Thursday, December 30, 2010

Our Month-long, Everywhere Christmas.

First of all, I think it should be known that we drove out to see our families over the holidays. We DROVE from Indiana, to California, to Utah, to Montana, to Fargo, and then back to Indiana. That is 4,759 miles of driving! Most of which Matt drove, bless his heart.

Our first stop was California. It snowed the entire drive out, even through Texas! It even snowed in L.A. just after we left. We had a great time in my home town. My mom took us all to see A Christmas Carol at the Glendale Theatre. It is such a fun production! The theatre is small with seating all around the stage. People were dancing in circles and singing in the isles, it was so great! After the play all the actors sing carols as you walk out and a bubble machine makes "snow".
A few days later we made Matt sit through my old Ballet studio's production of the Nutcracker too! He did so good. My cousin Sydnee was Clara and she did awesome! Being able to see my old dance teachers and having Matt there was really special to me.

We spent Christmas Eve at my Mom's house and feasted! We spent the night there with my brother Richie's family so we could be together Christmas morning.

We went to Disneyland with my brothers family, Travis and my Dad. The highlight of the day was watching Issac (my nephew) build his dream remote control car! He was so cute and even claimed that this "was the best day of his life." Haha, gotta love him.

We extend our California stay so we could have New Years Eve in warmer weather. We went out to dinner with the Budingers and Mcgees then went to the Swainston's house for a little celebrating.

We only spent a couple days in Utah. It was just enough time to have a day in the mountains, have an early anniversary at the Grand America and get some Cafe Rio with Chris and Randi.

We got to Montana later than planned but the storm that was there was right on time. I was so afraid driving through the mountains and trees in the dark, but to Matt it looked the second nature! Must be the North Dakota in him. I don't know what a California girl would do without her midwestern man. Well the next morning I learned! I drove Matt's mother's truck (Matt was in his car) from Bozeman to Fargo while it snowed the entire day. Although I almost started crying, I survived unscathed! But I'd rather not do that ever again if I can help it. I still need my midwestern man.

I love going to visit Fargo! Matt's parents gave us a belated Christmas morning the day we arrived. I'm so grateful for my breadmaker and kitchen knives! But I have to say my favorite is always the North Dakota treat, chippers. I think the most notable events of our weekend there were playing Wits & Wagers with Leeser, Seeing Matt do Yoga, and seeing the NDSU production of Forever Plaid! I had always seen flyers for that play around the theaters I've been to but never once bought tickets. Well I'm glad the Olsens know what they are talking about when it comes to Theater because the show was so great! I found my self with a silly smile across my face the entire show. If you haven't seen it, do!

And that's that. Our Christmas break in a little nut shell. Sorry about the lack of pictures, we are trying to be more snap happy.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Grand Cayman Thanksgiving

This trip was amazing! 20 something of our family and friends stayed in condos lined up right on the beach for the entire week. Pure Bliss!

When we arrived at our condo sunday night my amazing aunt Elaine had already stocked all 5 condos with food and supplies so all we had to do was put our bare feet in the sand and smell the warm salty air. She is such a gem.

Our typical morning in Grand Cayman began with slathering the SPF 30 on our white bodies and laying the heck out!

At around noon I got to put my SCUBA diving license to good use. 2 boats would pull up right to our beach to pick up our 12 divers and off we went! This was my first dive in tropical waters and I am hooked! In my life I have been sky diving, hang gliding, para sailing, and bungee jumping. Scuba diving in the Cayman Islands has topped all of those events! 100 feet under water and I was in absolute heaven. We swam through caves and were surrounded by beautiful colors and fish I've never seen before. We took our fins off and walked on sand 50 feet underwater! It was incredible, I can't believe that I got to have this experience for 4 straight days!

Since Matt is an MBA student he didn't have time to get his diving certification. So while I was gone Matt would take the jet ski out, snorkle around the reef and went to the turtle farm with the rest of my family.

At nights we would go on a walk down the beach and watch the sunset.

That amazing Aunt Elaine I mentioned earlier... She is a culinary artist and would put her skills to use every night for us! We ate delicious hamburgers, homemade pizzas, juicy steaks and fresh lobster. We are so lucky to have her.

A few nights after dinner we went to the local out-door mall. It was a fun place to walk around. They had a huge Christmas tree up and along the shopping boulevard the had christmas lights and snow machines blowing! They had a discovery center there and just outside of the store doors there was this bouncy bench thing we played on. Everyone on the island had enjoyed it for 5 years. That is until the Masons got ahold of it...

It snapped about 30 seconds later...

