Category Archives: Events

228 Days to Go!

I just logged into my Norwegian Cruise Lines account to make a payment and saw the big 228 Days to Go! countdown clock! Woo hoo! I can’t wait till our “big” honeymoon. At this point we are planning on a “big” and a “little” honeymoon because without the little I’ll be going back to work the Monday after we get married. No thanks! So we’ll be headed off somewhere for a couple of nights, like a bed and breakfast or something relaxing so we can chill out and enjoy being married 🙂 I’ll take Monday off then hopefully work at home for the rest of the week. We’ll see how that works out. Then less than a week later we’ll be flying off to Miami! I hope we can take a trip to the Everglades before getting on the Norwegian Pearl for another 7-day Western Caribbean cruise. The Pearl is one of NCL’s Jewel class ships and is bigger and a bit fancier than the Spirit. We actually saw the Pearl anchored next to us when we were in Belize last year! This year we have a balcony cabin right at the back of the ship (aft) so we can hear the wake and get a gorgeous unblocked view from our room. (I don’t think the balcony’s all that big for sitting but we’ll probably be out there a fair amount too!) Last year we saw lots of sea life from the sundeck on the Spirit so I’m hoping we’ll get some great views of animals in the distance from our balcony, too. Also, the Pearl has a fabulous thermal spa with a big hot spa pool and heated ceramic loungers and drinks you can sip while you do nothing so one of the very first things we do after boarding will be purchasing spa passes! And our stops this year include:

*Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas (NCL’s private island), where we plan to hike over to the lighthouse and the old helicopter pad and see the ruins left over from the days when it was a U.S. military installation. Hopefully we will also have plenty of time for snorkeling.

*Grand Cayman – This British territory is supposed to have some great snorkeling as well, especially with a large stingray population. This one will require some research.

*Ocho Rios, Jamaica – I think hiking the water fall here is a must!

*Our last stop is a return to Cozumel, Mexico which we also visited last year and loved. Cozumel is GREAT especially the little neighborhoods on the inside. It’s a nice place to just walk around once you get past the touristy areas (not that those aren’t a lot of fun – they are!). We loved cooking with Josefina in her home last year but this year I think we’ll just head to Money Bar (or another private beach bar) and do lots of snorkeling. That’s one thing I wish we did a bit more of last year, snorkel (although we did do some in the incredible reefs off Roatan).



Happy Monday

I am over this cold weather.

I have been doing lots of wedding stuff; I’m making two trips with all my lovely bridesmaids to help them pick out their dress styles at David’s Bridal next month, and we’ll get some dinner, and I can’t wait! We also need to choose some engagement photos to place on our save-the-date magnets, in the newspaper, with the invitations, and on the wedding website. I’m also going to write up some biographies of my bridesmaids and put them up there with their pictures, and then I think Eric will probably do the same with his groomsmen.

I’m still working on my book. It’s the easiest thing I’ve ever written in my adult life which could well mean it’s a big ol’ piece of crap, but it’s fun and stress-relieving, so I’m not sure I care in the end. I’ve been doing some research on some of the locales mentioned and questioning friends and they’ve all been quite helpful. I only wish I had more time to work on it.

Eric and I are starting to officially plan our next big trip (after our honeymoon). This time we will be visiting the fabulous country of … the United States of America (my personal favorite)! For years, I’ve been dying to make a road trip down the entire length of old route 66 – from Chicago all the way to L.A. I’m really hoping we can do this next summer instead of waiting till 2014, but we’ll see! I’ll need a good amount of leave that I may not have, but if I don’t, I can swing a couple days unpaid leave. This is one of the great trips of my dreams, and it will be nice and romantic to have Eric to myself for a whole two weeks as we explore the U.S. together. We don’t get to spend as much time together these days due to our schedules, so the thought makes me happy. (He can’t come with me to a friend’s beach wedding in June which makes me sad :()

