Family Fun

We played a disgusting game with jelly beans. I don’t know what it’s actually called but someone said it was basically ‘Jelly Bean Roulette.”

My last night and morning in Stockbridge was so much fun. On Friday evening we had a big family BBQ. Almost my entire Michigan family made it. I just love hanging out with everyone so much! The food was delicious. I particularly enjoyed the rhubarb crumble.

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We played a disgusting game with jelly beans. I don’t know what it’s actually called but someone said it was basically ‘Jelly Bean Roulette.” It totally was! You spin a dial and it tells you what colour jelly bean you have to eat. You have a 50/50 chance of getting a delicious jelly bean or a disgusting jelly bean. Here are some of the flavour options: chocolate pudding or canned dog food, butter popcorn or rotten egg, coconut or baby wipes, lime or grass clippings, tutti-fruity or dirty socks. The most disgusting ones in order were: rotten egg, booger, dirty socks, canned dog food and vomit. I seriously wanted to vomit myself when I got these. I spat them back out immediately. The funniest part though it Cassie would chew on the disgusting ones, keep a straight face and the swallow them. It was bazar. She seemed to like the awful jelly beans. I really enjoyed watching everyone’s faces when eating them though. Especially mum (we all know she has great facial expressions). Luckily I did get some tasty ones.

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Another game we played that night was the card game cheat. This was also a lot of fun. It’s so amusing seeing who tries to cheat the most. I was super exhausted by the end of the night, but this didn’t deter me from making plans to having a cousin breakfast in the morning. So at 9am we headed out to the Munith Café for a good breakfast. Kristen, David, Jacquie, Ethan, Sara, Cassie and I all made it. Karlee and R.J. were still fast asleep, and Zac was in Utah. We had a fun time. It was hilarious when Ethan (half asleep and confused) asked Kristen where David was. He was sitting right next to her. We all laughed so hard when Ethan realised. Clearly someone needed some more sleep (but in Ethan’s defence David is a very quite person compared to us cousins).

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We then all hung out at Uncle Joel’s house with Grandma until it was time to leave. It’s always hard and sad saying goodbye to everyone. It’s definitely much easier than it used to be. I come back so frequently now that I know it won’t be long until I see everyone again. However this time I felt more sad than usual. On our flight from Detroit to Dallas I sat contemplating how much I hated living on the opposite side of the world to my family. I love Australia, but I love my family. Michigan and Australia both feel like home to me, so it’s hard to say goodbye.

We did eventually make it home safe and sound. Our flight out of Dallas was changed from 10:15 to 11:45. So by the time we were up in the air and had been feed it felt like 2am to me (I was on Michigan time). I was so incredibly exhausted. I basically passed out my half eaten food still sitting on my tray table. I woke up hours later with it gone and my tray table packed away. I pretty much slept the whole flight. It was also one of the longest flights in the world. Dallas to Sydney is in the top 5 longest flights and was a total of 17 hours. I’ve decided I don’t mind these long flights anymore. I have gotten used to them and I almost welcome the hours of sitting, sleeping and contemplating. I will say one thing though. Qantas is better than Virgin (take note long haul travelers). Dallas is also a much nicer airport than LA. A loop train will take you to all the different terminals. It’s super easy, convenient, modern and clean. BUT the Dallas international airport closes up at 9pm. This was a shock. All the stores and restaurants closed (including McDonald’s). So make sure you eat before then and be aware it’s not the type of airport you would want to be stuck in overnight.

So that’s the end of my 2017 Summer Michigan Trip. Now back to winter. (Although so far the days have been sunny and nice. I couldn’t ask for better winter weather. I even sat outside with a cup of soup this morning watching the world light up).

Stay tuned for more blog posts about my local life and upcoming trips away.

Long Days and Short Nights

I have really enjoyed soaking up the summer sun. On one afternoon Cassie and I took photos around the ‘Fillmore Estate.’ The land where my family lives is pretty big. The three houses are separated by fields, a creek and even a forest.

We have been having such wonderful summer weather. I feel so happy. I LOVE SUMMER! The past few days have been a fun lounging kind of days. We saw despicable ME 3 at the Sun theatre (the lovely old theatre I mentioned in an earlier post). It was such a cute movie. I laughed A LOT! Karlee also introduced me to cookie dough bites. Cookie dough bites are bits of cookie dough covered in chocolate, enough said.

