Saturday, September 29, 2012

Treasured Memories

A quick change of pace for you. Need a break from blocks of text about travel? Here's a bit of colour to lighten the eye strain.

I did up a few quick layouts for Treasured Memories, right before we left on our trip, and never got to share them.

I used My Mind's Eye product and I'm always impressed with this company. Great coordinating products, fresh looks and a multitude of lines. They're continually coming out with something new.

This is a layout of some of our 3-D ultrasound pictures of Baby #2. Our First Glimpse.

And... guess who's a fairy? I know, we're big on fairies right now in our house, but these pictures are actually old. I guess she's been liking the idea of fairies for awhile now. I love the woodgrain trend that seems to be everywhere right now. This patterned paper is a great shade of grey that makes it easy to pair with other colours, even browns.

P.S. Look at those short, little legs in the third photo! What a cutie.

Plus, Treasured Memories posted a few pictures of a mini album I made for them a few months ago, in case you'd like to take a peak:

Days 24, 25, and recovery

We're home!!!

We got home late Thursday night and have had two sleeps in our own beds (partial sleeps, but sleeps, none the less).
We've had showers in our own bathroom, with all of our usual shampoos, lotions, creams, and luxuries that we've been missing.
We've started laundry and have enjoyed wearing clothes that we haven't worn over and over for the past month.
We went out for breakfast Friday morning, because we have no food in the house and then went to Costco and stockpiled.
We bought The Hunger Games movie, watched it, and Brad has started the final book (He read the first two on the trip).
Gracie ran around and greeted all of the toys she hasn't seen in so long, and a few birthday presents that she got right before we left, that she hardly remembered. Jackpot!

It's nice to be home.

Our last two days were mostly spent in airports, taxi-ing to airports, or packing to go to airports. They were still good, though.

On Day 24, we flew from Marrakesh to Girona (just outside Barcelona) and then hopped on a bus to downtown Barcelona. Our apartment was right by the bus depot, so we walked to our room, put our feet up, got organized, and then headed to a patisserie for one last supper of homemade pizza and pastries :) We walked around a little bit and enjoyed our only cool day of the trip (probably only +25 C).

On Day 25, we flew. Nine hours from Barcelona to Toronto, five hour layover, with a delay, and then four hours from Toronto to Edmonton. An hour and a half for luggage and parking, and driving home, and we were in bed by 11:30 (which felt like 7:30 am, the next morning). Ugh. Gracie slept a little on the plane, in my arms, and during the ride home, so she did great!

Now, back to the routine. There's no slowing down. Brad's busy with work, and we've got a bunch of stuff to do before baby arrives, plus there's a birthday party for Gracie to plan, Thanksgiving, Halloween, and Christmas to prepare for, and a house and yard to fall clean. Joy!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Days 20-23

We've been in Marrakesh for the last four days and even though we're not far from Europe, it's definitely a different world. The best word I can think of to describe it is cacophony. There's so many sounds, and smells, and people, and sights, it's overwhelming.

We're staying in a Riad, which is like a guesthouse/hotel in the middle of the medina. You are winding through the Souks, which are full of people, chatter, motorbikes, kids playing soccer, donkeys pulling carts, and hundreds of other sights and sounds... and then you turn a corner into an alley and the noise level drops to a minimum, and you open the door to your Riad, and it's a calm oasis with a spa-like environment and all you hear are birds creeping through the courtyard. It's phenomenal to experience.

We visited the Saadien Tombs, where nobility are buried, and the intricate detailing on the walls and doors is amazing.
We saw the Badii Palace, Kasbah and Kouroubian Mosques, and wandered around some of the medina walls, the souks, and some fantastic gardens.
We took a few trips into Ville Nouveau to get a break from all the chaos and see how the 'new town' compared to the 'old town.'
We stroll through Jemaa El Fma, a plaza full of monkeys, juice vendors, witch doctors, henna artists, fortune tellers, acrobats, snake charmers and 'dentists' everyday, which is always an experience.
We have also been enjoying the rooftop of our Riad, which has a jacuzzi in the shade, set cool, to splash in.
Unfortunately, we've also had a bout with some traveller's sickness, but nothing too serious, and we're  on the mend. 

