Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Caribbean Cruise Part 3: the Islands

As I mentioned here and here, Dan and I went on a kid-free cruise in October. It was absolutely amazing. One of the best parts of the cruise was the opportunity to explore the insanely gorgeous Caribbean waters in both St. Maarten and St. Kitts. 

The morning after our stop in Puerto Rico we landed in Philipsburg, St. Maarten. We took an all-day snorkeling and boating trip through Soualiga Tours. There were a few other couples on the small speedboat with us as we made our way around the island. We stopped in several locations throughout the day, including Pinel Island, Grand Case, and Tintemarre Island. We saw giant iguanas on white sandy beaches; floated in perfectly warm, clear water; ate lunch and drank pina coladas on the beach; snorkled with schools of needlefish; and saw turtles swimming next to our boat. I'd say it was a pretty good day.

I didn't think we would be able to top that experience, but the next day we went scuba diving in St. Maarten. I was so excited to be back underwater again. Neither Dan nor I are certified so we did a resort dive through Pro Divers. This was my fifth or sixth time diving, and Dan's second (see here for his first time). 

We had a great experience with Austen and his team. We dove in two separate locations, including over a natural hot water vent. We saw tons of great things including giant stingray. But the coolest things we saw were the Moray eels devouring a Lionfish that our guide had just speared. I had no idea that eels twist and turn their entire bodies into knots to break up their prey. Sadly, I didn't have an underwater camera, but here's a video that shows what it looks like.

This cruise was exactly what Dan and I needed. I came back feeling refreshed, relaxed, and excited to see my little girl. The best part is she had a fantastic time too, so no guilt! Win-win!

Read more about this cruise:
Eastern Caribbean Cruise, Part 1
Caribbean Cruise, Part 2: San Juan

Read about our other cruises here:
Baltic Cruise
Mediterranean Cruise 

Monday, November 2, 2015

Caribbean Cruise, Part 2: San Juan

As I first mentioned here, Dan and I went on a kid-free cruise to the Caribbean. It was amazing! Our first port of call was Puerto Rico--an island that neither Dan nor I have been to before. We only had a few hours in San Juan, but it was just enough taste to whet our appetite.

The view as we pulled into the harbor was fantastic. I loved seeing the fort, so strong and beautiful.

Dan made us a reservation at Marmalade, a very well-reviewed restaurant that books up a month in advance. We walked around Old Town before dinner, and though San Juan is beautiful, I can't even tell you how humid it was. It was really awful. Thankfully it rained while we were at the Castillo San Felipe del Morro, and it cleared up after that.

Did you know that the pina colada was invented in Puerto Rico? Obviously we had to test out the local fare. We did a quick taste test at two different bars, and the winner hands-down was the Parrot Club. It was delicious! What really set it over the edge was the toasted coconut and sprinkled cinnamon on top. It felt like a very grown-up version of the sweet drink.

Dinner was really fun. The chef came and talked to us for quite a long time, actually. He described the inspiration for his dishes, told us about his adventures living in Spain and England, explained that being a chef in a Michelin-star restaurant is a terrible experience (unless you're the executive chef), and gossiped about Anthony Bourdain. It was a very interesting conversation.

We headed back to the ship after dinner and got ready for our next adventures.

Read more about this cruise:
Eastern Caribbean Cruise, Part 1
Caribbean Cruise, Part 3: The Islands

Read about our other cruises here:
Baltic Cruise
Mediterranean Cruise 

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Eastern Caribbean Cruise: Part 1

It's been a long time in the making, but Dan and I finally took an extended KID-FREE vacation! Sorry for yelling, but I am really, really excited about it! We dropped Zahara off with her wonderful, loving grandparents and headed to the Eastern Caribbean for a week.

We went on a seven-night cruise with Royal Caribbean International. We've cruised with them before and always have great experiences. This time was no exception. The Independence of the Seas was beautiful with a fun promenade featuring an English pub, a wine bar, a pizzeria, a coffeehouse, and more. I really loved the attention that was paid to each little detail: the weathered "wood" floors in the pub; the wine-stained corks in the wine bar; and the vintage car were fun examples.

One of the things we love the most about cruises is meeting new people. We've actually made some really good friends through our dinner table (see our adventures with Jeff and Steph here and here). We were pretty disappointed the first few nights when no one showed up at our dinner table. Thankfully, we were able to switch tables for the last half of the cruise and got paired with some fantastic ladies. They were a huge part of what made this trip so fun!

Lauren, Caroline, Kristina, and Lisa at dinner

It was like Dan and I somehow reverted to our fun, pre-kid self. Not that we're not fun now, but on the cruise we went clubbing until 4 a.m. one night! Can you believe that??

On the sea days we made the most of our new-found free time by lounging, drinking, eating, and working out. Pure bliss!

We even surfed on the FlowRider. It was so much fun! Dan, Kristina, and I all managed to stay up. Click here to see my surfing video.

I'll be back with highlights from our stops in Puerto Rico, Saint Martin, and Saint Kitts.

