2016

The media keeps lamenting 2016, but looking back through my photos, it looks like I had a good year. And for that, I am thankful. No complaints here! Also – I don’t remember what happened more than 2 months ago.. so this recap is also a fun reflection exercise (/thank goodness I take a lot of photos on my phone). Here we go, 12 months, 12 photos.

In January, I went on a cruise with these delightful folks, and it was one of the best vacations I have ever been on! We went (pretend) ring shopping. We drank lots of fancy coffees. We watched game shows. We ate too much food. And we took lots of photos. Let’s do it again soon!

jan2016

In February, I participated in my first of many (12!) craft shows this year. I won’t include toooo many craft show photos in the rest of this recap, but they were all fun and different in their own way! I got to meet people who would tell me that they follow me on Instagram (aw shucks!) and connect with fellow creatives in the city (so many new friends who are so cool I cannot even comprehend).

feb2016

In March, I started helping out with the youth at my church. At first, I was overwhelmed. And then we went to No Other Name (a 1-day youth conference) and I was even more overwhelmed. But now, I love them. They keep me young (and simultaneously make me feel old).

mar2016

In April, I finally visited Jocelyn in Hamilton! I always thought it was a nothing city, not really worth visiting. But I regret waiting so long to visit! They have a dedicated calligraphy store and awesome food. ‘Nuff said.

apr2016

In April, I visited Almonte to be in my first Cheerfully Made market. It was possibly one of my best shows of the year, other than the Etsy show! Also this sign changes colours and is mega cool so I took a picture with it, hehh.

may2016

In June, I graduated!!! I miss Kingston, but boy, I do not miss school. Okay, just a little bit.

june2016

In July, I picked strawberries with Kaitlyn. This was probably my first Canada Day in a while not going downtown.. but it was so chill and fun! Totally recommend it.

jul2016

In August, I worked. Well, most months I did. But I also said goodbye to some PHAC friends this month. I learned more about the Kardashians from them than I ever thought I could know.

aug2016

In September, I did my first ever 2-day show. I didn’t even know it was a 2-day show until about a month before, hahaha. I clearly did not read the contract clearly, heh. Busiest and most crowded show I’ve ever seen. But thankfully I had wonderful helpers to help me survive the busy BUSY crowds. Oh. I also forgot to bring my cash float (cue panic attack) on day 2.. thankfully my friends of Sadie & June lent me money to get me going. Aaaand this is why it is good to have friends :)

sep2016

In October, my MPH friends and I reunited for a wine touring weekend (where I stopped drinking after 2 wineries cause I’m a lightweight like that). We also made a spur of the moment decision to go to Kingston for homecoming weekend to see Walk Off The Earth! So fun.

oct2016

In November, I went to Toronto for a friend’s engagement party and got to experience and explore downtown Toronto. The weather was perfect for just wandering all day. My brother and I also hunted for coffee beans in Kensington Market to fuel his new hipster obsession.

nov2016

In December, I went to Montreal to escape Ottawa (actually, Jethro just had to use up some vacation days). Got to catch up with David and Jenna who I do not see often enough anymore!

dec2016

And so so many other wonderful things this year. I purposely didn’t share food photos, though I do have lots of those. I can’t decide if I should commit to eating out less this year, or eating out more. Either way, it’s going to be great.

xo,

stephkoanie

A Family Vacation on the Quantum of the Seas

I just got back from a family vacation on board the Quantum of the Seas, one of Royal Caribbean’s newer cruise ships. Get settled, and get ready as I try to remember everything I did on my vacation.

Day 1: Embarkation. We drove to the cruise terminal, and the GPS took us to a bridge that was closed for construction, so we were delayed about an hour getting to the port. And then once we got there, there was a ginormous line up, which we later discovered was because there was a dock worker strike, so everything was taking a little longer than usual. Once we got on the ship, we ate lunch, we had the ship-wide safety drill, and then just hung out.

Day 2-3: At sea. I really can’t remember what we did when on the ship. The days all blend together, but we definitely explored the ship, and did some of the cool activities they had on board. We went roller skating one night, and it was so retro and hard! I managed to not fall, and have a pretty good time though, haha.

We went simulation skydiving, which was much less like skydiving than I thought it would be. Or maybe skydiving really does feel like that. But it felt like there was a giant hairdryer blowing you up, instead of you freefalling (which is essentially what was happening, we were “flying” on top of a giant thing blowing air at you).

Day 4: Port Canaveral. My brother and I went into Orlando and went to Universal Studios Islands of Adventure. It was fun, and since we got in pretty early (9 something ish), we got to hit all the big rides before there were any major lineups. We never waited more than 10 minutes for a ride. And since it was a cloudy Monday in April, the lines weren’t that crazy by the end of the day either (the signs said about 45-60 minutes). Success. We finished most of the park in half the day, due to the lack of lines. My favourite part was walking around Hogsmeade, of course. It was so cool. We shared a cup of butterbeer and it was just an overly sweet caramel-y carbonated drink, with foam on top. WAY too sweet, but hey, you gotta try it when you’re there, right? They were selling all sorts of cool things like the candies, wands, robes, etc. But everything was super overpriced, so we didn’t get anything. Overall, it was a lot of fun! Except I was mildly motion sick after getting off the ship, and going on all those high speed roller coasters. I was fine, but I probably wouldn’t recommend the combination, haha.

