Monthly Archives

July 2011

Life Uncategorized

True Inspiration

Hey guys, I came across something today that moved me so much I had to share it with you. As I was catching up on my blogs, I came across a post on The Lettered Cottage that featured blogger Shelly Owens of Good To Be Crazy. She shared a brief background on their family, and I was so intrigued that I clicked over to her site to find out more.

Shelly and her husband were living out their ‘American Dream’ in Atlanta with their two children when they suddenly felt like God was calling them to do and be more. Long story short, they adopted two children from Uganda and started a charity called SixtyFeet, which is dedicated to improving the living conditions of the orphan children in Uganda. I admire these people so much, and reading their story literally brought me to tears.

What a wonderful revelation, to realize that our lives are about so much more than the trivial things we concern ourselves with on a daily basis. I want to use the things the Lord has blessed me with to make a difference in the world. It’s far too easy to get wrapped up in my own life and forget about the needs of others.

Thank you for the reminder, Shelly.

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DIY Just for Fun Uncategorized

The Pinterest Challenge

So as I was scrolling through my Google Reader today, I came across something very exciting. What was it, you may ask?


THE PINTEREST CHALLENGE!!!!!

*Imagine that said in a big, booming voice that seems to be coming from somewhere up in the clouds*

Let me explain..it’s basically a challenge (thought up by the hilarious Katie Bower) to stop pinnin’ and start doin’. For those of you who don’t know what Pinterest is, I gushed about it a little in this post.

So you’re supposed to do a DIY project based on an inspiration photo that you’ve pinned in the past. I’ve got quite the little stockpile (you can check out my boards here..follow me!) of photos, so now I just have to decide which project I want to tackle first! The challenge is to complete the project in a week, aka Tuesday, August 2. I seriously can’t wait to get started, although I’m sure my hubby will cringe at the thought of me starting yet another project seeing as how I’ve got a couple unfinished ones lingering in our house as we speak. But I promise this one will be done by next Tuesday, babe!

Oh, and did I mention that there are 3 other amazingly awesome bloggers (in addition to Katie) in on this challenge..sponsoring it, if you will. Sherry, Emily, and Lana are all participating as well. So you can go to any of their blogs next Tuesday to post your links to your projects. I know I will be!

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Travel Uncategorized

Tips for Cruisin’

Hey guys! Hope you all had a great weekend..we finally got some much needed rain. I think I heard my flowers give an audible sigh!

I want to wrap up my vacation posts by giving you guys just a few pointers and tips in case any of you are considering going on a cruise in the future.

When I told people we were going on a cruise, most of the reactions were “Ohhhh, wowwww a cruuuiseee.” Meanwhile, I could see in their heads they were thinking, “You must be rich! Cruises are SO expensive!” Contrary to what you might think, cruises can be pretty economical. The fare includes your room, enough food to feed Joey Chestnut, and entertainment including magicians, comedians, acrobats, singers, and dancers. And there a few more ways to save a few buckaroos:

1.) Early bird gets the worm? In this case, true. Sort of. You’re going to get the best deal by either booking far in advance (5-6 months) or wayyy late (1-2 weeks before departure). Cruise lines don’t want to sail their ships with empty rooms, so often times as a departure date gets closer, they will drop the rates significantly. But, of course, not everyone can wait until the last second to plan their vacation. So, my advice is if you know you want to book a cruise, get with a travel agent ASAP and book it. I’ve also heard that some cruise lines have a ‘low price guarantee’..so if the fare drops after you book it, they will guarantee you the lower rate. Check with your travel agent on that.

2.) Forget the ocean view. You’re on a boat. You can go up on the deck and stare at the ocean ’til your hearts content. A balcony/oceanview in your room isn’t necessary. Sure, if you’ve got the extra money to spend, it would be nice to have..but overall, unnecessary. The only time we even spent in our room was when we were sleeping or getting ready. You’ll save hundreds of dollars by opting for an interior room. And, as a general rule, the higher on the boat you go, the more expensive the rooms are. So, if you don’t mind staying on a lower level (still above sea level, though..it’s not like they’re putting you down where Leo DiCaprio had to stay on the Titanic) an in an interior room, you can save a LOT of money.

