Covid19 | Weird times

What a strange time this is. I have had a rollercoaster of emotions in the last few months. Sometimes the fear gets to me and I feel panic, grief, loneliness and sadness. I try to have more good days then bad. I am enjoying spending this time with my family but, I miss humanity. I miss being in a crowd, festivals, watching a great movie in a theatre full of strangers, weddings, hiking and meeting other hikers, working, the anticipation of a vacation and getting on that airplane, loud busy restaurants, hugging people, going to church, chatting with the staff at Safeway, smiling at strangers because we aren't wearing masks, meeting friends for lunch, not lining up to get into Costco, just feeling free and alive.  This is not normal, but it is a defining moment in our time. We will come out of it and life will be different, but I am so looking forward to coming out on the other side of this.

I haven't been working.  No one wants pictures right now, weddings are postponed and events cancelled. I can't wait to see you all again and get close to people!  I have some older sessions to still post, but thought for now I would give you a glimpse of what life at my house looks like right now.

Social distance visiting with my neighbour over our fence.  (taken with my long lens).

My dog is not understanding social distancing.

A lot of cleaning.  I think I've organized and cleaned every nook & cranny in our house now.

Had some paint in the basement and re-touched all of our walls.

Family board games.  I still question the word 'glimed'! 

Going for walks in our pyjama pants.

Trying to groom the dog.

Lots of baking.

Making cupcakes and singing Happy Birthday to my friend from the road.

Giving Rocky a bath and blow dry.

Taking a scenic drive.

Going for a bike ride around the neighbourhood.

Mom | Personal

This is a rough one to write.  My Mom passed away last week.  She was a force to be reckoned with.  She really was.  She was strong, independent and spunky.  She had a real zest, but you didn't want to get on her bad side.  She was fun, full of life and laughed a lot.  She loved to travel and went all over the world, leaving footprints of a bold and spirited woman.  She looked forward to spending winters in Mexico with her husband and friends getting tanned and hanging on the beach. 

I thought nothing could bring her down, but this year cancer struck and she fought as hard as she could.  My Mom and I didn't always see eye to eye, but she shaped much of the person I am today.  One of the biggest things she taught me was to always go for it!  Take a chance, don't regret anything and just do it!  She believed in living with gusto and Mom I will keep doing that.  Love you and miss you.

Spain - Doors | Personal

The doors!!!   I just loved all the interesting, unique and fun doors we saw on our travels through Spain.  These doors are from all our different spots.  If you don't like doors, don't keep scrolling because that is all you will find in this post.  This concludes my posts on our trip to Spain!

Spain - Barcelona 2 | Personal

We spent 4 days in Barcelona and I really liked the city.  It was a totally different vibe from Madrid.  Barcelona is part of Catalunya and there is a large segment of the population that wants to separate from the rest of Spain.  We had fun asking our taxi drivers about this and some were very heated on the topic.  Catalunya has it's own language, flag and a proud independent spirit.  We saw the Spanish flag and the Catalunya flag all over Barcelona.

We visited the famous Camp Nou Futbol (soccer) stadium.  Both my boys play soccer, so they were excited to see this.  We were going to go to a game, but the ticket prices were astronomical.

Placa Espana and the National Palau Museo.

We checked out the Joan Miro Museum.  Famous Barcelona born artist known for his abstract art.  It was a little lost on us.

Graffiti park though we totally dug.

On our last day we did a bicycle tour with Steel Donkey tours.  Maria took us all over the place and we had a great time!

Here we are at the beach with our guide Maria.

Had to go see a couple of the Gaudi houses before we left Barcelona.  This is Casa Batllo.  The facade is made of broken ceramic tiles and the roof is arched and looks like the back of a dragon.

The paving stones in front of the Gaudi houses are hexagonal tiles with intricate, swirling, under the sea themed moasic motif that cover the sidewalks and of course designed by Gaudi.

La Pedrera, also known as Casa Mila is another one of Gaudi's trademarks.  It was nicknamed La Pedrera (the quarry) because of it's jagged, rocky facade.

The rooftop was fantastic.  George Lucas was inspired by these chimneys when he created the stormtroopers in Star Wars.

I was so excited to see Barcelona from the air!!!  The city is built in squares and from the air it looks so cool.  Above is my crappy iphone picture and the images below I lifted from Google.

Spain - Barcelona 1 | Personal

The last leg of our trip was Barcelona!!  We caught a flight out of Granada and checked into one of our favourite Airbnbs of the trip.  Barcelona was full of personality, colour and good vibes.  If you've been to Barcelona you know about Gaudi.  Antoni Gaudi is the famous architect know for his one of a kind style.  No straight lines, whimsical, and deeply inspired by nature.  He is evident all over the city.

Loved the buskers in Spain!  I've never seen a piano on the street before.

After getting settled into our Airbnb and grabbing some lunch, we had a tour booked at Palau de la Musica.

This tour was great!  What a beautiful place.  The architect designed the building as a garden.  The chandeliers on the outside represent sunflowers that face into the middle one representing the sun.

They played the 3000 pipe organ for us and it was pretty magnificent.

The Barcelona Cathedral.

The Barre Gotic district of Barcelona.

Carrer del Bisbe.  Kinda reminded me of The Bridge of Sighs in Venice.

The next day was visiting Gaudi sights!  This is Park Guell, designed by Gaudi.  It was intended to be a residence housing project, but World War I happened and the community was a flop.  Now it's a gorgeous park that many come to see.

Pathway of Columns.  Gaudi drew inspiration from a surfer's perfect tube for this double decker viaduct.

We took a walk over to Bunkers del Carmen to take in some city views.

Sagrada Familia!!!!  Another trip highlight for me!  This is Gaudi's masterpiece.  He laboured on it for 43 years until his death in 1926.  It is still under construction and they are hoping to have it completed by 2026 on the 100th anniversary of Gaudi's death.  Above is the Passion facade and below is the Nativity facade.

I photoshopped out the cranes in this shot, but it is a constant work in progress.

The Nativity facade is the only part of the church that is finished.  Each facade chronicles the life of Christ from birth to death to resurrection.

I thought the outside was stunning and then we stepped inside.  Blew me away!!!

We went up the Nativity tower and we were able to stand out on one of the balconies.

The light!!!  The light inside was overwhelming.  Gaudi, a devout catholic, decided to encourage worship by allowing light to flood in through numerous windows, vaults and skylights.  The morning light shines in through blues and greens.  The late day light shines in through the reds and oranges.

Just wow!

More of Barcelona in my next post.

Spain - Granada | Personal

We dropped off our rental car in Granada and spent a couple nights in this fascinating city.  Granada's main attraction is the Alhambra.  We booked an Airbnb that had this incredible rooftop balcony with a view to die for.  I sat here during the golden hour on our first night in Granada just watching the light change over the Alhambra.  Our first day in Granada we wandered through the old arab quarter called the Albyzin where we were staying.  We toured the Royal Chapel and the Granada Cathedral before calling it a day.  The next day we spent the entire day inside the Alhambra, the last moorish palace in Europe.  The Alhambra is made up of The Nasrid Palaces, Charles V's Palace, Alcazaba and Generalife Gardens.  It was pretty cool.

A Busker outside the Royal Chapel.

Inside the Granada Cathedral.  It's the second largest in Spain after Seville's.  The baroque organs were beautiful.


Walking back through the winding, narrow lanes of the Albyzin to get to our Airbnb.

Looks pretty great at night too.

We visited the Nasrid Palaces first for our timed reservation.  Wow, it was gorgeous.  The rooms were decorated top to bottom with carved wood ceilings, stalactites, ceramic tiles, molded plaster walls and filigree windows.

The Courtyard of the Myrtles was a show stopper!

Courtyard of the Lions.  Famous for it's fountain with the ring of 12 marble lions from the 14th century.

9000 times "Only Allah is Victorious" is written in the palace.

We grabbed sandwiches at the square in front of Charles V's Palace.  There were feral cats everywhere that seemed to like my son very much.

We spotted our Airbnb.

We walked to the top of the Alcazaba.  This fort is the oldest and most ruined part of the Alhambra.

