Monday, April 27, 2015

Dominican Republic Overview

Hello from the comfort of my home here in Minneapolis! Nick and I have returned home from our fabulous vacation to the Dominican Republic, and boy was it ever a whirlwind! When we left two weeks ago, we had planned on spending the entire two weeks in Punta Cana at two different resorts. Of course, our plans ended up changing- while we were sitting in the airport in Minneapolis waiting to board- and we ended up deciding we would be spending a few days in Santo Domingo with one of Nick's friends. Of course, this slight change in plans meant we were busier than ever this trip! Today, I'll give you a quick overview of the highlights from this trip. Without further ado, here we go!

Presidential Suite at Chic Punta Cana
During our stay in the Dominican Republic, we spent time at IFA Villas Bavaro Resort & Spa, Barcelo Dominican Beach, The Holiday Inn Santo Domingo, and Chic by Royalton Punta Cana. By far, our favorite place to stay was at Chic. Upon our arrival and subsequent check-in, Nick and I were upgraded to a Presidential Suite. The Presidential Suite includes a huge bedroom with king-size bed, full bathroom with dual waterfall showers and tub, a separate living area, and two balconies. Beyond our room, the food, service, people, entertainment, and drinks at Chic were excellent, and deserve a post of their own. Stay tuned for full reviews of each of the resorts in coming weeks!

Scuba Diving with Passion Paradise Adventures
The first activity that Nick and I set off to do (and our favorite!) was scuba diving with Passion Paradise Adventures. I had been scuba diving before, but it was a long time ago and I hardly remembered it. Nick had never been scuba diving, only snorkeling, so it was a brand new experience for him to see things from underwater instead of on top of it! Beyond the thrill of experiencing scuba diving, whether for the first time or again, our time with Passion Paradise Adventures was made so special because of the amazing staff. A huge shout-out to them for providing such a great experience- each of the staff's passion really shows through, and it is clear they love what they are doing!

Zorbing at Bavaro Adventure Park
We spent another day at Bavaro Adventure Park. Bavaro Adventure Park has tons of different activities for individuals and families to enjoy, including everything from a flight simulator and climbing garden to Segway tours and zip lining. Nick and I were able to partake in many of these activities, and the highlight for each of us was definitely zorbing- rolling down a hill in a huge ball! 

Carlito, the male of the pack- and definitely a diva!
Runners Adventures hosted us for two days, and we were able to go zip-lining on the longest zip line in the Caribbean and play around with adorable squirrel monkeys for the day! While Nick loved his first opportunity to go zip lining, I had a blast with the monkeys- it was so hard not to cuddle these adorable little guys up. If I could, I definitely would have taken them home with me! Carlito, the male picture above, was just coming out of breeding season and so had bulked up a little bit. He was quite the diva, giving us about 30 different poses and angles to view him at over a span of two minutes- so entertaining to watch him put on his show!

flying high on the way to Santo Domingo!
As I mentioned above, Nick and I went to visit one of his friend's in Santo Domingo. Because his friend is a pilot, he had arranged to pick us up from the airport in Punta Cana- in his plane- and take us to Santo Domingo in style! After this great ride, we got to meet his gorgeous wife and children, spending the day with them. We dined at a traditional Dominican restaurant and an Italian place for dinner, and the food was absolutely incredible! To Cesar, Catherine, and your family- thank you so much for the incredible hospitality and showing us around your home! 
met some amazing friends while on vacation!
One of Nick and I's favorite things to do while vacationing is meeting new people. We were definitely able to meet tons of great people, and had make new friends. A huge thank you goes to this group of people that we met at Chic, who warmly welcomed us into their group and allowed us to join them for dinner, drinks, and fun several nights in a row!

The other highlight of the trip (for me at least!) was getting the opportunity to play with my new camera. While I "got" the camera for my birthday, I wasn't able to actually use it and play with it until two days before our vacation. I can't even express how amazed I am at the quality of the pictures- I am definitely a pleased girl over here!

Enjoying the beach & sun
Of course, the tropical weather was another one of the many bonuses of this trip. While on vacation, we found out that it had snowed back home in Minnesota- so definitely were more than happy to be enjoying the tropical weather!

enjoying our last night!
We had such a terrific trip in the Dominican Republic, and I can't wait to relive each and every moment of it! These past few days since returning home have been a whirlwind- summer training started today for Nick, while I started a new class. Of course, it is impossible to detail each and every highlight of this trip in one short blog post- so stay tuned over the next few weeks for more information, reviews, and general information about Punta Cana and the Dominican Republic!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Guest Post: NYC for Newbies

Good afternoon! As I'm currently lounging beachside in the sunny Dominican Republic, I enlisted the help of a friend to write a little travel-inspired post today. Ashley lives in NYC and works as a production assistant for the NY Rangers, so we have a bit in common with our love for hockey. Without further ado, here is Ashley to tell you all about the best things to do on a first-timers trip to NYC!

