Next Chapter

by Sue Ellen Nario


It's so crazy how 2017 is almost coming to a close.

This year has been pretty extraordinary in a ton of ways. We spent a good half of the year planning for our wedding in July and it couldn't have been more memorable. I huffed and puffed throughout the whole thing although I'll admit, there are some parts of the planning process that I loved (dance lessons, engagement photo shoot, going to the suit store...) more than others (church bureaucracy, dress shopping). And most importantly, it really was a great way to see all our family and friends all in one place. I saw my aunts and uncles whom I haven't seen in years, friends from overseas got to see Chicago and enjoy our glorious summer, and a chance for our families to spend time and get to know each other is always priceless. I really wished that my brothers and their families were able to make it but, ah well, such is life. 

I would totally do it all over again if Patrick asked me to :)

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After that beautiful day, we spent 2 weeks in Morocco enjoying everything it has to offer. It was in the middle of the summer which brought temps of close to 50 degrees C in some cities like Fez. We were dying but had the best time! I would definitely come back. Our haggling game was on point by the end of it and came home with a bunch of goodies PLUS 2 rugs! 

And then lo and behold, a day after we came back from Morocco, I found out I was pregnant! SURPRISE! Talk about efficiency!

It was pretty surreal reading the little window on pregnancy test stick read YES. I'm pretty sure I stared at it for a good couple of minutes, mind racing, in shock, in awe, half smiling, half terrified. After a good long stare, I remember leaving the test on the sink, turning off the lights, closing the door and leaving the bathroom. I don't know what came over me. Maybe if I closed the door, it wasn't real? I went back to bed and snuggled next to Patrick and then after my senses came back to me, got up and retrieved the test to show him. We were so overjoyed and the whole week, I felt like I was walking on clouds and had this secret I couldn't contain (and I'm so bad at keeping secrets!).

Fast forward to today, I am halfway through the pregnancy and loving every minute of it! Here's a couple of photos of me and my mini me - our son, Liam (we're in week 19).

Last but certainly not least, another big life moment is deciding to leave my current job. It was a heartbreaking decision but one that I ultimately felt was the right move for professional and personal reasons. I'm really excited for the next chapter and seeing what 2018 has to offer! It will be a pretty hard year to beat but with meeting Liam in April, I'm sure that already tops the list of lists. 

To end this post, here's our wedding video film that I have probably watched a thousand times!  


4 months to go

by Sue Ellen Nario


The last time I updated this blog felt like a lifetime ago. I was still swimming in newly engaged bliss-ness and whizzing through my to-do list when we booked and decided on the big ticket items almost a year in advance.

And now here we are - four months to go. I am nowhere near feeling ready or organised.

Shit.

I feel like I am more excited about planning the honeymoon (we're going to Morocco!) and the wedding is a means to get there. Haha! Suffice it to say that throughout this whole planning process, I had been feeling the most unbride bride. I was excited, yes! But I was less thrilled to plan the details. Whenever I saw a the price tag of any service or item, I'd feel so turned off that I just didn't want to make a decision on anything. I start to think about the cost and what we really could be using the money for. However, my fiance really, really wants this and has been a dream for him to have everyone near and dear to us be there to celebrate our day. So I have to take a step back, take a breather - this isn't all about me after all! - and just be thankful. We have been so lucky to have such supportive parents who never once tried to pressure us on anything.

Now that it's down to the wire, I am panicking. I don't even have a plan for hair and make-up yet! According to The Knot, I am 40% complete which isn't bad I suppose. 

We'll get there! 


by Sue Ellen Nario


So, hi!

It's been around five months since I was here and boy, how five months have become life-changing!

Let's start with the big news, shall we?

WE'RE GETTING MARRIED!!! 

Typing it, saying it out loud still gives me the feels. The next question I usually get when people find out is how the proposal happened. As much as I still get kilig telling the story, Patrick's story-telling is even more intense! 

It happened while we were on holidays in Croatia in April. I really wanted a vacation for us since most of our trips recently were almost exclusively for or with families. Nothing wrong with that but I love getting away just the two of us, exploring new places. 

On our fourth day in Dubrovnik (where we planned to be in for six), we were blessed with nothing but a blanket of blue sky. It had been raining ever since we arrived with patches of sunlight allowing us to at least enjoy the city for a bit sans brollies. I still remember feeling ridiculously happy while having brunch outside a cafe drinking my daytime rose. 

