Monday, December 30, 2013

Road Trip and 2013 Reminiscing

As we make the 30+ hour drive to Glendale, AZ for the UCF Fiesta Bowl and catching up on some blog reading, I see a lot of 2013 recaps and it got me thinking about my year. We (and by we, I don't mean me, I haven't driven 1 mile) have been driving since Sunday, Dec 29, 10am est and it's now 1:15pm MTN on the 30th. We've made stops for gas, food, and bathroom breaks. It hasn't been that bad (as a passenger). I've read 1.5 books and watched 2 movies. The most exciting part was a wrong turn around 3am that took us through the adorable (as adorable as a town can appear at 3am) town of Bandera, TX. We ran into some other crazy driving Knight fans in Alabama at a random gas station and have been tweeting with some other road trip knight fans. It's been fun. I'll do a full recap of our trip once we get back but for now, wanted to touch on highlights of the year.

(1) As cliche as it sounds, the number one highlight of my year has been watching Miss EM grow. From a newborn to a toddler, babies change sooo much. EM's little personality has developed so much and she is such a good baby. I seriously have never met or heard of a baby has good/easy as EM. (Terrifies me for a second child, no way we can get that lucky twice). She is my little angel, my little buddy, Mommy's little girl. I love her so much, and also cliche to say, but until you have your own child, you really can't comprehend the love between a parent and child, it's incredible!

(2) G and I celebrated our one year anniversary in February. We stayed at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge and had a safari view room. Having giraffes outside your balcony was very cool! (I'm a sucker for animals) Having a 3 month old, I didn't want to be far away but still wanted to be able to celebrate being husband and wife. We took EM to Animal kingdom of on the Friday of that weekend and can't wait to take her back now that she's a little older and loves characters. EM stayed with my in laws for the rest of the weekend so that we could enjoy some US time, We ate at some nice restaurants (Coral Reef and Boma) and walked around the parks. We had a wonderful first year and it was a great first anniversary.

(3) I went on 5 cruises this year. I know, crazy. All of them (except the one where I was sick and couldn't leave the room) were so much fun in their own ways. I know next year, we only have one booked (in February) and that will probably be our only one since I'm hoping to be pregnant, and that is definitely a good enough reason to miss cruising in 2014. 

(4) I started 2013 with a goal of running/walking 300 miles in the year. I log all my walking/running activity, even if it's the half mile round trip to my in laws (hey, everything counts!). About half way through the year I realized I was going to definitely going to be able to beat 300 miles and upped my goal to 400 miles with a stretch goal of 500. I did end up having a bunionectomy in July, so that put a damper on any running/walking for about 6-8 weeks but I'm still very happy to report, as of December 28th I logged 421.88 miles for the year. I may even get a few more today and tomorrow while we are in AZ. I'm not making a 2014 mile goal since I don't know when I'm going to get pregnant and how much ill actually be able to run but I did make a 30 before 30 goal of 1000 miles by 11/2/2015 so that's essentially 500/miles each year. Even with recovering from giving birth (I think I got my go-ahead to start exercising again in Mid-Jan) and my foot surgery, I completed 8 races, and  the first one wasn't even until July. [(1) 2 Miler, (1) 4 Miler, (1) 5 Miler, (1) 10 Miler, (1) Half Marathon, (3) 5ks].

(5) As part of a team, G and I helped raise over $7,000 for Give Kids the World and I couldn't be more proud of our team for raising such a substantial amount of money for such an amazing organization. (Will link recap here once I get non-mobile) 

(6) As a UCF football fan, this has been quite a year. Obviously that's a GOOD "quite" as I'm writing this while driving over 30 hours to go see our team play. UCF beat multiple ranked teams, has been ranked higher in the polls than ever before in the school's history and is playing (and hopefully winning) their first ever BCS Bowl Game. We traveled to Penn State in September to see them play and that was probably one of the most fun football events I've ever attended (other than the one where I met G of course!) and I can only hope these few days in AZ come close that level of fun! (or even top it) EM enjoyed coming to the games as well! 

(7) Having only been in our house a few months of 2012 (and with a newborn) we didn't really start making it our home until 2013. We've been enjoying adding our own personality to the house by decorating/completing some of the rooms and filling the house with pictures of EM and our family! 

(8) We did Drinks around the World in October and that is always such a fun event! Was nice to have my family and  my husband's family and our friends all together having a great time!  