Inside Charles V's Palace.  Unique circle within a square designed by one of Michelangelo's students.  Perfect acoustics in the center.

The Generalife Gardens.  This was the Sultan's vegetable and fruit orchards, as well as his summer retreat.

This fountain just outside the Justice Gate reminded me of Italy.

At the end of the day we took a stroll through the Moorish souk market.  There is a huge Arab influence and large muslim culture in Granada.

I thought these two looked cool just hanging in the streets.  Next post is Barcelona!

 

Spain - Andulsia | Personal

After the busyness of Seville it was lovely to pick up a rental car and drive out into the country.  This area of Spain is known as Andalusia.  It is dotted with Pueblos Blanco (white villages).  There were so many beautiful villages, olive groves, lemon and orange trees on our drive.  We stopped at four of the white villages.  Our first stop was Olvera!  It was impressive looking from the road and even more so from the top of the arab castle located on the top of the hill.

Approaching the white village of Olvera.

We climbed up to see the cathedral and Arab castle at the top.

The Arab castle was built in the 12th century on this strategic rock giving it the capability to communicate with other nearby castles through signals.

The view from the top.

My poor boy broke his finger a few weeks before our trip.  Also these stairs back down were very tight and a little sketchy.

Olvera was so pretty.

That's a good looking countryside.

Our next stop was the wacky Sentinel de las Bodegas.  It is built into rock walls and enlarging natural caves.  Pretty cool to walk around in.

We stayed the night here in Ronda.  This place was outstanding!  The stuff of movies.  This is the Puente Nuevo Bridge that separates the old Moorish quarter from the new city that was built after the Christian reconquest.  We hiked down towards El Tajo Gorge for these fantastic views of the bridge and village.

Cuenca Gardens.

I discovered these sweet treats in Seville and couldn't stop eating them for the rest of the trip.  Also the jamon sandwiches (below) were amazing!

After spending the day in Ronda we made it to the coast in time for sunset.  This is Nerja - known as the Balcony of Europe.  Stunning!

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The next morning we walked around the beach and checked out the rock formations.  The boys went off for some gelato and I explored by myself for awhile - sublime.

Stay tuned for Granada in my next post.

Spain - Seville | Personal

We arrived in Seville during Holy Week!  Now Holy Week is a HUGE deal in Spain and it's the biggest deal in Seville.  I didn't plan on purpose to be in Seville during this time, but when I was planning our trip and it just worked out that way.  I thought this was either going to be really good or really bad.  I LOVED it, my husband and oldest son (the introverts) not so much.  During Semana Santa (Holy week) there are several different brotherhoods that parade through the city from their churches to the main cathedral with floats of Jesus and the Virgin Mary.  These processionals start in the afternoon and go until 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning.  The city is jammed up and a walk that takes 10 minutes can take 90.  It's incredible to see though.

The processionals start with hundreds and some have thousands of penitents.  These are men dressed in robes and hoods carrying either a big cross, candles or incense.  Each processional is a different colour depending on which church they come from.  At first we were taken aback by the sight of a penitent as they look so similar to the KKK, but penitents pre-date the KKK by centuries.  They conceal their identities in these robes so that only God knows who's inside.  After the line of penitents comes the Passion float depicting Jesus in some stage of the time leading to his death.  More penitents follow and then the float of the Virgin Mary.  Under each float (which weight around 4500lbs) are 30-50 men carrying it through the streets.  It is a great honour to be chosen to carry a float.  They rest every 20 minutes for a few minutes at a time.   What an experience it was to be there during this time!

This was the first time we saw a penitent walking in the streets to get to his church.

We ran into our first processional on our way to a flamenco show.  It should have been a 20 minute walk, but it took us 2 hours.  Luckily we left early and made it just in time.

You can see the feet of the men underneath the float carrying it.  Also people on their balconies throwing rose petals on the float.

We really enjoyed this authentic flamenco show at Casa de la Guitarra.  We didn't know what he was singing, but they sang and danced with such emotion and expression.

We got out early the next day before any processionals had started to see the Seville Cathedral.  It is the third largest church in Europe after St. Peter's in the Vatican and St. Paul's in London.  It is the world's largest Gothic church.

The tomb of Christopher Columbus carried by four kings.

The magnificent high altar.  It's the largest altarpiece every made with 44 scenes from the life of Jesus and Mary and 65 feet tall.  It was carved from walnut and chestnut, and blanketed by gold leaf.

We climbed up the 330 feet Giralda bell tower.  Saw some awesome views of the city and cool to be up with the bells.

After lunch the processionals started and we ran into several.  It was really cool being amongst the locals and seeing how important this was for them.  We even saw people crying in the streets.

Found the old walls of the city.

It was another experience seeing the processionals at night.  The candles all lite and the children gathering wax balls from the penitents.

The next day we checked out the Santa Cruz district with it's "kissing lanes".

European buskers are awesome!

We found our way to Plaza Espana.  One of the most beautiful areas of the city.

We walked back along the river.  This is Torre de Oro Tower above built in the 13th century by the Moors.

When we got back to our Air bnb there was a processional just one block over.  I had to go watch!  The boys were processionaled out and went up to our apartment.  A lovely local man had brought a stool and when the men under the float rested he motioned for me to use his stool to get a great shot right in the middle of the street.  Awesomeness!

Say tuned for the white villages of Andalusia in my next post.

Spain - Madrid & Segovia | Personal

It's been a year and I just haven't gotten around to blogging our family trip to Spain!  Before I get into wedding season I thought I would share the highlights of our trip.  We started in Madrid with a side trip to the fantastic village of Segovia.  Then we took the train South to Seville during Holy week.  After 3 nights there we rented a car and drove through the white hilltop villages of Andalusia for a few days before arriving in Granada.  After our time in Granada we ended our trip in Barcelona!  We were gone just short of 3 weeks.  It was an amazing adventure.  We stayed in Airbnb's throughout our trip and met some beautiful people.

We arrived in Madrid early in the morning after flying through the night.  We could not keep our eyes open, so we ended up taking a good nap before setting out to explore the city.  We wandered around that afternoon and found the famous Chocolateria San Gines for our first chocolate & churros.  We got an early start the next day and did a segway tour that was one of the highlights of our trip!  We spent 3 days in Madrid and then took a side trip by high speed train to Segovia.  Ah Segovia!!!!  That was one of my favourite days!  A roman aqueduct, a flamboyant cathedral and fairy tale castle - what more can you ask for!

Our pretty Airbnb in Madrid.

Chocolate and Churros is a popular delight in Madrid.

Our Segway tour with Enrique.  This is us in the famous Plaza Mayor.

Enrique took us through the streets of Madrid, through Retiro Park and the Crystal Palace.  He showed us all kinds of cool things that we wouldn't have found on our own.  It was such a fun way to get acquainted with the city and my boys loved it.

After our tour and some lunch we set out to see the Cathedral de la Alumna.

Then we went across the square and toured the grandiose Royal Palace.

The palace has 2800 rooms and is 1.5 million square feet.  It's Europe's largest palace.

I love the street signs in Spain!  They are ceramic tiles up on the sides of the buildings.  So beautiful.  Also lots of graffiti everywhere.

On our third day in Madrid we explored the Gran Via with it's cool architecture and visited the famous Prado museum.

Loved Segovia!!!  Our side trip out of Madrid.  Train and then a bus that dropped us off right in front of the roman aqueduct and my heart was stolen!  I just loved it!!

The Aqueduct is 2000 years old!  The romans built this aqueduct when Segovia was a roman military base that needed water.  It is 2500 feet long and 100 feet high.  It has 118 arches made from 20,000 granite blocks without any mortar and can still carry a stream of water.  How cool is that!

We took the day to explore this quaint village.

We found the old city walls and took a walk along them.

This is Spain's last major gothic building.  The cathedral was not as frilly on the inside, but we were able to see the private, sacred side chapels built in the 16th century.

Streets of Segovia.

At the far end of Segovia was the Alcazar (castle).  It was a palace, a prison for 200 years, a royal artillery school and now it's a museum.

After exploring inside we climbed the 152 stairs up to the top of the tower for a spectacular view of Segovia and the cathedral.

