Bucket, Bucket, Who’s Got the Bucket?

After turning 31 last week, I realized that I’m probably more than 1/3 of the way “done.” (You know what I mean, don’t make me get all dark about it!)

But I realized that I’ve always talked about all the things that I want to see and do in my life, but I have never really thought about it in great detail. So since the Bucket List has been on TV about 7 time in the past few weeks, I thought maybe I’d take a stab at my own! After writing 3 massive posts in the past few weeks, I figure it’d also be a nice change to post something sort of short-ish. I’m sure by the time I get done typing this post, it will be 3,000+ words like the previous 3. Sigh.

Maybe writing shorter posts should be on my Bucket List?

I included my top 50, in no particular order. Because, well… I’m really indecisive and I really want to do everything on this list, so it doesn’t really matter in which order they get done, right? I also included things that were previously on my “mental” list, that I have completed, because I thought they were cool.

Without further ado…

The Unhipdotcom Bucket List

  1. Swim with Dolphins
  2. Get a tattoo
  3. See the northern lights
  4. Go Scuba Diving
  5. Visit the Grand Canyon
  6. Buy a House
  7. Go Parasailing

    Maybe preferably on a lake so I’m not eaten by sharks…

  8. Fall in Love
  9. Visit Australia
  10. Visit Hawaii
  11. Visit all 50 US States
  12. Visit Travis’ birthplace – Landstuhl, Germany
  13. Road trip on Route 66
  14. Take Travis to Niagara Falls
  15. Be a part of a Flashmob
  16. Stay in an over-water bungalow in Bora Bora
  17. Visit Yellowstone National Park
  18. Swim in a hot spring
  19. Drive a motorcycle (with a license)
  20. Deep sea fishing
  21. Snowboard in Colorado
  22. Own a beach house
  23. Build a tree house

    I’m sure with the help of my sisters, we could accomplish this, no?

  24. Surf
  25. See wild ponies

    Even though I’m not really a huge fan of horses (they bite… really hard and can smell your fear!), I grew up on a horse farm and it would be really awesome to see real wild horses!

  26. Learn to play an instrument
  27. Canoe the Boundary Waters in Minnesota

    My family did this several times before I was born, including once when my mom was 6 months pregnant with me! (Go mom!) I’ve always wished I could have gone… like outside of the womb. Cause you know, everyone wants to poop on a rock and bury it.

  28. Visit Amsterdam
  29. Fly 1st Class
  30. Send a message in a bottle
  31. Swim under a waterfall
  32. Breathe Fire

    I almost did this at a party once. But my BFF Jenny-face convinced me that since both me, and the guy teaching me/holding the jug of water to extinguish me, should something “go wrong,” were both drunk at the time, that it probably wasn’t the best idea. Someday…

  33. Pet a “big cat” (My cat doesn’t count. A lion, tiger, etc)
  34. Feed an elephant a peanut
  35. Learn to speak another language
  36. Visit Ireland
  37. Visit New Orleans
  38. Have my palm read
  39. Take a real mud bath
  40. Catch and eat fish/seafood the same day
  41. Make my own wine
  42. Drink milk from a fresh coconut
  43. Dance on a Bar
  44. Go to a paint party

    I don’t really know why, I just always thought this looked like fun. Probably because I hate doing my hair and getting dressed up to “go out” and I would feel less inclined to doll myself up if I knew I was going to get douched with paint. Seems logical, right?

  45. Go Paintballing
  46. Drive a 1972 Chevelle – But I’ll settle for a 1970 Chevy Nova or a 1969 Dodge Charger

    The latter two so I can pretend to be Stuntman Mike in my favorite flick Death Proof.

  47. Race a car at a drag strip (see previous)
  48. Sleep in a Haunted House/hotel/location
  49. Cliff dive
  50. Swim in a Mexican Cenote

Honeymoon Part 3: Bermuda

In last week’s post, Part Two of our saga, I over-shared about the Norwegian Breakaway and about our first time sailing with Norwegian. If you missed out on that monster of a post, you can read that here!

And two weeks ago I posted Part One of our adventure, our first time in the Big Apple, which you can read here!

This week, I’m going to wrap up this whole fan-dangled trifecta with the grand finale… Bermuda! I will try to keep it short & sweet, but there’s no guarantees.


Admittedly, neither of us knew much about Bermuda before we decided to cruise there. We knew there were songs about it. We knew that people get lost in the Bermuda Triangle. And that there are things called Bermuda Shorts, which I have a very hard time taking seriously…

Bermuda shorts: “Sorry Smithers, I’m going to be late to the meeting, George Bush is here with me and he can’t run, he’s afraid he’ll fall and skin his knee.”

Here is Bermuda on a map!

The sunset the night before we arrived in Bermuda!

The sunset the night before we arrived in Bermuda!

We did a little bit of reading up beforehand and read Bermuda one of the more quiet islands of the Atlantic/Caribbean. There aren’t any ‘booze cruises’ or all-you-can-drink beach parties. Which honestly sounded good to us, the older we get, the less we like being around drunk strangers.


GEEK FACTS & NUMBERS: Because I like facts!

Population
Bermuda – 64,237
Columbus – 822,553
The entire county (Logan) where I grew up (just for comparison sake!) – 45,858
Land Area:
Bermuda – 20.6 sq mi
Columbus – 217.17 sq mi
Logan County – 458.43 sq mi

Bermuda: Day One

I woke up around 5:00 am the morning we were due in Bermuda. I happened to sit up in bed and saw a huge pilot boat whiz past! I accidentally woke Travis up in my scramble to leap out of bed to run to the door and investigate. So we brewed a few cups of coffee and took up post on our balcony. As we sipped our crappy coffee, we watched as tiny lights started to become visible on the dark horizon. Bermuda!

Bermuda is shaped like a fish hook. We docked on the very tip of the inside of the hook.

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The multi-storied building in the top center of this photo is the old prison. Weird, but now makes for a pretty backdrop to the little town at the dockyard.

By the time we were beginning to dock, it was about 7 am and the sun was up. The dock is located inside the tip of the “hook,” so when our boat finally docked, you could see land surrounding the whole boat. It was really nice since our side of the boat (starboard) was faced away from the dock, so we had a gorgeous view of all of the beautiful homes dotting the hills across the channel/inlet thing instead of just staring at the nothingness of the open sea.

Heritage Wharf, where we docked. When you got off the ship, you went through this building that served as the customs building.

Heritage Wharf, where we docked. When you got off the ship, you went through this building that served as the customs building. It was capable of serving two ships at once, however we were the only ship in port during our three days there.

We were like two kids on Christmas morning as we scarfed our breakfast down to get ready for our first day in Bermuda! We were going to Snorkel Park and spending a day at the beach! Our package included unlimited use of snorkel gear, two loungers, one umbrella and an hour rental for a paddle boat or kayak. The beach was within walking distance of the ship and was kind of in this weird little area right next to the islands old fort walls.

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The water, in all of the literature we read, promised to be “gin clear.” While it was a beautiful turquoise color, I’m not sure what kind of gin they’ve been drinking to compare it to! It wasn’t as clear as some of the other Caribbean locations we’ve been to like Georgetown, Grand Cayman or St. Croix, USVI, but it was still beautiful.

Not quite "gin clear."

Not quite “gin clear.”

So we raced approximately 75 other people for prime real estate on the beach to set up our loungers. Have you ever seen the movie Far and Away, with Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise, where in the end, the go out west to take part in a land rush? Well this is what it was like to stake a spot of beach.

We quickly discovered the beach was a little over-populated as we chose the last few lounges left whose front legs were actually sitting in the water. At least it was water front, right?

Well, sort of… we tried to grin and bear it as a gaggle of kids playing in the waves splashed water and flung piles of sand into the air and all over us as we tried to settle in and get sunscreen on etc. Before we even left our house several days before, we made a pact that no matter what, we were going to try to remain calm, cool and collected no matter what. This is something we both struggle with on a day-to-day basis as we deal with our menagerie of 2 ferrets, 2 dogs and a cat, our fast-paced jobs, and long commutes in a large city full of people who don’t drive well. Life is a rat-race! Sometimes screaming and tempers happen! But on vacation, we vowed, we would be the damn the Mayors of Happy-Town!

