Friday, July 8, 2011

“Y’all Can Go To…

hell, I’m going to Texas”  Davy Crocket

I saw this on a coffee cup and I REALLY want it on a koozie.. Just saying, keep an eye out! 

Mama and I went out to Texas to meet my AuPair family.  Talk about a nerve racking situation.  Imagine meeting your employer only after you’ve gotten the job!  Plus these are the folks that I will be living with for the next 15 months.  I think that everyone seriously and sincerely wanted to get along! 

Thank goodness we hit it off!  Mareike and Stefan are great and very genuine!  Their dynamics seem to be very similar to my mom and dads, so something I’m comfortable with.  They are very easy to talk to and seem as sincerely interested in making this a great experience for me as I am for them.

As for Bennet… I’m in love!  He is the sweetest, most laid back, easy going baby I’ve ever met!  And I get to take care of him for my job?!  How did I get this lucky?!  I’m so excited that I will get to see him grow and see that personality develop even more!

Mama and I flew into Dallas/Fort Worth.  They picked us up at the airport and we went to the Dallas Arboretum where we had a lovely picnic lunch with lots of German food and the best potato salad I’ve ever had!  After that we walked around a bit, but it was hot and Bennet was sweating a lot so we called it a day! 
The Greilers live in Wichita Falls, TX which is about 2 hours north of DFW.  Since we were only there for like 36 hours instead of spending all that time driving we all stayed in down town Fort Worth. 
(I must share this.. I used my reward night from so we stayed at the Hilton for $30!! I love getting a good deal!)

We all got cleaned up and met up for dinner.  We went to a Brazilian steakhouse, which I had never been to.  It is basically a really high class buffet.  You pay a certain amount and you help yourself to the ridiculous salad bar (orzo pasta salad, sundried tomatoes, 5 different tyes of cheese including grilled mozzarella and parmesan carved out of a big wheel) and lobster bisque (yes please!).  Then at your table you flip a little card over and these guys with big ol skewers of meat come by and carve you a piece.  I had the top sirloin, garlic pork, and bacon wrapped filet mingon (the best).  SO tasty!  Mama and I even splurged and got key lime pie!  I took that opportunity to give presents.  Bennet is turning one in August and they will be in Germany so I wanted to go ahead and give him his birthday presents.  I got him some connecting toys and I made him a shirt to wear on his 1st!  Let me just say, its hard to find shorts for little boys that aren’t cargo shorts (its like they are trying to make little GDIs) but I did it!  I also made Mareike and Stefan a plaque for their house with their last name on it.  It’s how I show that I like someone.. I make things =)

After dinner, the Greilers headed back because it was Bennet’s bedtime.  Mama and I walked around the downtown area a bit more and then headed back ourselves.  It had been a long day!  The next morning we met up with them for breakfast in the Hilton Honors lounge.  We stayed up there for a good 2 hours just talking and playing with Bennet.  While at breakfast the Greiler’s asked if we were by chance interested in going to a Rangers game because they had 4 free tickets.  Um, do wookchucks chuck wood?  Heck yes I want to go to a baseball game!  After breakfast we went over to the stockyards (the old part of Fort Worth) and we saw a cattle drive!  Then we grabbed a quick bite and headed to the game.  They lost but it was still a great game.  I always enjoy rooting against the Mets.  We had to leave the game a bit early to make our flight (which in the end ended up being delayed for a few hours because of the rain in Atlanta, but no one knew until we were already on the plane).

All in all, while we weren’t out there for long, we did a lot and got to spend a good amount of time together.  All that anxiety about would we like each other is GONE and I’m more excited about my new adventure than ever!  

Back to Reality

The last sea day was spent much like the first (minus the mixology contest).  I had finished both of the books I had brought to read (The Host and the first book in the Hunger Games series—both of which I highly recommend) so on my way up to Serenity I stopped at the ships library and got the book about Christian the Lion. I had seen the YouTube video of the reunion so I was interested in reading the story about how they raised a lion in a London furniture store!  It turned out to be the perfect, uplifiting book for our last day! 

