Category Archives: Holidays

Christmas 2011

None of my Christmas plans actually happened.

On December 21st, I woke up at 4:30 am with excruciating lower flank pain which I immediately knew from past experience was a kidney stone. Several hours later, lying on a rather uncomfortable cot in the hospital emergency room, a doctor confirmed that I had not one, but two stones in my right kidney.

Due to the likelihood of pain and the necessity of prescription pain medication in the following days, I was advised not to travel. So, my parents and brother came to see me in Tallahassee rather than me driving to West Palm Beach to see them.

I appreciate that my family came to visit, but Christmas in Tallahassee is just not Christmas to me. It was really depressing. I normally love Christmas and never thought I would say this, but this year I’m glad that it is over. I’m ready to focus on the new year ahead.

On a happier note, I received more gifts this year than the past several years. I truly wasn’t expecting much because most of my family has taken a big hit from the recession, so I was very surprised to receive a new 24″ flat-screen LCD TV from my brother. Most people would probably think 24″ is small, but when you have been staring at a 15 year old box TV that makes people orange it’s a major upgrade.

– An American Twenty-Something

The dessert spread at my work holiday gathering.

Geese-a-laying.

Authentic old traincar at the Tallahassee Museum.

My favorite ornament.

Not sure why this came out blurry, but it's my $7 Christmas tree.

 

Advertisements

– An American Twenty-Something

I Kissed A Dolphin, and I Liked It

Structural Dissatisfaction: Returning to circumstances that once pleased you, having experienced a more thrilling or opulent way of life, and finding that you can no longer tolerate them.”

The quote above is from A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan, the novel I coincidentally began reading on my vacation, which perfectly describes how I now feel that I am no longer on vacation.

From November 20th – 27th, I was aboard the Carnival Valor cruising for 7 days and nights with my bestie and travel buddy Erin. I was completely disconnected from the real world and it was absolutely blissful. Nothing but island time for a whole week. Rather than go through my trip day by day, I’ve decided just to list the highlights interspersed with some of my favorite photos.

THE SHIP

Being that this was my first cruise I don’t have a point of comparison, but in my opinion the Valor was fantastic.  With 13 different decks the ship itself is impressive and immaculately kept. We booked an interior state room as it was the least expensive, and I was more than happy with the accommodations. My bed was very comfortable and there was a lot of storage space for luggage and personal items. Never did I feel cramped. Our room was at the very front of the ship, so in rough waters we could hear the waves crashing against it as we sliced through the water.

Sailing away from Miami, Florida.

The Valor docked at Cozumel, Mexico.

THE CREW & STAFF

I cannot say enough positive things about the crew, staff, and service. Our House Steward was simply awesome. He was so friendly and always had a kind word. The housekeeping staff was also very observant and paid attention to when you left your room so as not to disturb you.

Amos, from Bali, was the Team Headwaiter for our dining table, and our Bar Waiter was Siwapakorn (who we nicknamed Sip Sip), from Thailand. Amos was very charming and included all the ladies at our table in the dancing routines performed by the servers.

Dinner on the first night. (Photo credit to Erin.)

Towel swan.

FOOD & DRINK

I’m pretty sure it’s impossible to want for anything on a cruise. There is constantly yummy food and even yummier alcoholic drinks at your disposal. One small complaint is that the healthy food options were not very tasty, so most people (including myself) opted for the non-healthy options. This makes it hard to not gain the 1.5-2 lb. per day that many people average. Drinks were more expensive than I thought they would be, but after a few days we figured out where the best specials and bartenders were to get the most bang for your buck.

Sunday drink of the day. It was tropical, fruity, and full of rum just like all vacation beverages should be.

Best. Thanksgiving. Ever.

THE SHORE EXCURSIONS

Erin and I booked shore excursions in the ports of Cozumel, Mexico and Georgetown, Grand Cayman in the Cayman Islands. Both excursions were well worth the money we spent.

In Cozumel, we took a ferry to Playa del Carmen where we then caught a bus to the city of Tulum. Driving to Tulum involves going through rural, rather poor, areas of Mexico. It was interesting to see a part of real Mexico, rather than just another tourist trap. In Tulum, we hiked through the Mexican jungle to the Mayan Ruins of Coba. Our tour guide, Marco Polo (seriously) had a degree in history and was extremely knowledgeable in explaining the history of the area.

The Mayan Pyramid of Coba.

I did not walk to the top because stairs make me dizzy.

The second shore excursion in Grand Cayman took us to Dolphin Cove where we swam, danced with, and kissed dolphins. It was absolutely amazing to be in such close proximity to these creatures. After, we took a boat to Stingray City, which is a sandbar in the middle of the ocean where hundreds of stingrays live. Some of the rays are very old and large, up to five feet across in wingspan. They are very accustomed to humans and they glide around you and through your feet fearlessly. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any pictures of these excursions because I couldn’t take my camera in the water.

Dolphin Cove - the weather was horrible.

Parrots at Dolphin Cove.