As a lump of sand catapulted off of a little boy’s shovel, who was leaping up and down and stomping in the sand in front of our chairs, flew into my eye, Travis smiled and reminded me… “Happy-Town!”

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The view from our little stake of land. I had to cut this pic far to the right in order to keep little Bobby and his shovel out of the frame.

But the view was still beautiful. And slowly people started going out into the water and the beach didn’t seem quite as congested. So we got our gear and headed out for our own snorkel adventure!

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Here's the view facing the beach from the little rock peninsula that leads out to the reef. You can tell by this photo how small the beach is.

Here’s the view facing the beach from the little rock peninsula that leads out to the reef. You can tell by this photo how small the beach is.

 

This photo is taken from the bath house facing out towards another portion of the beach on the other side of the peninsula which we apparently weren't allowed to access until our side of the beach was completely full.

This photo is taken from the bath house facing out towards another portion of the beach on the other side of the peninsula which we weren’t allowed to access.

The Snorkel Monster

The Snorkel Monster


Bermuda: Day Two

The next day we decided to have another beachy day and go to Horseshoe Bay Beach, which was about a 30 minute bus ride south of the dockyard. It is the most famous of all the pink-sand beaches in Bermuda. It’s listed as a family-friendly beach, since it has a lifeguard on duty, a cafe, shower house, restrooms and water sports equipment rental. It is also fairly large so we assumed it would be the best option at being able to sprawl out and not be on top of hundreds of other vacationers.

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The water here was much clearer than at the snorkel park and was the most incredible shades of teals and blues. The sand had just the slightest hint of pink (you can read why their sand is pink here) and stretched out for quite a distance in a sort-of horse shoe shape. Facing out to sea, you could see different shades of blue which were different reef beds and sand bars and the varying depths. You can see all of those much better in aerial photos. Some of the parts of them stuck up out of the water several hundred feet out from the beach and you could watch as the waves crashed against them. I kept thinking it was some sort of sea creature leaping out of the water at first, but then realized it was just rocks!

 

Horseshoe Bay Aerial

The waves here were surprisingly huge! We swam and played in the waves for a few hours. This place was probably the second closest thing to paradise that I’ve ever experienced. (Our first closest thing to paradise is Rainbow Beach, St. Croix. These pictures don’t do it justice.)

This is my favorite photo of all time. Travis was swimming out for the first time, getting ready to dive into an oncoming wave.

This is my favorite photo of all time. Travis was swimming out for the first time, getting ready to dive into an oncoming wave.

RIMG0182There was even a little cove nearby where some of the families with smaller children could swim, protected from the harsh waves of the open ocean on the main part of the beach. There were lots of little colorful fish here that people were feeding cereal out of their hands.

RIMG0141We snapped this one last pic before we headed back to the bus. It doesn’t do the beach much justice, but we will always remember how gorgeous it was!

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This photo was taken from the dockyard square. But it was crazy to see the hulking cruise ship from miles away as we drove back into the dockyard!


 Bermuda: Day Three

Since we had already done exactly what we had wanted the first two days, we decided to mosey around town the third day and pick up some souvenirs and do some shopping.

Dining in Bermuda was very expensive. It was about $20 for a hamburger on several of the menus that we checked out. So we did all of our dining for free on the ship.

The shopping was very fairly priced and got small trinkets and things for everyone. The people of Bermuda were extremely pleasant (aside from the bar tender named “Tequila” at Snorkel Park who sounded like a catty girl as he preached to people about their bad manners for not saying “good morning” to him first before placing their order. Sigh.)

Even though we only saw about 1/3 of the island, which was MUCH bigger than we anticipated, we couldn’t believe how clean and beautiful it was. And we later found out, we didn’t even go into the higher end area of the island. Even their old bus shelters were covered in murals freshly painted by the school students. There were no “slums,” that we saw anyway. All of the homes were also freshly painted and cared for with well manicured lawns. The roofs of the homes were all cement, painted white, we assume to reflect the sun’s heat and help to keep the home cooler in the warmer months.

Bermuda is a British territory and there are a few reminders of that, like their telephone booths. Although there are no longer phones inside them, they still stand throughout the island. They’re made of cast-iron or some other hard-core metal, so I’d imagine it’d be a task to remove them!

RIMG0132We were a little disappointed there were no free WIFI spots, not even for customers of restaurants or bars. Call us spoiled Americans, but we’re used to free WIFI everywhere in the states. We even found free WIFI in Jamaica and the Grand Caymans on our last vacation. We hadn’t spoken to our family in 5 days, and figured since I had an aunt in the hospital when we left and people were watching our house and animals, we probably should check in. So we found a WIFI station that sold packages (at $10/hour) the connection was slow, but worked well enough to shoot out a few emails.

We walked around for a few hours, but even after a few Gosling’s ginger beers (non-alcoholic soda, kinda like ginger ale), the heat and humidity quickly got the best of us. I hadn’t even had a chance to have a Dark ‘n Stormy or a Rum Swizzle, two of Bermuda’s “national drinks.” :( But it was too damn hot and the only bar we went to, Tequila – that bar tender, was a jerk. We were due to be back on-board by 4:30, so we bid farewell to Bermuda as we stood on the pier, admiring the view.

On the pier, we watched as this guy tried his hand at “Coconut Rockets.” They’re jet-powered shoes that are connected to this jet ski. As the driver of the jet ski opens the throttle, the jet ski’s jets are diverted into the black hose connected to the coconut rocket shoes, which then lift the wearer up out of the water, sometimes 10 feet or higher! We winced as we watched this guy and several others before him bite it over and over again and do face-plants into the water again. It looked like it might be fun, albeit painful and tiresome.

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Yes, we took a lot of selfies... it was our honeymoon, give us a break!

Yes, we took a lot of selfies… it was our honeymoon, give us a break! Look, there’s Coconut Rockets over our shoulder!

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The little inlet next to the ship where Coconut Rockets was goin’ down.

After we got back on the ship, a quick afternoon rain blew in and from our balcony we saw not only one rainbow…

RIMG0196But TWO rainbows! You could see both of them from end to end, although they were too close to get in frame on my camera. It was a pretty grand finale!

RIMG0197We set sail at 5 pm that day and 2 short days later we were back in the states where we caught this amazing sunrise in New York City.

RIMG0312We spent the next 11 hours in a car driving home, sick with colds. :( But we didn’t turn on the radio one time on that leg of the trip either and just enjoyed our last day of our honeymoon together, even though we were cooped up in a car.

We love new adventures, but I love coming home to my bed and shower too! Travis has more of a gypsy-soul and always craves new horizons, so it will be interesting to see where life takes us next and where we plant our feet one day.

If you made it through all three of these posts, holy cow! Thanks for sticking it out with me! And to think I thought originally I could cram them all into one post! HA! ;)

Honeymoon Part Two: Norwegian Breakaway

In last week’s post, (which you can read here) I told you all about the first part of our trip. This week will be about the ship we sailed on and our first experience with Norwegian Cruise Lines. I apparently have a hard time with over-sharing, so this post ended up being realllllllly looooooooooooong so I will be turning the Honeymoon Adventures posts into a 3 parter… a SAGA, if you will…

Also HAPPY BIRTHDAY TODAY to my hubster Travis!

We picked a 7-day cruise on the Norwegian Breakaway to Bermuda.

The Breakaway made her maiden voyage in May 2013 and is a hulking 146,600 ton beast! As of September 2014, she is the 8th largest ship in the world at 1,068.3 ft long, she can sail 4,500 passengers and 1,600 crew members through the water at a max speed of 21.5 knots. She boasts 18 decks, which contains more than 27 restaurants and just as many bars, including a real ice bar. The Breakaway features three Broadway shows, a glow party, an 80’s themed dance party and fireworks. There is also a water park, climbing wall, ropes course and a bowling alley. She is the largest ship to call New York City’s port home and the world-famous Rockettes are the godmothers of the mighty Breakaway! In most ports, she takes up the same amount of space as two other traditional cruise ships!