Hi everyone! My name is Ashley, and I currently live in New York City and blog at Under the Ash TreeSamantha has never been to New York, so I thought I’d compile a list of the must-do NYC things for first time visitors to share with all of you!

When people come to New York they tend to have a list of things they want to see: Times Square, Central Park, the Empire State Building, etc. You should definitely go to all those places. They all are part of what makes New York so great, but I think there are better ways to to the highlights that are way less generic than what the tours and books recommend. 

Central Park Statues
I recommend starting early in Central Park.  Take the subway or a cab to Columbus Circle for the best most beautiful park entrance and just walk. My favorite thing to tell people to do is to go a central park scavenger hunt to find all of the best statues the park offers. It’s truly the best way to cover it.  Do you have kids or happen to like Disney?  Then the Alice and Wonderland Statue at East 74th Street or the Balto Statue—featured in the Balto movie—found on Central Park East Drive & East 66th Street are great little adventures. Or just walk down The Mall to get a look at iron versions of William Shakespeare, Ludwig van Beethoven, Christopher Columbus, & many more.  End your Central Park tour at Strawberry Fields, the John Lennon Memorial at West 72nd, to see the beautiful and famous, “Imagine” sign.

When you’re ready, hop on the downtown-bound C train at 72nd Street and get off 3 stops later at 50th street, you’ll be about a block away from 1650 Broadway, home of Ellen’s Stardust Dinner and right in the middle of Times Square.  Ellen’s is a classic restaurant known for it’s singing waitstaff and is a great place to just people watch around Times Square. Enjoy the performances and the hamburgers before walking over to the Novotel.  Novotel is a bit of a hidden gem.  Not many New Yorkers even know it exists, let alone know how awesome it can be!  Just walk straight in the door and take the elevator up to the lobby level where you will find an amazing bar which overlooks all of Times Square.  Grab a drink (or a coffee) and enjoy seeing Times Square from above without having to pay a penny for the view.

When you’re ready for your next adventure, jump on the 1 train heading downtown and get off at  South Ferry (the last stop) to take the Staten Island Ferry.  The Staten Island Ferry is a commuter ferry that takes New Yorkers from Staten Island to Manhattan (and vice versa) for FREE.  It’s a great resource for city dwellers, and happens to have the best view of the Statue of Liberty in New York City.  It doesn’t take you right up to Lady Liberty, but if you want to get a great view and save the cash, this is 100% free and the best way to do that.  Ferries come every 30 minutes and while you will have to get off the ferry in Staten Island, there is plenty of time to get off and get right back on to head back. If you’re feeling more adventurous, Staten Island does have a pretty vibrant Indian food culture and a zoo.  However, if you’re short on time, just hop right back on that boat.

When you arrive back in Manhattan, you’ll be right nearby Battery Park, a gorgeous 25-acre park at the very southern tip of Manhattan.  Take a look around, do some exploring and when you’re ready for dinner, hop on a 4 or 5 uptown-train from Bowling Green and get off 4 stops later at Union Square.  Union Square is the heart of lower Manhattan bordering Chelsea, Greenwich Village, East Village and the Flatiron District.  It has a ton of restaurants right nearby but the one I recommend most is Max Brenner, also known as “Chocolate by the Bald Man.”  Max Brenner is a chocolate-themed restaurant. They do have good food, but their specialties are deserts and drinks.  Share a main course and splurge on the fondu.  If it’s winter, get some thick, delicious hot chocolate, and if it’s summer go for the milkshakes. It’s not the cheapest of restaurants, but for New York it’s fairy reasonable and highly memorable.

After Dinner, hopefully as the sun is beginning to set, walk up 5th Avenue to 27th street, about 10 blocks from Union Square.  If your tired you can take the the N or R uptown train from Union Square two stops to 28th st and broadway, but walking won’t take much longer.  At 230 Fifth Avenue, you’ll find one of my favorite spots in New York, the bar called 230 Fifth! 230 Fifth is my go to bar for anyone dying for a stunning view of the Empire State building and the rest of the Manhattan skyline.  The best part is that it’s also free!  Sure, a drink is probably required, but unlike any of the other viewing locations in the city, you don’t have to pay a ton to experience a great view.  The best part is it’s open all year round. 230 Fifth is famous for it’s red, fuzzy robes to keep you warm all winter long!

