Here’s what I’ve been reading lately. All of the books in this post are all very different! There are cheesy young adult romances, historical fiction and stories of violent faith. My taste in books is… More
Our visit to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary was the highlight of our Australian adventure. We spent a long time researching different zoo’s and sanctuaries in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland and ultimately landed on Lone Pine. It was important to us that we not visit a place that keeps animal in cages as merely a tourist attraction. We wanted to support a sanctuary and a place that supports the conservation of animals. Lone Pine seemed like the perfect place for us to visit.
Lone Pine first opened in 1927 as a safe refuge for injured, sick and orphaned koalas. Their goal has always been to create a safe and happy environment for their animals to thrive in. It was evident straight away that the Lone Pine staff have a deep love for these animals. They were loving, nurturing, highly interactive and even shared some fun facts with us about the koalas!
All the koalas have names and the koala keepers know them all by name and can even point out their different personalities.
The koalas are grouped by their family. If they were to try and take a koala out of their home and into a different area it would cause them a lot of stress and they might even fight each other.
Even though koalas adhere to a mostly eucalyptus diet, they are extremely picky eaters. There are roughly 800 species of eucalyptus but they’ll only eat 50-60 of those and they all have an individual preference. What one finds to be a tasty leaf one day could be completely ignored the next day.
Koalas have extra fur and a cartridge pad around their bottoms to account for the hours upon hours they spend balancing on trees.
People often call them “Koala Bears” when in fact they are actually marsupials. The correct terminology is simply “Koala”.
In addition to the koala sanctuary, Lone Pine is also home to a variety of other animals: Kangaroos, Emu, Wombats, Dingos, Tasmanian Devils, Freshwater Crocodiles and Turtles, Platypus, Bats and different species of birds and reptiles.
Another highlight on this visit was hanging out with the kangaroos!
There are two different fields where the kangaroos are free to roam. We purchased a small bag of kangaroo food and had the chance to interact with them and feed them. As long as you were calm and gentle towards them, they didn’t spook and were actually quite friendly and soft!
The kangaroos had an area to hang out without any visitor interruption. A few of them came out to interact with visitors, but for the most part they lounged away from us.
Can you spot the little joey’s ear peeking out of the mama’s pouch?
Our final stop on our Australian adventure was a few days at the Sunshine Coast. We flew from Melbourne to Brisbane, rented a car and then drove about an hour and a half north on the M1. Luke found us this amazing private oasis and we both agreed it’s quite possibly our favorite place to-date.
We had envisioned this part of the trip to be a lot slower and more relaxing than the week before. While we loved our time in Sydney and Melbourne, we also wanted to experience the slower pace of the coastal life. We got unlucky with a few days of rain which really forced us to slow down, haha. After the rain and I’m talking more rain than I’ve ever seen in my life!! we were able to explore Noosa and get in some serious beach time. Noosa stole my heart and I couldn’t be happier that we picked such a gorgeous place to relax on our last few days.
Our recommended itinerary for three days at the Sunshine Coast:
Spend the day exploring the Sunshine Coast Hinterlands – Unfortunately we didn’t get to do this because it was raining buckets for the first few days
Visit the Eumundi Markets (keep in mind the markets are only open on Wednesdays and Sundays)
Make your way to Noosa
Walk up and down Hastings Street popping into shops – Grab lunch at a place that speaks to you (we found a fish & chips special at Zachary’s)
From Noosa Heads Main Beach, walk the path up Noosa National Park – We walked to the Fairy Pools and back to the main beach
Relax on the beach at Noosa Heads Main Beach
Spend the day at Noosa Heads Main Beach – Get there early and find a spot under the trees
Consider surfing lessons! If you’re not that adventurous you can also rent boogie boards on the beach
Depending on where you stay, drive up/down State Road 6 for ocean views along the Sunshine Coast – We drove from Noosa down to Mooloolaba
Dinner at The Savvy Squire the beers were amazing and the location is right on the Mooloolah River
We arrived in Melbourne from Sydney and ended up taking an Uber from the airport to our AirBnb. We almost never do this! We were having a hard time with the Myki ticket machines at the airport (Myki is the card system the train/tram/bus uses). The Myki machines refused to accept our credit cards and the busses don’t take anything but Myki cards. There was a SkyBus option but it was $20/person one-way and we’d still have to do a transfer to a bus. So an Uber it was! Once we got into town I popped into a market and purchased a Myki card and loaded money on it – once I had it, it was easy peasy from there on out!