I’ve been cooking up a storm. It’s my new favorite hobby other than writing. I make breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, and snacks. I chop, blend, mix, bake and somehow it all comes out okay. I am starting to feel genuinely comfortable in the kitchen; I come home from work and whip out the dishes and gadgets I have and curse the ones I don’t have (and then put them right on my wedding registry). My favorite snack dish so far is homemade garlic pita chips and peanut butter hummus; experimenting to find just the right amount of peanut butter has been a delicious task for Eric (my taste tester) and me. I’m saving a lot of money and calories and keeping us well-fed and have lost some pounds, to boot. It’s very easy to make a large batch of one dish, like my old favorite standby turkey chili, and stretch it out for several days’ meals. I rarely eat pre-packaged foods anymore and now when I do I can’t help but notice how salty they are. (This is coming from someone who loves salt.) I’m working up from easier stuff to attempting a really complicated giant Greek dish that kinda scares me because I could easily screw it up if I’m not careful. I could use a heck of a lot more counterspace for that one though.

I’m teaching myself to program in SQL; it’s pretty easy.

Fiona Apple is playing a couple of shows around here in May and I can’t wait. Just about one of the only songs you can get me to sing by myself at karaoke is a Fiona Apple song.

Less Than 8 Months … whaaaat

Less than 8 months to go, and I’ve really been coasting with this wedding business. Eric and I are very excited, but we’re also very busy … with normal life stuff. We did get some incredible engagement photos taken a couple weekends ago, courtesy of our good friend, the multitalented Evan Valentine ( He and his wife Jaime (one of my very best friends) ate at Ray’s Hell Burger with us in Rosslyn. Then we made visits to some favorite Arlington spots: Dark Star Park, Gravelly Point Park (out by Reagan Airport), and the rooftop garden at our apartment building. Finally, we got some shots on the balcony of our apartment, where Eric proposed to me. We had a good time and the pictures came out really nice, with some hilarious outtakes, too!

I’ve been to some fun places and done some fun things lately, so maybe I’ll eventually write something about that. I’ve made all these rough drafts that I just left sitting. I have also been writing an entirely new book. The idea just came to me one day and I went nuts with it and wrote 20,000 words in about a week. I wish I’d had that same motivation when I wrote my last book during NaNoWriMo! I’m now up to nearly a full 25,000 words. This novel has been much more fun for me than the last because I honestly have no idea what’s going to happen. Every time I start working on it the characters spring to life in my head and show me what’s occurring as I type. So right now, I only have the vaguest idea of the denouement. I could stand to do a little travel around the country to strengthen some of the storyline (due to locations I’m not familiar with), but basic research will have to do for now. Now, I’m truly not that good of a writer, but I enjoy it and it’s a great stress-reliever and fun hobby. I could probably better spend my time on more pressing matters, but it’s hard to stay away from the keyboard. I have another friend working on a novel, so we may try to meet up at coffee shops and have “writing nights” in the near future.

I went to my first Body Pump class last Friday; it’s a lifting class – you use a mat, a step (to lay on, like a bench), and the bar with weights. It was very difficult but so much fun that I greatly enjoyed the challenge. At the end of the class, the instructor announced, “Congratulations, you’ve just done 800 reps!” I intend to keep going, although it will require me to get up at an ungodly hour. Ugh!

Coming up soon (but don’t I always say that?) … more wedding stuff, a couple book reviews, recommended beauty products, some travel articles from all over, hotel review, and a disgusting, hideous exploration of the life of the house centipede and his many apparent benefits … ugh. And I think I might have a giveaway for y’all as well. 