Other things you can mix and match into your first New York City trip are:

Broadway Shows: New York City is famous for its theater and if you're a theater lover like myself going to a show is top of the list. My favorite way to get cheap tickets is to go right at the opening of the box office, most theaters in New York have limited number of $25-$40 day-of tickets, some theaters sell them only to students, but most have a “general rush” policy. Another great way is to use the app TodayTix. It’s an iPhone App, really easy to use and has some of the best deals out there. You may have heard of TKTS, the discount theater provider in the middle of Times Square, but honestly I don’t recommend it. The line is long, and I have always found cheaper tickets than the ones they have.

The Highline: If the weather is nice I highly recommend a visit to New York’s newest–and most beautiful in my opinion–park “The Highline.” The Highline was build on a former railway and stretches down the west side of Manhattan for about 1.5 miles. It’s a great walk, filled with unique photo opportunities and a killer view, but go early on nice days it does get pretty crowded.

The Strand: For any book lovers out there, the Strand– which is right across the street from the above Max Brenners– is the best bookstore in New York. It has everything, and it’s cheap! Even if you don’t want to take anything home, a walk through the bookstore is worth the trip, especially if you’re around Union Square.

Greenwich Village/Lower East Side: Once you get below 14th in New York, the city gets a bit complicated.  Numbers mostly disappear and streets don’t follow the predictable grid system. That’s okay though, the best thing about Greenwich Village and the LES is that it’s so easy to get lost, and that is fantastic. Lots of cute indie, vintage and high end shops, mixed in with cheap off-off-off broadway shows and diverse cultural food opportunities. This makes this area the best when you have a few hours to kill and no real plans!

Honorable Mentions: The Brooklyn Bridge, Harlem, Chinatown/Little Italy & my favorite borough– Brooklyn, but that could be a post all it’s own.

You could spend months in New York and still not see everything there is, but there is nothing quite like your first time in the city. Enjoy it! If you have any questions feel free to tweet me or check out my blog for more NYC info! Thanks Samantha for letting me post today! What are your favorite things to do in NYC or recommendations to visitors?

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Guest Post: 5 Best Slovenian Destinations!

Good morning, world! As I'm currently lounging beachside in the sunny Dominican Republic, I enlisted the help of a friend to write a little travel-inspired post today. Isabel moved to the beautiful country of Slovenia for love, and I've been following along with her blog for quite some time. I'm so excited to have her guest post on the blog today, and have asked here to tell you about the 5 best Slovenian destinations you should visit! After looking over this, I'm (almost!) ready to hop on a plane straight from this vacation and take a trip through Slovenia. Without further ado, here is Isabel!

Hello everyone! This is Isabel from The Sunny Side of This, a blog where I write about my expat journey at the Sunny Side of the Alps a.k.a Slovenia. Not only did I fell in love with this place, I also felt in love with a Slovenian, got married, and well, started my life here last year! (Okay so, I met the Slovenian first but Slovenia and I were love at first sight too). And don’t worry, I also didn’t have a clue of where Slovenia was before. It’s situated right in the heart of Europe, bordering between Italy and Austria. Hence, the perfect combination of mountains & sea. Here are the 5 best Slovenian destinations you don’t want to miss: 

1. Bled
Bled, Slovenia
This place was called Heaven on Earth by the Romans, and back then, only the privileged got the chance to immerse themselves in the beauty of Lake Bled. If you were ever a fan of fairytales growing up, this is your place to go. There’s a beautiful church in the middle of the lake, and a beautiful castle overlooking the whole place. It’s an hour away from the capital and there are buses leaving from there every hour. It’s definitely worth the trip! 

2. Ljubljana
Ljubljana, Slovenia

I seriously had a hard time finding just one picture that will do Ljubljana justice. It’s the perfect European Capital with a river crossing the city center, old chic town squares, and picturesque restaurants and coffee shops where you can dine al fresco. There’s also a castle in the middle of the city where you can get the best view of Ljubljana. You can climb it by a funicular but if you are a bit more outdoorsy, you can hike to the top too. There’s also a cool bar scene around the city center at night and a large diversity of international cuisine. Ah and by the way, the city’s symbol is a green dragon and you can get to see it on the famous Dragon Bridge (also known as the Mother-in-Law Bridge, Slovenians like to be funny).  