Chart

A reference for past cruise-buddies! I guess I should have mentioned “capacity” is the number of people including crew that they cram on the boat. I’m not very good at charts, I don’t have a “number brain.”

After we checked out of our hotel Sunday morning, Travis got to flag down his very first cab hahaha! Which proved to be more difficult than we thought, since we were competing with roughly 100 other people in front of our hotel. But we eventually kind-of got there… the cabby dropped us off a block away, so we had to hoof it across 6 lanes of traffic, and after asking around (there wasn’t much signage or directions as to where to go…) but we eventually got there! The check-in process was frighteningly fast! I’d say maybe 15 minutes? On previous cruises we’ve been on, sometimes the check-in/waiting to check in process has taken 1-2 hours!

Once we boarded the ship we were allowed to go directly to our room so we could drop our carry-on bags and sit and just relax for a few minutes since we had been in what felt like a high-speed car chase for 24 hours at that point! The state rooms were a little smaller than other rooms we’ve had. But they were very modern, tasteful and our room was really clean!

This was the exact layout of our room. Photo from beyondships.com because Travis forgot to remind me to resize photos for this post…

We weren’t huge fans of the location of the closet because you only had maybe 8 inches of clearance between the bed and the closet doors. There was still plenty of space for two people who don’t over-pack. But we preferred Carnival’s locker-style closets right inside the stateroom doors across from the bathroom. Our biggest question was where do they put the two twin beds when they separate them? The smallest of the two night stands was only maybe 6 inches wide!

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Norwegian’s bed-side closets

The bathroom; Although we liked having an actual glass shower stall on NCL, instead of the crazy fly-all-over-the-place-stick-to-your-wet-naked-body shower curtains, we didn’t like the placement of the toilet right between the shelves in the bathroom and the shower wall.

NCL Bath

This photo doesn’t convey the size (to set some scale, the sink bowl is the size of a medium sized mixing bowl) the toilets were really small and the toilet in between the shelves and the glass shower wall was a very tight space. I don’t know how people any bigger than us would have fit in there comfortably.

We wouldn’t have minded the down-sizing of the room had the balcony not been the size of a postage stamp. Ok, maybe two postage stamps :(

NCL balcony

Which, smaller isn’t always worse, but sadly, there wasn’t even enough room to sit facing straight out in your chair. We had to turn them sideways so we didn’t smash our knees against the glass :( Travis is kind of ‘Squatchy at 6 foot 2, so even sideways was a bit cramped for him. Carnival’s balconies were deep enough for me and my sisters to sit with our legs straight out with our feet flat against the glass.

And, we wouldn’t have been terribly disappointed with the size of the balcony if it would have been a little more… private. Our balcony view was mostly of the edge of the roof of the dining area below us. Beside that and two decks down, was the shuffleboard deck where people congregated at night time to lean over the railing and scream… So it was always pretty loud (luckily the balcony door did completely drown out the sound when closed!) but any desire to sit on our balcony naked in our pajamas in the morning with our coffee was pretty quickly squashed.

Room Deck Restaurant Point Out

The view from our balcony. The waves (which reached 18.5 foot the first day) would splash up and spray people - causing them to scream at the top of their lungs.

The view from our balcony. The waves (which reached 18.5 foot the first day) would splash up and spray people – causing them to scream at the top of their lungs.

We also preferred that on the Carnival that we had zero blockage of the view in any direction you looked off your balcony. We could look straight up, down, aft and forward and nothing stuck out. Which made everything extra private and we could sit on our balcony and look straight down at the water, (in our under-britches if we wanted and the only people who would have been able to see would have had to rappel down the side of the ship!) which was awesome because we saw some some sort of wild-life every day, including flying fish and dolphins!

But with all of these mini bummers, don’t get me wrong, we really did have fun! The ability to completely unplug for a few days and unwind and do things at our own pace and log some serious nap time was amazing!

NCL stuff we loved:

We loved the Broadway shows! Cruise entertainment can sometimes be a little campy, but we were really into all the shows we got to see:

  • Burn the Floor – A hot dance show… kind of like a full hour of just the dirty dancing from Dirty Dancing! The music was really cool and they performed several different generation’s styles of dance, including swing dancing which I’ve always been fascinated with! And the show was free!
  • Rock of Ages – Also free, but I was a little skeptical about this show because, let’s be honest… I’m not a huge fan of the 80’s… (sorry Jo!) The best thing that came out of the 80’s was the Goonies. Gimme the 90’s any day! But this show was actually really awesome. It was funny and the music that they performed wasn’t all hair-band. This show is 18+ and actually had some of the older adults walking out. There was some suggestive dancing, which may have involved metal poles. I was a little mortified that people were bringing their preschool aged children to this show. NCL’s enforcement of age restricted things was kind of sucky…
  • Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy – This was a kind of homage to Cirque du Soleil in a dinner show. It was extra, but we thought it was worth it! The tenderloin steak they served with the meal was the best steak we’ve ever had! The whole thing is in a “tent!” There was lots of acrobatics and the cast members ran through the crowd dressed as jungle animals. Our only gripe with this was that you had to share a table for 8 with 12 people. They really crammed them in… Travis was annoyed with the seating arrangement and asked if we could be re-seated. He pulled the honeymoon card and we ended up getting a booth all to ourselves which was way better!

ALSO:

  • Carlo’s Bakery – Yep, the guy from Cake Boss has a bakery right on board the Breakaway! Since, as I mentioned before, we didn’t get a traditional wedding, we never got a wedding cake either. So about a month before we set sail, I ordered a cake online to be delivered to our stateroom when we got on-board. So as soon as we stepped into our room, we got to enjoy a fo’ real Cake Boss cake as our wedding/honeymoon cake!

    Our Honeymoon cake from Carlo's Bakery

    Our Honeymoon cake from Carlo’s Bakery

  • Spice H20 – which was the adults-only area (during certain hours) was much nicer on NCL. There was a wading pool with “waterfalls” and a bar. However, NCL as I mentioned before, was not very active in enforcing age restrictions. Spice H20 was supposed to be 18+ during the day, but there were a few instances when there were people with their young kids hanging out in the wading pool. Normally not a huge ordeal, but this was the ONLY adults-only spot on the ship, and there were several kids-only spots, including an entire splash zone and multiple kid/teen clubs.
  • The iTV – The tvs in your stateroom were super convenient- you could check the menus, make reservations, buy excursions, check your account balances and order pizza and room service.
  • iConcierge – The free app you can download for your mobile devices that is essentially the same as the iTV, but also features a text and calling function (for an additional $7.99) to/from other passengers and staterooms. This would have been really nice for a larger group, but for just the two of us, we didn’t need the texting function, so the free version worked just fine!
  • Our Cruise Director, Julie Valeriote – This chick was everywhere all the time! We joked that there were probably trap doors and secret passageways throughout the ship for her to come and go to all of the events. Her off-the-cuff sense of humor was refreshing and didn’t feel forced or hokey. She was also incredibly (and surprisingly!) talented! She danced with the Burn the Floor cast during their show, and was in the closing number of Rock of Ages, she represented at the 80’s party, performed the Thriller dance moves… and she can walk on stilts. Hell! She even shakes her groove thang and lip syncs to Pharrel’s “Happy” in Norwegian’s own homage video! Which they played no less than 300 times per day. (She’s the brunette with the curly hair on the right at the 00:43 mark!) This song will forever remind us of our honeymoon!

