2013 Retrospective

Just like last year, I have created a Videogram via Shutterfly, documenting my adventures throughout the year.  I really love making these.  The craziness of the holiday season tends to force you to live in the moment.  But in making this retrospective video, it encourages me to reflect on all that has happened this year.  This has been a mostly happy year for me, and I am really looking forward to what’s in store for 2014.

Best wishes to you for a very happy 2014!

Happy Wedding Day Eve!

Well, not long after my last hiatus, I am off again.  As I have mentioned previously, October should be a MUCH quieter month than the last 2+ have been…and I should be able to share  But I will definitely be unable to update again until the end of the month.  Which is sad, because I have (mostly) already decorated for fall/Halloween and I want to be able to share that with you!

But I did want to wish a happy wedding day eve to one of my best friends in the whole wide world.  I can’t wait for tomorrow!  It’s going to be amazing, and fun, and full of happy memories!  Just like these memories, which are among my fondest:

 

Congratulations, Carrie!  I love you SO much and wish you nothing but a lifetime of happiness and joy. 

A Very Special Glamping Weekend

Hopefully there are still people reading this blog after my extended hiatus…

I am finally back from a whirlwind week-and-a-half filled with glamping, business travel, and a much-needed long weekend of recovery.  I’m ready to share with you again for a few weeks, before more crazy insanity comes my way.  As much fun as I am having with keeping so busy with so many wonderful and exciting events, a part of me is longing for October, when my life will (perhaps) start to resume some semblance of normalcy.

I did want to tell you a little bit about my glamping experience with these lovely ladies:

We rented a cabin at Fort Wilderness for the whole weekend, which was awesome.  It sleeps 6 (1 full size bed and bunk beds in the bedroom, 1 full size murphy bed in the living room), and has a full kitchen!  It was perfect for our group.

We spent Friday night hanging out in the cabin, eating taco salads (graciously and expertly prepared by my wonderful friend Melanie), roasting marshmallows, drinking cocktails, and celebrating the bride, Carrie, with love and gifts.  There were some of your typical bachelorette gag gifts…  But also some meaningful ones.  Like this tote bag, which is a MUST for any Twilight fan bride-to-be that happens to be marrying a man named Jake:

My friend Lara, who is also involved in the wedding helped me put together these INCREDIBLE goody bags for all of the girls, filled with “glamping supplies” (all kinds of cosmetics, sunscreen, and some other fun tchochkes).  I bought these colorful mesh drawstring bags on OrientalTrading.com, and they worked perfectly.  The girls can reuse them in the future too, they make great beach/pool bags.  I also made personalized tags for each bag, using glittery sticker letters on pre-cut manila rectangles, and tied them, along with a silver skeleton key (keys are somewhat of a symbol for our group…long story), to each bag with pink or purple baker’s twine.  They were a big hit!

Saturday was spent exploring Fort Wilderness…

And Saturday night, we got all prettied up (using all of our new cosmetics from the glamping supply bags, of course!), and headed out to the monorail loop for dinner and drinks.  We had dinner at The Wave in the Contemporary Resort, then rode the monorail to the Polynesian Resort, where we had a round of drinks and watched Wishes (Magic Kingdom’s fireworks show) from the beach behind the resort, then had one last drink at the Grand Floridian, before taking the monorail and boat back to the Fort and our cabin.

The next morning, we packed up everything, and headed home…Where I promptly unpacked and repacked, since I had a 7am flight to Boston the next morning for a full week of training for my new position.

I think the weekend was perfect for our group.  We laughed, ate, drank, reminisced, and even shed a few tears together.  We had lots of time to just be together, strengthen our bonds, and most importantly, celebrate the bride.  I often think of how grateful I am to have such a tight-knit group of girlfriends that truly care about each other.  It’s so important in life to have places where you feel like you truly belong, and I know I belong in this group.  It was so nice to have a weekend that focused on celebrating that, in addition to celebrating the lifetime of happiness that begins with Carrie’s rapidly-approaching Big Day.  These happy, emotional times of togetherness are what life is all about.

