A Trip to Chicago, IL

We recently returned from a week in the Midwest visiting Luke’s parents. We spent most of our time in Chicago showing my dad around as this was his first time here. This trip looked A LOT different from past trips due to COVID-19. For weeks and weeks leading up to the trip we were unsure if it was even going to happen. We even second guessed the trip many times. Our flights were changed numerous times as the airline consolidated flights for the week. I was scared to even get on an airplane during a pandemic! When we finally decided to go ahead with it, we had a lot of conversations on how to proceed with our travel plans as safely as possible. Chicago was in Phase 4 of re-opening and we had a game plan. We brought plenty of face masks, disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer. We planned activities where we could maintain distance from others and also planned on only dining at establishments that had outdoor seating. I was quite impressed with how safe I felt in Chicago. Most places we visited had temperature checks and everyone had social distancing in place. By the end of the trip it felt like my face mask was a permanent fixture to my face – a small price to pay for safety though.

While it wasn’t’t the trip we had initially planned on, it ended up being a great time with family and I’m grateful we were able to make it happen. We had non-stop flights on Alaska Airlines and they kept all middle seats open. They thoroughly cleaned everything and scaled back their in-flight meal service to only offer bottled water, a few sodas and snack packets. Face masks were required by everyone – which quite honestly felt safer than visiting Safeway or Fred Meyer down the street from my house where half the shoppers don’t even bother with them. While I understand traveling is controversial right now, I feel good about how we handled everything and the safety precautions that we took. The number one reason for this trip was to see family that live outside of Chicago and since it is summer, we spent time in the city together.

Where we ate:

Ersi Brewery (This was our first dinner after landing at O’hare. The weather was perfect, the patio was spacious and the food and beers were just what we needed after a day of traveling.)
Piece Brewery and Pizzeria (A great spot for pizza and beers in Wicker Park)
King Crab House (What a gem! We were walking around Lincoln Park and spotted this cute place in the neighborhood. I put my name on the list for dinner and even got to pick out where we wanted to sit on their patio.)
Kaiser Tiger (A fun spot with plenty of outdoor seating)
Kennedy Rooftop (This was our last dinner of the trip. Their patio had just recently opened and we snagged the best table there was – unobstructed views of the entire Chicago skyline!)

Other places that we love in Chicago: Velvet Taco, Le Colonial, The Publican, Giordano’s, Public House, Cindy’s Rooftop, Eastman Egg Company, Gaslight Coffee Roasters

Places that are on our list for our next visit: The Purple Pig, Girl & The Goat, Au Cheval

Where we drank:

Paradise Park (A fun spot with a huge patio to grab a few drinks)
Island Party Hut (After a boat tour on the lake we stopped here for a few beers. They have an expansive outdoor area and we found large bench to sit on right by the river.)
Big Star (We stopped in here or a few margaritas to get out of the sun)
Pilot Project (Creative and delicious beers in a beautiful outdoor space)
Sully’s House (We came across this place on the way to another place. When that other place didn’t work out, Sully’s welcomed us with open arms – and a very socially distant patio.)
Murphy’s Bleachers (We originally booked this trip before the pandemic, so we planned on catching a Cubs game on the trip. While the Cubs game didn’t happen, we walked around the outside of the ballpark and stopped in here for lunch and beers.)


A lot of walking (We walked all through Lincoln Park taking in the sights of the city and the tree-lined neighborhood streets, Millennium Park, Wrigleyville and Wicker Park.)

Boat Tour (Wendella boat tours now require masks to be worn at all time and they’ve also restricted the number of passengers to allow for social distancing)

New York City for Thanksgiving

This past Thanksgiving Luke and I spent some time in NYC. My cousin lives on the Lower East Side and we thought it would be fun to spend the holiday weekend with her. She graciously hosted us in her tiny (yet very comfortable and cozy apartment) and even played tour guide for us – ensuring we saw everything we haven’t already seen in the city. I’ve been to NYC a handful of times and so has Luke so our main goal of this trip was to just relax, take our time and hang out. I was coming straight off my Uganda trip, so my body legitimately had no idea what time it was or where in the world I was. It took me a solid two days to finally catch up to everyone else, haha. It was a fun trip, but my bank account would tell you otherwise.