NCL stuff we didn’t love:

  • Freestyle CruisingBoo! We missed knowing that every night at 8pm (or whenever) we were going to dinner, sitting at the same table, with the same wait-staff. We also really missed the relationship you build with your waiters and all the fun dancing and singing they do. We had particularly fun waiters on the Sister Cruise, sweet Julian took such good care of us. We also hated that we had to wait 30+ minutes to be seated for dinner because the other 4,000 passengers on the ship wanted to eat dinner at the same time we did. It also took a lot longer to be served for some reason. It was impossible to do dinner in less than 90 minutes.
  • The Layout of the Ship – The only way to/from anything was to go right through the middle of everything, including the stinky smoky 2 open storied casino. OR you could hoof it from the forward bank of elevators right outside our state room, down the state room hallways non-stop (with no other possible exit) to the aft bank of elevators where everything was. I’m not kidding, it was a straight hallway for probably 900 feet, no option of turning anywhere, just forward or aft until you got to the elevators. So needless to say, we made that trip probably 8 times or more per day! We definitely got our exercise!
  • The Amount of People on the Ship – We sailed at full capacity, and we could really tell the difference in number of people on that ship. It felt like everything was like shopping on Black Friday all the time. The buffets were like a hog trough… people had little-to-no manners and the mongoloids had absolutely no problems with just sloshing their plate down in front of yours after you’d waited patiently in line for 5 minutes and snatching up the last piece of french toast. But I will say there were far less children on this cruise than our past Carnival cruise. But we expect that is due to the Carnival cruise being in June the week after school let out. Again, we have nothing against kids… we just don’t like the kind where their parents give zero shits and just set them loose so they act like junior mongoloids.
  • Onboard Shopping – Long story short, we bought a couple “deeply discounted duty-free” items that we researched when we got home and ends up we could have gotten them on Amazon for the same price or cheaper. We didn’t make any big purchases, luckily, but when I bought Travis a $100 Invicta watch for our anniversary, they made it out like I was saving $500 on this watch. Not really. Also when we had the aforementioned watch resized on-board for free, they lost one of the links and then blatantly lied to us about it. It was a huge ordeal, and they basically told us they weren’t going to do anything about it. Not cool.
  • Forced Gratuities – On NCL your account is charged $12 per day, which isn’t expensive. But because the staff knows they’re definitely getting pre-paid gratuities, it felt like they didn’t really have anything to work for. So we felt like the staff wasn’t as pleasant as they have been on previous cruises. Example: We had the endless soda package and upon going to the bars to get soda, as soon as we asked for pop, the smiles immediately disappeared from their faces and it was pretty clear we were an annoyance.
  • NCL’s Disembarkation – They allow each passenger to pick their own disembarkation time. Also, if you’re feeling particularly saucy, you can choose to do the “Easy walk-off disembarkation,” which just means you carry your own bags and walk off the ship. It was suggested that if you’re going to do the easy walk off, you do it before the other sections were called at 8am. Well, I don’t know if this was just a bad day or what, but this was the biggest disaster on the face of the planet. I think everyone on the ship chose to do easy walk off at the exact same time. It took us TWO HOURS (!!!!!) to get off the ship and through customs. There were 12 (I think) customs counters and a total of four people were working them. Also the disembarkation area under where you check in was a little like the set of a horror movie. It was dark and crusty and felt a little like a scene from The Bone Collector.

All in all everything was really nice! I thought Norwegian was the most beautifully decorated of all the ships I’ve been on. I think we preferred the main dining room food better on the Carnival. But I can’t remember vivid details about the food on Royal Caribbean. The buffet was better on NCL. The staff was the nicest on Carnival. But really it’s all about preference. And the big kicker for us was Freestyle Cruising… we’re not total fans and would probably prefer to go with RC or Carnival over NCL because of that. Either way, we’re so glad we got to check it out.

Stay tuned for next week’s post – Honeymoon Part 3: Bermuda!

 

This post is in loving memory of our travel companion Overton Prime. He has served as our travel mascot for the past year, posing with us on our other adventures. Apparently when I left a sign saying “goodbye” to our stateroom steward in O.P.’s hands, our steward thought it was a gift for him. Sigh…

This is the last photo we have of our dear friend. May he forever rest in peace aboard the Norwegian Breakaway.

This is the last photo we have of our dear friend. May he forever rest in peace aboard the Norwegian Breakaway.

Honeymoon Part One: NYC

September 20, 2014 was the hersbernd’s & my first wedding anniversary!

Long story short… we were supposed to get married in 2007 but didn’t. After 6 years and multiple attempts to re-plan a wedding, we realized financially that a big wedding wasn’t in our cards. We’ve always been a paycheck-to-paycheck household, saving what we could for emergencies or very special occasions. Spending our nest egg just so I could smash cake in Travis’ face wasn’t worth it to us.  So we decided after much discussion that we didn’t want to turn 30 (which we did in October 2013) and not be married. So we went to a little wedding chapel in downtown Columbus and had a private ceremony with just the two of us and finally “sealed the deal.” Our officiant looked like Kenny Rogers and couldn’t have been sweeter!

Much to Travis’ surprise, (because he thinks I’m cold-hearted and emotionally retarded) I cried when I began my vows. He thought I was crying because I didn’t want to go through with it, so he immediately began panicking and had to have Kenny Rogers repeat the part he was supposed to say. I felt bad for him at the time, but in hindsight it was hilarious!

We enjoyed our wedding dinner at our beloved Columbus Brewing Company! And since it was late afternoon/early evening on a week day, we almost had the place completely to ourselves!

CBC-Business-Photo

We didn’t have the time or the money to go on a honeymoon when we got married, so we saved up over the course of the year and began planning one. After a very expensive spring and summer (new washer & dryer purchase and eye surgery for our Boston Terrier, Carli) we were afraid that it wasn’t going to happen. But then Travis had a freaking amazing couple of months at work and his commission checks put us back in the black and we were able to book a cruise!

We’ve both been on cruises before and have had a blast on them in the past! They’re very affordable when you take into consideration that you generally get to visit multiple destinations while only unpacking your bag once! And your food, which is usually 4/5 star quality, is included! Not to mention there is a ton of other really great free stuff you can do on-board as well.

This time around, we decided we did NOT want to fly. The idea of being crammed into a seat that feels like it was meant for a 10 year old and being catapulted magically through the air in a metal tube filled with hundreds of other passengers at the beginning of cold/flu season just didn’t sound like a romantic blasty-blast to us. So we picked out a few options… I think the choices were between:

  • The Bahamas – Which I’ve been to twice before, it’s a fun place but I didn’t want to go a third time when there were other unseen options!
  • Grand Cayman and Jamaica – Again, lovely but was the locations we did with my sisters last summer AND where I went on a cruise with my mom in 2005.
  • Bermuda – Where neither of us have ever been!

So we chose Bermuda on the Norwegian Breakaway leaving out of the Port of Manhattan in New York City, New York.

So let me preface the beginning of our journey by saying this: For both of us, it was our first trip to NYC!

We rented a car to drive. Both of our cars experienced last-minute minor mechanical issues so we didn’t want to risk getting stranded anywhere. We left at around 6 am Saturday morning and started the 8+ hour journey east in a 2014 Hyundai Sonata with only like 300 miles on it. It was actually a really nice car! We completed the drive in about 10 hours after stopping for lunch, 2 bathroom breaks and traffic jams. We didn’t turn on the radio once. We gabbed and giggled like school girls out of sheer excitement the whole way there!

We even made the mistake of stopping to pee in Newark, NJ. Which I don’t know if the whole city of Newark is like this, but whatever part it was that we stopped was frightening. Travis is a brave man, and he was even a little concerned to get out and go to the bathroom that was 8 feet from the car. I’m even 99% sure they were chopping a car that was parked right next to us at the “gas station” we stopped at. I’m not shitting you. Yikes.

We are by no means world-class travelers like my dearest friends Jenny and Steve… I’ve been to some “bigger” cities like Atlanta, Cleveland, Jacksonville, Miami, Pittsburgh etc… I loved all of them! But these places are like flecks of dust compared to New York! Some of the foreign countries we’ve been to were less foreign than NYC.

Travis loved it. I found it to be a little… overwhelming.

Loud, busy places are sort of over-stimulating to me. For lack of a better way to explain it, they generally cause me to have sort of like a mini anxiety attack. I hate malls, busy grocery stores and rowdy bars (without me previously having consumed copious amounts of liquor). I can’t even go to concerts anymore without wanting to start flailing and punching people in the face who touch me or enter my “personal space bubble.”