That aqueduct was the coolest sight for me.  We walked back to it a different way then we left it.  It was so cool to walk around the corner and there is was!

Stay tuned for Seville in my next post.

Jack | Grad shoot

Grad shoots are always fun, but this one was extra special because this is my handsome boy!  I can't believe he's graduating this year!  My first born who seemed like just a toddler yesterday is finished high school!!!  We are so darn proud of him!!  It brought me such joy dragging him and his guitar around the city taking these pictures of him.

Yellowstone IV | Personal

After a week in the park we were ready to head home.  We took the scenic route home through Glacier National Park on the Going-to-the-Sun road.  Another area I had heard about, but never been.  What a drive!!  Gorgeous at every turn!

Got a picture with the sign as we left.

Stopped at Lake McDonald to see the famous colored rocks.

We also stopped at Trail of the Cedars and walked through the beautiful old growth forest.

I thought the tunnels on the drive were cool.

Haystack Falls.

The Weeping Wall.

Triple arches.

The highest point on the drive is at Logan Pass.

We set out to do the Hidden Lake hike.  We got about halfway I think, but got bogged down in the snow.  We didn't quite make it.

We took a walk down to Sunrift Gorge, that was pretty.

Wild Goose Island.

Boys were ready to go home!

Yellowstone III | Personal

This was probably my favorite area of the park - Geyser Country!!  Here is Old Faithful and one of the largest concentrations of geysers in the world.  Old Faithful is definitely impressive.  Walking the boardwalks of the upper and lower basin was also fantastic!!!  We even met real life "geyser gazers".  I had read about them in my guide book, but didn't think that was actually a thing, but these guys and gals come out for the "season" (as they call it) and wander the boardwalks every day calling in predictions to the visitor centre.  We met a couple guys watching Lion Geyser and they were so interesting to talk to.  They thought the geyser was going to erupt in about 10 minutes so we waited there with them.  About 10 minutes later a huge roar came from the geyser and I screamed.  They laughed and said, oh we should have told you it's called Lion Geyser because it roars just before it erupts.

The boardwalks near the Old Faithful Inn were incredible and riddled with geysers, fumeroles along the river and hot springs.  We also checked out the smaller Biscuit Basin and Black Sand Basin which were also worth the short drive and walk around.  We spent a couple of nights here so we also had time for the Midway basin that held the incredible Grand Prismatic.

The first time we saw Old Faithful.  It goes about every 90 minutes.

Geysers & springs at Biscuit Basin just a few miles from Old Faithful.

Emerald Pool.

We hustled back to the Upper Geyser Basin to see Daisy Geyser erupt.  We missed it and ended up hiding under the benches from a quick downpour.

The Grotto Geyser was in full eruption for quite awhile that day.

Morning Glory was stunning!

This is Giant Geyser.  It erupts very rarely, but I guess it did happen a couple days before we arrived.

Castle Geyser putting on a show.

A view of the Old Faithful Inn from the lower geyser basin boardwalks.

Old Faithful from a distance.

Spasmotic Geysers.  My husband and youngest son got geysered out, but my oldest walked with me all day watching these incredible geysers.  Every one so different.

Casey, one of the geyser gazers we met, told me to check out Grand Geyser that night.  He thought it would erupt an hour earlier then predicted and sure enough it did!  It was not disappointing!

Walking back to our hotel room we saw Castle geyser again erupt at dusk.  This is the view of it from the other side.

Now this is a show stopper!  Grand Prismatic!!!  Wow! Wow, is all I can say!  It was incredible.  I only wish we could have seen it from above.  There used to be a place you could scramble up to, but they've closed it to turn it into an actual trail.  It wasn't open yet when we were there, but if you go definitely check it out.  If you google Grand Prismatic images the view from above is incredible.

After getting to Midway Basin to see Grand Prismatic early before it got really busy we drove around Firehole Lake Drive.  We took in some of the features and then saw some ladies who looked very much like Geyser Gazers (long cargo pants, vests, radios and bucket hats) staring at Great Fountain.  I asked them what they thought and they said they just saw the pool fill up and thought it would erupt in an hour.  Good enough for me.  We toured around a little more and came back for the show!

We saw White Dome Geyser erupt as we were standing at Grand Fountain.

White Dome just as it finished erupting.

Great Fountain did not disappoint.  I took dozens of pictures, but narrowed it down to two here.  In the middle of the eruption, White Dome went off again behind it.

Our last stop before heading out of the park was Fountain Paint Pots.  There are four main thermal features in the park - geysers, fumaroles, mudpots & hot springs.  We saw them all in every country, but this basin held all four in one spot.

Yellowstone II | Personal

We stayed a couple of nights here in Canyon Country.  It was beautiful.  They call it the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.  We hiked the North rim and down the Red Rock trail for a closer view.  Later in the day we drove over to Mud Volcano which was crazy cool.  The whole park amazed me really.  So many things can kill you.  There were thermal features all over the place and things I've never seen.  After Canyon country we made our way to Geyser country via Lake country.  In Lake Country we found this little hidden spot that was fun to get to.  We explored West Thumb basin and then ended our day with a hike to Lone Star Geyser.  It was about a 3 hour hike roundtrip and really cool to see a geyser in the middle of nowhere!!

View from Red Rock Trail.

At the South rim.

Hanging out at Artist Point on the south rim trail.

Churning Caldron at Mud Volcano

Dragon's Mouth Spring - actually sounded like a dragon breathing!

This was crazy just on the side of the road - Sulphur Caldron

Lots of bison in the park and sometimes they like to stop traffic.

We found this little hidden spot called Sand Point.  We had to walk through a very buggy forest and traverse these logs in water to get there though.

Black volcanic sand was cool.

Stopped and checked out West Thumb basin which included Geysers in Yellowstone lake!  This is not a normal lake!

Abyss Pool

Hike out to Lone Star geyser.

I think this was my favorite geyser because it was in the middle of nowhere, took some effort to get too and I like the cone geysers.

Yellowstone I | Personal

Yikes, I am way over due posting this, but here is our family road trip to Yellowstone National Park last summer!  I had always heard about Yellowstone, but didn't realize how close it really is.  We stopped off at our friend's acreage to drop off the dog and we hit the road.  After an overnight stay in Great Falls we arrived at the North Entrance of Yellowstone and drove through the beautiful Roosevelt Arch.  Yellowstone is divided into "countries" and we hit Mammoth country first.  That afternoon we walked the boardwalks and took in the stunning hot spring terraces that are constantly changing due to the travertine that builds up.  We spent a night here and then carried on to Norris Basin and Canyon Country the next day.  Watch for a couple more posts on this trip.

Walking past Liberty Cap, that of course my boys made fun of.

Then we checked out the upper terraces and it's scalding water.

Canary Spring 

Sheepeater Cliffs was a stop we made on our way to Norris to have a picnic lunch.  Crazy place with 500,000 year old hexagonal basalt columns stacked like building blocks.

After staying a night in Mammoth, we set out the next day for Norris Basin on our way to Canyon Country.  This basin was large and had a lot of amazing thermal features.

It was hot!

Our first mudpot.  It was roaring and bubbling.

Steamboat Geyser making some noise, but doesn't erupt often and is very unpredictable.

 

Back to Work | Holidays are over

Back to reality today.  Kids are back in school and I'm back at my desk today.  I did some family shoots over the holidays and we had lots of fun entertaining family and friends.  We also got away for a little ski trip to Fernie last week.  I thought I would share some pictures from our trip before I get back to regular scheduled programming.  Be forewarned there are several tree pictures - they were just so beautiful covered in snow.

 

 

Heading up for the last run of the day.

Costa Rica | Pacific Coast

Last post on my vacation I promise.  For the end of our trip we spent 4 nights along the Pacific coast.  Through Airmiles I booked us 2 nights at the amazing JW Marriott just south of Tamarindo and then 2 nights at the Playa Flamingo Resort up the coast north.  The JW was absolutely beautiful and they gave us an oceanfront room!  We spent our days frolicking in the pool and the ocean.  Perfect way to end our trip.

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Stairs just outside our room leading down to the beach at the JW Marriott.

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The JW Marriott pool.