After this meal, we really didn't have anything planned so we thought we'd get on the ferry going to one of the nearby islands. We had a bit of time to kill so we went back to our apartment so I can change shoes (despite the sunny-ness in this photo, it was actually quite a bit chilly). As we were heading out, Patrick wanted to check out Buza Bar which was meant to be a few doors down from our place. Buza Bar is a bar that is literally on the cliffs right outside the walls of the old city. You enter through a literal hole in the wall and park yourself in one of the tables looking out into the ocean. 

We head to the bottom of the cliffs and Patrick suggested to take my photo by this specific rock he was pointing to. 

"No. I want it here." 

*sigh* "Ok" click

"Now will you take the photo that I want?," he asks. I say yes because I thought, whatever, sure. We got the shot already. I'll indulge.

I sit on the rock and started to face out. He stops me and pulls my leg back to face him. What? He doesn't want the shot of me pretending to be contemplative looking out to the sea? I was confused for half a second until I see him fumbling with a little box that he had taken out of his hoodie's pocket. The first words out of my mouth were, "what are you doing?! what are you doing?!?!" I was so shocked that I immediately start crying as he started his speech! Full disclosure: I barely heard anything! Everything was muffled by the sound of my own (happy) sobs that it took me a while to even say yes! Suffice to say that I had zero clue this was going go down!

The best part about this whole thing was the fact right above where we were, two women were hanging out taking photos of each other and they caught everything on video (hence the existence of this precious snap)! They came over to congratulate us after the crying subsided and the kissing and hugging started. They offered to send us the photos and the video and we are so extremely thankful that they were there.

We spent the rest of the day enjoying the scenery of Dubrovnik from sea level and above!

This trip is definitely one for the books and I can't wait to marry this man next year! 


Baby Pilea!

by Sue Ellen Nario


As much as I try not to play favourites amongst the many plants we have at home, I must say that if I had to name the cutest of the bunch, the Pilea Peperomiodes is it.

I actually have two of these bought around the same time - September - last year. Today, the plants are thriving, have very healthy-looking leaves and branches and I just found out that both are having babies! Little shoots are coming out of the main stem which means I'd be able to propagate it and have more Pilea plants! 

I count four!!!

I count four!!!


by Sue Ellen Nario


Two years ago, on Valentine's Day, I received what would be one of the most unforgettable phone calls I will ever receive.

We were just finishing up from our dinner when Tita Emma called, crying, to tell me about Tita Mama's condition. It was only a few days ago that I last talked to her and that was when she finally told me that she has cancer. My tita was always the independent one, the strong one, she could and would do anything. But on the other end of the line, even though she was trying to be strong, I know she was really scared. 

We kept our head high, I was trying not to cry. It's breast cancer. People every day beat this shit, right? It's the most common one, there are so many studies and advancements with this type of cancer, she said reassuring both of us. I promised I would stay with her in California when she undergoes chemo. I was going to see her in March. 

On Valentine's Day, Tita Emma tells me that they found out she has Stage 4 breast cancer. "What does that mean?" I remember asking her. She tells me it's the most advanced stage. That it has metastasized to other parts of her body. I started crying. We both were crying. She was going to do a round of chemo that night. The following morning, I get another call. She's in a coma and she may not wake up. I booked the earliest flight to San Diego. 

Seeing her in the hospital was not easy. I'm used to seeing her smiling face, she'd tease and hug me, we would chat for hours. I'm never going to have that again. Tito Tim tells me that she doesn't have much time. I kept touching her hand, it felt warm and comforting and it felt like home. All I wanted was for her to hold my face in her hands and start her sentence with, "anak..." I so badly want her to hug me one last time. 

On February 21, she quietly passed. It would've been their 21st wedding anniversary, too. She was at home, surrounded by everyone who loved her. We still do. 

I very much still do. 


Happy 2016!

by Sue Ellen Nario


I know, I know...I've been super slack in the last few months but hoping to make a better comeback with this blogging life in 2016.

We spent the holidays in Australia with my family and friends. After 2 years, it was great to be back, catch up with everyone, enjoy all the awesome brunch places in Sydney and Melbs and the best part -- GREAT COFFEE EVERYWHERE!