3.) Beware the room card. On both of the cruise lines we tried, there is a cashless system implemented on board. Before you get on the boat, they will have you put a credit card on file. This credit card will then be tied to your room key. So whenever you want to purchase something throughout the week, they will charge it to your room and you will get the bill at the end of the week. It’s very convenient, but it can be somewhat dangerous. Especially, if you’re drinking or gambling (we do neither, so it wasn’t an issue for us). I recommend trying to keep a running tally somewhere of what you’ve spent so that you’re not shocked when they slip that bill under your door at the end of week!

4.) The excursion debate. Excursions are probably where people spend the most money once on board the ship. First let me say, excursions are totally optional. It’s just a chance to explore your port of call in a tour packaged organized by your cruise line or another third-party company. However, if you want to just get off the boat and explore on your own, that’s always an option. You don’t even have to get off the boat at all. {Sidenote: the spa onboard usually runs specials on days when you’re in port. So if you want to book a spa treatment, do it on those days.} If you decide you want to book an excursion there are two ways to do it. You can book it through your cruise line either prior to the cruise or once you’re on board. Or you can wait until you get to the port and book it through a third-party company. Most cruise lines will discourage this because they can’t vouch for the integrity of those companies. However, you can save up to 50% off the price because those companies are run by locals who are willing to haggle. If you’re going to go that route, I would recommend finding some local security officials (there are usually some at every port) and asking if they can point you in the direction of a reputable company. It’s a more risky way to do things, but it can definitely pay off in the end. For example, we booked an excursion where we swam with dolphins (PURE AMAZINGNESS btw) in Cozumel for about $130. When we got there, we talked with some other people who booked it through some locals and only paid $85. No bueno.

And now for some more general tips:

1.)  Packing the essentials. If you’ve never cruised before, you may be at a loss for what to pack. Here’s my suggestions. Pack one outfit for dinner each night. This can be as dressy or casual as you like, depending on the kind of dining you want to do. Most ships offer a buffet style dining where you can dress however you’d like, or a more formal, sit down style, which is usually slightly more dressy (i.e. no jeans, no shorts, etc). Also, some cruises have one or two ‘formal nights’ where you’re encouraged to get all gussied up so check with your specific cruise line for info on that. I really enjoy the formal nights because they make for great photo opportunities! As far as what to pack for the days, you need to consider what you think you will be doing. For example, if you plan to just lay by the pool/swim, you may not need much past a bathing suit and cover up for the daytime. But if you think you might go for a hike or long walk on one of your excursions, make sure to pack comfortable clothes and tennis shoes. Also, consider any specialty items that might come in handy, like a scuba mask or snorkel. That will save you money on having to rent them for an excursion. And, DON’T FORGET SUNSCREEN. The sun is very intense on a Caribbean cruise, and because there is a breeze coming off the ocean you can completely fry yourself and not even know it. I’d also recommend a good hat that will stay on your head, even with a strong breeze. Trust me, you don’t want to burn your scalp because then it will peel and it’ll look like you have really bad dandruff. Not sexy.

2.) Is it just me or is the room swaying? One thing to consider when thinking about going on a cruise is whether or not you experience motion sickness. The movement is nothing like what you would experience on a regular boat, but you can definitely feel it from time to time. The larger the ship, the less you will feel the movement. My mom gets motion sickness, so she takes Dramamine throughout the duration of the cruise and it works just fine. I also saw several people wearing those little motion sickness patches. If you think it might be an issue, pack it just in case. Nobody wants to be upchucking on their vacay.

3.) Gratuity. Throughout the cruise, there are a number of people who serve you..from your room steward to the wait staff to the bar boy. Most cruise lines will add a charge (on Norwegian it was $12 per person/per day) onto your room bill at the end of the week that covers tips for all these people. So be sure to account for that in your budget.