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Watching the sunset at the JW Marriott private beach.

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The area they serve dinner on the beach. 

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Hanging out at the pool most of the day.

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Checked out the sunset the next night at Playa Avellana a few minutes from our hotel.  Great supper at Lola's with our feet in the sand.

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My oldest son took a couple shots of my husband and I in the sunset.

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Our last two nights were here at the Playa Flamingo.

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Spent the day at Playa Conchal.  So amazing - the beach is made up of crushed seashells.  Beauty of a beach.

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Costa Rica | Monteverde

After 3 nights in La Fortuna (see previous post) we took to the road and made our way to the Cloud Forest of Monteverde for a couple of days.  The road was very rough the closer we got to Monteverde, but it was definitely worth the trip!  First order of business was to find the 'Strangler Tree'!  This is not a known attraction and when we stopped at the visitor centre on the way in and asked about it they would only refer me to some tours about tree rappelling.  In researching the area before our trip I had stumbled upon some forums and blogs of people who had found this tree in the forest, but the directions to find it were sketchy.  I have a thing for trees and to be able to climb up the middle of one was irresistible to me.  How fascinating that this tree takes over a healthy tree and kills it from the inside leaving this lattice and hollowed out middle.  I asked again about it at the cabin we rented and showed our awesome front desk person the pictures I had printed out and brought with me.  Turns out he knew exactly where it was and it was only 5 minutes from us.  We parked along the side of the road and took the small dirt path into the forest as instructed and after a short walk there it was!  My boys weren't keen to climb up, but I climbed as high as possible.  I took my big camera with me and couldn't squeeze myself enough through the narrow top without damaging me or the camera, besides my husband was also yelling at me to come down.  The climb was wonderous!

We also checked out the Frog Pond.  My youngest son and I have a love for frogs so we really enjoyed this place.  We saw our favorite Red-Eyed Tree frog again.  During the day our guide took him out of his enclosure so we got pretty close again.  We went back at night which was a whole different experience to see them more active in the dark.  It was fun walking around with flashlights and finding the frogs.

Our second day in Monteverde was high flying.  We did an early morning zipline tour with The Original Canopy Tour.  They were fantastic and I loved that they took my camera often and got lots of great pictures & videos of us.  I had wanted to go with one of the larger zipline companies there that have superman cables, but the more I looked into it I discovered that my youngest would have to go with a guide and would most likely get separated from us.  We were very happy with The Original Canopy Tour and it was still adrenaline pumping fun!  Besides the 14 cables that we rode, there was a tarzan swing, a monkey drop and climb back up through a small strangler tree and a frightening, swaying ladder.  I also loved that the platforms were all built in the treetops and not steel structures.  Great fun!

We also drove up to the Selvatura Hanging Bridges and spent an afternoon walking the cloud forest and through the bridges high above the forest canopy.  Fantastic, beautiful and serene!  I have one more post from our holiday - next up the beach.

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Inside the tree!

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Took a shot of my husband at the bottom as I climbed up.

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The Frog Pond.

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133 different species of frogs in Costa Rica.

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Ready for some ziplining.

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My husband coming down the monkey drop.

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The Hanging Bridges at Selvatura.

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Costa Rica | La Fortuna

Thought I would post some of my favorite pictures from our vacation to Costa Rica this past spring break.  We had so much fun!!  We spent 6 days in the jungle and 4 days at the beach.  We flew into Liberia on the new beautiful non-stop Westjet flight, picked up our car rental and drove ourselves to the town of La Fortuna at the base of the Arenal Volcano.  So much to do here.  We were exhausted the first day from flying through the night and not really sleeping, so we checked out the town, grabbed some supper and we were in bed by 6:30pm!  Worked out well since we met Geovani the next morning at 5:30am!  The sun comes up at 5:30 in Costa Rica and sets about the same time, so things get going early!  We were booked on an animal tour with the knowledgeable and sweet Geovani.  He took us through some forests where we learned a lot about the plant life and we saw many animals including the amazing Red-Eyed Tree frog, which we even got to hold!  After the tour he took us for a typical Costa Rican breakfast and we parted ways for the afternoon.  We relaxed and played at the spectacular Tabacon Hot Springs for the afternoon.  My husband hates hot tubs/hot springs, but even he was impressed with this place and all it's waterfalls, lush vegetation & the fabulous brunch.  Later in the day we met Geovani again and he took us up close and personal with a sloth and some iguanas, but not before we visited the Red-Eyed Tree frog again!

Our third day in La Fortuna we did a chocolate tour in the morning and went for some adventure in the afternoon.  The Rainforest chocolate tour was super interesting.  It was cool to see chocolate go from the tree to what we eat.  After lunch the guys from Pure Trek picked us up and took us out for some wild and wet fun.  We rappelled down 4 waterfalls and did one monkey drop.  They call it that fun name, but really they drop you down a wire from a dizzying height.  It was terrifying and fantastic.  After our time here we drove ourselves to the Cloud Forest Reserve of Monteverde which I'll show you in my next blog post.

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Geovani showing up how pepper grows on trees - who knew!003004

Taking a break and having some of Geovani's home brewed coffee.

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Coolest frog ever!

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Poison red dart frog - I didn't hold him.

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Heard these guys humming all night.

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My husband showing the boys a sloth up in the tree.

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The Tabacon Hot Springs.

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Had to see this frog again!

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His feet were so sticky and soft.

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Geovani took my phone and captured a video of this adorable creature.

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We each took a turn up the ladder to see the sloth.

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Ended the day with Iguanas.

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Gustavo showing us exactly how chocolate is made.

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Cacao plant

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Best chocolate we've ever had!

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Getting all harnessed up for our canyoning trip.

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This first rappel was 165 feet and pretty daunting.

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So proud of my kids for doing this.

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Mighty Five Vacation | Zion, Valley of Fire & Vegas

Here is the last post from our family vacation.  This day at Zion was the other highlight of the trip for me.  First off  Zion National Park was overhelmingly beautiful and majestic is the word that comes to my head when I think about it.  This was definitely the mightiest of the "Mighty Five" parks.  We did a hike called The Narrows.  It was an experience I will never forget.  In the morning we outfitted ourselves with wetsuits, water socks, water shoes and walking sticks.  We rented from the good guys at Zion Mountain School that made sure we had everything we needed for this hike.  We hiked through the Virgin river into the Wall Street slot canyon.  It was like no other hike or anything I've done before.  This hike can last 14 hours, but we only made it 4 hours.

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We were in the water a good part of this hike and were thankful for our wetsuits and water shoes. My walking stick also saved me several times.

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Wall Street!

Wall Street!

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The next day we headed back to Las Vegas.  In hindsight we should have stayed another day in Zion - so much there.  Anyway, on our way to Vegas we did a little detour to Valley of Fire State Park.  This is Elephant Rock.

The next day we headed back to Las Vegas. In hindsight we should have stayed another day in Zion - so much there. Anyway, on our way to Vegas we did a little detour to Valley of Fire State Park. This is Elephant Rock.

We did this hike to see all the petroglyphs.

We did this hike to see all the petroglyphs.

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My favorite thing about Vegas - The Bellagio Fountains. My boys favorite things were the buffets and the shows.

My favorite thing about Vegas - The Bellagio Fountains. My boys favorite things were the buffets and the shows.

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Mighty Five Vacation | Captiol Reef / Bryce Canyon

Alright we are halfway through the vacation now.  We've hit 2 of the Mighty Five National Parks and this blog post will show you two more.  After our stay in Moab we took off for Capitol Reef Park.  We stayed the night in nearby Torrey and then took the Scenic Route 12 to Bryce Canyon.  We did a couple of hikes in Capitol Reef and really liked the park.  In Capitol Reef I really wanted to go through some more slot canyons.  We went off the beaten path to Headquarters Canyon. It was a bit of  a trek, but what a beautiful drive down the Burr Trail to find it.