I took my first sip of a beautifully made flat white whilst having brunch at Bills the day after we got there and I almost teared up! 

On this trip, I've decided to create short video montages of interesting activities we've been doing. I had a ball with editing and even Patrick was getting into it. 

Here's the clip for our NYE trio with Denisse! Enjoy! 

music: Wrapped Up by Olly Murs


Greenery pt. 2

by Sue Ellen Nario


And here are the plants that live in my calligraphy room. 

The air plants!

Lavender plant. The middle part of the plant is a bit dry but it's still thriving!

Angel Vine. When I first brought this home, it was much more lush and I forgot to water it once and immediately the leaves dried up! I was so sad! But it's bouncing back well. This plant had to move upstairs after we discovered Sherlock trying to eat it. Even though I have so many plants at home, Sherlock doesn't really care for any of them except for this one.

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Isn't this so interesting? This plant is a Medinilla scortechinii and should be cared for as you would an orchid. When I first saw it, I thought the orange colour was spray painted on. Its branches remind of nerve endings. I love this pop of colour in my room and works really well in between the lawn chairs. 


Greenery

by Sue Ellen Nario


A sampling of some of the new greenery at home.

This ivy is incredibly happy where it is. I got this little tiny thing a couple of months ago and I just love seeing its leaves cascading down the bookcase.

Still not immune to killing plants, I recently retired my Coffee Cups Elephant Ear plant after I watered it to death. Needing to fill this corner with another tall-ish plant, I scored this Fiddle Leaf Fig at Home Depot for $19! That price is a total steal given how much these plants go for at any other nursery especially at its current size. This would've fetched for at least three times that amount anywhere else. 

My new favourite plant store is Sprout Home where I bought this Monstera Deliciosa (aka split leaf philodendron) from. I cannot wait for this plant to mature and to grow those big, beautiful split leaves like this (just kidding..that one is intense!).

The only plant at home that I don't know the name of. I needed something to fill this little log pot that has been left empty for the better part of the year. edit: My friend, Miel informed me that this is an African Violet. Yay!

This is a tiny Asplenium scolopendrium, a type of fern. I love how the leaves are wavy and quite sturdy. I recently saw a gigantic version of this at the Garfield Park Conservatory. Beautiful! 

And finally, the cutest addition: a Pilea peperomiodes (aka Chinese Money Plant). According to the interwebs, the pilea has an interesting story of its migration from China to Norway sometime around the 1940's. 

It turned out that a Norwegian missionary, Agnar Espegren, brought the plant to Norway from China in 1946. In 1944 the Norwegian missionaries in China had had to leave. Agnar Espegren and his family, then living in Hunan province, were taken by an American plane to Kunming in Yunnan where they stayed about a week awaiting further transport to India. During this brief stay in Kunming, which is only some 150 miles east of the Dali range, Mr Espegren obtained a live specimen of the plant (possibly from a local market) and packed it in a small box, which was then brought together with his family and all their baggage to Calcutta where they stayed for nearly a year. The Espegren family arrived back in Norway in March 1946 with the plant miraculously still alive.
Mr Espegren subsequently travelled widely in Norway and often gave basal shoots of the plant to friends. In this way the plant was effectively distributed around Norway where it is now widespread as a window sill plant, and where it is known as ‘the missionary plant’.
— http://www.wildchicken.com/nature/garden/ga008_a_chinese_puzzle.htm

This plant lives inside our bedroom. Can't wait for it to grow further so I can propagate and give it away to friends.


Archie and the Gang!

by Sue Ellen Nario


As a typical kid who grew up in the 80's/90's era, much like Trapper Keepers or slap bracelets, reading Archie comics was a big part of it.

My cousins, friends and I would trade the double digest versions and I spent so much time reading about Archie and his friends at Riverdale High. One of my biggest life problems then was figuring out whose side I was on: Betty Cooper's or Veronica Lodge's? I genuinely liked them both! 

So of course when I heard that they were releasing a revamped, newly illustrated Archie, I created a mental note to drop by the comic book store by our place when it comes out. And tonight I did just that!

I didn't realise that this new #1 edition had multiple covers by different artists and since they ran out of the Fiona Staples one, I ended up with this version:

They made the gang a bit more hipster and pretty good looking. Even Jughead -- who I think looks super adorkable!

