Monday, October 25, 2010

Go State!

I love, love, love the K-State Wildcats and am excited to have recently received a cute little vase to help me display my love for the Cats. My parents were at Nell Hill's a few weeks ago and my dad picked out this little gift for each my sis and me to show our purple love. It's basically a bunch of purple test tubes wrapped together, and with some white flowers, it looks pretty festive! Excited to go to K-State games the next couple of weeks! :)

It must be fall...

So far this autumn season, I have used my favorite recipe for pumpkin bread twice and LOVE it! It is now on the black list of foods to not have in my house (along with Oreos, Doritos and Nutella) cause I want to eat the WHOLE loaf! But, for those of you with willpower, I thought I would share the recipe. I made it recently when my sister and I returned home from our trip (more on that later) since Meg requested, pleaded and begged that I make her some. We also like to add chocolate chips for extra sweetness. Give it a try!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Australia/New Zealand Trip....The Details:

Well, I started writing this blog post over a week ago before I went back to work, but life distracted me and I haven't got it done. So, here we go again....It has been two weeks ago today that I got home with my little sis in tow after two weeks in Australia and New Zealand. Megan worked in Perth, Australia (on the West coast) for 3 months. She is an auditor and her accounting firm has a branch there, so she participated in their exchange program. When Meg finished working at the end of September, I flew over to travel with her.

I wrote down everything as we traveled and I'm glad I did since it was so busy, I would have had trouble remembering everything. I am going to write up our trip before I forget it, definitely way more than anyone on the planet wants to hear about, but I think that someday I'll want to look back and remember all the details of our amazing trip. So, here is the long and dirty version:

Wednesday, September 29th-

  • My dad drove me to the KC airport to catch a 1:00 flight to Dallas. First hiccup of the trip was when I was getting through check-in, it was realized I didn't have the necessary Visa to go into Australia. Yep, you need a Visa to go there even for tourism, not just to study or work. So, with a quick call to Australia, she got me fixed up so I would be able to enter the country.

  • After flying to Dallas, I had a two hour layover before heading to Los Angeles and while walking around, I discovered Cereality, a cereal bar like an ice cream shop. I didn't try anything, but will have to next time.

  • LA greeted me with a 4-hour layover where I ate some crummy Chinese food and anxiously awaited my 14-hour flight to Sydney.

  • The flight for Sydney left at 10:30 pm from LA. I was SO tired and basically got on the plane and fell asleep. During the flight, they served two meals, a snack and passed water/juices all night. I probably slept on and off for the first half of the flight, woke up and was convinced that we were almost there...bummer that we still had 7 hours to go! Thankfully, there were about 60 movies offered and the chairback in front of everyone had a personal screen. The guy next to me slept so hard most of the flight! He might have rested his head on my shoulder for awhile....awkward.

  • There was a 2-hour layover in Sydney, during which I had to RUSH through customs, baggage and the quarantine station....slight hold up there was that they are super strict with rules about bringing anything into the country. I checked "yes" that I had food with me, as I had some trail mix....a term they weren't familiar with and I had several people ask me if I had beef jerky in it??? Um, no.

  • On the last leg of my trip over to Perth, I had a 5-hour flight from Sydney with a choice of 10 movies. It seemed very short comparatively to the 14-hour journey.

  • I landed in Perth about 11 am on Friday, October precious baby sister arrived close to noon. She got caught at work, while understandable, not impressive to someone who was on a plane for 24 hours. Nevertheless, I went to her apartment and napped for four hours. After my sleep, we got ready and met up with her coworkers for one last Friday night happy hour at Fire & Ice, then went to dinner at Han's with her friend Crystal, followed by a drink with a few other friends before calling it an early night before our day of playing tourists Saturday.

Saturday, October 2nd-

  • Thanks to some jetlag, 8:00 brought rise and shine for me, so we got up and headed to King's Park....a really beautiful park in Perth with great views of the city.

  • After looking around the park, we took the train to Freo and strolled around the town. We hit up a chocolate shop or a mid-morning churro and milkshake, followed by a quick walkabout through the markets.

  • We got ferry tickets to go to Rottnest Island, which is about 30 minutes away and is very isolated from the rest of the world. No cars, just bikes and people walking around. Very laid back, with a few restaurants and some camp grounds. We rented bikes and rode around or about two hours. Very fun!

