going…learning resilience!

My afternoon pick was Haus der Musik, a music museum dedicated to composers Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and more with interactive exhibits. It brought back so many memories of things I learned when I took piano lessons growing up and I hoped Bea and Teddy will appreciate it one day too! Their favorite part was the stairwell piano that you played with your feet! On to Wiebels Wirsthaus for delicious bone marrow, potato soup, weinerschmitzel and steak. Inside, it was very quintessential Austrian! Can you tell that we’ve really enjoyed the food on this trip!?!

On our last full day in Europe, we trained to Schonbrunn Palace; it’s out a bit as it was the royal’s summer palace. We had to get a timed entry but we enjoyed their Christkindhlmarkt in front of the palace while we waited on our time. It was a great audio guided tour (the kids loves these!) that we heard about their life in the palace. It was quite fascinating! It’s a lot like Versace in that it’s an expansive property including beautiful garden areas and the oldest zoo…Vienna Zoo. It’s quite an excellent, large zoo with incredible habitats for these animals. I’d definitely go back!

Christkindhlmarkt in front of
Schoenbrunn Palace

A quick train ride back to our hotel to grab our bags and have dinner at Puerstner recommended by the concierge. Another excellent, authentic meal! I’m glad we got a good meal in us as it was a late night after a delayed train ride to Munich then an hour in a taxi to our hotel. Oh man, there were some tired kiddos (and adults!) Nothing like a 4 hour night of sleep and not wanting to miss your flight to make for a fretful night’s sleep. Two weeks in Europe was totally worth it!

Last thing, as I think it is one of the most helpful travel tips, is how we maneuvered through the Munich airport that was currently a zoo due to a bunch of flights being cancelled the day before. Thank goodness for Cory’s status with Delta for starters as it put us in the shorter of the two very long security lines. Then, observant Cory found a QR code on a billboard to fast track the security line! You could literally book a timed entry to pass the line and he was able to get us a timed slot for 15 minutes after he initially clicked the code. What an upgrade and it cost nothing! We zipped through security and passport control. Wow, there are definitely things that can elevate your travel experience! Then we came to the Airport Business Lounge where Cory has a card to get into them around the world. It just makes things way more relaxing, free food and drinks and gives everyone a little space before getting on a tight airplane. On to the plane with my sweet kiddos who are getting harder to snuggle/sleep on planes as their legs hang into the aisles. However, they still sleep when you ask them to and are the best travel buddies ever! Until next time, Europe…

Tanzania- You are Stunning!

Hello from Tanzania!

This adventure isn’t exactly a Go With Daddy but Cory was there so I’m counting it! First, let me share that this trip was over two years in the making due to covid. Second, I can tell you this adventure exceeded my expectations even with the extra time to build up the excitement. It is a trip of a lifetime!

Here we go on the long haul to get there…two 8+ hour flights including a little hop from our town but it was oh so worth it! We arrived late at night which is always extra exciting to me as you wake up to new sights the next day. Also, Tanzania is a destination where you want to have most, if not all, of your itinerary planned before arrival. This is new to us as we usually have outline of each day then decide the night before what we will do the next day. We had a handler meet us at the airport, transport to our hotel (Mount Meru Hotel) and get us set up with our safari guides the next morning. We booked everything through a local travel agent who booked everything with Abercrombie and Kent. A&K is the best! I will probably say this many times again but the company and especially our two amazing guides, Anderson and Lucas, made our trip what it was! We were in two safari trucks because we were a party of eight. At first, I wish we were all together as our group included my family, my sister’s family and my mother. However, having two guides ended up being even better as we switched around who rode with whom each day and Anderson and Lucas each had amazing and different insight to share. We started our journey by driving through many little towns already getting our “African massage” aka bumpy (mostly dirt) roads. We took a tuk-tuk tour in Mto Wa Mbu Village with locals telling us about their market that people visit daily or twice a day as not many people have refrigerators to preserve their food. We saw shoes made of old tire rubber that Maasai tribe members wear and ate a local cuisine lunch.

On to our next stay at Ngorongoro Farm House and it was a beautiful sprawling place with thatched roof buildings, a huge garden and flowers everywhere! It’s interesting as their idea of a family room is way more space than you need but who’s complaining. The lodge also comes to ‘bomb’ your room for bugs each night. Luckily, we came during the beginning of the wet season, so bugs aren’t as big a deal yet. We’re staying at this lodge as it’s close to the Ngorongoro Crater, hence the lodge name. We waked up the following morning to drive into the crater; and, let me tell you it took our breaths away! It is a natural crater only 11 miles long that hosts MANY different types of animals. Most could climb out if they wanted as we were greeted by baboons on our way down into the crater.

Some of our highlights of the day were seeing:

Jackals…They are smaller than I thought they’d be.

Maribou stork…Teddy immediately recognized from *Dude Perfect’s worst animals list; the stork is rather unfortunate looking!

Spotted eagle owl…Again, Teddy recognized and named which surprised our guides.

Two adolescent male lions…They were playing in between bites of the wildebeest they had caught.

The grand finale was the NEWBORN zebra…We saw the baby just after he had been born, watched her get up, stand and walk for the first time! This. Was. UNBELIEVABLE!

We got some rain but their rains don’t last very long. On our way out, we saw a black faced monkey with her baby clinging to the momma’s tummy. Driving back to the lodge, I am in awe of what we are in store for on this adventure!

At each of the lodges, they have buffet dinners and breakfasts. They have a spread for these meals as well as lunches that they help you pack so you can stay out game driving longer. It’s quite an excellent system they have! We got tickled at supper tonight though as we are taking malaria pills each day and you must eat them with food. Mercy, it’s a lot to remember!

Next stop is the Serengeti National Park! We packed up from our lodge headed to visit a nomadic Maasai boma which means they are very primitive and move every five years or so to find better grazing grounds for their cattle. They performed a celebration dance and songs for us as well as we met the chief. We were told by our guides who are both Maasai members that it is quite a big deal to meet the chief as there isn’t just one per boma. The chief resides over many groups. The school kids, who showed us what they knew, were all very small children as the older ones are away at boarding school. The Tanzanian children loved seeing our kids and niece and nephew; they kept saying ‘sit by me’ in their mother tongue which is different from Swahili. At school in their village, they speak their mother tongue and/or Swahili but when they go off to school, they speak English and Swahili. It’s a great system if you’re able to go to secondary school as some of your classes are taught in English only. At the boma, we visited their TINY house where four to six people somehow fit; Cory could barely get through the door with his broad shoulders. Then we went shopping at the tables around their huts full of items they had made for us to purchase…jewelry and potting pieces mostly. We found a few items to take home with us. Like I mentioned, this type of boma is quite primitive but they do have huge tanks of fresh water. My mom (who came to Tanzania 17 years ago) said they didn’t have those back then.

Next starts our official game hunting and we hit the jackpot (one of many times) by finding African wild dogs. Our guides hadn’t seen these illusive animals for five years now! When we found the dogs, we couldn’t follow them based on the direction they were trotting as we would have to go off road. So, we had to turn around and search for them a different way. You’re not allowed to ‘chase’ any animals in the Serengeti. Our guides knew the direction they were heading, and we caught up to them on a parallel road. It is quite impressive about how well Anderson and Lucas know the area! Every day we felt like we hit the jackpot of finding animals! Here are highlights from the rest of this day:

Warthog…They have long hair on top which blew in the wind and made me giggle and their tails stick up like little antennas when they run. Our guides called it ‘free wi-fi.’ We also saw baby warthogs; they were so cute! That was a theme throughout the trip and maybe my favorite part seeing SO many different aged animals. We visit a lot of zoos when we travel; but, seeing the animals all together in their natural habitat with every variety of aged animal all in one place was mind blowing! We saw baby zebra, lion, cheetah, warthog, topi, Thompson’s and Grant’s gazelle, giraffe, elephant, hyrax, hippo, and hyena!!!!!

Dik-dik…This is one of the animals Teddy was most excited to see and we saw them almost every day of our trip. They’re small impala looking animals.

Leopard…He was spotted in the tree (right by the road) with a fresh gazelle carcass and an old serval carcass hanging in the tree. Nature!

Dwarf and Banded Mongoose…They were scurrying across the ground, but we saw them multiple times as well while we were there.

Topi…This deer/elk looking animal can be identified as it looks like they’re wearing blue jeans because of the dark blue patches on their legs.

ELEPHANTS…While we were watching (and not even very close to them), they backed up around the babies of their group as our vehicle scared them. This is their defense mechanism to protect their young. The African elephant might have been my favorite as you could easily detect such a wide variety of ages in their herds…so very cool! We also learned that the elephants knock down the trees. One might think, that sounds destructive; but if the elephants didn’t knock down the trees, then no grass would grow, and the herbivores wouldn’t have enough food to graze on. Crazy enough though, so many trees there are prickly to ward off animals, but it doesn’t stop elephants. Their skin is so tough!

We waked the next morning to see the sunrise on the Serengeti as our lodge, Lahia Tented Camp is located inside the Serengeti National Park. We heard lions roaring when we waked! There are no words for that sound and feeling! We made box lunches again which I touched on, but a camp chef helps you make your sack lunch for the day. By the way, it’s not just cold cuts; it’s a delicious spread of food! Each day we have switched up which guide we’re riding with as well as who’s riding together which has been super fun! Lucas and Anderson both have 25+ years of experience being guides so we received amazing knowledge from them. A guide really needs to have a wide range of skills and Lucas and Anderson had all the skills and more. They are true ambassadors for their country! Around every turn, they knew the flower and fauna and were able to identify the exact species and show us specifics in their guidebooks. They really outdid themselves!

As we drove out today, we saw a 50+ herd of elephants in the distance. Anderson told us this group was there as they’re mourning a loss of one of their members. Wow! Today’s finds included:

Impalas…We’ve seen them in different group settings: bachelor groups, harem groups (meaning a bunch of females and one male) and lastly the lone male who had been recently kicked out of their harem but not welcome back into the bachelor group yet. They have to wait a few months then the boys will accept him again.

Hippos…They are SO big and muddy! We also saw babies!

Monitor Lizard…Another fan favorite of Teddy’s was crawling across the bridge above the hippos and crocodile river/pool.

Lilac breasted roller bird…This is the National bird of Botswana.

Lionesses and 4 cubs…This blew my mind when we came upon this group! I had really wanted to see a lioness (which we had already seen twice very close to the side of the road) but see this group with cubs took the cake! Upon seeing the lioness pride with cubs, Bea said she could “stay here for hours.” There were a few mothers and four cubs, and they all nurse all the cubs as they have their babies at the same time. There were two cubs that kept fighting over milk! We watched these ladies and babies switch positions so many times and some even almost sit on each other. After one lioness stood and growled, I knew it was time for us to move on!

So, each day I wake up thinking there’s no way this day can top the day before but somehow it still happens! We woke to yet another unbelievable sunrise with a lion growling in the distance! We saw SO many animals as soon as we left our lodge…topi, Thompson’s and Grant’s gazelle, zebra, wildebeest and elephant, impalas (jumping with great hang time I might add!) and vultures standing over a wildebeest carcass. For our extra entertainment of today, we were driving along when a lone cape buffalo hiding in the bushes decided we were a threat; this is common for them to be aggressive when they’re alone. The buffalo turned his head toward us and began to charge! Luckily, our guides are no stranger to these behaviors so a start of our truck and honk of the horn redirected the buffalo but not after I got a bit nervous!