On Wednesday we visited Cell Block 7. This was actually Grandma’s idea. Cell Block 7 is a prison block, at the Jackson State Prison, which is now a museum. The block closed in 2007, so exactly 10 years ago. It was really intense because the rest of the prison was still active. So we couldn’t take any cell phones or camera devices into the block. It was so neat though! We saw the strip search areas, the shower areas. We saw all the cells. Gosh I wish I could have taken photos so I could upload them and you all could see. I did manage to find some photos on google though to upload. We also learnt some fascinating information. One particular man managed to escape from the prison three times. The last time he escaped via a hijacked helicopter. Don’t worry each time he was recaptured a few days later. Also if anyone is interested they filmed movies at this cell block: Conviction, Stone, Street Boss, Heartlock, and Old Man and the Gun.

On Thursday Cassie, Mum, Grandma and I all visited Cousin Becky. We had a wonderful time! Becky is so lovely and fun to talk too. She also always has the MOST DELICIOUS FOOD! This time for lunch we had, a casserole, rock melon, cucumber, deviled eggs, and a spiced pumpkin muffin. We also got to meet her Grandson Travis, who was lovely. We all went swimming in her pool after lunch. Cassie and I were fascinated by the way the water sizzled on the pavement. We didn’t think it was that hot but it was definitely making a crackling noise whenever freshwater was sprinkled on a dry spot. Also Becky has a magnificent water-slide. Everyone seems to have water-slides here! I went flying off that thing at top speed. It was great.

We did some gardening with Grandma. Grandma instructed while Cassie, Mum and I pulled up weeds. Her property looks so fantastic now. I am really satisfied with our work. It was fun having grandma out there helping too.

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I have really enjoyed soaking up the summer sun. On one afternoon Cassie and I took photos around the ‘Fillmore Estate.’ The land where my family lives is pretty big. The three houses are separated by fields, a creek and even a forest. I love how everyone is within walking distance. A short walk through beautiful fields filled with flowers and a horse (sometimes horses) has you arriving at one of the three houses.

It will be sad to be saying goodbye to the summer sun soon

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Country Life

We also went walking through the fields with her other horse Bella. Of course I snacked on as many wild blackberries as I could find. YUM!

This week has been a lovely week! Although it hasn’t been quite as jam packed as our trip away or the weekend there has still been lot’s to do. I’m going to sound like my friend Rachel in this blog entry. Her blog entries always involve a lot of food talk. This blog is ‘Rachel style.’

One evening I went out to dinner with Uncle Jon, Aunt Elizabeth, Jacquie, Kristen, David, Austin and Cassie. We went to the backstreet. What a lovely family restaurant. Our waitress went to school with Austin. She is pregnant and engaged to a military man. She looked super cute. Then another lady brought out her grandchild to show us. Apparently her daughter in law wanted children badly but couldn’t. Then she finally got her wish come true. It was an adorable baby. The table even had a little handwritten sign that said everyone was welcome. It said it was a community restaurant and you could come alone and make new friends, or bring a friend with you. What made me laugh the most at dinner though was the fact that Uncle Jon still has me on his family GPS tracker. I love it. He asked me to get it last summer when I was here. He must have been checking to see where we were on our Mackinac trip.

I love spending time with all my cousins. When Austin is around too we always manage to come up with some grand ideas. We are still planning on purchasing a ‘Cousin Castle’ on a remote island. This time we discussed some other brilliant ideas that Austin had. In fact I think they are such good business ideas that I don’t want to discuss them on this blog. No one will steal my cousin’s idea. Let’s just say the first idea involved planes and the second idea involved people/investment. I’ll leave you to wonder.

After dinner we went to look at Aunt Elizabeth’s new horse called Bella. SHE IS GORGEOUS! She is a small horse which makes me like her even more, and she is just so beautiful. I am very excited for Aunt Elizabeth. She went our riding this evening. Austin also showed me a big fish he caught at the fishing spot. He is super thrilled about this fish. He put it in the little pond they have and it seems to be quite happy.