The whole disembarking process went really quickly so we were on the road a lot earlier that expected.  Mama and Daddy were dropping me off in Warner Robins on the way back because that night it was Kelly’s wedding.  Since we had so much time to kill we decided to make a detour and have lunch on River Street in Savannah.  After my delicious crab cake, we went to the candy kitchen (because you can’t go to Savannah without getting a praline…it’s a crime) and the peanut shop which had Paula Deen’s AMAZING salt mix that makes green beans taste PERFECT!  It’s the little things in life.. =)

We eventually made our way to Warner Robins and Mama and Daddy dropped me at Katelyn’s house so I could get ready and meet up with the rest of the group.  Kelly’s wedding was gorgeous.  It’s the first Catholic wedding I’ve been to where they did a full mass.  It was good to see that I remember a good bit of what to say from my Catholic days =)  I loved her flowers and all the little burlap touches she incorporated!  The reception was at the Terminal in downtown Macon.  It was a great airy space that used to be a train station.  They had a few tables set up, but most of the seating was on the benches that people would have sat on while waiting for trains.  They had a great live band and a super fun photo booth!  They had a two different favors for their guests—a candy bar and koozies!!  Best part.. I FINALLY got wedding cake!  Key Lime Cake to be specific.  I was one happy girl!  After their send-off we all went back to Katelyn’s and kept the party going.  Until 6 am.. This DD was SO TIRED, but it was worth it to get to hang out with my friends!  I sure am going to miss them!
Me, Michele, and Ashley

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Costa Maya: I still got it!

Got what you might ask?  The ability to take some killer pictures while riding a bike.  

Y’all might remember from my study abroad days, but a bike tour is my favorite way to see a place. Before Costa Maya was a cruise port, it was just a little fishing village.  The port area has built up, but along the coast its very cute and more authentic. 

We biked along the coast for about 20 min where we got some clear bottom kayaks and paddled out into the ocean.  Difficulty wise it was a lot easier than our potentially deadly activities adventure in Veiques where we paddled into a thunder storm, but it was more difficult than paddling the Broad.

We swam for a bit and then paddled back.  We got to lay out and dry off on the beach for a while and then we biked back.  It was a great excursion for our last day at a port.  Relaxing but still required a bit of physical exertion.  The port area at Costa Maya is basically a big swimming pool with chairs, restaurants, shopping, and a dolphin enclosure surrounding it.  We ate upstairs at one of the restaurants where we have a great view of all the goings on.  After that Mama and I got in the pool for a bit and witnessed some raunchy middle schoolers have a dance off (those parents should be ashamed!).  Then we called it a day because we were all in desperate need of a shower!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Belize It!

The next morning we were in Belize.  Belize has a barrier reef (2nd largest in the world!) so our cruise ship couldn’t dock at the port.  We had to tender instead.. (i.e. get on smaller boats and take them to the dock)  Since we were doing an excursion we got priority tendering so we didn’t have to wait too awful long. 

Once we got to Belize City we met up with our excursion and got on a big bus that would take us through the city and out to the jungle.  We had a fabulous tour guide whose Cajun accent was a bit hard to understand at times but its okay... She knew each hurricane that hit Belize, when it hit and what category it was.  She also sang for us.  Here are some pictures from the city.  There is definitely a lot of poverty, but, according to our guide, their unemployment rate is really low and most people are employed by the tourism industry.  Glad we could help!

After a long, LONG very bumpy ride we made it to our destination.  They outfitted us with helmets and harnesses and off we hiked into the jungle.  We got to the mouth of the cave and it was for lack of a better word EPIC!  It was so big it made people look like midgets.  Along the way our guide told us about the history of the cave and how the Mayans used it for different ceremonies because it was believed to be the entrance to hell.  We made our way into the cave and began our decent.  Most of the time we just hiked but at times we had to crawl and repel!  Along with repelling we got to zip line twice (a first for me!) and we had to walk across two rope bridges. 

We did eventually make it out of the cave (without anyone getting sacrificed) and made our way back to the bus.  The bus took us to a lunch area where we had kabobs with a tortilla and beans.  We also got to try cashew wine (their version of whiskey)…strong but sweet.  I liked it.  After lunch they took us back to the port and we made it back to the ship just in time for one of the last tenders!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

SCUBA duba doo!

