Holidays In Australia Part 4: Forster Beach

What’s a trip to Australia without a proper visit to the beach?!

The final leg of our Australian holiday journey was a trip to Forster, the beach where Chris almost every post-Christmas holiday with his family and two groups of family friends growing up.

But before we headed to the beach, we flew from New Zealand to Sydney and hopped right quick on a train to catch up with the kids in Circular Quay and take some necessary touristy shots of the quintessential Aussie sites:

The cutest twins!
We have a similar photo of these two from our trip back in 2019. Time. Sigh.
Emilia obviously had no idea what she was seeing, but I wanted her to see it, nonetheless.
Just a couple of cuties 😉
Also cute <3
The girls did surprisingly well with all the photo taking, considering ….
Train rides are fun.

I also forgot to mention that while Chris and I were livin’ that kid-free life in New Zealand, the girls did some pretty fun things with their fam back in Sydney, including a visit to the Simbio Wildlife Park where they got to SEE KOALAS AND PET KANGAROOS!

So incredibly grateful to this crew for watching our own little zoo for a couple days, allowing us a very much appreciated solo getaway!
While getting away by ourselves was the main objective of our New Zealand trip, obviously, Chris and I were both so incredibly grateful that the girls got to spend some one-on-one time with this delightful family of theirs that they don’t get to see very much.
They unsurprisingly had a blast, plus …
FED KANGAROOS! An experience that at least Lotte and Grace will, I’m sure, always remember <3

We were also finally able to catch up with Chris’ grandmother — and all of his other family members on his mom’s side — after missing them on Christmas when Nannan got Covid. Thankfully she was doing much better, and getting everyone together before heading off to the beach was absolutely the best.

Absolutely priceless.
The best there is.
The (absolutely incredible) gang <3

We decided to head straight from dinner to Forster to make the most out of our few days left. That meant a three hour drive, but the girls did incredibly well, and Chris and Vince volunteered to take ALL THREE with them so that Cath and I could drive and chat in silence.

I mean, how sweet is that?

We arrived after dark, obviously, but once the morning hit, it wasn’t hard to see why Forster has meant so much Chris and his family. Here’s what we got up to during our few short days there.

Our cute little condo is the same place Chris’ family has been staying for years!
Vacation necessities.
Our girls would have slept in the water if we left them. Other than a few terrifying moments where we lost Grace (which, bright side, afforded us the opportunity to discuss what to do when you get lost!), we had THE BEST TIME at the beach!
Lives here now, thanks.
Beach treasures.
Lotte & Nan <3
They had a blast together in the water!
<3
Chris’ best friend even drove hours from his home to stay at the beach with his own family while we were there. That was so special and sweet!
This was the first time these two had ever had their families together, so that was a lot of fun for us <3
His daughter became fast and adorable friends with Lotte and Grace <3
Too. Stinkin.
We had a cookout on the beach the second night we were there, which is another one of Chris’ families’ traditions.
Another mediocre dining view 😉
Having family around was the. best. Chris’ mom took Lotte and Grace for a walk on our second morning, which gave me and Chris a chance to take a walk with just Grace. It was so delightful.
Walks with Nan.
Morning beach walks for the win!
My cutie.
This little beach “pool” was so great. It was a sectioned-off area of water separate from the actual ocean, which meant there were no waves/riptides contend with. The girls did have fun splashing around in the actual ocean for a bit, but we spent most of our time here, which was a nervous parents dream come true!
Fearless.
So much fun with all these adorable people!
Fun and more fun.
Cute and more cute.
See? Adorable!
That beach life.
Emilia wasn’t totally convinced on this trip that she loves water … but I have faith that she’ll get there!
We ordered fish & chips for dinner and went out for ice cream on our last night, which is also a Connor Clan tradition!
Our last day before heading back to Sydney was cloudy and rainy, but that didn’t stop the girls from a beach trip!
Breakfast at a restaurant on the beach was also a highlight!
Some members from one of the other families that used to vacation with Chris while he was growing up also stopped by for lunch and a beach hang, which was yet another amazing highlight of this trip.
Lots and lots of cousin time was the other major perk. (I have no idea what this is, by the way, but I am HERE FOR IT!)

