A to Z Survey

It’s wedding weekend – ahh! I can’t believe my mom gets married tomorrow. It is going to be such a fun day (and I promise a full recap next week!) Since my mind can’t really focus on anything other than wedding preparations, I thought this survey that I saw on another blog would be a fun Friday post! Go ahead and steal it for your own blog – can’t wait to see your answers!

A. Age: 27

B. Biggest fear: Losing my mom

C. Current time: 9:23 p.m.

D. Drink you had last: Grape Gatorade

E. Easiest person to talk to: My mom

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F. Favorite song: Right now, I love rocking out to “Fight Song” by Rachel Platten

G. Grossest memory: Oh, gosh, nothing surpasses the time I went to watch my brother’s soccer practice and afterwards, he downed a lime-green Gatorade, which he promptly threw up in front of everyone. I’ve never been able to drink lime-green Gatorade since then.

H. Hometown: St. Petersburg, FL

I. In love with: This man!

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J. Jealous of: People who got the chance to have a normal college experience

K. Kindest person you know: My soon-to-be roomie, Bri. She’s the kind of person who will drop everything and be there for you when you need her. I feel like the luckiest person in the world that she wants to live with me!

L. Longest relationship: Umm

M. Middle name: Marie

N. Number of siblings: Just one

O. One wish: For Dutch to feel better

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P. Person you spoke to on the phone last: The receptionist at my eye doctor to give her my insurance information! Ha.

Q. Question you’re always asked: “How are you?” is the only one I can think of… I’m not asked any actual questions on such a frequent basis as to remember them.

R. Reason to smile: This squishy little baby

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S. Song you last sang: “Put Your Records On” (such a fun song to sing along to!)

T. Time you woke up: 6:00 a.m.

U. Underwear color: Nude!

V. Vacation destination: Anywhere a cruise ship will take me

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W. Worst habit: Biting the skin around my thumb. Nervous habit!

X. X-rays you’ve had: Numerous ones at the dentist, twice for my foot/ankle, and once of my thumb when I sliced it open and had to get it stitched (the ER doc wanted to make sure there wasn’t any more glass embedded inside the cut).

Y. Your favorite food: Subs from Publix. I’m addicted. I have 2-3 a week.

Z. Zodiac sign: Sagittarius

Who is the kindest person you know? What is one wish you have right now?

Reviewing the Second Quarter of the Year

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top left photo credit

And just like that, the first half of 2015 is over. I’ve both loved and loathed this year. For the most part, it’s been a great one. I’ve been able to travel. I’ve helped my mom plan her wedding. And I’ve really taken the time to let myself be. There have been low moments. Moments where my anxiety overwhelms me. Moments where I worry I’m not doing enough with my life. Moments where I get so scared for the future that it’s hard to breathe. C’est la vie, right?

In any event, we’re done with two quarters of the year and, like I did for Q1, I wanted to take the time to reflect on what was good and challenging in Q2, and make some goals for Q3.

Q2 Review – The Highlights

I had such a wonderful time on my cruise in mid-May. It wasn’t the perfect cruise, but it just felt really good to get away from reality. I got to spend time in the Bahamas again as well as three new-to-me islands (St. Thomas, Puerto Rico, and Grand Turk). I’m already looking forward to my next cruise!

  • Chopping off my hair

I’m so glad I took the plunge and went back to a bob. I ended up taking 9 inches off and it has been such a delightful change. My hair feels so much more manageable now and getting ready in the morning takes no time at all!

  • Helping my mom plan her wedding

It has been really fun helping my mom plan her wedding! We hadn’t done much in the way of planning until we got back from our cruise. Since we knew the wedding would be small (originally, we were thinking around 15-20 people, but the guest list has since grown to be closer to 30) and we wouldn’t need to book a fancy hall for the ceremony or reception, we managed to tackle all the to-do’s in these last two months. Every weekend, we’ve had different wedding tasks to complete (such as: taking engagement photos and designing the invitations, scoping out the perfect area in downtown St. Petersburg for the small ceremony, finding my mom’s wedding dress and my maid-of-honor dress… things like that). All that’s left is to put together wedding favors and do all the day-of getting ready and setup! I honestly cannot wait!