In my eyes, New York City is always a good idea and visiting this magical place will never get old.

Where we ate:

Bistrot Leo (They had a traditional Thanksgiving dinner menu and it was delicious)
Russ and Daughters (My first Jewish deli and definitely not my last)
Uncle Boon’s (Some of the best Thai food outside of Thailand)
Chelsea Market (It’s fun to walk through Chelsea Market and grab a bite to eat amongst the crowds)
Egg Shop (A delicious eggy breakfast spot)
Frank (We had a fun group dinner here and some of the best gnocchi I’ve ever had)
Emmy Squared (We split a Detroit-style pizza, burger and Brussels sprouts salad – and it was SO GOOD!)
Bluestone Lane (We stopped in here for some chais and ricotta-strawberry toast)
Levain Bakery (Fueled up on cookies and baked goods after a sunny walk through Central Park)

Where we drank:

Grey Lady ($1 oysters and beers from Nantucket)
Amsterdam Ale House (A cozy spot for beers after walking through Central Park)
Skinny Dennis (We stopped in here after the basketball game and was blown away by the whiskey/coffee drink)
Three’s (Amazing brewery in Brooklyn with very creative IPA’s)
Strong Rope (Another Brooklyn brewery)

What we did:

Chelsea Piers Driving Range (On our last day it started snowing during a walk so we hopped over to Chelsea Piers to hit a few buckets of golfballs)
Union Square (There was a Christmas Market going on here!)
5th Avenue Shopping
Central Park (You can’t visit the city without a walk through this beautiful park)
MoMA (We got lucky and enjoyed free admission on Friday night. Although it was admittedly very chaotic with so many people in attendance.)
Vessel @ Hudson Yards (A few years ago when I first took Luke to NYC this area didn’t even exist!)
The High Line (A walk along the High Line is always fun in my book)
Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge
Brooklyn Nets vs Miami Heat game @ Barclay’s Center

Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary

Our visit to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary was the highlight of our Australian adventure. We spent a long time researching different zoo’s and sanctuaries in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland and ultimately landed on Lone Pine. It was important to us that we not visit a place that keeps animal in cages as merely a tourist attraction. We wanted to support a sanctuary and a place that supports the conservation of animals. Lone Pine seemed like the perfect place for us to visit.

Lone Pine first opened in 1927 as a safe refuge for injured, sick and orphaned koalas. Their goal has always been to create a safe and happy environment for their animals to thrive in. It was evident straight away that the Lone Pine staff have a deep love for these animals. They were loving, nurturing, highly interactive and even shared some fun facts with us about the koalas!

  • All the koalas have names and the koala keepers know them all by name and can even point out their different personalities.
  • The koalas are grouped by their family. If they were to try and take a koala out of their home and into a different area it would cause them a lot of stress and they might even fight each other.
  • Even though koalas adhere to a mostly eucalyptus diet, they are extremely picky eaters. There are roughly 800 species of eucalyptus but they’ll only eat 50-60 of those and they all have an individual preference. What one finds to be a tasty leaf one day could be completely ignored the next day.
  • Koalas have extra fur and a cartridge pad around their bottoms to account for the hours upon  hours they spend balancing on trees.
  • People often call them “Koala Bears” when in fact they are actually marsupials. The correct terminology is simply “Koala”.

In addition to the koala sanctuary, Lone Pine is also home to a variety of other animals: Kangaroos, Emu, Wombats, Dingos, Tasmanian Devils, Freshwater Crocodiles and Turtles, Platypus, Bats and different species of birds and reptiles.

Another highlight on this visit was hanging out with the kangaroos!

Can you spot the little joey’s ear peeking out of the mama’s ouch above?

There are two different fields where the kangaroos are free to roam. We purchased a small bag of kangaroo food and had the chance to interact with them and feed them. As long as you were calm and gentle towards them, they didn’t spook and were actually quite friendly and soft.