Prenuptial Planning … Less Than 10 Months to Go

There isn’t much new going on with the wedding planning front. We knocked so much out within the first couple of weeks that I kind of coasted for a while. We have the reception hall (which includes the caterer, DJ, coordinating, and enough decorations that we probably don’t have to add any if we don’t feel like it), the church for both the ceremony and the rehearsal, the wedding photographer, and the officiant, and we have the blocked hotel rooms currently pending further action on the part of Marriott. We know what bakery we want to use for the wedding and groom’s cakes and I have designs in mind although I’m still looking. We did a lot of work on the guest list and the attendants, thought about colors and all that, and my sister, mom and I looked at tons and tons of wedding gown pictures. I booked the honeymoon, which is another Western Caribbean cruise (same cruise line, different ship, and mostly different ports). The next things I’m concentrating are finding someone to do makeup and hair, calling the officiant to try and set up pre-marital counseling sessions (of which five are required), contacting the organist I want to play the wedding, thinking about transportation from the church to the reception hall, and figuring out where to have the rehearsal dinner and, if not at a restaurant, who will cater it.

I have been reading a ton of wedding books, magazines, and websites. The Knot is always a good one to read over and the comments section can get quite heated as virtually all comments sections do. Reading honeymoon disaster stories has become a recent delight of mine. I have plenty of less-than-optimal travel experiences of my own, but I tend to look back at them all with a good sense of humor or at least a lesson learned. Still, I hope I am not tempting fate by reading these tales of woe. I guess we are going to find out. 😉

Bridal Guide magazine has insisted on sending me free issues for many years now, and I’m finally starting to use their strange generosity. (I also keep free issues of The Week for some reason? No complaints here.) The magazines are really helpful with an etiquette column, a countdown checklist, and of course, tons of ads and photos. They also often include supplements such as Honeymoon & Destination Wedding magazine and a “home” section, complete with beautiful china patterns and a lengthy checklist you can use to help you complete your registry. I’ve been working on that too, but slowly. At least one nice person has already asked me where I am registered, so I figure I’d better get on that. It will be easier once we have chosen a china pattern.

I bought a ton of wedding- and marriage-themed books because I love to read and will use any excuse to get more books. But despite the overflowing shelf space in our apartment, I’m not regretting this decision as all since this reading has been quite educational and also calming. I’ll start reviewing some of the books once I’m fully out of my current writer’s block phase.

A recent development in the bridal marketing world (which, according to my mom, can be blamed on Melania Trump) is that of the “second dress.” The idea is that you wear your bridal gown for the ceremony and pictures, then, for the reception, change into matching, super fancy shorter white dress for dancing. No thanks. I can only wear a bridal gown once and I’d like to enjoy it for as long as possible.

One thing I would like to do prior to the wedding, as so many brides would, is lose a little weight and tone up these arms. I’m not looking at a whole lot of weight loss, but I put on 15-17 pounds since moving up here years ago that aren’t coming off because I’m not really being consistent with my diet and exercise habits. I work out hard when I go to the gym and have become much stronger and more fit, but I also slack off and only do it enough to maintain a basic level of good health, not any real changes. If I could just stay consistent, I might see some serious results! I also stay up too late every night and wind up desperately craving carbohydrates at midnight … nommmm. I think Eric might join my gym and we will have fun going together. He has a tendency to make everything fun without even trying, so I’ll probably actually WANT to go and work on my cardio more! He could make shopping for toenail clippers fun.

I also joined the My Special K Challenge and I bought a Women’s Health magazine DVD called Wedding Workout.

In short, the planning is a lot more exciting than I was expecting. Sometimes I do get stressed out or start worrying too much, but I’ve decided to roll with it and have some fun!

How Engaging … har har

Eric and I are engaged! What a lovely New Year’s present to receive. We’ve been betrothed (I love that word) for two weeks now and already we have the officiant, church, reception hall, caterer, DJ, and photographer all taken care of. While there are still plenty of details to work out with all of those, the next things to take care of are hair, makeup, gown, finalizing the guest list, save-the-date cards, the CAKE, and stuff like that. I got a little stressed out for a day or so, then I decided to calm down and just enjoy the engagement period. My friend Robyn told me she actually had a good time with all the planning after a while, so I decided to try and adopt that attitude myself. I have been doing tons and tons of research on different things and knowing all the options usually helps more than it hurts. People tell me to beware getting too much wedding advice, but I welcome it!

