Looking back 9 years…

Today I am celebrating 9 years of marriage to my perfect match!  I saw this little “Share Your Wedding Details” meme on my cousin’s blog a few weeks ago.  It was designed for a link party that has since closed.  So although I cannot participate in the link party, I still thought it would be appropriate to share today.

Share Your Wedding Details

Location (church/outdoors/destination):  Since we got married in the middle of summer in Florida, I didn’t want to chance any weather-related issues by having any major part of the day be held outside.  We also had a lot of out of town guests.  So to keep things simple and stress-free, we did the whole shebang, ceremony and reception indoors at the Hilton Orlando North.  Not a super unique or scenic location, but I think we did a good job making it our own.  We were lucky enough to have decent weather during our formal portraits, so we opted to have those taken outdoors at a nearby park (Crane’s Roost Park, if you’re local).
Colors: Plum and silver were the main colors, but I had my florist make the flowers (daisies!) as colorful as possible.  I loved how the pink, yellow, red, and orange gerber daisies popped off of the deep purple of the bridesmaids’ dresses.  I wanted a very colorful wedding, and that’s just what I got.
 
Bridal Party: I would say we had a medium-sized party.  We each had one honor attendant and three additional attendants.  We also had 1 junior groomsman and 2 junior bridesmaids.   The group consisted of all three of our siblings, three of my cousins, and several close friends.
First Dance Song: Nightingale by Saves The Day. Still sometimes gets me misty-eyed when I hear it…
Ceilings don’t exist and there are no floors beneath me,
If I were king of this night, would you become my queen?
And I hope, your majesty, that you like your position
I’ll do everything I can to keep you by my side
And I’ll stare off through the darkness to find us a kingdom
Just kiss me before I go…
Honeymoon:  We flew to San Diego and cruised the Pacific Coast of Mexico for a week on Royal Caribbean’s Legend of the Seas.  We visited Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, and Puerta Vallarta.  This was our first trip to Mexico (and Tadd’s first time on the Pacific Coast, period!) and we were totally smitten!
What would you do different? I would schedule the honeymoon to be a few days later after all the hullabaloo had died down.  We had a VERY late night the night of the wedding, followed by a VERY early morning when the town car arrived to take us to the airport to fly to San Diego.  Of course, we took a nap after the muster drill and ended up sleeping straight through until morning, missing our first dinner/evening on the cruise ship.  There are a few other small things I might change, but that would be the one thing that sticks out most in my mind.
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Living Room Makeover…Before

So I am hoping that the weekend proves to be as productive as I intend it to be.  Currently the plan is that we are getting the new living room furniture delivered tomorrow.  As stated previously, we are getting the beige L-shaped Ektorp sectional sofa, 2 brown/black Billy bookcases (haven’t decided yet if I’m getting the cabinet doors for the bottom half of the Billys right away or waiting until a future date), a coffee table, console table, and possibly an end table.

I actually started clearing out the room last night.  I didn’t think we had too much “stuff” in that room aside from the furniture, but looks were quite deceiving.  I packed up all the decor and candles, cleaned out most of the coffee table shelf (where lots of odds and ends seem to accumulate), and made a pile of Tadd’s stuff that he will have to go through eventually.  Tonight we will move the coffee table, old sofa, and the few other small furniture pieces into my sewing room (still haven’t decided exactly where everything will be going permanently, so for now we are just going to cram everything in there).  Then we will deep clean the carpets with our handy dandy steam cleaner.

Unfortunately, I neglected to get a true “before” picture.  I was looking back through my collection of personal photos to see if I could find a good true “before” shot, and found some decent ones from one of our past Christmas parties…just so you can get a sense of what the room has looked like for the past few years.  Just ignore all the people and the extra kitchen chairs brought in temporarily for additional seating.

I admit I will miss the huge pop of red the old red sofa brought into the room.  I think when I initially bought it back in early 2005 several people in my life suspected I might live to regret buying a bright red sofa, but in almost 9 years and in 3 different homes, I never did.  Not even for a moment!

However, I am excited that I will get to go in a whole new direction with this makeover.  With the red sofa, my design philosophy involved toning down the red with lots of neutral accessories.  So with the beige sofa, expect lots of colorful accessories!  I don’t want to commit to a color scheme quite yet.  We are keeping the pale yellow walls, so whatever we choose will have to jive with that, but I find that it’s still fairly neutral and goes with most schemes that I would be drawn to anyways.  I am on the hunt for an inspiration piece (throw pillows, wall art, etc), and plan to pull the colors of the accessories from there.

