Catching Up – September 2013

Sorry about dropping off of the face of the earth.  I guess I just needed a break from blogging.  Here’s what I have been up to the past few months!:

Here’s what happened in September:

Stood up as Matron of Honor in a very good friend‘s wedding!  Tadd was also a groomsman.  It was a lovely, simple affair, and a beautiful day spent with some of my favorite people.

The very next day, we headed to Miami to go on a Caribbean cruise with some friends.  We sailed on the Carnival Breeze (great ship, by the way!) and stopped in Grand Turk, Ocho Rios, and Nassau.

October through December update coming up next!

 

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Happy Fourth!

Hope all of my American friends had a spectacular 4th of July! We kept it pretty low key early in the day and hung out at home with the kitties.

In the early afternoon, we went down to Lake Eola in Downtown Orlando for Fireworks At The Fountain, where it promptly started storming like crazy. Luckily, Tadd’s office has an awesome view of the lake, and they were kind enough to open for employees and their friends & family. Some friends of ours joined us too. Soon enough the storms passed, it got dark, and the fireworks went off beautifully!

Star Wars Weekends, Take Two!

Tadd and I went back to Disney’s Hollywood Studios yesterday for round 2 of Star Wars Weekends.  We took our new video camera, and stitched together this compliation of all the things we did and saw.

Now that we have a dedicated video camera, I am going to try to post much more frequent videos.  So if you haven’t already, go over to my YouTube Channel and subscribe!  Thanks and enjoy!

Some random thoughts…

I know things on the blog have been quiet lately.  I have had some great ideas for posts and items to share, but have not gotten a chance to put the posts together in the way I wanted to.  So I just thought I would throw together a quick mish-mash of some random items that have been going on in my life or floating through my head lately.

I noticed I was running kind of low on my favorite foaming handsoaps and candles (and my collection of fall/holiday scents are so large that we have been using up those things, which feels so wrong in April…).  So made a large spring/summer purchase at Bath & Body Works recently.  Thanks to sales and coupon codes, I got everything shown for less than $30 shipped!

I haven’t tried everything yet, but I can attest to the fact that the Gelato candle is fruitier than I thought, but still yummy.  It’s a creamy berry scent.  Also, the Espresso Bar candle isn’t really all that great.  I was hoping for something similar to my FAVORITE Hazelnut Coffee scent from Yankee Candle, but it just wasn’t up to par.  Also, I haven’t burned it yet, but the Pineapple Orchid candle smells JUST like a tropical Starburst!  Haven’t tried any of the handsoaps yet, but the Citrus Fig leaked the tiniest bit in the box and it smells AMAZING.

Last Friday Tadd and I had the most incredible date night!  We went to dinner at this secret speakeasy on Sand Lake Road, called Pharmacy.  The fun thing about this spot is that there is no sign, and it’s kind of hidden/disguised, so finding it is part of the fun.  It’s a speakeasy, so of course that’s the point.  I won’t give away more than that, but if you search around online you will be able to figure it out.   The food was great (we had the fondue appetizer and the sausage pizza) and drinks are pricey, but STRONG.  Trust me, you only need one!  Everything is made from scratch, including carbonating and bottling their own fizzy cocktails.  I had a King Mark fizz, pictured below, which was made with 44 North Huckleberry Vodka, Great King Street Scotch, Maraschino Liqueur.  In addition to what was in the glass, I still had the cocktail leftover in the bottle to drink!  It was $12, but like I said…pricey, but one is all you need!  By the way…Don’t you love the glassware?

After dinner, we went to Hard Rock Live to see Anthony Bourdain!  We are big fans of all of his shows and books.  I was able to score tickets on Groupon for $33 each, which was a steal.  As you would probably expect, he told tons of stories about his life in the restaurant business, behind the scenes antics on his shows, and insights on the other Food Network and Travel Channel celebrities.  Extremely entertaining!  So glad I jumped on those tickets when I saw them on Groupon!  If you get a chance to see him live, I highly recommend it.

I am not sure when I will be able to post next, but keep a close watch on the blog, as well as my Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram feeds!  Tadd and I are going on another Tennessee adventure soon!  On the agenda this time: Visiting some breweries, geocaching, Jack Daniel’s Distillery Tour, maybe visiting Loretta Lynn’s dude ranch, and who knows what else.  Plus we are taking a bonus side trip to Asheville, NC!  Should be some fun and exciting sightseeing in our immediate future.  Follow along!