Thanksgiving Day in the Caymans was a blast! We all piled in rented vans and drove out to my Aunt Elaine and Dick's house on the other side of the Island.

I hadn't been there in quite a few years, it was sad to see her Beautiful dock gone after the hurricane came a few years ago.

While we finishing up with cooking, my boy cousins found this huge bug and kept pushing it in people's faces! They had everyone on the beach screaming like a little girl. We sat down to eat just as the sun was setting on the beach. Matt could hardly believe that he was eating mashed potatoes and gravy with his feet in the warm sand. After dinner we played games and goofed around and picked coconuts.

On our last day in the Caymans we went to Sting Ray City! Since there were so many of us, my uncles chartered a boat to take us there instead of going with the traditional tour group. It was awesome and ended up being almost half the price. We shipped off to sea in the late afternoon. Our first stop was a shallow spot where Conch were littered all over the ocean floor. We got to dive in the water with our snorkel gear and collect as many as we could find! The water was just shallow enough to dive to the bottom, grab the shell, and swim back up in one breath. Our Philippino captain picked the best ten conch and threw the rest back into the ocean.

When we arrived at Sting Ray City we were the only ones there! It was late enough in the day that all the tourists had gone home so we had all the sting rays to ourself! Sting Ray City is basically a sandbar in the middle of the ocean. But since the 1800's fisherman have been stopping here to clean their fish and throw the guts overboard. It turns out what my old Bishop used to say, "if you feed them, they will come," holds true! So although the sting rays are wild-with stingers and everything- they have been around humans for a very long time and have learned to play nice. Literally within seconds of the first person stepping in the water they started swarming! They would brush up against our legs, and swim up onto our backs! It was hard not to scream and run! But if you ran youwould risk stepping on a stinger! The lady helping on our boat even knew a few of them by name and would introduce us, haha. She made Matt kiss a pregnant one! They gave us pieces of squid to feed the sting rays. But we were given very strict warning to keep our thumbs tucked in while we fed them. Their mouths could suck up stronger than a vacuum! Grandma Higginson got a hickey on her hand from one of them!

When we climbed back into the boat we found our captain chopping up the animal that was inside the conch and making a dip out of it! He said that lime juice cooks it and the tomatoes, onions and worcheshire sauce make it delicious.So we all dipped our saltine crackers in and tried it! I loved it! It tasted similar to ceviche. I was only nervous to try it because he was wiping his knife with his t-shirt.

We sailed back to the dock just as the sun expired.
What a trip!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Marathon Man!

He did it!!! 26 miles in 80 degrees!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

California Summer

Fourth of July


Monday, May 31, 2010

Our Wedding Video

Thanks to the talented and handsome Eli Baird, here is our wedding video. And a big thanks to all of you who made the day so much fun!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Greece teaser :)

Ok, so it's been a couple weeks since we posted. Since then we've been to Amsterdam, Paris, and Greece; with more to come on each. But for now here's a sneak peak of Santorini.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Amsterdamm and Pearee

Hey friends... Long time no blog, right!? Fear not, the young Olsen couple is happy and well in CA and has had a blast here for the summer. We're going to do some catching up on the old Europe trip, which seems like a dream these days. Enjoy the updates and hopefully when we settle in back in West Lafayette for the coming school year we'll wrap up the dated posts.


After school ended in early May we packed up and hit the trains again. (And thanks to our good friend Randall who toted our overweight bag back to the US for us, so we could travel light for the remainder of our adventure.

Our first stop was the city of Amsterdam. My (Matt) father’s close friend and former other half of the Olsen & Hart duo, Dan Hart, and his partner Dirk live right in the heart of the city. Dan and Dirk used to live in NYC, but as Dirk is a native of Holland they relocated there a few years ago. And since then, they have been gracious hosts to the Olsen’s whenever traveling through Europe. My Dad on many occasions, my Mom on her circumnavigation of the globe en route to Nepal, Randi in her early adulthood adventures, and even her now husband Chris on his whirlwind tour of Europe after a school opportunity in Switzerland. So naturally, if Rachael and I were that close to Holland, there was no way we would flirt with faulting tradition. And more so, it is always wonderful to be reunited with friends. And Dan and Dirk are two of the classiest gentlemen I have ever met in my life.

Our first evening was spent having an excellent dinner with the duo that Dirk prepared. It was a treat and a surprised to find out that Dirk is not only a chef, but a published chef as well! We were spoiled every night. We later went out on the town, weaving through shortcuts and along canals to the celebration of Holland’s independence. Waving to the Queen and getting a wave back was a close second to Dirk and Rachael singing “We’ll Meet Again” along with the Orchestra, Holland’s most accomplished opera singers, and at least half of Amsterdam that packed the streets. It was a lot of fun and a great first preview of the city.