  • Helping with my mom’s surprise bridal shower

My mom’s work BFF (who is actually going to be the officiant at the wedding!) put this whole surprise bridal shower together, and she did a fantastic job. Not only did she most of the decorating and planning, but she also helped everyone keep mum about the whole event, so my mom was super shocked. I was so touched to be included in the festivities and it makes me so incredibly happy that my mom has such a great support system at her work. She deserves it all!

I had such a fun afternoon in Downtown Disney with Emilie and her fiance, Pete. From the get-go, it felt like I was hanging out with old friends, not people I had just met! But that’s the way it goes with blogging friends, eh? It was quite wonderful to meet them!

Q2 Review – The Challenges

  • Spraining my ankle

Oh, it’s just no fun at all to get injured while on vacation. Spraining my ankle during my zip-lining and hiking excursion in Puerto Rico turned what was a super fun excursion at the start into my personal version of hell. Luckily, the tour guides were super nice and helpful once I told them about my injury, even helping me down some of the more treacherous terrain. Since then, my ankle has just been very tender. I can walk on it fine now, but stepping down onto that foot or walking down stairs still causes shooting pain. Hopefully, I’ll be 100% soon!

  • Dealing with a sick pup

My poor Dutchie-Boy. As I mentioned previously, Dutch has been dealing with a bad UTI. After three weeks on medication, he was still not getting better so last week, he went back to the vet. This time, he had blood work done and another urinalysis. His blood work came back normal, but his urinalysis showed signs that he still has a UTI. SIGH! The vet sent him home with two new types of antibiotics to get rid of the bacteria causing the UTI. (He’s also on new food + a probiotic to help with some stomach pain the vet noticed.) I am just hoping and praying this gets rid of the UTI for good because I hate that he’s still suffering!

  • Eating healthy

It’s been such a struggle. It just hasn’t been easy to summon the motivation to cook healthier meals, eat out less, and everything else that falls into eating better. But something has to give because I’m tired of not feeling good – both inside and out. I’m hoping a combination of using MyFitnesspal more regularly and going low-carb will get me to where I want to be.

Q2 Review – The Goals

I set five goals for myself to complete in Q2. Let’s review them!

  • Refinance my auto loan

Check! I have been working with an advisor at my bank to refinance my auto loan and we’re in the final stages of it now. I’m just so happy that I finally got this done!

  • Schedule an appointment with a therapist.

Incomplete. And I really, really need to start seeing a therapist. I must make this a priority in Q3.

  • Launch a brand-new blog theme.

Check! And I love it so!

  • Make a decision on an apartment.

Incomplete. My move-out date has been pushed back to possibly August, maybe September. I’m okay with it, though! With all of Dutch’s recent vet visits, saving money has not been possible so I’m not really ready financially to move out. But I’m pretty sure I’ll be writing my Q3 review from a South Tampa address. Squee!

  • Start writing fiction again.

Incomplete. I haven’t been able to get into the habit of it. Maybe I need to give myself some sort of word count or time goal? Hmm.

Looking ahead to Q3 (July, August, and September)

As I did last quarter, I want to set five achievable long-term-ish goals for this quarter. While I still love the purpose behind setting yearly intentions, it’s nice to break those intentions up into smaller goals to strive for. So, without further ado, here are the goals I want to accomplish in Q3:

  • Move to South Tampa
  • Start therapy
  • Lose 15 lbs
  • Take a social media and blogging break
  • Start writing fiction again

What were the highlights of Q2 for you?

What I Read // June

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I don’t really know how it happened, but I managed to read 9 books in June. I think I read a lot of easy reads that only took me a few days to finish because it’s not as if June was a low-key, boring month for me! Hmm. I am so pleased with my reading progress this year – I’ve read 48 books and I am on pace to read 70+ books this year. Wahoo! This month, my favorite book was Big Little Lies and my least favorite was A Deadly Wandering.

Book club selection: Flat-Out Love by Jessica Park (5 stars)
This book was just downright adorable. It followed a girl who moves to Boston to attend college and when her living situation falls through, she moves in with her mother’s old college roommate and her family. The main character, Julie, realizes the family is a little… strange… and she gets to work on figuring them out. It’s a book about family, love, and finding yourself. My most favorite thing about this book was the dialogue. It was quick and funny and smart, and I was drawn into the story from the get-go because of it. If you like YA and novels that explore dark themes in a light-hearted way, I’d definitely recommend this novel.