3. Predjama Castle & Postonjska Caves

So this is 2 in 1 because if you probably go to the famous Predjama Castle you will probably also go to the famous Postonjska Caves. They are 15 min away from each other and it makes for the perfect day trip. The caves have 3 natural made floors (the first 2 are open for the public), dozens of rooms, and canals with such incredible stories to tell. You can read more about them here! And that castle that you see there is a truly architectural wonder, it’s built inside of a cave! So if you like those kind of historically & scientific enriched trips, these places you should put on your list!

4. Piran

Not everything in Slovenia is mountains and forests. They also have a really gorgeous coastline right next to the Adriatic Sea. There are various destinations you could go to soak up the sun with sand on your feet but Piran is in this list because for its impressive architecture. It was heavily influenced by the Ottoman, the old Venetian Republic and the Austria-Hungarian Empire. So every building that you will see will be quite unique from the rest of Slovenia. I love it for its eclectic feel and beautiful sights. Lots of walking around but it’s definitely worth it. This is the place you want to go if you want to mix a little bit of exploring to your sea side vacation.

5. Soča Valley

This place is for the adventurers. If you like the extreme/outdoors kind of thing then look no further. You can do rafting, zip lining, hiking, paragliding, mountain biking, climbing and bouldering, bungee jumping, fishing, horseback riding, basically anything sporty and extreme that you can think of, you can do it here. The Soča Valley is not like any other rivers in Slovenia, this makes the list for its emerald green waters that charms any one that has ever seen them. 

It's safe to say that Slovenia has something for every kind of person, and what makes it even better is that you can use its size to your advantage! Don’t let Slovenia’s size fool you into thinking that just because it’s small it could be boring, the complete opposite! It’s actually kind of awesome that most of these destinations are only max. 2 hours away from one another. I think that you can now understand why I fell in love with this place. But the most important question now is, are you in love with it too?

Which place(s) are you dying to see now?

From the Sunny Side of This,


Thursday, April 16, 2015

Las Vegas Guide: Splurge Versus Save

splurge versus save in las vegas

Over the past few years, I have been lucky enough every summer to take a quick weekend getaway to Las Vegas. In my opinion, Las Vegas is a great destination to visit any time of the year, but especially in the summer. Today, I’ll take you on a quick little tour of some of the best things to do while visiting Vegas. Of course, Vegas can get a little pricey- there are so many terrific things to do! Fortunately, today I’m going to provide you with a few things you can do to splurge in Las Vegas, and a few alternatives to save a few bucks!

Splurge: Helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon
save in las vegas
enjoying our helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon!
On my first ever trip to Vegas, my husband and I went on a helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon. The entire tour lasted 3-4 hours, with a solid 1.5-2 hours spent cruising above the Grand Canyon and the Hoover Dam. Helicopter tours can get a little pricey, but if there is one thing you splurge on in Vegas this is the one I would definitely recommend! Read all about my helicopter tour here. In addition to the great views of the Grand Canyon, you will also get to see the city of Las Vegas from above, which is a pretty cool thing all on it’s own. This tour was definitely an unforgettable memory for me, and something that I have continued to recommend to every friend or family member I know that is visiting Vegas! While it is a splurge, it is so worth it!

Save: Visit Mix at Mandalay Bay
gorgeous views of the strip without the hefty price tag!
If you want to see Las Vegas from above without the hefty price tag, head towards Mandalay Bay at the end of the strip and go to Mix. Mix is located on the 64th floor at Mandalay Bay, and offers stunning views of the strip and reasonably priced cocktails and bottles of wine. 

Splurge: Night out at the club
Enjoying the rooftop club at Caesar's Palace, Pure
Las Vegas is known for it’s night life. Chances are, you’ve heard the saying “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”...and this is largely because of the club and party scene. Head to any one of the many clubs for a great night on the town you won’t forget (or, after several cocktails, you might). Clubs in Vegas tend to be 40,000 to 80,000 square feet entities sprawled out over several levels and dance floors. Between the DJs blasting music, dance floors, go-go dancers, and various bars, a night out at the club is going to be an event you don’t want to miss in Vegas. Make table reservations or wait in line to get in, but be prepared to shell out cash for your drinks, reservations, entrance fees, and other various things. When in Vegas, you can even choose to do clubs on the cheap- skip the drinks and table reservations- or go all out and splurge, reserving tables and doing bottle service.