A Travel Guide to the Sunshine Coast

Our final stop on our Australian adventure was a few days at the Sunshine Coast. We flew from Melbourne to Brisbane, rented a car and then drove about an hour and a half north on the M1. Luke found us this amazing private oasis and we both agreed it’s quite possibly our favorite place to-date.

We had envisioned this part of the trip to be a lot slower and more relaxing than the week before. While we loved our time in Sydney and Melbourne, we also wanted to experience the slower pace of the coastal life. We got unlucky with a few days of rain which really forced us to slow down, haha. After the rain and I’m talking more rain than I’ve ever seen in my life!! we were able to explore Noosa and get in some serious beach time. Noosa stole my heart and I couldn’t be happier that we picked such a gorgeous place to relax on our last few days.

Brekkie at Murray’s in Maroochydore
Noosa Heads Main Beach
Can you spot the sleepy koala?
We loved seeing this little one on our walk through the Noosa National Park, near Tea Tree Bay.
We found the perfect snack – zucchini chips and a beer at Grill’d!
Very happy faces after a few Noosa beach days.

Our recommended itinerary for three days at the Sunshine Coast:

Day 1
Spend the day exploring the Sunshine Coast Hinterlands – Unfortunately we didn’t get to do this because it was raining buckets for the first few days

Day 2
Visit the Eumundi Markets (keep in mind the markets are only open on Wednesdays and Sundays)
Make your way to Noosa
Walk up and down Hastings Street popping into shops – Grab lunch at a place that speaks to you (we found a fish & chips special at Zachary’s)
From Noosa Heads Main Beach, walk the path up Noosa National Park – We walked to the Fairy Pools and back to the main beach
Relax on the beach at Noosa Heads Main Beach

Day 3
Spend the day at Noosa Heads Main Beach – Get there early and find a spot under the trees
Consider surfing lessons! If you’re not that adventurous you can also rent boogie boards on the beach
Depending on where you stay, drive up/down State Road 6 for ocean views along the Sunshine Coast – We drove from Noosa down to Mooloolaba
Dinner at The Savvy Squire the beers were amazing and the location is right on the Mooloolah River

A Travel Guide to Melbourne, Australia

We arrived in Melbourne from Sydney and ended up taking an Uber from the airport to our AirBnb. We almost never do this! We were having a hard time with the Myki ticket machines at the airport (Myki is the card system the train/tram/bus uses). The Myki machines refused to accept our credit cards and the busses don’t take anything but Myki cards. There was a SkyBus option but it was $20/person one-way and we’d still have to do a transfer to a bus. So an Uber it was! Once we got into town I popped into a market and purchased a Myki card and loaded money on it – once I had it, it was easy peasy from there on out!

We eventually arrived in the Abbotsford neighborhood and instantly fell in love with this lovely AirBnb. We had a spacious bungalow on the back of the hosts’ property, the most comfortable king sized bed and a few complimentary umbrellas for the rain we’d encounter in the coming days. It was perfect for us. We short a 5-10 minute walk to the train and then it was only anohter 10 minutes to reach the city center. We mostly took the train around town if we weren’t walking. I can’t say enough good things about the neighborhood we chose to stay in! Great coffee shops, restaurants and local shops. Something we always look for in AirBnb’s is that “local living feeling”.

Melbourne was so funky and just downright cool. You know that I love a city filled with graffiti and Melbourne delivered! It was inherently different to Sydney – like a Seattle vs. Portland different. More artsy, very gritty… Melbourne was a vibe. My favorite part of visiting Melbourne was the element of surprise. For example, you could see a restaurant or storefront and the facade gives an appearance that it might be a small run-down place… until you step inside and see this expansive architectural wonder. There were sooooo manyyyy surprises, we dubbed Melbourne “the city of hidden gems”.