NIGHTLIFE & ENTERTAINMENT

Our dining time was 8:15 pm, and often it was close to 10 pm when dinner finished up, so I was glad that Carnival provided a number of late shows and other entertainment options. We saw musical routines, magic shows, three comedians and some classically bad karaoke. Even if we didn’t go to a show there was always the casino or a number of bars and dance clubs to hang out in. I felt like Carnival really catered to the younger crowd in that respect, which I appreciated.

Mexican dolls.

Indigenous man dancing in Belize City, Belize.

SERENITY DECK

Probably my favorite part of the actual ship was the serenity deck, an adults only sun deck with circular lounge chairs, hot tubs, sauna, steam room and bar. It was incredibly peaceful to just lay in the sun with the sea breeze blowing against my face and sipping a pina colada.

A dying moth in Tulum.

Sunken ship in Mahagony Bay, Isla Roatan, Honduras.

GUESTS

The success of every good party depends on the people who attend. We met so many interesting people who were all down to drink and dance the night away. The experience would not have been the same if the cruise guests hadn’t been fun! At one point, it was said that there is a 1 in 10,000 chance that you will ever see or hear from the other guests ever again, so just put yourself out there and live it up. While I agree with living life to the fullest, I have also located several other guests via Facebook because we (unknowingly) had mutual friends. So, the lesson here is to have fun but don’t be an ass. And, if you are going to be an ass, make sure you do it on the last night of the cruise.

Eating red beans and rice and drinking Belizean beer!

Erin and I excited to swim with dolphins! (Photo credit to Erin.)

Overall, I had SO MUCH FUN. The words I have written here cannot even begin to encapsulate what I experienced. We’re already starting to plan another trip. Going on this cruise and swimming with a dolphin also fulfilled numbers 18 and 30 on my Thirty Before 30 list! I can’t wait to complete all 28 other items!

– A Very Sad, Post-Vacation,  American Twenty-Something

Happy Halloween!

It may be snowing in some places, but in Tallahassee today it was a gorgeous, breezy 63 degrees. I spent the better part of the afternoon holed up in my favorite coffee shop working on a policy critique and reading random news articles. Also, I was rather pleasantly surprised to find out that I was paid early, so now I don’t have to be broke for the rest of the weekend. Yay!

Later, I went to the pumpkin patch with Louise who had some creative ideas for carving. I mainly went along because I like pumpkin patches and didn’t buy anything. Although I enjoy carving pumpkins, I’m not such a fan of the smelly disemboweling and cleaning. Awkwardly, I saw that my archnemesis was also at the patch, but thankfully I managed to avoid her.

Here are some pumpkin patch pics:

Radio Flyer wagons were their equivalent of shopping carts.

White Martha Stewart-esque gourds.

Baby pumpkins.

And one completely unrelated Shiloh picture:

Sometimes she forgets she isn't a human.

Happy Halloween!

– An American Twenty-Something

Valentine’s Day Doesn’t Have to Suck

All yesterday I heard nothing but moaning and groaning about Valentine’s Day (or Singles Awareness Day as some call it). Everyone who is single complained that they didn’t have a Valentine, and everyone who was attached complained that they didn’t receive a gift to their liking. I even overheard one woman comment that she sent herself flowers to pretend that she wasn’t alone. Seriously??? C’mon, people. Speaking as a single 26 year old I’m probably the last person you would expect to defend this holiday, but frankly someone needs to speak up.

Valentine’s Day is about cherishing the loved ones you have in your life. You don’t have to be in a relationship to appreciate the love of your family, friends, pets, etc. People, especially women, seem to form rather high expectations for Valentine’s Day and rarely are they met. If you believe your significant other is going to make a grand gesture to sweep you off your feet, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. Valentine’s Day is not an opportunity for your mate to prove their love to you. If you have a healthy relationship, you should feel loved and appreciated every day of the year. Flipping back through my memories of past relationships, none of my favorite moments occurred on Valentine’s Day. You can’t facilitate these magical milestones, they happen organically.

This year, I decided to celebrate loving myself and the person I have come to be. I have not always loved, respected, or even liked myself so this was an important accomplishment for me. Here is what I did:

Normally when I wake up in the morning my top priority is getting out the door on time even if that means sacrificing full face makeup and straightening my hair. But, when I got up this morning I made sure to spend time on getting ready so I felt confident when I walked out the door. I wore my favorite red sweater and favorite red high heels to match my red nail polish and headed to work.

During my lunch hour I dropped by my local blood bank and donated a pint of blood. Each donation helps up to three people, so it’s a great way to directly impact someone else’s health and future. My phlebotomist was really nice and he told me funny stories about working in the kitchen of a sorority house and the sisters’ over-the-top reactions to being dateless on Valentine’s Day. As I left, the blood bank gave me a white teddy bear and a small packet of conversation hearts – my favorite Valentine’s Day candy.

I rounded out the day by spending it at home, curled up on my brand new pillow-top mattress with my dog, Shiloh, and my latest guilty pleasure, a Sookie Stackhouse novel. Valentine’s Day was also the two-year anniversary of adopting my dog from a local animal shelter, so it was fitting that I spent time with her.

Now, if you have read this entire post and still disagree with me, maybe this post from The Oatmeal can convince you. Less complaining. More sexy rumpus!

– An American Twenty-Something

Advertisements