Save: Cocktails on the casino floor
save in vegas

If clubbing isn’t your scene, head to the casino floor. While this may seem contradictory, on the casino floors (even at the slot machines!) you will receive complimentary cocktails and beers. To save a penny, head to the penny slots with some friends, tip your waitress, and the cocktails will be flowing. From this vantage point, you will be able to enjoy some light gambling, complimentary drinks, and take in the view of all the nightlife in Las Vegas while not going all-out on spending. 

Splurge: Cirque du Soleil Show

In addition to being famous for it’s nightlight, Las Vegas is also well-known around the world for the standing Cirque du Soleil shows and other shows ranging from concerts to burlesque. Grab a couple tickets to any of these shows, and be prepared for an evening of awesome stunts and tricks! My personal favorite show has always been The Beatles LOVE, but there are so many other shows to view as well. A bit of advice for Cirque shows: get the cheap seats in the back- you will have a better view of all of the action. Sitting up close only means you are constantly craning your neck to take in everything! Seats in the back are a great way to save a bit of money while still splurging for a great night out.

Save: Casino floor dancers & Bellagio Fountains
Bellagio Fountains
If a show isn’t quite in your budget, first head to Bellagio to take in the complimentary fountain show. During the days, the fountains erupt every 30 minutes while at night the show runs every 15 minutes. Once you’ve seen enough of the fountains, head inside one of the casinos to watch the talented dancers and performers on the casino floors. Even beyond that, the people watching while on the casino floors is second to none. You will see a little bit of everything while in Vegas!

Splurge: Shopping on the Strip
The Forum Shops at Caesars
Las Vegas will offer tons of shopping opportunities, especially for luxury brands. The Forum Shops at Caesars will have all of the luxury brands you are looking for, and the top-notch customer service and experience paired with it.

Save: Shopping at Fashion Outlets Las Vegas

Wanting to shop, but still leave with some money in your wallet? Check out the Fashion Outlets Las Vegas- there are still tons of luxury brands offering their goods here, and at a fraction of the cost. With up to 75% off, it might just be worth your while to leave the strip and check out these shops!

Splurge: Personal limo from the airport

My very first trip to Las Vegas, Nick surprised me by having a personal driver and limo waiting to pick us up at the airport and drive us to the Mirage. Besides having the experience of being chauffeured around, it was an amazing added bonus to skip the 2+ hour taxi line and get right to our hotel! If you are pressed for time, or hate standing in line in the heat, definitely splurge and have a limo waiting for you!

Save: Taxi from the airport

This will save you some (not a ton!) of money. It may take some time to get a taxi, but hey, you are in Vegas and almost ready to have a good time!

Overall Las Vegas advice: Whether it is your first trip to Las Vegas, your 10th, or your 1000th, sign up for M Life. M Life is a free program to sign up for where you earn credits for gambling, hotel accommodations, dining, entertainment, and spa. Truthfully, most of the resorts are a part of M Life- members include Aria, Bellagio, MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay, and The Mirage, among others. Once you are signed up for M Life, your credits can earn you anything from discounted rooms and show tickets to complimentary rooms and event tickets, VIP passes and more. 

For those of you who have been to Las Vegas before, what are your favorite ways to treat yourself a little bit and splurge, or your favorite ways to save some cash while still having a great time?

Monday, April 13, 2015


This might be the most brief currently post ever! Nick and I arrived to Punta Cana yesterday, and it has been amazing so far! Our flight started out super smoothly and perfect- there were only about 15 of us on a 150-person airplane, so we almost had a private charter flight. Perfect! We have just been relaxing so far, and enjoying our relaxing experience. Tomorrow the fun starts with our catamaran tour and snorkeling cruise through Passion Paradise Adventures. We were even able to get in touch with a friend of Nick's who lives in Santo Domingo, and we will be getting together with him this weekend and having a day in Santo Domingo! We hadn't been expecting to make it to Santo Domingo, so it is quite exciting that we will be able to head there and have a more personalized tour guide.

Feeling: relaxed- this trip has been perfect so far!

Drinking: Presidente beer. When in Rome, right?!

Looking: At all of the great pictures we have been able to take so far with my new camera!

Loving: That of the 200+ poolside chairs at our resort, this gorgeous kitty chose to sit underneath my chair and hang out with me for the day. She must have sensed something! Last year in Thailand, I dragged Nick to the grocery store and purchased cat food in order to give the kitties some treats. I have a feeling that this same thing will be happening again! Yes, I'm that crazy cat lady- and clearly, this beautiful kitty sensed it!