For example, I LOVE this (unfortunately, discontinued) pillow from Pottery Barn!  If I could find something similar, I would easily be able to pull a color scheme together for the rest of the accessories.

Luckily, there are much less expensive and more readily available pillows with pretty florals and paisleys in almost any store that sells home decor.  So I am quite confident I will find one that I love just as much pretty quickly.  Hopefully we get a chance to shop for this type of stuff on Sunday!  Accessorizing is the best part!

This kind of thing always triggers my anxiety a little bit.  Big purchases, big changes, and big decisions always tend to do that to me.  But I am also very excited.  I feel like we have way underutilized this room since the beginning.  I am looking forward to a new layout that uses the space more effectively, gives us more flexible and attractive storage options, and more ways to show off our design personalities.  I hope the end result turns out the way I see it in my head.  I guess we will find out by Sunday night!

My Boston Pride

I thought about posting some kind of reactionary diatribe about what happened in Boston this past Monday, but realized that it would only contribute to what this horrible excuse for a human being wanted…notoriety, fame, attention.  So instead, I will focus my efforts on something more sentimental and positive…What I love about “my” city.

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There are so many reasons to love the city of Boston.

It is not just filled with history, but it is layered in history, centuries deep.  I love that you can walk around and see buildings right next to each other in vastly different styles that work together to create the environment and skyline.  150-year old Romanesque cathedrals next to modern glass sky scrapers.  Colonial style marketplaces next to mid-century office complexes.

This is going to sound enormously cheezy, but when you are there, you can feel the history around you.  I challenge you to have a meal at Union Oyster House and wander around that area and not feel like you are surrounded by living, breathing history.  Some of those old pubs transport you to a different time & place.  We have nothing like that in Orlando.  Nothing even close.

I find the city to be incredibly visually pleasing.  From the aforementioned architecture, to the monuments, to the parks, to the gorgeous tulips and daffodils and flowering trees blooming everywhere you look in the spring.  Boston is beautiful.

The people of Boston are an interesting sort.  It’s a mixture of learned university-types from somewhere else and old-school folks whose roots run generations deep into the fabric of the city.  Another odd mix of old and new that just works.  It is said that people in Boston walk faster and talk faster and are always in a hurry, but I think it’s just that they know where they are going and want to get there.   They want to live life as much as possible and simply don’t feel the need to meander or dawdle in between.

And if you think that people are less friendly there than they are in areas better known for their hospitality, I would beg to differ.  As illustrated by the heroic and heartwarming actions that took place on Monday, I would say that Bostonians on the whole are a warm and welcoming bunch…They just go about it in a different way than their Southern or Midwestern counterparts.

If you are talking Boston, of course, you can’t forget the sports.  I have already talked at length about my love of the Red Sox.  And I’m sure I don’t need to elaborate on the fierce loyalty the city has for the Pats, Bruins, and Celtics.  This love also extends to the college teams.  And of course, the Marathon.  If it’s sports and it’s Boston, the whole city (and usually the entirity of New England) will be rooting for them.  I sometimes wish that Orlando had a similar “great sports city” feel.  But then I think that it still wouldn’t be Boston.  Nothing is like Boston.

I know I moved away from the area when I was 9, but I still feel my connection to the city runs very deep.  It’s one of those places that you don’t just visit, you become a part of it.  And it sticks with you after you leave.   And in all of this recent flurry of media coverage, I see Boston at its best: strong, no-nonsense, pulling together and doing what needs to be done during the hardest of times.  It makes me proud to say that I’m a Boston girl.

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Exciting news!

Tadd and I made a decision on what we want to do to celebrate our 10 year anniversary next year.  We booked a 10-night British Isles cruise!  I know it’s way far in advance to be super excited yet, or even to really be able to do much real planning, but I just wanted to share!

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Day 1 – Harwich, England

Day 2 – Paris (Le Havre), France

Day 3 – St. Peter Port, Channel Isl

Day 4 – Cork (Cobh), Ireland

Day 5 -Waterford (Dunmore E.), Ireland

Day 6 – Dublin, Ireland

Day 7 – Liverpool, England

Day 8 – Glasgow (Greenock), Scotland

Day 9 – Holyhead, Wales

Day 10 – At Sea

Day 11 – Harwich, England

From the History Geek Files: Fort San Lorenzo

This week marks the 2 year anniversary of a really fun vacation that Tadd and I took with some really great people.  Back in April 2011 (about a month before I started this blog!), a group of 12 of us sailed for 8 nights on the Carnival Freedom, stopping at Cozumel, Mexico; Limon, Costa Rica; and Colon, Panama.