On day two we slept in, had a leisurely breakfast, then took the train out to Keukenhof to see the tulip fields. It was a cool, partly sunny, spring day. The flowers were as beautiful as expected and it was just a nice day as newlyweds, wandering the gardens. We took naps on the lawn, navigated mazes, climbed windmills, and kissed. That’s my kind of garden.

On day three we spent some time wandering the city and scoping things out. So, pretty much anything you have heard about Amsterdam is true. It’s all there, and you can find it if you want it. But it was still enjoyable for a couple of BYU grads exploring Europe. What was funny as we got off of the train on the first day was after walking down the street for a mere 30 minutes I turned to Rach and said, “I’ve smelled pot like 3 times already…” Her reply was, “I’ve counted 5.” We got a laugh out of that. Leave it to the Mormons to keep tally… Haha! Anyway, day three we went to the Anne Frank Museum, which was very very well done. It told the story, sent the message, and really captured the brilliance of that little girl. It’s a shame that she was so close to freedom when she was murdered. Fortunately she left the gift of her story. We ended the day with a stop at a really tasty Thai place that we stumbled across while we waited for the She & Him concert to start! Rachael found out they were playing while we were in town, so we made sure we got there. Zoe is just as darling as you would imagine…disgustingly so. It was a great show and the perfect end to our stay in Amsterdam.

Overall, Amsterdam was the perfect way to relax as our first stop after school. Again, a special thank you to Dan and Dirk for being the perfect hosts and always caring for the Olsen clan.


Next stop, Pear-ee!

We left Amsterdam and boarded the high-speed train direct to Paris. Those babies are sweet! The trains in Europe are a great way to travel and I’m really glad that Rachael and I learned how to really travel, early in our marriage. We both hope is serves us well, many times, as the years go on.

So, my expectations were very very low for Paris. Why? I don’t know… I’ve just never been that excited about it. I’ve always spent my time dreaming of the Alps and Paris always seemed like just a place girls fanaticized about because they were groomed to believe it was the most romantic city in the world, or whatever. We’ll I was so impressed with that little town! It is absolutely beautiful…everywhere. At least everywhere we went.

After we dropped off the bags we headed out for Notre Dame. It turns out that the scaling of the map of Paris is much different than for the other cities in Europe we had visited up to that point. Paris is huge! Things are much further away than we (mostly my fault) realized. But after that first long walk in the rain we made it a point to get the hang of the city train system. And we did a dang good job too!

Notre Dame was great. It is a beautiful sight, and the view along the Siene nearby was incredible. After a quick look around Notre Dame we made a stop at Shakespeare & Co. to walk the same steps as the many great authors who had visited over the years. It was a great shop and made me think I should get more into books. After that we wandered the streets until we made it to CafĂ© Flore for the best hot chocolate (at 6 Euro a pop!) we had ever tasted. It was like the best chocolate bar in the world being melted right into your mouth. Mind = blown! And since that wasn’t enough we chased it with a crepe and hoped the subway over to the Eiffel tower. The rain persisted, but we had fun wandering and seeing the city and it’s great sights. We didn’t go to the top of the tower since it was dark, cloudy, and we were told it was over rated. It worked for us.

The next morning we went into the heart of the city again for church. It was like a reunion! Between the two of us we knew about 5 or six people. It was so fun! They had a little mix and mingle after the meetings and it was just a blast. After church we hopped the train out to Versailles. Holy cow! Incredibly beautiful and the perfect Sunday afternoon. The palace and the gardens are amazing and it would be offensive to try and describe it any better. Mostly because I’m incapable. The highlight was Rachael and I rowing each other around the pools and just being charmed by the whole experience. Oh, and rowing is harder than I thought. I learned to focus on my hands and not the end of the oars. It helped the coordination, but I’m still weaksauce. We ended our Sunday with a walk up to Sacre Ceour. The tower was closed, but the view from the hill was great. The little neighborhood was charming as well. Well, except for the creepiest and worst mime ever.

On our last day in Paris we just hit the Champs and loved it. First stop was the Arch. This is s perfect 360 view if the city and we dug that whole area. After that we made a critical stop at McDonalds. Being tired, almost broke, and just craving some nuggets we buckled, abandoned Parisian cuisine, and loved it. I swore off McD’s years ago. But man did it hit the spot at the Berlin train station and again that day in Paris.