And that was Forster, friends. It was the most amazing beach time, and I’m so glad we were able to make it work.

Then we were back in the car headed to our final night in Sydney before flying out the following morning.

It’s absolutely impossible to sum up what this trip and all of its parts has meant to us. I have 12,000 photos to relive the memories, of course, but I’m hoping to hold on to the feeling for as long as I possibly can.

All the feels.
The best aunties.
Can you even?
The best Nan & Poppa.

Until next time friends … BIS BALD!

Holidays In Australia Part 3: New Zealand

The excitement began before we even got off the plane, friends … look at that view!

After spending Christmas and the next few days at Chris’ parents’ house in Bathurst, we loaded up the car and headed off to Sydney, where the girls would be staying with their grandparents and some aunts, uncles and cousins, while Chris and I headed off to New Zealand — BY OURSELVES — to celebrate our 15-year meet-a-versary, our 10-year anniversary of being married, New Years Eve (which just happens to be the anniversary of both of those aforementioned things) and the upcoming year of our 40th bdays.

But really, you don’t understand. We never leave our kids, and we especially don’t leave them overnight. In fact, we’ve only left Lotte & Grace overnight once, and that was the last time we were in Australia.

In other words, this was long overdue!

Despite knowing how much we’d enjoy the trip, we definitely waffled. Leaving three kids with any number of adults is bound to be a lot, and flights and accommodation during the holidays are astronomical. After going back and forth on it, we finally decided to JUST GO FOR IT, and we settled on spending our three-night getaway in Queenstown.

I’m so glad we did.

The Details

With so much to celebrate on this trip, we decided to just really go for it. All of that is to say — we splurged in a way we don’t normally … and I don’t feel badly about it one little bit 😉

The largest expenses by far were the flights ($2,515) and the lodging ($2,243).

Even the airport had stunning views!
QT Queenstown lobby views.

We stayed at the QT Queenstown and would highly recommend it! Besides the fact that they treated us royally (with the sweetest welcome/happy anniversary package of champagne, chocolate, bath bombs and free drink tickets at their hotel bar), the (absolutely spectacular) breakfast was complimentary and in a gorgeous dining room, the location was perfect, and the views were out of this world.

We also went all-out with our meals (besides breakfast, which was always free and always at our amazing hotel). Because hey, you only have a 10-year-anniversary and you only turn 40 once!

Day One: Arriving

Here’s a little pro tip from me to you — when you’re an American traveling from Australia to New Zealand (ie. me), you do need a travel Visa, and it’s best to get this sorted before you head to the airport. Also, Quantas and Jetstar both have weight limits for carry-ons (not sure about other airlines, but these are the two that we traveled). Both of these are fun things we learned the hard way.

After our initial hiccups, we landed in gorgeous Queenstown, checked into our hotel, then set out to take in the town at twilight and have dinner at The Bunker, a romantic hidden gem offering a prefix menu and wine pairing situation that we were all too happy to enjoy.

Also delightful was the fact that Queenstown was still all dolled up for the holidays.
This place is a must if you’re looking for a romantic and low-key dining experience!
I mean … yum.
This view was a short walk from our hotel.
Queenstown is probably one of the cleanest, most picturesque places I have ever been, and it certainly has some of the nicest people I’ve met.
Cute when kidless!
Delight.
Stunning water ….

Day 2: Biking Around Queenstown

Renting bikes has become a little tradition for us while traveling (see Japan, Iceland, London, Rome, New Orleans and Manhattan, to name a few), so we knew we wanted to do that in New Zealand if we could, as well.

Of course, I’m never one to let a little biking come between me and a cute outfit. (Please also refer to Munich.)

Anyway, we woke up whenever we wanted to on our first full day in New Zealand, had the breakfast of our dreams at our gorgeous hotel restaurant, then rented our bikes and hit the dusty (and sometimes very narrow and very close to the side of a cliff) trail. We traveled 18 miles out to the Queenstown Golf Club for a drink, then back via a stop at Altitude Brewing.

I basically had to re-learn how to use the gears properly — as well as remind myself to ride on the other side of the road — but it all worked out in the end!
More than worth it for these views!
Plus my riding partner was cute <3
Quick beers at the gold club before turning around!
It was even prettier on the ride back!
See?!
Altitude Brewing was a delightful highlight.
As was the jack fruit bao bun from the food truck!