PHEW. That was a lot of reading..sorry guys. For making it through such a wordy post, I will now reward you with some random pictures from our cruise.

 

Mayan Ruins in Costa Maya, Mexico

At Dolphinarius in Cozumel, Mexico


Ahh, I’m ready to go back already! Have you guys ever been on a cruise? Thinking about it in the future? Have any more questions? I want to hear all about it!

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Travel Uncategorized

City Guide: New Orleans

As promised, I’m back today with a little city guide for New Orleans (aka NOLA). It was the port city for our cruise ship, so hubby and I went down a few days before the ship left so that we could spend the weekend there with some friends of ours that live in Louisiana.

First of all, let me say…MY WORD, IS IT HOT DOWN THERE! We’re currently having a heatwave here in Indiana and are experiencing some 100 degree + weather, but even with that..there’s just something about the humidity down south that makes you sweat through your clothes in a matter of minutes. So for those of you who live in the South and deal with that on a regular basis, I tip my sweat-soaked hat to you.

If you can stand the heat though, NOLA really is a fun and unique city. There’s a lot to take in and we didn’t even begin to scratch the surface in our two days there, but I wanted to put together a little guide of the things we did so that if any of you ever visit, you can have something to reference. I am in no way an expert on New Orleans or travel in general, really, but I will do my best!

The hotel we stayed at was the Renaissance Arts Boutique which was just a couple blocks from the French Quarter. It was a nice hotel and a good location..close enough to walk to most sights, but not noisy or anything. Although, next time we visit I might want to try an independently owned hotel..I saw several in the French Quarter that looked really charming.

We ate lunch on Friday at a place called Acme Oyster House. It’s a pretty well known place (it was featured on Man v. Food) and supposedly the oysters were delicious.


I’ll tell you right up front that I am NOT an oyster fan. I just can’t get over the slimy texture. Blech. However, the friends we were with assured me that I just had to try the char-grilled oysters. And I can honestly say they were delicious. Char-grilling them takes away all of that slimy texture and just leaves you with a salty/buttery snack. And the oysters themselves were ginormous. The hubs and I shared a dozen and I was pretty full after taking down my half. And, of course, they serve all kinds of other seafood-y goodness besides oysters there as well. So, I would definitely recommend it.

Then we made our way down towards Bourbon Street. That place is absolutely cah-razy with a capital Cah. I mean we were down there in the middle of the day and it was completely packed out with people hanging off the balconies and out of the windows. Totally insane, but it’s a NOLA staple so you kind of have to see it, right? (Sidenote: Even though I saw plenty of people with their kids, I’m not sure I would recommend it. There are lots of ‘working girls’.. if you catch my drift). So, if I put any pictures up of what we saw there, it would unfortunately turn my site into one of those where you have to verify you’re 18 or older before entering. Instead I’ll leave you with this picture I took of this wall full of Mardi Gras masks.


After I picked my jaw up off the ground, we walked over to Jackson Square, which is a historic park in the French Quarter. The St. Louis Cathedral is here (so gorgeous and reminded me of my time in Italy), as well as a statue of Andrew Jackson (whom the park was named after). I think Jackson Square was my favorite place we visited..I just love the old buildings and the surprising beauty of this park smack dab in the middle of a bustling city. This is also a hotspot for all of NOLA’s street performers and psychics. At any one time you could be getting your palm read, while watching a troupe of break-dancers, and listening to a jazz band play in the background. There’s entertainment galore! 

AND on the far side of the park is Cafe du Monde. One word: beignets (pronounced like ben-yay). Another word: scrumptious. They are definitely a must try!


As you might imagine, the city really comes to life at night. Here’s just a little sampling of what you might encounter:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W6Mu4lZuFrE]

I just love seeing these guys blow (like my jazz talk? I may or may not be scatting as I write this). And, yes, Jordan saved my life by pulling me out of the way of that taxi.

