Sunday, August 31, 2008

DSM - Do Something Meaningful

On Friday night, we went to see a local band DSM play at our church. My friend Pam (the one that does the Stampin' Up Workshops) introduced us to them. Pam's son Jordan is in the band, along with Dave whose parents are also members of our church. We bought a DSM CD several months ago and really enjoy it. To be honest, I was very tired on Friday night and was not up for going to a concert, but Kendall was soooooooooooo excited and I wanted to support the band so we went and they did not disappoint. We had an amazing evening and they are so gifted and I got so much out of it. The message was really good as well. Dave talked about holding gifts that God gives you with your fist open, which really ministered to me. God gives us these wonderful gifts and sometimes we hold on to them so tightly. We have to remember that even though He gave them to us, they still belong to Him and He can take them away at any time. We should value and appreciate all He has blessed us with, but don't hold on too tightly. You never know when He has another plan.

DSM Groupie

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Cruise/San Diego/Hollywood Vacation

Jay and I took our first cruise and we loved it! We drove down to San Diego on August 9th and arrived early and had a nice Mexican lunch in downtown SD and then headed to the Port of San Diego. Our ship was there waiting for us and we got there having no idea what to expect. We'd read a lot of the materials online, but reading and seeing are two very different things! We parked in a nearby parking structure which had a shuttle that took us to the port. When we arrived, the first thing they did was to take our luggage. We had printed tags in advance so the bags were already marked with our cabin number. They take the bags early and deliver them right outside your cabin. We went through security and got all checked in and boarded the ship. I knew the ship was big, but I just could not fathom the size until we were standing there in front of it. Our ship was called the Elation and it's a Carnival "fun ship" and was it ever!

Jay standing in front of the Elation before we boarded

From the moment we boarded, the crew were so welcoming and friendly. We had a debarkation drill before we even left port and were very impressed with the organization. Each cabin was assigned a muster station and we all had to bring our life jackets with us and head to our muster station and participate in an instruction course and then head up to where all of the life boats were stored. It sure made us feel confident that if God forbid there were an emergency, we were well-prepared!

Leaving port was a fun experience as well. We headed up to the top deck and didn't realize we were directly underneath the horn so when they sounded the horn as we pulled back, my heart leaped and everyone was covering their ears. It made me think of the Love Boat (my nearest cruise experience up until now, sadly) when all of the passengers were waving goodbye to loved ones. We had no loved ones to wave goodbye to, but it was still so exciting to be heading out to sea.

And here we go!!!!

The crew on board were wonderful. Almost everyone had an either English, Australian or South African accent. We started our journey by going on a tour of the ship with Jeff, "the fun dude." Now Jeff didn't seem like that much fun at first, but by the end of the cruise, we warmed up to him. Our cruise director was Stu and every morning he would be on the loud speaker with a "g'day" and informing us that it was going to be another "cracker of a day." Later we found that a cracker of a day is a good day, but it was certainly the first time we had ever heard that expression! Every day was packed full of events. We played Bingo, we attended a show every evening, we watched The Olympics in the lounge (yes, I did get to see lots of Michael Phelps footage), we played mini golf and cards and walked up and down the staircase about 500 times. The ship had 12 decks and our room was on the 6th. The 7th deck had the bottom section of the Mikado Lounge where they had Bingo and game shows and the big variety and comedy shows every evening. The 8th deck had The Imagination Restaurant where we had our late seating for dinner every night. We signed up for the late seating (8:15) so that we could make the most of our days and were glad we did. It was really nice on the days we had excursions because we didn't have to rush back to the ship to shower and get ready for dinner. We had two other couples and one 13 year old boy at our table. Mark and Lisa were about our age from Texas and James and Katie were from Laguna Beach and were probably just a little older than us and had their son with them. We all got along really well and ended up hanging out playing cards (and spoons!) together and riding the water slide and hanging out by the pool together and even had a mini golf tournament.

The Imagination Restaurant

The Cole Porter Lounge where they had Karaoke every evening

The Piano Bar in the atrium in the center of the ship

Our cabin - the shower actually worked really well and the window made the room seem larger

The mini golf course on the top deck (12th) - tip for ya - playing mini golf on a moving ship in the wind isn't as easy as it looks, but it sure is fun

The super water slide and main pool on the Lido deck (10th) - the pool is filled with salt water, which is a little shocking when you first jump in. Behind the pool is the grill area, and there is also a bar and tons of lounge chairs as well as small tables and chairs and a stage and dance floor. They had live music most afternoons and one night they had a huge dance-off between the red team (us) and the blue team. Teams were assigned by table number.