Hoiser Lane street art
A favorite neighborhood scene
The soft scramble eggs on toast obsession continues…
A first glimpse at the Brighton Bathing Boxes

Our recommended itinerary for four days in Melbourne:

Day 1
Coffee and a light breakfast at Three Bags Full
Stroll around the city center
Hop on the 35 “city circle” tram line – it’s free and will take you in a loop around the city
Roam around Chinatown (it’s expansive!) and grab dumplings for lunch – We loved Shanghai Street
Pop into Melbourne Central – we found so many local clothing shops and the food court looked amazing
Visit the Public Library, it’s a beauty!
Dinner at Daughter-in-Law

Day 2
Coffee and a light breakfast at Stagger Lee’s
Go on a self-guided walking tour of Abbotsford, Collingwood and Fitzroy
Visit the Queen Victoria Market (grab lunch here, too)
Stop by Moon Dog for amazing IPA’s
Grab dinner and sip on local beers at Stomping Ground Brewing or Bodriggy Brewing

Day 3
Coffee and a light breakfast at Dr. Morse
Explore the hidden gems and laneways of the city (Hoiser Lane and Degreaves Street being the most popular)
Dinner at any of the following restaurants: SundraEmblatipo 00Smith + DaughtersLazerpigLeo’sCarlton Wine RoomBar SaracenLee Ho FookSupernormal (we met a girl in Sydney and her chef boyfriend recommend all these places to us – he said it’s the list for ultimate foodies)

Day 4
Coffee and a light breakfast at you place of choice! Check out this list of quintessential Melbourne coffee shops
Visit the Brighton Bathing Boxes
Walk form Brighton Beach to St. Kilda Beach
Lunch at Lentil as Anything
Explore St. Kilda and Luna Park
Supernormal Canteen for dinner
St. Kilda Pier for the Penguin Parade

Also consider: a day trip out of the city or a two-day trip along the GOR to visit the 12 Apostles.

A Travel Guide to Sydney, Australia

We recently arrived back home after spending two weeks in Australia and WOW what an incredible country! We split our time evenly between Sydney, Melbourne and the Sunshine Coast – spending about 4 days in each area. It’s the tail end of summer there, so kind of like a September for us, like a really hot September.

We arrived at SYD on a Saturday morning and took the train to Central Station where we hopped on a local bus to our AirBnb in the Paddington neighborhood. Once we got to Paddington (Paddo to the locals) I couldn’t believe my eyes, it looked like we were transported to the Garden District of New Orleans! The neighborhood was lined with beautiful trees and beautiful houses. We stayed in this AirBnb and loved it. The place was on the smaller side, but fine for us since we were out about for most of the day anyways. The location was very convenient for us (halfway between the city and the beach) and the local bus stop was just down the street. Speaking of the bus, we took it everywhere in town! We added our travel credit card (we use Chase Sapphire Preferred) to our phone and then just “tapped” on and off the bus – it couldn’t have been easier!

Sydney felt so unique but also felt like a blend of some of our favorite major cities. Luke and I ultimately decided that we thought Sydney was a mix of London, New Orleans and San Francisco – but throw some hot sun in there, too! We loved, loved, loved our time in Sydney and were quite sad when it was over.

See below for our recommended itinerary for a few days in this amazing city!

The Sydney Harbor from the Royal Botanic Garden.
This is the Paddington neighborhood we stayed in.
I told you it looked like New Orleans!
Australia really knows how to do a good breakfast (brekkie).
I scored this avocado toast for $4.50! I know.
Luke had banana bread with ricotta creme cheese and honey –
we’ve already re-created this since we’ve been home.
This was the start of our coast walk from Coogee Beach to Bondi Beach.
The views on this walk were just incredible!
Seeing the Bondi Icebergs was just a dream.
They are as beautiful as all the pictures I’ve seen over the years.
Bondi Beach through the trees.
We spent the afternoon at Bondi Beach.
We had been watching a lot of the show Bondi Rescue (haha) and this was a MUST for us.
It was incredibly crowded but we lucked out with a decent spot and a rented umbrella.
One morning we took the local ferry from Circular Quay to Manly Beach.
It was such a great way to see the city from the water (one of our favorite things to do in any city we visit).
One morning we took the bus to The Grounds of Alexandria and I was BLOWN AWAY with this place. It’s an “only in Sydney” kind of place and I recommend you don’t miss it. We had breakfast here and then spent some time walking around the grounds and taking in their rotating exhibit. The exhibit on display when we visited was Elton John themed. This place is just magical.
A few more examples of how Aussie’s just nail brekkie.
Eggs on toast (this became an obsession on the trip –
Aussie soft scramble eggs are actually heaven on earth) and seeded bircher muesli.
Another fun spot was the Slims Rooftop.
The rooftop is inspired by Slim Aarons and overlooks Hyde Park.
We walked around Darling Harbor one night. It was cute. Dare I say… Darling?
Our recommended itinerary for four days in Sydney:

