Posts Tagged With: travel

On vacation rentals, Baby J walking, and the need to forgive

I have spent the last three weeks looking at vacation rentals. Pretty much every nap time, plus an hour or more after Baby J has gone to sleep, I’ve been on rental sites weighing the amenities of hundreds of different rentals. I’m exhausted. But we’ve finally found a place that meets all our needs! So excited…

My mom, who was looking at rentals with me during this time (we’re meeting them for a family vacation), asked what I was going to do with all my time now that we’ve found a place. “Well, I still have two more vacations to plan this year, including one other family vacation (which means taking others’ opinions and needs into account), so….” Her response: ” OMG, I can’t imagine going through all that twice more!”


Regardless, I am determined to take a bit of time to get caught up on the blog. Get Inspiration Tuesday and This or That going again. Get three or four weeks of blog posts ready to go so I don’t get behind again.  And then when that’s done, get some journalling done. I’m so far behind on Baby J’s journal.  And I won’t even mention my “writing progress.”

So what’s been going on over the last month or so? Well, Baby J finally cut his first tooth, the same day he took his first steps! He now walks pretty much full time. I love it! I don’t get why people say, all dire-like, “Just wait until he starts walking,” like it’s going to be this stressful leap of skills. Walking is no more stressful than crawling. Which was a HUGE improvement from just laying there. I hated that part. I love that he’s mobile and can get himself to where he wants to be. Including following me into the bathroom!  I’ll leave the door partially open, and he’ll pull it open and peek around and smile at how cool he is for being able to find me.  What scares me right now is when he learns to climb on things.

We installed a baby seat on my bike, and Baby J loves going on rides.  Most of the time we’re out running errands, but hopefully as the weather gets better and his wake times lengthen, we’ll get out for a few joy rides.

A week or two ago, Stephen came home and was telling me about his day. He was leading a meeting, using his computer hooked to a projector, and his email alert popped up with something non-work related. No big deal, it’s happened to me, it wasn’t anything sensitive.  But it made me sit back and say, “I remember leading meetings.” Seems like it was such a long time ago.

For the first time in a very long time, I’m reading a book that I don’t want to put down. “Just one more chapter!” It’s nice to have that again.  It’s especially surprising because it’s in a genre that I’ve found particularly hard to get into over the last five years or so.  I don’t know what I’ll do when I finish.  😦

I’ve been a bit infatuated with a certain news story lately, one which I will not name here, because I don’t want to get into a whole discussion about it. What I would love a discussion about is the idea and merits of forgiveness. I find forgiveness to be overrated. I’m sorry, but there are certain things that are unforgivable, especially when the offender offers no contrition. A lot of people say you need to forgive in order to move on. I don’t agree. I think you can move on just fine without forgiving someone for something they did. It doesn’t have to stay with you or rule your life. The pain, the hurt, can fade, you can think of it less and less, without forgiving.

What do you think?  Is forgiveness necessary for a happy life, or is it overrated?

Categories: Random | Tags: , , , | 11 Comments

Lapland, Part 3 (of 3)

On our last night in Lapland, we splurged and stayed in one of the glass igloos at the Arctic Snow Hotel. You can spend the night in the snow hotel itself, which stays at a constant temperature of about 30°F.  The glass igloo, on the other hand, was nice and warm, especially during the day when the sun turned it into a greenhouse! Beware, though:  the bathrooms are freezing at night! Even so, the igloos were absolutely lovely.

Interior, glass igloo, Arctic Snow Hotel

They are fairly new, built last fall and opened to guests in December. The showers are amazing, with fabulous water pressure and optional rainfall shower head. The igloos are equipped with an aurora alarm that buzzes when the northern lights make an appearance, so you can fall asleep and not have to worry about missing them. And since the igloos have adjustable beds, there’s no need to put your coat and boots on if you don’t want to, just crank the bed up and enjoy the show!

Northern Lights, seen from glass igloo

I do have one complaint, and you might be able to tell what it may be in the photo above. It seems the people staying in the other igloos didn’t know that in order to see the stars and the northern lights better, it’s best to minimize your own light pollution. In other words, turn your flipping lights off, dumbasses! I left a comment card with the hotel saying they should “suggest guests turn lights off after 10pm unless absolutely necessary.”

Glass igloos, lights ablaze

Another very minor thing I found funny – the bathrooms have frosted glass, for privacy while you do your business, which is appreciated (although, the ceiling is open to the room, so you had better be comfortable enough with your traveling companion if you’re going to do anything particularly noisy or smelly!). However, just along the edge of the bathroom there was a slight gap, so that this was my view as I got out of the shower, naked.


