Wednesday, June 27, 2012

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose!

Today, on my way to a very dull meeting extolling the virtues of spreadsheets, I overheard the most entertaining, delightful conversation.  Two women had movie tourrets and were spewing endless quotes from one of my favorite '90's movies, Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead!!

This movie endured endless hours of VCR play in the Roberts household when I was in my early teens. I have so many awesome memories of this movie.  It stars a young, just-off-Married-With-Children Christina Applegate and a cast of other '90s movie staples, including a foxy young Josh Charles.  Christina played Sue Ellen Crandell, a 17 year old whose mother goes to Australia for a summer and leaves her with an elderly babysitter on her deathbed.  As you can imagine, said babysitter croaks, and the money Sue Ellen's mother left for living expenses was in the babysitter's purse when she went to the morgue.  Naturally, Sue Ellen and her siblings don't want their mom to come home or to get another babysitter, so they pretend that the babysitter is still alive and kicking and hatch a plan for getting cash--send Sue Ellen to work!  Sue Ellen first gets a job at a fast food restaurant (where she meets her boy toy, the Josh Charles character), but hates the filth and decides to get an office job.  She creates a completely fictional resume and lands a sweet job as an executive assistant to a fashion exec, only to have her office nemesis discover her ruse and try to destroy her.  It's all such a juicy, ridiculous storyline, and I was glued to the tv watching this movie for an entire summer.

Some of my favorite quotes from the movie:

"I'm right on top of that, Rose!" (I still say this, but not very many people get the reference)

"Cynthia, you're my moon goddess."

"Don't feel overwhelmed, just do one thing at a time."

"Park it yourself, Metallica breath!"

"I have to get up at 5:30 every morning so I can beat rush hour traffic into the city and go sit behind a desk for eight hours a day and miss Oprah Winfrey every day on my summer vacation.  Then, I get to drive home in gridlock, in a Volvo, with no air conditioning just so I can take care of you guys and put food on the damn table!  It's a rat race and it sucks, Kenny. So what do you want, a medal?"

This is a stellar movie, ladies.  WATCH IT if you ever get a chance.  If nothing else, you can marvel at the early '90's fashion that's proudly displayed throughout. 

If you've seen it, what do you love most about the movie?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Getting a Grip!

I have to admit that I've been remarkably undisciplined lately.  And when I'm undisciplined, that lack of general discipline spills over into all areas of my life:  my house needs a good scrubbing, my diet is out of control (diet? what diet?), my desk at work is a mess, my car resembles Pig Pen, and my ironing pile is the size of Mt. Fiji.  {sigh} 

About a week ago I came to the realization that I need to get a grip, big time!  I have previously thrived under good amounts of self control and personal policing, and over the past year (since my wedding, pretty much), I've slowly let that slip away.  This realization didn't sneak up on me, it was gradual.  Lack of control this great doesn't happen overnight.  I made a general decision to try to be less uptight and controlling about things (an admirable goal right?), so I slacked on my chores have been feeling like I'm in a perpetual state of catch-up ever since. 

All this being said, my life is totally not a mess.  I've managed to keep my life together enough to maintain a solid, happy marriage, perform well at work, keep the house *clean enough* and care for a well-adjusted pet.  But I always have loftier goals.  I want a model home that is perfectly clean for more than just one day (not an easy feat with a husband on the loose).  I want to lose 40 lbs.  I really want a promotion at work.  I want, I want, I want.

I realize how selfish all of this is, wanting more and more for myself when there are so many other greater needs in the world.  But I'm of the mind that that if I don't take care of myself, I won't be able to care for other people or aspects of my life effectively.  Letting myself go is equally selfish, because I'm not keeping myself healthy enough to live a long and happy life with my future children.  I don't think I'm asking for too much.  Just a little more time and attention for myself, focused on things that really matter, for the sake of my future.

All this is well and good, but it's not like I can flip a magic switch and suddenly meet all of my goals overnight.  This chica is not a miracle worker!  But it starts with small things.  On Sunday, while I was stuck inside due to Tropical Storm Debby, I caught up on my couponing, put away laundry, sorted through a mountain of newspapers.  (My trash pile from that endeavor was spectacular!)  I came home from work last night, and immediately did laundry, did the dishes, and balanced my checkbook.  Boom.  Three boxes checked.  Tonight?  It's putting full-scale, ninja-style attack on my ironing pile, putting fresh bedsheets on the bed (who doesn't LOVE that??) and putting away the rest of my clean laundry.  Next up:  Working out!  Eating right!  Getting my pesky car washed! 

All in a day's work.

What are some goals that you're trying to reach right now?

Monday, June 25, 2012

Catching Up

Holy smokes, it's been a nutty week or so!!  Last week felt like a total cluster-- (well, you know what), and I was just praying to get through the week in one piece.  While this is not a pity party, it's only fair to call light to some of the weirdness that I experienced last week.