Well, New York City was loud, crowded, dirty and expensive. I was shitting my pants before we even got through the Holland Tunnel into Manhattan.

NYC Holland Tunnel

There was no parking for anything, not even at most hotels. Finding a hotel room under $300 on a weekend was impossible unless you wanted to stay in something similar to the Bates Motel. Due to traffic, it took Travis nearly 2 hours to get back to Manhattan from LaGuardia airport after dropping off our rental car. However, when the Budget guys threatened to charge him a late fee for the car, he told them he was on his honeymoon and had run into traffic. They immediately dropped the charge and called a “cab” for him. A few minutes later a blacked-out sedan rolled up and took him back to the hotel. He said he felt like a mobster. Haha!

So unfortunately, while we had planned to arrive in NYC at around 4pm, and sight-see and get dinner in the city… we didn’t get to our hotel, the Grand Hyatt until after 6pm, due to traffic, and then didn’t get to venture out until close to 9, after Travis came back from the airport.

Grand-Hyatt-New-York-King-Guestroom

Our room was surprisingly large with wood floors and a huge walk-in shower. The windows actually opened, which I found kind of odd.

By then we were so exhausted all we really had time to check out was Grand Central Station, the Central Cafe, a restaurant from the end of one of my favorite movies Friends with Benefits and a “24 hour” sushi restaurant that was closed when we got there at like 9:30. So we ended up just walking around for a bit and then getting crappy $15 sandwiches at the hotel and watching Hell on Wheels and going to bed.

We didn’t even get street food… No NY Pizza, Gyros or Street Weiners :(

This was seriously  under an over-pass, right across the street from Grand Central Station!

This was seriously under an over-pass, right across the street from Grand Central Station!

The entrance to Grand Central Station was directly connected to our hotel. It was probably the most beautiful building I saw in NYC.

The entrance to Grand Central Station was directly connected to our hotel. It was probably the most beautiful building I saw in NYC.

Grand Central Station was surprisingly beautiful! It felt like I was stepping back into the 40's.

Grand Central Station was surprisingly beautiful! It felt like I was stepping back into 1913.

The ceiling of the main terminal was incredible with beautiful ornate sculptures and fantastic (although inaccurate) astronomical paintings originally done in 1912, but covered over in 1930, but restored again in 1998!

The ceiling of the main terminal was incredible with beautiful ornate sculptures and fantastic (although inaccurate) back-lit astronomical paintings originally done in 1912, which were covered over in 1930, but restored again in 1998!

The hotel we stayed at charged extra for WiFi and didn’t even have complimentary coffee. For breakfast we ended up paying $8 for a plain bagel that we had to toast and cream cheese ourselves. It was a very beautiful, modern and clean, but a bit of a price gouge. Also none of the hotels in NYC have pools, which I thought was weird.

The customer service was a 3 out of 5. I dealt with some jerks, but had an awesome door-man who helped me man-handle my bags, and jockey my way New Yorker-style into an elevator with our luggage trolley, since for the first 2+ hours I was in NYC I was completely alone, while Travis was returning the car!

We were on the 35th (top) floor. Our ears actually popped while going up and down in the elevator. And the view out our window was amazing. Since Travis didn’t get back to the hotel until after dark, he didn’t get to marvel over the view until first thing the next morning… And this truly is the “city that never sleeps” probably because these people honk their horns so much, it sounded like a traffic jam outside our window all night. There are actually signs posted around Manhattan that say “No Honking – $500 fine!”

Buildings

From the top floor, you couldn’t even see the street below unless you smashed your face sideways against the glass. The white building with the brown roof across the street was so tall you had to smash your face against the window to see the top of it as well. And these were nowhere near being some of the tallest buildings in NYC!

The sheer immenseness of NYC is unimaginable. I knew this place was big, but had no idea it was THAT big. I love city life but could not fathom it in such huge proportions! Driving is near impossible. We didn’t get to experience the subway, but I’ve always been told to avoid the subway if possible, and I would think relying on cabs would become a nuisance very quickly. None of the cabbies knew where we were asking them to take us, and although one location was just a few blocks away and the other was the airport, we had to look up directions for them on our phones. At $22 for a 10 minute ride and $35 for a 20 minute ride, it can get expensive rather quickly.

I guess I take my car for granted! Living in a non “walkable” city, and a mostly rural state such as Ohio, being vehicle-less is considered a hindrance. I drive 45+ minutes to/from work every day. Columbus doesn’t offer any sort of rail or mass-transit system and riding a city bus is not possible for me because I live and work miles away from the nearest bus stops. I never realized how dependent we really are on our cars!

Even in two comparable rental cars, the rental going out of NYC was twice the price it was renting out of Columbus. We later realized it would have been cheaper to rent one car in Columbus and pay the $300/week to park it at the cruise terminal than to have returned it, pay cab fares and rented a separate car in NYC for our return. Sigh. You live you learn, right?

And speaking of cars… Travis loved driving in NYC. Which thoroughly surprised me. We both have what I previously considered to be “moderately-severe road rage.” Also known as “defensive driving!” I’ve even been known to run a car or two off the road for not letting me merge into the flow of traffic when I had the right-of-way. I’ve always driven smaller cars and larger cars/trucks tend to think they can “bully” you out of the way. Haha! Enjoy that ditch, jerk-face!

Well we quickly realized that we drive like old women compared to New Yorker’s standards. These people were on their horn the moment the light turned green, they cut you off at every turn, they used parking and fire lanes to pass you, they would pull u-turns without blinking an eye, they ran lights and then just stopped in the middle of intersections blocking all 4 directions of traffic. That’s not even throwing in the fact that the pedestrians just walked right out in front of your car no matter how fast you were going through a green light (with the “no-walky hand” for them!) or even just to jay-walk in the middle of the street. It was seriously like playing Grand Theft Auto… if all of the other cars and pedestrians were controlled by 2 year olds…

So that was our whirlwind 24 hours in the Big Apple! Don’t get me wrong, I am SO glad I got to experience it! I am blessed that I even had the opportunity! Most of all, I am blessed that I had an amazing human-being like Travis with me to tell me to stop freaking out in the most loving way possible, when all I wanted to do was get out of the car and curl into the fetal position in the middle of the street with my hands over my ears! Or beat the shit out of people honking their horn.

Would I travel to NYC again? Maybe. It would depend on the circumstances. Travis may go back again next year on business, and I think if I had a little more time to get in and chill out before venturing out, it might be better. I think the next time would be a lot easier now that we know what to do/not to do. I think it’s a place everyone should check out at least once in their life!

Stay tuned for next week’s post – Honeymoon Part 2: Life aboard the Norwegian Breakaway!

Aquatober

unhipvader

Hi my name is Cassi and I’m a tea and soda addict.

Seriously… But about 3 years ago, I made the switch to diet, that’s a plus right?

I try not to have more than one can of soda a day, but my husband and I polish off a 3 quart pitcher of iced tea daily. I have tried many times to stop drinking soda completely, but kind of gave up on that for the past year or so while I was quitting smoking after my grandmother was diagnosed with lung cancer. I was a smoker for 15 years and I have not had a cigarette since October 26, 2013. Now the smell of cigarette smoke makes me want to puke.

“Just drink caffeine-free!”

It doesn’t taste the same to me! If you can’t tell the difference, awesome! But I can! :( Especially in diet cola! It’s like comparing Kroger BIG K to Coke or Pepsi! Why not just drink water?!

So in an effort to get on the “healthy wagon” I am going to try yet another challenge throughout the month of October…

I think it was started by my OG, John Petersik over at Young House Love. (At least that’s who everyone on the web points to when mentioning “Aquatober”) I think it’s a pretty awesome idea…

“31 days of drinking nothing but water in an attempt to reset my body from all of the sugar, caffeine and other junk that I drink the rest of the year”

It’s just 31 days, and we love a good challenge at our house so I’m gonna give this a crack! Who knows, maybe it’ll stick?!