We eventually arrived in the Abbotsford neighborhood and instantly fell in love with this lovely AirBnb. We had a spacious bungalow on the back of the hosts’ property, the most comfortable king sized bed and a few complimentary umbrellas for the rain we’d encounter in the coming days. It was perfect for us. We short a 5-10 minute walk to the train and then it was only anohter 10 minutes to reach the city center. We mostly took the train around town if we weren’t walking. I can’t say enough good things about the neighborhood we chose to stay in! Great coffee shops, restaurants and local shops. Something we always look for in AirBnb’s is that “local living feeling”.
Melbourne was so funky and just downright cool. You know that I love a city filled with graffiti and Melbourne delivered! It was inherently different to Sydney – like a Seattle vs. Portland different. More artsy, very gritty… Melbourne was a vibe. My favorite part of visiting Melbourne was the element of surprise. For example, you could see a restaurant or storefront and the facade gives an appearance that it might be a small run-down place… until you step inside and see this expansive architectural wonder. There were sooooo manyyyy surprises, we dubbed Melbourne “the city of hidden gems”.
Our recommended itinerary for four days in Melbourne:
Coffee and a light breakfast at Three Bags Full
Stroll around the city center
Hop on the 35 “city circle” tram line – it’s free and will take you in a loop around the city
Roam around Chinatown (it’s expansive!) and grab dumplings for lunch – We loved Shanghai Street
Pop into Melbourne Central – we found so many local clothing shops and the food court looked amazing
Visit the Public Library, it’s a beauty!
Dinner at Daughter-in-Law
Coffee and a light breakfast at Stagger Lee’s
Go on a self-guided walking tour of Abbotsford, Collingwood and Fitzroy
Visit the Queen Victoria Market (grab lunch here, too)
Stop by Moon Dog for amazing IPA’s
Grab dinner and sip on local beers at Stomping Ground Brewing or Bodriggy Brewing
Coffee and a light breakfast at Dr. Morse
Explore the hidden gems and laneways of the city (Hoiser Lane and Degreaves Street being the most popular)
Dinner at any of the following restaurants: Sundra, Embla, tipo 00, Smith + Daughters, Lazerpig, Leo’s, Carlton Wine Room, Bar Saracen, Lee Ho Fook, Supernormal (we met a girl in Sydney and her chef boyfriend recommend all these places to us – he said it’s the list for ultimate foodies)
Coffee and a light breakfast at you place of choice! Check out this list of quintessential Melbourne coffee shops
Visit the Brighton Bathing Boxes
Walk form Brighton Beach to St. Kilda Beach
Lunch at Lentil as Anything
Explore St. Kilda and Luna Park
Supernormal Canteen for dinner
St. Kilda Pier for the Penguin Parade
Also consider: a day trip out of the city or a two-day trip along the GOR to visit the 12 Apostles.
We recently arrived back home after spending two weeks in Australia and WOW what an incredible country! We split our time evenly between Sydney, Melbourne and the Sunshine Coast – spending about 4 days in each area. It’s the tail end of summer there, so kind of like a September for us, like a really hot September.
We arrived at SYD on a Saturday morning and took the train to Central Station where we hopped on a local bus to our AirBnb in the Paddington neighborhood. Once we got to Paddington (Paddo to the locals) I couldn’t believe my eyes, it looked like we were transported to the Garden District of New Orleans! The neighborhood was lined with beautiful trees and beautiful houses. We stayed in this AirBnb and loved it. The place was on the smaller side, but fine for us since we were out about for most of the day anyways. The location was very convenient for us (halfway between the city and the beach) and the local bus stop was just down the street. Speaking of the bus, we took it everywhere in town! We added our travel credit card (we use Chase Sapphire Preferred) to our phone and then just “tapped” on and off the bus – it couldn’t have been easier!