I came out to my car after a long day at work to see that my left rear tire was flat as a pancake.  Great.  It took me an hour to get Chevy's Roadside Assistance out to change my tire and send me on my merry way, but by then the tire repair shops were all closed.  I had to go get it fixed the next  morning, making me late for work.

My beloved iPhone's earpiece stopped working, so people could hear me, but I couldn't hear them.  Booo to that!  Thankfully, I'd purchased Apple Care when I bought the phone, so my device was replaced for free at my local Apple store.  Inconvenient, but at least I have a working phone without having to spend a dime.

I managed to kill my favorite pair of black ballet flats.  And I mean that I really killed them, while I was taking a walk around my company's 1 mile walking track at lunchtime.  Here's what I did...

Yep, I wore holes all the way though the soles!!  How the hell does that happen??  I just bought these shoes in November and it's not like I wear them every day.  Apparently Nine West has cheaper shoes than I thought.  That left me on the hunt for a new pair of black ballet flats, which seems like a simple enough task, but I had a really hard time.  I found a pair to hold me over, but I'm still searching for the perfect pair.

Three crappy, unfortunate events, but none were unsolveable.  This is when things started to look up.

On Thursday, something great happened.  I met my friend Becca from Oh The Places You'll Go for fro yo and frivolous banter.  It was just what I needed after a series of unfortunate events.  It's amazing how girl time and fro yo for dinner can soothe a girl's soul.  And I think I finally found a partner for taking crazy 4 mile walks along Bayshore!

On Friday, I went out to see Rock of Ages with my girlies Julie and Tracy, which was awesome.  I really wanted to see this movie and knew Pete wouldn't be into the sing-song musical numbers, so going with the girls was a great solution.  We also made plans for a girls night next Friday to see Magic Mike!

On Saturday night, Hubs and I went out for sushi with our friends Jess and Steve at Yoko's, the very best Japanese restaurant in Tampa.  While it was great to see my friends, I was also stoked about this restaurant.  It's out-of-this-world delicious.  I have to hold myself back from licking my plate clean when I eat there, it's just so good!

On Sunday, we were rained in while Tropical Storm Debby pelted us with rain and blistering wind.  We were lucky that our area wasn't flooded like so many places around us.  The best part:  I was able to be a good little house frau and get lots of couponing, laundry and cleaning done.  YAY for being locked indoors all day!

Today, Hubs and I were both able to make it to work and back today without incident, but the water levels under the bridges were INSANE!  I've never seen the water so high and black before.  It was just really creepy.

So that's what's been up with me over this past week or so.  I'm glad to be moving on to a fresh week with (hopefully) fewer surprises! 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

For Love of a Pup

Most people with pets say that their pets are a part of their family, just like a child with more hair and less ability to sass back.  My dog, Bella, is most definitely part of my family, and I couldn't imagine life without her.  We've got 11 years of history under our belts, which is the longest commitment I've ever made to anything.  No man, job or home has ever seen this much of me or had my heart and soul like this dog. 

Love that face. So. Stinking. Cute.

She's got Dad wrapped around her little paw.
I'll come right out with it--Bella is very spoiled.  I have always joked about her being spoiled rotten, but the other day, I sat down and added it all up.  We have a lot of time, energy and money wrapped up in her, and we wouldn't have it any other way.  You know, she's family!

I recently went on a doggie shopping spree and came home with two new dog beds, new food bowls, a new food mat.  We didn't skimp and get cheap dog beds or bowls either.  We like Bella's accoutrements to be high quality (so they don't fall apart immediately) and have a little style.  Bella frequently gets new toys and collars.  Her current collar is pink with white skulls and crossbones.  (Thanks Dad!)  She has a collection of Halloween costumes and t-shirts, all of which look precious on her.  Pete even got her a little Flyers jersey this past Christmas so she be Dad's hockey buddy!

And then we get to Bella's diet.  I used to notice that Bella was a little lethargic and I saw evidence that she may be throwing up while I was gone at work.  After meeting with our fabulous, oh-so-chic Hyde Park vet, it was determined that my poor girl had developed food allergies.  The answer?  Put her on a hypoallergenic diet.  This meant ditching our cheap-o Beneful in favor of special venison and potato dog food that I can only buy at the vet, and the monthly cost is about the same as my electric bill.  Yikes!  On top of that, she can no longer eat rawhide chews (which she had a straight-up addiction to), so we buy her these special dehydrated sweet potato chews that cost $17 per bag.  Needless to say, we ration them out to her so she gets one every Sunday night, rather than it being a nightly treat.  Bella cannot eat regular dog treats anymore either, so we find hypoallergenic dog snacks.  What has really worked out well is discovering that Bella loves baby carrots as treats.  She gets those every night now.

After I wrestle Bella into submission for her routine baths, which she hates, I use Johnson & Johnson No More Tears Baby Shampoo on her face and Paul Mitchell dog shampoo on her body.

Bella is not a cheap dog, as evidenced by her curiosity getting the best of her.  She's wound up at the emergency vet a number of times by getting into trash, eating a pound of fudge, licking a poisonous Bufo toad, and tearing her ACL. 