Day 1
Explore the Harbors and Quays: Sydney Harbor, Darling Harbor, Circular Quay
Explore The Rocks neighborhood
Visit and grab lunch at The Rocks Market (open every Friday, Saturday and Sunday)
Visit Endeavour Tap Rooms for some Pale Ale and IPA refreshments
Walk to the Royal Botanic Gardens and walk over to Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair
Drinks at the Sydney Opera Bar

Day 2
Take the ferry to Manly Beach
Visit 4 Pines Brewery for delicious beers
Spend the day exploring Manly and visit the beaches
Lunch at Fishbowl for amazing poke bowls
Ferry back to Sydney
Slim’s Rooftop for evening refreshments and snacks

Day 3
Start your day with brekkie and then a takeaway coffee from Coogee Pavilion
Coast Walk from Coogee to Bondi (about 2.5 hours)
End at Bondi Beach and enjoy a beach afternoon (I rented an umbrella on the beach to be sun safe)
Lunch and refreshments at a fun spot across the street from Bondi Beach – We liked Bondi Beach Public Bar for flatbreads and beers
Dinner at Nomad (make reservations in advance, so many locals told us this was the best place in town for dinner and we’d have to agree!)

Day 4
Brunch and explore at the Grounds of Alexandria (In my opinion this is an absolute must-visit and and “only in Sydney” kind of place)
Explore the Newtown area for fun shops, restaurants and breweries
Rock’s Brewing
Young Henry’s
End with dinner at a local neighborhood spot. We chose the Four in Hand Pub in Paddington

Uganda: The Second Part of the Trip

The second part of our Uganda trip was quite different from the first (read that experience here)! After our time in Lira and Otuke District we packed up the vans and drove an hour and half west to the Chobe Safari Lodge in Murchison Falls National Park. Driving into the safari park was quite the scene as our vans and SUV’s were driving on dirt roads that just endured days of heavy rains. We had three full vans (our team, the Fee family and the Love Mercy team) along with Julius and his family in the SUV’s. I was in the van that slide all around the muddy roads and into the ditch, haha. Our driver eventually maneuvered us back on track after quite the off-roading adventure!

The safari lodge was a stark contrast in comparison to our previous accommodations and experience. The safari lodge was so beautiful and serene situated on the banks of the Nile river. It was nice to un-wind and connect with everyone that we worked so hard with during the past week in that environment.

We were incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to go on a safari drive as well as a boat ride down the Nile river to Murchison Falls. We saw elephants, giraffes, hippos, monkeys, gazelles, warthogs, crocodiles and a lion! We did both of those adventures in one day to make the most of our time. I joke that it was the land safari and the water safari… either way it was a major bucket list item for me and just so incredible to see so much wildlife in one single day. We spent that day with the Fee family and having so much quality time with them made the experience so memorable. I wish they could adopt our team and we could adventure with them every year 😉

Photo credit above: Matt Temple

Uganda: The Pearl of Africa

This past November I had the fortunate opportunity to travel to Uganda with four other individuals from work. I’ve debated over and over again whether or not to type out my experience – only because I don’t feel I could do it justice with words. It was truly an experience that you have to see and feel on your own to fully grasp. I’ve been back home for a few months and I still find myself at a loss for words that would adequately articulate how impactful my visit was. Here’s my attempt…

Scenes from our daily morning walks in Lira 
Every year my employer sends a team of five individuals to Northern Uganda for 10 days to assist with a youth race in Otuke District, in partnership with the Achon Children’s Fund (founded by Julius Achon). The Achon Children’s Fund is based here in Portland, Oregon and the funds raised through the organization go directly to Northern Uganda to assist the regions only healthcare clinic, promote youth sports and restore hope to a region that has been heavily impacted by decades of civil war. The Achon Children’s Fund works with Love Mercy, which is based in Australia and those two organizations partner side by side. Love Mercy and the Fee family (that founded the Achon Children’s Fund with Julius) were in Uganda for this trip and it was incredible to get to know the amazing people that run these organizations.
This particular year was a little different than previous years because Love Mercy put on an additional race before the youth race in Otuke District – for a total of two completely different races this year!