Sydney felt so unique but also felt like a blend of some of our favorite major cities. Luke and I ultimately decided that we thought Sydney was a mix of London, New Orleans and San Francisco – but throw some hot sun in there, too! We loved, loved, loved our time in Sydney and were quite sad when it was over.
See below for our recommended itinerary for a few days in this amazing city!
Explore the Harbors and Quays: Sydney Harbor, Darling Harbor, Circular Quay
Explore The Rocks neighborhood
Visit and grab lunch at The Rocks Market (open every Friday, Saturday and Sunday)
Visit Endeavour Tap Rooms for some Pale Ale and IPA refreshments
Walk to the Royal Botanic Gardens and walk over to Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair
Drinks at the Sydney Opera Bar
Take the ferry to Manly Beach
Visit 4 Pines Brewery for delicious beers
Spend the day exploring Manly and visit the beaches
Lunch at Fishbowl for amazing poke bowls
Ferry back to Sydney
Slim’s Rooftop for evening refreshments and snacks
Start your day with brekkie and then a takeaway coffee from Coogee Pavilion
Coast Walk from Coogee to Bondi (about 2.5 hours)
End at Bondi Beach and enjoy a beach afternoon (I rented an umbrella on the beach to be sun safe)
Lunch and refreshments at a fun spot across the street from Bondi Beach – We liked Bondi Beach Public Bar for flatbreads and beers
Dinner at Nomad (make reservations in advance, so many locals told us this was the best place in town for dinner and we’d have to agree!)
Brunch and explore at the Grounds of Alexandria (In my opinion this is an absolute must-visit and and “only in Sydney” kind of place)
Explore the Newtown area for fun shops, restaurants and breweries
End with dinner at a local neighborhood spot. We chose the Four in Hand Pub in Paddington
The second part of our Uganda trip was quite different from the first (read that experience here)! After our time in Lira and Otuke District we packed up the vans and drove an hour and half west to the Chobe Safari Lodge in Murchison Falls National Park. Driving into the safari park was quite the scene as our vans and SUV’s were driving on dirt roads that just endured days of heavy rains. We had three full vans (our team, the Fee family and the Love Mercy team) along with Julius and his family in the SUV’s. I was in the van that slide all around the muddy roads and into the ditch, haha. Our driver eventually maneuvered us back on track after quite the off-roading adventure!
The safari lodge was a stark contrast in comparison to our previous accommodations and experience. The safari lodge was so beautiful and serene situated on the banks of the Nile river. It was nice to un-wind and connect with everyone that we worked so hard with during the past week in that environment.
We were incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to go on a safari drive as well as a boat ride down the Nile river to Murchison Falls. We saw elephants, giraffes, hippos, monkeys, gazelles, warthogs, crocodiles and a lion! We did both of those adventures in one day to make the most of our time. I joke that it was the land safari and the water safari… either way it was a major bucket list item for me and just so incredible to see so much wildlife in one single day. We spent that day with the Fee family and having so much quality time with them made the experience so memorable. I wish they could adopt our team and we could adventure with them every year 😉
This past November I had the fortunate opportunity to travel to Uganda with four other individuals from work. I’ve debated over and over again whether or not to type out my experience – only because I don’t feel I could do it justice with words. It was truly an experience that you have to see and feel on your own to fully grasp. I’ve been back home for a few months and I still find myself at a loss for words that would adequately articulate how impactful my visit was. Here’s my attempt…
Race One: A relay from Entebbe to Lira that was organized by Love Mercy that Julius took part in running in.
Race Two: The youth race in Otuke District for the primary school kids.