(9) After much back and forth of what exactly I'd be writing about, I started this blog in August. I love that I've found a new hobby and love the blog community. I'd be lying if I didn't say I'm shocked with how involved I've become with the blog but I actually look forward to the opportunity to share my (our) life with the world (ok, not the world but the very small amount of people who actually read it) and even if it's only a few people, I love writing! I hope I continue to enjoy it as much through 2014. This is my 80th post. I'd say that is dedication for 4ish months.

Happy New Year All! 

Friday, December 27, 2013

Five on Friday

It's that time again, FIVE ON FRIDAY!

(UNO) I went to Mexico last weekend on a cruise so felt like counting in Spanish. The cruise was as great of a time as EM's first cruise (same ship, went to same place in Cozumel, most of the same people) This time though, I made $25 in the casino and my Gram came too! Just a few pics from our fun weekend cruise: 
if you look closely, you can see her pig tails!

EM and Great Gram

EM and Auntie Danielle

(DOS) My sister and her husband finally announced their pregnancy on Facebook so I can finally blog about it! I've known since the day she found out and have been bursting with joy for them! I'm so excited for them. They are going to be amazing parents! They are due in July and I can't wait to have another little niece or nephew (and a cousin for EM)! The announcement that they posted on Christmas Day and was too cute: 

(TRES) We hosted our first ever Christmas Eve party. Remember how I was complaining about doing the Holiday Shuffle? Well this Christmas was stress-free and enjoyable! The party went great! We had a very exciting White Elephant Gift Exchange (with lots of steals and frozen items) and even got my Gram to do a shot of j├Ąger (she doesn't ever drink). I do wish we took some more pics though but otherwise I think everyone had a great time! Christmas morning, just the 3 of us got up and did gifts, EM seemed to enjoy it as much as I was expecting for a 13 month old. (Paper was more exciting than the gifts). We got her a Disney monopoly game (well we were buying it regardless for her when she's older but made it "for her" so there would be more gifts under the tree and she doesn't know the difference) so G and I played after presents (I won, we played again last night and I won again, woohoo!) and then my inlaws came over to exchange gifts with us. We finished the morning/afternoon with watching the Tim Allen Santa Claus movies. We then went to his parents for dinner since they live down the street and had a wonderful ham dinner. We called it a night early and watched more movies, ELF! :) My siblings (or at least my brother) and I used to play monopoly often on Christmas so it was kind of nice to be playing it again, even if it wasn't with them. We'll be celebrating Christmas with my siblings and my parents on Saturday! 

(QUATRO) I went after Christmas Shopping Thursday morning and got some great deals! I'm sure if I would have went out even earlier I could have gotten more but by 9:30 the stores had some stuff but not a huge selection and were dead (no people, no lines) I was shocked. I always thought it was supposed to be crazy the day after Christmas!  Everyone else I talked to said their stores were crazy busy, I must have gotten lucky. Here are just a few of the great deals I got I won't bore you with all of them (got a TON of lights since we're definitely decorating the outside next year and our fence) 

From Bealls (a Florida Store): 3 outfits for EM plus her next year Christmas PJ's, a Christmas Frame and a set of  Sparkly Presents that I feel will look cute next to put tree next year all for $38! I'm pretty sure the sparkly presents was only supposed to be a set of 3 but they weren't marked well so the lady said to take them all as a set. Score!

From Kirklands: 3 framed Christmas pictures (I plan to hang two of them in place of our normal pictures in our "Christmas Tree" room during the holidays - and one somewhere else,just not sure yet) and the 3 presents are metal and have stands so thinking all I'll put those out front of the front door next year. All for $22!

From Target: this was the only outdoor decoration left when I got there around 10:30am besides wreaths - it was still $30 but way better than full price! Will go nicely next to our light up rattan reindeer (which we haven't put outside yet since we didn't have anything else to go with it) 

From Old Navy: Got these two adorable shirts (for next year) and 3 pairs of socks for around $11. 

(CINCO) My best friend Kelly stopped bye today on her way home from her parents on her way back to Boca. I love that I live right off the turnpike so that I'm an easy stop and I get to see her on her trips! I haven't seen her since October when we did DATW and it was great to be able to spend a few hours catching up with her!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Allure of the Seas Cruise Recap

OMG, there almost aren't words to describe how amazing Allure of the Seas is. From Sunday, December 8th to Sunday, December 15th we boarded Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas which left out of Ft. Lauderdale. To date, it is the world's largest cruise ship. (Even the new one they are building won't be bigger). It is absolutely massive but incredible. I had seen pictures and read about it and saw videos, but until you are actually ON it, you really just can't comprehend it. I'm not even sure I actually fully saw everything. Not really sure how to recap the entire week and not write a novel but here goes nothing.