And of course we spend whatever it takes to keep her healthy and happy... but really, Mom and Dad could use a break on this front.  She REALLY has to stop getting into things that hurt her.  Mom and Dad aren't made of money, you know.

But there's something to be said about treating your pet as family.  They just bring TONS of joy to us, and having her greet me excitedly at the door everyday melts my heart.  I just love her!

What extravagances do you have for your spoiled pet loved one?

Monday, June 18, 2012

Birchbox Brag

On a Monday, I'm always looking for something to celebrate, to help me kick off the week right.  So today it's going to be Birchbox!!  I'm even linking up today for the Birchbox Brag, because sharing my Birchboxes is one of my favorite things to do.  Doesn't everyone love to see the goodies everyone else is getting? 

Sometimes I get jealous because other people get things that I would have really loved, but I definitely appreciate the boxes I've gotten in the past couple of months.  They've been SO much better since I changed my preferences!  I totally shoulda done it months ago, but whatevs, at least they're good now.

This month's theme was Jet Set, so the boxes featured products that were great on-the-go beauty finds.

So without futher adieu...  My Birchbox!

Comodynes Self Tanning Intensive Towelettes (2)
Eyeko Fat Eye Stick (Black)
Likewise Facial Moisturizer + Sun Protectant SPF 50 Normal to Oily
theBalm Staniac in Beauty Queen
tili Bags - Leopard Print
John Varvatos Star USA Cologne

I actually find this to be a pretty fun Birchbox, because I landed a full size product and found a new product to add to my aresenal of beauty weapons.  Successful, right?!   I think so.

The quart-size plastic baggie with the leopard print was so-so.  It's cute, sure, but would I spend $8.49 on a 9-pack of them?  Probably not.  I'll stick to my Ziploc bags, thankyouverymuch.

The Eyeko Eye Stick is truly wonderful.  It has a creamy formula that glides on easily and smudges like a dream!  This makes creating a smoky eye a breeze!  What's better?  The pencil doesn't need to be sharpened.  When you want more, you just twist up from the base like a lipstick.  So cool.  I hear other bloggers got these pencils in gold and charcoal, both of which I'd have loved too. 

The Likewise moisturizer is pretty exciting for me because I've been looking for a new daily mosturizer with a serious SPF for my fair skin, especially one that won't make my skin an oil slick.  This moisturizer checks all of the boxes, but I'm going to try it again to see if I want to commit to the full-size version.

The theBalm Stainiac was a product I'd heard about before, but I was unsure about trying.  I've been using the Benefit BeneTint cheek and lip stain for years and love the results, so the thought of giving a competitor a try left me skeptical.  The Stainiac, however, is different.  It's more of a gel than a liquid, and it's much more subtle.  What that gives me is more control over the color.  And boy, do I love control (just ask my Hubs)!  I use a little, or I can layer it on until I achieve the desired intensity.  This is on it's way to becoming one of my new beauty staples!

The Comodynes self-tanning towelettes have not been used yet, but I plan to give them a try soon, probably on my legs (which need the color the most).  I gave the John Varvatos men's fragrance to Hubs, which he'll probably use on a day when he's feeling adventurous.  He really likes using the same cologne, so we'll see if he branches out and tries it.

Did you get any of these items in your Birchbox?  If you did, what did you love and what did you hate?

Friday, June 15, 2012

Ghost Shows 'N Stuff

Tonight, my husband accused me of liking TV shows featuring douchy guys.  I gasped, "I do NOT!"  Then I realized, oh yeah, I kinda do.  I'm guilty as charged... damn it. 

My husband and I were talking about this TV show that I watch on Friday nights called Ghost Adventures on the Travel Channel, who's lead investigator is a guy named Zach Bagans. 

Zach, the guy in the middle above, is sort of meathead, whose spiked up faux-hawk and disturbingly snug, muscle-bearing t-shirts are part of the reason why this guy has a huge Twitter following of women.  The ladies worship this guy like a rock god.  But he's totally a douchbag, attitude and all.

But his show is actually pretty entertaining.  I'm actually a big fan of TV shows about hunting ghosts.  I seriously have no idea in hell why I eagerly watch this show because I'm terrified at the thought of seeing or feeling a ghostly presence.  I really have no idea if ghosts really exist, but just the thought fascinates and scares the bejeezus out me.

It seems like I've always been attracted to TV shows about ghosts.  My first loves were Ghost Hunters on the SyFy channel and Most Haunted on the Travel Channel.  These shows terrified the shit out of me, but I was strangely attracted to them (total moth-to-a-flame action).  While I watched countless episodes of these shows, I would sit alone in my condo, on my couch with a blanket pulled up to my eyes.  When I'd get scared I'd pull the blanket over my eyes like a little kid, then peek back out at the TV to see if the scary part was over.  Yup, I really did this.  As a grown adult.  And I kept watching even though it made me think every bump and creek in my condo was the sign of something other-worldly (even though I totally know better).  I found myself scared to death but still wanting more.