My team specifically was responsible for setting the race course for the youth race in Otuke District. On this particular year the race was held in Adwari, a sub-district of Otuke at the Ablionyero primary school. Each year the race takes place at a different primary school to give opportunities for each school district to host. The race had different heats, allowing a wide range of age groups to participate. The winners for each race received a mattress for their victory. In addition to setting the race course we were responsible for brining all the participant t-shirts, sorting/delivering them and helping with a wide range of logistical duties for the day. Our team of five basically stepped in to assist anywhere and everywhere that we could to make sure the day went off without a hitch.
Going into the trip I didn’t know a lot of information about the first race (the relay form Entebbe to Lira) as the main focus was to prepare with my team for the race at the primary school. I knew that Love Mercy had organized a relay from Entebbe to Lira and had a total of five runners. Four of those runners had fundraised for the the organization and the fifth runner was Julius Achon. Over the course of five days, the relay team made their way up north to end the relay at the sports stadium in Lira. Since it was the first year for the race, we had planned to meet the runners at the finish line to welcome them into Lira. We thought we’d be among a few people in attendance from Love Mercy and the Fee family standing on a street corner to cheer them across the finish line. Wow, were we completely wrong! Word got out about this relay and it was in the newspapers and broadcast on the radio. When our vans left the hotel to head to the stadium we encountered thousands of locals making their way to the sports stadium to cheer on Julius and the runners! It was total chaos and at one point we got separated from our van driver as he took off without us. He had dropped off some of our team to run in the race and a few of us failed to let him know that we were NOT running the race, haha. Lindsay and I tried to run after the van, which led to us accidentally participating in the race. It was clear we weren’t going to catch up so flagged down a boda boda from a local to transport us through the massive crowds to the stadium. That experience ended up being just incredible! There were vehicles equipped with sound systems, people that joined in to run the final miles with our runners, people on boda bodas, and crowds and crowds of people everywhere you looked. It was complete chaos and no one could have predicted how incredible of a finish the race ended up being! We all kept looking around in awe of the celebration that was unfolding – it was the best surprise and experience and we were all in it together. If only I could bottle up the joy we all felt in that moment.
Even though I felt like the weakest link on this day I can hands-down tell you without any doubt that my team absolutely killed it! I was in awe of how everyone worked flawlessly together and how everyone pitched in to get the job done. If you saw an area to help out, you stepped in. There was no standing around wondering what to do. Lindsay (our incredible team leader) made an analogy that each team member played a different instrument – each one of us adding a different sound – and we came together to create a beautiful song. It’s highly possible that I completely butchered the analogy, but hopefully you get the gist of it. I couldn’t have asked for a better team. We were all so different, with different strengths, but we worked so well together. Being placed with such great people by my side made this experience even more amazing.
There were conversations amongst our group and members from the other organizations around this feeling of guilt. Guilt when we went to take a drink of water or grab a snack, because we knew that these kids don’t have that luxury. Guilt when we arrive in our van with a driver and then return back to the hotel to eat dinner and sleep in an actual bed. Guilt that we are Westerners showing up for a brief moment and not doing more to help their community. I was a visitor in their community and I wanted to be sensitive to that. Someone said that you can’t control how you were brought into this world and how you were brought up – although you can control how you give back. That sentiment still sticks with me and is something that I never want to forget. That was my big takeaway from this experience and I’m using that mentality as I move forward.
It can feel overwhelming with so many people in this world that need help and so many organizations that need resources and money. I used to sit back and ask myself how do you even know where to start? I would wonder how can I even influence change, I’m just ONE person? I’m ashamed to say that I’ve let these feelings take over and paralyze me to the point where I didn’t take action. Sure I’ve donated to causes that I’m passionate about and still do – but I have the means to do more!
This experience in Uganda really opened my eyes and shifted my perspective. If we all do something, just something, it can add up. What if everyone that felt this same way just volunteered once a month, or donated a small amount to an organization they feel passionate about? Small things have the potential to add up to something big.