(Made me wonder if others could see in!)


In addition to the glass igloos, there’s the snow hotel itself. It’s built new each year, so the rooms look different year to year. You can visit the snow hotel easily from Rovaniemi (it’s about half an hour away by car, and many of the tour companies offer this tour), and of course it’s tourable if you’re staying on site. The intricate designs are spectacular!

Room, Arctic Snow Hotel

Room, Arctic Snow Hotel

IRoom, Arctic Snow Hotel

There’s also a super friendly reindeer on site:


Since Baby J was sick, we opted to have dinner in the lodge (possibly our best meal on our entire trip), but they also have a restaurant in the snow hotel, along with an ice bar. The ice bar doesn’t open until 10pm, though – we would have had a drink there if there had been a bartender on site in the afternoon.

Ice restaurant, Arctic Snow Hotel

Ice restaurant, Arctic Snow Hotel

Ice Bar, Arctic Snow Hotel

Ice Bar, Arctic Snow Hotel

It’s pricey, but certainly a once in a lifetime experience.  We saw a shooting star, a couple of satellites, and so many stars.  And, of course, if you get to see the northern lights, it’s even better!

Night sky

Night sky


Check out Part 1 and Part 2 of our trip for more photos!

Categories: Finland, Travels | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

This or That: London or Paris?

You must pick one, and you must explain why.

I’m asking this one for myself, actually, having never been to either (other than driving to CDG in Paris – oy!). We’ve been considering a trip to one this year, but not sure which would be better/easier with a baby. From what I hear, Paris is smaller, everything is closer together, whereas London is very spread out. But in London, there’s less of a language barrier. Eating in Paris with a baby who’s bedtime is 7:30 will be difficult, since many restaurants don’t open until later.

So, what say you, readers, which city do you like more? Which would be easier with a baby? Let me know in the comments below, and you’ll be entered to win a 5×7 print of one of my favorite photos:

A view of Mont St Michel through the poppies

Mont St Michel, Normandy France


Last week’s This or That generated a lot of comments, and Coke is the clear winner! Kudos to Jay Dee for pegging the problem with Pepsi – it tastes like flat coke! The winner of the Northern Lights photo is Christie – Christie, I’ll get with you on FB to get your mailing address.  🙂

Categories: This or That? | Tags: , , , , | 8 Comments

Lapland, Part 2 (of 3)

Our second day in Lapland, we traveled about an hour southwest to the Ranua Zoo. A lot of the animals were sleeping, hiding, or hibernating, but we saw a lot of owls, and the polar bears were great! They seemed to think we had brought them some food in the form of a baby.

Polar bear

Fee Fi Fo Fum

Polar bear

I smell a little baby, Yum!

Polar bear

Did you bring me lunch?

"Did someone say lunch?" "They're not sharing."

“Did someone say lunch?”
“They’re not sharing.”

"Bastards." *sniff*


It was neat seeing polar bears in something close to their natural habitat:

Polar bears walking in the snow

On day 3, we went to a husky park and went dogsledding. We got a brief lesson in driving, including the suggestion that if the sled tips over, to hold onto it, because the dogs will keep going and leave you behind. Stephen drove while I held on to Baby J for dear life – and if the sled had tipped over, I would rather walk than be dragged along by the dogs, TYVM.

While on the trail, our guide stopped to let everyone change drivers (we opted not to), and he pointed up. “Look.”

This is the one photo I didn’t get that I so wish I had. We looked up and saw a crescent sun. Yes, a crescent sun, because where we were, right at the Arctic Circle in Finland, we had an 85-90% solar eclipse happening. It was just cloudy enough that you could look directly at it and see it without, you know, burning your retinas.  It. Was. Awesome.

Meanwhile, Baby J fell asleep on the sled.

On Day 4, we went out to Santa Claus Village – Home of the REAL Santa Claus! 😉 We visited with Santa for a bit, and Baby J was fascinated.


I sent out a few postcards to friends’ kids, letting them know I had met with Santa and he said to tell them hi. We had intended on going on a reindeer ride, but Baby J was sick, so we opted out.

Side note:  If you have kids that you’re trying to break of the pacifier addiction, I thought this was a really neat idea. Have them send the pacifier to the baby elves at Santa’s Village!

Bin of Pacifiers with note

We may not have gotten to take a reindeer ride, but that night there was a reindeer race in Rovaniemi! We found a spot to watch from, and I got the camera ready. The first race happened so fast I literally missed it – man those suckers can move!! Was able to catch the second race, though:

Stay tuned for Part 3 of our trip, with photos from the Snow Hotel and more Northern Lights!