I discovered Ghost Adventures last year, and found it almost amusing how seriously the investigators took their jobs.  Zach Bagans makes me laugh because of how hyper-dramatic he gets on the show, and it's especially humorous coming from a guy looking like him (i.e. a guy from the Jersey Shore).

My husband, ever the comedian, had a couple of notable quotes while imitating Zach tonight, including:

"Oh my God, the ghost popped the collar on my pink Polo!"
"Oh my God, my hair is standing straight up!  Oh wait, that's the 1/2 gallon of gel I used."
"I wonder if he stops to do push-ups during the investigation."
"Oooh, 'edifice'.  That's a big word for him."

Not all ghost investigators are this ridiculous.  I actually had a chance to meet the guys from Ghost Hunters in 2009 when they came to town to film an episode at The Cuban Club in Ybor City.  A good friend of mine was a member of the club and knew I was a big fan so she snuck me in!  The whole cast was extremely friendly, warm and, well, normal.  The stars are regular guys who used to be plumbers who were ghost investigators as a hobby.  SyFy found out about their group, The Atlantic Paranormal Society (TAPS) and asked them to star in a TV show about their work.  Eventually, they stopped being plumbers and did the TV show full time (heck, I would too!).  They spoke to me about their kids, their love of traveling and how they were getting tired of long stints of filming.  Totally normal stuff, not douchy at all.  We had some cocktails with the crew at the Cuban Club's bar and really had as much fun as one can have on a Thursday night when you have to work the next day.  (Sometimes it sucks to be responsible!)

Here are a few pictures from meeting the team:

Me with Grant

Me with Steve (meow...he even showed me his awesome tattoos)

Me with Dave Tango (who was a total party animal in Ybor that week)

Me with Amy Bruni and that other chick from the show (I always forget her name)

(By they way, these may be the only pictures you see of me with my glasses on.  I got Lasik in 2010, and while I'm glad I don't have to wear glasses, I do miss them as a fashion accessory.)

I'm sure I'll keep watching these silly TV shows, and I'll enjoy watching Zach make a fool of himself, looking like an Affliction model while talking about things that go bump in the night.  Next up is the ultra creepy Dead Files, who has this odd-ball medium that talks about all of the dead people she sees.  Weird, but I'm still watching!

Do you ever watch these shows? 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Psychology of Womens' Closets

Men are often mystified by the way women manage and organize their personal items, and by and large, they feel that women hang on to too many things.  They don't often see why a woman needs 50 pairs of shoes, drawers jam-packed with beauty products or a closet that is stuffed full of clothes.  They live simpler lives and generally have fewer wants and needs, or so they say.

My husband is no exception to this.  He's been gently inserting comments here and there since we begin living together 2 years ago, prodding me to get rid of clothes, shoes and products that I don't regularly use.  He doesn't want me to be a packrat, and I don't blame him.  I don't really have more clothes and shoes than other women, but we have a very tiny house so the issue gets magnified.  I do readily admit to having an over-abundance of beauty and bath products (it looks like I've stockpiled for the apocolypse), and that really DOES need to get toned down.  Score one for Hubs! 

Sizes.  Most women have closets full of clothes, half of which we rarely wear, because we hang on to clothes in multiple sizes because our bodies have a tendancy to expand and contract (in accordance with diet and exercise).  I'm no different.  I have my "skinny" clothes from when I was at my lightest, my "regular" size clothes, then I have my "fat" clothes that are one size larger and generally roomier for when nothing else seems to fit right.  So my closet spans 3 full sizes.  After gaining weight following my wedding, I've been psychologically unable to part with the clothes that are currently too small.  Getting rid of them would signify that the Battle of the Buldge was lost, and my fat is here to stay.  No ma'am, I will not be defeated!!  I hang on to them with the feeling that I WILL wear them again one day, and when I do, I want not greet my new self with a full wardrobe of clothes.  These "skinny" clothes take up a lot of space in my closet, and I know it.  But they have to stay.  I know many women who are hanging on to those skinny clothes because giving them up would signify accepting defeat, and women love to hold out hope for skinner days.

My "fat" clothes are also not going anywhere.  All women have days where they're feeling bloated and gross.  Amiright??  I have a few clothes for those days, even though they may not get worn very often.  They're a staple, and I believe that all women own at least one pair of fat pants.

Shoes.  As far as shoes go, I really scaled back on my shoe assortment when Hubs moved in, because I had to make some room for his shoes (boooo).  It killed me to pick and choose.  I kept what were then the essential shoes, and I even managed to give up some flip flops (leaving me with a paltry 30 pairs).  The deal with womens' shoes is that we can have 5 pairs of black heels, but the styles are all different and therefore they are indispensable.  And there is no such thing as too many pairs of flip flops when you live in Florida.  Ever.  Ladies keep shoes for any foreseeable purpose or need, and we can always think of an instance where we'll wear that pair of leopard print shoes.  Just knowing that we've got our bases covered acts like a security blanket.