I could write a million more words about this experience, but I’ll end it here. I feel like I left out a million details, like how Matt ate fried grasshoppers, how we played a lot of bananagrams and card games every evening, that we ate A LOT of vegetable curry and how we each had our own favorite local African beer (Lindsay was Team Tusker, Matt and Kevin were Team Nile and Scott and I were Team Bell). Come find me and we can talk more about this incredible experience over a couple of beers! 🙂
Uganda will always hold a special place in my heart because of this experience. I can only hope that I’m able to return one day, or find a volunteer experience in another African country in the years to come because I don’t want this to be a one-time experience.
If you’re interested, John Bryant wrote a book about Julius’s life: The Boy Who Runs: The Odyssey of Julius Achon. It’s an incredible read!
And last but not least, I compiled most of the videos that I took on the trip!
My only regret is that I
A: Didn’t take more!
B: Didn’t record them all in the same format, haha!
I hope you enjoy! When you’re watching this video please play Toto’s “Africa”. Before we embarked on this trip I wondered if we’d hear that song along the way and the answer was YES, multiple times. Unfortunately due to copyright laws I couldn’t add it to the video.
I have to admit that for the past few months I’ve fallen into a reading slump. I couldn’t finish anything for months. I attempted three different books and I either couldn’t get into them or couldn’t get inspired by them. I finally switched gears and went for a an author that I love (Taylor Jenkins Reid) and got out of my reading slump two days later 🙂 I have so many good books on my reading list this year that I can’t wait to get my hands on!
Matchmaking for Beginners | I had heard so many good reviews of this book that I was so excited when I finally got my hands on it. It was a fun read but I didn’t love the storyline.
Maybe in Another Life | When I was deep into my reading slump of uninspiring books I decided to go back to an author that I love – and I finished this book in just a few days! It was such a fun and easy read. One of my favorite aspects of Taylor Jenkins Reid novels is that not only is she an amazing storyteller but she interjects life lessons and words of wisdom. I always take away so much more than a fun story from her books. Hannah is twenty-nine and has no idea what she wants to do with her life. She moves back to her hometown in an effort to start over once again. On one particilur night out with her best friend she has to make a choice to go home with her friend or stay out and reconnect with her high-school boyfriend. Both decisions play out in concurrent storylines and those storylines take two drastically different turns. It raises questions about fate and how much of our life is determined by the choices we make.
All Your Perfects | I picked this one up because I loved the last Colleen Hoover book I read and this one had great reviews on Goodreads. This was quite a heavy read. I loved how the main characters met and how they solved their differences, as I’m sure many married couples can relate to the challenges that Quinn and Graham faced. Similar to the last book I read of Colleen’s, I feel like I can’t go into any more detail otherwise I might spoil it!
The Husband’s Secret | So many of my co-workers have recommended this book to me lately. I loved What Alice Forgot, so I thought I’d give this one a go! I found the main character in this book to be extremely similar to the main character in her last book I read, which I found kind of odd. Maybe the author has a niche character she loves writing about? Either way, it was well-written and fun to follow along with. I love a book that has multiple storylines that eventually come together and this one had three!
Born a Crime | I recently saw Trevor Noah on tour and it inspired me to read his book which is composed of stories from his childhood, growing up in South Africa. Wow, did I love this book! Trevor is an excellent storyteller and he’s full of humor. His experiences growing up will leave you absolutely shocked. His book was also an eye-opener about the separation of class and race. I can’t recommend this one enough!
The Boy Who Runs: The Odyssey of Julius Achon | This book holds a special place in my heart. I recently visited Uganda and got to work with the charitable foundation that Julius Achon founded and my experience was one that changed me. The Boy Who Runs tells the incredible life story of Julius and how he overcame the odds and made a life for himself outside of the small village he grew up in in Northern Uganda.