The wild part about the wild is that you never know what you’re going to see at any moment! As we drove and trying to avoid a muddy rut (in the dirt paths), we almost ran over a baby Grant’s Gazelle lying in the grass; her momma had put her there for safety while she grazed. I was so worried since we exposed his hiding spot, but the baby was able to run back to his momma. We even saw a hunt of a serval chasing a mongoose. The mongoose jumped into his hole just before he was caught. The chase was still so cool to watch especially how fast the serval ran! There are so many birds in Africa too; I guess I just didn’t think about the animals in the sky. We saw lots of kori bustard bird, different types of hornbills, secretary birds, tawny eagle, superb sterling bird with bright iridescent blue feathers, gray heron, African red-billed hornbill (aka Zazu), slate colored boubou (mimic bird like portraited in The Lion Guard) and loads of guinea fowl. Speaking of The Lion King and The Lion Guard, they obviously did their homework and have given us a true representation of who lives at pride rock; it really has been incredible to see it match up so well. I also have a much better appreciation for the birds at our zoo now after seeing them in the wild. It makes more sense why some birds reside in the same enclosures at the zoo because they live together in the wild too!

Our last night at the Lahia Tented Camp came with a surprise celebration! The staff (cook, front desk ladies, masseuse, Maasai men, etc) all came out dancing and singing with a cake; we assumed it was someone’s birthday from another group. No, as the cake read, it was a “Goodbye and Welcome Again” party for us! We all joined in the fun dancing around especially Teddy who did the worm; the staff LOVED that! This particular staff were the most welcoming, even though everyone we have met in Tanzania has been incredibly hospitable! They are so proud of their country and appreciative of us for coming to visit. I truly hope that we treat guests in our country the same way. I forgot to mention about the Maasai warriors who walk to/from our rooms after dark. These men carry spears as they know how to defend against an animal attack if need be. Going back to our room tonight, we saw a baby impala sitting by our house. The Maasai warriors said they would have to shoo him away as the baby could bring predators into the camp. Thankfully, we saw the baby impala the next morning, so he made it through the night. I know it’s the circle of life but it’s still sad to think about the baby animals getting eaten. Our guide said most animals eventually get eaten…. normally as a young animal or older, slower animal.

As we left our lodge this morning, the staff alerted us to an incredible find of a nocturnal animal. Nocturnal means an animal that is awake at night and asleep during the day. This Large-Spotted Genet was sitting in the rafters of the lodge entrance; I cannot believe they found him especially as he heading to bed!

Giraffe…Another animal that has been fascinating to see a variety of ages all at once and to see them in the wild. When you look closely through your binoculars, you can see the scars on their faces (much like the lions and lionesses). These animals are warriors in the wild! There was also a baby giraffe in the herd who was quite curious about our trucks; it was funny to watch! Also, we saw yellow-bull ox pecker bird riding the giraffe backs as they eat the bugs off of them.

Hyena…They have been a staple most days seen wallowing in mud pits.

Tree hyrax…The animal Teddy was most ecstatic to see as he said it’s his favorite African animal! The guides got a chuckle as I think it’s a common animal for them to see. Regardless, the hyrax didn’t disappoint especially since we saw some babies too.

Leopard…Same leopard was still in ‘his’ tree but this time we could see him better and he had clearly eaten that gazelle clean!

Lion and Lioness were sitting together like a couple. What a treat! Lucas said it looked like they were on their honeymoon as their noses were all but touching. They were just sitting basking in the sun looking like they didn’t have a care in the world!

I forgot to mention too that there is no fencing in the Serengeti National Park. So you are truly out with all the wild animals. However, this is the beauty of The Great Migration. The reason the animals can migrate through Tanzania into Kenya and back is because they’re not locked in anywhere. The animals follow the rain and green grazing grounds. The Great Migration is the reason we came to the Serengeti at this time to witness it; 1.3 million wildebeests and 500,000 zebras migrate each year. As far as the eye can see, there are wildebeests and zebras! The interesting thing about these two animals is wildebeests always move in a straight line and follow one another. Zebras are a bit smarter and always have animals in their group looking in different directions as to be on the lookout for predators. Fascinating!

Upon arriving at our final lodging of the trip, Lake Masek Tented Camp, a porter and Maasai warrior met us at the gate to get our bags in a wheelbarrow and we walked. All our lodges’ staff have greeted us with refreshments and a briefing about the place. Again, they have all been so hospitable. All our rooms have been pretty far from the main building, but I think it’s because we have been given family rooms which are bigger and are located at the edge of the camps. Luckily, this lodge has outdoor and indoor showers unlike the last one that just had outdoor! Our guides, Anderson and Lucas joined us for supper again tonight and we learned more about them and their families. My favorite part was hearing their favorite animals as you know they’ve seen one of all of them. Anderson’s is a giraffe because they’re so graceful even though they walk on stilts. Lucas had an interesting story as to why the cheetah was his favorite. On one particular safari he was driving an open truck and a baby cheetah jumped on the hood and stood nose to nose with Lucas! The cub then decided to sit on the roof along with his three other siblings for about thirty minutes before they followed their mom somewhere. I’m not sure what I would’ve done nose to nose with a baby cheetah!

When we waked up on our final full day of game driving, we didn’t have to go far to see animals as there were dik-diks and guinea fowl grazing outside our room. We saw another reason the Serengeti is so unique is that these wild animals share their home with nomadic Maasai tribes and their cattle. Today we saw many groups of boys (usually around 12-14 years of age) shepherding their herds of cattle. At night they build temporary fencing around to keep the herds safe as well as themselves as the warriors stay with the cattle.

Hartebeest…Another elk looking animal, but we haven’t seen as many of them.

Cheetah and her three cubs…This group had hyenas all around them and the momma cheetah did not like it! She moved her cubs around as she kept watching the hyenas. We watched for a while and the cubs were so curious! There are only about 200 left in the Serengeti. Even less there are <100 black rhinos left here but no ranger will say exactly how many because of poachers. The black rhino was the only big animal we didn’t see as they’re critically endangered!

This story deserves it’s own paragraph as we came upon a lion eating (and dragging it almost under our vehicle) his fresh zebra prey! His beard was red from eating it! Hyenas were all around too as the zebra could’ve been the hyenas catch and the Lion took it for himself or they’re waiting for him to be full to have a turn. Either way, it was wild! Lucas pulled up so close to the lion and I wasn’t sure it was a good idea. It didn’t seem to bother the lion though! Lucas told us lions and elephants see our vehicle as one unit but baboons and leopards could pick out people in the vehicle. Cory kept sticking his camera out the window to get a close picture of the lion…too close for comfort for me!

Back to lodge for lunch and we saw Lesser and Greater Flamingos on Ndutu Lake. We decided to eat lunch at the lodge today and take a late afternoon game drive to see if we see something different later. After lunch, I saw Teddy sitting by himself looking out at Lake Masek. When I asked what he was doing, he said, “I’m just taking in that we’re in Africa.” I know I have referenced my son Teddy mostly in this blog and it’s because he is the biggest animal lover I know. Ever since he was really little, he has been fascinated with animals and a safari in Tanzania is the ultimate for him! He’s only eight but has a big heart and thirst to know more about all animals!

Upon leaving for our late afternoon game hunt, I knew we had had a full week of animal viewing and there’s no way we could possibly top seeing a leopard eating his carcass in the tree, seeing a momma cheetah and her cubs, seeing a lion eat his zebra prey or any of the other unbelievable sights we had seen. However, we were in for a surprise tonight! Here’s what we saw:

Juvenile Martial Eagle…The most powerful eagle in Tanzania that can eat dik-diks.

Family of Jackals…We have seen these guys a handful of times this week.

Cheetah and her Cub…She only had one cub which meant she lost at least one cub to a predator as she would normally have two to four cubs in a liter.

Then it happened when we came upon a pride of FIVE male lions!!!!! They were all sitting down yawning because they had just waked up in time to start hunting for the evening. They also rubbed heads together and groomed each other before all taking a potty break at the same time. ha Then they laid back down before going hunting tonight

Our drive back to lodge was quite bumpy and I was glad I took another Dramamine! I have needed one on more than on occasion here as the roads are quite bumpy as they are dirt and muddy when it rains. Dinner was with the whole crew tonight; what a way to cap off this amazing week to have Anderson and Lucas fellowship with us one more time. Cute Bea is the hostess of the mostest as she sat by one of the guides at the end of the table and made sure to ask him questions to include him in the conversation. We also star-gazed tonight; and, wow, is the sky wide open to do so there!

By the end of our trip, we had spent so much time with our guides that it was sad to say bye! They have taught us so much about their land and animals but also their language. Bea has a whole notebook of Swahili words, and she used them appropriately all week long. I think it tickled our guides that she was so excited about their language! One last group picture of whole crew by the trucks and thanking Lucas and Anderson for the best trip ever! They were so complimentary of our family and seemed like they had just as much fun as we did! Our final drive to the Ndutu airstrip and thought we’d see some animals on the way. We guessed what we’d see and, in this order…guinea fowl, dik-dik, impala and giraffe and it happened just in that order! What are the chances! Our guides joked that the animals came to tell us bye.

As we figured, our flight out of the park would be a small one and it fit twelve plus the pilot! We had a few stops before Arusha but seeing this country from the sky was just as incredible as from land. Like I said at the beginning, we waited over two years to take this trip but there is more to it. Seventeen years ago, my parents went on a similar safari in Tanzania, and it was the last big trip they would go on before my father got sick and passed away. It was an overwhelming feeling…our guides had become like family, being in this place that my daddy had been and just my new love of this country. We saw more of the great migration out our window too! I guess what I’m getting at is you can see God everywhere you turn there including all the intricate details of how each animal moves and went about their day to live in peace with the others even with the circle of life happening. It is just amazing and can only be described as “just God.”

We landed safely in Arusha and were greeted again by our handler who picked us up from the airport the week before. We had a lovely lunch at Arusha Coffee Lodge and the kids found a playground which was great since we were about to be stuck on a plane for a long time. It was even more fun as black faced monkeys were also hanging around and one bounced off Teddy’s head during a game of tag. I guess that monkey wanted to play too!

Our next find also deserves its own paragraph as we happened upon a place called Shanga which means ‘beads’ in Swahili. This store employs people with physical and mental disabilities. You could watch the employees at their crafts…deaf ladies make necklaces and other people (some without hands) make bracelets, a deaf man blowing glass from recycled glass and people make store bags for the gift shop out of old newspapers. What a wonderful way for people that have extra challenges to be able to use their talents too! What fun to support them in their gift shop! Now back to the airport at Kilimanjaro for our long flights home. On our way though, we went through a few little towns and saw all kinds of things including mommas with their babies on their backs in a pouch, ladies carrying/balancing items on their heads, people having little shops set up on the side of the road and more. It was a clear day so we also saw Mount Kilimanjaro. This day was a long one as we woke up in the bush, took a tiny plane to Arusha, then had a full afternoon in town before a late evening flight home. If you remember me saying, then we also had two 8+ hour flights home but so worth it!

Until next time, as they say in Tanzania ‘kwaheri’ (bye)!

Ski In, Ski Out Lodging!

Hello Montana!

Wouldn’t you know we had to drive through Yellowstone National Park to get to Big Sky, Montana! We’ve driven through so many national parks and forests, but they don’t get old seeing so much natural beauty! We looked like the Clampetts unloading at the lodge. Even though you only need about 10 days’ worth of clothing, it’s all bulky clothing plus a dog and his belongings. Thankfully there are drawers to put our belongings in so we don’t have to keep everything in suitcases. We’ve had four different types of lodging on our trip…a condo in a tiny ski town, a hotel in downtown, a house in urban living and now a hotel at the resort.

We started our time in Big Sky by hiking Ousel Falls Trail to a frozen waterfall. Hiking in the winter means ice but thankfully the concierge’s recommended we bring our ski poles which was a huge help. Tally enjoyed it too! Cory had so much fun sharing winter hiking tips with the kids just like his daddy did for him growing up. We planned to ice skate for the afternoon, but it’s been so warm lately that the rink was closed. It didn’t open again during our stay. Bummer! There is a super cute town square that we walked around.

