Monthly Goals // July

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Happy July! I can’t believe this month is here – it’s wedding month for my mom. In just 10 days, she will get married and then embark on an 8-day Caribbean cruise. I am so jealous, but also so very, very happy for her. I can’t wait to celebrate with her next weekend! But before all that, it’s time to take a look back at my goals for June and set new intentions for July.

I’ll be honest with you, my goals for June didn’t go as planned. In fact, I completed 0 out of 5! Wahoo? I can’t give a firm reason as to why. Some stuff cropped up (like car repairs and expensive vet visits), a loooot of wedding planning happened, and it just… was a weird month altogether. So! I am not going to recap my goals because the gist of it is: I didn’t put in the time and effort to complete them. And that’s okay! It happens. Life gets in the way of our goals sometimes. I set these goals because I like the prospect of working towards something during a month. I like striving to achieve new things and I love the feeling of accomplishment when it happens. But it doesn’t always happen and I’m not going to beat myself up for it.

With that in mind, here are the goals I am setting for July:

FINANCES | Save as much money as I can and spend less than 15% of my income on personal items/entertainment

Thankfully, my move-out date has been pushed back so I have more time to save. I have a good chunk saved up, but I’m less than halfway to where I want to be. I’m hoping to get fully there (or at least dang close!) in July.

HEALTH | Read Why We Get Fat to learn more about the low-carb lifestyle

I’m beginning to suspect that I may need to seriously consider becoming low-carb. I’ve been feeling bloated a lot lately – it’s really something that has been going on for years, but I just now realized what was making me feel so crappy all the time, especially after eating carb-y meals – and I think this book might shed some good insights on the lifestyle. Gretchen Rubin raved about the book in Better than Before and it completely transformed her eating habits, so I thought it couldn’t hurt to give the book a try and see what I think.

NAGGING TASK | Organize all of my photographs

I’ve had my photographs (some of them are from my mom’s childhood!) sitting in a shoebox at the top of my closet. I’ve wanted to organize them, but it’s a task that feels super overwhelming. Enter this tutorial. Not only does it seem pretty easy, but it totally feeds my organizing-loving soul. I’m going to order these photography storage cases from The Container Store, along with some pretty labels, and get to work! (I’ll be sure to share the final product!)

PERSONAL HABIT | Be friendlier in the morning

I have a really bad habit of not saying good morning to people at work unless they say it to me first. I don’t know why I do this because I don’t mean to be so unfriendly! I guess it’s just my shy, quiet nature? I should also mention that this is around coworkers I don’t know that well – not coworkers I consider to be friends. So, in July, I am aiming to be friendlier and greet people with a cheerful good morning. I’m interested to see if it improves my mood at all!

Do you have any goals for July? What are you most looking forward to this month?

 

Let’s Talk about Book Clubs

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A few weeks ago, in the comment section of my book review post, Kathleen requested I write a post on my book club. I feel like I talk about my book club a lot on this blog, but I don’t go into many specifics. So, today, if you’ll indulge me, let’s talk about book clubs.

on joining

My start to this book club was a little rocky. And mostly due to my own silly insecurities. Originally, I planned to join in January of 2011. After searching on Meetup.com, I found a young women’s book club and it sounded perfect for me. So, I joined and even read the book pick for the month, but the day of the meeting, I panicked and bowed out. I just… got scared. Worried about what people would think of me. Going to a social event on my own is terrifying for me and I couldn’t get past my own insecurities at that time.

Nearly two years later, I summoned the courage to try again. It was the exact same book club, but it had a new leader, Amber, who is the nicest and most welcoming person I’ve ever met. I ended up joining around the time Amber was hosting a new members get-together. It would just be a few new people who wanted to join the club and some long-time book club members, getting together at a restaurant downtown for drinks and tapas. It was honestly the best situation for me as I got to “join” in a low-key setting and get to know some of the members before I attended my first meeting.

My first actual book club meeting was in October of 2012 and it went so wonderfully! We met at a restaurant, and it was a small group, which was perfect for me. And from then on, I’ve been a book club regular!

our meetings

Like most book clubs, we meet once a month and we pick a date based on everyone’s schedules. Sometimes it’s a midweek dinner, other times it’s a Friday night or Sunday morning brunch.

If we choose a date during the week, usually we’ll meet at a restaurant for a few hours because schedules are busy and we all need to get home in a timely manner.

If we choose a Friday night, we’ll usually try to pair it with a fun outing. We’ll meet at a restaurant to eat a good meal and talk about the book, and then drive over to another location for some fun. Some of the things we’ve done: laser tag, bowling, shuffleboard, and playing games at a brewery downtown.