Along scenic route 12 there was another slot canyon (because now I am obsessed with them) I heard about called Peek-A-Boo.  It was a ridiculous washboard road out there with no signage.  We thought we could quickly find it and do lunch afterwards.  Well hours later we are still lost with smarties and water as our only provisions.  The thought crossed our mind that if we ran out of gas or broke down we could die out here - it felt really remote and not a soul around.  Finally at the end of the day we stumbled upon it.  We quickly scurried down and saw what we could before it got dark.  We finally hit civilization again at 10:00 pm - my youngest said that he was so hungry that if he could throw up he would eat it.  Gross I know!

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Getting close to Headquarters slot canyon. The twisty road ahead of us.

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In Headquarters

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After being lost for quite some time we finally found the trailhead to Peek-a-Boo canyon just at sunset. We quickly scurried down.

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A big cairn showing us the way.

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This slot canyon was a 20 foot scramble to get up into it. We didn't get too far in because we didn't want to be out there in the dark. So we looked around, took some pics and got out.

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Cory helping me get down which was way worse then getting up. My son had the camera and thought it was pretty funny taking pictures of us.

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A new day at the beautiful Bryce Canyon.

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I am all good with sunsets, but am not much of a morning person. I did it though and got up for the sunrise here at Bryce Point and it was spectacular!

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We hiked down into the amphitheater for the afternoon.

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switchbacks

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Natural Bridge

Natural Bridge

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Next day did a horseback ride which was super fun.

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Mighty Five Vacation | Moab /Arches / Canyonlands

Here's my second post on our family vacation.  After our drive from Page we found a cute little cabin to stay in Moab and made that our base for the next 4 nights.  From  Moab we visited Arches and Canyonlands National Parks.  We had some fun on mountain bikes and did a Hummer ride in Hell's Revenge too!  Arches was the first of the 'Mighty Five' that we visited and it didn't disappoint!

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This one is called Balanced Rock

This one is called Balanced Rock

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Double Arch

Double Arch

Walking up to the Windows

Walking up to the Windows

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South window

 

North Window

North Window

We took the trail behind the windows and had a good view of both of them together.

We took the trail behind the windows and had a good view of both of them together.

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This was a fun hike in lots of sand to Sand Dune Arch.

This was a fun hike in lots of sand to Sand Dune Arch.

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Tunnel Arch out on the Devil's Garden Trail.

Some cool trees and driftwood on the Devil's Garden Trail.

Some cool trees and driftwood on the Devil's Garden Trail.

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It was hot!

It was hot!

This was probably our favorite and most strenuous hike of the day.  Delicate Arch.  It was quite a climb, then walking around this rock ledge was fun.  Then we were rewarded by such a beautiful view!

This was probably our favorite and most strenuous hike of the day - Delicate Arch. It was quite a climb, then walking around this rock ledge we we were rewarded by such a beautiful view on the other side!

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The next day we rented some mountain bikes in town and went out to Dead Horse Point State park.  Super fun!

The next day we rented some mountain bikes in town and went out to Dead Horse Point State park. Super fun!

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After mountain biking we did the Sunset Hummer Safari with The Moab Tour Company.  It was fantastic!  Terrifying, but fantastic!

After mountain biking we did the Sunset Hummer Safari with The Moab Tour Company. It was fantastic! Terrifying, but fantastic!

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My boys with our driver Casey.

My boys with our driver Casey.

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Our last day in Moab we went to the Island in the Sky section of Canyonlands Park.  This was our first short hike up to Mesa Arch.

Our last day in Moab we went to the Island in the Sky section of Canyonlands Park. This was our first short hike up to Mesa Arch.

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View through the arch was cool.

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The rim at Canyonlands.

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Did a hike to this area called Upheaval Dome - a salt uplift or the site of a meteorite crash are the two theories.

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I was in awe of this tree growing out of the rock! This is just one of several shots I took of it.

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I've got a thing for trees.

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The gorgeous view at Dead Horse Point State park.

Mighty Five Vacation | Grand Canyon/ Horseshoe Bend / Antelope Canyon

We took a really fun family trip this spring so please indulge me while my blog takes a little break from my normal postings of wedding, family and baby sessions.  Over spring break this year we flew into Vegas and picked up a beast of a vehicle (Ford Expedition) that wasn't going to give my kids any motion sickness and set out to see the 'Mighty Five' (as they call them) National Parks of Utah with some cool stops along the way.  We took the new bridge with a great view of Hoover Dam and hit the Grand Canyon for sunset.  It was just as gorgeous as everything I've ever heard and definitely lives up to all the hype.  We spent a good part of the next day hiking around the rim and taking in the immense beauty and vastness of it.  Then back on the road to find Horseshoe Bend before calling it a night in nearby Page.

Horseshoe Bend was spectacular too.  It's the beginning of the Grand Canyon and super cool to peer over the edge to see the rock formation and water winding around it.  My family wasn't too happy with how close I got to the edge and in hindsight I should have just laid on my stomach to get the shot, but I didn't lose my balance and I'm still here.  The next day was one of the highlights of our trip - Antelope Canyon!  If you ever get to this part of the states this is so very worth it!  The only way to access the slot canyon is with a guided tour and I thought Ken's Tours did a fantastic job with their knowledgeable and friendly Navajo guides.  Our guide Taylor spent an hour and a half taking us through the canyon and it just blew me away.  I couldn't get enough of it.  I also loved climbing out of the canyon and seeing how it looked like just a crack in the earth from ground level.  After experiencing Antelope Canyon we made our way to Moab with a stop at Monument Valley.  So cool to see this place in person after seeing it so often in movies.  We did the self-driving tour around all the viewpoints and that finally made me stop chattering about how much I loved Antelope Canyon on the drive there.

Stayed tune for my next post of all the cool stuff to do in the Moab area.

 

Italy - Venice two | Personal

This is it!  The last of my vacation pictures.  Sorry to deluge the blog with so many, but it was a trip of a lifetime for me and I loved Italy so much.  Here is our last day in Venice and watching the sunset by the sea in Rome.  Thanks for looking and if you get a chance Italy is an amazing place to visit!

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Glass blowing on the island of Murano

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More with the pigeons.  This time my boys brought some buns and the pigeons were all over them.

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Did I mention that I couldn't take enough pictures of the gondoliers!

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Locking a lock on the Accademia bridge.

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From the Rialto Bridge at night.

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Italy - Venice One | Personal

The last stop on our family vacation was Venice.  What a crazy, amazing place!  It was wild to see that there were no cars and the only way to get around was by your feet or boat.  Venice was eye candy for me.  So many colors and textures and I couldn't get enough of the gondoliers!!

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We got lost trying to get to St. Mark's Square but found the awesome Sandro who sang to us during our gondola ride.

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Shot with my boys in front of our hotel.

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I asked this gondolier if I could take his picture and he gave me the thumbs up!

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The bustling Grand Canal shot from the Rialto Bridge.

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My boys went nuts for the pigeons in St. Mark's Square.

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The famous Bridge of Sighs.

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Venice was beautiful by night.

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Italy - Florence | Personal

I am sure you are getting sick of my vacation pictures, but bare with me for a couple of more posts.  I have never posted this many pictures from a vacation before but Italy really blew me away.  Florence was amazing.  So rich in art and history.  The first few pictures are amazing sculptures we saw just walking around outside at the Piazza della Signoria.  Florence is a big city but it felt so safe, classy and beautiful.

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My boys inside the Bargello Museum.

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The spectacular Duomo of Florence.

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We climbed 414 stairs up the bell tower for the view.

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Hanging down by the river at sunset.

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Ponte Vecchio Bridge

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The Uffizi Gallery

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This is the church Michelangelo grew up in - Santa Croce.

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Michelangelo's tomb.

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View of the city from the Piazzale Michelangelo.

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We loved these Lemon sodas!

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Italy - Siena & Tuscany | Personal

Loved Siena!  We stayed overnight here and spent the better part of the day exploring the Duomo and the main square called Il Campo.  The Duomo was my favorite one of the trip.  The inside was a riot of pinstripes, not to mention the library with the ceiling that looks as fresh as the day it was done (1502).  We climbed a crazy spiral staircase as well for a wonderful view of Siena.  Gianni picked us up again and drove us to Florence with a couple of great stops along the way.

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Just walking along and looked up to see this.

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Mmmmm, Gelato.

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I think it's the largest square in Italy and they treat it almost like a beach.