Next, we found an après ski dance party going on at the base of Big Sky. Well, Teddy doesn’t pass up a chance to dance and found his own dance floor on the snow away from the crowd and got some compliments from people who enjoyed watching him. He was dancing in his own little world! A few days later, we discovered a video of the party and Teddy dancing had been posted on Jerry of the Day. That tickled him so much! So of course, when we found this same party the next weekend, Teddy was so happy! He immediately jumped back up to his spot on the snow to dance. People recognized him from the video, and he was the life of the party…at 7 years old! He even was asked by a cute girl to come join everyone dancing, which, of course, he did (after asking if that was ok…cute thing!) He was requested to hop up on the stairwell so all could see him again; the crowd cheered as he danced, and Teddy ate it up! People were high-fiving Teddy afterward! He acted like it was just another day which is true cause he just dances to his own beat and wherever he wants.

Back to our regularly scheduled skiing…we got some much-needed snow our third day there. Big Sky hadn’t seen snow in a month! It’s been a consistent theme this season with everyone getting way less snow than they usually do. First thing we hit the new Swift Current lift which we knew about as our family friend was the project manager for the build back in the fall. It is so fancy with segmented, cushioned and heated seats and a cover that automatically went up when we were about to hop off the lift. Thanks, Reto! We had an amazing day playing in the powder as it dumped snow the whole day! We dropped down into the Forbidden Forest, which you can imagine is full of trees, that put us to the Challenger lift that is experts only… aka only black diamonds and up. I was a bit nervous because of the white out conditions but the kids rocked it! Your legs tire easier on powder days especially when you take mostly mogul runs…but it’s totally worth it! The best solution for that is the hot tub and a heated pool for the kids.

As the week went along, it got warmer, so we hit the back side of Lone Mountain (which is their big peak at the resort that has triple black diamond runs…maybe next year!) where it’s gotten icy in the mornings but softened up as the day went along. The best part is hardly anyone was there so we all but had the mountain to ourselves! We’ve had a variety of snow conditions to ski in which I feel like has made us quite adaptable. Our final days skiing became slushy, so we didn’t ski long. However, we found a race course and all took a turn. It was the best way to cap off our ski adventures; what a rush!

Cory is still working while we’re in Montana, so the kids and I took a day and drove to Bozeman; what a beautiful drive (a little over an hour away) of winding roads and babbling brooks with a few people fishing. A recommendation from Teddy’s first grade teacher, our destination was Museum of the Rockies. Located right beside Montana State University, this museum has great dinosaur exhibits, Taylor Planetarium and a couple of interactive kids’ section. We listened to an engaging talk about what we could specifically see in the ‘Montana Skies’ that very evening. Explore Yellowstone was geared to younger kids but we enjoyed it because of the creatively made animals and geological education. Along with Explore Yellowstone, their other favorite exhibit was Human Plus where they became engineers to solve real lives’ physical challenges. Still in the heart of campus, we enjoyed a flavorful lunch at Tacos Montes

Being in a hotel, you eat most meals out, we though did have a handful of sandwiches in the room meals, so here are our recommendations.

Tips Up– Very decorated in ski gear, this funky restaurant had yummy chicken dishes.

Riverhouse BBQ– This Texan owned restaurant knew how to make his fried chicken, ribs and fried okra taste delicious.

The Cabin– At this upscale restaurant, we had juicy wild game (bison and elk) and pork shank.

Chet’s– Breakfast was included so we ate here every morning but as Teddy said, “dinner was way better than their breakfast.” Their buffalo chili, ribeye, pork chops and chicken orzo were quite tasty!

Westward Social– A nicer lunch option at the base of the mountain. There isn’t a kids’ menu but ours figured it out with a charcuterie board and nachos.

Montana Jack’s– A staple at the base of the mountain serves good, basic bar food.

We have enjoyed a variety of wildlife on our trip including seeing a red fox late one night at the base of the mountain. We woke the kids to see him. Tally was quite interested in him and vice versa. When Tally sat, the fox sat! The fox was just starting to turn back red from his winter white coat. 

Aside from skiing, animals were a part of our theme so we couldn’t pass up Safari Yellowstone with Yellowstone’s first Safari guide of 29 years, Carl Zeiss. Unfortunately, it was a bit more of a trek than it should’ve been because they close some entrances after mid-March. We drove to Livingston (1hr 30 min drive) to meet Carl then another 45 min to the park entrance. The animal party started before we even got to the entrance though seeing white-tailed deer (which are common for us anyway), mule deer and elk. I had never seen mule deer; they get their name honestly with their big ears. Into the park and bison are running beside our vehicle. It was SO cool and a bit nerve racking! We stopped a few times along the way to see big horn sheep, mountain goats, grey wolves and black bear. Wolves were reintroduced to the park 25 years ago so they’re the main attraction to find in the park. Our guide also knew where to find the momma black bear’s den. She and her cubs had been out earlier in the week, but it was so cool to see her laying down at the edge of her den protecting her cubs. The cubs will stay with her until they turn one in June. We also saw a bald and golden eagles. Our ski trip has been filled with amazing snow, unique animals and even better family time!

Our trip is winding down and so are we. As with every trip, you get a bit tired toward the end as you know what’s coming. Funny enough, we asked the kids where their favorite two ski resorts that we’ve skied this year and they both said Grand Targhee and Winter Park. Cory and I agree! It’s a super long drive home; however, we’re going to split it up by cutting our time in Big Sky short since the snow is melting and to have a day to enjoy Driggs, ID. It’s the tiny town (with one stop light) by Grand Targhee. We found a quaint brunch spot, Provision, to eat in upon arrival. For supper we found out one of our favorite spots in Jackson has a sister restaurant in Driggs… Teton Thai. Whoo hoo! On our way out of town the next morning, we grabbed one of the best breakfast burritos we’ve ever had at Rise Coffee House. Who knew a town that small could have so many good eateries! 

The long drive home consisted of the following states: Montana – Idaho – Wyoming – Nebraska – Iowa – Missouri – Arkansas – Tennessee – Mississippi…and finally home to Alabama!

5X Ikon Pass Mountains, Great Friends & Urban Living

Hello Utah!

This is the only state all four of us have been to before but we’re skiing four different ski resorts than we have previously and there’s 5 on our Ikon Pass within 45 minutes! We were also super pumped as we have close friends who are also temporarily living in Salt Lake City for the winter that we got to hang out with for six weeks! With each destination, our housing set up has differed; this time we’re in a duplex in downtown SLC. The bonus is the backyard for Tally to run freely in! It’s also a bit different being down in the valley as we didn’t experience snow at our house on a regular basis.

Keeping with the norm of our trip, we have a good routine of school most full Mondays then we do half days the rest of the week and ski in the afternoons. I took my first drive up Big Cottonwood Canyon on our way to Solitude with the kids in tow one afternoon and we navigated the roads and runs just fine. I have felt very accomplished doing things like this when Cory had to work but I equate it to touring around foreign cities by myself when my kids were even younger. Still, it feels good!

When we ski with Cory, I always feel more comfortable challenging ourselves a bit. Our second day at Solitude (which is our unlimited skiing resort while in SLC) was no different; we tried our first double black diamond. The kids were so pumped! Honestly, they just continue to get better, always willing to try new things and challenge me to as well. Doing this cements the fact that we have accomplished already what we were hoping to by the end of March…to be all mountain skiers. I am so proud of my kiddos for pushing themselves and having such adventurous spirits about them!

The five resorts that are included in our Ikon Pass are: Solitude (again, the unlimited one), Snowbird, Alta, Brighton and Deer Valley (they each allow seven days of skiing per season). Each one has their own charm and unique attraction. The kids and I loved getting to call Solitude our “home base” mountain and ski it whenever we wanted. You can park right by the lifts; parking is free past 2pm or you get a discount depending on how many people you have in your vehicle. It has fun moguls and tree runs, which are the kids’ favorites! Also, we saw a meadow vole scurrying across a run at Solitude and it made Teddy’s day!

We decided after crazy crowded weekend days in Colorado, that we would try to avoid skiing Saturdays. However, when it snows, you go to the mountain. I’ll tell you why we try to avoid those days. What should have taken us 45 minutes to get to any of the ski resorts outside of SLC, took us over 2 hours one weekend day because of traffic and snow! We got one of the last parking spots at Solitude. It was worth the hassle because the snow was coming down so good and we got to enjoy this resort like we haven’t previously with some extreme terrain runs.

Snowbird and Alta are now a combined resort and have great terrain to challenge yourself. They also both have porcupines living in the trees; but, unfortunately, we never saw one. Snowbird has a unique “lift” called the Peruvian Tunnel that showcases the miners tunnel and their artifacts about their past. It’s like a history lesson! The carpoolers parking is also a huge bonus as a family of four automatically qualifies. They don’t have a ton of spots, so you need to go early to snag one. Speaking of parking, Alta also has a great setup as you must reserve parking on weekends and holidays. You do pay for it but it’s a guaranteed spot! Both mountains have great runs for all skill levels.

Brighton celebrated its 85th season of being a ski resort this year and is the oldest resort in the area. The charm for Brighton is their night skiing! It also has a lift named Milly Express; how fun is that! Off this lift, there is also a black diamond run called Little Milly. Of course, we had to take it each time we visited! We skied one Saturday at Brighton and came upon the Cottonwood Canyons Foundation. They’re an organization that shares the history of the area and encourages conservation, especially about the watershed…meaning the purity of what happens in the canyons translates to clean water for folks in Salt Lake Valley (they also hold talks at Snowbird, Alta and Solitude). Of course, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to join the ranger-led talk, learn all about the history of the area and how we can help protect it. Really it was the ermine fur on their table at the lodge area that caught Teddy’s eye! What’s an ermine you say? It’s a small weasel that is red during the summer and white in the winter for camouflaging; Teddy told me that! It was a great tour especially hearing that 65% of the snow melt is used for drinking water in SLC and the trees that stood the same height had been planted just over 100 years ago after the area was almost wiped clean because of logging in the early 1900s. The few trees that stood above the rest that hadn’t been cut down were map markers used by miners to find their way from Park City to Alta. Our longest night skiing day came we got a dumping of snow, so we got to play in it! It was our favorite ski day for the four of us thus far with so many giggles heard while we skied through so much snow. When we left around 7pm, they had already had 16″ of snow that day. The kids rocked through tree runs, powder up to their chests and double black runs. They’re the most adventurous, amazing kids ever!

Last but not least, Deer Valley…Cory’s favorite! Deer Valley is known for their expansive groomed trails, but Bea and Teddy can always find the moguls. Cory also found a double black for us to try. Like I said, I just cannot believe we’re skiing this type of terrain already. We were told that it’s actually easier to just ski black diamond runs as you don’t have to worry about as much traffic with other resort skiers plus skiers don’t do blacks unless they have good confidence in their skills. It was also a great resort to take people that aren’t skiing to enjoy the mountain too. Cory’s mom and stepdad were able to ride the Silver Lake Express lift to The Silver Lake Lodge and watch all the action including the great snow we got the day they were there.

With all the skiing we’ve done, it was perfect timing to capitalize on and watch all the winter Olympic events possible. The kids were into it more this year than they ever have been, but I still think I loved it the most! I may have won them over letting them watch Cool Runnings prior to the Olympics starting. There have been many movie quotes since then!

Most trips aren’t without hiccups but most of the time they’re small and it doesn’t affect you too much. We had one of those hiccups that caused us a bit more trouble this tip. We woke up one morning to head to the mountain only to realize our SUV was not in front of our house… aka it had been stolen! Oh, Urban living! Unfortunately, our skis were in the vehicle…boo! Our friend, Brett in town was going skiing with us so he proceeded to cart us around to brunch and for us to buy new skis. We knew we’d never see our vehicle again. Crazy enough, we got a call the next morning at 6am from the police saying they had found our vehicle. It was wrecked into a parked car, but no one was at the scene. It wasn’t wrecked too bad; but unfortunately, there were biohazardous materials left in there which caused our insurance to “total” the vehicle. The good part is we got our skis back! Now a long story short, we’ll be driving home in a new SUV almost exactly like our other one except a few years younger. Funny enough, Cory had to fly back to CO as this is where he found the best deal and drive it back to SLC in a snowstorm. Thank goodness he knows how to drive well in this weather! After a new roof rack and snow tires, we’re back to normal business.