During the summer months, we’ll often schedule “brunch book club by the pool” where everyone comes to my pool on Sunday morning for brunch potluck, mimosas, and pool time! It’s so much fun and usually my favorite type of book club we have!

So anyway, we definitely don’t stick to any one type of book club outing. We like to keep things interesting and it honestly just feels like a “girls night out” than the type of book club most people expect. And I love that! :)

discussing books

Another way we might not be like a typical book club is with our discussions. We don’t have in-depth discussions about the books we choose. I know some people like to discuss themes and literary plot devices, but we prefer to just chat about how we felt while reading the book. Sometimes, if a book we read comes with a discussion guide, we’ll answer a few questions from that. Generally, though, we just like to discuss different plot points and our reaction to them. We don’t tend to pick super literary books, anyway, but more “feel good” books, which are more fun to discuss thoughts and feelings than literary themes.

choosing books

We have a few parameters for choosing our monthly read:

  • It can’t be one someone has already read. We like to have the reading experience together!
  • Ideally, it will be a book two or more of us have marked as “to-read” on Goodreads.
  • Ideally, it will have a rating of 3.5 stars or higher on Goodreads.
  • It has to have multiple copies available at the library. (Nearly all of us are library users, so we run into problems if the book has a long waiting period or is completely unavailable. This also means we don’t read the popular books, so we haven’t read The Girl on the Train or All the Light We Cannot See as a group.)

Typically, Amber comes to our meeting with a few book ideas, and sometimes, some of us will also have some options. We’ll read aloud the book synopsis off Goodreads and then decide collectively if we think the book will be a good fit. It usually doesn’t take us very long to pick a book, and we tend to choose cute YA novels, engaging thrillers, or women’s lit.

new members

We don’t regularly take new members. We no longer have our group listed on Meetup.com (Amber actually took it down the month after I joined – glad I joined when I did!) Our group now exists in a private Facebook group.

Nearly all of us are introverts, so we like keeping our meetings small. Having 10-12 members at a meeting starts to feel overwhelming. But every now and then, we’ll do a “bring a friend to book club” meeting if we feel like we need to add new faces and new personalities to the group. That’s actually how my BFF Bri started attending!

special events

We like to do something special at least once a year to celebrate the book club’s anniversary. In 2013, five of us went on a two-day weekend cruise and in 2014, we took the Ghost Tour of St. Petersburg. This year, we’re thinking about spending a weekend in Orlando for the Food & Wine Festival!

Other than that, we’ll get together for dinner every now and then. We had a 90s gift exchange for Christmas last year. A few of us got together to carve pumpkins last October. I’ll meet up with Amber for lunch, since we work near one another. A book club friend and I started meeting up for writing dates. We all met up for a painting date for a friend’s birthday. Things like that!

We have so much fun together. They are more than just my “book club girls,” but some of my closest friends and favorite people. Growing up, I didn’t have friends who really understood me, or even really accepted me for who I was. These girls are my people. They get me. I never knew that I could find people who accepted me as I was, and let me be my neurotic, weird, crazy self. I love these girls with my whole heart and I’m so glad I took a chance on joining this group. It’s been one of the best decisions of my life.

Do you belong to a book club? How does it differ from mine?

TGIF (v. 14)

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The high of my week was my mom’s surprise bridal shower. In late May, two of my mom’s coworkers contacted me with the idea of surprising her and I thought that was the sweetest idea ever, so it’s been a long few weeks of helping them plan and trying not to spill the beans. But it went off without a hitch and my mom was indeed shocked (<– link to the Instagram video!) I feel so grateful to her coworkers for making her feel so loved and special. She deserves that more than anyone I know!

The low of my week was finding out one of my favorite coworkers is moving away. She got accepted into grad school, and I am so happy for her while simultaneously devastated that she’s leaving. It’s no fun when friends move away!

I’m currently reading Mine Till Midnight by Lisa Kleypas. It’s a historical romance novel and it’s light and fluffy and exactly what I need.

A blog post I enjoyed was Every state flag is wrong, and here’s why. It begins with Alabama’s flag and this made me laugh right out of the gate:

Someone gave the state of Alabama a box to check with the question “DO YOU WANT TO CREATE A FLAG” and this was the response. That or Alabama is unable to write its name and has to sign everything with a big red X. In general, it is a poor idea to pick as your flag an image that could be regarded as a negative answer to the question, “Should you visit Alabama?”

The best money I spent was $15 on beautiful pink roses and a vase to bring to my mom’s bridal shower. Everyone kept commenting on how beautiful they were and how good they smelled!

