Saturday, June 30, 2012

Guest post: Part 1

Today I have a real treat for you! My girlfriend Holly, recently took a trip around Europe, on a cruise, and has and agreed to share her experience with us. I love travel stories and enjoy hearing them. At the moment, I am living vicariously through those stories, since gallavanting to the far regions of the world is only a memory at the moment. Enjoy!

Hello Everyone! I'm Holly. I'm a 28 year old mom to a (mostly) wonderful 2 year old, a happy housewife to a (usually) fabulous husband and a closet gypsy at heart. My love for travel started at a very early age... I remember being a small girl, on a flight to Europe with my grandma, and watching the flight attendants walk down the aisles with their red lipstick and hair buns perfectly in place. Now, granted, things have changed a little, and the flight attendants aren't always quite so glamorous anymore, or even smiling for that matter, but it did forever leave an impression on me. And so in my teenage years I did volunteer work at a local airport and also a travel agency. At 21 I left my small town to go study at the Tourism Training Institute in downtown Vancouver. And a year after that I left Canada for Dubai to go work as a stewardess for Emirates Airline. Red lipstick and all. So, traveling has ALWAYS been a part of my life, and I hope my daughter inherits this wandering spirit too.

My husband and I returned 3 weeks ago from a wonderful trip to Europe. Rob doesn't have the same desire as me to see the world but he is wonderful enough to humor me and somehow put aside his fear of flying for a few days. We settled on a 12 day Mediterranean cruise that departed from Barcelona and stopped in France, Italy, Greece and Turkey, eventually winding up in Venice. This is our adventure!

May 20th: Since normally I am white as chalk I had the (foolish) idea to get a spray tan in Vancouver while waiting for our flight. I left my husband at a bar and told him I'd be back in 20 minutes. An hour and a half later, as well as a "Level 3" tan later, I was back at the bar a completely different person. My spray tan had consisted of many layers and it still hadn't dried by the time I put on my clothing to meet him. Long story short, I was sticky, smelly and miserable for the next 12 hours. I attracted a LOT of attention and not in a good way. Go ahead and laugh...

May 21st: We stayed overnight in Frankfurt at a wonderful hotel called the Steigenberger. At this point I was able to shower (and exfoliate like a madwoman) and my Oompa Loompa color turned into something human again. We departed for Barcelona at 4AM, excited our trip was underway after months of dreaming!

May 22nd: Barcelona! We arrived at 1PM, made our way through customs and to the luggage carousel. We waited with those from our flight... and as they began to disappear with their bags... so did our happiness. We waited some more. Another flight began unloading baggage on our belt. Then another. Tears began. Claims were made. And we left the Barcelona airport empty handed. Now, while this was extremely worrisome, if you've ever been to Barcelona you know this is a great place to start with nothing. We didn't just shop, we completely lost our minds. Rob and I parted ways at a street corner with a promise to meet up again in two hours. Credit cards were whirring and feet were racing and hands were grabbing. It was a ridiculously fabulously frivolous time!! We felt a little silly at the cruise ship terminal with tons of plastic bags and no luggage but we were off!

May 23rd: France! Our ship docked early in the morning at the port of Toulon. Toulon is a busy French naval base and the fourth largest French city on the Mediterranean coast. We had booked a day trip to St. Tropez for our time here and we weren't disappointed. We had an older and rather serious French lady as our guide for the day who kept us steadily amused with her explanations of "eeeeeets right here" and "mmmmmmm k?". She also informed us that Brad Pitt had been here yesterday. (The big film festival in Cannes was happening at the same time we were there and the town was loaded with celebrities.) We spent the day wandering around St. Tropez eating baguettes, window shopping, yacht drooling and booby staring (I forgot this is Europe and the beaches are topless!).

May 24th: Italy! We arrived in the port of Livorno around 7AM and we hit the ground running. The Tuscan countryside is just as beautiful as you'd expect it to be. First on our agenda was a stop at Pisa. We saw the Field of Miracles, the Piazza del Duomo, the Baptistery and of course the Leaning Tower. My husband's eyes were starting to glaze over by 10AM, so we concluded our visit with a stop at a bar for some drinks. Like the spray tan, this wasn't one of my better ideas! The alcohol felt like it was boring a hole in my empty stomach. Luckily, our next stop was a winery in Tuscany called Il Poggio, where we ate and drank to our hearts content. The atmosphere was breathtaking: olive trees, vineyards, huge barrels of wine, fresh pasta! That day my husband learned something vital about the Italian culture: They will not stop bringing you food until you leave some on your plate. If you clean your plate, that means you are still hungry, and the food will keep flowing. We loved every moment of the fabulous Tuscan hospitality.

May 25th: Italy Part Two! Our missing luggage arrived at our door!!! I've never been so happy to put on deodorant in all my life!! Today we sailed into the port of Civitavecchia, which is located about an hour's drive from Rome. There is truly not much I can write about Rome. You will just have to go for yourself. We were lucky enough to fit some major sights into our day: the Colloseum, the Vatican, the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, and the famous Piazza Navona Square. We had skip the line entrance tickets into the Colloseum and this was crucial as our time was limited (note to self for next time). Rome was gorgeous in every aspect.

*sigh* Didn't that sound lovely? Stayed tuned for part 2.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Guest Post: Joy

I was reading through my list of favorite blogs when I happened apon this post by The Daily B. I enjoyed so much that I
I contacted the author and asked for her permission to share it on my blog. As you know, the title of my blog is "A Joyful Life" and I have been meaning to write about my reason for choosing that title. I love how this author defined joy in the following paragraphs......

"I've been thinking a lot about happiness, what it means, how each of us strives for it in different ways... how some avoid it because once we have it, we fear too much losing it. Happiness is too brittle for those who wait, wait, wait for the ax to fall.

But what about joy? Joy to me is something different. It's a happiness that doesn't pretend. It's the opposite side of the coin from pain; it's the gracious, authentic happiness you feel because you've also felt anguish. The happiness you savor all the more, the happiness that is sometimes tear-filled, that aches. You don't expect joy to evaporate.

The sweet to life's salty. That thing that pinches your throat when you watch your kids doing something new and amazing, like pedaling a bicycle or rescuing a ladybug from certain death on a sidewalk, or saying "I love you" to the brother who just stole your favorite crayon.

Joy is not ignoring the pain or whitewashing it. It's not a trite, glass-half-full sentiment. It's not sealing yourself in a bubble so that you never have to touch your mistakes or your losses or grief.

It's not perfection. Far from it. Joy is the freedom you feel to be imperfect. Life is a broken, messy thing and yet I'm going to feel joy in this moment, the sun shining on my skin, the sound of my daughter giggling, the whiff of downy hair when my son snuggles under my chin, the cup of tea shared with a dear old friend."

Monday, June 25, 2012

Wordless Monday.....

At the shoreline...

Since moving to the island we have been spending every spare moment at the beach. Nathaniel and I love the ocean, its coastline, tidal pools, and boutiful life and it is blessing to finally be able to share these things with our children.

On Saterday, my bother and and his wife came to visit us and we took them to a beach in Parksville. Nate brought a couple of skimboards he made when we was a bachelor. The boys had a blast riding the waves while Jill and I took our first (chilly) swim of the summer and found some pretty starfish. The weather was incredible and I couldn't help but feel as though I was on vacation. I have been feeling that way a lot since we moved here.

Claire LOVED the beach and pretty much just waundered around with a smile on her face the entire time.

Amelia discovered sand dollars

 I love summer!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

First day of summer

I finally have the energy and time to update my blog. It has been hard for me to sit still long enough to write something, let alone, upload pictures. The past two weeks have been a whirlwind of unpacking, assembling, organizing, nursing, visiting, shopping and moving furniture around. It has been fun, but exhausting. By the time I climb into bed each evening my legs feel weary.Somehow, in the chaos of it all we have managed to check out the strong start programs in our area (there are two within several blocks of our home), get library cards and check out most of the parks within a 10km radius of our home. We spent father's day at Horne Lake (where my crazy husband went knee boarding in the frigid waters), and on one of Nathaniel's day's off  we went to Coombs (one of my all time favorite places on the island). We indulged in some ice cream, wandered through the marketplace and visited the goats (which happen to live on the roof).

On the way home we stopped at the beach and let the girls get muddy and sandy to their hearts content. It was fun and something we plan on doing often this summer.

I love that, from where I am sitting, typing this post, I can hear the crow of a rooster from the field across the street. In the mature cedar trees to my right I can hear birds serenading each other. The sun is warm on my skin this morning . Did you know that today is the first official day of summer? I celebrated it by taking my girls to the beach and the spray park...... oh and collecting caterpillars.... (Amelia is just a tad obsessed with them at the moment).

For the first time in three weeks I feel rested and refreshed. Claire has slept through the past two nights and I am praying that it will continue. Things are starting to feel normal around here.  I would like to start painting  and both Nathaniel and I eager to start working on our back yard, but neither time nor finances will allow for such activities at present.  For the time being I will continue to daydream about landscaping, extending our existing deck, laying flagstone , building stairs, planting wisteria, and possibly building the girls a playground. In the meantime, the girls love picking flowers in our own little private "forest".

Pictures of our new little nest will be posted sometime later this week.