Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Port Days

Just a little FYI - pictures will probably have to wait for even longer. Right now I am stuck using a ship computer in the computer center because our laptop decided not to function. I am hoping I can get it fixed once we get back home but that will probably take a full day. Maybe we should have bought one of those computers that was such a good deal around Christmas!

Yesterday was our first port of call. We tendered in Bay of Islands! It took us quite a while to actually get to shore because there was quite a line for tender tickets. Once we made it we only had around 1/2 hour to do a little shopping before our Dolphin Cruise. We saw several dolphins which was really cool and then drove through "Hole in the Rock" I will try to write more about that when I put up pictures.

Today was probably our most fun day so far!! We started off by getting off the ship a little after 8am and walking to the Auckland Skytower. From there we hopped on a Shark bus to Kelly Tarleton's Underwater world. We were able to see penguins flying through water and laying on ice! Then we walked down the shoreline to Mission Bay which is quite the neat little town. We ate lunch at a place I think was called Oporo which is similar to Chick-fil-a. Then we found some yummy ice cream and sat in the park and ate that then ran around chasing Grace. She had a very good time on the playground! We asked a mom's group where we could find a supermarket and were able to stop there on the way back to the ship. We are not able to take snacks from the ship into port with us but anything baby foods that are packaged are allowed. We were able to replinish our supply of snacks and buy some water since we are also not allowed to fill up our water bottles on the ship and take them off with us. It was just nice to be in a grocery store that was pretty much like America. Grace was also lucky and got a new toy. They had a Little People train that was pretty cheap compared to what it would normally cost so we talked her Daddy into getting it. Then we came back to the ship for dinner. Grace, as always, had all the waitstaff entertained. She has been dancing to music and entertaining the entertainers!! We ended the night with a bedtime story for Grace! And afterwards Grace told "Sparkles" (the lady who read the story) "bye-bye" This was the most clear she has EVER said that and I think the first time she actually didn''t just say bye.

We have 5 more port days to go!!!!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Greetings from the Sea!

We are at Sea!!

Today is our second day at sea and we will be arriving in Bay of Islands in the morning. We have an afternoon tour booked for a dolphin cruise!

I think most of our days have revolved around Grace. She is a celebrity on the ship. Everywhere we go people are saying "oh, there is Grace." All of the waiters in the dining room know her and where they will find her every night at dinner. Our waiter brings out her very own bowl of fruit (she is quite the fan of watermelon and grapes) every night. Then he will bring her the special plate (this is made JUST FOR HER!! They don't serve this at dinnertime but they have made arrangements to have it ready every night soon after we arrive) of peas and asparagus. Yes, she has become a fan of asparagus!

Every morning at 9am we go to the Fisher Price playgroup. We have played with lots of new toys. Yesterday was a cooking theme so we had food and tea pots. Today was musical theme so we had drums and pianos. They had done this theme on the first day also so they brought out a few of the toys for the older age group - little people farm toys! And every afternoon we are at sea there is a special arts and crafts time for Grace. Today she made a fish! There are only 4 kids under age 3 on the ship and we never even see 2 of them. We also were able to visit the Pets at Sea booth (like build a bear) where Grace made a Kangaroo named Skippy after an Australia cartoon that we were told about. The look on her face when she got to take Skippy home was priceless!!

We have also watched a belly-flop contest (hilarious!), gone to a scrapbook session (or at least I did), watched a fruit carving demo and an apple strudel demo, and just explored the ship. One of Grace's favorite things to do is climb the stairs. She is becoming quite the master!

We are having a great time! I hope the weather stays nice because we have heard that coming back from New Zealand can be quite awful. The last cruise experienced horrible weather and the ship was pretty rocky. So far it hasn't been too bad but I don't think I will ever forget I am on a ship. We can almost always feel the swaying from side to side.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

In Syndey!

We are in Sydney and having a great time!! We just checked our bags onto the ship and now we are walking around exploring. Pictures will have to wait until we get back home. I think tomorrow we will check out the Sydney Zoo!!! We ate at a delicious pancake restaraunt last night and enjoyed a little souviner shopping.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Wow!