My plans this weekend include ice skating tonight (I haven’t been since I was a kid so this should be interesting!), lots and lots of final wedding prep, and doing some home organization in preparation for my move soon. And maybe some pool time? It’s been forever since I spent an afternoon at the pool!

What was the highlight of your week?

The Tampa Bay Project #2: Visit the Dali Museum

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I haven’t been making much progress on The Tampa Bay Project. In fact, all I’ve managed to mark off is visiting some local restaurants and taking the Ghost Tour of St. Petersburg. But I wrote this list with no pressure on crossing everything off at any specific time. I just wanted to have a running list of “things to do” around town.

This past Saturday, though, I had the chance to cross an item off this list: visiting the Dali Museum. I asked my soon-to-be-roomie Bri if she’d like to visit it with me and she gave a resounding “YES!”

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I’ll admit that I didn’t know too much about Salvador Dali before going to the museum. I knew he made some… wacky… paintings, so I figured I was in for a treat.

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Dali was a Spanish surrealist painter, born in 1904 in Spain. Though his father wanted him to go into business, art was his passion and I’d say he made the right call about choosing this path over the more traditional one. He was an eccentric man who lived an extravagant lifestyle. He also produced more than 1,500 paintings in his lifetime! Can you imagine? That’s absolutely nuts. That takes so much passion and dedication and hard work.

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(I loved his descriptions of his paintings!)

There was really so much to see at this museum! I think we spent over two hours there, slowly walking through all the different exhibits. Like one would expect, there is the permanent collection of Dali’s work, but there are also other exhibits rotating throughout the museum.

One such exhibit was “Dali Revealed” which was a selection of 48 photographs taken by photographer Robert Descharnes. I loved seeing the candid shots of Dali and his wife Gala, and just getting this tiny glimpse into the way he made his paintings. He seemed like such an interesting man, and this photographs capture his personality perfectly.

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Another exhibit we saw was “Dali & Da Vinci: Minds, Machines & Masterpieces.” This exhibit showcased more than 75 works and reproductions, including some of the reproductions both Dali and da Vinci proposed during their time (some of which became a reality and others that did not). It basically showcased how these two artists used mathematics and invention to bring about some of their most famous works.

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Lastly, one of my favorite exhibits was the “Student Surrealist Art Exhibits” in which students in grades 6-12 throughout Florida submitted their take on surrealism. The students used pen, pencil, colored pencils, digital photography, acrylic paint, and more to create amazing works of art. I mean, some of these students were 12 years old and creating incredibly detailed and amazing pieces. I am not an artist in the least, and stuff like this impresses me so much. Kudos to the kids! (And how amazing would it be to have your artwork displayed in a museum at the age of 12?!)

The Dali Museum also has a garden area, which featured an enormous mustache (reminiscent of Dali’s own fab mustache!). It’s the perfect photo op, don’t you think?!

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In any event, it was a really fun afternoon spent with my friend. (It also happened to be our friend-aversary, as we had our first lady date this weekend a year ago! We’re adorable, is what I’m saying.) I’m really happy I got to visit the Dali Museum because it’s been a really long time since I’ve visited an art museum.

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Do you like visiting art museums?

Around Here

Thanks Kathleen for the post idea!

Around here I’m adjusting to a new hairstyle. I’ve wanted to do a drastic change to my hair for awhile now. Once my hair reaches a certain length, it just starts looking stringy and dull. While it’s full and thick when it’s short, it gets very thin and fine the longer I grow it out. So, I took the plunge and cut 9 inches off my hair on Friday. I am so pleased with the change! It’s the perfect cut for summer!

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Around here my mom and I are in the final stages of wedding planning. Her wedding is in three weeks and we’re planning a small, intimate gathering. I think we’re expecting to have around 30 people total. My mom and her fiance will be married at a spot in Downtown St. Petersburg, and then we’re going to a casual steakhouse for the reception. Over the past few weeks, invitations were sent out, the wedding dress was purchased, the cake was ordered, supplies for wedding favors were bought, a photographer was acquired, and the ceremony was written. It’s almost time!

Around here I’ve been dealing with a sick pup. He contracted a bad UTI while we were away and then, after two weeks on medicine to make him better, he started getting ill in the mornings. One morning, he got ill SIX TIMES before 6am. Thinking it was the medicine, I took him off it for a few days and he got better immediately. (He did get ill two more times after going off the medicine, but after-effects, maybe?) Right now, I’m keeping a close eye on him and if I notice him not acting like himself, it’s back to the vet we go!