I am, however, going to ceremoniously drink tea and soda up until the stroke of midnight on October 1st!

Goodbye Summer of 2014

Last weekend was Labor Day weekend. The the official closing of summer, or Bummer City for just about everyone, unless you live near or south of the equator.

Cue the music… “Closing Time” by Semisonic begins to play in the background. Children all over the country are crying as their parents put away their slip-n-slides and kiddie pools. Beach towels are packed in storage. All public pools were drained simultaneously Monday evening. Summer camps everywhere have fallen silent, their occupants all returned to school/college/real jobs weeks ago. The summer cabins are boarded up, their plastic covered prison mattresses are stacked neatly in storage, eagerly awaiting the opportunity to be peed on again by little Jimmy during his first week at summer camp next year, which will be at least another 7-8 months. Deep depressing sigh.

I was a summer camp kid.

I loved packing up all my worldly belongings and stuffing them into my camp trunk and taking them away with me to the whole different universe that was sleep-away camp. (I still have that trunk. It still smells like camp fire!)

I grew up in the 90’s watching shows like “Salute Your Shorts” and “Hey Dude!” which were all about these kids getting to go away to summer camp and dude ranches for the whole summer. BY THEMSELVES!

The caption says it all.

The caption says it all.

So the summer when I was 10, when my mom asked me if I wanted to go to summer camp, I peed my pants. I was finally going to have my own adventures like Budnick, Donkeylips, Ronnie Pinsky, Z.Z., and the rest of the gang from Salute Your Shorts!

The particular camp I went to had several different “specialty” camps. Sports camp, band camp, fishing camp, horse camp… I was an “arts camper.”

The sports campers were the jocks. The band campers were local high school bands who spent their whole day practicing. Fishing campers for some reason always had the surfer/burn-out vibe. They had the coolest counselor ever, Tracy Ray, who reminded me of Morgan Freeman, and they pretty much did just about whatever they wanted – Including staying up really late and night fishing on the lake!

I went to arts camp every year for 5 years. I never really knew what the arts campers’ persona was… I guess we were the pre-hipsters?

Our area was in the walk-out basement of the conference building. There was a secret door that lead to the Nature Center next door, which we thought was amazing. That was where they kept the snakes and turtles. You know… naturey things.

A "baja hoodie"

The ol’ drug rug!

Our counselor was Phil. He was an early 20-something long-haired, Birkenstock-wearing, liberal arts college student. He greeted us each morning cheerfully wearing his baja hoodie (which I later learned were also called “drug rugs”) while clenching a Winnie the Pooh mug full of coffee. He was like the female version of Janice from the Muppets.

His favorite band was Phish. I know this because he wore a Phish t-shirt almost every day and the only cd we were allowed to listen to my first summer was Hoist. If you’re not familiar with Phish, they can be summed up easily in one sentence: The lead singer plays a vacuum.

Phil’s helper was Cindy. She was a junior counselor, and was probably in high school, maybe a senior? She also stayed in my cabin. She looked a lot like Angela Chase from My So-Called Life. But she didn’t take shit from anyone. If you acted like a butt hole, she told you. She wore cut-off jean shorts with leggings and flannel shirts. Her hair was fire-engine red. She had this dry, sharp wit about her. (Think Janeane Garofalo.) I was enamored with her.

Angela Chase

Cindy probably would have strangled Angela Chase with a friendship bracelet.

In arts camp we did just about everything. We made baskets, made things out of clay & popsicle sticks, painted, drew, made friendship bracelets, lanyards and key chains. We also tie-dyed everything that wasn’t nailed down.

By the last year I went to camp, my family no longer owned anything white that would accept Rit dye. I also had so many handmade lanyard key chains; I probably could have supplied a Chinese key chain factory through my college years. (My husband actually has one on his key ring at this very moment!)

I sported about 50 friendship bracelets on each of my wrists AND ankles. And before I started middle school, I had to cut out a chunk of my hair that one of my fellow campers had put one of those thread hair wraps in.

After lunch, during the blazing heat of the day, we were allowed to go do other activities if we wanted to. Things like shooting your fellow cabin-mate at the archery range… But we usually opted to stay with Phil and Cindy and lay on the cold cement floor, listening to Phish and pretend like we were cool.

The evenings were the best part of camp. This is usually when everyone at camp went down to the lake and went swimming.

The lake was massive and was really clean and clear. We even had a resident snake named Ethel (which I’m sure where in fact several different snakes). I imagine naming the snake was a way to take some of the horror out of the possibility of swimming with serpents. There were a lot of city kids that had never seen a snake in real life.

We even had a “Polar Bear Swim” at dawn every morning, which was probably the most fun!

The swim system was pretty serious business. When you got out of the water, you had to take a little metal chip with your camper number off the IN board and put it back on the OUT board. This is how they kept track of how many kids were IN the water. Every so often, they did a head count to make sure everyone was safe and accounted for.

I remember once we were frantically all called out of the water. Someone was missing. We all stood on the beach for what seemed like forever as the counselors recounted everyone at least 5 times before they finally formed “the chain” and started walking through the water looking for the missing kid.

Later in life I realized that the counselors probably all had the scenes from Friday the 13th running through their minds that day.

friday13

Come on in, the water’s fine!

Right about the time all the counselors were in the water with their clothes on, the “missing” kid came skipping down the stairs from the commissary with a Drum-Stick ice cream cone and asked someone what was going on… He forgot to move his chip.

In the evenings, sometimes we’d have a big camp fire where we did skits, sang corny camp songs etc. Before it got too late, they’d ceremoniously extinguish the fire and usher us quietly back to our cabins where we had a little while to shower and wind down before lights out.

Actually sleeping at camp was always near impossible.

If you haven’t had the pleasure, thank your lucky stars that you’ve never had to experience the banter of 10 pre-teen/teenage girls’ banter at bed time at summer camp. No topic was taboo… it was kind of like a junior version of The View. I don’t know how the counselors refrained from strangling us with our own tie dyed shirts.

Eventually the lights would go out and each of us would lay quietly in the dark, sweating to death trying to figure out how to go to sleep with the sound of mosquitoes buzzing in our ears. (Our cabins were four wood walls with big screened windows on every wall.) Every night at camp for a lot of kids was like the night before Christmas, it was hard to close your eyes and block out the excitement.

I had a counselor one year who would play an Enya tape every night to help lull everyone to sleep. In 1994 I had never heard of Enya before in my life, and thought it was kind of weird.

At the end of that week of camp, on the last night we were all talking about our favorite parts of the week. We each agreed we liked listening to Enya at night. We realized each of us had been lying awake each night until Orinoco Flow came on. I would later hear that song on the radio in the car with my mom and she cracked up that her fourth grader knew the words.

Another sleeping adventure was the “Overnight” night at camp. One night out of your week at camp, you got to pack a bag, your sleeping bag, pillow and hike somewhere into the wilderness where you spent the night. There were a few different locations, the pioneer cabin, the back side of the lake, the frontier ranch… or simply just the damn woods.

Overnights were always interesting and were a guarantee that nobody would be sleeping that night. One time at band camp, in the woods, the counselors accidentally burned wood with poison ivy and sent some kid with a horrific allergy to the hospital after he inhaled the poison ivy ash into his lungs.

My overnights were just about anything but “fun.” My first one was in the woods. At the beginning of the evening someone ripped a giant hole in the side of our tent. Tough turkey! We had to sleep in it anyway. It was still about 85 degrees with 95% humidity than night and in the middle of the woods, there was no escaping the mosquitoes.

To top it off… the week before I went to camp, I made the mistake of watching an episode of Unsolved Mysteries about a serial killer who rode trains into a girl scout camp and murdered everyone then dumped their bodies in their sleeping bag in a ditch.

Good 'ol Bobby Stacks!

Thank you for years of trauma, Bobby Stacks!

Right about the time I recalled the details of that episode, a train horn sounded a few hundred feet away. I sat up and looked out our tent as I watched the train clickety-clack right on by…

I spent that entire night balled up in my sub-zero-arctic-grade sleeping bag, sweating and hyperventilating.