I like that he is still wearing that ridiculous hat and that he is still being bribed with desserts.

Betty is still our favourite next door gal...the woman you love to hate but can't. 

And yes, ladies, that smooth operator right there is none other than Reggie Mantle. 

Betty, Archie, Jughead and Reggie are the only main characters introduced in this first issue. I hope you don't mind spoilers but this first issue starts its story with Archie and Betty's breakup. The whole school is talking about it and everyone else is more upset about the breakup than the two people in the relationship. What was not revealed, though, is the reason why. Something about a lipstick. 

In one part, one of Archie's friends casually drop in the conversation that the Lodge millionaires are moving in.

I can't wait to see what Veronica looks like! 

Also, I wonder if there's anyone with a man-bun?


Sherlock, lately

by Sue Ellen Nario


Almost two months since he's been home, I'm seeing such improvement in his cheeky personality.

He still meows quite a bit, likes hanging around in the same room as we do, he loves his scratcher lounge and developed an obsession for one toy which drives him completely insane whenever it's out.

He's of course become my favourite photo subject and here are some snaps from the last couple of days.

This cat lounges HARD!

Hanging on to his fave toy

Hanging on to his fave toy


Adopting Sherlock

by Sue Ellen Nario


A week ago, we finally adopted our cat, Sherlock. 

We knew that we wanted to adopt from a no-kill shelter so we went around and checked out Treehouse both in Bucktown and Uptown as well as PAWS. After talking to so many awesome folks in these places, we ultimately decided that getting a young adult was what we wanted to do for a couple of main reasons: 1) Kittens are a bit more hard work in that they need more time to socialise and train, and our schedules at the moment are a bit irregular and 2) We want to find a cat with a more established personality. 

After visiting Treehouse in Uptown, a grey tabby was one of the friendlier cats that welcomed us into the room. He didn't hesitate bumping his head into our hands, circling our legs and just overall showing signs of being friendly and socialised. We did spend time playing and observing other cats but in the end, this 4-year old won us over. His name was Arguros. 

As a first time cat mum, I was quite nervous since I don't really have any experience with cats and especially with helping them settle in our home so I did tons of homework beforehand. I researched and read about what we should do to help the cat transition to his new home, training them, understanding their behaviours etc. It was a lot to take in but it was comforting to know what to expect and what we should do. 

After filling in all the paperwork (we had to promise not to declaw our cat nor let him outside), we were sent home with Sherlock in a cardboard carrier box, a bag of his litter, some cat food, his meds, some toys and a snap on lid for cat food (which is awesome). He was meowing most of the way from Uptown to Logan Square. I felt so bad for him. When we brought him home, we prepared his litter and food bowls in the guest bathroom. When we opened the box, his eyes were completely wide and he looked almost catatonic (ha!). We thought we would just open the box and tip it sideways and let him decide to come out on his own. 

When he wouldn't come out, Patrick decided to gently tip him out of his box and then we realised that he had actually pooped inside the box. Knowing how fastidious cats are, I'm sure this was quite traumatizing for him. We spent some time with him in the bathroom sitting on the floor, letting him get familiar with us and trying to build some trust. We would leave him alone for a few hours and after some time, he crawled into his bed -- a basket with a towel in it. For about a day, he would mainly just be in his basket whenever we would come in and visit him. We then eased him into eating and getting up by giving him some treats which seemed to work. I knew as soon as he was eating and going to the toilet with us there that we were making some progress. Not long after, he was letting me pet him quite a bit. One of his favourites is being rubbed under his chin and he then rubs his face on my hand and contort his whole body until he's all curled up in his little basket. 

It's been a week since Sherlock's been home and he is definitely settling in better. He has complete access to the whole house now but he ultimately prefers to be around where we are but most times in Patrick's room whenever he's playing games. 

He's still a very cuddly cat but very clear that it's in his terms. He would let us pet him for quite some time especially when he's in bed. He does get overstimulated every now and again and he swatted at us or tried to bite to let us know he's had enough. We're trying to read his body language and understand at what point he's getting overstimulated so we can stop before it even gets to that. Patrick has a nasty scratch mark on his arm when he tried to pick up an unwilling Sherlock one time.