I apologize for the incredibly cheesy title.. I was trying to come up with a good pirate joke for you, but you got this. 

Our next port was Roatan, Honduras.  This island’s history is what inspired the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.  Its where the real Port Royal is, but I didn’t see that… I saw fish! 

I have always wanted to scuba dive.  I loved the idea of really being down there with the sea creatures and being able to stay down there for a while.  I’ve snorkeled a lot and done snuba (where you have the regulator in your mouth but its connected to the tanks that are floating on top of the water) but I was ready for the next step!  How hard could it be, right?  WRONG!

We rode in a van over to the Anthony Key Resort (a destination dive resort) where we went to a classroom to learn how to dive.  After our Canadian instructor sped through the instructions they put us on the boat and took us to a shallow patch of water next to the dolphins to test our skills.  That is when we got our dive leader, Joe from Mississippi.  He was a bit easier to understand.  Before you know it we were in the water getting ready to dive!  To be completely honest, I didn’t have any problems.  I thought the whole thing was a fantastic experience!  I didn’t have any problems equalizing or controlling my breathing while down there (thanks synchro!).  My parents were a different story.  There had a really hard time equalizing so their ears hurt the whole time.  They are just now starting to hear normally again.  Despite their issues, we were able to see a bunch of extremely colorful coral, lots of conch shells, some star fish, and a HUGE eel!   HUGE!!

I loved it!  I know that mama and daddy won’t be diving again, but I’m seriously considering getting certified!

Dinner that night.
(I'm putting this one on because Daddy deserves it..)

Wasting Away Again in Margaritaville

When we awoke the next day we were docked in Cozumel, Mexico. A lot of my friends that had cruised before told me that they never really did excursions, but since it was my families first time cruising and we love organized trips we did excursions at each port.  We had a list of things we wanted to do on vacation so we tried to pick excursions that combined those things.  

In Cozumel we were participating in the Amazing Cozumel Race.  Most of y’all know I would give anything to be on, obsessed with, kinda like the show Amazing Race, so this was super fun for me and my dad.  My mom isn’t quite as competitive as us but she had a great time as well.  They taxied us to the downtown area where we got our first clue and we were off!  I can’t remember the exact order of things but these are some of the things that we did at some point:

We went to the Cozumel History Museum and did a scavenger hunt to find our next clue.
Dad got a henna tattoo that was our next clue.
We snorkeled to find out the name of the sunken ship which would lead us to our next clue.
We had to play a round of putt putt to get our next clue.
We ran by a school when the kids were getting out.  (This had nothing to do with the race.. it was just precious and so authentic!)

The race ended at a little restaurant that was basically a pavilion with a kitchen.  We ended up coming in 5th but the time difference between the top 5 teams was pretty close!  Whatever, I got guacamole and a free pina colada—I was happy!

After the award ceremony we made our way to Margaritaville (on the suggestions of Katelyn Heck—thanks Katelyn!)  They had a bunch of inflatable out on the water including…A TRAMPOLINE!!  I was so excited!!  My cover up was off and I was on the trampoline in less than  5 min.  After that we climbed a few of the other things but then showered off and Mama and I split a big slice of Key Lime Pie…delicious!

I got to jump on a trampoline!! 
Mom on top of the slide you had to climb up.
Back on the ship for dinner.

Monday, July 4, 2011

I’m On a Boat

 Just a disclaimer:  This was my first cruise, so for all you seasoned cruisers out there please pardon my gushing about things that quite ordinary in the cruising world!

Since it is like an 8 hour drive to Port Canaveral, we headed down there on Friday.  For everyone that is thinking about taking a cruise that leaves from Port Canaveral, stay that the Four Points Sheraton.  Its right by Ron Jons, has a Starbucks in the lobby, and you can park your car there for the week for only $35!  Saturday (after our Starbucks) we made our way to the ship.