After our ride we were more than ready for our dinner/adventure with Skyline Queenstown. This included a ride up the mountain in a gondola, dinner at the Stratosfare and three Luge rides (which I was incredibly nervous about but which turned out to be basically adult go-karts down a hill and incredibly fun!).

Again with the views!
My very chill Luge face 😉
Stratosfare dinner views.
Happy.
I kept saying that I felt like Frank Costanza on this trip, wearing my travel resort gear!

Day 3: Burgers, Gardens, & New Years Eve

After a fairly intense Day 2, we were happy to lay low on Day 3 and do some more relaxed activities. We tried out the famous Fergburger (my mushroom sandwich was to die for, but Chris said his actual burger was only okay), took a stroll around the Queenstown Gardens, HAD TWO NAPS and had dinner and watched the fireworks/welcomed 2023 from the restaurant in our hotel.

I did eventually dip my feet in, just to say that I had 😉

And that was our short-but-sweet New Zealand trip. It was absolutely everything we had hoped for and more. Thanks for being awesome, Queenstown. You’ll have a special place in our hearts forever.

I’ll be back tomorrow with the final part of our trip — a visit to the beach where Chris and his family grew up vacationing.

Until then … bis bald!

Holidays In Australia Part 2: Christmas In Bathurst

Welcome back to my Holidays in Australia series, including a surprise 24-hour layover in San Francisco, Christmas in Australia, our anniversary and New Years Eve in New Zealand, and a visit to the beach that Chris visited every year growing up! We saw friends and family that we haven’t seen since before the pandemic (I blogged about our first trip out with Lotte & Grace in 2019, including here), and friends and family got to meet Emilia for the very first time. Emotions were high (in both the best and saddest of ways … traveling, and especially traveling with children, is never not fraught), but while I sit here typing this up, I honestly can’t believe it’s over. So very much planning and buying and packing (and stressing!) went into this trip, and it was definitely one for the books, friends.

I have, as you can imagine, approximately 12 million photos to add here and to look back on for years to come. I’m going to break the trip up into sections. First up — Christmas at Chris’ parents house in Bathurst. We were so excited to be spending the day with Chris’ NanNan, but she sadly came down with Covid (on Christmas Day, no less!) so our plans had to shift. Still, we spent the day with all Chris’ siblings and all of our Aussie nieces and nephews, and it was magical, nonetheless.

Swimming, sleeping, eating all the tasty treats and getting in as many cuddles as possible topped our list of priorities for this first half of the trip. We also managed to get in some kangaroo and cricket viewing.

After we spent the holiday in Bathurst we all packed up and drove to Sydney, where Chris and I would be leaving the girls before we headed off to our own separate little holiday in New Zealand to celebrate the New Year and our anniversaries (10 years married, 15 years knowing each other!). We stopped off at the Three Sisters in Katoomba along the way.

And that was the first third of our trip in a nutshell, friends! It was filled with all the love and fun that we imagined, and then some. Next up was our SOLO trip to New Zealand … until then, bis bald, friends!

Our Final Days in Australia

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And so here we are, friends … we’ve arrived at our final two days in Australia. Le sigh.

Our last two days were filled with all the classic Australian activities, including checking out Circular Quay and the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge, then heading out on the Manly Ferry to check out Manly Beach with some family and old friends. Lotte had the best time splashing around in the water with our friends’ son, who is one year older, and we’ve discovered G’s love of fish and chips, as was demonstrated by her eating all of Chris’ aunt’s fish after she woke from a delightful nap by the beach.

Continue reading “Our Final Days in Australia”

Kangaroos, Koalas, Cricket & Fish & Chips — aka Our First Two Days in Sydney

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^^ Look at this cute group of family who appeased us by coming to the Koala Park Sanctuary!

Are you keeping up with our Australia adventure so far, friends?! After spending Christmas and New Years Eve in Bathurst, gathering everyone together for some amazing family photos, taking a two-day date sojourn to Mudgee for some wine tasting, lapping the Mount Panorama racecourse, seeing kangaroos in the wild and meeting oh-so-many glorious family members, we were back in the car last Thursday to head to Sydney for our last few days in Australia. Our plans included staying at Chris’s aunt and uncles place (with their three amazing kids, all of whom had, coincidentally, visited us this past summer), and then moving on to his other aunt and uncle’s house, which was a bit closer to the airport and the beaches.