  • Around 4:30 we caught the ferry back to Freo, then took the train back to Meg's apartment, followed by a teeny nap so I would be rested for our night our with Megan's friends.

  • Meg and I wen to Julio's for an Italian dinner before going to her friend Crystal's apartment with a few friends. After that, we ventured out on the town and had a great time!

Sunday, October 3rd-

  • Megan and I were up about 9:00 and did some packing as it was our last day in Perth. We went to brunch at a restaurant by Meg's office building, which was great! We both had pear and cream stuffed fresh toast with strawberries and a side of bacon. On the way leaving, we walked through the farmers market and got a almond chocolate croissant for the road and also went in the grocery store so Meg could buy some of her beloved Tim Tam' of her favorite Australian treats, a wafer cookie.

  • The afternoon was a bit of a mess. We went to the airport to check one of Meg's bag unaccompanied back to Dallas to save her cash and it wasn't an easy task! They were closed on Sundays, but thankfully someone was able to come in after about an hour and get it done for her.

  • From there, we headed for Swan Valley, which is where we went to find the wineries, chocolate shop and a brewery. Well, it didn't go so swimmingly since we didn't have a map and we got a bit turned around. I was perhaps not a very kind sister, but we found it!

  • We hit up the chocolate shop and did a tasting of the different flavors of candy. Mmm. We didn't buy anything, as the candy bars are about $12 each. Um, no thanks. We ventured on to the winery where we each paid $2.50 to taste nine wines. Our final stop was to the local brewery in Swan Valley where we split some "hot chips" aka, fries....and had a beer.

  • About 5:30, we zoomed over to Caudleslow, where there are supposedly world famous sunsets. Wouldn't you know it, it was cloudy?! :( And it was cold...but it was still pretty!After the sunset, we picked up Crystal for a last dinner in Perth and went to "Must". A lovely time with great food.

  • About 10:00, we returned to Meg's apartment to pack and clean a bit, and finally arrived at our CREEPY motel by the airport at 11:15. Thankfully we were only there one night. Not a good sign when you feel like you should wear your flip flops in the shower. Ew.

Monday, October 4th-

  • Ugh, up at 5:30 and showered. Left for the airport at 6:00 and returned the rental car. At 8:00 we flew from Perth to Sydney. We lost 3 hours with the time zones, we actually arrived at 3:00, took the airport shuttle to the hotel.

  • After a quick change of clothes from our travels, we went to "The Rocks" area to explore, as well as Sydney Harbor. We went to the visitors Center and got lots of tourist info.

  • We ended up at Giovanni's for dinner where we split a sausage/pepperoni pizza and tortellini stuffed with sausage, with cream sauce and mushrooms/proscuitto. Tasty.

  • After dinner, we went back to the hotel and crashed early.

Tuesday, October 5th-

  • We got up at 8:00, bought a little 24-hour internet at the hotel to get reconnected to the outside world a bit after almost a week without. Eeeek!

  • At 9:00 we headed for the infamous Opera House Tour; no tours starting until 10:30 so we walked through the nearby Botanical Gardens for 45 minutes. It was hot and humid! Definitely more trees/shrubs than flowers, but very pretty.

  • 10:30 was the start of the hour long Opera House tour. Really amazing! The internationally known building was completed in 1973 after 16 years of building and a 103 million dollar budget, which was initially set for 3 years and 9 million dollars. Oops. A Danish architect designed it and it is the biggest site of tourism in Australia.

  • At 12:00, we ate lunch at a restaurant on the harbor. Afterwards, we bought some post cards and mailed them in the city before we took a harbor cruise. It went all around the harbor and gave the history, including the Darling Harbour.

  • After the harbor tour, we took another ferry over to Darling Harbour where we went to the Sydney was neat, but probably not worth the $35 each. We took an excessive number of fish pictures and learned lots of random facts, including that the male seahorses carry their babies. Post aqaurium, we walked around the harbour and got some chinese take away to eat while we hung out people watching....nice ending to a full day.

Wednesday, October 6th-

  • Rise and shine at 6:30 to get ready for our 7:45 pick up for our tour of The Blue Mountains. Such an amazing day trip! We're so glad we did it. It started out with a stop at the Featherdale Zoo where we got to pet koalas, kangaroos, penguins, etc. Lots of pictures!