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Around here I’m slowly healing from my sprained ankle. I still have to walk downstairs slowly because there’s a certain way my foot lands that causes shooting pain. But generally, my ankle is fine. I’m exercising again, but taking it easy. Lots of interval rides on the stationary bike and I’m doing some upper body strength training. I tried using the elliptical a couple weeks ago and my ankle was in pain afterward, so I’m nervous to get back on it! I’m being cautious, but it’s definitely about 90% healed.

Around here I’ve been working on refinancing my car loan – and I got approved! I don’t know all the details just yet, but getting this done has taken a weight off my shoulders. And it’s really gratifying to see my hard work in improving my credit score is paying off.

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Around here I’ve been really struggling with healthy eating. My schedule has been a bit wacky lately (this week, I’ll only be home one night!), which makes it hard for me to stick to a healthy diet. I haven’t been meal planning quite like I need to, and I can’t remember the last time I actually cooked something. (Unless boxed mac and cheese counts?) I keep waiting for my schedule to quiet down, but this just seems to be my new normal. I need to figure something out because I’m stuck at an unhappy weight and it’s driving me crazy.

Around here my roomie-to-be and I are still searching for a place to live. Our move-in date is scheduled for late July, but it is looking like it could be August instead. Which I’m totally fine with! The lease I have with my mom at our current apartment isn’t up until November, so I have plenty of time. We’ve decided to look in South Tampa for a rental, which is a… hipper… part of the city. It’s not necessarily my scene, but I’m willing to give it a try, as long as we find a place in my price range. Since many of the rentals in South Tampa are privately owned, many work on 30-day notices, so even if we found something today, it most likely wouldn’t be available by the end of July. So! We shall see what happens.

Carnival Glory | Eastern Caribbean Cruise | Day 7

Towel animals

Our final day of the cruise was Friday, May 22 and I was looking forward to having an extremely relaxing day at sea. While there were a few things we wanted to do around the ship, we definitely wanted to keep the day low key and easy. Our vacation had been a crazy one filled with injuries, and we needed to end the trip on a calm note!

One of the things I’ve always wanted to do on a cruise, but rarely make the time for, is watch the sunrise. So, on this last day of vacation, we woke up before 6am and hurried up to the top deck of the ship to watch the sun rise above the ocean.

It was so quiet on the ship at this time of the morning! Within just a few hours, the decks would be packed with people, but right then, there were just a handful of cruisers up to enjoy the sunrise. It was a cloudy morning, so we didn’t get the best view, but it was still spectacular and I was happy I got up early to see it!

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After viewing the sunrise, my mom went for a short run on the jogging track while I found a comfy chair and read my book. Then, we went back to the room where I promptly went right back to sleep for 3 hours. Ha!

After our morning siesta (there is something so decadent about a morning nap, I must say!), my mom and I made our way to the dining room to have brunch.

Brunch

Afterwards, we strolled around the ship for a while. One of the shops was having a jewelry sale at a certain time and my mom and I thought we would stick around and try to get something, but it quickly got crowded and crazy. And we realized we don’t even particularly like jewelry, so why were we doing this anyway? Isn’t it funny how stuff like that happens? You buy something just because it’s on sale… but the item you bought isn’t even something you really want. I’m glad I didn’t buy anything at this sale because I’m 100% sure I wouldn’t have worn whatever I purchased since then. (Not a jewelry girl at all!)

We decided to head up to the Serenity Deck for some fun in the sun, but it was seriously hot, hot, hot. It was around 11:30-noon at this point, which is the time of the day when the sun is the hottest. I think we only lasted an hour before we had to go back inside because we got overheated.

We went back to the room and played a few rounds of cards before heading to Amber Palace to participate in BINGO! In all the cruises I’ve been on, bingo is something I’ve always wanted to do but never have. Mainly because it costs money to participate. But we decided to check it out and, if it wasn’t too expensive to play, we’d go for it.

Luckily, it only cost $20 for the cheapest package. Of course, they try to upsell you the more expensive packages, but we stuck with the cheapo one that only included one sheet per game. (Some of the others had multiple sheets per game, raffle tickets, etc.)

And wouldn’t you know it – our first time playing bingo, we buy the cheapest package, and my mom WINS one of the games! She won the third game, which meant she won $150! Isn’t that NUTS?! My mom seriously has crazy luck with stuff like this. On a cruise she took a few years back with her fiance, she won $800 on the slot machine in the casino.

Winning bingo meant everything she spent on the ship was basically FREE. Playing the game, all her drinks, everything she bought in the gift shop. Free, free, free. (I think she even had some money left over, too.) Pretty sweet, if you ask me! Go, mama!

Bingo winner

After the excitement that was bingo, I got ravenously hungry. It was close to 4pm at this time, which meant the buffets were closed. I got a few slices of pizza, and we bought cookies from the bakery, and sat at a table inside to eat.

