December 30, 2016

Currently: End of Year Edition + December Recap

Four years ago on December 28th, The Pilot and I moved to DC, into our first apartment together. This past Tuesday, on that anniversary, we moved out of our most recent apartment, which we had been in for less than five months, into another apartment in our old neighborhood. There were a number of reasons for this move - finding a bigger apartment for less money, an easier commute for The Pilot, and some reasons that I won't discuss today. I'm not thrilled that I've spent a much needed week off from work packing and unpacking but our new apartment, despite being stuffed with boxes because the cold I've come down with is keeping me from unpacking, already feels like home.

I'm hoping to get as unpacked as possible over the next two days so that I can kick off the New Year feeling organized, energized, and up for making 2017 my best year yet. Today, I'm tying two of my usual posts into one and recapping December while sharing what's currently going on.

Miles Run: 6. Yup. A whopping 6 miles. So much for starting Disney Princess 13.1 training!

Minutes of Yoga: 0. Ouch.

Number of Books Read: 3

Trips Taken: 1 - Home for the Holidays

Blog Posts Written: 5

30 Before 30 Items Completed: 0

Highlights: A nice, quiet Christmas and moving into a new apartment that's double the size of our last one and right in the middle of my favorite part of DC to run in.

Lowlights: Stress. Not running or doing yoga, or anything to mitigate said stress.

As for the month of December, well, I've already mentioned just how busy it was. As a nonprofit fundraiser, December has always been a busy month but this year, I was blindsided by just how busy the month would be at my 'new' job. I tried to get ahead of things as much as possible but I felt like I was putting out fires every day and I'm so glad that the month is behind me!

Currently...sipping a strong cup of coffee and wondering how I managed to pack my shower curtain and shower curtain hooks separately.

Feeling... under the weather and like I haven't done anything relaxing during my week off.

Reading... "Yes, Chef" by Marcus Samuelsson. I'm about 10 pages from finishing and have really enjoyed this book. Marcus Samuelsson just opened a new restaurant in the National Harbor and I'm already thinking that might have to be where I spend my 30th birthday!

Thinking about... getting my kitchen and dining room (I have a dining room!!!) organized so that I can start whipping up amazing things in my kitchen! One of my 2017 goals is to do way more creating in the kitchen, in part to save money on eating out, and because I truly love cooking and want to devote more time to it.

Working on... my other goals for 2017. This is the year I turn 30 and I can't wait!

Needing... a vacation. This month has been one of the most stressful months I've had in years and I was desperately looking forward to this week off. I'm hoping to get things unpacked as much as possible so that I can come to a place where I can relax this weekend and worry about unpacking the rest next weekend.

Excited... for 2017. This year has been a good year but I also didn't spend enough time on ME. I let business at work channel into total laziness at home and I don't want next year to be like that.

What's going on with you?
How are you ringing in the New Year?

December 15, 2016

Australia: One Night in Cairns

When The Pilot and I left for Australia, we didn't have an agenda. We got on a flight to Sydney and decided to just wing it.

We knew we wanted to see other parts of the country, but which parts? We didn't know. We settled on Cairns after talking to a lot of different people for one primary reason. The Great Barrier Reef, one of the seven natural wonders of the world, may not survive our lifetime. In fact, just three weeks after we snorkeled the reef, it was declared dead (a rumor that was later debunked, but highlights a sad reality).

We took a mid-morning flight from Sydney on a Tuesday and booked two nights in an Air B&B. We knew we wanted to go snorkeling and booked a tour with a snorkeling company that had pretty good reviews on Trip Advisor and was priced better than some of the others.

The flight from Sydney to Cairns was about 3 1/2 hours long. When we landed, we took a shuttle bus to downtown Cairns to the Air B&B we booked which, was not, as described, a room in someone's apartment where we stayed in Sydney, but a hostel with rooms with 8 beds and 20-year-old college students. It was awful. We checked in and were immediately disappointed. We hooked up to the wifi and tried to find another hotel nearby but everything was outrageously expensive. We decided to try to make the most of our trip and venture out into Cairns but it felt like an old, run down college town, and I wasn't a fan. If there had been a flight out that night, I would have taken it.

As we were wandering around trying to find something to eat, we got an email that our snorkel tour had to be canceled and that we had been automatically rebooked on another tour. I took this as a sign that we should leave. We went to the tour company and tried to get a refund, and of course, that wasn't an option.

We didn't sleep at all that night in Cairns. Our hostel was reminiscent of every other hostel I stayed out when I was 20. Drunk college kids screaming in their shared dorms until 4 in the morning...and we had to be up to catch a boat at 6am!

I don't have many pictures from our snorkel tour because they were charging $35 per photograph on the boat and we didn't bring an underwater camera. Our snorkel tour was ok. We had booked a different one and there were a lot of options on this tour that were only available to people who had originally signed up for that boat, which was frustrating.