What a day! I started off by saying things could go pretty bad or pretty good. I think we have had a little of both. We had our bags loaded and our friend Kelly took us to the airport and we arrived 2 hours early. After she was a good ways away I called to ask her to come back. We were told that we could not carry our two carry-on bags on and that we would have to check them. Then they told us that we were over weight and would need to pay a lot. So much I considered buying Grace her own plane ticket. $1497. WOW! We pulled the car seat back and thought about leaving it behind. That would have left us at around $1000 overweight. So we then emptied an entire carry-on into other bags. That put us around $800. We asked if we could just buy Grace a seat and then have that extra weight and take her car seat on the plane with us which evidently was a bad thing to ask. They just went on about how this big pink thing would never be allowed on a plane even if she had a seat. It took them a very LONG time until we convinced them it was a child safety seat which is allowed on a plane. After standing at the counter, re-packing several bags , and a bit of arguing they said they would re-check and told us to go away. A few minutes later they came back and said OK, no charge AND you can check another bag! WHAT? We ended up throwing some more stuff in the carry-on we had emptied that was not allowed to be a carry-on because the lady kept picking it up and saying we could check it and we had to keep telling her it was empty or she would have checked it before we could get anything else in it. I think they weighed our bags a hundred times before we made it out of there. Then we headed to security, where things were only a little smoother. They wanted to search all of our bags because of the food I had packed for Grace. They really examined her diaper cream to make sure it was OK to take on the plane. I think they pulled all of Grace’s toys out of the bag and put them through the x-ray machine again. But, after over an hour (good thing we had plenty of time!) we were finally ready to board our plane!

Grace has been really great all day. She was so tired and hungry and just wanted to get down and run while we were going through the whole debacle. But as soon as the plane was in the air she was asleep! We ended up waking her right before we landed to feed her since the flight attendant had put her little dinner in coffee cups when we asked if she could heat it and she wouldn’t have it later since we couldn’t take the cups with us and it was past her lunch time.

Then we landed in Taipei (which is where we are now) and everything has been smooth sailing since! We made it through customs after being stopped by every single airport worker we passed guiding us in the direction we needed to go. We walked to the tourist service desk and before we were even there we had people coming up to us asking if we need a taxi or trying to sell us something else. It was kind of crazy! But we ended up finding (or rather we were found) by a company that would give us a half-day tour of Taipei for $100. We had our own driver and we rode in a Mercedes which was very plush and roomy. We would get dropped off at one place with a phone card and we just called when we were ready and the driver would come and pick us up. It was so nice not having to carry our bags all over the place. Taipei is a nice city but one thing is for sure, I would NEVER want to drive here! The roads are big and I think lane markers (stripes on the road) are just suggestions. People cut all different directions in the middle of intersections. It was CRAZY! And we ended up “embracing the Asian culture” (go ahead and laugh at me, Kelly!) and just buckled Grace in the back seat with us.

Our first stop was the National Palace Museum. I think Dustin really enjoyed the history and artifacts. Grace enjoyed being able to finally stretch her legs a bit! Then we headed back to the car and went to the Taipei 101. I think this was my favorite stop of the day. It is basically a HUGE mall!! But the stores were all way too expensive for my taste. It is probably a good thing or we would have never made it out of there! We went to the top of the tower and enjoyed some chocolate Gelato that we paid $160 for, that is New Taiwanese Dollars  Then back to the car for one more stop. This time it was the Shiang Kai Shek Memorial. It was really nice being able to get out of the airport, walk around the memorial, and get some fresh air! Now we are sitting here (well, Grace never really sits!) waiting for our flight to Sydney.

I have some pictures that I was planning on posting but the camera is about 4 gates down with all of our stuff and I don't get internet there. Maybe after Grace goes to sleep (we are trying to be optimistic here!) then I will come back and post the pictures

Monday, January 18, 2010

And We're Off!!

We are headed to the Outback!

We board our plane today and will arrive in Sydney tomorrow around noon-time. We have a very, very long layover in Taipei so we are hoping we are able to get out of the airport and explore the city a bit.

Wednesday after we arrive in Sydney we will check into our hotel. And on Thursday we board the ship! We will, of course, throw in some exploring on both of those days as well.

Friday is a port day in Sydney. I think we may visit the Opera House or even the Zoo. Then it is back onto the ship for two days at sea before arriving at our first port in New Zealand.

We have 7 stops in New Zealand where we will be able to get off the ship:

Bay of Islands - we are doing a Dolphin Cruise to Hole in the Rock tour

Auckland - Going to see Kelly Tarlton's Antarctic Encounter & Underwater World and maybe the sky tower. We also just want to walk around and do a bit of shopping and maybe check out a Mexican restaurant we read about in a travel guide.