Looking down at the atrium where they had a piano, a bar, an internet cafe, the excursion desk and a customer service desk

Let's talk a little about the food! I can see now how people can gain 10 pounds on a cruise. Myself, I only gained 0.5 and I was really thrilled. I think taking the stairs so much and being active on our excursions really helped. The ship had food everywhere! For breakfast and lunch we usually went to the main dining area where they had a buffet going all day, a 24 hour pizza bar, a deli during the lunch hour and drinks (coffee, iced tea, juice, water - soda's are extra) and ice cream 24 hours/day. They also had the grill outside by the pool where they had hot breakfast to order and hamburgers/hot dogs during the afternoon and evening. The two restaurants where they had assigned seating (Imagination and Inspiration) had two seatings per evening, one at 6 and one at 8:15. The dress code was pretty relaxed except for the one formal evening, which wasn't even that formal. There were a few people in ballgowns and tuxedos, but the majority of people had on more business casual attire. At dinner they would seat you and then give you a menu with several appetizer options, dinner options and dessert options. Everyone would order as much as they wanted and then they would bring out each course, along with rolls and butter and water and if you wanted something from the bar that was an option (for an extra cost of course.) The portions were not huge and for the most part, I think the dinner options were pretty healthy. The food was tasty, but I didn't think it was out of this world. One night they had a gala buffet at midnight and that was a sight to behold. We were tired and almost didn't make it, but I really wanted to see what it was all about. They had ice sculptures and watermelon carved into a ship and beautiful chocolate carvings. It really was quite spectacular. It was very convenient to be able to eat when you wanted and not have to make reservations or wait in line, or pay out of pocket, but we sort of felt like the food was a bit much after a while! Everywhere you turned - food, food, food! Maybe having it so readily available made it not as tempting and we were able to control ourselves :).

On formal night. Left hand side - Mark, Lisa, Jim. On the end, James. Right hand side Jay, myself and Katie. I miss having dinner with these people every night!

Having never taken a cruise before, we really did not know what to expect. We were so impressed with how well-planned everything was. These people are pros! First of all, they are contracted out for 6-8 months at a time and work every day for that entire contract without a single day off. And, they have so much enthusiasm that you would never know it! Every night we would come back to our room from dinner to find an adorable towel animal and a complete agenda for the next day with activities from morning to night along with specials on spa treatments (they had a full service spa) and a class schedule for the gym and a listing of in room movies and instructions for any port days. The excursions were equally well planned and executed. The first day we were at sea and the same with the second day. On the third full day (that would have been Monday) we were in Cabo. We honeymooned there and it was so great to be back and wake up in the morning and look out the window and see the arch and Lover's beach! The day before we went to a debarkation meeting where they gave you all of the information you needed. The morning in Cabo we got up and had breakfast and packed a bag with towels and sunscreen and bottled water, etc. and headed to our meeting area. There is no dock in Cabo, so they anchor down and have these tenders (smaller boats) that come back and forth from the marina to the ship all day long. We had a snorkeling excursion in Santa Maria by first thing in the morning so we had to meet at the Cole Porter lounge and got instructions there and stayed with our group. We all headed out to the tender and took that to the marina where they took our photo (you get your photo taken a lot on a cruise!) and we followed the group to the boat and received instructions there. They took us on a nice cruise through the bay, showed us the arch and the beach and the seals and then took us into Santa Maria bay. They provided all of the equipment and instruction and we got to snorkel for about 90 minutes. It was wonderful! I only wished I had put my hair up in a hair tie because I kept getting it caught in my mask and in my face and blocking my vision and my goggles kept filling up with salt water, but even with all of that, I still loved it! We saw some gorgeous fish and just enjoyed being in the water. After we all got back on board they turned on the music and fed us tuna sandwiches and chips and guacamole and Caesar salad and provided drinks and took us back to shore. We had a short break and walked around a little bit in the city, but it was about 150 degrees out and I do not do well with the heat so I got very weak and tired and we had to stop at the Giggling Marlin and sit down and have a drink and rest. Jay has a friend who wanted a glass from there so we stopped and got his glass and cooled off for about 30 minutes and then walked back to the marine and went on our second excursion, which was parasailing. We did that on our first trip there as well and it's amazing! I absolutely love the feeling, it really feels like you are flying and is surprisingly not scary at all. Our captain was really great and after we all had our turn to go up he took us back and gave us a very close up tour of the arch and all the rock formations and I had never been able to go back that far before. We met wonderful people on both excursions and just created lasting memories. We will definitely see Cabo again! The next day we were at sea and then we went to Ensenada. I went to Ensenada when I was younger and didn't find it all that exciting or much to look at, to be honest. We signed up to see the blowhole (La Bufa Dora) just to get off the ship and see something new and we were glad we did. La Bufa Dora is one of only 4 blowholes in the world and it was magnificent! The excursion ended up being really nice. We got off the ship and headed to a nice, air conditioned bus and our tour guide told us all about the history of the city the entire trip there. Then, we got off the bus and walked through some tourist areas with shops and restaurants and we went and saw the blowhole, which was absolutely spectacular! The photos do not do it justice, but we were really glad we went. After we finished oohing and aahing we went and had some fish tacos at the Habana Banana where our tour guide recommended we eat and she was right, they were delicious! We didn't do any shopping, we just headed back to the bus and got back to the ship fairly early that day, so we went and frolicked on the water slide and I felt asleep by the pool for a while. It was a great day.