The weather was perfect. Whereas Sydney was just hitting spring, Cairns was at the tail end of summer and I loved lying on the boat in 85-degree weather, soaking up the sun.

We went to two different snorkel sites on the reef. The reef itself was gorgeous but there really weren't that many fish around, which was disappointing.

Our tour wrapped up about an hour early and The Pilot and I ran as quickly as we could back to our hostel, got changed, packed, and headed straight to the airport. We only had about 45 minutes to spare and were really lucky to get on a flight out that night because neither of us wanted to spend another night in Cairns.

So, this was the sore spot of our trip. I hate to sound like the person that wasn't impressed by the Great Barrier Reef, but the truth is, there was better snorkeling in Hanauma Bay, Hawaii.

The Reef is huge and I definitely think there are better spots to go. I wouldn't recommend visiting Cairns. It's a tiny town without a lot of options in terms of hotels, food, or shopping, but there are plenty of other little resort towns on the Reef that I've heard offer incredible snorkeling and diving and are a much better launch point for seeing the Reef! Those places are further from the Cairns airport than we were willing to travel for what was supposed to be a two-night stay, but that would be my recommendation! It's a shame that our accommodations were so terrible too because that really put a damper on things! When you factor that in, plus our original snorkel tripcanceledncelled, I think we were just unlucky.

We left Cairns's 85-degree heat and landed in Melbourne just before midnight, in the middle of a storm of freezing rain. I immediately regretted our decision to head south, but once we started exploring Melbourne the next day, I fell in love!

More on that next time!

While I wouldn't call this a vacation "horror story," we didn't have the best time.
Do you have similar experience from a vacation you've taken?
Tell me about it!

December 13, 2016

Exploring Sydney: The Bondi to Coogee Walk

On our third Sunday in Sydney, we left our Air B&B in Darlinghurst and took the bus to Bondi to embark on the 6km walk from Bondi Beach to Coogee Beach.

Bondi was every bit as amazing as I thought it would be. The beach was stunning and we happened to be in Bondi during the Bondi Kite Festival.

We wandered around Bondi, exploring the little shops ahead of the beach, the Bondi Pavilion, and Bondi Market. Bondi was incredible! It was so colorful and I loved being there and people watching!

We wandered in and out of the kites and then made a stop at the world famous Icebergs for a round of drinks.

I mentioned this in my first post about Sydney, but the weather was beautiful. It was the first nice weekend of spring and, while there were tons of people in the water, acting like it was the height of summer, it was one of the days where it was cold in the shade and hot in the sun.

Properly fueled up, we started the Bondi to Coogee Walk. The first part of the Walk was rerouted due to flooding from a few weeks before and we had to walk through a cemetery to really start the walk which wasn't exactly pleasant, but once we got on the trail, it was beautiful.

I'll let all of my pictures do the work to show you just how incredible this Walk was and why it's an absolute must in Sydney.

All along the trail, there were beaches, volleyball courts, bocce ball courts, and even a bowling alley! I love how the area has been developed to let people experience how beautiful it is, while still preserving the natural beauty of the Walk. That's one thing that I learned that Australia is excellent at doing!

When we made it to Coogee, we wanted to put our feet in the water. There were so many people on the beach swimming, that we thought the water must be warm. We couldn't have been more wrong. I have never set foot in water so cold before...and I've taken ice baths!

We had worked up an appetite on the Walk and stopped for lunch in Coogee at a little outdoor cafe before hopping on the bus back to the CBD.

There wasn't much in Coogee and, if I could do it again, I would start the Walk in Coogee and end in Bondi where there's a lot more to do and see. Either way, it's still a stunning Walk and I would definitely consider it a must-see in Sydney! If you're up for running it, I recommend getting up early as the trail is pretty narrow. It wasn't that crowded when we went, but there were more people walking the trail than I would like to deal with while trying to get some miles in!

You can read more about our trip to Australia here and here!
Have you been to Sydney?
What do you think of the Bondi to Coogee Walk?

December 12, 2016

Exploring Sydney: A Trip to the Taronga Zoo

After a long break, I'm finally picking things up again with my Australia trip! Today, I'm sharing all about our trip to Sydney's incredible Taronga Zoo!

The Taronga Zoo wasn't high on my list of things to see in Sydney, but it was pretty high on The Pilot's, so, on our third day in Sydney, after an easy morning run and a late breakfast, we made out way to the CBD, hopped on a ferry from Circular Quay, and headed to the Taronga Zoo.

I said this in my last post about Sydney, but the trip to the zoo is worth it for the ferry trip alone! It felt absolutely surreal to be in the middle of Sydney Harbor with the Opera House and the Harbor Bridge floating away in the distance as sail boats glided past us.