After the three hour drive on Friday from Bathurst to Sydney, we were happy to relax for the remainder of the day and swim in the fam’s amazing pool, while later in the evening Chris & I left the girls with Nan and Chris’s aunt and cousin so a couple of us could go see a cricket match – my first! I also got to see the Olympic Stadium, which was pretty cool, and eat fish and chips, which I am always on board for 😉

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^^ The Australian Olympic Stadium, which was pretty impressive in real life!

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^^ Just about the best, most fun ladies ever to hang with.

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^^ Cricket! Chris’s family spent pretty much the entire game explaining to me how everything works, and by the end I almost understood! (Although don’t quiz me, because I will definitely fail!) Either way, it was really fun to watch the game with everyone, and it was a close game, too, which made it even better.

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^^ And then there were fish and chips 😉 And beer. All the beer. (Actually I had cider, but still, you get the point.)

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The next day it was on to one of my absolutely favorite places in Australia — the Koala Park Sanctuary. Chris and I visited this place with his parents on my first trip to Australia, and I will never, ever forget the feeling of being able to actually touch a koala and feed a kangaroo! Now to be honest, in the nine years since that first visit, the park has gotten a little run down. Everyone was so nice to come with us on our little koala park adventure to see Lotte and Grace with the kangaroos and koalas, but honestly, this is definitely not a spot you’ll find the locals. Still, I say, it’s totally worth it. Of course G was far too young to understand anything, but the look on Lotte’s face was priceless, and I’d like to believe that somewhere in the back of her brain, she’ll remember. Actually, she had a lot of fun feeding the emus with Nan and Poppa, as well, so that was also fun! I had forgotten how many additional animals were at this place (because, koalas! and kangaroos!), so we ended up staying about two hours there.

Time well spent, I’d say.

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^^ The kangaroos weren’t all that interested in being fed the day we showed up, but seeing them this close up was cool enough on its own.

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^^ Feeding the emus with Nan! What did I tell you — look at that face!

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^^ And, of course, the reason we’re all here … to pat the koalas! I think Lotte was somewhere between amused and confused, but whatever it was she was thinking, it was pure adorable to watch.

img_5392img_5393img_5394img_5399 2img_5398 2^^ Absolutely love, love, love this crew, and everything they did for us to make everything on our stay so special.

Not even two full days into our stay in Sydney and we had accomplished quite a bit, including the Koala Park and the cricket game and swimming and playing and oh-so-much fun on top of fun on top of fun. My final post about our epic Aussie trip will be tomorrow, and I’ll share our beach visits and all the final things we did with the fam.

Starting to round up these blog posts is making me actually realize that the trip is over … and how exactly did that happen?! For all the planning and stressing and prepping we do for our vacations, suddenly, just like that, they are over.

Unless, like me, you blog about every last detail and share way too many photos so that you can relive them over and over and over and over again.

Who wouldn’t want to do that?!

Anyway, until next time — bis bald, friends!

A Day for Family Photos, a Sneaky Get Away in Mudgee & Our Final Days in Bathurst

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I mean, could this family be any cuter? The answer is no. No, they could not.

The day after Boxing Day, the Connor Clan headed over to a park in Bathurst to take some professional family photos. Of course waiting for professional photos to arrive really isn’t my thing, so you know I had to snap a couple of my own.

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^^ All these cute Connor grandkids together makes my heart pretty happy <3

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While there were a bunch of things that Chris and I were excited for when it came to this trip, one of them definitely was taking a night away, just the two of us. Believe it or not, Chris and I had not been away together just the two of us since we had kids, and I have only ever been away from Lotte for one night, and never from Grace.

In other words, some time away was definitely overdo.

So after our family photo day, Chris and I packed up and headed over to Mudgee, which was about two hours from Chris’ parents house. We stayed at the Parklands Resort & Conference Centre and took a wine tour with Country Escape Tours, where we visited three wineries, one distillery and a cheese making company. The town of Mudgee was so cute, and the wine tour was really intimate and fun. Unfortunately we did return to a pretty sick Lotte (the next day after we got back was when we brought her to Urgent Care), but sickness aside, it was really nice to take the time away.