Tomorrow, we head back to Barcelona, and we'll be home Thursday night. It's bittersweet. I'm happy to be going home, and we all have a list of things we can't wait to get back to, but this trip has been a month of dedicated family time and we've enjoyed so many places, experiences, foods, and new people, it's hard to give up.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Days 17-19

Day 17 was Gracie's birthday!!!!!

Can you believe she's 3?

I can not. If she wasn't such a steam-roller of energy, I may have gotten a bit misty :)

We had a good time celebrating. I can say that now that a few days have passed... Unfortunately, that also happened to be our 'bad experience' travel day. Nothing serious. Just a cabbie ripped us off and wouldn't change his mind and the lady who was supposed to let us into our apartment was MIA for about an hour. All in all, the cabbie went home with ten extra Euros (and a guilty conscience?) and we spent an hour in a park, across from our apartment, on a sunny day in Seville.

Now, skip back to the celebrating.

We let Gracie loose in a fantastic toy store called the Imaginarium, that had me making a wish list, and told her she could pick one thing to celebrate. After much deliberation, we caved and let her get 2 gifts... A bouncy ball and a wooden caterpillar. Costing us a grand total of €2.90. She did make a note that the ride-on moped was definitely on her Christmas list. We'll see about that one.

Afterward, we went out for tapas and treats and had one of my favourite meals of the trip. I love the Spanish way of eating. Tapas are like appetizers, but they have tons at each restaurant. You just sit and keep sampling. Yum! Or as Gracie would say, 'Fantastico!' I won't list everything we tried, but there was homemade pastas, mushroom and ricotta flan, gazpacho, flank steak, and who can remember what else?! We stopped for birthday pastries on our way home.

Pretty good celebration. Throw in a few choruses of 'Happy Birthday to Myself' and you've got the soundtrack, too.

Day 18:
We spent another day wandering Seville's streets. The atmosphere is so nice here, I feel like we're experiencing as much in our rambling walks as we would visiting monuments. Of course, we saw our share of those as well. We walked by the Cathedral, which is beautiful and impressively huge. We checked out the Alcazar, a mosque built with Moorish architecture, and we sampled chocolate con churros, a Spanish specialty. Quite divine, it's a churro, or a long, deep fried chunk of dough, that you dip in hot, bubbly chocolate. 

How are we ever going to adjust to our normal life?

Day 19: 
We flew to Marrakesh today. It is scorching hot here, and I'm trying to respect the Muslim tradition of keeping covered, but I desperately want to wear my swimsuit all day... But I'm working on it. We were met at the airport by our shuttle driver, who took us to Jemaa El Fna square, where a porter with  essentially a wheelbarrow carted our luggage through the souks (vendors carts and sellers of all kinds of things) to our Riad, which is beautiful. They served us tea and cookies, set up our room, and settled us in.
We headed out for supper and had a three course meal that could've fed at least four adults. Couscous cooked in a tagine (clay pot with a cylindrical lid), beef satay, Moroccan soup and salad, delicious bread, olives, and tapenades, and oranges dusted with cinnamon and yogourt for dessert. Yum! Gracie came home with couscous everywhere, but happy and full.
Everyone loves her here. The hotel staff all ready know her name and people in the streets just smile when they see her.
Typing this, I'm listening to muffled street noise and can hear goats, children, and what sounds like cheerleaders, it will be interesting to get a full day of exploring in tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Oops, Day 9-16