We mentioned having friends in town so let me explain. One of Cory’s former colleagues turned close friend from Boston is working remotely and his fiancé is a travel nurse. These two people were the highlight of our time in Salt Lake City. Not only did we get two date nights as they asked to babysit our kids, but we also got so many amazing evening hangouts with them. It was such a treat! And just before our time was over, they asked Cory to officiate their wedding. He was so over the moon honored and excited to be part of their special day! So the colleague part is from their time at Dell and also the podcast and blog that Cory and Brett are a part of called Big Data Beard. We got an even bigger bonus when the other member of BDB team, Kyle visited with his wife and daughter so it was a party with all three families together for the first time. Needless to say, it was a blast!

We had a few more visitors on this leg of our trip; we were there for six weeks. Cory had a guys’ trip planned with some close friends from Birmingham. They were so kind to let the kids and I ski with them one day and it tickled Bea and Teddy so much to get to hang out with the dads of their friends from home. We also had Cory’s mom and stepdad visit us; it’s always a treat when grandparents are around!

Being in Salt Lake City for six weeks afforded us lots of time to new restaurants so here’s what we got:

Red Iguana– This place is hopping as the kids and I tried to walk in on a weekday around 5pm and there was a 1 hour and 45 minute wait. What?! We never ate in the restaurant, but we sure enjoyed takeout from there multiple times and it didn’t disappoint!

Blue Iguana– Supposedly the spin off from Red Iguana, it was also a delicious Mexican restaurant located in downtown.

Bruges Belgium Bistro– Waffles plus sausage and eggs equal a super yummy lunch! You can also get sweet waffles that looked equally as delicious. They have two locations…one downtown where you eat outside and one in Sugar House which is a neighborhood on the south side of SLC.

Caputo’s– What a gem of a delicatessen and more! It has homemade pasta, so many meat and cheese options and a huge variety of imported chocolates. You can either peruse the market or order a sandwich and sit down in the restaurant. A must eat in SLC!

Ginger Street– Asian food done right! We tried about one of everything on the menu as we had a bigger group but the veggie dumplings were all of our favorites!

Nomad East– A neighborhood pizza joint with a delicious charcuterie plate too.

Hall Pass– Downtown food hall with lots of options so everyone in your group can chose something different.

Ivy and Varley– Date night for Cory and me so we tried a place we couldn’t take the kids. Utah has different laws that its 21+ years if they serve any liquor. They even take a picture of your license before you sit down for your meal. Solid, simple place.

Christopher’s Steakhouse– We were able to celebrate my mother-in-law’s birthday with her so Cory picked a fabulous steakhouse. It was exactly what we were hoping for!

Eva’s Bakery– Another must eat in SLC is this quaint bakery with sweet rolls that rival *Ann Sather in Chicago. Everything we ordered was top notch!

Hub and Spoke– When you find delicious food and great service, you go back again. We sure did with this spot. I could’ve tried more options from their menu too!

Other SLC recommendations:

Salt Lake City Public Library– One trip to a local branch of the library turned into a regular occurrence after we found out we could get a library card to check out books while we were in town. This was a highlight of Bea and Teddy’s time here! Not only was it awesome to check out books (they were getting tired of the ones I brought for them) but they also had so many activities for the kids to enjoy. There was always a scavenger hunt, an activity to take home, snacks, and a 3D printer where they could request an object. Of course, they both picked animals! We also were able to visit the main downtown library which was quite expansive, so we came home with many books that day. The kids enjoyed a couple of games of chess using the life-size pieces.

Hogle Zoo– You know we cannot go to a city with a zoo and not visit it. It had a variety of animals we don’t see regularly at our zoo…grizzly bear, red fox, Siberian tiger, silverback gorillas including titi monkeys with a baby born that same day that we got to see riding his momma’s back. The main attraction was the polar bear; he put on a show! He dove into the water then swam straight to the glass where we stood coming up out of the water to see his giant features then pushing back off the glass. He made loop after loop of his exercises and it was mesmerizing to watch. Also, the male lions at the zoo, Vulcan and Baron were actually born at Birmingham Zoo; what a treat to see them in SLC!

Diggity Dog– Tally enjoyed some daycare days and a couple of baths here. It was exactly what you hope for in a dog boarding/bathing facility.

City playgrounds– It is quite nice to try different ones in a big city but our favorite was Rotary Playground in Liberty Park. The weather was not too cold and full sun which made it even more fun! They had two different playground areas depending on the age of your kids plus a musical section with drums and different kinds of xylophones.

Natural History Museum of Utah– What a cool place of history, specifically their dinosaur collection! The even neater part is that most of the fossils had been unearthed from the very sight the museum was on. There was a watering hole that herbivores would go to drink, then the carnivores would come to eat the herbivores. As it turns out, it was tar and they all got stuck so there were 70 dinosaurs found in this one location. They even had different juvenile dinosaurs too!

Loveland Living Planet Aquarium– We’re animal loving people so we had to try the aquarium too. We thoroughly enjoyed seeing so many creatures including a sloth, binturong and clouded leopard.

Great Salt Lake– Located just outside the city, this lake is the largest sale water lake in the western hemisphere. The craziest fact I saw is that the ocean has 3-4% salt in it and Great Sale Lake has 25%.

Like with our change of vehicles, sometimes things don’t go as planned. When Cory was on his guys’ trip, I took the kids skiing at Brighton one afternoon. We went there since you can night ski. Well, we had a blast doing double blacks, lots of moguls and tree runs. I felt so accomplished with my kids…until I realized there’s only one night you cannot night ski. Wouldn’t you know it, it was the night we were there. Oops! As it turns out, it was a blessing as we had a not so fun task waiting on me when we got home. Tally’s tummy wasn’t good and he had gotten sick. Thank goodness for friends who bring you a mop and dog shampoo. Did I mention we only had a shower with no tub; so that was another comical part to the evening. We all lived to tell about it and now we can laugh about it! Oh, the joys of being a pet owner!

On our last week in Utah, we skied each of the four resorts one last time. The kids and I skied a final time at Solitude and we did everyone’s favorite one last time. There was Rollercoaster, the fun lift line run that was all moguls, many runs of the Eagle lift and finally Homerun three times. They are just the most fun to ski and do any adventures with! We had skied Deer Valley and Snowbird/Alta earlier in the week so we picked Brighton for our final day. This time we chose the night skiing day correctly so we could ski past 4pm. It didn’t really feel like night skiing though since it’s past day light savings time. When you come early in the morning or afternoon, you can usually get a close parking spot. We did just that again this day and also got to meet up with a colleague of Cory’s and her friends. The kids really love meeting any of Cory’s colleagues since he works remote it doesn’t happen very often. It was a perfect bluebird day to end our time in Utah!

Now for the last leg of our trip…Big Sky, MT!

So Much More Than Skiing!

Hello Wyoming!

We had an early start to our day heading north to Jackson, WY and in frigid temps! We left with a temp of -31 degrees… brrrrr! Our fingers and toes were hurting they were so cold just from being outside for a short period of time. Cory and I take turns driving and this drive was a bit wild with 65+ mph winds on parts of I-80. That’s called white knuckle driving! No one minded the drive though as we saw a bald Eagle, a herd of prong-horned antelope and two moose on the way. We love seeing wildlife! We also saw multiple tumble weeds hurling toward us with the wind whipping. Unfortunately, you couldn’t take advantage of the 80 mph speed limit because the wind was so forceful! Side note, Tally is being boarded this week as dogs aren’t allowed in the Spring Hill Suites so he’s staying at DogJax. We had to make quick arrangements for him as our hotel originally said they were dog friendly only to find out, the week prior to arrival, that it was service dogs only. It will work out great for everyone though so we have freedom to enjoy Cory’s week off without having to worry about Tally. Plus, he’s been cooped up in a tiny condo for a month so having a week of playing with so many other dogs will be awesome for him!

Hotels are always hard when young kids go to bed earlier than adults. However, I did myself a solid by packing their sleep masks. I was thinking they’d use them sometime in the car but our hotel stay turned out to be the perfect place to use them. They can get to sleep much easier and allows us to have minimal lights on until we head to bed.

In Jackson, they have charter buses set up with most hotels so you pick your time to head to the mountain each morning and back in the afternoon. It’s quite nice to not deal with parking! Now for the main event…hitting the slopes at Jackson Hole! Although, Jackson Hole isn’t as high in elevation as Colorado, it is known for being the steepest and deepest in the US. Unfortunately, they hadn’t gotten snow lately so it was quite icy in most places…meaning it was only the steepest this week. However, that didn’t slow us down. It was also unseasonably cold; but, again we were used to it as Colorado had been the same. Like we mentioned before, a hot tub can fix all that at the end of a cold ski day! Cory wanted to try the tram, bowl and longest run in US so up we went. They can fit 100 people in the tram and it goes to runs that are expert only aka black diamonds. We took Tram to Corbet’s Cabin for a brown sugar waffle before we hit Rendezvous Bowl. I was so nervous but we all rocked it even with the wind howling and very low visibility because of snow falling. The snow helped make it less icy though. Then we did the longest run in the US aka 5 mi long; our legs were toast after that! Ski days (long or short) always wear us out!

A bonus of traveling is sometimes you meet up with friends! We caught up with a childhood friend of mine and her family who live in Jackson. The kids loved this so much as they got to play with two adorable little girls. The adults had the best time visiting too. We also got some of the best restaurant recommendations from them. Here is what we tried.

Trio– In downtown Jackson, this restaurant was easy to get a table and had delicious food. We also walked here.

Teton Tiger– This was a must eat but reservations were hard to get. So take out it was! Their food didn’t disappoint!

Blue Lion– What a quaint restaurant in an old house with unbelievable food! Cory’s rack of lamb were the best he’s ever eaten! I ate elk. I would say this is a must eat when you’re in Jackson. Also, this was another walkable restaurant.

Local Restaurant– Located on the town square, we walked here after ice skating across the street. It had all the charm and delicious meat options!

Cowboy Coffee– A locally owned coffee chain in town was a great place for coffee, breakfast and lunch sandwiches.

Snake River Brewery– This local brewery was easy to get a big table to meet friends and great for kids too!

Some more recommendations in Jackson…

National Elk Reserve– Located just on the edge of town, it a gem of animal fun! We saw thousands of elk and big horn sheep. You had to look hard for the sheep but we found them on the steep cliff faces. It was mesmerizing that they were right in front of us as we drove through the park.

Teton National Park– Obviously, this is a well-known park for so many activities and we chose to enjoy it by snowshoeing. There’s a lovely loop around the pond and it was a great introduction for myself and the kids. Thank goodness was Cory knows how to do most of these type activities to help us along the way! Also, we rented snowshoes from Teton Mountaineering with no need for reservations.

Teton Raptor Center– By far one of the coolest animal tours we’ve had. Starting with the guide Amanda who is also an Aggie like Cory. The knowledge she had to share about the raptors at their center was so vast and she went above and beyond the normal tour to encourage our kids in their love of raptors. We saw a kestrel, 3 owls and 1 eagle and got a tour behind the scenes for their Raptor Hospital. They’re also renovating so it will even better soon…a must see!

Ice Skating in Town Square– The kids loved ice skating one evening and the adults enjoyed a scenic town square experience while we watched the fun!

We took a day trip (only 1.5 hr drive) to Alta, WY to ski Grand Targhee Resort. It’s a mountain we had been told was a favorite by a fellow skier and he was so right! First, the drive was lovely over the pass, parking was great and well laid out, tickets weren’t crazy expensive and then there are the views. You can see the most amazing views of the Tetons from the summit. Crazy enough, they had completely snow covered trees even after Jackson was frozen over. Wild how weather works like that! We happened upon our first freestyle snow competition which made the kids (especially Teddy) excited to maybe try it one day. We had the best time on the mountain skiing tree runs (my kids’ favorites) and a black mogul with so much powder if felt like a playground! This mountain gets even better… there was a shuttle back to our car at the end of the day (even though it wasn’t that far of a walk), almost no lift lines, no staffing issues (like we’d seen in CO) and a great lunch restaurant Branding Iron Grill that was delicious, reasonably priced and had tiny etch a sketches for the kids with their menus on the back. Grand Targhee is our favorite mountain of the trip by far! 