Also, don’t forget:  Tomorrow is “May The Fourth” Be With You/Star Wars Day!  I will proudly be wearing my Princess Leia shirt and my Star Wars headband.  I love that I am getting so much mileage out of them!

Enjoy your weekend!

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_honda_civic_sedan_ex-l_d_oem_1_500

 

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.

Buon Compleanno (“happy birthday” in Italian!) at Via Napoli

January has turned into a bit of a blog hiatus for me.  Unfortunately, I am still dealing with issues stemming from my accident (I officially hate car insurance companies!), still dealing with traces of my cold on and off (although I am SOOOOOOOOOOOOO much better), and work has been pretty insane too.  I swear, I couldn’t believe when I woke up yesterday morning that it was ONLY Wednesday.  It felt like it should have been Friday many times over by that point.  To say this month has been challenging for me would be an understatement.  Although I do know that it could be much, much worse, and for that I am grateful.

Last Saturday, we took a break from our life stresses to celebrate my good friend Elizabeth’s birthday at Epcot, where I got to try several new things for the first time!  Having lived in Orlando for over 2 decades, and having been a Walt Disney World passholder for several of those years, I get excited when I get to try something new in the parks.

First stop: New Test Track.

It’s basically an upgraded version of the old ride.  The footprint and track of the ride are exactly the same as they always were.  However, the look and “story” of the ride are totally different.  Now the ride basically looks like you have stepped into the movie Tron.  Lots of dark spaces contrasted with neon outlines.  Everything looks more slick and futuristic.  Also, now you get to design your own car via touch screen kiosks before you ride, and your design gets pitted against the designs of the others in your ride vehicle as you go through various “tests” (stuff like sudden breaking, handling on curves, aero-dynamicness, and everyone’s favorite…SPEED!).  After each test, there is a little leaderboard that shows how your imaginary car fared against the others.

The queue looks totally different now too.  The focus seems to be on the science of car design and concept cars.  I am not a huge car person, but I could see where this would really interest someone who was into that kind of thing.

Later on in the day, we surprised Elizabeth with lunch at Via Napoli for her birthday.

This was another first for me.  This restaurant opened in the Italy Pavilion of World Showcase back in 2010, and it was a place that I had always wanted to try, but just had never gotten around to it.  They are known for their authentic Neapolitan cuisine, including delicious wood fired pizzas.  What I think is the coolest feature of this restaurant are the three very striking pizza ovens shaped like the faces of the patron gods of each of the three active volcanoes in Italy: Stromboli, Vesuvio, and Etna.  So cool!

The pizza was delicious.  It’s traditional oven-fired style pizza with thin crust, ever-so-slightly charred on the bottom with great toppings.  We got a delicious white pizza with artichokes and truffle oil, and some kind of custom-ordered prosciutto and sausage monstrosity that I wouldn’t touch (I don’t like meat on my pizza…I’m a veggies-only kind of girl, but my friends really loved it).

Then the birthday girl got serenaded by the waitstaff!  She got some kind of lemon cookie mini-dessert.  But really, the cookie was just a vehicle for the AMAZING chocolate and raspberry sauce drizzled all over the plate.

I would say all of us really enjoyed it and I know I would definitely go back.  The pizzas are pricey when compared with regular takeout pizza ($30 each for the large), but they were a good size and two of them were the perfect size for the 6 of us.  I didn’t think it was bad at all for a filling, sit-down lunch at Disney.  I know I left stuffed.

My WDW escapism continues this weekend at Magic Kingdom…We have reservations this Saturday for dinner at Be Our Guest, the brand new restaurant in the Beast’s castle in New Fantasyland.  I had to book these reservations back in August (three plus months before the place even opened!), so they are quite coveted.  I am psyched!  If only this week could mercifully end so I could get back to the fun stuff!

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 Home Link Parties

I realize I have been a terrible blogger lately.  My holiday season so far has been a combination of mind-blowingly busy and sinfully lazy, but I have been enjoying every minute.  My Christmas decorating has been going slower than anticipated…We do have the main tree up now, but our secondary tree is still in the box, the outdoors have not been decorated aside from a fluffy white wreath I snagged at Lowes for under $10, and my house is a general mess of boxes of decor that have not yet been sifted through and unwrapped gifts.  Not pretty.

On the bright side, my sewing desk and table have been moved to a corner of one of our spare rooms, and after the holidays, I plan to start organizing and decorating that space to make it my own…FINALLY!  Only a year late…  But we tend to take our time around here with big projects.

However, I am excited about the upcoming Holiday Home Link Parties!  And I am pretty sure I will be able to share something for each party.   That’s my goal anyways. Care to join me?