Day 5: Cococay, Bahamas. This is the private island that Royal Caribbean owns. My brother and I joined a kayaking excursion that left at 9:30 in the morning. We were in 2-person kayaks, and my brother sat in the back, supposedly the heavy lifting spot. We saw some nurse sharks, a conch, and something else but I didn’t actually see it or know what he was saying. Our tour guide was Canadian though (yay Canada!). The rest of the day we relaxed in the shade (cause my parents don’t like the sun, I guess), and my brother and I briefly went snorkelling, which is cool for about 5 minutes and you see cool fish and we saw a stingray.. but then it got uncomfortable and I started getting salt water in my goggles and in my mouth and stuff.

When we got back on the ship, I went rock climbing. The routes I did weren’t very hard, and the guy told me that I was the best he had seen on the ship, because I actually think and I use both my arms and my legs, and not just one or the other. I thought that was funny cause whenever I go with my friends, I am ALWAYS the worst, cause a) I’m short, and b) I’m not very strong. Hehe.

Day 6: Nassau, Bahamas. We didn’t join any excursions this day, but instead we just hopped into a taxi and went to Atlantis to explore the resort there. We didn’t realize that you need to pay to see anything there. When my mom was here for business, she explored the resort for free, without going on any rides or anything because it’s free at night. But during the day you have to pay to get admission to anything. So we just wandered, used wifi and took shelter from the pouring rain outside. We headed back to the downtown area and went shopping, collected free jewelry pieces (thanks to VIP cards from the cruise), and my mom bought me really expensive (in my opinion) earrings. They are tanzanite studs, a gemstone which is apparently really rare. My mom says I need to build my collection. Oki dokie.

Photo 2015-04-29, 12 46 16 PM

Day 7-8: At sea. We watched a bunch of game shows, which were hilarious. We also played a lot of table tennis and foosball as a family. My brother and I sat in on some trivia games, and we played once. We usually showed up late though, so that’s why we only played once. We probably got the lowest score, but they didn’t give any prizes for lowest score the time we played, although they did other times!!! Darn it.

Day 8: Disembarkation. We drove to Woodbury this day and went outlet shopping here all day. I got a new purse from Kate Spade, I got a new winter sweater, a bunch of work clothing, and a new pair of black heels. Successful day, I’d say!

Food: This ship was doing a new concept called Dynamic Dining, where instead of having the traditional dining room, there were 4 complementary restaurants where we could eat dinner. American Icon Grill (traditional american fare), Silk (asian fusion), Chic (contemporary cuisine), and the Grande (err.. the classics? something like that). The Grande was the formal dining room, and the others were semi formal. There was also other places to eat like the buffet/they called it the marketplace, a cafe, some snack shops, a pizzeria, a hot dog stand, etc. Basically, when you’re on a cruise, you never go hungry. Ever.

Photo 2015-04-24, 7 27 37 PM

Entertainment: We saw a ton of shows, and they were all amazing. Mamma Mia was a full length broadway show, which is unusual for a cruise ship. Usually they have 1 hour or 1.5 hour shows, but this was a full feature broadway show. There were some other shows as well. Starwater was in their high tech lounge space (which cost ~$35M to build), which was a dance and song show. It was super impressive. There was also a ventriloquist, an a capella group and a music/dance show called Sonic Odyssey – all three are Las Vegas acts. They were all top of the line, amazing. Royal Caribbean gets an A+ for the entertainment.

The ship in general: It was a high tech ship, the second newest in Royal Caribbean’s fleet (the newest is the Anthem of the Seas). The ship started sailing in November 2014. After this trip, the Quantum is moving to China, and Anthem is replacing it in its Caribbean route. Anyway, so they have this new app where you can text your shipmates, and you can schedule your excursions, your dining, your entertainment, etc. You can manage your accounts and everything electronically. It’s a super new thing, and the older ships still don’t have the app capability. I already mentioned some of the cool innovative things it has: indoor skydiving, surfing simulator, bumper cars, circus school, north star, rock climbing, and lots of entertainment space (Royal Theatre, Royal Esplanade (the shopping strip, but also sometimes had performers and parades), Music Hall, Two70 Lounge), lots of bars including a robotic bar operated by robots (called the Bionic Bar), the multifunction play space (called the SeaPlex, where the bumper cars, circus school, roller skating, etc. was), a couple pools, aaaand I don’t know what else. But it was definitely a fancy ship.

I am super thankful for the time that I got to spend with my family. Opportunities like this vacation, where we were disconnected from the internet, and got to spend time with each other really remind me of how important my family is to me. I am thankful for them, and am glad I got to go on this vacation with them. I had a great time! One of my favourite cruise vacations ever. A few days after getting off the ship, I still felt like I was rocking on the ship though.. has this ever happened to anyone else?

This is going to sound a little strange, but one of the greatest things I noticed from cruising is how incredible kind, friendly and hospitable everyone on the ship was! Especially the staff, because of course that is their job. But also our fellow cruisers. I’m sure it has something to do with the fact that everyone is on vacation, and over 75% of the cruisers are retired (a stat I just pulled out of nowhere).. but still! It was an incredible reminder of just how sometimes it takes no more than a smile, a hello, or a how are you doing to show kindness and love. Especially as a Christian, I have SO MUCH to be thankful and joyful about. So, it’s something that I want to do more of in my everyday life – sharing the joy and love that I experience from Christ with my friends, family, and STRANGERS TOO. We all ought to love more in this increasingly individual-centric world.