Well, I've been home for two weeks now and it's strange how quickly I've adapted. After a mere 24 hours, it felt like I never even left - I guess you never really leave home, right? The cold weather on the other hand I did not adapt to quickly or willingly. My dad is home from the hospital and is on the right track to recovery! Being home and jobless has given me the opportunity to showcase my wonderful, yet limited, cooking skills! I love finding heart healthy recipes for my dad and the whole family.
After learning that my dad's surgery went swimmingly, I was able to spend time and celebrate a friend's birthday in Chicago (A post will soon be available noting all my favorite Chicago hot spots and touristy things!).
But this post is about my weekend getaway in Galena, Illinois. My best friend has a family cabin in Galena and she invited me to stay with her and try snowboarding for the first time! Of course I was game and I packed my backpack right away. Sometimes it is easy to forget just how beautiful your own backyard is. It had just snowed in Illinois and all the trees were capped with glittering snow and the air was crisp. On the Mississippi River, Galena offers beautiful landscapes, valleys, bluffs, and lots of deer. Galena has such a quaint downtown area that offers a variety of local restaurants and bars, boutique clothing shops, AND the hill from The Field of Dreams. Everything is in walking distance and the river walk is scenic, quiet, and beautiful.
I've gone skiing before and I'm definitely not an expert by any means but I thought this would was a great opportunity to try snowboarding. I'm not going to lie, it's hard! It took a while for me to get used to balancing on the board and shifting my weight so I don't fall flat on my behind, which I did at least three times. After a couple trial and errors, I started to get the hang of it and even made it down the small hill twice without falling! However, attempting to snowboard takes a lot of energy, so after lunch I decided to switch to skiing and enjoy the rest of the afternoon and see the other slopes. Chestnut Mountain was so beautiful. From the top of the hill you can see beyond the Mississippi River into Iowa and all the farms. If you live close, this is a great weekend getaway spot or even just for the day! Most people over look Illinois and Iowa but when I'm driving on the highway through Iowa and Illinois it feels like home.
Wednesday, 28 January 2015
Monday, 12 January 2015
With a heavy heart I'm afraid this will be my last blog post in Australia, at least for a while. I woke up this morning to the news that my dad is in the hospital after suffering major chest pain to learn that he needs open heart surgery. I immediately looked up flights and bought my one-way ticket home. Some things are simply more important than galavanting through Australia and family is definitely numero uno.
So I guess now is as good a time as any to fill you in on my stay in Melbourne!
Danielle, Kayce and I were lucky enough to spend yet another holiday with the McMahons! They graciously invited us for Christmas with their family and it was filled with love, joy, and Christmas cheer! We are extremely grateful for their constant support and open arms.
News Years in this part of the world is very much like the 4th of July in the States. Everyone is outside, there are BBQs and FIREWORKS. Basically, the streets in downtown Melbourne shut down and it's a free for all. There were four designated areas where live music and fireworks were hosted, and trust me they went all out! It was awesome, and I got to ring in the New Year with my two favorite girls. Plus it was 80*, which was a lovely trade to the usually tundra that is Chicago.
Since then, the three of us have been exploring Melbourne. We visited Fitzroy's Brunswick Street, which is as cool, hip, and artsy as you would imagine. We had drinks at Naked For Satan and I think it's my favorite bar of all time. Not only is the theme pretty wicked but the drink selection was on point AND the rooftop eating/drinking area is amazing with the best view of the city. But Brunswick is filled with awesome bars and gin joints, local restaurants, thrift stores, and hole in the wall bookstores. I was clearly infatuated.
Kayce's parents and cousin made it to Australia and we got to show them around the city before they left us for Tasmania. Sigh.
And then there were two.
Danielle and I got to take a drive down the southeast coast of Melbourne with Jacqueline (the woman we work for) and made it all the way down to St. Andrews beach at the end of the bay and tip of Australia. The scenic drive and massive waves were a delight. I could easily pick up a past-time to simply watch surfers all day and all night. I'm really amazed because honestly it looks frightening up close and the water was absolutely freezing! I couldn't even feel my legs after several minutes but it was 106* so cold water was necessary.
Danielle and I spend most of our days walking around the city, going to St. Kilda beach, and visiting all the city markets. Per usual, the people here are extremely friendly and welcoming.
I'm not sure if I will be back within the year to finish up my visa but it's the last thing on my mind. I have to believe that everything happens for a reason. I was meant to work for Jacqueline, study and learn about health, which has inspired me to evaluate my choices and decisions. This was obviously not part of the plan, but as much as I wished that life back home would simply pause while I live in a dream bubble in Australia that just isn't life. And "the world isn't a wish granting factory." I've had 6 beautiful, adventurous months in Australia and I owe this all to my dear friend and sister Danielle. Thank you for inviting me to explore Australia, encouraging me to go beyond my comfort zone, and standing by me during difficult times. I love you so much and I'll see you when you get home!
P.S. I can't wait to see family and friends in Chicago! I've missed you like crazy.