Race One: A relay from Entebbe to Lira that was organized by Love Mercy that Julius took part in running in.
Race Two: The youth race in Otuke District for the primary school kids.

My team specifically was responsible for setting the race course for the youth race in Otuke District. On this particular year the race was held in Adwari, a sub-district of Otuke at the Ablionyero primary school. Each year the race takes place at a different primary school to give opportunities for each school district to host. The race had different heats, allowing a wide range of age groups to participate. The winners for each race received a mattress for their victory. In addition to setting the race course we were responsible for brining all the participant t-shirts, sorting/delivering them and helping with a wide range of logistical duties for the day. Our team of five basically stepped in to assist anywhere and everywhere that we could to make sure the day went off without a hitch.

Going into the trip I didn’t know a lot of information about the first race (the relay form Entebbe to Lira) as the main focus was to prepare with my team for the race at the primary school. I knew that Love Mercy had organized a relay from Entebbe to Lira and had a total of five runners. Four of those runners had fundraised for the the organization and the fifth runner was Julius Achon. Over the course of five days, the relay team made their way up north to end the relay at the sports stadium in Lira. Since it was the first year for the race, we had planned to meet the runners at the finish line to welcome them into Lira. We thought we’d be among a few people in attendance from Love Mercy and the Fee family standing on a street corner to cheer them across the finish line. Wow, were we completely wrong! Word got out about this relay and it was in the newspapers and broadcast on the radio. When our vans left the hotel to head to the stadium we encountered thousands of locals making their way to the sports stadium to cheer on Julius and the runners! It was total chaos and at one point we got separated from our van driver as he took off without us. He had dropped off some of our team to run in the race and a few of us failed to let him know that we were NOT running the race, haha. Lindsay and I tried to run after the van, which led to us accidentally participating in the race. It was clear we weren’t going to catch up so flagged down a boda boda from a local to transport us through the massive crowds to the stadium. That experience ended up being just incredible! There were vehicles equipped with sound systems, people that joined in to run the final miles with our runners, people on boda bodas, and crowds and crowds of people everywhere you looked. It was complete chaos and no one could have predicted how incredible of a finish the race ended up being! We all kept looking around in awe of the celebration that was unfolding – it was the best surprise and experience and we were all in it together. If only I could bottle up the joy we all felt in that moment.

Some of my teammates along with the Love Mercy folks and the Fee family running along in the first race behind Julius
photo credit for the top two photos: Karen Fee
Lindsay and I on the back of a boda boda
The relay runners at the Lira Stadium 
With the first race down, we had our sights set on the youth race in Otuke District the next day. Unfortunately I was up all night the night before with severe acid reflux. It seriously came out of nowhere! I haven’t experienced acid reflux in about 10 years, but it decided to come back in Africa (go figure!). My body really struggled to pull it together on our big day which left me absolutely devastated. I didn’t want to let my team down but my body felt like it was falling apart inside. I took it slow and ended up taking a break at the beginning of the race day activities for a few hours to try and nap in the van. How I was able to do that with all the loud noises, marching bands and thousands of people surrounding me I don’t know, haha. It was a serious struggle but I ultimately decided I would rather work through the pain than sit in the van. I eventually started feeling better and made it through the rest of the day.

Even though I felt like the weakest link on this day I can hands-down tell you without any doubt that my team absolutely killed it! I was in awe of how everyone worked flawlessly together and how everyone pitched in to get the job done. If you saw an area to help out, you stepped in. There was no standing around wondering what to do. Lindsay (our incredible team leader) made an analogy that each team member played a different instrument – each one of us adding a different sound – and we came together to create a beautiful song. It’s highly possible that I completely butchered the analogy, but hopefully you get the gist of it. I couldn’t have asked for a better team. We were all so different, with different strengths, but we worked so well together. Being placed with such great people by my side made this experience even more amazing.