That ship was HUGE!! We were on the Carnival Dream which I’m told is the largest in their fleet.  It holds around 5,000 people—we were on a boat with a small town!!  The ship’s décor was a bit too Vegas for my taste but it certainly was sparkly!  While waiting for our luggage to be delivered we made our way to the lido deck and the restaurant up there.  After a delicious meal we explored the ship a bit and went to our room.  It was a small space but designed quite efficiently!  We also had a lovely little cove balcony which was a great place to read!

Let me just go ahead and make the blanket statement that the food ROCKED!  I was beyond stuffed at all times just because I wanted to try everything!  I had escargot, lobster, seafood pasta, filet mingon, lobster bisque (a new favorite food), and sushi just to name a few.  This is also the first time in my life where I have had a serious dessert every night.  They also had frozen yogurt 24 hours a day.  I believe heaven will be a little bit like a cruise… only you won’t gain weight.  Our waiter, Juan from Honduras, was fantastic!  If we didn’t clean our plate he was always very concerned that we didn’t like it and would try to get us to order something else!  No Juan.. we were just stuffed.

That first day at sea, I was selected to mix a cocktail that I had submitted a recipe for on the lido deck in front of everyone.   It was a little nerve racking but so much fun!  I made Ocean Water which tastes just like Ocean Water from Sonic!  For those of you that I know want to try it here is the recipe from yours truly.

Ocean Water
Coconut Rum (a lot or a little depending on how strong you want it)
Triple Sec
Pineapple Juice
Blue Curacco (just until it’s the right color blue)

We spent the rest of the day in the Serenity area (the adult only area) reading on their big comfy chairs.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

My Mother is Always Right.. Most of the Time

That next weekend was Jamie’s wedding, but before the wedding I had to go to a planning session for YTC (Youth Training Conference for those non-Y Clubbers out there).  I’m on College Alumni Staff for Y-Club and was psyched that I was able to help plan.  The conference is going to be AMAZING!

My friend Sandy was also going se we decided to ride together despite my mom’s warnings that I might be pushed for time.  The planning session was is Macon and I had timed it out so that when the planning session was over at 11 I could make it home by 1 to drop Sandy off and then make it to Jamie’s wedding by 4 (It started at 5).  Well the traffic gods were not shining on us that day.  First issue was that we left Macon about 30 minutes later than expected.  Then while we were no more than 20 min down the road we hit a parking lot traffic.  By the time traffic finally cleared up I knew that my mother was right…there was no way I was going to be able to go home, drop Sandy, and make it to Chota Falls even by 5.  Thank goodness my wonderful mother was there to save the day!  She met us in Atlanta, delivered my dress for the wedding, and took Sandy home—all without an “I told you so”.  My mother is an angel.

I changed in the bathroom at Target at Atlantic Station and did my hair in the bathroom at a Zaxby’s somewhere in Habersham County.  I made it to Jamie’s wedding with time to kill.  Chota Falls is BEAUTIFUL as was Jamie.  I don’t throw this around lightly but in my opinion, it was about as close to a perfect wedding as you can get!  Maybe it’s just because I love the couple so much!  The reception was ridiculous!  Great food, beautiful cake (though I’m still bitter about the fact that I was too busy dancing and forgot didn’t get any!) and really fun DJ. They had all these props for the photo booth (that bless her heart didn’t show up), so instead we just all wore them while we were dancing.  Crazy good time!
Love you Jamie and Jeff!  I hope Baltimore is great!

The next day was Susie’s shower.  I made it home in time to change and make it to that one! =) Susie and I cheered together forever!  She and her fiancé, Corey, are pretty much the sweetest couple ever!  Susie has picked my favorite color scheme for the wedding (yellow and blue) which she says isn’t because Corey went to Tech, but I’m not so sure.  Just kidding.. those are great colors!  She got a ton of great gifts.  Her china is beautiful yellow fiesta ware with a blue and white toile patterned salad plate on top.  I may or may not be stealing that idea in 10 years when I get married.  I made them a plaque with their last name (Coats) on it that I of course forgot to take a picture of!  It was a great shower except that I forgot to didn’t get cake there either.