Read Part 1 and see my pictures of the Northern Lights!

Categories: Finland, Travels | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Visiting Lapland – Part 1 (of 3)

Lapland, home of Santa and reindeer and the northern lights. And after three years of living in Finland, we finally made it!

We left home on March 17 and took the overnight train to Rovaniemi. Incidentally, the 17th was the night the northern lights went crazy! My neighbors took photos from our backyard, they were even seen as far south as Helsinki! And I was stuck on a train. *eye roll*

The train ride was nice, the beds were actually pretty comfy. The cabin was tiny, of course, but what do you expect? We had a private bathroom with a shower, but there wasn’t any hot water, at least on our trip north. The train had a car carrier, so we were able to take our car with us. Load it up, sleep the night away, then drive the car off the train in the morning. It’s a pretty nice setup!

Sleeping cabin on train

Our cabin on the train – Stephen’s leg is propped against the left wall (to give you an idea about the size).

We arrived in Rovaniemi around 11am the next day, too early to check into our hotel. So we went for lunch, then checked out the Arktikum museum. The museum was…boring. Or I was tired. One of the two. Actually, the museum had some neat exhibits, and it would be a lot of fun with a kid around 7 years old. Note to self – take Baby J back when he’s older!

Ceiling of Arktikum Museum

The ceiling of the Arktikum museum

I braved the cold that first night and went out to a spot I had read about online, on the river by the museum. I set up the camera on the tripod and spent some time fiddling with the camera settings. Once I had the camera focused, I stood back and waited.

Night Sky

Night Sky, Rovaniemi

It was a mostly clear night, just some thin high clouds every once in a while. I was still close enough to the city to have quite a bit of light pollution, but I could still see the stars. I watched the thin clouds come and go for about an hour, then I saw one cloud that looked a bit…odd. And was that a hint of green? I took a picture, waited for the 30 second exposure, then checked the screen. I’ll be damned – that was it.

Northern Lights, Aurora Borealis

My first glimpse of The Northern Lights!

And this is where I want to address the issue. The Northern Lights, at least what I saw, despite the photo above, were not what I would call amazing. To the naked eye, they looked like exactly what I described earlier – light bouncing off high thin clouds. Yes, some of them had the minutist green tint to them, but for the most part, they just looked like clouds. The camera, with a longer exposure, is able to bring out the colors, and they are beautiful. But standing out there in the cold at midnight, I was quite disappointed. They didn’t dance across the sky like I had heard.  I found a post by another blogger that talks about the color of the auroras, and the author does a good job at explaining the difference between what your eyes see and what the camera sees.  I just wish I had read it prior to seeing it for myself – maybe then I wouldn’t have been disappointed!!

Regardless, I am glad I got the chance to see them and photograph them. I feel like I did fairly well with focusing in the dark, and with exposure, although they may be a bit overexposed. The pictures turned out amazing, even if the real time experience wasn’t as spectacular as I had hoped.  🙂

Northern Lights, Aurora Borealis, Rovaniemi, Lapland, Finland

Northern Lights, Aurora Borealis, Rovaniemi, Lapland, Finland

Northern Lights, Aurora Borealis, Rovaniemi, Lapland, Finland

Stay tuned for Part II of our trip!

Categories: Finland | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

My love for the ocean, a Holiday Rental in Asheville, and other random things

I was born in Southern California. We moved away when I was 7, so I can’t really say I grew up there, but I kind of did a little bit. Regardless, we went back a lot to visit, and I will always have a little bit of SoCal in me. It’s what gave me a love for the ocean, I’m convinced of it. I’ve always said my favorite smell is the smell of the sea, the sun and the “tourists covered in oil” (a little Jimmy Buffet influence there). Every time we went to the beach after a long time away, I eagerly anticipated that first glimpse of water. You could usually smell it first, the salt, the smell of rotting seaweed. Then you would suddenly notice an absence of anything on the horizon, just the vast nothingness of the sky. Then, there, was that it? Just the briefest glimpse of the horizon, the subtle difference of blue on blue. Yes, there. The ocean. Just thinking about it make a slow smile spread across my face. I’ve always been enamored with the waves. I could sit on a beach and watch the waves roll in for hours and be perfectly content. I remember an ex of mine saying the same thing about the mountains -“couldn’t you just watch this all day?” I looked at him like he was crazy, because that’s what I thought he was. Watch mountains all day? They don’t do anything! The ocean moves, it dances, it sings. It destroys and cleanses and gives and takes away.  Mountains erode.  Slooooowwwllllyyyyy.