The ports of call were: Nassau, Bahamas; St. Thomas; and St. Maarten. We barely left the ship for Nassau, except to get EM a Christmas Ornament (we're collecting them for her own tree) and myself a pair of sunglasses since I broke mine. We've been there a bajillion times and just decided to enjoy the ship instead since it was our first time on it and there was so much to see and do. While docked in Nassau, the crew did a safety drill and while lowering a life boat, something happened with the cable/wire and they were unable to get the lifeboat back up. I guess it's good they do drills and this happened during a drill and not a real emergency. However because of this, they had to get special permission as to what to do with the lifeboat and this caused us to stay in Nassau for a a few extra hours. (Since the ship was under capacity and they have more than enough lifeboats, they decided to leave the lifeboat behind in Nassau)
my only pic from Nassau since I forgot my camera while we were out

the view of Nassau while out on my run on the track
Because of this delay, we arrived in St. Thomas 3 hours late. This bummed us out because we were unable to go to the beach and shopping so we decided to just shop, get some food, and find a wifi area to re-connect and catch up on the world. I had a few Island beers while out shopping and some great shrimp that they lit on fire! The cruise line credited us $200 for the 3 hour delay (everyone got a credit of various amount depending on the type of room and how many people were in it). I think that was a very generous compensation for 3 hours. If I hadn't been to St. Thomas before, I may have been more upset because you couldn't really see all that much in the few hours we were there, but having been there on my honeymoon, I was ok with just hanging around town.
in front of the ship at St. Thomas
In St. Maarten, we started the day by running the Royal 5k, then decided to go explore the French side of the country, and went to Marigot. It wasn't very exciting at all, just a small town with not much to see but a few vendors in a straw market and it was super hot walking around. We stopped for a bite to eat before heading back to the port area. I got some really good goat cheese bruschetta and that was my highlight on the French side. I'll stick to the Dutch side from then on. Once back to the Dutch side, we hung out in the area near the port (which the Royal 5k ran through earlier in the day) where it's shopping/bars on one side and the beach on the other. We stopped for a quick dip in the ocean, a few more beers, and just hung out before heading back to the ship. Next time, I'm just picking a spot on that beach and calling it a day. Last time we were in St. Maarten, we went Zip Lining (which was also on the French Side) which was pretty fun, but to me, more scary (I'm scared of heights) than fun so I don't have a desire to do it again.

on the beach in St. Maarten

Ok, on to the ship...

One of the first things we did was go on the Zip Line. We figured it'd probably have a long line at other times on the ship, (although it never really did that we noticed). It didn't look very long, and it really wasn't, but it was pretty high up and me being scared of heights, it was scary enough! I did go on it 2 times though. In addition to the Zip Line they had 2 Flow Riders (surf simulators) and 2 rock climbing walls. We didn't do either of those, but have on other ships, and they are always a good time. They also had mini-golf that we didn't play either. We did however go ice skating and played some ping pong. There was also a sports court with basketball and volleyball and on another deck, a running track. They had a full gym as well, but I only worked out once and I chose the track (only 7.5 laps to make a 5k). G said the gym was really nice as well though.

the zip line
playing Ping Pong
ice skating

One of my favorite things (especially for EM) was the Carousel! One of the areas on the ship is called the Boardwalk and they have a Carousel, balloon guy, face painting, hot dog stand (with EVERY kind of hot dog imaginable), doughnut shop, etc (all the things I named were free of charge plus they had some things they charged for as well). EM loved the Carousel. She probably went on it 6 times and every time ooh'ed and aah'ed as the animal went up and down and round and round. Also great for EM was the Fischer Price Royal Toys Play Area. It was pretty much a large room with a ton of toys in it that was designated for babies/toddlers under 3. It was perfect for EM and we took her there for at least an hour or two each day so she could crawl around since majority of the the time she was sitting on a lap or in a stroller. There was also a designated baby splash pool. This was also specific for babies/toddlers who were not toilet trained. They were very strict about us not going in any other pool/splash area/hot tub since she was in a diaper. And not just any diaper, she HAD to be in a swim diaper. They were annoying about it, but if I was without a child and the pool got closed because a baby pooped in the pool, I'd be pissed, so I guess I understand. The baby splash pool had about 2 inches of water and lots of colorful things shooting water out. EM loved it! In addition to the baby pools there were a bunch of other pools including the Solarium (adult only) area. I walked through it once to see what it looked like and it was very nice and relaxing. We hung out at the one Beach Pool on our last sea day. It was nice to be able to sit and be in a few inches of water (perfect for EM) and not need to be completely in the pool. We did eventually get kicked out of the pool though because of EM not being toilet trained (after us being there for like 5 hours).