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Hilltop castle like place called Monteriggioni where they housed the soldiers during the war.

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San Gimignano with it's medieval towers and best Gelato in the world!

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Italian busker.

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Tuscany views.

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Literally won world Gelato championship.

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Italy - Orvieto & Tuscany | Personal

After spending some time on the coast we drove inland to Tuscany.  We stayed our first night in the coolest place - Orvieto.  The town is built on a volcanic tuft and feels completely medieval.  Around 5000 people live there and most have their own private underground cave left from centuries ago.  We took a funicular up the hill to reach the town and spent the day exploring the ramparts, the duomo and did an underground cave tour.  After a day in Orvieto we hired Gianni from Tours around Tuscany.  Gianni was absolutely fantastic taking us all over Tuscany to places we would never find on our own.  He walked around with us and explained history, politics, local customs, lifestyle, driving habits and even explained the ways of the bidet to us!

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Taking the funicular.

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The ramparts of Orvieto.

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Found a gelato shop pretty quickly.  Needed our daily fix.

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The Orvieto Duomo was impressive!

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Looking down from the town to a villa in the valley.

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The next day our first stop was Montepulciano.  Another hilltop town.

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I am a fan of the Twilight movies (yes I'm really 16 at heart).  This is the square where they filmed Bella running to Edward and kissing him under this arch.  So of course I made my husband kiss me here!

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We went through a winery and Gianni told us how everything worked.

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This was the sweet old winemaster who had me taste his wine.  Then he kissed me on the cheek and said "Ciao Bella!"

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This was the road they filmed the Mercedes commercial on.

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We had a wonderful lunch at a traditional Tuscan farmhouse.  Everything they served us they grew on the farm.

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We went through several more beautiful little villages and vineyards.  I loved the windows, the church bells and the big doors.

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Italy - Positano & Ravello | Personal

Ah the Amalfi Coast.  It was so gorgeous here!  We spent two nights in the stunning hillside village of Positano.  We carried on down the coast to Amalfi and stayed up in the hills near Ravello.  I can't say I had a favorite part of Italy, but I sure loved this leg along the coast!

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The view from our terrace at the awesome Hotel Savioa

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Wandering the beach in Positano on a drizzly day.

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By day and by night - beautiful either way.

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I actually had no idea that lemons grew on trees!  Lemon trees everywhere along the Amalfi Coast.

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The streets of Positano!  So pretty.

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Positano from a distance.

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The road to Amalfi was hairy.  Mountain on one side and ocean on the other and not a lot of road.  Breathtakingly beautiful though.

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The town of Amalfi.

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Climbing the many, many stairs (molto scala) from our B&B up to Ravello.

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Walking around the gardens of Villa Cimbrone and checking out the sea view.

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Lots of stray cats that my boys enjoyed.

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The view from our B&B.

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Best breakfast ever overlooking the sea!  Chocolate croissants and red orange juice.

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Driving down from the mountains we got a good view of Mt. Vesuvius.  Next stop Tuscany.

Italy - Pompeii | Personal

After our time in Rome we were brave and rented a car to drive out of the city.  With the help of a GPS we found Pompeii and spent the afternoon exploring.  What a fascinating place with Mt. Vesuvius looming in the background.

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The Forum

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Original streets.

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Where the Basilica was.

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Italy - Rome 2 | Personal

This post is the second half of our time in Rome.  I loved Rome!!  It is a gritty, big city with so much going on.  It's like nothing I've ever seen.  Everywhere we turned there was something crazy old and cool to see.   It was amazing to us the history and to see things dating back to years B.C.   I understand now why people say it takes a lifetime to see Rome - there is so much there and so much to explore.

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On our third day in Rome we went to The Vatican.  It was very impressive.  I recommend doing it as a tour to skip the ridiculous line and it was also so great to have someone explain the significance of things to us.  We hired Roberta from Rome Tours with Kids and she was fabulous and didn't mind me sneaking away to get the staircase shot below.

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We were there at 9:00am and no one was on the staircase yet - I was so happy!

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Roberta toured us through many halls on our way to the Sistine Chapel.  This hall of maps was my favorite.  The ceiling was unbelievable!

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I think my butt was getting wet or something in this picture.

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We went through the Raphael rooms which were fantastic!

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This is Raphael's famous painting of the philosophers with Aristotle & Plato in the middle.  He put himself in on the right corner with the black beret.  He also put Michelangelo in the painting right in the front in the purple robe.

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Crazy awesome ceilings.

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A beautiful corridor as we left the Sistine Chapel.

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Inside St. Peter's Basilica.

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Absolutely huge.

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This building is nicknamed The Typewriter.   It is a war monument to Italy's first king.

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Beautiful sculptures on the building.

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We took the elevator up the side of the Typewriter for some wonderful views of the city.

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The Pantheon.

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Inside the Pantheon with it's great dome.

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I took this shot very quickly as we were walking by this couple.  I just love how he's looking at her and the whole scene.

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Street painter with spray paint and fire in the Piazza Navona.

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Beautiful Piazza Navona.

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I loved the cobblestone streets of Rome.

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We spent the afternoon going through some of the churches near the Pantheon.  The cool thing about the churches is the amazing art inside that you can see for free.  The statue above on the left is by Michelangelo.

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Italy - Rome 1 | Personal

I have been dreaming about traveling to Italy for over 20 years!  I still can't believe that it happened.  It was amazing and everything I thought it would be and more!  So if you have been wondering why my blog has been pretty quiet for the last month I've either been in Italy or working on my pictures from Italy!  We were gone for 17 days.  We spent the first 5 days in Rome.  This post is the first half of our time in Rome.

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Our first full day in Rome we had to see the Colosseum!

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Walking by the Forum on our way to the Colosseum.  Everywhere was something amazing and old.

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Wonderful fountains all over Rome with cold fresh water from the underground natural spring.

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Roberta who we hired from Rome Tours with Kids who took us through the Colosseum, Palantine Hill & The Forum.  She was fabulous.  We spent the morning with her again a few days later at The Vatican.

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The view of the Colosseum from Palantine Hill

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Just a chunk of ancient stone laying around.

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After our tour with Roberta we checked out some churches behind the Colosseum.  This is San Giovanni of Laterno.  This church was the home of the pope before St. Peter's.  Every new pope still has to sit in the chair here.

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Checked out the Colosseum after supper to see it all lit up at night.

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This building is nicknamed the Typewriter and also looked pretty cool at night.

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Our second day we wandered around Rome and took in the Borghese Gallery in the morning.  Here I am pictured with my beautiful boys at the Spanish Steps.

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After lunch we toured the creepy Capuchin Crypt.  No pictures allowed so that is my postcard pictured above.

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Staying with the creepy theme we went through the Priscilla Catacombs which were pretty fascinating.

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The amazing Trevi Fountain!

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Cruise Vacation 4 | Personal

We had a couple of days in Orlando after our cruise.  We were in Orlando last year and did all the Disney parks so we decided to take in a few of the less popular attractions that we missed last year.  We were off the ship pretty early in the morning so we had the whole day to see gators!  First we drove out to Boggy Creek and took an airboat ride over the marsh.  We saw some gators in their natural habitat and it was pretty cool.  Then we spent the rest of the day at Gatorland.

The airboat ride at Boggy Creek.

I didn't have high expectations for Gatorland, but it was really great.  We spent 5 hours here and loved it.

These were incredible to see.  There are only 12 white alligators in the world and 4 of them are here at Gatorland.  They are creepy.

These guys looked menacing swimming towards us.

Cute baby alligator.

We went on the swamp walk which was really interesting.

One of the shows.  This alligator really wanted a piece of the handler.

There was an enclosed place the boys went in and these birds were landing on their heads and eating out of their hands.  They loved it.  I watched from outside.

The next day we hit Universal.  We had gone last year, but we had missed parts of the park and we had so much fun here that the boys wanted to go again.

I love how whimsical they made Seuss Landing.

My favorite part of the park is the Marvel Comic area.  I took a ton of pictures here, but I don't bore you with them.  This one of Captain America is pretty cool though!

Last year I met Spiderman and this year Wolverine!!!