Some (strange?) behaviours we've noticed is that whenever he's in the hallway and you're passing by him, he'd hiss at you. He's also been quite vocal the last couple of days and we're guessing it's mostly because he's hungry. At first, when we let him explore the house the first time, he was meowing at all closed doors. He's not so into all the toys that we bought him -- yet. Since he has access to the house now, it seems that he likes sleeping upstairs by the stairs so we moved his new fluffy bed up there. 

I bought him a fancy-er cat scratcher that I read a lot of good reviews about. 

It came with a small bag of catnip that we would spread all over and Sherlock goes a bit apeshit over it.

Given Sherlock's past -- from what we know, he was taken from a hoarding situation along with 60 other cats -- I know he has some ways to go before he is completely settled and comfortable with us. It will also take us time to understand him and his needs for sure. 

For now, we are very happy seeing him doing well and enjoying being with us in his new home.


We Moved!

by Sue Ellen Nario


Another overdue post but it has been exactly a month ago since we moved!

After 1.5 years of living in Wicker Park, putting up with our less-than ideal downstairs neighbours, we, yet again, packed our bags and moved to Logan Square. 

Here's the view on our first night in.

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Patrick really wanted to move to this neighbourhood and we got lucky finding a place that fit our criteria. We hoped to pay less, get a bigger place, close to the El and pet-friendly. After viewing about 6-7 apartments, we ended up with a space much bigger than what we were really looking for and slightly less than our price range, super close to the station (about 30 seconds away) and we can get a pet (more on this later)!

The move went pretty smooth even though it was quite stressful having to pack everything again. #sosickofmoving But we were all unboxed and moved in within 24 hours thanks to Patrick's dad's help. 

A month in, we are really, really loving this place! We're trying lots of restaurants around us, the farmers market is awesome and there is a wonderful flower shop I discovered nearby. Score! 

Our place is starting to look like home. Here's a peek at our living room situation.

Rug from  Cozy Rugs  | Fiddle lead fig tree from  Gethsemane Garden Center

Rug from Cozy Rugs | Fiddle lead fig tree from Gethsemane Garden Center

I love this blue rug! It's so soft, plush, beautiful colour and we got this for a really good price, too! And notice that gorgeous big plant by our window, the fiddle leaf fig tree I'd been wanting to have since forever. 

Patrick has his game room set up downstairs and I also have my own space for calligraphy and art set up in the guest bedroom upstairs.

Table  and cart from World Market.

Table and cart from World Market.

Couple of weekends ago, we hosted a housewarming party and invited a bunch of mostly workmates and Patrick's client colleagues. It was the perfect day for a gathering: the weather was warm and sunny and it was the first time we used our patio. It's great! I can't wait till we are out there more and more this summer.

We're hoping to be here for quite some time before the next more permanent move. 

 


Happy Valentine's Day!

by Sue Ellen Nario


**This post is an extremely late post that I intended to write before Valentine's day. I managed to write a little over half of it until writer's block hit. Oops.**

Okay. So I just want to warn you now that a cheesy post is coming through -- hey, it's Valentine's Day after all!

When I was in New York a few weeks ago, I decided to see If/Then on a last minute whim. Denisse saw it when she was there over the holidays and said it was good. I found cheap, nosebleed-section seats and off I went.

So the story is about Idina's character, Elizabeth, and how her life could have played out had she taken either invitation of her two friends that day at Madison Square Park. She plays out both lives ala Sliding Doors. It's the ultimate "what might have been?" story.

The reviews that I read were mixed.

As for me? I loved it. It's funny, tear-jerky and in the end, I realise, I loved it because I could so relate to how Patrick and I met and eventually got together. I guess now is a good segue for that story.

I think about the time when the opportunity to go to Joburg was presented to me and I wasn't super sure about it. In the end, I went because I didn't really have a valid reason not to go. It might be an adventure, I thought. 

Little did I know, that adventure was about to start practically as soon as I arrived.

A mere two days after getting there, I was carjacked. Yep, It couldn't have been a more dramatic beginning of a relationship. 

It was extremely terrifying and I swear, I thought to myself, "this is it. This is how I'm gonna go." It's probably the moment in my life I've been most afraid but thankfully, in the end, I was ok and they were only able to take my iPhone from me because I was silly enough to leave it out on the dash for people to see (biggest n00b move). Anyway, it took a while for someone to help me and I was just in shock.