When I entered my teen years, I decided I wanted to be a counselor one day. So I started helping out as a junior counselor with day campers. It was a lot of fun, until one day…

We had a group of special needs kids at day camp. They were a lot of fun. Except this one kid. He was genuinely mean and hateful and would regularly beat the tar out of his day-care helpers. To avoid being maimed, I decided to just steer clear of him.

One day, everyone was swimming at the lake and he was just sitting on the beach. Everyone tried to get him to jump in, but he refused. Finally I felt bad and decided to go over and offer him some words of encouragement or whatever the hell I thought counselors were supposed to do.

When I got over to where he was sitting, he had his towel in his lap. I was all like, “Hey, buddy! What’s goin on? Swimming is super fun! Let’s go!” And then I realized he wasn’t wearing pants…

I don’t know which was worse; realizing what he was doing or having to explain to the other counselors why he didn’t want to swim that day.

Turns out I didn’t really want to be a counselor! That was my last week at day camp.

I went back to camp once more after that in 1998, which was the summer before my freshman year in high school. But we didn’t stay at the main camp. Two counselors loaded up about 14 teenagers in the camp van and headed for West Virginia where we went white water rafting, rock climbing and rappelling for a week.

This is really where I went rappelling. It was amazing. The bottom of this photo is the ledge we walked over and rappelled down. You could probably still see the trail of vomit I left when going over the edge! I should try to dig up some old photos!

I shared a one-man tent with another girl, Diane (who I actually kept in touch with until college). We floated down the New River in our life jackets. I free fell from a rope off a 200 ft cliff while rappelling with nobody below to belay me, I nearly crashed to my death due to the fact that the rope was burning me through my leather gloves because I was going too fast. Our counselor jack-knifed the U-Haul trailer attached to our van and busted out the back window of the van. We swam in some backwoods swimming hole on the river with a bunch of mountain hippies and their 200 naked children.

It was an amazing trip and was the first time I’d ever been out of the state without my parents. That was probably the grandest grand finale to my camp years.

But I tell my friends and family who have kids now, send your kids to camp! I learned to make a fire, put up a tent, to cook, to clean! I mastered a canoe, a kayak, a horse and even people… I learned how to make friends, how to fight fair and most importantly how to make up with them and move on!

I learned that sometimes life is dirty, covered in bugs and sweat and that there is no such thing as a “best” way to tie-dye a shirt do things!

campfire

But there is a best way to build a fire. And that’s to make sure you don’t let “former boy scout” friends named Edd touch them!

Basement Blues

I’m pretty sure I have mentioned before that the “utility” side of my basement gives me the jeebs.

Our house was built in 1971 as a one story sort-of ranch. Somewhere down the line, a previous owner hand-dug our basement. Hand. Dug. Our adorable neighbor, Fred and his wife were the first family to move into our neighborhood back in the day, so he knows just about everything about everyone in the area. He told us that the previous owner had brought the buckets of dirt up one at a time until it was all completed. I couldn’t even imagine… I would have stroked out!

So the finished part is just fine. Although it is a mushroomy-tan color from floor to ceiling (underneath all of the band posters that we’ve plastered on the walls as an homage to our youth), it is still a cool place to hang out when we have parties. However, due to our last party’s unfortunate turn of events, we decided we’ll probably be having wayyyy fewer parties. So we agreed that we’d like to start using the basement on a daily basis more.

We used to have “band practice” down there. Ha! That was back when we were all chain smokers so we didn’t even need a fog machine to feel like rock stars. You could actually go outside and see the smoke billowing out of the small window. EW!

There has never been cable run down there and the stereo sucks and the furniture is all old and college frat/crack house-ish, so we never really had much desire to spend any real amount of time down there. So before we do start chillin’ like bro-skies down there, we’ve got some work to do. And making the basement a crash-pad is kind of the last thing on our list of things we wanna/need to do right now. :(

I’ve sort of gone off on a tangent in the wrong direction. I have a bad habit of doing that, my apologies! Allow me to start over!


I’m pretty sure I have mentioned before that the “utility” side of my basement gives me the jeebs. And next on the Casa Awesomesauce DO-OR-DIE!-LIST (that’s what I’m calling our to-do list from now on – DOD!L for short) is:

To get the shelves in our laundry room cleaned up and to reorganize and streamline the crawl space.

We made the executive decision to push this task to the front of the Do-Or-Die! List so we can get all of the things that are currently living in my master bedroom into storage where they really belong! (Remember this winter when there was a lawn mower living in there?! Old post about that here.)

Basement Blueprint

Since I don’t have pictures (the lighting down there sucks real bad) I have made this festive blueprint for you . As you can see, we really don’t have a WHOLE lot to work with. The crawl space is about 7 ft wide (and full of broken glass!) and about 12 ft deep. Then there’s that weird L curve. What’s that all about? Note that the PINK LINE in the laundry room is only a half wall. It comes up to about 4 feet and that’s where the crawl space begins. You actually have to climb over our washer & dryer to get to it. (Ugh. Hopefully going to relocate those to the wall where the freezer is eventually.)

The crawl space is gravel bottomed and as I’ve referred to in a previous post (here) is my Kevin Bacon Stir of Echoes crawl space. It’s the kind of space that prevents me from doing laundry when Travis isn’t home (or without the shotgun).

Stir of Echoes

We even have one of these bare light bulbs with the pull string!!! $#%&!!! I’m never going to be able to go down there again without this image in my mind.

It also doesn’t help that Travis stores our Halloween props in the crawl space… Including this guy who stares out at me like a bastard when I’m trying to fold my laundry. Couldn’t have even found a box for that?!

Known as "the Fuming Rotter" or the "Thing that makes pants full of shit."

Known as “the Fuming Rotter” or the “Thing that makes pants full of shit.”

So last week, Hubster bought an 8-pack of 18 gallon storage containers so we could start cleaning up the shelves, which contained tons of crappy boxes filled with poorly packed hand-me-down dishes, old college art supplies, boxes of shoes and other random home goods. I ended up purging probably 4 utility-size trash bags of sheer trash! I have a big box of donate stuff and only have 2 small boxes of stuff to re-home! I was kind of awesomely proud of myself since I’ve always been kind of nostalgia crazy. (I am pretty sure I don’t need my college Nerf Gun foam disc collection anymore.) We’re now going to designate our shelves in the basement to all of our non-Halloween holiday, camping and painting gear!

I found this printable storage container label online that I’m going to use to label each storage container so I don’t have to dig through them to find what I need.

The eventual end goal (after we get the bedroom done) is to turn the laundry room into a more user-friendly, less scary spot where I can do my thing without fearing for my life by accomplishing the following:

  • Paint the floor using this stuff that a lot of people use in garages and utility rooms (currently the floor is brick red which is scraped up really bad showing this lovely hospital-gown-green underneath.) Anything at this point would be an improvement!
  • Enclosing the exposed joists overhead with bead board or something similar to finish the ceiling and cover up the 9 billion wires and pipes that run through the joists.
  • Finish the drywall on one small wall where the door is (about 4 foot of wall in total).
  • Paint the cinder block walls, shelves, pipes etc so they look nice and clean.
  • Install a glass block window to replace the current out-dated and not-so-energy-efficient louvered window that we don’t even open because it’s super gross dusty/cobweb/bug covered.
  • Use either shower curtains or match-stick blinds to hide the crawl space without lessening access to it.

laundry room inspiration

Hopefully in the end it will look somewhat like this photo above! I love how they just used a super-tall table over top of the washer/dryer for folding & storage! That would be a super easy hack to a thrift store or garage sale find, or make our own table top. We could just use modified porch balusters or something similar for the legs, I’d think. But Hubs doesn’t like how low our washer & dryer sit, so they may end up going on top of washer/dryer pedestals or something like that that we DIY ourselves. Those pedestals are like $100-200 a PIECE! But it all looks pretty cozy and not so zombie-infested, no?