I don't know what is going on with Cory in this picture!!

How cool is it that we saw BUMBLEBEE!!!

 Our last morning in Florida we hung out at the pool until we had to leave later that day for the airport.  Cory and Jack played basketball while Luke and I stayed in the pool.

Having fun with the underwater camera.

Cruise Vacation 3 | Personal

Ah Cozumel!  What fun we had here!  This was the boy's favorite stop!  The morning was all mine and we took a cab downtown and went shopping.  The boys followed me around and marveled at my bartering skills!  In the afternoon we met our tour and headed off to drive Mexican dune buggies through the jungle!

Our ship docked in Cozumel.

Before our tour - see how clean we are.

They gave us bandanas, goggles and we even rented shoes.

These were called X-Rails that we drove.  It was for sure the most fun excursion we did.

The whole thing was about 4 hours.  The road was a little insane with deep rivets and holes.  It made for a very jarring, bumpy and fun ride!

We stopped at the Jade Cavern.  This place was beautiful.  We climbed down stairs to get to this very smelly (sulphur) pool of water.  It was adjacent to a bat cave and they were flying around.  Would you believe we got in and swam with bats flying around us!  It freaked me out a little when we saw them all clinging to the cave wall.

This is Miguel our guide.  He was awesome.  I drove into the fence and took out a pole.  This is Miguel coming to rescue me.  I felt so bad and he just laughed.  He took a picture for me, pulled it out of the grill and threw it into the forest.

Near the end of the road there was a massive puddle of mud (like we weren't already dirty enough).  My son didn't see if up ahead.  I put the peddle down as far as I could and ripped through the mud.  Jack didn't see it coming and could only scream as mud flew all over us.  Good times.

We didn't have time to shower off before getting into our cab.  We had to race back to our ship and literally made a run for the last gangplank.  The guys looked at us and said "what have you guys been doing!?"

Our final day was at sea.  I'm soaking up some sun on our balcony.

This is Ever our assistant waiter.  He did table tricks for us every night that we enjoyed.

Watching the sunset again from our dinner table.

Cruise Vacation 2 | Personal

More vacation pictures!  Here are our next two stops - Jamaica and Grand Cayman!  We loved them both.  The cruise line offers a wide variety of shore excursions you can do in each port.  We really enjoyed picking out our excursions and trying fun and new things at each island.  Our guide in Jamaica told us all about the island on our drive to Ocho Rios.  She talked about the common perceptions people have of the island including smoking pot.  After a full day in Jamaica I said to my husband that I didn't see anyone smoking and I wasn't approached about it all.  Cory just laughed at me and said he had guys come up to him on 6 different occasions asking if he was interested in making a purchase.  I guess I just don't have the pot smoking look!

The morning ritual of sunscreen that Luke did not enjoy.

We climbed Dunn's River Falls in Jamaica.  It was busy, but a really fun experience.

After climbing in the falls we took the bus to the White River and had a fun time tubing down the river.

We ended up in paradise for lunch.

Dressed up for dinner that night.

The next day we were in Grand Cayman.  We tendered to the island and here are some shots I took of our ship from the water.

We went out to Stingray City!!  This was incredibly cool.  We were out in the middle of the ocean on a sandbar surrounded by wild stingrays!  Our guides told us that for 70 years the stingrays have been coming to this spot when they hear the boats arriving.  And who knew that a Stingray can live up to 60 years old!

We got to hold, feed and kiss the stingray!

After our encounter with the stingrays we relaxed for the afternoon at 7 mile beach.  Heavenly.

This guy was entertaining to watch.

Did I mention that I love the ocean!

Our second formal night for dinner.

Cory wore a tie, but I couldn't get him in a jacket again!

My handsome boys!

Watching the sunset from our dinner table.

Cruise Vacation 1 | Personal

You may have noticed that my blog has been slow lately - I was on vacation!!!  I gotta say this was one of our best vacations ever - although I think I say that every time!  We really enjoyed cruising though.  I was worried about my family being sea sick, but it wasn't an issue at all!  We barely felt the movement and we loved being somewhere new every day.   We did a 7 day cruise from Port Canaveral on Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas.  We stopped at Labadee (their private island on Haiti),  Jamaica, Grand Cayman & Cozumel.

Here's our ship in port at Labadee.  This shot is out of order, but I wanted to start off with a ship shot.

The top deck all quiet first thing in the morning.

One of the 3 pool areas

Here we are exploring the ship on our first day.

The 3 level dining room.

My husband and I did a cruise 17 years ago for our honeymoon and we loved it.  At the time we had a cabin with a porthole and I thought if we ever cruised again my dream would be to have a balcony.  I actually cried a little stepping out onto our balcony and seeing the ocean.

This is the boys cabin which had a connecting door to our cabin.

They connected our balconies together too!

Our first day of sailing was a day at sea.  The kids hung out for a bit at the kids pool and then we watched a 3D movie in the theatre later that afternoon.

This was our first formal night.  Aren't they so cute in their ties!

My husband was not happy wearing a suit, but I thought he looked pretty spiffy!

We sat by the window every night for dinner and it made me so happy!

Every night our amazing cabin steward made the boys towel animals.  These were some of my faves.  The service on the ship was unbelievable.

The nightly shows were pretty awesome too.

The next day we were in Labadee and it was a fabulous day!  I did the zipline!  It is the longest zipline over the ocean in the world.  Pictured above is my practice run on the baby zipline.

This was the view from the top of the zipline.  Amazing!

I bought a Canon waterproof/shockproof point and shoot camera for this trip because I knew there were things we were doing that my big DSLR camera could not go.  I took this camera down the zipline and many other places with me and I was very impressed with it.

The boys watched me come down from the beach.

A view of the zipline from the bottom.

Cool, funky trees.

Then we spent some time in the ocean!

Sailing away from Labadee.

Another great show that night.

Naida | Personal

It seems like just yesterday that I lost my Dad and now we've lost his wife (my Stepmom) Naida.   I can't believe she's gone.  She was young and quirky and I wasn't ready to lose her.  She was a private person but very loyal to those she loved.  Naida was always so encouraging to me.  She often told me what a great job she thought I was doing as a Mom and a wife.  She was very supportive of my career as a photographer.  She passed out my business card at every opportunity and asked me for more when she ran out.  She told me all the time that she was proud of me and that meant so much to me.  She loved my kids too.  She had no children of her own, but she took us on as her family.  My kids were her grandchildren and her love for them was evident.  We're all going to miss her.

Orlando - Part 2 | Family Vacation

Disney Hollywood Studios was one of our favorite parks.  It was a little smaller than the rest and seemed more manageable somehow.  We saw some really great shows here.  The Lights, Motors, Action Extreme Stunt show was a stand out.  The stunts were impressive and we saw Lightening McQueen which I thought was super cool as he talked and drove around.  After the show I got my picture taken with Mike and Scully from Monsters Inc.  I don't know why, but my boys thought it was lame.  I loved meeting the characters, but seemed to be the only one in my family that did.

It wouldn't be a vacation post from me without a shot of some palm trees!

How cool is this!!!

This was the Indiana Show which was also pretty good.

My hot husband.

The boys went to Beauty and the Beast for me.  It was wonderful and secretly I think they liked it too.

The Animal Kingdom was another park we loved.  This sweet baby elephant we saw during our Safari Ride.  It was pretty awesome seeing the animals without enclosures.

I dragged my family in to see at least one character together and Goofy made it worth it.  He was hilarious.

There were some real stand out shows in the Animal Kingdom too.  "It's Tough to be a Bug" was our favorite and the "Lion King" production pictured above.

Luke is crazy.  The boys were fascinated by this jumping water fountain in Epcot.  Luke decided he could take it right in the face.  He did this about 6 times until he was soaked!

At home there is no holding my hand anymore (especially my older son), but in Orlando where no one knows us, I got lots of love and attention and I relished it.

You might notice Jack's cross necklace in the picture above.  We were shopping in Downtown Disney and he decided he wanted a necklace.  He picked out this massive Eagle necklace on a silver chain (I wish I had taken a picture).  It looked like some kind of rapper thing.  I saved him from himself and he settled on this much less ostentatious cross.