But, with that quick update, we are off to our dinner reservations for the evening!

Friday, April 10, 2015

A Season in Pictures // Year 2

Nick and I are home safe and sound in Minneapolis! We had an interesting travel experience (more on that to come!), but have been enjoying our brief time at home here. Now that the season is well over and we have settled in here, it is time to take a look back at this previous year! One of my most popular and personal favorite posts from last year is my end of year post, where I looked at our 2013-2014 season in pictures. Now that this season is wrapped up and completed, let's take a look back at the 2014-2015 season!

Nick and I happy at home in Västerås
We landed in Stockholm on August 2, and from there headed straight to the hockey rink (of course!) to unpack Nick's gear, pick up our car, and be shown to our apartment. One of the things that really surprised me this year was the feeling of relief I had the second our plane touched down in Sweden- I felt like I was home again. Despite never having been to Västerås, and not knowing where exactly we would be living, returning to Sweden felt like home, and this feeling has stayed with me for the season. Beyond feeling at home, the month of August was spent getting settled in our new place and getting back into the swing of the hockey season. We took a few trips to Stockholm, and also spent the day at Arboga's Medeltidsfestival

Sam Angell
We spent our anniversary in Stockholm
September was another pretty relaxed month for us. I was fully in the swing of my MBA classes and blogging, and Nick was of course busy with the hockey season starting. We did manage to escape to Stockholm for the weekend to celebrate our anniversary. Other than that, our days were filled at the hockey rink or spending time with our new friends! 

Norway Fjords
with my Aunt, Mom, & Brother in Norway
October was a very busy month for me! My family was visiting for the first two weeks, and we spent time in Germany, Sweden, and Norway. While in Germany we stayed in Munich for Oktoberfest, and took a day trip to Füssen. After Germany, we came back to Sweden for a couple of days to relax with Nick and catch a few hockey games before heading to Norway. In Norway, we hiked in Bergen and got to see the Norwegian fjords- stunning! Afterwards, it was back to Sweden for another couple days to catch more hockey games and visit Stockholm. It was so great to show my family around, and I loved exploring new places with them. Once they left, Nick and I took the rest of the month easy as we had been so busy the first few weeks with visitors. 

church steeple in Västerås
The month of November flew by for me. I began the month by going down to Karlskrona to visit friends and watch the VIK-KHK game, and then my classes were in full swing again. At the end of the month, Nick and I hosted our American Thanksgiving celebration (about 25 people attended and participated!) After having a busy October, it was nice to relax for awhile and really settle into daily life in Västerås. 

Berlin Christmas
Christmas Markets in Berlin, Germany 
The first week of December I got to spend at home in Minnesota and enjoy some early Christmas celebrations with family and friends. After this, it was back to Sweden for a couple more hockey games and then a Christmas trip to Berlin with Nick! We had such a great time at the Christmas markets and wandering the city. It was nice to visit a city that Nick had previously played in and had first-hand knowledge of. Our Christmas Eve was spent with some of the other families on the team, and then we had a leisurely Christmas Day. New Years Eve we just relaxed at home and got prepared for an exciting 2015!

my hockey team
January was another relaxing month. Winter had hit Sweden, and the guys were on the road quite a bit. I spent my time either at the rink watching Nick, practicing, or playing in games with my team. Really, there isn't too much to say on this cold month!

Quick weekend getaway to Riga, Latvia
February was another busy month! I started the month out with a wonderful visit with a relative who was visiting in Stockholm. After this, Nick and I took a quick weekend trip to spend time in Riga, Latvia. The rest of the month was spent wrapping up the regular season for both Nick and I. At the end of the month, I had the chance to be an extra on the TV show Welcome to Sweden, which was a blast! 

most of the VIK hockey wives
March was pretty much spent at the hockey rink, or watching playoff hockey games somewhere with the other wives. While playoffs didn't end quite as well as we hoped, the guys still had a great year overall. Watching the games and hanging out with the other wives and girlfriends is always a good time!

at the end-of-year dinner
watching playoff hockey
Although the season was technically over in April, I still have two of my favorite pictures from the year to share. These gals are a couple of the other import wives, and I greatly enjoyed spending time with them this year. One of the things about this hockey lifestyle is how your friends become your family, and these ladies are definitely that!