The kids about to start the race!
Julius presenting race winners with their prizes
Best. Team. Ever.
I can’t talk about this experience without mentioning how special the days were leading up to the second race because we got to spend time in the school yard setting the race course while all the kids were there. The kids were eager to help and followed us around every second of the day. You couldn’t even get a bathroom break in without a small pack of kids waiting right there for you. They were in awe of us, and I was in awe of them. Most if not all of these kids walk miles to school and miles home without shoes. They don’t have a lot but they are the happiest little things. We brought a lot of little stickers with us and had the kids line up one by one to “try” to evenly distribute them. After a few minutes some kids would come up to me with their faces covered in stickers. We shared so many laughs over this. I took hundreds of pictures and they always wanted to see what the picture looked like. You’d take their picture and then show them how it turned out. It almost always resulted in belly laughs when they saw their faces covered stickers. I taught them how to make funny faces for the camera and caught so many of them with their tongues out. The guys in our group joined in and our group of five had so much fun doing drills, dancing, singing, clapping and playing duck duck goose with the kiddos. At one point they even sang a song for us as we clapped to their rhythm. Those moments in the schoolyard with the kiddos will stick with me forever. It was such a simple way to connect through human interaction. Even now that I’ve been back home for a few months, I think about those kids every single day. Their genuine smiles and pure joy over the smallest things was a feeling I hope to never forget. Some of the locals told us that those kids were going to go home and dream about us at night. I can only hope that interacting with us was a happy moment for them – because it was the biggest highlight of the trip for me.
My teammate Kevin running through some drills with the kids
Singing and clapping along with the kids

There were conversations amongst our group and members from the other organizations around this feeling of guilt. Guilt when we went to take a drink of water or grab a snack, because we knew that these kids don’t have that luxury. Guilt when we arrive in our van with a driver and then return back to the hotel to eat dinner and sleep in an actual bed. Guilt that we are Westerners showing up for a brief moment and not doing more to help their community. I was a visitor in their community and I wanted to be sensitive to that. Someone said that you can’t control how you were brought into this world and how you were brought up – although you can control how you give back. That sentiment still sticks with me and is something that I never want to forget. That was my big takeaway from this experience and I’m using that mentality as I move forward.

It can feel overwhelming with so many people in this world that need help and so many organizations that need resources and money. I used to sit back and ask myself how do you even know where to start? I would wonder how can I even influence change, I’m just ONE person? I’m ashamed to say that I’ve let these feelings take over and paralyze me to the point where I didn’t take action. Sure I’ve donated to causes that I’m passionate about and still do – but I have the means to do more!

This experience in Uganda really opened my eyes and shifted my perspective. If we all do something, just something, it can add up. What if everyone that felt this same way just volunteered once a month, or donated a small amount to an organization they feel passionate about? Small things have the potential to add up to something big.

I could write a million more words about this experience, but I’ll end it here. I feel like I left out a million details, like how Matt ate fried grasshoppers, how we played a lot of bananagrams and card games every evening, that we ate A LOT of vegetable curry and how we each had our own favorite local African beer (Lindsay was Team Tusker, Matt and Kevin were Team Nile and Scott and I were Team Bell). Come find me and we can talk more about this incredible experience over a couple of beers! 🙂

Uganda will always hold a special place in my heart because of this experience. I can only hope that I’m able to return one day, or find a volunteer experience in another African country in the years to come because I don’t want this to be a one-time experience.

If you’re interested, John Bryant wrote a book about Julius’s life: The Boy Who Runs: The Odyssey of Julius Achon. It’s an incredible read!

And last but not least, I compiled most of the videos that I took on the trip!

My only regret is that I
A: Didn’t take more!
B: Didn’t record them all in the same format, haha!

I hope you enjoy! When you’re watching this video please play Toto’s “Africa”. Before we embarked on this trip I wondered if we’d hear that song along the way and the answer was YES, multiple times. Unfortunately due to copyright laws I couldn’t add it to the video.