Read more about this cruise:
Caribbean Cruise, Part 2: San Juan
Caribbean Cruise, Part 3: The Islands

Read about our other cruises here:
Baltic Cruise
Mediterranean Cruise 

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Summer Highlights

Even though it's still 90 degrees outside, by most accounts summer is over. As usual, the summer went way too fast. Here are a few of our highlights:

Family Visits
Both sets of grandparents and one aunt came to visit us this summer! We missed Aunt Bradi, but are excited to see her in a few weeks.

The Beach exhibit at the National Building Museum

Rehoboth Beach
We celebrated my birthday this year at Rehoboth Beach. Zahara LOVED jumping in the waves and playing in the sand. It was such a perfect, relaxing weekend.

The capital of Maryland is only 45 minutes from our house, but we never seem to make it up there. We spent a day up there this summer though and it was fantastic! A boat ride around the bay, fresh blackberries from the farmer's market, and an ice cream to finish...what could be better?

Hanging Around DC
There are tons of fun things to do all around DC, including the National Zoo, the splash fountain in Silver Spring, and chilling at our friends' pool.

Phew...as you can see, it was a busy, fantastic summer. Bring on fall! We've already gone apple and pumpkin picking, so we're ready!

Friday, September 4, 2015

DIY Mirror Frame

I love our master bathroom. It's clean, airy and spacious. But, it was missing something. We have a huge builder-grade, wall-to-wall mirror. It bounces around tons of light, but I thought it would look nicer if it were framed. Frames for a mirror that size were cost prohibitive, and buying a new mirror seemed unnecessary, so I decided to make my own.

I used the last remaining days before I went back to work to make this happen. Luckily my friend Dani was on maternity leave and was game to help me out. We headed to Home Depot to gather supplies.

There are a lot of great tutorials online already, so I won't try and recreate one here. I followed Blue Cricket Design's tutorial pretty closely. I'll just add in a couple of pointers. First, I used pre-primed moulding. It costs a little bit more, but I liked the decorative elements and it saved me time.

I grabbed a twelve-foot piece and cut it down to size myself. It took a while--so long, in fact that a contractor who kept offering to help me managed to practically cut down an entire forest while I was still cutting my first piece. But, sometimes the pride that comes with doing it yourself is worth the extra time and muscle pains.

After what felt like hours in Home Depot waiting for help with paint (long story...short version is that the perfect brown paint is really, really hard to come by), we headed back to my house. We used Dani's miter saw to cut the moulding into 45 degree angles to form the frame.

We diverged from the tutorial a little bit in the next step because my mirror had big plastic clips that would prevent the frame from sitting flush against the mirror. We measured the clips and used Dani's Dremel tool to notch etches in the two sides of the frame. Sidenote: how amazing is Dani? Woodworking while baby wearing? That's a truly modern woman.*

After taking the wood upstairs to make sure the cuts were accurate and the pieces fit together, we started painting. I painted the backs and fronts of the wood so bare wood wouldn't reflect in the mirror once hung.

When all three coats were dry, it was time to hang the frame. Here's where things didn't go so well. We followed the directions in the tutorial and used liquid nails to hang the wood. All the pieces fit perfectly together, but the painters tape was not enough to keep them from sliding town.

In the morning I caulked and painted the corners to make the seams less noticeable.

I don't love how the corners turned out, but overall I'm pretty happy with the outcome. The whole project only cost around $50. The biggest expense was for moulding, which came in at $33. 

For not very much money, and a little bit of effort, the room looks so much more finished. Hooray for fun DIY activities with good friends!

* All safety precautions were taken to ensure the baby was not harmed in any way. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Guest Post: The Weekend Calli Went Away

Hi there! Last weekend I took a quick trip to Evansville, Indiana to surprise my best friend Katie for her birthday. Boy was she surprised! While I was away, Dan and Zahara and some lovely daddy-daughter time. They had a great time--mostly. Here's a little gem he just shared with me. It's a perfect representation of life with a toddler. Heartbreaking and beautiful.

I love her.

I say it as much for myself as I do for her. She's beautiful, but it's a terrible beauty. I feel powerless to help and she wouldn't want me to, even if I could. I miss Calli, and of course she does too, but rather than bind us together, she blames me and pushes me away.

It's been two hours now. Two hours since the cat's whine woke her up. I tried to comfort her, but she only grew angrier in my presence. For over an hour we sat in her room in the dark because she didn't want me to touch her. Eventually, I picked her up anyways. Of course it was a fight, with her hitting me the whole way. I hoped by getting her food, or toys, or anything else I could possibly offer I could break her out of the tantrum. We spent another hour in the living room with her throwing the offered food and hitting me. I don't even respond anymore, I just let her do it. Maybe if she hits me enough she will feel better and I will feel less guilty.

Two and a half hours now. I can't take it anymore. For her, for me, I need to get away. I wrestle her into her highchair, somewhere I know she'll be safe. I put a bowl of cereal in front of her and I go upstairs. I know I'll hear the bowl crash and have to clean up cereal later. Up here, the screaming is slightly attenuated. Not much better, but at least I don't have to see her anguished face. After 20 minutes it's strangely quite. I take a deep breath and head downstairs.

And what does my 25 month old say to me? "Uh oh spaghetti-ohs! I need milk and a spoon."

I've never gotten milk and a spoon faster in my life.