After that, we had a slow wind-down for the rest of our day! We took showers, started packing up our stuff, got ready for dinner, and then went to see a comedy show. (My favorite set of the entire cruise. I was in tears!) We went to dinner and then decided to go back to the room afterwards instead of partaking in any of the nightly entertainment. We finished packing, played some cards, and went to bed early.

Dinner selfies

***

And that’s it for my vacation recaps! Whew. Three weeks of recapping a vacation seems like overkill, but I truly love writing these posts and reading back through them over the years. I know they aren’t everyone’s cup of tea and that’s okay. Regular posting will resume next week. After what is essentially over a month of irregular blog posting, my brain is buzzing with ideas for what I want to write about. I can’t wait to get back into it! :)

Carnival Glory | Eastern Caribbean Cruise | Day 6

Woo

Our sixth day of the cruise was Thursday, May 21 and we were in Grand Turk, one of the largest islands on Turks and Caicos Island.

We didn’t book an excursion for this port, so we had the whole day to ourselves to do whatever we wanted. Since my ankle was still very swollen and painful to walk on, all we planned to do was some touristy shopping and spending time in the huge swimming pool located a short walk from the cruise ship terminal.

Mom ship

And that’s what we did! We left the ship a little after 11am and walked right over to the pool for a relaxing afternoon of swimming and sunbathing.

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After a few hours in the sun, we started to get hungry, so we packed it in and walked over to Margaritaville for lunch. This was the only restaurant I have ever been to where customers could walk around barefoot clad only in a bathing suit and still get service. It was a strange sight to see, haha!

Lunch

After lunch, we walked around all the shops in the port. My mom wanted to get something for her fiance, as well as for my nephews, and I was hoping to find a shirt I liked, so we eventually ended up in a most touristy shop that had exactly what we were looking for. I bought a bright pink shirt with “Turks and Caicos 1492″ emblazoned on the side, and was happy with my one souvenir purchase of the trip. (I also bought a few things in the Carnival gift shop, including a ship magnet and water cup.)

Shopping

A little after 4, we made our way back to the ship since it would be setting sail within the hour. We took showers and decided to get ready early because we had a few things around the ship we wanted to do before it was time for dinner.

First, we went to the casino where my mom ended up winning $30 on a $26 bet on the slots. (I won $0 on a $5 bet…) Yay, her!

Second, we found a great spot outside to take some pictures of the sunset. This is one of the things I really wanted to do before the end of the cruise, and it was a pretty one to see!

Sunset 1

Nice view

And our last item on the to-do list was to see a comedy show! We saw a new comedian who was really, really funny. I really liked how we ended up seeing so many new comedians on this ship (four!) and each one had a really funny set.

We slipped out of the show a wee bit early so we could make it to dinner on time. Dinner was wonderful and delicious and fun, but I was pretty much ready to go back to the room once it was over. I was starting to feel some… vacation fatigue? Is that a thing? I think by day six, I was over vacation. I wanted to be home and I missed Dutch so, so, so, SO much. There was some good nightly entertainment, but all I really wanted to do was ice my ankle, read, and go to bed. Which is exactly what we did!

Towel animal

Tomorrow would be our last full day on the cruise and it was an at-sea day. I was looking forward to a relaxing last day of what turned out to be a super crazy vacation!

Carnival Glory | Eastern Caribbean Cruise | Day 5

Zip Lining Steph 1

Our fifth day of the cruise was Wednesday, May 20 and we were in San Juan, Puuuuuerto Ricooooo!

I was so excited for Puerto Rico. I’ve wanted to visit this island for a long time (I’ve heard nothing but great things!) and we had a really fun excursion planned: zip lining!

Our excursion started early in the morning (7:45 a.m.), so we woke up around 5am so we had time to shower and have breakfast before meeting with our excursion guide.

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We traveled by taxi bus to Hacienda Campo Rico, where we would be zip lining. This place was gorgeous and so, so different from the hustle and bustle of San Juan. It was lush and abundant with greenery. Hacienda Campo Rico used to be an sugarcane field, but is now an adventure spot, where people can zip line, ride ATVs, or go horseback riding. It’s incredibly beautiful and I felt like I was in an entirely different world!

We met with our tour guides, all of whom were super friendly and personable, and they got us suited up for the adventure. Then, we had a 15-minute safety demonstration on the correct form for zip lining before making our way up the first platform. Before I knew it, I was clipped into the line and pushed off into the air!

Zip lining

It was just. so. much. darn. fun. I felt so free and alive and happy. I was hollering the whole time, enjoying the feeling of flying through the air.