Beauty.  For beauty and bath products, many women love trying new products.  This is one reason why I love Birchbox so much!  I'm one of those women who loves beauty products, so I've managed to assemble a sizable drawer full of creams, gels, wipes and makeup.   Like me, many women are always looking for their new favorite moisturizer, lotion, foundation or eye makeup remover, so naturally there tends to be multiple of certain products just from that search.  We amass a lot, then throw away things that are old and that we don't like, but we still keep a lot of these products around.  For ladies, giving up our beauty products would leave us feeling a little desperate.  What if I break out??  What if I get dry skin??  We keep a little bit of everything around to suit our skin's mood swings, and just being prepared with the right tools makes us feel good.  We love a full tool kit.

Bath and Body.  I know that my collection of bath and body products is abnormal.  I'll refrain from giving you a count of my body lotions, but it's A LOT.  Most of my collection comes from having worked for Bath and Body Works for 4 years and getting a lot of products for free or really cheap.  It was a blessing and a curse, because now I have to store all of these products I've fallen in love with!  I also became a loyal user of their shower gel and handsoap, so I'm always going to buy more of that when my supplies get low. 

My Closet.  I'm going to reveal my closet to you, just so you can see what I'm workin' with and why we have space constraints.  To be honest, doing this makes me feel a bit exposed, but I think people can relate so what the heck.  It's definitely not the smallest closet out there, but it's certainly not big.  It's the only walk-in closet that we have, and also doubles as a coat closet and a linen closet.

The top rack is organized by pants, skirts, short sleeve shirts, tank tops and long sleeve shirts.  The bottom rack are the items that haven't been sorted yet (my fresh laundry). 

The organizer in the back holds most of my shoes and a lot of miscellany, though I did give Hubs a shelf at the bottom for his shoes (so kind of me, right?).  The top of it is a catch-all for my sewing supplies, note cards, a heating pad and some other odds and ends.  All of our towels and sheets are on the shelf on the right, right over my Hubby's clothes and my dresses (hidden by the door).

That white drawer system is full of bath and body products.   I know, I know...  I'll be getting rid of a few things!

After explaining this to my husband, he seemed to understand more, but he's not completely convinced.  I feel good about purging things I no longer use or are no longer in style, which is coming very soon, but certain things will always remain.  That's the psychology of womens' closets.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Sunday Social Link-Up

Hey girls!  I don't often get a chance to blog on Sundays because the days are cray-cray and I am usually just focused on finishing things up before heading back to work for the week.  But today, my dinner is in the oven and my Hubby (who I totally don't deserve, btw) has taken care of the dog and done ALL of our laundry.  I noticed that Neely at A Complete Waste of Makeup is doing a Sunday Social Link-up, so I thought I'd join in the fun!

How did you come up with your blog name?
I started this blog after I got married, and wanted to pay homage to my new, very traditional Italian family and my dog, Bella.  A friend suggested "La Bella Vita" just seemed to fit.  Nothing describes my life or my outlook better.

What is your favorite thing about blogging?
I love making new friends through blogging and getting to know other bloggers through their posts.  It makes me feel like I'm peering into their lives in a very fun, energizing sort of way, and I can't get enough!  It's all so addictive! 

What is one thing you have discovered because of blogging and now cant live without?
It's hard to choose just one!  I can narrow it down to Twistbands (hair elastics that don't leave a dent) and Birchbox. 

Facebook or Twitter?
Facebook is my go-to, but I've been using Twitter a lot more lately.  My problem is that SO many of me friends don't use Twitter, so it's not easy to keep up with everyone like I can on Facebook.

If one celeb read your blog who would you want it to be?
Mindy Kaling, for sure.  I'd love for her to read a post on why navy blue is NOT a color for old ladies and is not the geeky stepsister to black.  So there.

What is something you want people to know about your blog?
I want people to know that I'm sincere, and everything in my life comes from a good place.  My blog shares my experiences (both the pretty and not-so-pretty) and loves, and allows me an opportunity to relate to other people in ways that I'm unable to IRL.  IRL, I don't have many people to talk to about benign things like makeup or clothes or God only knows what else.  For some reason, a lot of my friends just aren't into talking about that kind of thing, but I know I can talk about it in the blogging world and people will get it.

So there you have it!  If this is your first time visiting my blog, welcome!  Grab a cocktail and stay awhile.  And leave a comment!  I really love those!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Our Anniversary Cruise

Hubby and I got home from our First Anniversary vacation on Thursday, and OMG, what an experience that was!  We took a 4 night cruise to the Bahamas on the Carnival Sensation out of Port Canaveral, FL using a vacation package that I saw advertised on the Today Show.  Hubs and I had a great time being together, we loved getting to see the Bahamas and we met a number of very nice people during our trip.  We had a great day on our actual Anniversary (June 4th) and I'm glad we got to experience this together.