Entrance to the zoo is pretty expensive. We paid about $90 AUS for both of us. Discounted tickets are available online but I had a hard time buying anything online from Sydney as I kept getting an error message that my email address was invalid.

When we got to the Zoo, there were signs pointing left for the Skyway and right for tickets. We bought our tickets and then proceeded directly into the zoo, not realizing that the zoo is built deep into the side of a mountain hill (it felt like a mountain) and we had to make our way up the steep climb to see all of the animals. If we had taken the Skyway, we would have started at the top, and eased our way down.

Anyway, we started with the most playful seals I have ever seen. They were so cute darting back and forth in the water and jumping out of the water.

Next, we saw a baby bear climbing around.

Then, we saw a peacock just wandering around the zoo. This was not a zoo animal. He was just strutting around while a bunch of children ran after him trying to yank out his feathers.

Next up, we finally made it to the kangaroos! I was ecstatic because I have never seen a kangaroo and I couldn't get over how strangely they walk. They look like robots! I was all about the Australian animals at the Taronga Zoo and after marveling at the kangaroos for half an hour, I was ready to see the koalas!

We saw a few koalas and they were pretty hard to see. I was pretty disappointed thinking these were the only koalas at the zoo, until I realized, that these were only a few of the zoo's koalas.

We walked through the "Walkabout" where there were emus and wallabies just hanging out, and it was so exciting!

My neighbor growing up had emus and, while they were horribly mean, I was fascinated by them and their gorgeous eggs!

Once we left the Walkabout, we found ourselves in the koala area are just in time for a feeding! Oh my gosh, the koalas were so stinking cute and I want one. We learned all about koalas and how they are basically the laziest creatures on earth and sleep for all but about 40 minutes a day.

After The Pilot dragged me away from the koala exhibit, we started to make our way out but stopped to visit the giraffes first. The Taronga Zoo giraffes have the most incredible view in all of Sydney. Just look at this? Giraffes were my favorite animal growing up (and then penguins, and now koalas), and I still love them and it was so funny to see them against the backdrop of the Sydney Harbor!

After visiting with the giraffes, it was time to take the Skyway back down to the bottom of the zoo and the ferry back to Sydney. I mentioned in my last post about Sydney that the Taronga Zoo was worth the trip for the views alone and the Skyway absolutely proved that!

There you have it! If you find yourself in Sydney, I highly recommend a trip to the Taronga Zoo! It was a great trip for an afternoon and a definite highlight of our trip! 

December 5, 2016

November Recap

While I don't feel like this Fall is going by quickly, I'm trying to wrap my head around how it's already December 5th. The last two weeks since the marathon have been an absolute blur. I had two huge projects at work that happened to fall in line with one another and after a lot of late nights and early mornings, I'm glad to be back to a somewhat normal schedule again.

November was a weird month. I started off the month thinking I would be running the Richmond Marathon and then had to pivot and turn my attention to Philly instead. The Election came and went and my reaction to the results shocked me. As ridiculous as it may sound, I don't think I would have been in the emotional headspace to run a marathon four days after the Election.

As the year draws to a close, I'm thinking a lot about how my year has gone, what I've accomplished, and what my hopes are for next year. I'll share more about that over the coming weeks but this year has been eye opening in a lot of ways. I've loved writing these posts each month and can't wait to sit down at the end of this year and read through all of them to see how the year really has gone. I've always written some kind of a recap at the end of each year on this blog, but next year, I'll definitely continue these monthly recaps, hopefully in addition to many, many more posts than I've written this year.

Without further ado, here's a look at the month of November, in numbers:

Miles Run: 103

Minutes of Yoga: 192

Number of Books Read: 2

  • "Year of Yes" by Shonda Rhymes
  • "A Man Called Ove" by Frederik Backmann

Trips Taken: 2

  • Home to NJ for my mom's birthday
  • Philly for the Marathon!
Blog Posts Written: 7, which is more than the 5 I wrote last month, but still not where I'd like to be. 

30 Before 30 Items Completed: 0

  • Running a strong Philly Marathon and glowing in the accomplishment of completing my 7th marathon. 
  • Seeing my mom three different times - for her birthday, the Philly Marathon, and again for Thanksgiving
  • Finally visiting the National Museum of African American History and Culture
  • Crossing two major projects off my to-do list at work, which were both huge accomplishments!
The Month Ahead:
I finally ran for the first time in two weeks after Philly yesterday and, while I'm easing back into things, I'm enjoying the short, 3-week offseason I'll have before I jump into training for the Disney Princess Half.

I have 9 books left in my Goodreads Challenge of reading 50 books this year and I'm determined to meet that goal. 

I'm not sure what The Pilot and I have planned for the holidays or if we'll be traveling anywhere but I'm looking forward to a nice, long week off to rest up, relax, read a lot, and plan for next year!

What are you looking forward to in December?
How did your November shape up?

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