Tauranga - Rotorua Geothermal Outing and Blue Bath Tea tour

Napier - we are just going to walk around here and we plan to check out the Silky Oak Chocolate Factory!!

Wellington - we are walking around here too. Probably going to go to the Te Papa Museum. There is also a burger place nearby the museum that we want to try.

Christchurch - Tranz Alpine Train tour

Dunedin - we are going on a private tour and making a stop at Cadbury World and the Yellow Eyed Penguin reserve.

After our port days we will be cruising Dusky Sound, Doubtful Sound, and Milford Sound. From what we have heard we want to make sure our cameras are ready! It is supposed to be beautiful scenery. We also bought a pair of binoculars so they may just come in handy here.

Then we have two final days at sea before we disembark back in Sydney. We are staying two nights after the cruise in Sydney so we can do a little more site seeing. We have booked a rental car too so our plans are to drive out to the Blue Mountains and to a wildlife park. It will also be a nice place to store our luggage on the last day since our flight doesn't leave until around 10pm.

And we get home just in time to watch the Super Bowl!

Tomorrow

Tomorrow is going to be a very long day. It has the potential to be really good or even really bad. We will be sleeping (or trying to sleep!) on a plane tomorrow night. We will be on the go during nap time. And bedtime. But, we are going to try and see the world's second tallest building - the Taipei 101!

{Grace going for a wagon ride}

Today we ran a couple of errands. We had to go and buy more baby wipes because I just realized that the baby wipes I had packed with the car seat about a month ago were no longer packed. I must have needed them and pulled them out. Oops!

{Grace now does this when we say "touch your head"}

Grace got a lot of outdoor time in today. She played on our balcony, then went downstairs, and then we walked the stairs to check out the views from each floor of our building. THEN we went to the park. And then we went to ANOTHER park! We probably spent at least 30 minutes at each of the parks and she got to swing and slide. She had a GREAT time! We had already packed the cameras so I didn't get any pictures. Then we topped it off with Pizza Hut since we have literally no food in the house. Hopefully the commissary won't be too busy during the super bowl :-)

The car is packed and we are ready to go. Just need to add a couple things in the morning. One being this little toy that Grace is so in love with!

{she would miss her puppy if we had to leave him behind. We finally decided tonight that he can be strapped to the front of the backpack}

And here are some videos so you all have something new to watch while we are gone.


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Sunday, January 17, 2010

More giveaways!

There are some really great giveaways going on in the blog world right now.

(army) Wife over at A Yummy Mummy on a Pink Park Bench is giving one lucky person a Sony Touch Reader.

And Allison at The Displaced Texan just opened up her new Etsy shop and is giving away a custom card case. It would be perfect for gift card giving or keeping all those business cards in one place.

Go check them out and see for yourself how cool these giveaways are. Or maybe not... I really want to win!!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

What's for Dinner?

The other night we had steak and baked potatoes.

Look who wanted to help tenderize the steak!


Packing, Packing, and More Packing

We are almost packed!

We have 2 more days at home before our big vacation begins and we are getting more and more excited! I think packing our suitcases is making it all more real. We booked our vacation about 4 months ago so we have been counting down for quite some time and now we are at 2 days!

I have decided that I will give a brief, or as brief as 20 days of vacationing can be, overview of what we will be doing and where we will be going before we leave. When we return I will try to do a post for each port we stopped in and then maybe one for our sea days (there are 4 of them!). I have to break it down over several days because I am sure there will be a lot of pictures involved and, well, uploading a lot of pictures gets to be a bit time consuming.

Well, back to packing I go!!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Who likes free stuff???

Don't we all like free stuff? Well, Brandi over at From My Kitchen to Yours has teamed up with my Mom at Artistic Images to give away one of these:

It is a 10x20 print Alphabet Creation of YOUR last name!

{I just had to use the one she created using Grace's name}

To find out how you could get your hands on one of these hop on over to Brandi's

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Cutie :-)

I may be a little partial, but I think Grace is just the cutest little thing to walk this earth.






{my little princess}

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Souvenirs?

We only have a week left to get ready for vacation because we are leaving a week from tomorrow!! It has been a long time since we have been on vacation and we have never taken a vacation this long before. This will also be Grace's very first vacation! I know we went back to the states to visit family last March but I don't count that as a vacation.

