Stingrays, Penguins and Otters!

We manage to do a lot in and out of Tennessee, but we have somehow never managed to hangout in the gorgeous town of Chattanooga. Last weekend, we decided to finally make the short two hour trip there and visit some touristy spots. There’s a lot to do in Chattanooga, but there number one tourist attraction seems to be the Tennessee Aquarium. Obviously, we hit ti up first.

The Aquarium is HUGE. It actually consists of two giant buildings: the Oceans Journey and the River Journey. We started in the Ocean and went to the stingray exhibit first. Why??? Because, hello, you get to pet them! I’m just like a child when it comes to animals and I can spend hours and hours in any sort of petting zoo. I was loving the stingrays, but poor Luna couldn’t reach them. We had to wait forever for one to swim up high enough for her to reach and as she innocently splashed in the water I pulled her hand towards the closest stingray and made her pet it. She did not enjoy it. Not at all.

stingrays

The butterfly exhibit was kind of like a petting zoo too. You couldn’t technically pet the butterflies, but they flew where they pleased, and often landed on one of us excited viewers. Luna, however, didn’t seem to notice any of them. She was more interested in  stomping in the flower beds.

butterflies

Penguins are in my top 3 list of animals. They are the coolest! (Hah! Get it? Coolest?) The penguins as the aquarium are all named and labeled with little colored bracelets. They swim, jump and waddle all around and are so stinkin’ cute. Even Luna’s attention was kept for a few minutes.

penguins touch

The most beaitful exhibit in the Ocean Journey is the Secret Reef and Undersea Cavern. These large reef areas are full of giant sharks, colorful fish, sunbeams, turltels and more.

shark

I was excited to show Luna all of the cool undersea creatures, but to be honest, she was happiest just running around and climbing on any steps she could find. I think most of the aquariums seem like a giant TV to her. She didn’t quite grasp that there were real live animals swimming by her.

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jelly

As we were walking through the Undersea Cavern, Husband stared through a small round window for a while and then called me over to point out what appeared to be a dead turtle. There it was…upside down, pale, not moving, missing a leg. It looked so sad and lifeless. After waiting a while, Bella and I decided to tell someone before young children saw it and started crying.

We walked into the gift shop and discreetly told the cashier that there seemed to be a dead turtle at the bottom of the aquarium. She almost laughed and very nonchalantly said, “Oh no, that’s just Oscar.” I explained to her that the turtle seemed very dead, but another employee then pointed to a large display with a sign that described Oscar. He is an injured turtle from the Gulf of Mexico who must sleep that way in order to breathe and keep comfortable. He is not dead. The sign was surrounded by dozens of 3-legged stuffed turtles. Feeling a little stupid and humiliated we walked back to tell Husband the good news, just in time for Oscar to wake-up and swim away.

turtle

The River Journey building has otters!!! Otters are the best, but the aquarium only has three. We need more otters!

otter

The riverside has lots more fishes, seahorses, gators, lizards, frogs, birds and more.

luna

Right outside of the aquarium are little water passages for water play. I stripped Luna down and put on her swimsuit, but most of the kids just played in their clothes. It was a little chilly, but how nice would this be on a hot summer day?

splash water

We had a fun day with the fish, the water, an amazing Latin restaurant and some ice cream, but we will need to make another trip because Chattanooga has so much to offer.

chattanooga

Cheers!

Day Trip to D.C.

While my friend Sara was staying with us we decided to take an overnight trip to Washington DC, because why wouldn’t we have a 24 hour road trip during her four-day NYC vacation? Sara and I had many many road trips during our year together in Albania, which are some of my fondest and most ridiculous memories. (Like the time we found 20 puppies at the Montenegro/Albania border and stopped for an hour to play with them….Or the time we went caving and discovered the most beautiful blue stream.) I have been anxiously awaiting another adventure!

Puppies!
Puppies!
The Montenegro/Albania border
The Montenegro/Albania border
The start of our hike...
The start of our hike…
The end of our hike
The end of our hike

Plus, the main reason for the visit, the only reason really, was to meet up with another friend who we met in Albania! Our friend Meghan was in the Peace Corps in Albania and is now living in DC. We took a 5 hour bus on Friday morning and arrived to our Nation’s Capital with just enough daylight to checkout DC’s most popular attractions. Also, one of Husband’s friends from high school (they haven’t seen each other in 11 years!) lives in DC. Husband’s long-lost friend was nice enough to pick us up at the train station and act as our tour guide.