I really loved this particular itinerary because it wasn’t your normal Caribbean island hopping cruise.  Not that there is anything wrong with Caribbean island hopping (we will be doing just that later on this year).  It’s just that the ports of call for this cruise were more focused on adventures in the rain forest, interacting with some incredible wildlife, and learning about different cultures.  Something totally different, exotic, and FUN!

One of my favorite moments on the trip was our stop in Panama.  We took a tour that had multiple stops.  We got to see the Panama Canal, took a brief hike through the rainforest, but the best part was after the hike.  We were taken to a small, secluded, driftwood-laden beach on the banks of the Chagres River.

Our guide pointed to a teeny bit of what looked like ruins on the top of a cliff and stated that this would be where we were headed next.  You can see the cliff with the ruins behind us in the picture at the top of this post.  Didn’t look like much from the beach.  But this is what we saw when we got there:

This is Fort San Lorenzo, and it dates back to 1587.  However, as military forts throughout history often are, this one was destroyed and rebuilt a few times, most recently in the 1750s.  It was built by Spain to protect the Pacific/Atlantic trade route across the isthmus of Panama from pirates.  I was totally enamored with the fact that some of the cannons (which were, as you can see, haphazardly strewn about the “gun deck” which has now completely been overgrown with grass) still had the seal of the Spanish crown.  And these cannons were not roped off or encased in glass…They were just lying around in the open.  As a matter of fact, the entire site was completely open to the public.  Unlike Castillo De San Marcos in St. Augustine, which requires you to go through a ticket booth and purchase admission for a tour and even contains a gift shop, this has no gates or even anyone who appeared to be in a “park ranger” type role.  It was just raw history, there to be discovered by anyone who cared to check it out.  Aside from a few handrails and some signage, it didn’t look like it had been touched for hundreds and hundreds of years.

Between getting to be so close to some fascinating history, appreciating the impressive architecture of the fort, and those gorgeous views, I really felt like I was in a special place, and it’s something I have looked back on fondly over the two years since the trip.  If I am ever lucky enough to make it back to Panama, I would love to go back (and with a much better camera!).

For us history geeks, there really is nothing like a beautiful, old Spanish fort…

We (finally) have…a new car!

So my car accident ordeal is finally officially over!  We purchased our new car last Saturday.  It’s a brand new 2013 Honda Civic EX, and we love it.  Very fuel-efficient, lots of gadgets and fun features, and we have gotten a ton of compliments on the color.  We are extremely happy with our purchase.

Excuse the location in that pic…We were returning the rental car when I realized I hadn’t taken a pic yet!

I had really thought we would end up with the Elantra, but when we went back to the dealership the day we were ready to buy, they were $600 apart from the price we had wanted to pay (based on a listing that was on their website) and they just wouldn’t budge.  We told him that if they couldn’t meet our price, we had another car we were going to buy.  So they let us walk away…  The sales guy holding the door open for us as we left shook his head as we walked past and said “You’re going to walk away for $600?” and I wanted to say to him… “You’re LETTING us walk away for $600?”  Wasn’t going to feed into the bait & switch.  So we happily went with Honda and do not regret it one bit!

Car Shopping: The Fascinating Journey

Life is still very slowly headed towards normalcy.  We have started car shopping and, if all goes as planned with the insurance settlement check (which we still do not have), we should have a new car purchased this weekend.

I am the opposite of a “car person”.  I am pretty much only interested in something that can take me where I need to go comfortably, economically, and safely.  But people seem to be genuinely interested in what is going on with our car situation, and perk up when we say we are car shopping.  I have noticed that people in general REALLY like to talk about cars.  Even people who might not self-identify as “car people”.  So I thought I would share a little about our car hunt…

Prior to my crash, and throughout most of the last few months of 2012, we had been talking about buying a new car in February.  The new car was intended to replace our older Saturn SL2.  We were planning on keeping our newer Saturn Ion as a secondary car, because it worked just fine and with Tadd working from home 2-3 days a week, and us carpooling most of the other days, having one new car that we use most of the time and one old (but reliable) car to use as a backup would have worked out just fine for us. The SL2 is getting up there in age and mileage, and has been having some issues lately, so it was definitely the better candidate for replacement than the Ion.