I seriously love watching Cassie and Austin. They are basically the same, but opposite gender. They crack me up! Cassie mentioned she also has a list of great entrepreneurship ideas. Austin apparently also has written down all his ideas too. They are going to meet and compare lists. Another funny incident happened which actually began with Sara (even though she wasn’t with Cassie, Austin and I). On our trip to Mackinaw City Sara asked us a bunch of fun questions that we had to discuss. Some were moral dilemmas, others were just fun. One question was “If you had the option to go to the moon for ten minutes (via teleportation) for free, or go to Europe for one year for free AND receive $1000 per month, which would you choose?” EVERYONE we have talked to said Europe, except Cassie. She was 100% down for the moon. We asked Austin this question just before he showed us the fish and he was legit the only other person that said the moon. It made me laugh so hard. They really are two peas in a pod.

Kristen took the day off of work on Monday. I’m so happy she did! We had a great day. I went to the coffee shop with her and Aunt Elizabeth for breakfast. Later in the day Cassie, Kristen and I went shopping at the mall. Then David joined us in the evening to see the latest Spiderman movie. We all loved it! I was so surprised! Cassie and I never like the same movies. It had action in it, but it was also quite humorous and had a proper plot. It wasn’t just people fighting each other and things blowing up. It also ended well. I like that. We then went to Olive Garden for dinner. I LOVE OLIVE GARDEN! It’s so delicious. You get unlimited soup too. So we all got full on soup and took our main course home as leftovers. We also go a free soup to go as well. I wish we had an Olive Garden back home! On the way home we spotted a deer with a fawn. We see lots of deer and fawns, but this one was so tiny. So cute!

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Mum preached at our Stockbridge church on Sunday. She is now officially an international preacher. I’m so proud of my mum. They happened to be doing a series on the minor prophets and back home we were also doing a series on this. It was so perfect! It was also lovely going to church there. I really enjoy going. I feel so welcomed. It’s like I have been welcomed to my home church after being away. A lot of this is due to Deb the current pastor of the church. She is doing a wonderful job, but it’s not just her. Everyone is very friendly.

Also on Sunday, after church and the tea party, Austin, Cassie and I discussed the plane plan in more depth. This is one of the entrepreneurship ideas I mentioned before. Intrigued even more? I’m still not revealing his idea! It’s too good. We then played the card game Cheat with grandma. She smashed! You just don’t expect my adorable little grandma to lie so much, but when it comes to card games she has no limits! It was a lot of fun!

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One evening I had a delicious venison potato pie that Aunt Kim made for dinner! Venison is deer, if you didn’t know. It’s quite tasty and popular in Michigan due to so many deer around. People who go shooting have their deer’s meat prepared so it can be cooked. Cassie wasn’t game to try the venison though. She thinks the deer are too adorable to eat. I just try not to think about that!

On Tuesday night we went to Jacquie and Zac’s house for a BBQ. There house is looking fantastic! They have out some new floorboards down and repainted the kitchen cupboards. I just love their house so much! I spent a long time swimming in their huge pool. It’s super deep and has a diving board. This year there was a new addition. Zac has turned Grandma Hettie’s old slide into a water slide. The slide is at least 50 years old and still going. Zac had also set up a game in the back yard called ‘Corn Hole.’ It’s also sometimes called ‘Bean Bag Toss’ but Corn Hole sounds much cooler. IT WAS A BLAST! It’s much harder than it looks but you can improve a lot with practice. Of course Cassie played an intense game of ‘RunAway’ and ‘Tug of War’ with Rouger the dog. She loves that dog so much. I got to try flying Uncle Jon’s drone. That was very exciting, although Cassie was better at steering it than me! Lastly I got to try venison steak. It was DELICIOUS! I want more as I am thinking about it right now. I’ll go back to Jacquie’s house any day!

Cassie and I have matching bathers:

You may think this is actually sounding like a pretty full week. We did have a lot of fun, but some of it was relaxing. One day is bucketed (like I’ve never seen before) with rain. It was really relaxing to sit by the window. It was pouring hard but still lovely and warm. We went to visit Aunt Elizabeth’s colt (baby boy horse) called Shock. He is such a cute little horse. He is shedding a lot though and you can see he is going to be much darker than he is right now once he is done shedding. We also went walking through the fields with her other horse Bella. Of course I snacked on as many wild blackberries as I could find. YUM!