After another morning at Epcot doing the ride section of the park we spent the afternoon at the pool.  Epcot had our favorite rides in all of the Disney parks.  If you go check out "Soarin" and "Test Track".  Soarin takes you on a hang-gliding experience over California.  It is wonderful.  Test Track is all speed and fun and there are some Hidden Mickeys during both rides if you watch closely!  We went back to Epcot a third time just to hit these rides again.

There are two theme parks at Universal.  The first day we went to Island of Adventure because I couldn't wait to meet Spiderman!!!  However, when the park opened we bee lined for the Harry Potter ride on the advice of friends knowing that it is the headliner attraction at the park.  I'm glad we did because the waits can reach 3-4 hours.  We walked right on the ride and it was just amazing.  I have no idea how they did that, but it was an experience!  After Harry Potter we sought out Spiderman!

For those of you who don't know, I'm a HUGE Spiderman fan.  I was actually nervous talking to him!  After he talked to me for a few minutes I grabbed the kids for a picture.  The Spiderman ride was our favorite of the day - spectacular!

Later in the day we went back to ride Spiderman again and we ran into Goblin on the street!!  He was very funny and told me how he hates Canada because Wolverine is from Canada.

Dr.Suess Land was so fun and felt so whimsical.

At the end of the day we decided we didn't care if we got wet so we tried out the River Adventure Ride.  Holy cow it was terrifying!  Near the end of the ride that starts out quite pleasant you are drawn into a black tunnel with a very scary T-Rex roaring at you, then you are plunged down this ridiculous drop into a river where you are then soaked.  It was a blast.  You can see our terrified faces in the second row.

There is a spot to watch the boats come out of the tunnel.  The boys decided to watch from the "splash zone"!

Our final day we spent at the other Universal park.  Lots of first rate shows and a few scary rides!  Our first ride of the day we went on an indoor rollarcoaster in the dark (The Mummy) - way scarier than Space Mountain but at least it was shorter.  My oldest son still hasn't forgiven me for that ride experience!  The Simpsons ride was ridiculous - I had my eyes closed for most of it.  And pictured above I made them go stand with The Lorax for a shot!

The Fear Factor Show at Universal Studios was awesome.  They even had a lady who volunteered to have scorpions on her face - it was a little crazy!

We had an amazing time and I love the memories we create together on vacation.  This is typical of my boys - Cory making them laugh and Luke constantly wiggling that loose tooth (which finally came out 2 days ago).


Orlando on Dwellable

Orlando | Family Vacation

I'm going to squeeze in a few personal posts of our family vacation to Orlando before busy wedding season kicks up.  We spent 13 awesome days in Orlando last month.  The weather was just perfect.  Not too hot yet and we didn't get a drop of rain!  We hit all the Disney parks - Epcot, Disney Hollywood Studios, Disney Animal Kingdom and of course the Magic Kingdom.  We also took a day and drove out to Clearwater Beach on the gulf coast, which I loved.  We spent a day at Typhoon Lagoon getting our waterslide on.  We hit a Gospel brunch show at The House of Blues on Easter Sunday in Downtown Disney and one day the boys even dropped me off at the mall for an afternoon of shopping while they went to a movie.  Our final two days we spent at the Universal Studios parks which were amazing and we found some of our favorite rides there.

We had originally planned to spend the entire day at Epcot, but after a long previous day of traveling there was no way we could get up early.  So it ended up being a half day there.  We couldn't see it all in half a day so we went back for more later in the week.  What an amazing park with so much to see!

Of course it's so fun trying on crazy hats and I had to take a couple pictures of the interesting 3D glasses we wore for the various shows.

We saw so many different kinds of shows at all the parks.  They were all first class, so well done and we were truly surprised at the quality of everything we saw.

This was "Turtle Talk with Crush" at Epcot.  He actually interacted with the kids and spoke right to them.  Super cool.

Ah, Clearwater Beach.  It was great to get away from the city for a day and just relax at the beach.  This was the whitest and softest sand beaches I've ever seen!

We rented a bicycle for four and spent an hour riding around the boardwalk and town - so fun!

Just me and my shadow.

Ok, this picture may not look like much, but Luke and I became obsessed with 'Hidden Mickeys'.  They are hidden everywhere in the Disney parks made out of everything from Cannon balls, like you see here, to ferry ropes and engraved bricks.  It is amazing how many there are when you start looking.  We were so excited whenever we found one!

Our longest day was here at the Magic Kingdom.  We spent 13 hours exploring the park, enjoying the rides, taking in the shows and we had to stay for the brilliant Electric Parade.

We watched the fireworks from the Ferry boat ride back to the parking lot.  It really was a magical day.  I have always heard that Disney is the happiest place on earth and thought whatever.  Now I'm a believer.  The 'cast members' are everywhere and so genuinely helpful and kind.  It's the cleanest place I've ever seen.  We even saw a guy cleaning the garbage cans!  They don't sell gum in the parks and you just don't see trash on the ground.  Everything is run so smoothly and they are always happy!  Once we figured out the Fastpass system and followed the truly accurate touring guide plans out of the Unofficial Disneyworld guide we never waited more than 10-15 minutes in line.  The crowd calendar on that website was really helpful as well and we found our trip so enjoyable!  Stay tuned for one more post with the rest of the trip.


Clearwater on Dwellable

Maui | Pro Pictures of my own Family!

My friends laughed at me for hiring a photographer while we're on vacation, but to have professional family pictures at the ocean is a dream for me!!  To have the ocean, my boys and the sunset - it doesn't get any better!!!  So I sought out the lovely and talented Lauren Garceau to take some family pictures of us.  She was fantastic and really patient to work with a picky photographer!  It was really cool to get some shots of just Cory & I too!  I am usually behind the camera, so it was fun for me to be on the other side and get some beautiful images of my family for our walls at home!

Maui | A little late

This is ridiculous, but I'm finally posting some pictures from our family vacation to Maui last year!  It was actually exactly this time last year.  I thought it was fitting to finally post them now as we are just arriving home from our vacation to Orlando this year.  I took over 700 pictures in Maui, so I really tried to narrow it down to my faves.  We had an amazing time in Maui and I can't express in words how beautiful it is there.  There is just something about the ocean that is so majestic and amazing to me.  My kids loved frolicking and boogie boarding in the waves, but didn't take to snorkeling very well.  The sunsets were breathtaking, we hit a lively and entertaining Luau up at  the Sheraton Kaanapali, the road to Hana is an absolute must and one of our favorite days, the trip up the volcano was super cool and we'll never forget our accidental stumbling onto a nude beach complete with naked guys surfing!


Keawakapu on Dwellable

Dad | Personal

I don't know how to write this post.  I am hoping it will honour my Dad in a small way and this may be a little cathartic for me.  I have two Dads.  I lost the Dad who raised me 8 years ago this summer.  Rudy, who is my real Dad, passed away last Thursday.  We re-connected 10 years ago and he has been nothing but a huge blessing in my life.  My boys loved him dearly, as did I.  I did not expect to lose him so quickly and I am feeling quite orphaned now.  I am not a writer, but often express myself with pictures.  I wanted to share some of my favorite images of Rudy over the years.  I am so grateful for the time I had with him, for all the moments we shared and the love we felt for each other.  I miss you so much.

San Diego | Personal

After a busy wedding season and busy fall full of wonderful family sessions, we took our little family on vacation to San Diego.  We did all the parks - Legoland (totally awesome), San Diego Zoo, Wild Animal Park, Seaworld and we surprised the kids and drove in for a day at Disneyland.  My favorite pictures though are all of the ocean.  We don't get to see the ocean very often here in land locked Calgary, so we were in awe of it.  I feel that way every time I see the ocean.  No matter what we did during the day at the end of it we would always end up back at a beach.

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I really don't like birds, but there is something about Pelicans that I just love.

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Well Pelicans and Piers!

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My oldest boy Jack dragging a massive piece of some kind of seaweed.

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Loved Boomer Beach!

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This was our favorite spot:  Shell beach

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Jack took this picture of Cory & I.  I told him how to compose the shot and I think he did a brilliant job!

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La Jolla on Dwellable