In Duke's Piano bar - it wasn't really open, I just wanted a picture in front of Lady Liberty

Those are Jay's shades

Bye bye Elation

I have no idea how fast we're going here, but our photographer had a heck of a time getting this shot!

Our parasailing crew with the arch behind us

We arrived in San Diego the morning after Ensenada and since we had to pick up Kendall from LAX just a few days later, we decided to extend our vacation a little bit. Since Jay is in the military, we get free admission to Sea World, so the day the ship docked back in San Diego we went and got our car and spent the day at Sea World! We were not tired, since we'd been relaxing on a cruise ship for 5 days so we went and saw all the shows and didn't even get to our hotel until around 10:30. We were tired by the time we checked in, but it was a great day. I always love going to Sea World and we had a great time.

We spent the night in San Diego and got up the next day (after sleeping in) and went to Seaport Village. We had lunch at The Harbor House, which is a favorite and then did a little shopping. Jay got a boomerang and we just walked around and looked at all of the unique items. Then, we went to Balboa Park and went to the Air and Space Museum where Jay was in heaven! I really enjoyed it too, but he loved it! He had been before, but it was just fun to watch him in awe of all of the planes and to learn a little more about history. After the museum we went to Coronado Island and I got to show Jay the Hotel Del Coronado, which he had never seen before. We had some ice cream and walked around the hotel and along the beach and in the shops. I got a great mug with a picture of Marilyn Monroe when she was filming Some Like it Hot there with Tony Curtis and Jack Lemon. I am afraid to drink out of it I love it so much!

In Balboa Park

At the Air & Space Museum - the plane behind Jay is one of the Flying Tigers, which he squadron is now a part of today. There is a plane just like this one in front of the building he just moved from on base

At the Hotel Del Coronado
We had dinner that night at The Fish Market, which is another favorite. We had a really late dinner because we packed so much into our day, but it was really nice. We sat right outside on the water and ate some seafood that I'm pretty sure was caught that day. It was the perfect end to a perfect day. They had a great display outside the restaurant with a tribute to Bob Hope that was really great to see.

The next morning we slept in again and then went back to Balboa Park and went to the Museum of Photography. They had one exhibit there that I really liked and some photos of America that were beautiful, but some really bizarre exhibits that didn't do it for either of us. Still, I was glad we went and got to see some beautiful work. We left Balboa Park and headed to Hollywood. I had a ton of Marriott Rewards points from when I worked at Surfware so we got a room at the Renaissance Hotel right at Hollywood & Highland. We checked into our hotel and Jay told me he had purchased tickets to see Wicked that night and I was so excited I could hardly stand it! I have been wanting to see Wicked for about 2 years and I just thought it wasn't going to happen. So, we got dressed up and went to The Grill for dinner and then caught a shuttle to the Pantages and watched the show. Jay had never seen a Broadway Show before and I think he enjoyed it just as much as I did. It was about 3 hours long and I could not believe how talented these people were. It was a magical evening and an absolute amazing ending to an amazing vacation. We picked up Kendall at LAX the next morning and we're settled into "normal" life again, but I would not have traded one minute of our trip for anything. It was absolutely wonderful, in every way!

The view from our hotel in Hollywood

Inside our very modern hotel room

Outside the Pantages Theatre

I'm finally here!

The theatre is amazing and this photo doesn't do it justice, but you can at least get an idea

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Tile - Done! Paint - Started! Cabinets - Started!

The bathroom is looking great! The first coat of paint is up and the lower cabinet, sink and light fixtures and faucets were all installed today. Our contractor is on vacation for a few days so next week he'll finish up and I can put the accessories out and give it a thorough cleaning. Kendall is really happy with it and so are we.


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