We also went to see the latest Transformers movie. You’re not going to believe this but the road that connects Stockbridge to Chelsea (which is a about a 20 minute drive) was used in the movie! Seriously they spent about a month filming a part of the movie on M52. The shut the whole road down and everything. I thought this was so cool. I took photos on M52 before going to the movies later that day. Cassie and I also turned the car we have been borrowing from Uncle Jon into a roofless car. It’s a convertible Chrysler car. I felt so fancy! I also 100% felt like I was in a transformer car! It was so cool, but scary at the same time! It’s like the whole car come apart and then gets put back together. Cassie and I kept attempting to convert it but panicking because we thought it would get stuck and we would have a car coming apart and not be able to get home. So we kept getting half way converted then panicking and putting it back. Eventually we fully converted it. All you have to do is hold down a button for about 30 seconds and it converts just like that into a roofless car. It was pretty nifty. I  also quite enjoyed the movie. It was playing in an old style theater. I also ate a whole bucket (American sized bucket) of popcorn to myself. I know I was being a piggy! But I couldn’t help myself. It had real butter on it, not the pretend butter!

International Dilemmas

The more I heard about Russia the more my eyes widened with excitement and an un-removable grin was pasted on my face. Then… the nightmare of trip planning begun.

Image result for Russia Vs AmericaFor those of you who don’t know, my boyfriend is Russian. He moved to Australia when he was twelve. He has come to America with me a couple of times. He met my extended family and we explored America together. We have been to Michigan, New York, New Orleans and Montana. We even went to college at Montana State University for six months. So my boyfriend and I figured it was about time I went to Russia to see his family and explore his roots! Thus the excitement and thrill of planning a Russia trip began. We had planned on going this July for around a year, but due to the fact VISAs can only be acquired three months in advance, we didn’t make anything official. When April finally came around we organised VISAs and began to official planning process.

The more I heard about Russia the more my eyes widened with excitement and an un-removable grin was pasted on my face. I was going to see the beautiful church buildings, palaces, grand museums, market places and medieval villages. Then I found out my boyfriend’s family lived in a village in Siberia. I couldn’t believe it! I would see the fast paced Moscow and St. Petersburg life, as well as the country lifestyle. There were forests to explore, rivers to splash in and Altai Mountains to look at. I honestly couldn’t wait.

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Then… the nightmare of trip planning begun. Seasoned travellers have all experienced travel problems, but I’m telling you mine were getting ridiculous! We seriously ran into every obstacle we could along the way. Let me dot point everything that went wrong for us.
1. Ticket prices went up (by a lot).
2. A few days later checked prices, went to book two hours later, and prices had gone up again!
3. Then I found out my elderly grandma in Michigan has cancer. Questions about whether I should be going to Michigan in July, instead of Russia, arose. So we delayed buying tickets. It was decided I would still go to Russia to meet Stas’ elderly great grandma whom I have never met.
4. I monitored airfares for a month to find the cheapest time of the week to purchase. Thursday turned out to be the cheap day. I went to book on Thursday but prices had gone up AGAIN!!!
5. Then the St. Petersburg terror attack occurred. Questions around our safety arose. We decided we would go but just not take the subway.
6. Then we found out Stas’ great grandma fell and broke her shoulder. Seeing her was the main reason for our trip. We didn’t know if she would even be okay for us to come in July. So we delayed buying tickets, but she seems to be doing okay now.
7. Went to buy tickets again, but thought I may have caught glandular fever from my sister, so we delayed. Prices went up again. (There is a reoccurring theme here isn’t there?)
8. We contacted a travel agent. She said she would get back to us in two days. We never heard back from her.
9. Finally I went to buy tickets. The prices were acceptable and I began filling out our details, only to discover that you couldn’t do a split payment (my mistake). Then I had to wait for money to be transferred from my boyfriend’s account to my account, so we had enough money in the one account to buy tickets.
10. FINALLY I purchased tickets!!!! But wait for it… Wait for it…. The payment was unsuccessful. I am not kidding! I half paid. Confused? So was I! Basically my bank approved the payment so the money was no longer accessible to me, but China Southern Airlines didn’t finalise the payment so they didn’t get the money. This left us with no tickets and no money to buy tickets with. The money wouldn’t become accessible to me for a whole week.
11. Then, that’s right, the tickets went up again. In fact they went up by so much money they if our payment didn’t finalise and the money was returned to me there was no way I could afford plane tickets!
12. We sent multiple emails and called multiple times to the airline company with no success.
13. Then the payment was finalised and the money was deducted from my account, WOOOHOOO, we should receive tickets now right? Wong! We received an email saying the tickets were not able to be issued. I’m starting to fall to pieces now. I’m in week 11 currently at Uni. Aussie students know what that means!
14. We responded asking the airline to reissue the tickets. They accepted and asked us to confirm passenger names and passport details. I sent them the required information. Stas was sure everything had worked out. I told him not to hold his breathe. Sadly this was good advice. We received an email saying the name on my passport didn’t match what they had on file and they could not change this. They could not issue the ticket in my full correct name. My middle name was missing in their records. They then reminded me that I may be denied boarding if the name did not match that of my passport.
15. At this point I am so stressed. I can’t sleep. I am having panic attacks. I am behind in all my classes. My boyfriend and I are fighting. I’m emotionally wrecked. I am seriously just exhausted.
16. I reached the stage of defeat. I requested the money be refunded. But sadly my hellish nightmare doesn’t stop here. They said the money would be refunded to my account in 15 to 30 business days!!!! What is this??? Which means we have no money to book alternative flights.
17. Then I started receiving phone calls. First they asked if I could speak Chinese. I said no, so they called me back. They called me back asking if I wanted to reissue the tickets or refund the money. I said refund the money. They said I need to respond to their email. I said I did respond and they re-responded. They just repeated the line saying I needed to respond to their email requesting a refund. I again said I had they had in fact responded to my email. They then told me to respond to their email. This parrot like conversation confused by a language barrier continued for a few minutes. They then hung up. Two hours later someone else called and I literally had the exact same conversation.