Its amazing how good you feel after feeling bad. Sunday morning, just before my yoga class started, I started getting a headache. I fought building nausea throughout the class, and by the time I got home had a full blown migraine. I nursed Baby J for ten minutes, then thrust him to Stephen, said “Take the baby, I’m going to lay down,” heated a small bottle to get the baby through to the next feeding, and collapsed into bed. About an hour later I got up and felt much better. And kept realizing how much better I felt, so that I just felt so good all afternoon. It’s much the same with the nipple issues I was having. There are times when I suddenly realize, “Hey, my boobs don’t hurt.” When you’ve become accustomed to persistent  pain, realizing there is an absence of pain is a wonderful thing.

It annoys me to no end when I’m looking for a product or service online and I can’t find a price. Example 1 – I’m looking for a photographer to do a family photo shoot while were back in the US. So many photographers don’t have any sort of pricing on their websites. Guess what? I’m not going to call to find out your pricing. I’m going to find a photographer that has their pricing on their website. You lose a potential client. Example 2 – I’m looking for a birthday present, and found an interesting “experience” gift. No pricing. Guess what, that right there tells me it’s likely more than I want to pay. And even if it’s not, I’m not going to call to find out. You lose a potential sale. <end rant>

My friend Jen just listed her carriage house on airbnb, and it’s gorgeous! If you’re looking to vacation in Asheville, I highly recommend contacting her. The listing is here, and she gives you a tour on her blog here. She also has a bunch of Asheville links on her blog, so be sure yo check those out! And if you go, give Jen and Jon and Miriam a hug for me. 🙂

I highly recommend reading this piece on kindness. It’s a long read – settle yourself in someplace comfy for half an hour. It’s worth it. You might want to bring a tissue along.


Categories: Random | Tags: , , , , | 7 Comments

6 June

Today is the 70th anniversary of the invasion of Normandy.  We were lucky enough to tour the Normandy coast on June 6th two years ago, stopping at Arromanches, Longues-sur-Mer, and the American Normandy Cemetery at Omaha Beach.  It was as moving an experience as everyone says it is.


"Here rests in honored glory a comrade in arms known but to God."

“Here rests in honored glory a comrade in arms known but to God.”


The Guardian has an interactive photo display – with a click you can see photos of the same location today and in 1944.  Check it out.

Baby J update – 9 Days to go! I’m blogging every day until I give birth, so you’ll know when the baby is born!

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Favorite Vacation Photo from Tallinn

I’ve been to Tallinn several times, and I can say that it is one of my favorite places to travel to.  Despite the medieval architecture, the beautiful views of red roofed towers and city walls, this is still my favorite photo:

Favorite Tallinn

It’s the story behind it that makes it my favorite – read about it here:

Blessed by Holy Water in Tallinn.

You can read more about that trip (and see more photos) here.

Baby J update – 18 Days to go! I’m blogging every day until I give birth, so you’ll know when the baby is born!

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Favorite Vacation Photo from Ireland

We traveled to Ireland in September of 2012 and spent 5 days driving around the country.  I got some great photos (lots of green!) but I think this one is my favorite.  It was taken from the top of Blarney Castle, intended as just a landscape, but the tree in the foreground just popped.  Actually, Stephen may have taken this one – I was having some trouble being short…


Read about our travels in Ireland and see more photos:

Part 1 – Kilkenny, Waterford, Blarney, Killarney, Limerick, and the Cliffs of Moher

Part 2 – Dublin, Glendalough,  and Newgrange

Baby J update – 25 Days to go! I’m blogging every day until I give birth, so you’ll know when the baby is born!

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Favorite Vacation Photo from Normandy, France

Our first trip after moving to Finland was to the Normandy region of France, in June 2012.  We stayed in Deauville , and spent 6 days driving around the region.  I had quite a few favorite photos, but this one tops my list.  Mont St Michel through the poppies.  If you know me, you know I love poppies!

A view of Mont St Michel through the poppies

If you like this photo, you can buy it on a variety of products on

Read about our travels in Normandy, and see pretty photos, here:

Day 2 – Pont de Normandie, Le Havre, Sainte-Adresse, and Etretat

Day 3 – Rouen

Day 4 – Deauville and Trouville

Day 5 – Mont Saint Michel

Day 6 – Honfleur

Day 7 – Bayeux, the D-Day Beaches, and the American Normandy Cemetery

Baby J update – 29 Days to go! I’m blogging every day until I give birth, so you’ll know when the baby is born!

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