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^^ It’s not so hard leaving your kids when you know they’re in great hands.

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^^ We headed out to Mudgee Brewing Co for dinner the night we were in town. They had live music and we ate outside in their pretty garden and I had a delicious shrimp salad. It was pretty great, friends.

After we returned and took a couple days to get Lotte checked out and feeling better, we spent our last couple of days in Bathurst ringing in the New Year with Chris’s parents and brother and his wife, taking laps around Mount Panorama with the girls and having a picnic in the lovely Cook Park in Orange with Chris’s grandma.

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^^ This is potentially my favorite shot of the entire trip <3

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And that takes us pretty much through what I think of as the first part of our trip. After Christmas and New Years in Bathurst and Mudgee, we packed up the car and headed back to Sydney to spend our final couple of days in Australia staying at Chris’s aunt’s place, and then his uncle’s, and touring around all the best parts of Sydney, according to us seasoned pros. I’ll take you through our final couple days in two more posts, but until then, bis bald!

Christmas Down Under

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So much amazing Aussie family goodness in that photo above, am I right?

Our Aussie Christmas Eve and Christmas were filled with good company, good food, and for the first time ever, no rain on my Aussie Christmas day! Seriously, though, this was my third time in Australia for Christmas, and it was the first time it didn’t rain 😉

Rain or no rain, we would have had a great couple of days celebrating Christmas with our family, anyway, We splashed around in the pool (well, Lotte & Chris did, while G and I spectated), cracked open some Christmas Bon Bons, and ate some delicious food.

Christmas was also the first day that Lotte & G got to meet all five of their cousins, which was only the most fun ever. Sophie was born three months before Lotte, and Jasmine was born only one hour after Grace! It sure was great finally getting all seven of these little ones together.

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^^ Grace’s face in this picture cracks me up!

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^^ Christmas morning with Auntie Sarah — is there anything better?

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^^ I may or may not have purchased these Christmas outfits about four months in advance for way too much money. Totally worth it.

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^^ Grace & Jasmine = all the cuteness you can possibly handle

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^^ Lotte was a straight-up celebrity on this trip, and you just know she ate up every second of it!

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An Epic Holiday Trip to Australia

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Man, oh man — do those look like happy faces, or what?!

I can hardly believe I’m about to write these words, but our epic holiday trip to Australia is over.

Sad face times one million, for real.

But, if the above picture (and all the 5,000 that are about to follow) are any indication, you better believe that an amazing, fantastic, wonderful, memorable time was had by all.

I’ll break our trip down into a couple different posts to cover some of the best parts, but I wanted to start off with a little intro post to cover some of the major points that I learned about traveling with two littles all the way across the world:

  1. Prep is great (and important!), but at the end of the day, you can never really know how your travel will go down. For example, I spent a small fortune on snacks and gadgets and toys for the kids, and while yes, we did use some of them, we didn’t end up using probably half of what we brought (clothing included). Still, I say it’s better to be prepared than to be without, and while the girls both ended up being pretty awesome on the incredibly long and taxing flights, I do think that having everything we had helped me relax a bit, since I knew we did all we could to make them comfortable. (P.S. When it comes to products, this Fly Tot inflatable cushion was pretty clutch when it came to Lotte’s comfort, since she is too big for a bassinet and too small to be comfortable just pushing her seat down to sleep. We were able to inflate it and put it between her seat and the back of the seat in front of her so she could put her feet up on it. It also worked well as a spot to hold extra toys.  The LapBaby was also good for G, since we could strap her to our waist and she and we could both have our hands free. Other suggestions I found useful (even if not necessarily for us) were to bring along sugar-free jelly beans for little ones’ ears for take off and landing, as well as Pedialyte powder packs — which, turns out, Lotte doesn’t like much — to keep them drinking and hydrated.) One other thing we found useful with prep was to really hype the airplane aspect up ahead of time. We made sure that Lotte knew we would be getting on an airplane and flying really long and far to see Nan and Poppa, and that we would be eating and sleeping and playing and watching tv … all on an airplane! And I think that helped, because for both flights Lotte kept saying things like, “I’m eating dinner on an airplane!” “I’m taking a nap on an airplane!” I mean, how often in parenting do we get to call something a flat-out win? Like, never, right? So I’ll take this one!
  2. Packing cubes rule the most. Especially if you’ll be traveling with a family, get some multi-colored packing cubes to throw everyone’s stuff in — they will change your life! You can keep everyone’s stuff organized by color cube, and you’ll be able to keep everything organized both in and out of the suitcase, as well.
  3. Do some healthcare research ahead of time. Lotte actually did get sick on this trip — a chest infection that included a fever, which was her first — but we were lucky enough to be with family who knew where to go and we were in a country where we spoke the same language. If we had been in a foreign area or a place where we didn’t speak the language, the situation would have been much more difficult. A quick trip to urgent care (or Australia’s version of urgent care, anyway) and a prescription of antibiotics later, and Lotte was back to her bouncy self in about a day. I’m grateful we were able to get her feeling better so quickly. My advice would be to check out where the closest hospitals and urgent care (or equivalent services) will be where you are traveling, and to be sure you can get across the important information in the language you’ll need to know to make things right. Find out the best way to cover emergencies overseas, as well, since your American healthcare plan likely won’t help you much, there.
  4. Don’t sweat the small stuff. No … seriously. At the end of the day, even the frustrating or silly or insane things that happen to you while traveling (within reason, of course) will be the funny stories you tell when you’re back home, or even more likely, they’ll be the things you completely forget. I know for a fact there were stressful times on this trip — how could there not be with a 2.5 and 1-year-old — but right now, I couldn’t really tell you what they were. Keep that in mind when you’re actually going through it, and remember to breath.
  5. No, there is no such thing as too many pictures. Sometimes I wonder if I spend too much time documenting our travels through photos rather than sitting with them in the moment. I’ve come to the conclusion that no, there is no such thing as taking too many pictures.

What’s that you say — you’d like some proof? Oh, okay, twist my arm why don’t you?! Here are some shots from our first two days. Yes, these are just from our first two days. Many, many more photos and memories to come, my friends 😉

‘Til tomorrow … bis bald! And happy 2019!
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^^ Pure bliss with Auntie Kate, who will be here in five days and is staying with us for two months! However did we get so lucky?!

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^^ Did I deflate this ‘Welcome to Australia’ balloon and bring it back with us so that I could frame it for the girls as a keepsake of their first trip to Australia? Maybe, maybe not. You’ll never know. (Except that yeah, I definitely did.)

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^^ That Auntie Sarah is some kind of special — she always, always got the smiles out of our girls <3

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^^ Introducing the girls to Chris’ grandma was most definitely a major highlight of this trip <3

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^^ There were lots of other family members eager and excited to meet our littles, as well.

img_3496 (1)img_3494^^ On the second day, we threw Lotte in the car and headed off to a place referred to as ‘the tip,’ which is essentially a big ole’ garbage heap where the kangaroos hang out. Gross? Maybe. Amazingly fun and exciting, especially when you watch your 2.5-year-old see her first live kangaroos? Most definitely.

More on our adventures tomorrow, friends!

2018: A Year in Review

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Well friends, somehow — and I’m really not sure how — this photo was taken on New Years Eve ONE YEAR AGO. 2018 is coming to a close, and since we leave for Australia the day after tomorrow, I figured I should put together my Year In Review post before we head out, and then just add Epic Australia, as I will from now on be calling it, once we’re back.

So without further adieu, here is a bit of what we got up to in the year that started with us expanding our little family ….

Continue reading “2018: A Year in Review”

Year In Review: So Long 2016

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^^ A very merry, happy, jolly 2017, from our little family to yours.

Well friends, 2016 is over and I have to say … I don’t miss it one bit. Of course Lotte being born was the best thing that’s ever happened to me, but other than that, 2016 was kind of awful in a lot of ways. So we’re moving on over here, embracing 2017 with open arms and hoping that it’s a much kinder year.

We’ve had family in town since before the holiday so I’m way far behind on my WW postings, but for now, here’s a short look back at what we got up to in 2016 …

Continue reading “Year In Review: So Long 2016”