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Queenstown. Helicopters. Bucket lists.

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As a curly haired, chubby cheeked 10-year-old I assumed my parents knew and had experienced everything in the whole world. In my mind, they were the coolest for it. It wasn’t until my late teens that I realized my mom and dad might still have their own Bucket Lists, separate from each other.

One of my dad’s bucket list items, from a very young age, was visiting Australia. In 2012 my parents came to Melbourne to visit me for the first time so I like to think I helped my dad cross that one off the list. He’s crossed it out so many times now his poor notebook has probably ripped. Flying in a helicopter was also on the list for him.

While planning our Queenstown trip, people kept telling my mom that we had to do the helicopter flight from Queenstown to Milford Sound. To make a very long (funny-now, frustrating-then) story short: my mom succumbed to peer pressure and signed us up. Hours later she tried to cancel. She fought but tickets were non-refundable. She spent the entire night thinking up terrible excuses. When we got to the launch pad the next day she tried to stay behind, but we forced her into the helicopter.

We flew from Queenstown, through snow-capped mountains, over disturbingly blue lakes and landed on a glacier. We then flew through the fjords of Milford Sound, past jaw dropping waterfalls (and lots of ice falls) and landed on the pristine coastline of the Tasman Sea.

The views were incredible but the best part was watching my dad taking it all in. He does it quietly, with a slight smile that triples in size once he snaps back to reality. What my mom is thinking is never a secret because she shares it immediately:
“This is the best thing ever!”
“How much would a helicopter cost?”
“Can you tell the pilot to stay away from the mountains.”
“I can’t believe I was going to stay back”.

At breakfast the next morning my mom, confident and proud, pronounced the helicopter ride to be “one of her favorite experience of all her life”. My dad smiled in complete agreement.

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Kenya

2015 Roundup

The madness of the silly season is finally winding down and the reality that 2015 has come to end has hit me hard. It has slapped me across the face and not even apologized. I know you’re going to say “Well… time flies when you’re having fun”. But I think time flies all the time. And I believe it currently flies a Concorde.

Can someone please figure out a way to slow time down?

Here’s some highlights from my 2015:

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Toasttothecoast

Photo Journal: Toast to the Coast!

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I’ve been in Melbourne four years now and have never heard of Toast to the Coast. CATASTROPHE! Luckily, my new job requires me to know about these things and attend them.

So on Sunday I spent the day frolicking about the Bellarine wine region with a wine glass in hand.

With the purchase of a $45 ticket comes a plastic wine glass: Your entry to Geelong’s three incredible wine sub regions. You can visit all three regions or just one, it’s up to you. From there, you can choose which wineries to visit.

They all provide tastings, which is the most important thing, but not all have live music, food and a view. There’s definitely a romantic winery, a party one, a one fit for kids and so on! Do research and time wisely!

If you have a sober Sally in the group then great, use her. If not, you can buy a shuttle bus ticket for the day. The shuttle bus is incredible at getting from one winery to the next safely.

Once you connect with a wine you love, you can buy a bottle and enjoy it anywhere on the premises or keep it in your backpack to take home. Yes, you’ll need backpack for snacks, picnic blankets, sunnies, photo booth pictures, etc.

It’s seriously such a fun day. I’ve started to plan next year already so that everyone I know can come.

I do have to mention Baie Wines because it is truly stunning and a favorite from the day; It sits on rolling fields that overlook Port Phillip Bay. Plus, I’ll be drinking their rosé all Summer.

Baie Wines is not usually open to the public, but you can book in for private group tastings and weddings. Maybe Jack and I will throw a wedding there for our one year anniversary. Waiting until next year’s Toast to the Coast to visit is far too long!

Click through for some more photos of the day.

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Mannya Village Uganda

Photo Journal: Visiting Mannya with the Cotton On Foundation

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The pictures in this photo journal are very special to me. They are from this past February when Jack and I visited Uganda. I keep them on my phone and look at them whenever I need a pick-me-up and a smile.

The schedule for our trip to Africa was planned around a visit to a remote area of Uganda called Mannya Village. Jack’s work partnered with the Cotton On Foundation to raise money by selling Hamish and Andy “gold” water bottles last year. All proceeds went towards a second outreach project, St. Jude Primary School, in Nabunga. We wanted go visit Mannya to learn more about the work that the Cotton On Foundation team is already doing in the community and their plans for the future.

The Cotton On Foundation started these projects in Uganda back in 2007. They don’t just provide aid to these people though, they empower the youth and mobilise communities, and are building futures through four major pillars: health, education, sustainability and infrastructure. The goal is to use all of Cotton On Foundation’s current contributions and resources in a way that will make the community able to continue, independent of Cotton On, on this path. Cotton On’s work is as much about strengthening the future as it about bettering the present.

I prepared myself for a heart wrenching and draining few days, but was surprised when I found myself completely uplifted and inspired the entire time. There is so much of contagious joy and optimism beaming out from the people of Mannya. They not only need the help, they want it. Everyone I met and spoke is positive and excited to take control and change their destiny.

During our time there, I realized that the picture of Africa painted for me growing up in the US is wrong, at least in this part of Southern Uganda. I’ve thought of it as a place that only contains sadness, misfortune and despair but the community of Mannya Village is far from all those things. The people are happy, friendly and welcoming. They have immense pride in what they do with the little they have. You should meet these people. I wish you could see the beautiful women dressed up in their Sunday best and the entire families’ dedication to get to 6am Sunday Mass service. I wish you could see the sparkle in the coffee farmer’s eyes as he explained how he takes advantage of Cotton On’s micro financing program. You should witness the way children carry out their responsibilities and I wish you could feel the deep, wide smiles of the 300 kindergarteners who now have a place to gain an education and someday change their world.

Give these people an opportunity and they will run with it; that’s exactly what Cotton on Foundation is doing now.

Some customers of Cotton On don’t even know the impact that they’re making. All you need to do to contribute is purchase Cotton on Foundation products online or at any Cotton On Store and 100% of the proceeds go to their various out-reach programs. Mannya Village is only one of the many projects that Cotton On Foundation is working on. There is so much to be done.

To learn more about the Mannya project, click here! To learn more about the Cotton On Foundation, click here. And to see more pictures from today’s Photo Journal, click through.

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