Heather and I were lucky enough to get to spend a week together on an epic girls trip to Paris, France this past October! We’ve both been separately, but this was our first time visiting the city together. We stayed in an AirBnb in Montmartre and loved our little neighborhood so much. I’m happy to share the actual AirBnb booking if anyone is interested… we loved the space and the location but the bed was extremely uncomfortable and we had some of the worst nights sleep we’ve ever had. We were consistently up all hours of the night tossing and turning. So maybe you don’t want to stay there, haha 🙂 Bad sleep aside, the location was great and it was easy to take the metro anywhere in the city and even easier to just walk anywhere as well. I listed out everywhere we ate and all things we did over the week. Anything with an asterisk next to it means we LOVED it!
Where we ate:
Pink Mamma * (delicious! we shared a pizza and drank some delicious red wine. make sure that you walk to the top floor and check out this beautiful space)
Odette * (we stopped here for a sweet treat, the location couldn’t be any cuter if it tried)
Laudree (mandatory stop for sweet treats in a collectible box)
Bouillon Chartier (we had a quintessential Parisian meal here one night)
Frenchie Bar a Vins (I’m a HUGE fan of FTG, so I loved visiting their wine bar)
Ob-La-Di * (we had breakfast here one morning and loved every sip and bite)
Kozy (if you’re looking for their brunch it only happens on the weekend, oops!)
Cafe Kitsune (fueled up on a delicious iced chai one afternoon)
La Bossue (we had our final petit déjeuner of the trip here and it was heavenly)
Corto (a small inconspicuous place near our AirBnb that happens to have out-of-this-world-delicious-steak-tartare)
Creperie Framboise (because crepes)
Wine and snacks in the park
What we did:
A LOT of walking!
A LOT of metro riding! (we purchased the Paris Visite 5-day pass and it basically pays for itself in a few days. taking public transportation is my favorite way of getting around a city)
Shopping at Merci * (I fell in looooooove with this concept store)
Galeries Lafayette (go for the high-end shopping but don’t miss the incredible rooftop views)
Stamp Market * (check the hours before you go… I found handfuls of beautiful old stamps here)
Paris Flea Market (the flea market was not a highlight for us… most stalls were closed so there wasn’t a lot for us to see)
Explored the artists square in Montmartre (we purchased a small watercolor for our mom here)
L’Atelier Des Lumières * (I cannot recommend this place enough, it was the most beautiful artful experience I’ve ever had)
And in no particular order, here are our photo favorites from a week in our favorite city. I hope you enjoy 🙂
My sister and I recently got back from a week in Europe – just us girls! It was the trip of a lifetime for us. We’ve never taken a trip so far away, just the two of us. We’ve also never spent every second together for an entire week, haha! The trip ended up exceeding my expectations and reconfirming that my love for all things European runs deep.
We decided on a week in Paris with a quick day trip to Amsterdam via train. I’ve been to Amsterdam before, but it was Heather’s very first time stepping foot in the Netherlands. We took the early morning train from Gare du Nord to Amsterdam Centraal station. Since we arrived at Centraal station we were a quick walk over to the center of the city to start our exploring! Surprise to absolutely no one, we started our day off with pancakes at a cute little spot called… Pancakes! In all honesty we were starving and it was the first place we saw upon leaving the train station, haha. It ended up being exactly what we needed though. The pancakes were DELICIOUS and the mint/lemon/ginger tea was a refreshing wake up!
We spent our entire day walking. We walked quaint and quiet streets with our favorites being Groenburgwal, Raamgracht, Kloveniersburgwal, Oudezijds Voorburgwal and Herengracht. I particularly loved strolling those streets because my most beautiful photos from that day are of the canal houses located there.
One area that I wanted to spend some time in was De Pijp, located directly south of the city center. I’ve heard that it’s a fun neighborhood to explore, so I’m happy we to got to spend some time there. We visited the Albert Cuypmarkt and indulged in fries with fritessaus (so good!) and then stopped in Bakers and Roasters for some coffee to keep us going!
Amsterdam, to me, is the absolute most picturesque place my eyes have ever seen. I’m perfectly happy to just throw on a pair of comfortable shoes and explore by foot – which is exactly what we did 🙂