Looking back now, it's kind of unbelievable and slightly comedic that, since my iPhone was taken, I only had a loan phone from work with me, but without any credits available to make a call or SMS and the only number I had stored on that phone was Patrick's. He entered it in earlier that day. The people who helped me let me use their phone to call Patrick but it turns out that his phone was busted! WHAT. Thank goodness our workmate, Orville, our logistics person, gave me a small print-out of important numbers to have. It had his (Orville's), our managers etc. So I call him, he totally sorts me out and was my lifesaver that night.

After filing the police report, they decided to have me stay at the hotel which was coincidentally right in front of Patrick's apartment. It had been a crazy, long, stressful night and I just needed to talk to someone and grab a drink. I go online and see my friend, Dave (who lives with Patrick) in chat. I ping him letting him know what happened and that if he could come over and have a drink with me. No answer. Turns out Dave was already asleep. Then I see Patrick online and so I message him the same thing. He only responds with, "I'll be there in five minutes." Five minutes later, we found ourselves sitting in the hotel lobby bar talking for, literally, hours. We closed the bar. 

To top it all off, it was also my birthday weekend. And all I could think about was how I was "alone" in a new country feeling sorry for myself without anyone to celebrate with (at least this is the ridiculous sad story in my mind). So he saves the day by organising a birthday braai with matching party hats and bubbles with all of our workmates in attendance. It turned out to be the best day! 

Patrick and I were pretty much inseparable since then. Primarily because, not only do we work together, but he became my ride to and from work and then we'd have dinner out most times during the week or we'd hang out at their place or ours (mine and my flatmate, Uchenna) watching telly. 

I remember talking to my friend, Craig, when I started having a crush on Patrick. It feels so juvenile saying that I started having a crush on him but I did! Butterflies and everything.

A few weeks later, we were officially dating and haven't looked back since.

It's been an incredible couple of years and everyday I am just so thankful and happy that I decided to take a chance on an unknown adventure and it has been one of the best decisions I made in my life.

I did not only get to go see and live in an amazingly beautiful country, made life-long friends, challenged me and helped me grow professionally but as an added bonus, I met the most wonderful, silliest, nicest guy who is truly the yin to my yang.

For example, he's a classic extrovert, I'm an introvert. I like reading books, he likes listening to them. I don't like pizza crusts, he eats them for me. He is really into sci-fi and I still don't really have the story to Star Wars down. 

However, we both just enjoy having a good laugh, a great karaoke sesh (even if I am tone deaf, he cheers me on to just keep rocking it), we both love to dance and should be any couple's perfect guests because we like to keep the dance floor going, and generally, we just don't take things too seriously. There is nothing that I love more than vegging in front of the telly, cuddling up to this guy. There is just a certain kind of peace that I find in those simple moments. 

But in all seriousness, even with our mis-matched personalities and interests, what I love is that when it comes down to what really matters, we share the same beliefs and values and how we see our lives together. Even if we disagree on what kind of white crockery to buy in Ikea, we tend to see eye to eye on the big, important life issues. 

And so, our adventure continues!

Happy very, very late Valentine's to my PT. <3


Catching Up: Aruba

by Sue Ellen Nario


I've been so incredibly lazy in keeping this up to date.

So, we're finally in April and I think it's fair to say that Winter is officially over. I made it another year! I definitely feel a sense of pride in making it through...I wasn't sure how this second go at winter having experienced a pretty bad one last year. I'd been dreading it but it really wasn't as bad. Patrick says that's a true sign of being a Chicagoan.

And then, of course, we had that trip to Aruba! All I could say is, it was absolutely glorious! We left Chicago in minus 0 temps with snow on the ground and landed in Aruba in almost 30 degree weather. 

I promise, it looks like this everyday!

I promise, it looks like this everyday!

We stayed at The Divi Village Golf & Beach Resort (thanks to Patrick's folks who had a timeshare there). We each had our own rooms -- they were huge, with 2 bathrooms each, living room and a kitchen. The rooms themselves were not much to write home about but overall, the resort was really pleasant, had good restaurants and I loved how the beach that was right across from it is one of the least crowded beaches around.