Sorry to get mushy, but if I start talking about this group of ladies, it’s going to happen!

Anniversary Staycation Weekend – Animal Kingdom Lodge

For our anniversary, Tadd and I decided to treat ourselves to a little weekend staycation getaway at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Resort.  We stayed two nights on a discounted Passholder rate, using a giftcard received for my birthday a couple months ago as part of the deposit.  We booked a (MUCH cheaper) standard view room, but upon check-in we mentioned our anniversary and we were lucky enough to receive an upgrade to a savanna view room at no additional charge.

We did not set foot in a theme park all weekend…we just hung out at the resort, relaxed, went to the pool, read, and watched the animals (giraffes, zebras, ostriches, red river hogs, etc) from our balcony.  Heaven!  We did book a couple of fun dinners…First was a Sanaa, which is on the Kidani Village side of Animal Kingdom Lodge (we were staying at Jambo House, which is the original/main side of the resort).  They specialize in more exotic foods with an Indian and African flair.  So delicious!  The second night we booked the Spirit of Aloha luau dinner show at Disney’s Polynesian Resort, which was a lot of fun.

Having now stayed in a number of Disney resorts (Caribbean Beach, All-Star Music, Port Orleans Riverside, Fort Wilderness Cabins, The Dolphin, Pop Century, Yacht Club, and now Animal Kingdom Lodge), I think I can say that AKL is my favorite so far.  It’s not within walking distance of any of the theme parks like Yacht Club (which is a HUGE perk), but it’s SO cool to wake up, step outside on your balcony with a cup of coffee, and hang out with some zebras.  Also, the theming really appeals to me.  You really feel like you’re somewhere else when you are there, which makes for a very relaxing time.

We are going to try to swing another staycation weekend in December, if I can get another great discount code.  I am shooting for the Wilderness Lodge this time.  No promises that it will definitely work out, but I am going to try my best.  Holiday time in Walt Disney World is unbeatable, and staying on property for a few nights makes it even better.

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.

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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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…

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Unfortunately, my life is still somewhat askew and the car situation is STILL not rectified.  So we STILL have been unable to make the car purchase I talked about previously.  But we made a huge step in the right direction today, and by this time next week, it will all be in the past.  Fingers crossed!

I did want to make note of the fact that today is a special milestone.  Today marks 10 years since Tadd asked me to be his wife!  As you can see from this pic from our engagement photo shoot, we were babies!  Well, I was 21, Tadd was 22, so practically babies…

We celebrated last weekend with a trip to Lakeridge Winery in the beautiful hills of Clermont, where we purchased a few bottles of wine, including a bottle of Pink Crescendo, a sparkling rose that we are drinking tonight…

Followed by a delicious dinner at  Yachtman’s Steakhouse in Disney’s Yacht Club Resort.  I’m not really much of a steak eater, but Tadd LOVED his NY Strip.  We got the truffled mac & cheese as a shared side and WOW!  Easily the best mac & cheese I have ever had.  I told Tadd next time we go, I will order a side of truffled mac & cheese, and a side of roasted Brussels sprouts and call it a night!  Delicious food!

Hope your Valentine’s Day is full of love and happiness, however you choose to celebrate!

Wishing You a Happy New Year

I will be away from the blog for a few days, but I thought I would post one last message for the year before signing off.  I hope to have lots to share when I get back!

2012 has been an amazing year for me and Tadd, and I decided I wanted to make a keepsake of all of the happy times I shared with friends and family over the past year.  I decided to try out Shutterfly’s Videogram feature.  You basically select a group of photos or video clips, choose a display style and music, and it puts together a really cute video slideshow for you.  Once the video is to your liking, you can purchase the digital file in one of 3 different resolution types.  I chose the middle option for $4.99 and think it was well worth the price.  I was able to save the video file to my laptop, share it on Facebook, and post it to YouTube.  So far everyone has loved it, and I told Tadd that it would be fun to do one of these each year.

Wishing you all a very happy new year!  Here’s to 2013!  See you next year!!!

P.S. Above opinions regarding Shutterfly and their Videogram product are 100% my own.  Not being compensated in any way.