And that is a great month-by-month look back at this previous season! So many great friends were made and memories created, it is difficult to believe how quickly the year flew by. I'm already looking forward to what the future will contain!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

When Friends Become Family

Västerås Hockey Family at the themed Christmas Party
One of the things I've noticed over the past two years, both as a hockey wife and as an expat, is that your friends really do become your family. This is a sensation that I've talked about and shared with the other wives at various points throughout the season, and something that I've also discussed with other expats. It's definitely difficult to explain, but it's something that is so true.

In the hockey world, I think this rings true for everybody because you experience so many highs and lows together. This year, the team went from being in dead last place (ouch) to finishing the regular season in first place. Off the ice, there were various team get togethers and dinners, both formal and informal. And while friends becoming family can ring true for everybody, over here in Europe I feel like it is especially true for the "import players".

See, more time than not is spent over here (Sweden), thousands of miles from family. This season, Nick and I will have missed every major holiday back home- from both of our birthdays, to Thanksgiving, to Christmas & New Years, and now most recently Easter. And because these holidays can't be spent with our families back home, they are spent with the friends here who become family.

And it's not just about holidays either. Its being able to discuss all of the highs and lows that this lifestyle comes with- and there are a lot of them- from people who truly, 100% understand it. Sure, there are some things that people back home can recognize and sympathize with. But at the same time, there are other things- such as not being able to talk to your husband between 1:30-3:30 PM game days- that seem crazy to people back home. (1:30-3:30 is nap time, and you do not interrupt that!)

There are some people that you connect with straight away, while other relationships take a little bit longer to develop. But as the year goes on, I've grown so incredibly close to many of these people, and this past week has been very sad to say good-bye to them. Because most of us are in the boat where we don't know where we will be next year. After sharing everything over the course of the year, it is difficult to leave and not have any idea of when you will see each other again, or if you will be playing for the same team again. But in any case, I know that these people will always be on "my team", because after all, these friends have become family. And for that, I thank each of you!

26 home games a year spent with the ladies!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Punta Cana Preview

First off, Happy Easter! I hope everyone is having a wonderful day spent with family, friends, and loved ones. Second, paradise is so close I can almost feel it! One short week from right now, Nick and I will be headed off to the beautiful Dominican Republic. Our original plan for this trip was to spend 11 days in Punta Cana before heading to Santo Domingo for 4 days. After a big turn of events while we are waiting to head home here in Sweden, we have decided to extend our stay in Punta Cana by 4 days! Dreaming of this vacation is really what has been getting me through the past couple of cold months, and as such I've had plenty of time to book activities and plan this vacation out! Here is just a quick look at everything Nick and I will be able to experience while on vacation:

Passion Paradise Catamaran & Snorkeling
One of the first things Nick and I have booked is a trip with Passion Paradise Adventures. We will be taking a catamaran out to Isla Catalina and have a full day of snorkeling, relaxation, and entertainment. From all of the pictures I've seen, I can't imagine being disappointed with this trip! Because really, who wouldn't want to snorkel like this…

Passion Paradise Adventures Snorkeling
beach lounging
Personally, I will be soaking up as much time lounging on the beach and at the pool as possible. We will be staying at two separate resorts for our trip. The first resort is an all-inclusive located on Bavaro Beach, and the second resort is a brand new adults only all-inclusive that just opened up! I had hoped to find a 5K run to complete while in the Dominican Republic, but I don't think it is going to work out this year. Instead, we will just settle for morning runs on the gorgeous beaches!

Zorbing at Bavaro Adventure Park
Nick and I are also planning on spending a day at Bavaro Adventure Park. Bavaro Adventure Park has a ton of unique activities, including ziplining, zorbing (as seen above, how cool!), paintball, climbing, and a unique sky diver flight simulator. I haven't yet decided what activities we will be partaking in, but I know a day at this park will be one to remember!

Zip Line with Runners Adventures
One of the last things we will do while in Punta Cana is spend some time with Runners Adventures. Runners Adventures have a ton of different activities to do, and Nick and I are having a tough time deciding which we would most like to do! Between zip lining, spending time with monkeys at Monkey Land, and an authentic tour with horseback riding, there are tons of options.

Chic Punta Cana cocktails & daybeds
Chic Punta Cana
As a treat to ourselves, Nick and I booked a stay at Chic by Royalton Punta Cana. Chic is an adults-only all-inclusive resort that just opened up in December 2014. We can't wait to experience all of the amenities that Chic Punta Cana will offer. Several pools (including a mermaid pool!), restaurants, hand crafted cocktails, and incredible personalized service in the form of a butler…sounds like a dream vacation, and I can't wait to arrive!