I had so much fun with my GoPro that I was immediately capturing everything as soon as we got there...actually, even as soon as we left our house. I made this short clip but embarrassingly enough, I haven't had a chance to trawl through the rest of the footage from my memory card.

The idea was to create short snippets like this of the whole trip but let's hope I get to that before it's too late!

So what did we do there? We mostly laid out in the sun and read. The genius that I am, I was determined to come home with a significant tan, decided to forego sunscreen (aka common sense) and use suntan oil instead (with an amazing SPF of FOUR) and baked for hours on the first full day that we were there. That night, as I showered, my whole body felt like on fire. I didn't look visibly sunburnt but I definitely felt it. On the plus side, I was grinning ear to ear with the much deeper tan colour I was changing into. Meanwhile, Patrick, who burns within mere minutes after contact with sun, was on full sunscreen defense mode, applying and reapplying sunscreen what seemed like every 15 minutes. It worked, he left that island with a healthy glow but no real damage. He did use up three full bottles of sunscreen spray though.

Anyway, back to Aruba. The people we met were all incredibly friendly, gave us great recommendations for places to eat and I suppose, unsurprisingly, met a number of Filipinos who now call Aruba home. 

Our day would start with each of us making breakfast in our own rooms, eggs all day, and then venturing out to either explore or go to the beach. We had one day where we rented a van and drove around the whole island. It should have taken us a couple of hours or so but we got lost along the way but it was still a really great way of seeing the island. 

If we weren't on the beach, you'd definitely find us by the pool. At first I thought, these idiots, why bother with the pool when the beach is right there?! But after Patrick successfully forced me to give the slide a go, I knew why. He was the number one user of that slide. Actually, no, scratch that. There was this 2 or 3 year old kid who trumped him (we called him our friend, he would always wave to us and wanted to join us on the slide). But yeah, a close second. We even got Julie to go! It was a blast!

Something has to be said about the food there. P and I decided to relax our diet and ate fish while we were there. We would always go for dinner together and man, those Arubans sure know how to cook their fish! Almost every meal I've had there was awesome. The only downside is that it is also quite pricey to eat out. We averaged around $40 per person for a meal and a drink. But, when in Rome, right?

We also signed up to do some tours. We did a Sunset Sailing Tour and a snorkeling one. Here are some photos.

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I don't really have that many photos from our snorkeling trip (because I haven't downloaded most of them yet) but I should say it was both a great and jarring experience for me. The tour had 3 stops to make around the island. The first one was okay, less panicky about being in the water but I definitely was feeling nauseous after we boarded back. The second stop, we were in much deeper water and the highlight of that is the sunken ship at the bottom. In theory, it all sounded exciting and NatGeo-ish but then I just had a panic attack. The waters have been so choppy that morning and I suddenly have this image of me being washed so far out ala-Open Water. I couldn't do it. Patrick and Julie braved the waters and he got some amazing footage of what he saw. 

Why am I such a wuss?

Anyway, the third stop which was now back again to shallower waters, and feeling much better from the seltzer water the nice crewman gave me, I had a much more pleasant experience snorkeling. IMO, the fish and coral in Cebu were a lot more interesting but these little guys were pretty neat, too.

And since I am the resident photographer, what's a family trip without me taking the requisite HHWW on the beach snaps? I'm not even kidding, there was a serious conversation about taking this opportunity to shoot our 2015 CHRISTMAS card photos. 

Thankfully, we nixed that idea...it was just March after all. And it wasn't even the right season! /sarcasm

Aren't these couples beautiful?

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And then of course, us <3

We ended our trip with a wonderful beachside dinner at the lovely Ricardo's. Best food we've had in our whole trip and it took us only 10 minutes to walk alongside the beach to get there. 

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All in all, it was the perfect winter break trip. If not for the massive delays we had on the way back to Chicago, this trip would have been a 10 out of 10. Highly recommended for anyone to visit. You'll certainly find quiet spots, not at all the spring break Cancun scene types, great food, awesome people, turquoise waters and blue skies all year round. 

More snaps here!



Winter Wonderland!

by Sue Ellen Nario


Like a kid excited to get up and open presents on Christmas morning, I hurriedly put my snow boots, coat and gloves on and went outside. We were due to get about a foot or so of snow and I am still a n00b Chicagoan that I still relish walking around in it with a silly grin on my face. The island girl in me hopes to never get used to this.