  • After seeing all the cute animals, we went to a park where our tour guide showed us how to throw a was tough!!

  • About 10:30 we continued to head into The Blue Mountains, which is a range West of Sydney. We went to a lookout, where it was initially cloudy, but it quickly cleared and was gorgeous! They took us to the country club and served lunch. From there, we went on the scenic railway, saw The Three Sisters and the rainforest at the bottom of the mountains. After a quick stop at the candy store we went by the site of the 2000 Olympic Games before taking a ferry back to Sydney harbor to finish up the tour.

  • Since it was a full day, we grabbed some take away from "George's on Jackson," a restaurant not far from our hotel, went by the grocery for snacks for an upcoming beach day, and we went to the hotel room and had dinner with wine we bought at the winery in Perth.

Thursday, October 7th-

  • This was definitely one of our more low-key days on the trip. We went to the Paddy Markets and looked around at ALL the stuff they had, incluidng an outfit I bought for Halloween to be a geisha girl. I also bought a sundress....couldn't resist.

  • Things went very wrong as we were leaving the markets, we saw a man unloading skinned goats onto a cart in the street in Chinatown. My sister, a pseudo-vegetarian, was mildly traumatized. Possibly ended her days of eating in any Chinatown....ever.

  • The afternoon brought another ferry trip; this time to Manly Beach, which is one of the famous beaches in Sydney. We had heard from several people about a fish and chips place on the beach, so we got that and found a sport to hang out. Unfortunately, it was SUPER cold and windy. :( We were looking forward to a day of sun, but not meant to be. We called it a day early and headed back to the hotel hot tub!

  • For our last night in Sydney, we got spruced up and went out on the town for dinner. We found a German bar we a great bartender and each had a lemon beer before going to a FANTASTIC Italian dinner in The Rocks area. We met the only other Americans we found on our trip while in Australia...a little older couple from Georgia. Very nice.

Friday, October 8th-

  • Another early morning....we got up at 6:30 to get the airport. Our flight for Cairnes left from Sydney at 9:00 and arrived at 11:15. We got picked up by our hostel shuttle and checked in to the room at our first hostel ever at 12:30.

  • We quickly booked a tour of the rainforest there as it is one of the "to see" places in Australia....we caught a shuttle to the Skyrail at 1:30 and took a gondola up to the top, then took the train back to town. We arrived at the train station at 5:30, then we looked around the town, including the pool and coast.

  • We ate at Outback Jack's for dinner...mmm! We returned to our hot and humid hostel room about 7:30. We paid $1 for 3 hours of air conditioning in the room. Called it an early night before our big day on The Great Barrier Reef the next day...

Saturday, October 9th-

  • What a fun day!! We got picked up at 7:15 by The Reef Experience shuttle for a day on the ocean! We were taken to the dock and were greeted on the boat with breakfast. There were about 40 people on the boat and 10-15 crew members. We had an intro to ship safety and rode approximately an hour to the first dive sport. A marine biologist did a presentation on the reef. We had an intro to scuba diving lesson and had our first intro dive into scuba diving. It was definitely scary at first, but our guide was great and stayed with us the whole time. We went all the way to the bottom of the ocean; about 6 meters.

  • After scuba diving, we ate lunch before going to a second spot. We snorkeled for 30-45 minutes. They served wine, crackers and cheese on the way home and we relaxed on the roof of the ship. I missed some sunscreen on my chest and shoulders, which resulted in some burning. Oops. :(

  • We returned to shore about 4:00, we walked around Cairnes, and returned to our hostel about 5:30 to get cleaned up. We walked around for an hour looking for somewhere we wanted to go for dinner....and ended up settling on chinese at the food court. After dinner, we went to a bar and had a beer before going home to bed....exhausted after a long, but fun day!!

Sunday, October 10th-

  • Sadly, it was our last day in Australia! :( . This day was essentailly lost to travel. We got packed up in the morning and checked out of the hostel at 1o:00 before our 1:00 flight to Brisbane. We left Brisbane at 5:15 for Auckland; in that process, we lost 3 hours in the time change. Our flight didn't land in Auckland until midnight and by the time we got through customs and got our bags and to the hotel, it was 1:30. It was a Holiday Inn and only about a year old. By far the best beds, pillows, sheets and comforters ever in the history of the world!