All in all it was a great, love filled weekend!  I love wedding season!  Next time, the cruise...

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Moving Out and Redecorating

I’m bad at this..  I’ll get y’all caught up at some point.   Promise.

After we survived the New Orleans trip (our concerns were not dying of alcohol poisoning or sketchies.. they were flash floods and the apocalypse), I came back to finish out post planning.  The lovely team that I work with hosted a goodbye breakfast for me and the other guy on our team that is retiring.  They are all truly special people that I am going to miss dearly.  I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to work with!

At the end of the week Mama and Daddy came to move me out of my classroom and the apartment.  Usually I get to a point when I’m designing or decorating when I say to myself was it really that bad before?  I couldn’t I have just left it?  It took me about 12 hours to put my classroom together and about the same amount of time to pack it all up.  However, looking at the before and after really made it worth it for me.  I am so glad that I was able to personalize the space for the short period of time that I was there.  It felt like home.  I was comfy, the kids were comfy, and they learned better because of that—or at least that’s what I’m telling myself. 

It was the same for my apartment.  I’m kicking myself for not getting many before and after shots, but when you’re in the zone its hard to remember to stop and take pictures.  New goal.. take more pictures of my work.  I don’t think I’ve explained the decorating of my apartment so let me take this opportunity to do so.  When Megan and I lived in the house, Meg kinda gave me free reign for the design.  I chose a beachy nautical look that really looked great with the hardwoods and white trim, but it was a bit more grown up looking.  When we decided to move into the apartment, Megan requested that we incorporate some brighter colors that would make the place a little more lively.  I was happy to oblige because while I loved our ‘beach house’ it was a little.. blah.

Our apartment came furnished with some lovely pleather couches, metal and glass tables, scuffed desks, and white, WHITE walls.  We decided when we did the walk through that we definitely wanted to used my furniture instead of theirs, so my sweet, sweet parents hauled all the furniture from Betsy to the Exchange and hauled the Exchange’s furniture back to our house.  That in itself made our place more unique.  In the common area (we will call it the living/dining/kitchen/laundry area) we painted two walls teal and one wall yellow.  I got a new cover for the futon and made a bunch of new pillows to incorporate our new, brighter, color scheme.  In the end I would say that our apt still looked beachy, but a brighter beach house for sure. 

My room was kind of an experiment.  My color schemes have gone from green and orange to incorporating yellow to incorporating navy and trying to fade out the green, to yellow and grey.  Only one problem… my bedspread that cost bank is green and orange.  Don’t get me wrong.. I love my bedspread but its kind of limiting.  I’ve gotten to the point where I do what I want with the rest of the room and then throw in a few little green and orange accessories in other places to tie it in.. Oh well, next time I’ll go for this one a cheaper, neutral one.  I painted two walls yellow.  On one of these walls I stenciled a damask pattern in grey.  L. O. V. E.  Well worth the time it took!  There was a little nook for my desk so we painted that wall grey and my dad made a whitewashed shelving unit to go above my desk.  It was perfect! 

However, all good things must come to an end.  That weekend we painted over all our walls and moved out all my furniture and moved the Exchange’s furniture back in.  My apartment now looks like every other apt in the complex.  It’s a little sad, but it makes all the hard work that went into making it a home worth it.  THAT is why I decorate! 

Bringing it all home, however, was a challenge in itself.  We had to merge two households worth of furniture into one.  It seemed like a perfect time to redo my bedroom (which hadn’t really been changed since middle school—man I wish I had before pictures!) so that we could incorporate some of my furniture from the apartment.  Here are the after pictures. 

And because I"m proud of this too, my bathroom (sorry I didn't close the toilet. Gross..)

My Ikea chandys for $30 each!

and just to make you smile...
Dooley loves 'her' new room!
I haven’t had time to do any stenciling yet but I would love to do some gray stenciling on one of the khaki walls.  My desk chair is the chair that I got at TJ Maxx for $50.  Daddy fixed the leg and it’s good as new (and super comfortable I might add!)

That is all for my room redo.. Next time I’ll talk about YTC Planning, Jamie’s wedding, and why you should always listen to your mother.