Since the Ion was a standard size sedan, we decided on a body style that was totally different for our future new car…and we settled on a hatchback/wagon.  We wanted something with decent cargo room that we could use if life called for it.  You have no idea how many times we had been at Ikea and NOT bought a piece of furniture just because we had no easy way of getting it home in our little Saturn!  And we are just not truck or big SUV type people.  So we thought it would be nice to have that option in a hatchback for next time we ran across a situation that required extra cargo room.  We were mainly considering the Kia Soul, but also wanted to look at Honda Fit, Nissan Versa, and a few others.

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Then, on 1/11, the Ion was rear-ended by the semi truck.  We were fairly certain right away that it would be totaled, but were not 100% sure.  Now our casual car shopping turned into serious car shopping, and instead of replacing the SL2, we were replacing the Ion.  Once we found out what our settlement would be, we decided to go with replacing the Ion with a new sedan, with the hopes that the SL2 will last awhile longer so we can save up for a less expensive, used hatchback/wagon.  My thought was to get a reasonable, practical, reliable car with great gas mileage that could last us 10+ years.  My husband (who is much more of a “car person” than I am) wanted all the bells and whistles, and wanted a car that just felt nice to drive.

After visiting a few dealerships and test driving a few cars, we have narrowed our search down to two cars:

2013 Honda Civic EX

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2013 Hyundai Elantra Limited2013_hyundai_elantra_sedan_limited_s_oem_1_500

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Right now the choice depends largely on what the two dealerships we are working with can do for us.  We lean ever-so-slightly more favorably towards the Elantra (can’t beat that Hyundai warranty!), but there are things we love about the Civic that the Elantra doesn’t have.  The exact Elantra we want seems to be somewhat elusive and we have gotten conflicting information from different people at the dealership as to whether exactly what we want can be accommodated.  If it turns out it can’t, then we are going with the Civic.  We would be thrilled with either one.

Stay tuned to find out which car we end up with!  Maybe we will shock everyone, including ourselves, and end up with something completely different!  Exciting stuff, folks.

2013 can only get better from here, right?

Although I began 2013 on a wondrously marvelous vacation, my year has otherwise gotten off to a very rough start.  Although I am hopeful that the worst is behind us.  *knock on wood*

I started feeling sick the last night of our vacation with a sore throat that I initially thought was from the cigarette smoke in the cruise ship casino.  It continued into the next day and when it was still bothering me halfway through our drive from Miami to Orlando, I knew it wasn’t cigarette smoke irritation.  The next 5 days or so I had what I thought was a mild cold, and by the end of the week, I was feeling pretty good and figured I was well on the road to recovery.  Which was a good thing, since we had big plans for the weekend to celebrate Tadd’s birthday (more on that later!).

Then, on Friday night, my car was rear-ended by a semi truck on my way home from work.  Yes, a semi truck!  Seeing it coming at me in my rear view mirror just before impact, and having no where to go, was probably one of the scariest moments of my life.  Don’t worry, I am ok, but my car is still in the shop and the powers that be are still deciding whether it is fixable or not.  Hoping to hear something about that today.  I have a feeling it will be totaled, as the trunk and tail lights are all shifted around and smashed.  The trunk hood is completely punctured in one spot and doesn’t latch (because the latch has changed positions and is also bent).  Not very pretty.

So this all happened a week ago on Friday night (1/11), Tadd’s birthday party was Saturday night (1/12), and then very early Sunday morning my cold, that I THOUGHT was going away, came back with a vengeance.  It was about 10 times worse than it was initially.  I never had a fever, so I knew it wasn’t anything serious, but holy cow, the congestion and coughing!  I thought the misery would never end!  My theory is that a combination of the stress of the accident, plus overexertion, ramped it up big time.  That following Tuesday, I took my 2nd sick day in 5 years, which was a huge deal for me.  But when I woke up at 2:30AM that morning, I just knew that there was no way I could make it through a day at work.  And even now, nearly two weeks from my very first cold symptoms, I am still not 100%.  Although I am worlds and worlds better from where I was.  I would say that I’m at about 95% better right now.  Whatever I got, I got it BAD.