On Saturday morning, we visited the World War II museum, which was just a few blocks from our hotel. If you ever have the chance to visit this museum, I would highly recommend it. It was absolutely fascinating, and they had several actual World War II vets there that you could speak with. It was such an honor to be able to even shake their hands. There is a LOT to take in at the museum, so you should definitely plan on spending a few hours there. And just recently they’ve added a 45 minute 4D movie that is totally awesome. Here are just a few shots I captured.

The display on the right represents the number of Japanese troops. The display on the left represents the number of German troops. The little display in the middle represents the number or American troops. Pretty unbelievable.

After we left there, we headed back down to the French Quarter to visit the French Market. It’s basically a huge open air market with lots of various vendors selling food, jewelry, clothing, and all kinds of little knick knacks. Again, I think I liked this so much because it reminded me of Europe. New Orleans as a whole did, which isn’t surprising given the amount of influence French culture has had on the city.

That’s just a very small portion of things to do in NOLA and if we ever go back, I’ll be sure to update this guide. But hopefully that gives you some idea of what this charming city holds, and if you ever get the chance it’s definitely worth the trip!

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Home Decor/ Interior Design Uncategorized

House Touring: Memphis, TN

Alright guys, I’m back with the first of many posts about our vacation. The posts following this one will be kind of like travel/city guides for the various places we visited, so this one is kind of unique. On our way down to New Orleans, we stopped over for a night in Memphis to visit Jordan’s uncle. He lives in a beautiful old, Spanish style home built sometime in the 1920’s. I’m tellin’ ya, they just don’t make ’em like this anymore!

I’m a sucker for columns.

Check out the living room:

The sofa table has incredible intricate detail..

As does the fireplace..

How cool is that? It’s reminds me of Grecian pottery.

Next up, I wanna show you guys some of the really awesome details in the kitchen. Like this copper apron sink. First of all, I LOVE apron sinks and my dream kitchen has one for sure..but I had never seen a copper one. Definitely a cool, more masculine alternative.

 That hammered detail is just too cool, don’t ya think?

And take a look at this awesomeness..when he redid his kitchen he added an ice-maker disguised as a cabinet on the end of his island.

Genius.

Here’s the bedroom we stayed in:

You can’t really tell from this picture how MASSIVE the four poster bed was, but let me assure that it was. Like, I had to get a running start to get up there.

I think the thing I love the most about older homes are the small little charming details that give the house its’ character. For instance, these doorknobs:

You won’t find knobs like that in any new construction home. Just beautiful.

Now let’s venture out into the backyard, shall we?

I would love waking up to this every morning!

So quaint.

And here I am with the owner of the home, Jordan’s uncle Jim (aka Tookie).

So, what’d you guys think? What was your favorite part of the house? Are you a lover of old homes, too, or do you prefer new homes? Tomorrow, I’ll be posting my guide for New Orleans so be sure to come back and check it out!

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Life Uncategorized

Back to Life…

…back to reality. Remember that song? 

Well, folks, the cruisers have returned to dry land and I can assure you we looked every bit as fabulous as this couple when we stepped off the boat:

If only.

We had a great time on our vacation and I’ll be sure to give you guys the full break down soon once I find the time to upload all the pictures. For now, I’m just slowly easing my way back into things and trying to catch up on everything I missed!

And here’s some exciting news: I’m working on getting my blog redesigned and soon it will look just beautimous 🙂

I hope you guys have had a terrific Tuesday.. tomorrow brings us one day closer to the weekend! Wahoo!!

P.S. – Happy Birthday to my brother-in-law, Jake! Love ya like you’re my own brother!

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Life Travel Uncategorized

Bon Voyage!

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Well, we’re on the ship and we’re getting ready to set sail! I’m actually kind of excited to just disconnect from technology and relax for a whole week! But of course you know I’ll document everything for you guys..see you in a week!!!

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Life Uncategorized

A Post From the Road

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This is my view right now, folks.

We are officially on vacay! We’re driving down to Memphis tonight and then onto New Orleans, where we’ll board our cruise ship! Yahoooo!!!

We’re going to be spending a couple days in New Orleans..so do y’all (yes, y’all..I’m practicing my southern talk) have any suggestions of things to do and see?

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