The second zip line was really cool because my mom and I could ride tandem! My mom was in the front and I wrapped my legs around her from behind and off we went! (By this time, it was pouring rain so that part wasn’t so enjoyable!) But zip lining tandem was pretty fun itself!

Tandem zip lining 2

Then it was time to cross our first two rope bridges. I didn’t realize how unstable these bridges were, but they were very shaky and you had to go slow with them. Thankfully, for extra safety, we clipped a part of our harness to a line above the rope bridge so if we did end up falling, we’d just hang there.

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After that, it was time to hike! This was the part I was most nervous about because I had heard the terrain was very uneven, and I was hoping I was in good enough shape to keep up with everyone. I don’t like hiking (the only other time I have hiked, I fell and broke my ankle, so we don’t have a great relationship), so I wasn’t excited for this part, especially as it was muddy and a bit slippery and just felt very dangerous.

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Thankfully, both Mom and I got through the first hike with relative ease and then it was back to zip lining! We went through two different lines and it was just awesome. The views were breathtaking, and flying through the air on a zip line is an experience like no other!

the first rope

After this, we had another hike to do to get to the next zip line.

Annnd… this is where it all fell apart for me. This hiking was extremely treacherous. I’m talking climbing over big rocks and over huge tree roots. In one section, while climbing over a huge rock, I simply stepped wrong, felt my ankle turn sideways, heard it snap, and slipped. Sigh. It hurt like hell, but I convinced myself I was okay and kept going.

I didn’t say anything to the tour guides at this point. I didn’t want to stop the course, I didn’t want the attention on me, and I just wanted to pretend everything was fine and I didn’t injure myself. (I like to live in a state of denial, I guess.)

So I kept going. I made it through another zip line and two rope bridges, and nobody but my mom was the wiser. She could tell I was seriously hurting, but I kept telling myself (and her) that I was okay. That my ankle was fine.

Rope bridge Steph

Then, it was time for another hike. NO. No, no, no, no, no, no, no, NO!

Since honesty is my policy here, I’ll admit it: I had a meltdown. Thankfully, the terrain was a little more even (no rocks to climb over or tree roots to avoid stumbling on), but it was super steep. I got through the first steep climb and then when I saw we weren’t even close to the next zip line, I had what could be called a tantrum or a panic attack. You decide.

Rope bridge Mom

I couldn’t breathe, I started crying, and I just kept saying, “I can’t do this. I can’t do this. I can’t do this.” I think I mentioned how terrible this excursion was, which I know hurt my mom’s feelings because this was the one excursion she chose. (And I didn’t mean it. Aside from the stupid hikes, it was an amazing excursion.) I just couldn’t handle the pain and the disappointment at getting hurt any longer. And my adrenaline was beginning to wear off and my foot was throbbing. It was just so incredibly painful to put any weight at all on my right foot.

Somehow, I kept moving and we made it to the next zip line. I sat down on a bench next to the zip line, and this is when I told one of the tour guides that I had hurt my ankle. He was super, super, super nice and comforting. Honestly, I can’t say enough how amazing these tour guides were when they found out about my injury. They made certain I wanted to continue and then did everything they could to make the rest of the excursion go as smoothly as possible.

Zip lining Steph 3

We went through another zip line (gah, so amazing. I love zip lining so much. The rush I get from it is undeniable.) and then another rope bridge (also loved these rope bridges. They were SO fun!). And then it was time for the last hike of the excursion – woohoo!

And, since the guides knew about my injury, one of the guides personally escorted me down! He held my hands, told me to grip his shoulder as hard as I needed to when I had to step downwards, and made sure my foot didn’t slip when walking downhill by forming a barrier with his foot. And! He did it all backwards! Very impressive. And, um, I sorta didn’t mind being escorted down. (Bow chicka wow wow)

rope bridge 3

And then we were at the last zip line – the longest one at over 1,000 feet. It was a phenomenal ride, even if I did get whacked by a tree halfway through, ha.

When I came to the last platform, the guide took off all my gear and then sat me down at a table in the cantina. I elevated my foot and eventually was given an ice pack and ace bandage.

Grubby shoes

In the photo above, you can see how muddy my shoes got… and the fact that I’m putting no weight on my right foot at all. 

So, how do I feel about the excursion, treacherous hiking and sprained ankle and all? It is one I would 100% recommend! Yes, I would still recommend it, even if it was a bit of a rough one for me. You need to be in decent shape due to all the hiking, but the incredible zip lines and fun rope bridges made the experience so worthwhile.