Since this is Grace's first vacation we are trying to come up with something that we can get for her on every single vacation we ever go on to collect. Something that she can have later down the road to remind her of all the fun places we have been. We have tried to pick up a few postcards everywhere we go since we have been married. But I want something different for Grace. Something more special than a postcard. We are thinking about a Christmas ornament, but what if we can't find a Christmas ornament?

So my question for you: Do you have anything you collect from places you visit?


Friday, January 8, 2010

Reaching New Milestones

Today Grace rode in the car facing the front for the very first time ever! We needed to take my van to get some things fixed so we could get the JCI done (we passed the inspection today!!!) so Dustin took it in and then I drove his car to pick him up and take him to work. I did not like how Grace's infant seat was in his car so I took her big car seat out of my van and put it in his car. It won't fit rear-facing unless the front seat is folded forward so I just put it facing forward since she is now over 1 year old. At first she thought it was pretty funny to be riding in her seat and looking up front. As we drove down our road she kept giggling! She is really growing up!!

{in her big girl car seat}

After we dropped Dustin off at work we went over to her friend Maggie's house to play before heading out to get pedicures. I kept telling Grace that when she learns to sit still she can get a pedicure too. Maggie does such a good job sitting still while they paint her toes. Today she chose a design with cows! I can't wait until Grace gets to go with and pick a design for her toes. It will probably be a lot more fun than having to sit on my lap for an hour and a half.

This afternoon we went outside to play and she learned a few new tricks!

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{going down the slide all by herself}


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{going down again and again!}


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{and climbing UP the slide! She can do this with just a little bit of help, and she can get up the side that has the climbing wall}


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{and she likes to JUMP, JUMP, JUMP!}

She has also told me "it's stuck" and "help" today.

It has been such a fun day! Right now Dustin is out picking up pizza and we are having a game night with James and Kelly. Grace is already tired since she did not take a much of a nap. She fell asleep on the way home from picking up my van and woke up as soon as we got home. Maybe she will last a little longer so she can show Maggie all of her new Christmas toys.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Keeping Kleenex in Business

It seems that every single time Grace gets a new tooth she also gets an awful runny nose. Kleenexes have become a staple around our house. Grace has seen us pull them out of the box so much lately that she has decided that she needs to pull them out too!

{take them all out}

{this is what she does if we say "clean your nose"}

{no more in the box!}

{Putting them back in}

{now I can pull them out again!!}

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A picture post

We haven't really been doing anything exciting lately, other than getting things ready for our cruise, so I thought I would just post a few pictures from the last week.

{checking our her new Elmo}

{she LOVES playing with her babies and stuffed animals!}

{feeding the teddy bear}

{and hugging the teddy bear}

{it has been pretty chilly and rainy lately so she put on her new sweat suit that is so cute! We kept telling her how soft and comfy it was and then she said "It's soft"}

{a fan in the making!!}

Monday, January 4, 2010

How to fix a leaking sink

We have a leak under our kitchen sink.

I called the housing company so they could send someone out to fix it. Before they came they wanted to know if the leak was in a pipe - No, the leak is coming from the foam that is on the bottom of the sink. So they say they will be here between 9:30 and 10:00 am the next day (which is today!). The maintenance man came and I showed him where the leak was coming from then went to keep Grace occupied in the other room. He looked at something then had to go back to his car. I hear him saying "ahhh" and "hmm" as he is looking at it again. This might not be good! Then he starts laughing calls me to come look. I am now wondering if something got stuck and that was the cause of the leak?? He tells me that a piece is broken. I have no idea what this piece is. It just looks like a little plastic thing! So I go back to Grace and let him continue to fix the sink. Then he yells across the house "Do you have tape?" WHAT??? Did I hear that right? You want to fix this broken piece of plastic with tape? It has something to do with keeping WATER from leaking and you think tape is going to fix it? Of course I didn't voice my opinion to him, I just picked up the packing tape and carried to him and then watched as he covered the drain holes on the side of the sink (you know, the ones that keep the sink from overflowing if you forget you are running dish water) with this tape. As he was doing this I just kept thinking how frustrated Dustin would be when he hears about them fixing a WATER leak with TAPE!! Then he says "Ok, I talk to office and they order part" Whew! So the tape is only temporary!!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Being independent