Anyways, all of this to say that I have been too consumed with my car and health situations to blog lately.  Trust me, it was a huge victory when we finally got all the Christmas decorations put away…I just had no energy or ability to do much else lately.  However, everything seems to be on track to settle down shortly (again, *knock on wood*!), so hopefully life can resume some level of normalcy soon and I can start blogging regularly again!  I want to start talking about Valentine’s Day projects!  And I want to tell you about Tadd’s birthday party (which was AWESOME!).

What I Did On My Winter Vacation…

It’s 2013 and I’m back!  Although I managed to conclude my 10-day vacation with a plague of sorts, so I have not been functioning as fully as I would like to be over the past couple of days.  It’s making the return to regular daily post-holiday and post-vacation life a little difficult.

I thought I would share just a little bit of what I did with my time off.  With a little star-alignment, serendipity, and good planning, I managed to secure 10 (TEN!) consecutive days off of work.  So from 4:30ish PM on Friday, December 28th through 7:30ish AM on Tuesday, January 8th, I was on VACATION!

My first three nights were spent at home, cleaning, packing, running pre-vacation errands, etc.  Saturday night, Tadd and I went down to Downtown Disney for a date night (and renewed our annual passes too!).  Got to eat at my favorite Raglan Road, and saw Les Mis (which instantly made me a HUGE Anne Hathaway fan, as you might have seen that night if you follow me on twitter).

NYE was spent at home with our traveling companions.  They spent the night, since we were heading to Fort Lauderdale in the morning.  It was a wild night, let me tell you.

Yeah, not really!  We were all in bed by around 1.  Up early the next morning to load the car and head off on a mini road trip!  We spent the next 2 nights in Fort Lauderdale, at the Hyatt Regency Pier 66.  Fun place!  It’s right on the water, and has its own marina.  Being around marinas and boats made it very easy to quickly slip into vacation mode (which was the whole idea).  These helped too:

Our second day, we took an airboat ride into the Florida Everglades.  I have lived in Florida for over 22 years and had never been to the Everglades!  Now I can say I have, although we were only on the very outskirts.  We did see some gators, and a few other creatures.  The weather was beautiful and we had a blast.

The next morning, we drove a little further south to Miami, where our cruise ship awaited (and it was still decorated for Christmas too!).  The next four nights were spent on the Carnival Destiny.

We were supposed to stop in Key West, but due to one of the crew members having a medical emergency, we had to turn back to Miami the first night and ended up missing Key West.  But we got an extra day at sea, and they managed to get us almost twice the amount of time they had planned in Cozumel the next day.  While in Cozumel, Tadd and I got to return to one of our favorite places, the Mayan ruins at Tulum.  How gorgeous is this place?

That photo above is now my desktop background.  Ahhh…

All too soon, the cruise was over and it was back to the real world.  Unfortunately, it was in the drive back from Miami to Orlando that I realized I was sick.  So my transition back to reality was rather harsh.  Luckily, I had something to look forward to right away.  One of my Christmas gifts from my parents was a pair of tickets to see the traveling Broadway production of Mary Poppins.  We went last night, and although I was still slightly under the weather, I really enjoyed it.  Special effects on TV and at the movies are cool, but special effects during a Broadway production are SO much better.  Loved the costumes and sets too (the way they moved around and changed the Banks’ house from scene to scene was just amazing)!  And of course, the songs.  So many great ones.  I have had “Feed the Birds” stuck in my head all day.  Love it!  Even Tadd enjoyed himself more than he thought he would.

So that brings me pretty much up to date.  I plan on sharing more pics from my adventures soon, so stay tuned!

Holiday Greetings 2012

It’s almost the big day!  I am enjoying the weekend with my lovely husband, and preparing to have over a dozen family and friends over tomorrow night for a Christmas Eve gathering with Chinese food, festive drinks, and lots of sweets.

Tadd and I will exchange gifts Christmas morning (and spoil our kitties with their gifts), and then we’ll pack up gifts and food and head over to my parents’ house for more presents and dinner with family!  I am contributing old favorites from blog posts past to our Christmas dinner; maple balsamic brussels sprouts and chocolate chip cheesecake (incidentally, the cheesecake recipe post has been viewed and pinned like crazy the past few weeks…I’m glad others are trying it because it’s SO good!).

I hope everyone enjoys their weekend!  Have a safe and happy holiday!

Merry Christmas!

2012 Christmas Card