That being said, so many things went wrong with this trip!  An alternate title for this post could be "Why Carnival Sucks", but I hate to start out a post on a negative note.  I actually enjoy going on cruises and hope to take more in the future.  Hubs may take some more convincing after this trip.  I've never had a negative vacation experience before because I'm actually pretty easy to please (probably because I keep my expectations low so I'm rarely disappointed).  On this trip, my expectations were higher than usual because I'd been on a Carnival cruise before and really enjoyed it, and this was my Hubby's first cruise and I wanted him to love cruises as much as I do.  I'd spoken very highly of my past cruise experiences, so I think my Hubby's expectations were high too.

I ordered this travel package after seeing it advertised on a travel deals segment on the Today Show earlier this year.  I figured that if the Today Show were promoting the deal, this must be a reputable travel company.  I got a great deal on this cruise package for a 4-night cruise for 2 plus 2 nights of hotel stay for $549.  Total bargain, right?!  Well, the problems started with booking this vacation.  When I went to book the trip, the only way they'd let us book the cruise dates we wanted was if we paid to upgrade to a more expensive room.  I did it, because I wanted to take the trip for our anniversary, so we didn't end up saving as much money as I'd hoped.  If I hadn't upgraded, we would have had to travel in October, which was not something we wanted to do.  We ended up in an oceanview room, which turned out to be a nice plus, depsite having to spend the extra money.

Then, when I went to book the two nights of hotel stay, I was directed to a website for this travel company.  I was told that the booking would be at a specific hotel in Orlando, FL, which was fine, and I proceeded with booking.  I was then told that I owed an additional $20 for taxes on the hotel stays, and I received and email assigning me a customer number and noting that they were waiting for my payment.  I promptly paid the $20 fee online.  This was weird, since I thought I'd already paid for everything with the package price, but I didn't want to fuss over 20 bucks.  I never received confirmation that my payment was received, but the money came out of my bank account.  I also never received confirmation numbers for the hotel bookings, so I called the customer service number on the website.  The person there told me that confirmations wouldn't be sent out until 1-2 weeks before the cruise departure date.  Also super weird, since I paid, so I should have my confirmation numbers, right?  Hmph. 

1 week before my trip, I noticed that I still hadn't received my confirmation numbers, so I called again.  The person told me that he saw my booking in the system, but it still showed as pending and he didn't know why.  He said he'd call me back that day or early the next day.  He never called (of course), so I called again.  All extensions at this customer service number went to voicemail, and this continued up to the Friday before our cruise (we left for Orlando on Saturday, the cruise left on Sunday).  I must have called every extension a dozen times on that Friday, an I never got anyone!!  I left messages, which, of course, have not been returned to this day.  We then called the hotel that we were supposed to be booked at, and they had no record of our booking.  We wound up having to stay at my sister's house the night before our cruise, which is fine, but we paid for two hotel rooms that we never got.  I'm totally going to raise hell about this on Monday.

Hubs and I got to Orlando on Saturday afternoon, and right away my sister and I went to get pedicures.  I wound up getting a very rough pedi (that guy was either very thorough or very angry, not sure which) and chipped my nail polish within 3 hours.  Par for the course, I suppose!!  We had dinner at Friendly Confines, then had numerous beers around a fire pit with my sister and brother-in-law.  At one point their dog got lost, but my sister found him scratching at the gate to thier backyard. 

'Round about 1:00 am, I realized that I had forgotten a very important medication at home.  DOH!  Silly Kari!  My hubs was NOT pleased because I was extremely scatterbrained leading up to the cruise because of stress, and this was just one of the worst things I could have forgotten.  I woke up very early the following day and went to a local urgent care clinic, where I got a 7 day supply of my meds.  I was able to fix my f***-up without driving back to Tampa, thank God!

We boarded the Carnival Sensation later that day, and we settled into our room.  I found it strange that our stateroom attendant never stopped by to see us since this is customary on cruises, but I let it go because we didn't need anything right then anyway.  Our room was basic, but comfortable.  I love having a room with a window instead of an interior room because it doesn't feel like such a cave.

I was a little surprised at how rough the ship looked.  It had very outdated decor, the elevators had peeling, chipping paint and several of the elevators were broken.  It was not as nice as the previous Carnival boat I sailed on, but it could have been worse I suppose.

After getting unpacked, Hubs and I kicked off our cruise in a way that was perfect for us:  we took a nap together.  That's love, right there!  In all, we were exhausted from being up late and getting up super early, so the nap was pretty enjoyable!

We later went to dinner (where we met a very odd young guy from Kentucky who was on the cruise alone) and came back to find the extra pillows we requested and a fun towel animal.

Yes, we LOVE pillows, so having 8 made us extremely happy!  We only have 5 on our bed at home, so I think Hubs was in heaven.  I think the towel animal was a seal, but we weren't completely sure.  Some of these towel animals were a little non-descript.

The next day, we arrived in the Bahamas, and our first stop was Freeport.  We planned a tour of Freeport and a snorkeling trip, which we were pretty excited about.  We heard there wasn't much to do in Freeport unless you took an excursion, so we planned it.  It turned out to be a good choice!

This is Hubs trying a local drink called Gully Wash.  It's gin, coconut water, condensed milk and something else.  It actually didn't repulse me, as gin usually does.  Hubs loved it!