One of the main reasons we travel is to be together! At dinner one night, Cory and I had the best time encouraging and praising our kids for being them. They had crushed expert terrain that day, were not whiny when they got cold, were amazing dinner dates, etc. We’re so lucky to be their parents! This trip has been exactly what we were hoping for… extra time to be together!

Next stop, urban life in Salt Lake City, Utah!

Ski Village Life

Hello Colorado!

First stop on our mountain adventures is the small town of Fraser, CO. It is just as quaint as we were hoping for. Located next door to Winter Park and the resort where we’ll ski for the month, it’s the perfect location for us! We arrived in early January to give us some good days on the mountain before school starts and Cory’s work is in full force after the new year.

We wasted no time getting to the mountain! Our first morning in town, we got an early start on the slopes; and, it was a glorious, sunny day. Everyone felt good getting our ski legs back under us. However, one family member’s feet didn’t feel as good…our pup dog’s! We had been warned of the bitter cold that we would experience and the humans were prepared. However, we forgot about the dog! He had a jacket to keep his body warm but that poor dog also needed shoes for his pup pads. Don’t worry, we bought him some…at the Ace Hardware over in Granby, which is just a 15 minute drive if there’s no snow, but where’s the fun in that!

As we settle into our new town and mountain, we’re starting to figure things out. We found that parking at the Mary Jane side of the Winter Park resort was a much closer walk to the lift (if you leave early enough) than Winter Park base. We’re also figuring out that since we’re skiing some half days due to school and work, you can also get great parking after lunch when morning parking spaces are coming available. The days we skied mornings, we’ve enjoyed being one of the first groups on the lifts. It’s such an electric feeling especially the day that we got 16″ of snow. The crowd couldn’t wait to get to the summit and get in the powder! I don’t believe I’ve ever skied in that much snow; and, boy, was it hard! There were lots of laughs though. Teddy kept losing one of his skis as he likes to fall a lot when he skis; he’s a total risk taker! Bea, on the other hand, is so cautious and was very patient as we slowly skied down the mountain. I was horizontal half the time too as the snow was to my knees. Then there was Cory, the sweeper, taking care of all of us as he’s, by far, the veteran skier. The kids first skied just before the pandemic hit in 2019 and I didn’t begin skiing until I was an adult and met Cory.

Our first Friday in town was met with much excitement as the kids had their first day of their multi-week ski school session which meant Cory and I had a date day. Luckily, Cory’s work schedule has been lighter this week for him to ski with us each day so far. The kids have the same ski skills so they were put in the same blue/black class to work on moguls. We were so excited to see what all they would learn! The kids had a great first day and so did the adults even if I did accidentally take us down our first black diamond mogul run of the season. Remember, I’m not the most veteran skier so moguls for me on week one were comical! 

You also have to throw in some rest days from the slopes but it doesn’t normally keep us inside. One day, we took sleds and the dog to Hideaway Park for some fun. Sledding didn’t disappoint especially with the snow coming down while we played. We also went on walks on the Fraser River Trail which was located right behind our house. The kids also had room to build a snowman and play in the snow behind our condo. Tally loves to sit on the back porch and watch them and any action going on. He also likes to eat the giant icicles on the porch.

If you’ve been wondering how we’re making this happen with school, let me share. We unenrolled our children from public school and enrolled them in an online church school. The main reason is the church does the reporting to the state for me for attendance purposes. For their curriculum I wanted to stay with what the kids would have been learning with their teachers. On that note, we could not have been more fortunate! The kids’ school graciously went above and beyond helping me prepare to teach my kids. Both of their teachers gave me outlines of what they would study as well as notebooks of details in order to help them stay on track with the rest of their classmates. The administration has also been incredibly supportive through it all! We could not be more thankful for their encouragement of Bea and Teddy and of me to successfully teach them while we’re away. 

We were so lucky to have some friends come ski with us one long weekend in Winter Park. The Cawyer family have three kiddos close to Bea and Teddy’s age and they sure have a blast when they’re all together. But first, it’s ski school Friday for the kids and adult double date! As much as I love my kids, this was a fabulous day! The snow we got made Parsenn Bowl (12,080 elevation) even better! We enjoyed a few days navigating the mountain with all nine of us and everyone did amazing! The hardest part was being so cold. Since we usually got to the mountain for the first lifts up and doing this means you ski in single digit or sometimes negative temps. Do you know what that does to your toes and fingers? You guessed it…makes them numb! Winter Park has a few great warming huts around the mountain and they’re perfect for just that. You know what else warms you up? The hot tub…have I mentioned that already? It’s just the best after a cold day on the mountain. 

Want to hear a funny story about being cold? First, let me tell you we’re driving our 10 year old vehicle (with an engine that’s solid but the windows are a bit creaky when cold. I know this; but, I must have forgotten) and I rolled my window down before we left for the mountain then it wouldn’t go back up! Did I tell you the temp was -11 degrees F outside? Brrr!!! It took the whole 15 minute drive for the window to slowly warm up enough to roll up.

Fast forward to our departing Winter Park and we have fallen in love with this little town. Here’s why we love Winter Park! As I mentioned, we have learned many ins and outs of the mountain starting with parking. If you can ski blue runs, you can park easier on the Mary Jane side of the mountain. However, if you’re heading to ski school you need to park at the Winter Park lot. The closest lot is a bit of a walk though especially at the end of the day when you have tired legs. This resort also has great staff and amazing amenities at the base as well as on the mountain. Not only has the kids’ ski instructor been super encouraging but liftys love seeing the kids. One particular guy called Bea and Teddy “mini shredders” every time we saw him and they loved it! Shortly after that, Bea told us “skiing makes me feel free and alive!” We were quite impressed with the variety of restaurants, Waffle Cabins (I’ll tell more about this deliciousness later) and warming huts.

As you can imagine being on an extended adventure means you cannot eat out each night. However, we did enjoy a handful of great eateries starting with our favorite Tabernash Tavern. It was a fine dining experience that was delicious as well as comfortable to have our kids with us.

Waffle Cabin– It’s a must eat snack at WP! You can get your liege waffle plain, with cinnamon sugar or chocolate drizzle; yum! There are multiple located around the resort too.

Fraser River Beer Co with food truck Shreddy’s Taco Truck– The tacos were delicious and there were board games to play. The best part was that it’s dog friendly so you can bring your dog along. One evening it was like a dog party with so many dogs and Tally loved it!

Hernando’s Pizza– This is another restaurant we frequented more than once because of the food as well as you could make a day of reservation. That was very handy with 9 people! My favorite part was the honey on the table for your crust. It was like dessert was already on the table for you! The kids also loved walking in to see their ski instructor Amanda as the hostess.

The Ditch– When we walked in, it wasn’t fancy looking but the food sure was, including their margaritas!

Randi’s Bar and Grill– It was a great English pub food that gets busy so go early.

Winter Park Pub– It was a fun vibe where we didn’t have to worry about noise level when our kids played on their foosball table. 

Granby Garage– A neat, modern place in Granby with classic American and Southwest inspired dishes.  It would be a great spot in summer as they have a huge patio and outdoor music venue.

A few other recommendations we have if you’re in the Winter Park area…

-We were lucky enough to see another family, the Millers, from our hometown who have kids similar ages to Bea and Teddy. We took the kids to Colorado Adventure Park for tub sledding and it was a huge hit! An hour was perfect timing for fun and ensuring a good night’s sleep by all!

-Through a local vet’s recommendation, we also found Lucinda at Wagaway Dog Walking to walk Tally on days that we skied all day. She was excellent! She sent pictures of her adventures with Tally (she’s quite the photographer!) and is very polite, well prepared and dependable.

-If you bring your dog along, go see small business owner, Tenille at Leaving Pawnet Earth to bathe your dog. Tally came home so clean and happy!

-For any ski boot help, Local Experience is your place! It’s a husband and wife duo whose knowledge is vast about ski boots and fittings. Because of their expertise, Cory and I have the perfect boots for us that helped change the way we ski.

-The Lift bus in Fraser and Winter Park is a great way to get to and from the mountain without having to worry about parking. Unfortunately, they’re short staffed (like everyone else) so buses didn’t come as frequently as advertised this season.

-Fraser River Trail- We lucked out that part of the trail was behind our condo so Tally got plenty of walks down this path.

Cory tried a new way of skiing, skinning up, thanks to a great deal on skis, bindings and skins from a local backcountry expert he met doing his research. We’ve seen lots of people doing this and it’s as hard a work as it looks! Cory sure enjoyed himself though.

We took a day to ski in Steamboat Springs. It’s 2+ hours away from Fraser so we left at 6am (hoping to get a good parking spot). It was a beautiful drive! We saw the sunrise and a herd of 50+ elk. The elk were crossing the road and jumping a fence when we came upon them. It was awesome to see! On to Steamboat for a glorious ‘blue bird’ day. That’s what a sunny day on the mountain means; Bea calls them ‘blue brrrrr’ days. For the skiing, we were at the rope drop of the first run on the top of the mountain. That was super fun! Steamboat is a big resort and we wanted to hit as many lifts and runs as possible including a crazy black mogul run that left everyone giggling. It was a wonderful day at Steamboat! We saw more elk, deer and a gorgeous sunset on the drive back.

Let me go back to ski school. The kids received such excellent instruction and were requesting more mogul runs so I needed some tips. I took a weekday afternoon group lesson but it ended up being just me and my instructor. What luck! I learned four main takeaways and feel like my instructor completely changed the way I will ski in the future. I was SO excited!!! The kids’ last day of ski school was met with their first black diamond mogul run. We were so proud of them for that as well as the compliments their instructor gave us about their bravery to try new things and listening skills. Their instructor said she wanted to see them in ski races in a couple of years! Cory and I were so proud of their progress and couldn’t wait to ski more with them!

On our last full day of skiing at Winter Park everyone picked their favorite run to do. Of course, Bea picked a tree run and Teddy the terrain park. We also traversed some tree lined black diamond moguls runs in the Eagle Wind Territory that were quite challenging and the kids rocked it! I believe we have turned these kiddos into ski lovers! We also had to eat at the Waffle Cabin one last time!

After being in one location for a month, you can imagine we had settled in quite nicely but we’re packing differently for our next leg. We’ll only be in Jackson Hole for a week so we don’t need our kitchen or dog bins, condensed our school bin, etc. We have 11 bins, 3 suitcases and a couple of duffles but we’re only taking 5 bins and 2 suitcases into our next destination. Organizing is my jam and Cory is the vehicle packer. That makes for good teamwork!

Next stop, Jackson, WY!

Ski Bumming in 2022

This whole global pandemic thing really put a wrench in the Go With Daddy plans.  Our family went from spending an average of 10 weeks per year traveling the world taking advantage of the global travel required for my work and the travel reward points gained.  Helping our kids to experience the world and develop an appreciation of culture and the magnitude of our world has become our favorite pastime for sure and we’ve developed a bit of withdrawal symptoms in the last two years…but that ends now!

With vaccinations complete and the world welcoming back a bit of normalcy, we are hitting the road…literally as SKI BUMS!  Well, not in the literal “live in a van and work as a lifty” sort of way, but rather lets take my remote work on the road and homeschool the kids while getting in as many days skiing as is humanly possible sort of way.  We’ve packed up our Expedition for what will be our longest, albeit domestic adventure and here’s the how, where and why of our Ski Bums 2022 story!