The Capital Building
The Capital Building
The Washington Monument
The Washington Monument
Mr. Lincoln
Mr. Lincoln

I tried telling the friendly men with guns that I had a coffee date with Michelle, but no one took me seriously…Sorry Mrs. Obama guess we will have to have coffee in New York!

Husband and I in front of the The White House.
Husband and I in front of the The White House.

For dinner, we met up with our friend Meghan and had Albanian food and alcohol at a new Balkan style restaurant! It was not only freakin’ amazing food, but so nostalgic. AND, I ATE SALMON. I have been a vegetarian for almost 5 whole years, but lately I have been seriously craving fish. I don’t know if it was the Albanian rakia or the excitement of the whole day, but I gave into temptation and ordered salmon for dinner. I was sick all night, but it was SO worth it.

3 different flavors of Rakia
3 different flavors of Rakia
Bacon-wrapped prunes
Bacon-wrapped prunes
Of course the meal had to end with an espresso
Of course the meal had to end with an espresso

It was the most fun night I have had in a long time. Husband and I shared a couch that night, but I made sure to get some snuggle/girl talk time in the morning!

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We were back on a bus to NY by 10am. It was a quick trip, but worth every excruciating minute on the bus. Cannot wait until our next reunion!

Cheers!

Sunday Ski Trip

Zoey planned a skiing day-trip for us last weekend. I love the snow. I love sledding, building snowmen and throwing snowballs at people, but I do not love skiing. (Husband begs me to say, “I do not know how to ski”, but I am sticking to the previous statement.) I have been skiing a handful of times, and never had a great time.

We booked our day-trip with OvrRide to the Windham ski resort in the Catskills. OvrRide is awesome and for a very reasonable price we got a trip on a chartered bus up, free breakfast, and movies to watch during the trip. I may have been feeling uneasy about skiing, but the trip was definitely starting out on a good note.

I “do not love” skiing because I do not enjoy going fast, falling or feeling out of control…all of which happens when I ski (perhaps because I am not a very good skier…maybe). Also, I am terrified of breaking my leg or getting a concussion. I remember every skiing horror story I have ever heard….and they all run through my head on repeat during any ski trip.

When the ski trip was planned I said “Awesome!” and then planned on reading, drinking coffee, and lounging in the snow all day while everyone else skied the slopes. I would be perfectly happy to sit this one out. As we all know, I am terrible at saying “no”. Whenever everyone got all up in arms about me not skiing, I obviously gave in to their peer pressure and forced myself to ski.

Got my top knot and my fancy new Elephant Brand bag! Ready for the day!
Got my top knot and my fancy new Concrete Mode Bag! Ready for the day!
The lift
The lift
Check out my pizza position?? That is one skilled skier.
Check out my pizza position?? That is one skilled skier.
Snow lovies!
Snow lovies!

On one hand, I am glad I attempted skiing again. It was a much better experience than my last (in Kosovo, with Kamikaze skiers). I got a little better, AND I actually got to stay on the greens the whole time, so I didn’t have a panic attack about attempting the blues…again. Next time, I will definitely have less anxiety. (I did not sleep a wink or eat a bite the day before this trip.)

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my attempt to go a little faster
my attempt to go a little faster

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snow bunnies!
snow bunnies!

On the other hand…I would like to be able to say no and stick to it for once. At least I started off saying “no”, that’s an accomplishment in itself.

After a few trips down the easy slopes Zoey and I relaxed by eating tons of snacks, drinking coffee, and lounging in the sun while the boys mastered the blacks and all the moguls they could find.

See my favorite new water bottle? It's the best.
See my favorite new water bottle? It’s the best.
Such a perfect sunny day
Such a perfect sunny day
The boys returning from their adventures
The boys returning from their adventures

The bus ride home was warm and cozy with more movies and unlimited free beer.(I highly suggest using OvrRide to book a day trip if you are in the area.)

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Overall, I consider the trip a success. I had a good time and no one broke any bones. We were even home by 8pm.

Cheers!