Zip lining Mom 1

After the excursion ended, we went back to the ship to take showers (we were so muddy!) Then, because my ankle was feeling a little better, we decided to do a little exploring. First, we needed lunch (and my mom told me I needed some alcohol to numb my ankle pain, ha) so we stopped into Senor Frogs for a quick bite to eat (… and a yard of alcohol) Then, we walked around the city a bit, but didn’t see as much of it as we liked because of my slow hobbling and only having a short amount of time before the boat was to leave.

Mom Ship PicAkahol

We got back on the ship around 2:30 and the rest of the day was pretty low key for us, since I needed to stay off my ankle as much as possible. Our afternoon was spent napping, and then once we woke up, we had dinner in the dining room (where I proceeded to get lots of sympathy for my sprained ankle, ha!) and went to see the Love and Marriage Show (one of my favorite shows of the cruise). Afterwards, we poked around the gift shop before going back to the room for cards, reading, and bed.

Dinner SelfiesTowel animal

Carnival Glory | Eastern Caribbean Cruise | Day 4

Me snorkeling edit 2

Our fourth day of the cruise was Tuesday, May 19 and we were in St. Thomas, U.S.V.I.! This was my first time in St. Thomas and I would go back in a heartbeat. Such an incredibly beautiful island with the most breathtaking views.

St Thomas view 4

In St. Thomas, we docked at a later time (I think 9.am.) and our excursion didn’t start until 10:45 a.m., so we were able to have a slow morning. I woke up on my own at 8 a.m., took a shower, and got ready for the day. A little before 10 a.m., we went up to the lido deck for breakfast.

We left the ship right after breakfast and met with our excursion group. By 10:45, we were making our way by taxi bus to the marina.

snorkeling view 2

I’ll be completely honest: I was really anxious about this excursion. I’m not much of a thrill-seeker in general, but I always like pushing past what is comfortable and trying new things. And especially when I’m on vacation! I don’t want to spend the day at the beach – I want to do something out of the ordinary! And driving a speed boat for the first time in an unfamiliar place? Definitely out of the ordinary!

I was anxious about handling the boat, about everyone speeding past me and being left behind, about my mom falling out of the boat. About everything I could worry about, really. Thankfully, I was immediately put at ease when I met our tour guides, Sam and Travis. Before we even turned on our speed boats, we were given a lengthy safety demonstration and learned the hand signals we would use to signal if something was wrong. And nobody gets left behind because while Sam lead us to the snorkeling cove in his speed boat, Travis was the caboose, making sure everyone was okay.

marina edited

manning the boat edited

So! Speed boating. OMG – so much fun! I’ve jet-skiied twice before, but it’s been a really long time (at least 10 years!), and I kinda forgot how amazing it is to fly across the water. I quickly figured out the controls on the boat – how to speed up, slow down, turn, etc. – and I just started flying. I could have driven that boat for hours. It was so much fun! I never wanted our time in the water to stop.

beautiful st. thomas edited

here we go

I was hollering and “woohoo”-ing the whole time because I was having such a blast and couldn’t believe I was so lucky to spend a random Tuesday morning doing something like this. I felt so alive! And free! And happy!

Eventually, we wound up in Christmas Cove, which is where our snorkeling adventure would happen.

View from camera

(Excuse some of the lower quality photos. I used an old-timey film camera that came in a waterproof case for the pictures at Christmas Cove.)

our snorkeling location edited

This was only my second time snorkeling, if you can believe that. The last time I went snorkeling was on my first cruise, but my mom isn’t a fan so we usually opt for other excursions. But my mom was game for trying to snorkel again, and this excursion sounded too cool to pass up!

Unfortunately, my mom never mastered the process of breathing with a snorkel, so she mainly just swam around with me and would dive down deep into the ocean to take closer pictures when we found something cool.

Relaxing

For me, the snorkeling was so much fun and it just makes me more interested in doing more of it (and scuba diving is totally on my bucket list now!) We didn’t see too much interesting sea life. We saw a sea turtle, a sting ray, sea urchins, and some fish. We also saw some beautiful coral reefs, but the pictures I took do them no justice. (Darn you, film camera!)

Sea turtle

Coral reef

Sting ray

After about 45 minutes, it was time to head back to the marina, so we all climbed back into our speed boats and started the journey back. Though the guides said the waters were very calm today, it felt a little bumpy to me (and especially so for my mom, who was in the back of the speed boat, so caught much more of the movement). It was still super fun and I wish we could have done more of the boating. I was having a blast jumping over the waves and speeding through the water. AH! It makes me that much more anxious to rent a jet ski for a few hours sometime soon. (It is on my Tampa Bay Project list, after all!)