The most exciting part of this story is the places we are going and the mountains we will be skiing!  We bought our whole family Ikon Passes thanks to the variety of mountains included and an awesome discount for kids.  Our first stop for 4 weeks is in Fraser, CO which is situated right next to Winter Park Resort and centrally located in the Rockies to give us easy access to Steamboat, Arapahoe Basin and Copper Mountain to name a few.  Our home will be a delightful 2 bedroom condo we found on!  Winter Park is known for having one of the best ski schools in the country and Millie and the kids are signed up for lessons where they’ll brush up their skills and get ready for skiing the whole mountain.  Then we are off to Jackson Hole for a week in the Tetons and the familiar comforts of a Marriott.  Our longest stop is in Salt Lake City where we are less than 40 minutes from incredible mountains like Deer Valley, Alta, Snowbird, Brighton and Solitude which offer some of the best snow in the west…some get an average of more than 500” of snow per season!!!  This time we ended up liking a little vintage home near downtown Salt Lake found on…the ad said “Gig internet” and that may have been the deciding factor.  To round out our trip, we are staying slopeside at Big Sky Resort in Montana for 2 weeks of final fun shredding the pow…as the cool kids say.  That’s 13 weeks of powdery awesomeness where we are hoping to ski at least 4 days a week and we are honestly hoping the whole family builds the skills to ski just about anything on the mountain.

Now let’s talk about how we are pulling this off.  First, the kids are 1st and 3rd grade and clearly need to continue their studies and thanks to my beautiful wife loving being a full-time Momma, she’s graciously taken on the burden of homeschooling the kids for the trip.  With a lot of help from the amazing teachers and staff at Edgewood Elementary (and a grandmother who taught school for 20+ years), Millie is well prepared to keep them on track.  We are also bringing along our 1 year old Golden Retriever named Tally.  He’s a great little traveler and we cannot wait to see how he takes to the snow!  My work is the other constant that needs to be addressed and candidly I’ve been a remote worker for most of my career.  Thanks to modern technology and an amazing employer who values work life balance, I will be able to continue my work wherever we go!  In the weeks ahead, I’ll document my mobile work setup…which includes a triple monitor, highly ergonomic environment with 4K cameras and studio quality audio powered by some pretty click Artificial Intelligence…stay tuned.  Sure, I’ll probably be up a bit earlier in the mornings and work a bit later in the evenings than normal, but my hope is to squeeze in 3 days a week on the mountain from the mountain open to lunch each day…and I am guessing the occasional conference call will be taking from the ski lift!  

Yes, this is a bit crazy and has taken A LOT of work to prepare for but it is worth it to us.  These adventures create some of the most memorable experiences for a family.  Not just in the big landmark sort of experience ways, but also and maybe more importantly in the small ways when we all are pulled out of our comfort zones and routines and truly connect.  That is the draw, the reason WHY we pour so much effort into making adventures like this happen.  We, as parents, want our kids to have a life full of experiences as they grow to adulthood in hopes that they are kinder, more compassionate and caring members of society based on their first hand knowledge of cultural differences.  I’d be lying though if I didn’t admit a bit of selfishness in this too.  I absolutely love to ski.  Not just the experience of gliding down the mountain with the cool breeze swirling through my beard, but equally as much it’s the beauty of the places you ski and the experience of being on the mountain.  When you slide off the lift and round the corner at the top of the slope and see the views that altitude provides, it’s hard not to lose your breath.  Skiing connects me with the outdoors, it challenges me physically and it rewards me with apres ski.  Experiencing that, over and over again for 3 straight months with my family is why we’ve embarked on this adventure to ski bum in 2022.  

If you want to follow along on the adventure with us, you have a couple of ways to stay connected: 

  1. You can sign up for email updates at the bottom of this page and you’ll get an email each time we post a new blog.
  2. We are also on Instagram and will be posting pictures of the adventures there pretty regularly.

Either way, wish us luck, safety and health in 2022 and we will be praying for the same for you!

The Bearded Big Guy,


From the Magic City to the Big Easy

Happy Fat Tuesday!

We recently took a long weekend to the Big Easy; and, boy, did we do it up right!  It all started with a super fun trip on the train…Amtrak to be exact.  Cory and I had ridden the Amtrak years before as our Christmas holiday transportation but it was a first for the kids.  The newly renovated train station in Birmingham along with an on-time train departure was a nice to start to the adventure.  The train takes longer than driving but you can move around and your seat is like having a seat in a first class plane ticket.  We travel with a backpack for each kid with activities, toys and books.  It couldn’t have gone smoother!

We hit the ground running, even though it was past our kids’ bedtime; but, we needed some dinner.  And we got a delicious one at an old pub called Pierre Maspero where we had delicious gator bites, crawfish etiouffe and classic N’awlins Cocktails.

As you may know, we have loyalties to Marriott for hotel stays (and Delta Airlines when flying).  We love a hotel stay on points…aka free!  Cory found us the most central location at the W hotel which had just been moved to the French Quarters.  As we walked out of our hotel the next morning, the sun had shown up; and, we soaked in a full day of uncharacteristically warm January weather.  I was in heaven!  We got started at Cafe Du Monde and right before the line got really long too.  Trick…go before 9am!  We enjoyed dark coffee with chicory and the most delicious beignets with powdered sugar all over our faces!  The warm sunshine talked us into changing our original itinerary and taking our carriage ride around the French Quarter and Marigny today.  This was our daughter’s request as she likes ‘fancy’ things and this was her fancy.  We were pulled behind a mule driven carriage because horses aren’t allowed in New Orleans.  It was a lovely start to the day learning history of the French Quarters and New Orleans!

As we continued on our day, it took us by the Mississippi River where we heard the steam whistle coming from the steam boat.  Not only was it beautiful music but it was live music being played by a gentleman we could see (and wave to) standing on the top fo the boat.  How fun is that!  After a lovely stroll, my husband needed (yes, he needed) some chargrilled oysters from Drago’s.  I didn’t mind either as they were amazing!  Even my son got in on the oyster action; he’s always up for trying new and different foods.  Before we left for NOLA, Cory made it known that he would be eating his way through the Big Easy.  And he (we all) did just that!  With full tummies, we visited the Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium next.  What a cool, very different animal museum!  We are regular patrons to any and all animal establishments if my son is along for the trip.  He loved it the most as he isn’t afraid of any type of animal.  My daughter, on the other hand, hid behind the map the majority of the time as the creatures were a little too creepy for her.  The butterfly garden was a hit for everyone though as they each got to hold a butterfly.  We didn’t try their version of a tasty treat but you can eat a bug (masked with sweets) in the museum’s bakery if you feel so compelled.  I would say this is a must visit place especially with kids.

After working up our appetite, we needed a sweet treat and got that and more!  We hopped in Palace Cafe to spoil ourselves with a bananas foster and bread pudding.  Wow!  The plates were all but licked clean as no one wanted to leave a morsel of these decadent desserts.  While we were there, a three-piece jazz band was playing.  They came to our table and played a couple songs the kids would know and sing a long to as well.  Treats on treats!

After much needed naps, we were on to our next eatery.  Remember, I did say that would be the focus of our visit to New Orleans.  Cory used to travel to the city every couple of months so he has his favorites.  Cochon is always on the list and it didn’t disappoint!  It’s fresh farm food with a modern twist and extra delicious!

Our next day might have been a bit chilly but it is winter after all.  Luckily the sun was out for our walk to Arnaud’s for jazz brunch.  Arnaud’s is a famous, established New Orleans restaurant..and super fun and fancy!  Again, my daughter loves all things fancy so we dressed up for brunch.  Along with a four-course meal, we were serenaded by another jazz band trio.  This time it was a stand up bass player, a soprano saxophone player/singer and a banjo player.  Music also seems to be the name of the game in New Orleans and I love it!  We love a stroll after a meal so we took to the pavement to get to Audubon Aquarium of the Americas then a walk through Jackson Square and the French Market.  It was a lovely afternoon!

If you’re in New Orleans close to Mardi Gras, you must eat some king cake.  We had a sample at a local bakery and wouldn’t you know that Teddy got the piece with the baby in it!  If you’re unfamiliar with a king cake tradition, whomever gets the piece with the baby in it has to buy the king cake next year.  I guess we’ll let him slide since he’s only five!  After a little rest, we ate again!  I wasn’t kidding about eating our way through NOLA.  We took the famous street car to Commander’s Palace for one of the best meals I’ve ever had.  I say that because it is an old school establishment with amazing food, excellent service and for reasonable prices!  And they love having children in their restaurant; I must brag that our kiddos do well at fine dining restaurants; but, it helps when the staff is clearly happy to have children there too.  I would say this restaurant is a true ‘must eat’ on your first (and or all) visits.

Whew, what a packed-full time we had in NOLA!  To round out our trip, we drove to Slidell, Louisiana for a swamp boat tour with Cajun Encounters.  This is what my son was looking forward to the most!  Although, we didn’t see alligators, as they hibernate in the winter; we did see turtles sunning and egrets and blue herons perched.  We also found a family of raccoons and wild hogs that the guide fed.  They’re both surprisingly good swimmers; who knew!

The return train schedule didn’t work for us so we rented a car to get home.  One of my husband’s requests on our visit was to stop at a Rouse’s (aka local grocery store) to get cajun seasonings and a king cake to take home that you cannot get in Alabama.  It was a beautifully sunny day to drive home after a lovely weekend away with our adventure-loving family!

Here are also a few highlights we have done on past trips that we didn’t fit in this time as well as a great website for a family traveling to NOLA.
Buying muffalettas at Central Grocery and eating them by the river
Enjoying jazz music (fun for all ages) at Preservation Hall
Eating a po-boy

Until our next adventure…

Amtrak to New Orleans

Beignets at Cafe Du Monde

Gentleman playing the steam whistle on top of the boat on the Mississippi River

Teddy with the king cake baby

Arnaud’s Jazz Brunch

Swamp Boat Tour

Country #19: New Zealand (the south island)

Our next stop is a new country for Go With Daddy…New Zealand!  But first some necessary preparations, aka wash all our clothes!  The Prins were gracious enough to let us stay at their apartment, while they’re away, to wash away.  We’re heading even further south which means colder weather but we’re trying to pack in only 2 suitcases which is hard when four people have three different layers of coats and boots for all… but we did it!  Luckily, we could drop off a suitcase and stroller at the Marriott as we’ll be back there for one night before flying home after a couple weeks.  Being able to utilize these extra conveniences are huge!

At the airport, we went through customs as we’re leaving Australia and this time it was computerized.  We found this interesting that small children could go through here as it meant they went through on their own.  Bea and Teddy did great though!  We had given ourselves extra time so Cory wouldn’t be rushed as he’s just a little slower moving than normal right now.  It was a quick three-hour flight to Christchurch.  Upon landing, customs had to check my boots for seeds and stink bugs as they’re very particular about not bringing any outside contaminates into their country.  We stayed at the Sudima Hotel which was nice, clean and very close to the hotel.  We all went straight to bed as it was past midnight in NZ; we lost two hours in the time zone change.

Saturday morning we waked up to the no-work, family vacation portion of our trip and we were all so excited as it included a campervan for the next twelve days.  After a quick stop for breakfast and supplies, we had one last errand to buy a new boosters/car seats bag as the zippers (that were on the brink upon arriving in Australia) broke.  On each long trip we have taken, we have bought a bag of some sort.  Luckily, we found one that would fit both boosters with no problem; thanks Baby on the Move.

Now on to Willowbank Wildlife Park; I bet you couldn’t have guessed a zoo stop, huh?  It was a cool wildlife park and proudly showing the big five NZ animals.  The one most recognizable is the kiwi; it’s a nocturnal, flightless bird that we saw inside a darkened area to simulate night.  We were able to see a few kiwis rustling around in the bush and digging around with their long beaks, which have their nostril at the end.  The other four are: kea, who has a very loud call and sharp looking beak; tuatara, which is said to be the last living dinosaur; takahe and kaka.  They don’t include it in the top five but we (Teddy mostly) were excited to see a weka, another native, flightless NZ bird.  New Zealand has no native four-legged animals; they have all been imported.  Other highlights to this wildlife park included eels, capuchin monkeys, siamang gibbons, capybara and llamas.