Book Riot Read Harder Challenge (a book published this year): The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (3 stars)
I liked this book, but I didn’t find it as gripping or engaging as I had hoped. It was one I could easily set down. It’s marketed as “the next Gone Girl” but I can’t compare it to that book. I loved Gone Girl and it was a book that gripped me from beginning to end. This book was different. It was still good. It was still intriguing. I found the characters incredibly infuriating, but also interesting and well-developed. I was engaged enough to where I wanted to keep reading and find out what had really happened.

Book Riot Read Harder Challenge (a romance novel): Mine Till Midnight by Lisa Kleypas (4 stars)
Romance novels are my favorite genre to read (it used to be the only genre I read until I started diversifying my selections), so this was an easy category to mark complete for the Book Riot challenge. I’m making my way through Lisa Kleypas’ historical fiction novels, and they are just such fun, easy reads. I like how much depth and personality the characters have; I genuinely felt sad when I finished this novel because I would miss the characters. (Thankfully, it’s the first novel in a series, so I’ll get to read about them again soon!)

TLC Book Tours Read: A Deadly Wandering by Matt Richtel (2 stars)
I reviewed this on my blog earlier this month and you can read my review here.

Others (read for fun!)

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (5 stars)
I am officially a huge fan of Moriarty. I had previously read The Husband’s Secret, which I thought was fantastic, and a friend raved about this book so I knew I had to read it. I’m pretty sure this book will end up as one of the top three books I read this year. It was just so good. I love the way Moriarty finds a way to talk about heavy subjects (in this case, domestic violence and bullying) in a light-hearted manner. Not making light of the issues, but writing in such a way where the topics don’t feel heavy or depressing. I loved this book from start to finish and I wholly recommend it. And I would like Madeline to be my BFF, please and thank you.

Off Balance by Dominique Moceanu (4.5 stars)
This book was eye-opening. I have been obsessed with elite gymnastics since I was a little girl and I remember how much I looked up to Dominique Moceanu (even though I wasn’t a gymnast, or even very athletic!) This memoir gave such a detailed perspective into the world of elite gymnastics and how a girl winds up on a gold-medal Olympic team at the age of fourteen. I am impressed by Dominique’s dedication, strength, and bravery because what she went through, both in the gymnastics world and in her personal life, was gut-wrenching. Definitely a must-read book for those who are as obsessed with elite athletes as I am.

The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro (4 stars)
This book gripped me from beginning to end. The only reason why I didn’t give it 5 stars is because I felt the ending was a little rushed, and it left me wanting a little bit more. But I loved the setting of this novel – Paris in the mid-1950s and New York in the 1920s – because I don’t read too many books involving that time period. It was an enchanting novel with an interesting plot and such likeable characters. I also loved getting a glimpse into what it’s like being in the perfumery world.

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown (4 stars)
I listened to this on audiobook and the reader couldn’t have been more perfect. She had such a pleasing tone to her voice, which made it easy to follow along. And this story was so charming! The setting was perfect, the sisters were so different and yet so alike. I loved their transformation throughout the novel; it felt natural and authentic. And I honestly couldn’t get enough of the father and his penchant for spouting wisdom through Shakespeare quotes. The plot might seem a little slow to some people, but I think that’s what made this book so special to me. It didn’t need to be fast-paced or super gripping – it was a story about change and growth and finding yourself, and most times, that happens at a slow and steady pace.

To the Limit by Cindy Gerard (4 stars)
So, romance novels are my favorite genre to read, but more than that, romantic thrillers are my jam. A good romantic thriller will have characters that aren’t too brooding or bad-ass, a twisty-turny plot that keeps you guessing, and steamy love scenes. A novel by Cindy Gerard has all of that and more. This is actually my third time reading this novel (sorry I’m not sorry?) and I fell in love with the characters all over again.

BOOK STATS // JUNE

# of books read: 9
# of pages read: 3,317
quickest read: Flat-Out Love (4 days)
longest read: The Weird Sisters (13 days)
multicultural: 5
formats: ebooks (4), physical books (4), ebooks (1)

What was the best book you read in June?

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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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!

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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.)

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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!

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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!

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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!