Sun Country Airlines
For this trip, Nick and I will be flying with Sun Country Airlines, a charter airline based out of Minneapolis. We were able to find great flight deals with them to tons of sunny destinations (hence the name!) but ultimately decided that the Dominican Republic was going to be it for us this year! If you've been to Punta Cana, what are your recommendations for things to do?

Saturday, April 4, 2015

9 Tips To Enjoy & Survive Songkran

Songkran 2014
Last year on my honeymoon, I had the pleasure of attending Songkran. Songkran is part of Thailand's New Year Celebrations, and can last anywhere between one day and one week. Traditionally, Songkran is about worshipping Buddha and wishing good karma for the new year. This good karma is achieved by washing Buddha images, visiting temples, cleaning the house, and cleansing your spirit with water. In parts of Thailand, this means the world's largest water fight! If you plan on attending Songkran (and you should!) here are some tips to making the most of this awesome event!

1. Research when Songkran occurs where you will be. The Thai New Year is traditionally celebrated April 13-15. However, in different parts of Thailand, Songkran celebrations can last anywhere between one day and one week, with little mercy for anybody out on the streets. Research when Songkran will be occurring, and make sure that on the dates you will be around Songkran celebrations that you are ready to participate!

2. Book & arrive early. Now that you know when Songkran will be celebrated, make sure you book your accommodations and arrive early. After all, if Songkran will be celebrated in your destination on April 13, you don't want to arrive that day and have yourself and all your luggage get drenched. Try to arrive a day or two early, as this will give you time to get settled in. The Thai New Year is a very busy time for tourists in Thailand, so make sure you book your accommodations early to ensure that you have a great place to stay. In Koh Samui, Nick and I found that Songkran was really only celebrated on April 13- but, some people did start the celebrations a little bit early on the 12th and carried through to the 14th.

Nick and I were prepared the night before with our squirt guns
3. Protect yourself. A day or two before the celebrations begin, purchase yourself a squirt gun or bucket. You won't want to hit the streets unarmed, so it is best to do this in advance! If you have fair skin, put on a layer or two of waterproof sunscreen.

4. Protect your valuables, or be safe and leave them at home. If you absolutely must bring valuables- i.e., cell phone and camera with you- take steps to waterproof them. And then add more protection. I cannot stress enough the fact that you will be soaked the entire time you are out and about, and this includes anything you bring with you. If you want to be completely safe, leave any and all valuables at home- this guarantees they will not get wet and ruined.

5. Make friends. Your going to constantly be refilling your squirt gun/bucket, so make friends with those that have hoses. My personal tip is to make friends with people that have an ice supply as well- the cold water provides a much better shock factor when you are drenching people!

6. Dress the part. In case you haven't figured it out yet, you will get wet. And stay wet, likely all day. I would advise you to wear a swimsuit underneath a light, breathable sundress or shirt and shorts. Materials that can dry quickly will also be quite nice, especially when you take breaks to get a bite to eat or something to drink. Avoid ponchos and umbrellas, as these will make you even more of a target.

7. Relax. This is a fun event, both for the locals and the tourists. In addition to the water splashing, be prepared for white powder to be smeared on your face/arms. Respectful people will ask first, others may just go ahead and do this. The white powder is a part of the celebration and paying respects to elders. Some colored powder (while not traditional) may be used as well- so don't wear clothes that you don't want to get ruined!

8. Don't drive. This one is specifically to tourists. I would advise against driving a car or renting a motorbike during songkran- cars and motorbikes tend to get soaked, and the drivers often have buckets of water thrown at them while they are in motion. As such, driving in Thailand can be quite dangerous during this celebrations. Stick to walking, taxis, or tuk-tuk rides to be safe.

9. Don't want to get wet? Don't go. This one may seem a little bit harsh, and I apologize for that. But if you don't want to get wet, do not go to Thailand during Songkran. Between the locals celebrating and the tourists celebrating, there is a 100% chance that you will get wet during Songkran. You can try to avoid this by wearing ponchos, but this will just make you more of a target. You can try to avoid this by avoiding the main roads, but people will be headed to the main roads for celebrations. If you don't want to get wet, the only way to guarantee you won't is by not visiting Thailand during this celebration.

For those of you who've been to Songkran, what helped you to enjoy the day? If you haven't been to Songkran, when are you planning on attending this awesome party?!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment on my blog! I truly appreciate and will take the time to respond to each of your comments. Please, do not post links unassociated with my content as they will be deleted.