see all the toys!

we took a quick dip in the infinity hot tub

the beach pool

The entertainment was phenomenal. I've been on a ton of ships, and nothing compares. Most of the times, I don't even go to most of the shows anymore because they all "seem the same".  Hearing that this ship had new shows, we decided to book them all. Yes, you could make advance reservations, and pretty much if you didn't have reservations, you most likely weren't getting into the shows. (I was warned so we booked early). We also found out the hard way that they would give up your reservation to people on "Stand by" if you didn't arrive 15 minutes early. Because of that we did miss the comedy show. We were 2 minutes after the start of the show, and it was a small venue, so we lost our spot. We didn't try very hard to get into a later showing of it though as usually the jokes are repeats but sometimes they are funny. Can't tell you about this one. We did make it into the musical "Chicago". I never knew what this was about going into it, but it was awesome! It was such a great show and they didn't change the script at all (some bad language/sexual innuendoes). I'd definitely compare it to a true Broadway performance! They also had a Aqua Theater. I got to witness a little bit of the performers during one of the Crown and Anchor events held there but unfortunately wasn't feeling well so I missed the actual show which was called Oceanaria. G went to it though and said it was incredible and his favorite show of all. I also chose to skip the ice show "Ice Games" (I was having too much fun drinking at the pool) but G went to that and said it was also really good too. I loved that they had a bunch of Dreamworks characters out and about to take pictures with as well since EM loved them!

see how excited she was!

Back in the day, I felt like all the cruise ship food was ahhhmazing. Nowadays, it's all still very good, but not quite the same. Maybe I just got spoiled but most people tend to agree that things have changed. The Allure DID have more options for complementary dining which were still good, but we always try at least one of the specialty dining restaurants.  Nowadays most ships have one or two "specialty dining restaurants" which cost extra but the food is also better. Allure had like ten to choose from. We ended up going to two, only because our travel agent (AAA) gave us a free one and we had a BOGO coupon for the other. We did Chops Grille (steakhouse) and Giovanni's Table (family-style italian) - both were ahhhmazingly delicious! I hate to spend extra on dinner when it's already included for free but I do recommend splurging at least once per trip, you won't regret it!

We did spend as much time as possible in the Diamond Lounge for our free drinks each night (had to take turns since EM wasn't really allowed in there - unless there was no one really in there and sometimes the people didn't care) and that is always a very nice perk to have 3.5 hours of free drinks!

One night G's parents took EM so that we could "go out" and we chose to go to the casino. I loved that this Casino was so huge that they had a smoking and non-smoking side. Made it much more enjoyable! We also both won some money (not much, but anything is better than losing), which was a nice change since we both lost money on the last cruise. We didn't stay out late that night though because it was the night before the Royal 5k. We were going to put her in the Adventure Ocean (day-care) program one night as well so we could "go out" again but I ended up falling asleep anyways so we didn't use them. It's nice that they have that option and it's not too badly priced (I think it was $8/hr). (I also just learned that they also have babysitters that will come to your stateroom, which is a little bit more pricey).

We only had an interior stateroom (the cheapest type room you could get) but compared to some of the older ships, it was very nicely done with a ton of storage and the bed was pretty comfy too. Although, when you throw a pack in play in there, it was pretty crowded. Our friends had a balcony overlooking the boardwalk and we were able to see some of Oceanaria from their balcony and our inlaws had a balcony over the ocean. Neither of the balcony rooms seemed much larger than ours and I personally love the inside rooms because they are super dark so you sleep good in them (at least I do!). Although It was nice to sit on the balcony overlooking the ocean one morning while drinking mimosas! (and the balcony was kid-safe, no openings or bars/completely closed in with glass from about 3.5 ft down)

For having as many people onboard as there was (although we were not at full capacity), there was never really too much crowding or too long of waits/lines for anything. I have heard others complain about the larger ships and lines due to SO MANY people. Maybe we got lucky, or maybe they worked out the kinks, regardless I was happy with all the service we received. We also took a bajillon pictures plus bought their unlimited picture package so we made sure to get our money's worth. One night we even all went out in Christmas PJ's for fun photos and laughs!