We couldn’t stay all day as we needed to head north to Kaikoura for the night.  For supper, we stopped in a town that only had one restaurant open and it was takeaway food only.  Luckily, we could eat in the campervan then got settled in and put kids in pjs as it will be past bedtime when we arrive in Kaikoura.  We have a nice set up and much bigger than when we rented a campervan in Oz when the kids were 3 and 1.  We’ve gotten a bit wiser from that experience!  The kids will sleep above the cab and the adults in the back where a couch converts to a bed.  We also have a table (that could convert to a bed) so we do not have to take down any bedding each morning…upgrade!  After some windy, two-lane roads, we made it to Kaikoura to the *Pier Hotel where we parked for the night.

When we waked the next morning, we had an amazing view of the Pacific Ocean!  A quick stop at Why Not Cafe for a hearty brekky before it’s Whale Watching Kaikoura time.  Fortunately, we could go as the past few days had been cancelled due to rough water.  Unfortunately, the captain said it was a “very high seasick possibilities” day so Cory found us seasick medicine to take.  Bea and I both felt rough but no one got sick.  We were able to see two male sperm whales just hanging out on the top of the water (there are no females here in the winter as they go further north for warmer waters with their calfs).  The whales stay at the surface for about 15 minutes before they dive back into the deep for 45-60 minutes!  Again, seeing these massive, majestic creatures took my breath away and I cried.  Whales must be my favorite animal of all time!  Being in the wild, you never know what you’ll get to see but we also saw three fur seals swimming.  Each fur seal had one fin up soaking in the sun’s heat to warm their bodies.  Many albatross and other birds flew by us just above the water’s surface; so amazing to watch them glide by.  After this breathtaking experience, we came back to the Pier Hotel for lunch where I had the best seafood chowder.  Sorry New England, New Zealand has you beat!

We have twelve days to cover as much ground as possible on New Zealand’s South Island so on to the next town we drove!  The seasickness meds made us all drowsy so coffees were much needed this afternoon.  Since it’s winter, it gets dark early so we rolled into Blenheim at 6pm to complete darkness.  We checked into Blenheim Top 10 Holiday Park before a quick, delicious and very friend meal at Eat Thai.  Sweet Teddy had fallen asleep and that’s never the easiest waking someone that close to bedtime to have supper.

Even though we picked a larger campervan, the bathroom section is still pretty small with the toilet taking up the majority of the space.  So we utilize the holiday parks for showers.  Thank goodness we can each take a kid to speed up the process.  Another benefit of a holiday park is they usually have a playground which the kids took advantage of and enjoyed while we got ready to hit the road again.  Today is wine day…Cloud Bay to be specific!  This winery put NZ on the map for Sauvignon Blanc and our tasting did not disappoint!  It was a beautiful, sunny day so the kids played outside among the vines.  Due to NZ regulations, we could not tour the facility.  We continued wine day at The Vines Village for lunch where we also soaked in the sun while eating outside and the kids played on the playground.  Win, win for all!  We have driven past many vineyards and some even with sheep grazing amongst the vines!

We were told traveling from place to place will take longer in NZ and that is accurate.  The highways are two lanes and have many one-way bridges.  These bridges have signs showing who has the right of way or a stop light.  However, we found one with neither of these which was nerve racking especially since it was dark and we had to go around a corner.  Lots of honking was done then!  On our drives, it’s fun to hear the kids playing with their toys.  They each have a small, Skip Hop backpack of toys.  A good handful of the items come from the Family Dollar since you get a good price and don’t have to worry if you break or lose something.  I also love to hear their imaginations!  We mix in some movie time too.  This specific day seemed like the most desolate of roads we’ve been on, so we made sure to stock up on groceries before leaving town.  Unfortunately, it didn’t get any better before night fall.  The holiday park we planned to stay in was closed so we had to backtrack a bit in the little town of Charleston to Mitchell’s Gully Mine.  It used to be a huge mining town but is now almost non-existent.  We parked but couldn’t find anywhere to check in.  Then out of nowhere a gentleman, Valentine Mitchell, came out with his flashlight.  He confirmed we could park here then proceeded to show us the many glow worms on his property.  He had dug tunnels and the glow worms came to make homes here…so cool!

We waked to find Mr. Valentine waiting to show us around his gold mine.  He told us all about the history of NZ’s gold rush starting in the 1880s when his great grandfather immigrated from Scotland.  He was very proud of his heritage!  We strolled through the tunnels where the miners would have dug for gold; there were a lot of tunnels!  We saw a new bird which we found out was called a fantail.  His name perfectly describes him with his fan being as big as his body.

The drive south down the West Coast was beautiful as it was mostly along the coast of the Tasman Sea.  A quick cup of coffee at Rusty Cup Coffee (his set up was portable and energy efficient using propane and solar panels to power it all) before stopping to see Pancake Rocks.  They’re giant stacked rocks that no one can figure out how they got this way, as well as Blow Holes where we witnessed geysers produced by the forceful waves coming into the inlets.  We weren’t expecting to see geysers as it wasn’t high tide so that was a fun surprise!  Lunch was at Pancake Rocks Cafe for another yummy edition of fish and chips.  Driving on south we saw stunning views of very diverse landscape…giant fern leaves, palm trees and fur trees, mostly dry riverbeds (as they won’t fill completely until the snow melts in the springtime), one-lane bridges, cows and sheep, llamas, mountains and oceans!

Tonight’s stop is in Fox Glacier at Fox Glacier Top 10 Holiday Park which turned out to be the nicest holiday park we stayed at during our whole trip!  Every other night we have made sure to get a powered site for power and showers.  This one even had heated bathroom floors…bonus!  We grabbed dinner at Cook Saddle Cafe and Saloon then showers for all.

Happy Birthday to Cory from New Zealand!  We were all so excited for this day, especially the birthday boy, as we were getting to take a heli (the Aussies and Kiwis love to shorten words) ride to a glacier; however, the rain saw otherwise.  So, we soaked our sorrows in an amazing brekky (with birthday candles for Cory to blow out) and coffee from Cafe Neve then on to Wanaka.  Sweet Cory has done all the driving and I know it’s not easy.  It was a hard, full day of driving today as it poured, and the wind was quite strong!  We made a few stops along the way for lunch, to see Thundering Creek Falls (a magnificent waterfall right off the road), and not one, two but three amazing rainbows among the mountains and lake.

Upon arriving in Wanaka, we went straight to Rippon Vineyard (just before they closed) for a tasting and an amazing view of the vines and Lake Wanaka.  Tonight, we met a colleague of Cory’s (Simon), his son and their friends for supper at Lake Bar.  This colleague, among others, has been so hospitable and thoughtful especially with Cory’s medical issues.  They didn’t know they were joining us for birthday dinner and celebrating Cory made it even more fun!  Cory doesn’t have any colleagues in our hometown so it’s always a treat for the kids and I to meet people he works with.  It helped even more that tonight there were two kids the same ages as Bea and Teddy to play with.

Wanaka Kiwi Holiday Park worked great for our evening’s accommodations too.  The next morning, Cory snuck off and booked us on a glacier helicopter ride!  Boy, were we all excited!  Wanaka Helicopters, a boutique, family business, provided an amazing experience with Pilot Pete (son of the owner) piloting our flight.  The kids and I had never been in a helicopter and they sat in the front seats giggling as we took off.  I, on the other hand, was teary eyed as we took off.  Did I forget to mention, it was just the five of us…our family of four and the pilot.  It was such an amazing feeling and could not believe I was getting to do this!  We flew over Lake Wanaka to Mount Aspiring (featured in Lord of the Rings) seeing beautiful snow-capped mountains.  New Zealand has some of the most breathtaking views including amazing waterfalls that we flew right beside and blue ice, which is highly compressed snow that free of any air inside.  We did not realize the best was yet to come; that would be when we landed the helicopter on a glacier!  Yes, that’s what I said and in one meter of snow.  The kids played and played in the snow; they were covered in snow when it was time to get back in the helicopter.  What a magical, unbelievable experience we had!  I sat up front on the way back and soaked in the landscaping beauty.  I’m still pinching myself!

Wanaka is an adorable lake and mountain town with boutiques and heaps of restaurants including Francesca’s Italian Restaurant where we ate for lunch.  I had an amazing mushroom, truffle oil pizza while Cory enjoyed a braised lamb pasta.  So yummy!  Back on the road and onto Queenstown now.  The kids and I fell asleep for the whole hour and a half drive…sorry Cory!  Queenstown Lakeview Holiday Park was our pick of parks for the next few days while we enjoy the adventure sports capitol of the world.  Even in winter, Queenstown is more crowded than any place we’ve been in NZ.  Sometimes you need some downtime, so Cory gave me a little while he took the kids to the playground; then, we watched a movie and heated up leftovers.  These times are needed sometimes on long trips.

We woke to a day of mostly rain, so we took the morning to give the kids another break while Cory did the “not so fun” campervan duties.  I took the kids to (an indoor) Chipmunks Playland and Cafe and they had a blast!  We met Cory for lunch at a quaint little hole in the wall, Red Rock Bar and Cafe before a true Queenstown experience and NZ originated jetboat ride.  Shotover Jet has it down to a science as they pack in 28 people in a boat every fifteen minutes for their ride of a lifetime.  First, they outfit us with jackets to block some of the water, glasses to keep the water out of our eyes and life vests for safety.  I’m not sure what I was expecting but it was way better!  Cory and I bookended the kids in the back of the boat and heard Bea’s giggle and saw Teddy’s perma-grin the whole ride.  Our captain drove the boat 90 kph in only 10 inches (in some spots) of water zooming up and down river currents, through a canyon and almost missing many giant boulders.  We also did many 360s where I came off my seat every time while holding tight to Teddy.  Boy, what a rush!  Another bonus were the heated handrails, so no one was even cold.

Saturday morning we were up at 5:30am (which is way earlier than the 8am we’ve been getting up on this vacation).  Sweet Cory fixed us breakfast, as he always likes everyone to be well fed, before our 6:30am cab ride.  Today’s adventure with Real Journeys took us on three buses and two boats.  We had seven people (low numbers in the off-season) on a coach bus that took us to Manapouri.  However, we wouldn’t be in NZ if they didn’t stop for coffee on the way which consequently had a playground for the kids ten minutes of wiggles out.  Why not, right!  Once in Manapouri, we took our first boat ride in a relaxing catamaran on Lake Manapouri to our second bus which was a 20 km scenic ride full of vegetation (many beech trees and moss) and the beginning of all the waterfalls.  The main event was a three hour boat ride (yes, we did make it back!) touring Doubtful Sound.  It’s been a warm winter so far in NZ as it was only 8 degrees Celsius instead of typical negative temperatures.  Doubtful Sound is a cove of water ways viewing one amazing waterfall after another amazing water.  It started raining (actually storming) on us which normally would’ve been a bummer, but the rain emphasized the hundreds of waterfalls we saw!  Crazy wind made the waterfalls even cooler as some of the water from the falls don’t hit the lake before being swept back north.  Wild!  The boat captain got us up so close to some of the waterfalls that we could almost touch the water.  I have never seen anything like it!  The kids loved being so close, standing in the rain and wind.

After all the beauty, we still have two more buses and another boat ride to get back to Queenstown but Doubtful Sound’s beauty was worth the whole day of traveling.  It was a late evening with the kids getting to bed at 9pm but not before a delicious Indian dinner at Boliwood.

Sunday morning, we hit the road again to see the animals of NZ’s South Island.  However, we stopped at Macca’s first which we have done once on each of our international trips.  On our three-hour drive, we saw elk farms (who knew they farmed elk and deer), bungee jumping (I have no desire to try this) and lots and lots of sheep and cattle.  Our first animal destination was a hidden gem Cory found on Backpackers Guide Magazine to Matakae Scenic Reserve at Shag Point.  It’s a New Zealand Fur Seal colony and today it also had a full and stunning rainbow!  We were the only ones there watching the seals sleep, waddle into the water and stare back at us.  We got pretty close to one who seemed to be checking us out as much as we were him.  We love seeing animals; but, when they’re in the wild, it’s even cooler!

Tonight’s activity might be the kids’ favorite thing we did.  We drove on to Oamaru, checked into Harbour Tourist Park, right on the Pacific Ocean, before grabbing our premium seats for the Blue Penguin Colony viewing.  Around 300 of these adorable little (1 kilo) blue penguins come into their colony each night after swimming approximately 50 kilometers each day to fish.  They travel home in “rafts” to protect themselves then waddle up onto the rocks to their burrows.  This evening they had to navigate a couple of NZ fur seals in their way.  The seals aren’t predators, but they do make the penguins nervous.  Blue penguins are the neatest little creatures to see and hear; they have a very distinct sound!  As we left, we walked past many blue penguins (already out of the water) heading to their burrows.  I cannot believe we were so close to them!

The next morning, I waked to hear the blue penguins heading out to the ocean for the day…so amazing!!!  Breakfast was next at the cutest Tees Street Cafe; it had a super cool vibe, delicious food and even Corkcicles for sale behind the counter.  Since it was a beautiful sunny day, we took the kids to Friendly Bay Playground right off the ocean for the kids to play and us to enjoy the amazing views.  Oamaru is another adorable town with a cute boulevard of shops, coastal cafes, breweries and more.  We drove back into the mountains today to Mount Cook; and, even though a campervan isn’t the most comfortable to ride or sleep in, it sure is convenient.  We stopped on the side of the road to make sandwiches in our kitchen.  Close to our hotel (yes, tonight’s bed is in a hotel!) we stopped at Mt Cook Alpine Salmon shop for some fresh salmon sashimi.  They have salmon farms here as they can make the water so cold for the salmon from glacier and snow melt.  It’s so blue!  Now up the mountain to the Hermitage Hotel and the kids went straight to jumping on beds and wrestling with the extra space in a hotel room.  The first item on the agenda was for all to shower without having to wear flip flops; it felt grand!  Sometimes you need to experience a rustic lifestyle to appreciate the luxuries we think are normal.  Mount Cook Village is a small village, so we ate supper at one of the only places open that evening, The Chamois.

We waked the next morning to find six inches of snow on the ground!  Whoo hoo!!!  After a buffet breakfast in the hotel, we put on all the layers for a walk/hike to Tazman Glacier; however, the road was closed to get to the head of the trail due to possible avalanches.  So, we decided to try Kea Point walk instead.  It was quite a slushy hike but beautiful to see all the snow on the mountains.  The sun was bright and felt amazing, so it wasn’t that cold after we got going.  Since we brought three weighted layers for all the different temperature ranges, we had many layers to play with.  The kids had rain pants, which didn’t cover their ankles; so unfortunately, they got snow inside their boots from walking in the snow.  Even more unfortunate for Teddy was that he didn’t step lightly in the snow, so both his wool socks were soaking wet making his feet red and burning.  Oh mercy!  We hustled him back to the hotel to avoid frost bite.  After we dried out and grabbed a quick bite of lunch, we took required naps as we have an evening of stargazing scheduled.  The naps were so nice!  We had an amazing dinner of ceviche and salmon at Panorama Room.  The sky was cloudy, so the stargazing took place in the planetarium.  We heard a stargazing talk in the Middle East in February; so, it was nice to hear from the southern hemisphere (even if the presenter was subpar) and Bea connected things that were said at both presentations.  It was fun to hear her recount facts!

We waked early on our last morning in New Zealand to hit the road as we have an almost five-hour drive ahead of us to Christchurch…on NZ roads.  We left plenty of snow in Mt Cook but knew it’d probably be gone soon after we got out of the mountains.  Upon driving through Lake Tekapo, the snow started back up again; boy, was I glad we had time to drive a little slower for safety.  We stopped in Fairlie for coffee at the cutest, clean cafe called Eat.  It also had a fun, little play area for kids.

We arrived back where our New Zealand adventures began in Christchurch at the same shopping area for a quick bite to eat at a delicious Chinese restaurant, Tai Chi Restaurant, before heading home.  Our flight back to Sydney was on Emirates which is always a treat especially for the kids as they give great toys, stuffed animals, mini-backpacks, etc. on flights.

Back in Sydney, we head to our usual Marriott hotel for a quick sleep before our long flight home the next day.  It sure was an amazing adventure and it’s always bittersweet to head home!  We may be a little more excited than usual to get home after Cory’s medical issues.  Regardless, I’m so glad we added New Zealand to our trip as it was unbelievable to see!

Good morning, Kaikoura!

Sheep among the vines in the Marlborough region

Pancake Rocks

One of three beautiful rainbows that day

Rippon Vineyard with Lake Wanaka in the background

“Heli” ride to Mount Aspiring and landing on a glacier

Doubtful Sound in the Fiordlands

New Zealand fur seal (we were so close!)

Mount Cook

Snow Fun!

Brisbane: My Second Home

We made it to the warm part of our trip…Brisbane!  The best part though is getting to hug my Aussie family’s necks!  I love that my kids also love and get so excited to see them as well.

That’s what this leg of our trip is all about…visiting with people we don’t see every day.  We have been fortunate enough that we have seen them a couple times in the last four years.  Let me recap as to how I have an Aussie family.  Fifteen years ago, I interned just south of Brisbane and I was luckily enough to stay with the Schaers.  Now they’re family!  Sharon, the mom, Hans (the dad) and Kelsey (the youngest daughter) still live here.  The oldest daughter, Jess lives in Switzerland and we got to see her there a few years ago.  Now Kelsey has a family of her own…Shane (dad), Harlow (3.5) and Mia (newborn).

Cory is also in Brisbane but for work.  Somebody’s got to pay the bills, right?  Unfortunately, he’s still not feeling well!  However, his symptoms have changed (which it took a couple days to realize) it was due to the medicine the Sydney doctor prescribed.  Glad we figured that out!

Today we got to meet Baby Mia!  She is the newest member of my Aussie family at only two months old.  We are so pumped and Bea said she wanted to hold her for hours!  We had a relaxing day visiting and eating lunch on the coast.  The major cities in Australia are all located along the coast and Brisbane is no different.  During lunch, we laughed as Bea doesn’t love birds especially big ones including the ibis (aka bin chickens to Aussies).

We woke on Friday to Cory feeling much better!  Thank goodness!  Sharon off to work again so kids and I off to Kelsey’s to play again.  I made the kids nap today as we had a fun evening activity planned.  After work, we drove downtown to pick up Cory and go to Eats Street Market.  It’s an old dock area that the docking containers have been converted into food trucks.  There were all kinds of different ethnic foods available; this is right up Cory’s alley!  Plus, they had live music which we enjoyed especially the Geed Up.  It was such a cool Brisbane experience.  The kids did great having had a nap and enjoyed their evening….allowing us to enjoy our evening as well!

We had a leisurely Saturday morning with the kids enjoying some Aussie cartoons.  We met Kelsey and her family at Fun Fit Play, aka an indoor play area with a ninja warrior course and rock-climbing wall.  The kids got nice and sweaty!  Then take away lunch to have a picnic and play by the shore.  We even saw a sea turtle swimming at the end of the pier!  We had a bbq at Kelsey’s tonight and by bbq I mean, we grilled.  In Australia, anything on the grill is considered a bbq.  It was a lovely and somewhat late evening so we tossed kids into bed at the end of the day!

Unfortunately, Cory’s and my evening didn’t end here.  When we got back to Sharon’s, Cory could barely walk up the stairs.  We called the International SOS insurance number and they sent us to Mater Private Hospital.  Australia has public and private healthcare so we were fortunate enough to not wait in a long line since we were at a private hospital.  We walked straight in and they immediately did an ECG on Cory.  Within minutes, the nurse said the doctor thinks he knows what it is but we’re running some bloodwork to confirm.  Sure enough, this ER doctor got it quickly that Cory had pericarditis which is inflammation of the sack around your heart caused by a virus…by complete fluke!  Cory hadn’t even had any virus symptoms.  At this point, we were just so thankful there was a prognosis of some kind so the medical staff would know how to treat it.  The doctor wanted to do an echocardiogram to reaffirm it was only pericarditis and it would be easier if he was admitted.  That took a while but before day break, we got to a room to get a few hours of sleep.

Whew, we have never had anything like this happen on an international trip before but praise the Lord we were in Australia where they have top notch medical care.  And that we had our Aussie family here as we knew the kids were in good hands with Sharon so we didn’t have to worry about them at all!  As you could imagine, there were lots of prayers going up to Cory’s healing and thankfulness for everyone around us helping.

While Cory rested in the hospital, Sharon, the kids and I had a sleepover with Harlow which was just so fun!  They’re all at such fun ages to play together and I love that they all know and love each other!  Thanks to Kelsey for talking to Harlow about Bea and Teddy so often between our visits so they’re not strangers to Harlow.

Sharon took off on Monday to play with us and Kelsey brought the girls over to join the fun!  The Aussies love their morning (and afternoon) tea; so, first things first, we headed to the coffee shop for morning tea.  I love this tradition!  Plus, Australia has some of the best coffee in the world!  Long black for me, please.  We strolled to the park to enjoy the playground equipment as well as the small lake filled with ducks and an Eastern Water Dragon.  Teddy loves to find unexpected animals in nature!

Cory was dismissed from the hospital after a clear echocardiogram and sent home to rest.  Rest he did!  I’m not sure I’ve ever seen him take it quite so easy.  I’m glad he’s taking care of himself!  The kids were so glad to see him.  Sweet Sharon fixed supper for us (as she has most nights which is so lovely especially when you’re on an extended vacation and no access to a kitchen).

On Tuesday, Cory rested while the kids and I plus Kelsey and her kids drove down the coast a bit to see Nana, Sharon’s mom.  She was so sweet to welcome us into her home for morning tea and let the kids play.  What a lovely time catching up with her!  It’s wild to think I’ve known everyone for fifteen years now.  We have all grown up a lot!

Cory had gotten stir crazy being in the house all day today so we went out for supper to *Chickpea.  It did not disappoint!  It’s a Lebanese restaurant in Coorparoo and they rivaled the food we had in the Middle East.  Yum!  Each night after we put the kids to bed is special adult time where we get to chat away without any interruptions.  Tonight, was no exception and I loved every minute of it!

The weather in Brisbane has been beautiful!  It was forecast to rain the majority of our visit but we didn’t get much so we took advantage of the warm weather and sat outside the next day for morning tea before heading to the park.  Andana and Co had amazing atmosphere but even better food including all the bakery items, aka works of art, we saw…and tasted some!  The kids were so great to allow us some relaxing time before Minnippi Parkland.  It’s a lovely park (with no sand….those are hard to find) with a few different play areas; the kids ran wild touching every piece of equipment.  Cory joined Kelsey, me and the kids for the day.  It was nice to have him along!  Sweet Kelsey cooked supper for us tonight to get us all together one more time as we head out the next morning.  It was such a sweet time with everyone that it’s never easy leaving.  Kelsey and I both ended up tearing up (as always) when we left as we don’t know the next time we’ll see each other.  I feel so fortunate to even know these people.  They were truly a God-send all those years ago to take care of me when I flew half-way around the world by myself.  As a a parent now, I know how truly grateful my family was knowing I was with the Schaer’s.

Sharon and I enjoyed another (way too long) night of chatting!  We called it after midnight as it was still a school night.  It sure was hard driving away the next morning.  Sharon has become such a special member of my whole family.  She and Kelsey even came to Cory’s and my wedding almost fourteen years ago.  SO special!

Since Cory hasn’t felt well this week, I’ve been driving which was been fun and I’ve gotten pretty comfortable with it.  I might have to focus a bit driving on the right when we return home!  Next stop, a new country for Go With Daddy!

Eats Street Market

Manly Beach

Mini ice cream cones with Sharon

Teddy entertaining Baby Mia

Sharon, Millie and Kelsey