After we sampled the local cocktails, we took a tour through a local nature preserve to see some caves and forest areas.  I would have taken pictures, but I was too busy swatting mosquitoes off me!  I GOT EATEN ALIVE!!  We also encountered some bats that flew out of the caves at us, as well as a fair number of spiders.  I was SO ready to get out of that forest!

After the forest, we went to Paradise Cove at Deadman's Reef.

This is the beach where we went snorkeling and had lunch.  The sand was gorgeous but the shoreline was somewhat rocky and not the easiest to walk through.  We went out snorkeling, but the swim out to the snorkeling area was long and the water up ahead looked very rough.  See those white caps out there in the water?  Well the snorkeling area was out there.  Both Hubs and I are good swimmers, but the thought of snorkeling in rough water made us nervous.  We ended up turning back and snorkeling back to the beach, where we found out that the restaurant served beer!

We then had some a-ma-zing conch fritters that might have been the best I've ever eaten.  Yum!

And I found some time to make silly faces at Hubs, which he naturally snapped pictures of.  Several of the ladies in our tour group had fun laughing at me while I was doing this!

We stopped at some other local sites, like an underwater cave that Jacques Cousteau once explored.

On our way back to the boat, we stopped and got daiquiris at this little stand.  They were actually pretty good and mine was extremely strong.  Not bad for $5!

When we got back to the boat, Hubs and I exchanged anniversary gifts.  I got him a book by Corey Taylor (lead singer of Stone Sour and Slipknot) as the traditional first anniversary paper gift, and made him a coupon book of things he can "redeem", including a shopping trip for new threads, romantic dinner, massage, etc.  My original gift idea for Hubs fell through at the last minute so this was a decent stand-in idea.  I'm still hoping I can make something happen for a future anniversary.  Hubs REALLY outdid himself with his gifts for me, as per usual.  He first gave me this...

I couldn't help but laugh!  It's just like him to give me something humorous first.  He also got me the Invicta watch that I mentioned wanting a couple of months ago.  He's great because he ALWAYS pays attention and remembers when I mention something that I want.  What a good Hubby!  I LOVE it!

Truth be told, I'd have been happy just getting the funny t-shirt and spending time with Hubs.  The gorgeous watch was a bonus.

The rest of the night was colorful.  Our beverage server was awful, and he continued to be awful throughout the cruise.  We also met more of our table-mates at dinner who were no-shows the first night.  They were CRAZY--rude to the waitstaff, didn't like anything on the menu, complained that all of the dishes were dirty, and barely ate any of their food.  I was actually embarrassed to sit at the table with people like this.  They were straight-up MEAN.  They should have just gone to the buffet if all the wanted to eat was chicken tenders and french fries and criticize the hard-working waitstaff!!  We actually tried to get our dinner assignment changed because of this but were told no.  Booo to that.  The highlight of the night was coming back to our room and finding another towel animal.  I think this one was a dog.  We initially thought it might be a pig, but the ears seemed too floppy.

The next day, we arrived in Nassau.  We didn't have an excursion planned so we just slept in, wandered around town for awhile, did some shopping for souvenirs at the Straw Market.  I found a Bahamas magnet that had our wedding colors in it, so that was my big purchase there.  I had to get out fast because we were getting harrassed by the local ladies running their booths.  I also found a Coach store and a GREAT cosmetics store that sold Jo Malone fragrances, but Hubs reminded me that I already have a horde of perfume and couldn't bring anymore home.  It was a buzzkill, but I know he's right.

After that, we had lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe because Hubs and I love looking at rock memorabilia.  Hubs was offended because they had a guitar signed by the band Warrant hung prominently in the entryway.  He does NOT like hair metal bands because "they're not real heavy metal".  If that was a Metallica guitar, he'd have been singing a different tune. 

Lunch was great, as was this lovely mid-day pick-me up:

It's a blue margarita.  I have a 'thing' for blue cocktails, meaning that I've never met one I didn't like.  Ever.  I can rarely pass up a drink with blue curacao in it!  This drink was awesome, as expected for being blue. 

After that, we headed back to the boat for swimming and mini-golf.

Our golf balls in our wedding colors.  Awww. :)

The next day, we had a day at sea, where we played in the casino, went to shows, and drank by the pool.  We had wanted to go to the pool again, but there were absolutely no chairs for us to use for our things.  We gave up on pool time and decided that checking out the boat and all of the different bars was more fun.

I love me some slot machines.  Like Paula Deen, I'm a slot slut.  I have my mother to blame for getting me into this.

This is my favorite cruise drink, the Miami Vice.  It's just pina colada mixed with strawberry daiquiri.  It's soooo good though!!!  You have to try it if you haven't already.  Do it.

On our last night of the cruise, both Hubs and I came down with a terrible (and I do mean TERRIBLE) bout of food poisoning.  We were up sick ALLL night.  It might have been one of the worst experiences ever!  We both at the same things so we have no idea what caused it, but perhaps it was the seafood.  Needless to say, we got off the boat having slept very little and we drove back to Tampa in a hard rainstorm.  It took us both a couple of days to recover from this, but we're doing okay now.

