"Be the change you want to see in the world" -Gandhi

Sunday, March 3, 2013

I come from a Land Down Under....

A year ago this time, we didn't even know a trip to Australia was ever possible.  Siena was recently born, my mom came to visit MD to help with Sophiya and be there to support us through the newborn "haze" when she receives a call from my Dad informing her of the job opportunity in Melbourne, Australia.  It was a big decision and one Dana and I without hesitation said they should go for!  Living overseas was such a unique and amazing experience for us, although it was painful to know that they would be living far away from US this time, it was something they could never pass up.

From there, my parents sold their home in Minnesota and moved their life to Melbourne and encouraged family to come visit them over Christmas break.  After toying with the idea of bringing the little ones across the world, my in laws graciously offered to care for them for two weeks while Dana and I travel down under!!  Leaving the girls behind felt initially like we had lost an appendage, but knowing they were in Seattle in the best hands possible, we were able to let go of any worries or stress and enjoy ourselves fully. 

I thought I would never find a place that I loved as much as I love South Africa.  Australia is now without question it's number one rival.  It is a beautiful country in so may ways.  The landscape is breathtaking with its coastal drives, rolling hills lined with wineries, vibrant cities and pristine beaches.  The Australian people are so warm and friendly, with a laid back "no worries" culture and lifestyle.  The economy is booming, it's safe, clean and the food is fantastic!  

Downtown Melbourne

Hiking in the lush Dandenongs

Dad with wild cockatoos

                                                          Aboriginal Artwork

We celebrated the New Year in style!  We trekked to downtown Melbourne by train to join half a MILLION people celebrating the beginning of 2013 together.  Live music, fireworks, cheers and what felt like the party of the year, it was a fantastic way to ring in the New Year.

We set out the next day on our road trip to the lovely small coastal town of Lorne, situated just a couple hours drive southwest of Melbourne.  The drive was spectacular with the hairpin turns, jagged cliffs and perfectly clear crashing break.  We actually stopped and attempted a surf at a popular spot along the way- Bell's Beach.  It felt great to get in the water again after so long, but VERY rusty and the waves were quite too big for my taste!

On a random bathroom stop, we were lucky enough to run into koalas in the wild!  We saw all shapes and sizes, babies and mothers, just chilling in the eucalyptus trees eating all day long. They are quite docile creatures, friendly and similar to many of the Australians we met along the way - CHILLED OUT!

We got to see kangaroos hanging out on a local golf course.  Apparently it's a favorite place for them because of the wide open spaces to roam and hop around and lots of food to eat!  Amazing creatures, strong sturdy legs that can move fast when they are ready! 

Twelve Apostles National Park was a highlight of our roadtrip, the views were spectacular as you can see, it was a perfect sunny day and just illustrates a brief glance into the dramatic, rugged Australian coastline.  We didn't want to leave!




What more can you ask for?  Oh yea... WINE!

Australia has some fantastic wines, we were able to stop at a couple for wine tastings.  The Shiraz will always be a favorite of mine and will forever remind me of this trip!

Surprise... Sydney!!!

As if a trip to Melbourne wasn't enough, Dana and I were royally spoiled when we found out my parents booked us a getaway to Sydney for a night just the two of us!  Sydney was absolutely phenomenal, such a gorgeous city, buzzing with activity, the Darling harbor filled with delicious eateries and shops, so much to do around the city.  We took a walking tour around the city, visited the National Botanic Garden, saw the famous Sydney Opera House, and enjoyed all the people watching and relaxing in the sunshine. 

Darling Harbor with Dutch Artist's "Rubber Ducky" exhibit in the background in preparation for the Sydney Festival coming up in the next few weeks.

Stunning National Botanical Gardens

Before leaving to head back to Melbourne, we took a quick bus trip to the famous Bondi Beach, outside of Syndey.  It's about a kilometer long , white sandy beach, perfect for sunbathing, swimming, surfing, whatever strikes your fancy.  We made the most of our few hours relaxing in the sunshine and enjoying a final Syndey dinner!

Upon returning to Melbourne, Jamie and Nicole had left to get back to their college life and we had a couple last few days with my parents to enjoy their lovely home in Brighton, walk the beach boardwalk, shop around Melbourne and of course enjoy one another's company before being miles apart for many months.  

Final meal at Donovan's in St. Kilda, hands down some of the best... food... EVER!!!

We truly had a trip of a lifetime, it was an absolute joy to see my parents new life abroad, spend time with my siblings and explore beautiful Australia.  There is really something about travel that is good for the soul. 

Thank you for everything Mom and Dad, we miss you guys already!

A big THANK YOU for Michelle and Shane for watching our little monsters for two whole weeks, this wouldn't have been possible without you!

HAPPY 2013 - this year is going to be the best YET!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

'Tis the Season

The Christmas season just gets better and better every year with our family.  With Sophiya getting older, the spirit of Christmas, the excitement in the air, the anticipation of Santa's arrival makes the holidays so magical.  We were blessed with another visit from Santa Claus himself this year, which was a highlight to see the thrill on Sophiya's face and watch the special moment with them together.  Siena celebrated her first Christmas, and as always, went with the flow and enjoyed all the fun along the way.  Cousin Arabella, only a couple months older than Siena, made the house complete with girls galore!  It's fun to think of them all growing together, so close in age and getting to play together for years to come.  We were blessed with so many lovely gifts for the girls, delicious food and of course lots of laughs with everyone.


"Can't catch me I'm the Gingerbread Man" (one of her favorite books right now!)

Sledding practice before the REAL thing in Bend, Oregon with Songstad boys!

Our little Siena, this is typical of her, smiling and happy go lucky.  2012 was a year full of firsts for her and she's moving towards becoming a biped, crawling less and taking more and more steps on her own!  Her personality blooms as each day passes and my little baby is now moving toward toddler-hood, which is a bittersweet transition for me.  Her flexibility and adaptability never ceases to amaze me and she's proving to be a good traveler like her sister.

Loving the Christmas Carols and trying all of Nana's different instruments!

Lots of new dress up clothes!  Her favorite is her Cinderella dress and she is remarkably good in heels at age 3....

Couple shots of Siena before she spilled juice all over her beautiful Christmas dress :(

New kitchen set from Grandma and Grandpa!! She loves cooking and playing house with all her play food.  We are constantly having birthday parties with her cupcake set!

After all the craziness of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, the fun doesn't end there, as it's Sophiya's birthday on December 26th!  We had a small fairy birthday party for her, complete with cake pops and breakfast spread, more gifts and attention for the birthday girl.  I absolutely love this photo of her, I feel like I captured the second when she realized that we were all singing "Happy Birthday" to her and how special she feels!

I still can't believe she is 3 already.  She has done A LOT in her short three years.  She's a frequent flyer, moved across the world and blossomed into a little girl.  She is a strong willed, confident little thing, not afraid to tell it like it is and let anyone know what she wants.  Her sense of humor is developing rapidly, along with her thirst for knowledge and vocabulary!  She has been our shining light the past three years, made our life rich in so many ways.  We love you Sophiya and HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU!

Following Sophiya's birthday party, more excitement to come as Dana and I head off for Australia, another post to follow SOON.....