Sisters in Paris

Heather and I were lucky enough to get to spend a week together on an epic girls trip to Paris, France this past October. We’ve both been separately, but this was our first time visiting the city together. We stayed in an AirBnb in Montmartre and loved our little neighborhood so much. I’m happy to share the actual AirBnb booking if anyone is interested… we loved the space and the location but the bed was extremely uncomfortable and we had some of the worst nights sleep we’ve ever had. We were consistently up all hours of the night tossing and turning. So maybe you don’t want to stay there, haha 🙂 Bad sleep aside, the location was great and it was easy to take the metro anywhere in the city and even easier to just walk anywhere as well. I listed out everywhere we ate and all things we did over the week. Anything with an asterisk next to it means we LOVED it!

Where we ate:
Pink Mamma * (delicious! we shared a pizza and drank some delicious red wine. make sure that you walk to the top floor and check out this beautiful space)
Odette * (we stopped here for a sweet treat, the location couldn’t be any cuter if it tried)
Laudree (mandatory stop for sweet treats in a collectible box)
Bouillon Chartier (we had a quintessential Parisian meal here one night)
Frenchie Bar a Vins (I’m a HUGE fan of FTG, so I loved visiting their wine bar)
Ob-La-Di * (we had breakfast here one morning and loved every sip and bite)
Kozy (if you’re looking for their brunch it only happens on the weekend, oops!)
Cafe Kitsune (fueled up on a delicious iced chai one afternoon)
La Bossue (we had our final petit déjeuner of the trip here and it was heavenly)
Corto (a small inconspicuous place near our AirBnb that happens to have out-of-this-world-delicious-steak-tartare)
Creperie Framboise (because crepes)
Wine and snacks in the park

What we did:
A LOT of walking!
A LOT of metro riding! (we purchased the Paris Visite 5-day pass and it basically pays for itself in a few days. taking public transportation is my favorite way of getting around a city)
Shopping at Merci * (I fell in looooooove with this concept store)
Galeries Lafayette (go for the high-end shopping but don’t miss the incredible rooftop views)
Stamp Market * (check the hours before you go… I found handfuls of beautiful old stamps here)
Paris Flea Market  (the flea market was not a highlight for us… most stalls were closed so there wasn’t a lot for us to see)
Explored the artists square in Montmartre (we purchased a small watercolor for our mom here)
L’Atelier Des Lumières * (I cannot recommend this place enough, it was the most beautiful artful experience I’ve ever had)

And in no particular order, here are our photo favorites from a week in our favorite city. I hope you enjoy 🙂

One Day in Amsterdam

My sister and I recently got back from a week in Europe – just us girls! It was the trip of a lifetime for us. We’ve never taken a trip so far away, just the two of us. We’ve also never spent every second together for an entire week, haha! The trip ended up exceeding my expectations and reconfirming that my love for all things European runs deep.

We decided on a week in Paris with a quick day trip to Amsterdam via train. I’ve been to Amsterdam before, but it was Heather’s very first time stepping foot in the Netherlands. We took the early morning train from Gare du Nord to Amsterdam Centraal station. Since we arrived at Centraal station we were a quick walk over to the center of the city to start our exploring! Surprise to absolutely no one, we started our day off with pancakes at a cute little spot called… Pancakes! In all honesty we were starving and it was the first place we saw upon leaving the train station, haha. It ended up being exactly what we needed though. The pancakes were DELICIOUS and the mint/lemon/ginger tea was a refreshing wake up!

We spent our entire day walking. We walked quaint and quiet streets with our favorites being Groenburgwal, Raamgracht, Kloveniersburgwal, Oudezijds Voorburgwal and Herengracht. I particularly loved strolling those streets because my most beautiful photos from that day are of the canal houses located there.

One area that I wanted to spend some time in was De Pijp, located directly south of the city center. I’ve heard that it’s a fun neighborhood to explore, so I’m happy we to got to spend some time there. We visited the Albert Cuypmarkt and indulged in fries with fritessaus (so good!) and then stopped in Bakers and Roasters for some coffee to keep us going!

Amsterdam, to me, is the absolute most picturesque place my eyes have ever seen. I’m perfectly happy to just throw on a pair of comfortable shoes and explore by foot – which is exactly what we did 🙂