All in all, we had a blast being together and celebrating our anniversary, but we had some issues on the boat.  Our awful stateroom attendant (who was practically non-existant throughout the trip), bad service in the dining room, bad table-mates, rough-looking boat and food poisoning were no bueno, but this is all unusual for cruises.  Thankfully, Hubs is willing to give a cruise another try, maybe next time on Royal Caribbean. 

So glad to be back and getting caught up on my blogging!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Remembering Our Honeymoon

Following our unbelievable wedding extravaganza last June 4th, we woke up the next morning and attending a brunch for all of our out of town guests.  We also realized that morning that we completely forgot to take pictures with our "Just Married" parasol that I had custom made to match the font on our wedding invitations and all of the reception paper items.  DOH!  We made sure to get a few good pictures with it just so I wouldn't be so sad...

We feasted once again and said our goodbyes to friends and family, then Hubs and I flew back to Tampa for one night.  It gave us just enough time to repack our suitcases, deposit our wedding money into our bank account, and get a good night's sleep before we went on our weeklong honeymoon.

When Hubs and I started exploring honeymoon choices, we loved the idea of going to Hawaii or Europe, but we realized we'd be spending a lot of time sightseeing and generally being very busy.  We both looked at each other and knew in an instant that we needed just the opposite of that.  We needed a lazy, lay-on-the-beach, agenda-less, drink-from-noon-to-midnight kind of a honeymoon.  Ultimate relaxation after our crazy wedding adventure was right up our alley.

Hubs and I chose to go to Sandals Grande Antigua, an all-inclusive couples resort in the Caribbean.  We'd heard good things about Sandals resorts and wanted to go to a big resort.  Grande Antigua seemed like a good choice.  It turned out to be an amazing decision because we had THE BEST time!!! 

We checked in on Monday and checked out the following Monday, so we had a full week of fun.  It was very hot in Antigua, but after living in Florida and enduring grueling summer heat, it wasn't all that bad.  We just learned to relish our moments in the air conditioning!  Actually several of the restaurants were open-air, so we couldn't really escape the heat for every meal, but we didn't mind too much. 

When we got to the resort, we immediately settled into our room, which was upgraded to a larger room with a stocked bar.  We had absolutely no complaints because we never had to worry about leaving the room to get water, soda, juice, cocktails, beer or wine.  (But we often did because the bars were AWESOME.)

We also took our first picture together on the balcony of our room...

On our first night at the resort, we had dinner at the sushi restaurant. Hubs and I did a hardcore low-carb diet leading up to the wedding (like the kind where you can only have 20 g of carbs for the entire day), so we were DYING for carbs, especially those in the form of sticky sushi rice.  Hubs erased the picture of our amazing sushi display, but I did get a picture of us at dinner.

You can tell this was early in our honeymoon because we're both still pasty white.  We then came back to our room and were greeted by these little friends...

As an appreciator of the little things in life, I am completely in love with towel animals on cruise ships and at resorts.  I had no idea that Sandals did them too, but I squealed with delight when I saw these adorable swans snuggling on our bed.

I couldn't bear to just throw them on the floor, so we put them at the foot of our bed while Hubs and I relaxed and watched a B movie late that night.

The next day, we took a tour of Antigua with our tour guide, Fish.  He was quite a character and everytime he took a picture of us, they were off-center.  These are just a few of the pictures from our tour...

After our tour, we had dinner at Eleanor's, the resort's open-air seafood restaurant.  It was divine, but it might have been the wine talking.  We drank a lot of vino at that dinner!

We then went to Cricketer's Pub, where we made some wonderful new friends and found out that the bar served shots.  Dangerous, but PERFECT.

Here I am, the one and only time I've ever done Kareoke.  Thankfully it was Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline", so I had no problem with the words, even being a little tipsy.  It was fun, but about half-way through the song, I realized that I was the only one left singing!  If I were stone sober, I would have been mortified.

For the rest of the trip, we just lazed around the resort, spending our days in a cabana by the pool or actually in the pool with the swim-up bar. That main pool was one of our favorite places at the resort. It was huge so you never felt like people were on top of you.

We had dinner on the beach one night, and it was a very serene, beautiful way to enjoy a meal.

I kissed Buddha's head and rubbed his tummy for good luck. 
I'm sure it gave us good marriage vibes!

Our honeymoon turned out exactly as we hope it would.  We slept late, hung out by the pool, worked on our tans, indulged in sinful food and cocktails and made new friends.  Hopefully someday we'll go back to an all-inclusive resort to do it all over again!

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Tampa, Florida, United States
I'm a wife, daughter and amazing twin sister. I'm a mom to my adorable dog, Bella. Loves: Shopping, cooking, baking, good grammar and Dave Matthews Band. I'm also a Bath and Body Works addict, a Michigan State Spartans fanatic, and an iPhone aficionado. I see beauty in simple things and little things make me ever-so-happy. Welcome to my world!

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