Monday, October 11th-

  • Too bad that we only got to stay in the best hotel ever for about six hours. We had to get up about 8:00 to catch our flight to Queenstown. Auckland is on the North Island and Queenstown is a popular tourist spot on the South Island.

  • We landed in Queenstown about 1:00 and took the airport shuttle to the hostel there. It was really nice and seemed like a very clean dorm with two twin beds and a shower/toilet in our room. We walked around town and found a $10 lunch special at a Thai restaurant. Pretty good and cheap!

  • After we ate, we went to Bob's Peak Gondola and it had the most amazing views!

  • That evening we tried to cash in on the free dinner they served in the hostel and about 7 minutes after they started serving, they were out of pasta. So, we hit the streets and found half-price pizza across from our hostel...split that and two Diet Cokes for only $20. Pretty good for New Zealand prices!

  • Post-dinner, we walked around and found where we needed to go for our tours on Wednesday.

Tuesday, October 12th-

  • Up and at 'em at 6:30 or our day trip to Milford Sound. We had the most amazing day and enjoyed really beautiful scenery! It was four hours each way and Meg managed to sleep about half of the time on the bus. About 10:30, we stopped for a coffee break....well, I bought water and chips while the rest of the planet had coffee.

  • After our pit stop we ventured onto Milford Sound. We made several stops on the way to take pictures, incluidng looking at The Chasm and Mirror Lakes.

  • At 1:00 we arrived in Milford Sound and got on our ship for the day. We had picnic lunches including with our trips and it was SO amazing!! We saw penguins, seals, dolphins, waterfalls and had a great time.

  • About 4:00 our ship returned so we got back on the tour bus, where Meg promptly fell asleep for 2 hours. We got to Queenstown about 8:15 that night and went to "The World Bar" to redeem our coupons for free beer from our hostel and had some dinner. We felt super old as most of the folks there were the 18-year-old backpackers. What a life they have! Hang out all day and go out at night....

Wednesday, October. 13th-

  • We were up and showered at 8:15 in order to meet up for the Segway Tour at 9:45. Two other people were on the tour; a couple on their honeymoon from the North Island. The guide showed us how to use them, then we had an hour and a half tour of the town. We went up and down hills, through gardens, played disc golf and went around the lake. I screamed for a good portion of it.

  • At noon we rushed over to get picked up for our "Skippers Canyon" Jetboat Tour. It was an hour drive to the canyon, about half an hour on the water and it was very fun! Another hour back to Queenstown.

  • We got back to town and shopped a bit, ate at Fergberger, which is a local burger joint that is really popular and so good! We split a burger and fries.

  • Later that afternoon, we walked by the bay, grabbed a couple $2.50 beers and looked at the shops. For our last evening in New Zealand, we split a pizza from Winnie's....a favorite pizza place of locals and ate by the bay.

  • We returned to the hotel to pack up and ended up watching "The Dutchess" and sadly couldn't sleep until 11:00....flight early the next day!

Thursday, October 14th-

  • Up at 7:15 and enjoyed the free breakfast at the hostel. PBJ! We got picked up at 8:15 by the airport shuttle. Meg ended up paying $80 in overages fees for the checked bag weight. We dodged a lot of potential charges throughout our travels for overages in baggage weight!!

  • We landed in Auckland about 11:30 and drama ensued when there were two Megans booked for the flight to LA and no Michelle. It took over half an hour to find out that was the hold up, and eventually it was sorted out, but I was stressed out! We finally boarded our 12 flight from Auckland to LA at 2:30 New Zealand time and arrived at 6:30 am to LAX. Meg didn't sleep at all, but I managed about 3 hours.

  • At 9:30, we flew out of LA to go to Dallas and got there 2:30 Central Time. At 5:20, we left Dallas for the very last leg of the trip and got to Kansas City about 7:00. Our parents picked us up and we went to a bar in Zona Rosa for dinner and to watch K-State beat KU in the football game.

What a great trip....memories that Meg and I will always treasure. I'm so thankful we were able to have this time together and can't wait until our next trip!

Meg and me at Milford Sound in New Zealand...