We then walked the length of the Champs de Elleysee to the Louvre. We felt so lame for being so exhausted by just traveling around these incredible cities in Europe. I mean, tough life, right? But is is tiring! So we only spent a couple of hours there, saw Mona and Venus, sorry David, and made our way on to the favorite falafel place of Lenny Kravitz. It was good!

We loved Paris and need to go back since we really didn’t go a do a lot of things in depth.

Early the next morning we headed out to the airport for our Honeymoon to Greece. Had it not been for a generous old man at the station and another kind younger one on the train we may not have made it. We new there was no room for error in order to catch our flight and they made sure we were on the right train, got off at the right spot, and “navigated” the ticket gate since we bought the wrong ticket. The French get a bad wrap, but it sure isn’t because of these two guys. The best line was from the younger guy… After we found out he was just back in France visiting since he lives in the US, Rachael asked why he came home. His reply? “For love!” With the tone that could only imply that there was no other reason for a man to journey so far… So, there’s your romance. Paris, you never fail us.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Germany's Capital: Berlin

This weekend we went to Berlin with some of Matt's classmates. When we arrived we took a tour right away. Berlin is Germany's biggest tourist destination but it is so massive that you hardly feel crowded at all. But since it is so massive it is hard to get your bearings on your own. The tour guide didn't tell us much more than what I had read out of our Rick Steves book but it was so helpful to have someone navigate for us for a couple hours. Our Hotel was right on Alexander Platz where there was a cool fountain and a very informational exhibit on the post-hitler alternative youth culture. We walked down the main drag, Unter Den Linden, to Brandenburg Gate. Along the way this is some of what we saw:

Martin Luther Statue with a dash of protest.

Small Cold War memorial in the middle of a park.

Here we have the Berlin Cathedral.

Humboldt University. 27 noble prize winners have taught here, including Albert Einstein.

This is the courtyard where infamous Nazi book burning took place. Among the 20,000 books banned and burned there was one with the passage, "when you start by burning books, you end with burning people." The memorial above is a glass window that shows into a room with enough empty book shelves to hold the all the books that were burned. Matt is tap dancing on the memorial.

This is the Russian embassy. I loved it because of the USSR symbols still above the window!

Does this balcony look familiar??

This is the Memorial to the Murdered Jews WWII. It was completely entrancing. We could wander and rome all through the different concrete tombstone like blocks.

Beautiful Brandenburg Gate. The statue on top was originally named Goddess of Peace. When Napoleon took over Prussia, however, he stole it and took it the Louvre in Paris. When Napoleon was overthrow they stole it back and renamed her the Goddess of Victory.

Reichstag Building: This is Germany's Parliment building. It burned down in 1933 (many believe this was Hitlers doing) and it wasn't rebuilt until 1999.

This is at the top of the Reichstag in the glass dome on the top.

After the Parliment Building we roamed around the streets South of Unter den Linden where the Nazi and Wall history is rich. But we made a happy stop first:
This is Gendarmenmarkt Square. There are twin churches on either side (one French, one German) and the Berlin Symphony's concert hall is in the middle. This was the most charming block of Berlin.

Just on the corner of Gendarmenmarkt Square is Europes biggest Chocolate shop, Fassbender & Rausch. We tried a handful of truffles and a few different levels on chocolate and it all was so delicious! All over the store they have these enormous chocolate masterpieces.

This is just the bottom of the wall to an old bank. The holes in the concrete are bullet holes from WWII. So crazy!

Right under this parking lot is Hitler's Bunker. This is where he plotted, hid, and commited suicide.

The Berlin Wall! Even though the wall is gone, they have traced the entire thing with this double cobblestone line.

Some remnants of the Berlin Wall.

This is Check Point Charlie. Many people died trying to cross the wall into Western Berlin. The big picture on the right is of a soviet soldier looking over eastern Berlin. The other side of the picture has an American Soldier looking over the West.

We followed the cobblestone trace of the Berlin Wall for 3 miles until we came to this, The East Side Gallery. This is the biggest remaining stretch of the Wall. It is about a mile long and is covered with murals by artists from around the world.

It Started raining so we booked it to the nearest train station to find dinner.

Vapianos was the coolest restaurant! The table we are sitting at had a real huge tree growing out of the middle of it. They hand made all of their pasta and made killer pizza! My pizza has 3 types of cheese including shredded parmesan and gorgonzola, procuito, and figs! it was so tasty.

And then on the way home we passed a car show room and matt couldn't help himself!

Berlin was Awesome! So much scary recent history and incredible innovation all rolled into a huge, busy, ever-changing city. We loved it.