Eric and I have kinda hectic schedules so I’m glad we still have 11 months left to plan (well, less than that realistically, but let’s not get too technical). I love reading about weddings and doing wedding stuff, and I’m afraid of driving him nuts or making him feel like that’s all I care about, so I’m sure to do fun non-wedding stuff with him too, like playing video games, lying around talking with the cell phones and computers off, taking walks, and watching movies. We will have to figure out a time for us to have our pre-martial counseling sessions. I’m secretly hoping we get to take fun couples’ quizzes, simulate arguments, and fill out workbooks while sneaking peeks at each others’ answers when the reverend isn’t looking.

Despite my careful committment to a balanced wedding approach, I still admit to having purchased MANY wedding books and magazines! I’d like to review some of them to help other brides over time. Since this is supposed to be a mostly travel-and-exploration-related blog – not that it always stays that way, nor gets updated very often – I was thinking I may start a separate wedding blog. Or I may not. I don’t really want to go overboard here. What do you think?

That I May Serve

On Thursday afternoon, a person connected to a recent armed robbery in Radford entered the Virginia Tech campus and murdered Virginia Tech Police Officer Deriek Crouse, 39, and then ended his own life. Officer Crouse was an Army veteran who joined the VTPD force in October 2007. He lived in Christiansburg with his wife and their five boys and according to this article, was considered a good-natured “jokester” and “a stand-up guy” who was very well-liked and respected by his neighbors and friends.

Virginia Tech students have started the Hokies for Crouse fund, which has since partnered with the official Crouse memorial fund at the National Bank of Blacksburg. All money donated to this fund, either through the site or by check to the bank, goes directly to the Crouse family. Along with starting a drive to raise more money for the memorial fund – at this writing, it already has over $33,000 – the students are looking to collect Christmas presents for Mrs. Crouse and the children.

Our Virginia Tech university motto is “Ut Prosim” which means “That I May Serve.” Officer Crouse lived out that motto well. Now let us do the same. I am very proud to be a Hokie and I am not surprised to hear VT students are pulling together to support the family of the officer who served them.

Here is how you can help:

*You can visit the Hokies for Crouse website to make a donation directly through PayPal, which is a very safe and easy way of transferring funds while keeping the sender and receiver’s account details private. (I have used it for over 10 years.)

*If you live in Blacksburg or nearby, check out that same Hokies for Crouse site to learn about presents for the Crouse family. You can bring them by the VTPD station. According to the site, Lt. Jackson of the VTPD suggests gift cards.

*You can email with condolences for the family and for the VT Police Department.

*You can visit Officer Crouse’s memorial page here.

*You can mail a check to Officer Crouse’s Memorial fund at the National Bank of Blacksburg. The following information is taken directly from the Virginia Tech website:

Memorial fund established for family of Deriek Crouse

A memorial fund has been established to support the needs of the family of Deriek Crouse, the Virginia Tech Police officer who was fatally shot Thursday, Dec. 8, 2011. Those wishing to contribute can mail checks, payable to “Deriek Crouse Memorial Fund,” to the address below:

National Bank of Blacksburg
Attn: Dana Sutphin
P.O. Box 90002
Blacksburg, VA 24062-9002

Those seeking more information about the fund should call 540-552-2011 and ask to speak with Dana Sutphin, branch manager.

Expressions of support or condolence for the Crouse family can be sent to

Howl-o-Scream 2011 at Busch Gardens Williamsburg

Eric and I just love Halloween and have grown to think of it as “our” holiday. We love the spooky ambiance, the tasty candy, the fun events, the dramatic organ music punctuated with Boris Karloff laughs. Unfortunately this year we were both so busy a good deal of the time that we didn’t get to do a lot of that stuff this ‘go round. So I decided we had to have our actual Halloween weekend be the most awesome one possible. Almost immediately, I thought of the famous Howl-o-Scream event at Busch Gardens Williamsburg. Continue reading