Grace is beginning to do more things on her own. Just about a week or two ago she would not let us put her down if there were people around. She only wanted to walk at home or small areas with very few people. She would walk around the bookstore but if she were out in the open area of the BX she would just want to be held. Not anymore!!! We ended up going to the BX about 3 times this weekend for random stuff. Once was just to exchange our bug spray we bought for our cruise because it the lid got crushed in the sack and so it was leaking. We decided that Grace and I would just wait downstairs in the bookstore while Dustin got a new bug spray since that would probably be more enjoyable for Grace. Well, she did not want to look at any of the children's books. She wanted to run around the concession mall instead. She took off out the door of the bookstore and walked all the way down the hallway to where they had a couple cars on display. She then decided she wanted to climb into a nice red sports car! It is hard to believe that she was more interested in a car than shelves full of books!!

Here is a video that we took on New Years Day. She walked from the car to the BX and then back from the BX to the car!

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Friday, January 1, 2010

Let's get packing!!

Our vacation is starting to creep up on us. It is January, which means our vacation begins THIS month! 17 days to be exact. Dustin only has 9 more work days before we leave too. So I figure it is only fit that we get out the suitcases (or rather, Dustin gets out the suitcases!).

I may be a little OCD when it comes to making travel plans. I have a 3 page document for a packing list. Everything is categorized by person and which bag it will go in. I have listed all of the travel documents we will need (they are organized in a folder already which will go in a carry-on), I have all of the electronics listed, as well as batteries, cords and cables, and memory cards (they all go in the laptop case). I also have a section on the packing list for each person.

And then there is our itinerary, which is 4 pages as of now. It will only get longer as we confirm a few more things we want to do in New Zealand. First it has our flight itinerary. This only makes since to be first since it is, after all, the very first part of our vacation. Then there is our pre-cruise hotel info (name, address, phone). The cruise itinerary is listed next with a map of and port times/dates (copied from the cruises website). Then I went on to add a bullet (I love using bullets!!) for each port along with the date and time we will be there. Under each of these I have what our plans are there with websites, addresses, phone numbers, prices of the tours, etc. The very last thing is our post-cruise hotel info. We have a few more things to nail down and then I think we are set.

Now to decide how to best pack everything on my 3 page packing list into our suitcases and try to avoid excess luggage fees. I think this is going to be a difficult task since we are only allowed 1 bag that weighs 44 lbs. each and Grace is allowed 22 lbs (her diapers & wipes probably weigh that!)

A Japanese New Year



謹賀新年

{kinga shinnen}
Or in English, "Happy New Year!"

We had heard that the Japanese really celebrate New Years, much more so than Christmas. So we were curious about all of the decorations and food so I did a google search and found quite a but of information. I have compiled some of the most interesting facts to share but if you want to learn more google "Japanese New Year"

In Japan, New Years (shogatsu or oshogatsu) is the most important holiday. Much like our Christmas or Thanksgiving day, they clean, decorate, fix a special meal, and give gifts of money to the children. The celebration lasts for several days and most businesses close from Jan. 1 - 3.
{entrances to buildings and homes are decorated with an ornament called Shimekezari which are made of twisted rope, bamboo, and other items to bring good luck}

Much like we send Christmas cards the Japanese send post cards called nengajo. These cards are often printed with the Chinese zodiac sign of the year. If they are sent by a specific date and marked "nengajo" then the post office will save them and deliver them on Jan. 1. However, if there is a death in the family during the year it is not customary to send post cards and a family member will send out a message requesting that friends and family do not send post cards out of respect for the deceased.
{2010 is the year of the Tiger}

{Shimekezari and the Tiger on the entrance of a business}

{Shimekezari on a Japanese home}

{kadomatsu is another traditional decoration for New Years. This is outside out building}

Our Japanese neighbors stopped by this afternoon to wish us a Happy New Year. They brought a traditional plate of Japanese food called osechi and a box of cookies.


{osechi}

{cookies}

Another tradition is to watch a popular TV show called Kohaku Uta Gassen where the red team and white team of popular music artist compete against each other.

They also make two mochi (rice cakes) with an orange (daidai, meaning "several generations") on top and call it kagami mochi. It is a very sticky and is the cause of several choking deaths each year, especially among the elderly. In the days after New Years the death toll is reported in the local papers.


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