St. Petersburg boat

view from the boat edited

After we got back to the marina, we were given rum punches to round out the excitement of the day. I only drank half of mine and threw the rest out because I didn’t particularly like it (too strong for me!) and it’s probably a good thing I did because much of my excursion counterparts were a weeeee bit tipsy during the ride back to the cruise terminal. Ha!

Rum punches

Once we were dropped off at the terminal, Mom and I decided to head back to the ship to change our clothes before heading back out to scope out the rest of St. Thomas. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a whole lot to see and it started pouring down rain, so we decided to just go back after just 30 minutes.

Once back on the ship, we ate a late lunch (pizza for me, Guy’s Burgers for Mom) and then played a round of mini golf on the top of the ship. We had the most amazing view for the game, and my mom just demolished me.

St Thomas view 3

After mini golf, it was back to the room for showers and naps, which was just the most divine way to spend the rest of our afternoon, if I do say so myself!

The rest of our night was very low-key! We woke up, got ready, and went to the dining room for dinner. (Below you’ll see my dessert – a s’mores parfait – which was my favorite dessert of the cruise!)

smores dessert

We had an early start to our day tomorrow (our excursion started at 7:45!), so we decided to forego the nightly entertainment for an early bedtime. (I’m nothing if not exciting, haha!)

Tuesday towel animal

Carnival Glory | Eastern Caribbean Cruise | Day 3

View from jogging track 2

Our third day of the cruise was Monday, May 18, and it was an at-sea day! We desperately needed a calm, relaxing, peaceful day after the crazy that was the previous day.

I woke up around 9 a.m. but my mom was fast asleep, so I took my time getting ready before waking her up and forcing her to accompany me to brunch. :)

We ate brunch in the dining room and toasted each other with mimosas. The brunch was okay (I ordered a bagel and an omelette), but not outstanding. (I’m also not much of a breakfast person, so take that as you will.)

Brunch

Mimosas at brunch

After brunch, we made our way outside to the Serenity Deck, which is located at the top of the ship. We found chairs, lathered on the sunscreen, and spent the next few hours relaxing in the sun. So divine! I read for a bit, played some games on my iPad, and then listened to a podcast. After a few hours, my mom and I took turns on the water slide (which was awesome!) and cooled off a bit in the pool.

Morning view Morning view 2

A little after 1:30, we decided to pack it up and head down to the lido deck for lunch. We both opted for a burger and fries from Guy’s (gosh, so good! I miss it!) and watched the Hairy Chest competition while eating. (Not as gross as it may sound, haha!)

Lunchtime

After our meal, we decided to head up to the room to get out of the sun. I had missed a few spots with my sunscreen and was already developing sunburn on those areas, so I needed to get inside! We played a few rounds of cards and then decided to take naps. Ah, glorious!

We woke up around 5:30 because we wanted to do a quick workout before dinner. We attempted to go for a walk around the jogging track but it was just too windy for my liking, so after just a few minutes, we found our way to the gym. I’m not sure what it was, but the minute I stepped into the gym, I felt this nostalgia for the gym environment. I didn’t realize how much it filled me with excitement to work out! There was just this energy flowing through the whole place. I definitely want to join a gym here in Tampa because you just don’t get that kind of energy from a tiny apartment gym – at all!

I used the stationary bike for 20 minutes and whew, was it harder than the stationary bike I have at home! Their level 1 resistance felt like what an 8 or 9 is with my regular bike. (I’m not sure what that means – is my bike at home too easy? Is the bike at the cruise gym too hard?) It was nice to bike with a beautiful view, though!

Workout

After our workout, we went back to the room to get ready for dinner. Tonight was elegant night, which meant dressing all fancy!

Fancy dinner 3 Fancy dinner 2

And dinner was fun! I really enjoyed our dinners on the cruise. The food was delicious and the company outstanding. After our terrible dinner mates on our last cruise, I did not take this group for granted. It was so nice to have a personable group that got along so well!

Dinner

Dessert

Dinner Selfies Collage

After dinner, my mom and I went out to the lounge area to have fancy portraits taken.

We took two different sets of pictures – one in front of a cruise ship background and the other on a “fainting couch” with a plain white background. When we saw the pictures the following day, I was not expecting to love any of them. (I typically hate pictures of myself!) But I loved them all. Two of the pictures in particular really stood out for me and I hemmed and hawed about buying them. The only problem is that ONE 8×10 is $22. At the end of the day, the cost was just too much for a picture I’d probably never put up in my home. As much as I loved the pictures, I couldn’t justify the price. Womp, womp.

After taking pictures, we headed back up to the room, played a few rounds of cards, read for a bit, and then it was lights out at 11:45. Tomorrow would be a super fun day – speed boating and snorkeling in St. Thomas!