So now finally I have covered a step by step documentation of my awful ticket buying experience, which is technically still not over. I am still waiting for my money to return to me. So what to do now? We’ll I’m a religious person, and when so many things started to pop up I began to get concerned that it was a sign from God. I asked God for more and more signs and I kept hitting more and more roadblocks. The final straw for me was when I said “okay God bless this trip if it’s meant to be or show me a clear sign I shouldn’t go if you don’t want to me. We’ve had so many things go wrong with these tickets. It seems like everything is fine now. But if one more thing goes wrong, I won’t go.” Then BAM they couldn’t even issue a ticket with my correct name. So I believe that yes I am supposed to go to Russia, but just not this July. Some of you might not believe it’s God giving me a sign. Maybe you think it’s the universe telling me my plans are not what it wants? Or perhaps you are thinking this is all just stereotypical travel problems and it’s all just one big coincidence? Even if it is the latter I have never had so many problems crop up in trying to purchase a plane ticket before, and yes I do travel internationally quite frequently. The stress of the plane ticket purchasing problems completely sucked the excitement and fun out of the trip! Which was actually really, really sad. I wanted the joy and excitement at the thought of going to return but it just wouldn’t.

The consensus is that it I should go to Michigan to visit my grandma and Stas will go to Russia to visit his. I am sad I won’t be exploring such a marvellous and unique culture. I am also sad that I won’t be meeting Stas’ family members. But I love Michigan. I love my grandma. And I love my family in Michigan! So while I may have lost one thing, I have gained another. I will admit that I am most sad for Stas and the fact I won’t be accompanying him to Russia. I want to honour him in the way he has honoured me by coming to America. But like I mentioned the world is against me going right now. I am comforted knowing he can now spend three to four weeks with his family, instead of just one. He also won’t have to worry about translating conversations constantly from Russian to English and English to Russian. He doesn’t need to worry about entertaining me. He can just spend quality time with his family.

Today my travel advice books arrived in the mail. (Side note I always use the lonely planet books. They are by far the best. I highly recommend even if you are an experienced traveller.) At first I was sad. I flicked through the pages of the things I could have seen. But then you know what? I started to get excited! Because I haven’t given up my trip to Russia, I have just rescheduled it. I’ll be able to save more money, which means we can stay everywhere for twice as long (YEEEHAAAA) and see twice as many things. Plus if you know me you would know my favourite part of a holiday is the planning/looking forward to the things I will be doing. Now I can spend the next year looking at all the things I want to see. I can plan out where I want to go. Instead of just 5 weeks of excitement I will have a whole year!  So lookout Russia it might not be this July but I am planning a magnificent trip and I AM COMING!!!

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