My favorite decade

Unhipdotcom 10 Years

NOTE to ease your gag reflex, since some people hate reading about feelings and people who love each other and admit it out loud (were you not hugged as a child?)… This post isn’t all wishy-washy and gooey with sticky sweet proclamations of love. It’s a look back at all the crazy things that have happened in what we consider to be the beginning of our “adult lives”!

On August 1, 2004, I first met and immediately started dating my hubs, Travis. On our first date, we watched Jeepers Creepers 2 and I kicked his ass at Mario Kart!

That was ten years ago today. TEN YEARS! That’s almost as long as I was in school! Longer than I went to college, longer than it takes to write a book or make a movie… LONGER than it takes to make a human being! If I would have gotten pregnant on the first date, I would now have a freaking 4th or 5th grader!

We met when we were 20 years old. I was living in an apartment in the not-so-nice part of the east side with my college roomie, and Travis lived with his sister right down the road! We were just about to turn 21 and neither of us really had any plans for the future. Aside from trying to figure out how to make a living and still have fun! I was in a boring part-time job right out of college. Travis was going to college and working as a nanny for his 2 year old nephew while his sister went to nursing school. We were just kids!

Us in August of 2004!

Us in August of 2004!


Because I LOVE to make lists…. Here’s a run down of our decade!

  • We turned 21 AND 30… yuck!
  • We have had 2 presidents.
  • We lived in 4 different homes in 4 different suburbs—in 1 apartment, 1 townhouse, 1 duplex and 1 house.
  • We bought our first house!
  • We have gone through 8 vehicles. 6.5 of those were Travis’ – this list doesn’t include the “loaner” vehicles or our boat!
  • We have had 2 dogs, 2 ferrets, 2 gerbils, 2 fish and 1 cat.
  • I fell down 2 flights of stairs, almost cut my pinky off and Travis has had 4 teeth and 1 gall bladder removed!
  • We collectively got 6 tattoos.
  • We visited 3 countries and 4 states.
  • We got married!

Some other memorable things that happened in 2004:

  • The movie Mean Girls came out! Which I always imagined to be the next generation’s Clueless or Romy & Michelle’s High School Reunion, right?
  • The Olsen twins turned 18. Ugh.
  • Janet Jackson had a “wardrobe malfunction.” Where has she been since then?! Miss Jackson, if you’re nasty?
  • Sex and the City ended… Good riddance!!
  • Friends ended. I was never a fan but I know this paired with the demise of Sex & the City, my college roommate was near-suicidal.
  • Facebook was invented. I’m not going to touch that one.
  • A whale explodes in the town of Tainan, Taiwan. A build-up of gas in the decomposing sperm whale is suspected of causing the explosion. Gross. I don’t know why I remembered this.
  • Google introduces Gmail, mail has never sucked so bad!
  • Oldsmobile builds its final car ending 107 years of production. :(
  • Martha Stewart is sentenced to five months in prison plus five months in home confinement for lying to federal investigators. Oh Martha, she probably slocked someone to get her linens starched and pressed.
  • Halo 2 a first person shooter first released on Xbox by Bungie Studios! This would be the video game that turned me into a “gamer.”

So that’s it, my favorite decade! Hoped you enjoyed that little hop into the Delorean for a trip down memory lane! That wasn’t so painful now, was it?

What was your favorite decade?

Summer Lovin’ – Lack of Progress

We have not gotten much of anything done this summer on the house. Womp-womp! :(

Not to be the excuse monster, but our funds haven’t been exactly liquid over the past few months due to the necessity in May to purchase a new washer & dryer after our 7 year old pair bit the dust.

We have also been saving our pennies for a new mattress! (In our 3 bedroom house we only have one mattress, which is a full size! We gave away our cheap lumpy king size, that broke our backs when we slept on it, in the 40 Bag Challenge that we wrote about here).

We also had a few plumbing issues (one being the leaky toilet we fixed pretty cheaply and wrote about here) and most recently we had a pipe leak in our basement. Or should I say all over our basement? We capped that sucker for now and will eventually get to fixing that. It’s a pipe that runs to our back porch faucet, which isn’t a huge necessity, but it would be nice for watering our tomato plants that are currently sucking up several gallons of high-quality H2O each day that we have to haul out from the kitchen in a pitcher! (Next year, I’d like to make a rain barrel!)

And last but not least, our dear pooch, Carli had a corneal ulcer which we had to treat.

I’m not complaining, I swear!

After having to buy a new washer & dryer the week we moved in because our old pair wouldn’t fit in the door, then the “new” refrigerator, air conditioner and the roof crapped out us at our house within the first 2 years, we learned and have come to peace with the fact that homeownership is like a f%#king box of chocolates, you just never know what you’re gonna get!

I just wanted to bring you up to speed on the current status of the fact that nothing is happening at ol’ Casa Awesomesauce! And not because I gave up!

BUT we DID get to do a bit of traveling this summer, which we both have vowed to do more of! (Read about our recent Florida extravaganza here!)

With all of that out of the way now, the hubster and I decided that we’re going to pick up the ball again and get rolling on our master bedroom next! We’d like to be in there by Labor Day, or at least by our FIRST WEDDING ANNIVERSARY on September 20th! We’re hoping this will be like a big honkin’ anniversary present to ourselves!

The master bedroom is going to be the absolute hardest room in the house because in it’s current state, it is a storage room. And it just so happens to be the largest room in the freaking house. At least that room no longer houses our lawn mower (read about lawn mowers in my bedroom here!) So we’ll have to do a lot of sorting and organizing before we get down to replacing the flooring (which is an absolute must!) and painting over the African safari wall border. Let me see if I can Google it…

Le-Yikes!

Purrrrrrrrrr!

The picture isn’t it exactly, but it’s pretty darn close. Now let me put a disclaimer on this… I am sure with the right decor, this would be adorable! But it doesn’t exactly go with my color scheme.

unhip palette!

This is what I’m twerkin with! I made several of these palettes to help myself find stuff to go in each of our rooms. Since we don’t have a lot of cash to splurge up front, I pin things that I can pick up over time!

Which brings me around to Pinterest:

For any of you Pinterest-ers, I started a whole board HERE a while ago for our master bedroom!

I realize a million people pin a million things per day on Pinterest and unfortunately sometimes Pinterest is  the place where dreams and ideas go to die.

But I’ve realized for me (a self-diagnosed List Nazi!!), it’s an easy list-making tool when I’m out and about or online shopping and I find things that I love! I just pin them so that way I can go back later when I have the time or money and buy the item, or do some hard-core online scouring to find something similar on the cheap.

Heck, I even use Pinterest as a wish list! I pin things we need at home or things that I’d like (you know, for when holidays and birthdays roll around!) Travis swears it has made Christmas and Christmas shopping his “favorite thing in the world,” and that’s a pretty big deal coming from someone who was never really a fan of holiday celebrations and hates gift shopping!

But back to the board: On my Master Bedroom board, I made a palette (above). I did that with all of the rooms that we’re giving a facelift so I have something to go by to virtually build each room before I even pick up a paint brush or start droppin’ cash! I actually own that comforter! I snagged it at Target last year sometime and I’ve used it from the beginning to make my palette and find things that “go” with it but aren’t matchy-matchy. As my darling Sherry over at Young House Love has said before: “Matchy Matchy Tacky Tacky!”

SO… Like I said, with this room there is a lot to do, but no real time frame. Other than we would really like to move into that room by fall since it tends to be a bit cooler, and we love sleeping in a chilly room so we can burrow under big fluffy blankets with our dogs without sweating to death! It also has french doors that lead out onto our patio, which makes taking the dogs out to do “their business” in the night or in the morning much easier. Especially if we have house guests… Our dogs are “morning people” and tend to prance through the house early in the morning, which sounds a little bit like a bull in a china shop!

And we would really like to have more house guests, and moving back into our master bedroom would obviously free up the spare bedroom which we’ve been occupying!

Well that was a bit of a long-winded post! My apologies on that! Congratulations and thanks if you made it to the end!