Sorry. I fell off the wagon here. No posts for the last week...oh well. Here's a quick recap.
Day 9: we relaxed. Drank tea, played with Gracie, read books, and enjoyed our castle view from our apartment. We also toured through Quinta da Regaleira, a fantastic 'summer home' for the Spanish royals dating back to the 1600's with lavish gardens, sweeping vistas, a beautiful mansion, and neat underground walkways connecting caves, churches, and towers.
Day 10: we rode trains... All day. We took a taxi to e train station in Sintra, arrived in Lisbon (with one transfer), then transferred to another train to Tunes, again to Lagos, and then took a taxi to our resort. sigh. luckily, Gracie's a good traveller and they do make train travel quite simple and comfortable here. The resort is great. Even left us a welcome basket of figs, almonds and oranges, all locally harvested. Gracie said the oranges were the best junk food ever.
Day 11: we had a lovely breakfast on our patio, enjoying our view of the ocean, and yummy pastries and fruit. We packed up and headed into town (Lagos) to check out the marina and get some food. We stopped at a market to pick up some fruit and veggies and a grocery store for the rest and headed back up the hill to our apartment (we climbed this hill about twice a day and it was a bit of a biggie, but we always seemed to have lots of calorie reserves thanks to the availability of treats- we may have evened out). After a quick lunch, we headed back down to Meia Praia, a local beach, for some wave jumping and seashell collecting. Afterward, we walked over to the resort's pool to check it out and played there for an hour or so, too.
Day 12: We spent the morning at the pool. Gracie and Brad played forever in the water and visited the park. I relaxed on a lounger and read :) In the afternoon, we headed out to Praia de Dona Ana, about 45 minutes away, but a fantastic beach with beautiful sandstone rock formations and grainy, seashell sand. It was quite picturesque.
Day 13:  Walked into town only to be greeted by fog, so we couldn't head out on our boat trip. Headed back to the resort to play in the pool, where the sun was shining and the skies were clear. Headed back in for supper at a Portugese restaurant and gelatos to get us back up the hill.
Day 14: We squeezed in our boat trip this morning and I'm so glad we did. We toured the grottoes and cliffs near Point de Piedade (Point of Mercy-because the waters were calmer after this point, not because it was the home of Europe's first slave market). They were fantastic! The coast is so rugged and beautiful here. Gracie and I took a ton of pictures. In the afternoon, we hopped on a bus and headed to Seville, back in Spain.
Day 15: Woke up late and headed out for croissants, tostadas, fresh-squeezed orange juice, and caffe lattes. Yum! We spent the day wandering Seville, window shopping, and admiring the architecture. plaza de Espana was a favourite. Played in a park, picked up treats and had lunch at a street side cafe.
Day 16: We travelled to Granada to visit the Alhambra. It was phenomenal. The pictures will never do it justice. I had to book the tickets a month in advance, and it gives you a 30 minute window that you have to hit or you get turned away. Due to train delays and the vastness of the park  it's located in, we made it in with 8 minutes to spare. Yowza!

How's that for text heavy reading? Hope you're not bored. It's been great so far!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Madrid and Sintra - days 6,7, and 8

We spent our second day in Madrid relaxing, washing some clothes and sleeping in! We went for a stroll in the afternoon to see Plaza Mayor ( a popular courtyard surrounded by old brick buildings painted with frescoes), Palacios Real ( the royal palace), Cathedral de La Almudena, and toured through San Miguel, a busy market surrounded by glass walls.

Our third day was when the Vuelta ( the bike tour through Spain, similar to the Tour de France) finished in Madrid, so we got to see Contador lead the peloton through the city. Very impressive! The speeds they reach on cobblestone streets with slick tires is amazing.

Today, we took planes, trains and automobiles to reach Lisbon and our final stop for the day, Sintra. It's a national park that was once the Royal's summer playground. There are castles and palaces everywhere and the streets are so windy, steep, and cobblestoned that it makes the road up to Takkakaw Falls (for those who visited us in Lake Louise) look like a cakewalk.

It's all been great. Sorry, I can't post pictures, but there are some on Facebook, if you care to do some hunting.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Valencia and Madrid- Day 4 & 5

We've had two busy days of travelling, but we're setting up camp now for a few days, so we can slow the pace down a little.

Yesterday, we took a train from Barcelona to Valencia and had a spectacular visit to their Oceanarium. We saw a dolphin show that could rival Sea World, walked through huge glass tunnel aquariums, and saw sharks, whales, turtles, penguins, and all kinds of fish and sea creatures, including Nemo! Gracie loved the dolphin show so much, people in the audience were turning to watch her instead of the show. There was some very exuberant clapping and numerous squeals of delight coming from her little 2 foot 11 inch body.

To top off our lovely stop-over in Valencia, we had some delicious pizza and pasta at an Italian restaurant and got our apartment upgraded.

"Fantastic!" as Gracie would say.

This morning, we woke up feeling more refreshed (yay for getting over jet lag) boarded an AVE (super fast) train to Madrid. We hit 300 km/hour and raced there in under two hours. We planned to take it easy is afternoon, but ended up wandering through a beautiful park, called El Retiro, stumbling upon Plaza Mayor and the elaborate architecture that stretches for blocks in any direction, and then trekking a ways to find a market for supplies. Maybe not as restful, but low key and quite nice.

Our apartment here is great. Very nice and modern (inside) and clean, and close to a number of sites and the train station.

Tomorrow, we rest. Unless something interesting comes up....

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Barcelona Day 3

Sorry the pictures aren't working... We're not having much luck uploading photos onto the web with the iPad.

Today, we did a hop on- hop off bus tour of the city and saw some of our last must-see destinations, plus a few more. We saw La Sagrada Familia, another Gaudi cathedral, which has been in the works since 1823, and is still not complete. Look it up, it's fantastic!
Then, we visited Park Guell, an outdoor Gaudi masterpiece and Camp Nou, the football stadium where FC Barcelona plays.
We also saw palaces, architectural gems and scorching temperatures (each day has been over 30 degrees Celsius, with high humidity).
To keep our energy up, we started our day off with chocolate croissants and cafe lattes... Gracie was ecstatic to see a chocolate-y breakfast. For once, she didn't ask for breakfast dessert.
Our sleeping isn't as on track as we thought, last night was more restless, but we got up earlier, and our fingers are crossed for tonight. Tomorrow, we move on to Valencia.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

More Barcelona

We had a late start on day 2, rousing G at 11 am, after 15 hours of sleep, but we still saw lots and had fun. The last photo, was actually part of day 1's tours, but posting is a little tricky. For supper tonight, we enjoyed Barcelona's tapas menu and accidentally ordered four dishes, but they were all delicious! We had chorizos and white beans in a pest sauce, tuna loin in a fruit compote, seafood paella, and prosciutto in paprika with tomatoes and toast. Yummy.this baby will be a foodie, when she arrives.

La Cathedral:

And some finer details:

Esglesia de Santa Maria del Mar:

On the beach, la Barceloneta:
Arc de Triumphe (they have one here, too!):
Tomorrow is our last full day in Barcelona, so we're hoping for an earlier start, and as much site-seeing as we can squeeze in.


We arrived! There was some confusion in Toronto, because our plane was seriously overbooked, and then I tried to leave our passports at home.... But we made it!
Gracie did great, but didn't sleep enough on the plane. We had a power nap in the afternoon (4hours for her) and then she slept 15 hours last night before we woke her. I think we're set for Spain time now, though.
Here's some Gaudi architecture for you, Casa Batlo:
And Brad and Gracie testing out the statues in Park de la Ciutadella:
Gracie and I in front of a fountain at the same park:

Saturday, September 01, 2012

New Treasured Memories Layouts

I did one last little set of projects for Treasured Memories before we leave. 
Here's a peak at the layouts. These use a great new My Mind's Eye collection which is part of their monthly kit this month. It's a great deal, $35 for $50 worth of stuff, if you buy it with the kit. 

Just call me an enabler :)