There really is SO much more to say, but I think this sums it up well. The ship is incredible and I can't wait to go back on it (maybe once EM and a future child are out of diapers so we don't get kicked out of the pools lol). It is definitely more expensive than some other ships that go to the same places because you are paying for all these "extras", but it was 100% worth it.

Have you been on Allure (or sister ship, Oasis) of the Seas? Did you love it as much as we did?

Bulu Box - December 2013

My Bulu Box came about a week ago, but I just am finally getting a chance to review it. For those of you that don't know, Bulu Boxis the best way to discover vitamin, supplement, health and weight loss products! You can choose between Bulu Box or Bulu Box Weight Loss. Once you're signed up, you can earn an easy 50 points (that's $5!) or more each month by reviewing, sharing and completing short surveys about your products and samples. Use your Reward Points to purchase full-size versions of the products you like best. (that was the description straight from their website). It costs $10/month with free shipping. This was my first month receiving it and I received the Bulu Box Weight Loss.

The box.
There wasn't much of a "first look" since inside there were a ton of advertisements (for most of the items), but no true information card. Here is what I received in my box:

BSN Amino X (Watermelon - 1 Serving): From Website: AMINOx™ – the first Effervescent Instantized Amino Acid Endurance and Recovery Agent. AMINOx™ is designed to support: Protein Synthesis, Muscle Sparing, Recovery, and Endurance. This is something you mix into water (or any beverage). I'll give this a try after my run tomorrow.  (~1.00 for 1 serving)

Body360 Nutritionals Burn360 (2 Caplets): From website: "Burn360 works through an advanced intracellular Fat Loss Activator with hyper release absorption technology to burn fat and detox your body. Burn360 curbs cravings and increases your metabolism and energy to supercharge your fat burn." Honestly, I don't think you could get a real "feel" if these work or not by trying 2 caplets when it says take 2-3 per day or 1/day to assess your tolerance. I will give these to G to try since he always likes a good "kick start" when he starts dieting. (~1.39 for 2 caplets)

Natural Vitality CALM (Rasperry-Lemon - .12 oz sample): Labeled as the "Anti-Stress" drink that balances your calcium ntake andrestores healthy magnesium levels. I'm not a raspberry fan normally but I'll give it a one shot try. This too is something you add to water to drink. (~.18 for .12 oz sample)

Simple Being Slimming Smoothie  (Vanilla Bean Portion Pack): This reminds me of Shakeology, I just hope it tastes as good! Each serving only has 1 carb, 26g of protein, and only 110 calories (and gluten free). (~1.79 for one serving)

PowerIce (Lime): Ice pops for adults, with electrolytes! Now these are pretty awesome! I just put mine in the freezer so I can try it after a run one day! I hope it taste like Lemon-Lime Gatorade since that is what I'm expecting! (~1.33 for one)

There was also a 1 month "i dabble" membership (worth 5 requests) from OOBERLUXE.COM but I don't count that as an item, more so just a bonus. Apparently OOBERLUXE is an online travel assistant. Not something I'll probably use, so if anyone wants my code, let me me know and I'll send it to you! 

Total Estimated Value of Box: $5.69 (not including shipping)
Total Cost of Box: $3.75 - it's normally $10 (free shipping), I paid less because I found a deal on Plum District

Overall Impression: Meh. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but I can tell you I'm not impressed at all. Especially because the value of the items didn't even reach $10. Had I paid full price, I'd be pissed. In this case, I'm just annoyed. The deal I found on on Plum District was for a 3 month subscription, so hopefully the next 2 months are better. 

If you want to sign up for Bulu Box, please use my referral link here.

Did you get  Bulu Box? Were you impressed? 

Disclosure: This post contains referral links.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!
I'll be catching up over the next few days but until then wanted to post a few of my favorite Christmas Pictures from today plus our Christmas Card! It's a picture of the card so I apologize for the poor quality. 

good morning sleepy head

And one from Monday when she met Santa: