Saturday, March 24, 2012

Spring Mantel Nook; Trash to Treasure

I have been jealous of all the cute spring mantels popping up lately. 

So last night, I went to the thrift shop and started looking for treasures to turn my mantel into something special.

You see, I have more than a mantel, I have a nook…..a deep alcove to house a television.  The problem – I didn’t like the TV being up that high…so, I have a nook.

What’s in my nook?  Take a look Smile

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Tall glass jar – thrift shop. 

Eggs that are inside are treasured eggs that the girls made when they were little.

Chalkboard plate – just made it today!  I bought the white plate at Target on clearance and used chalk board spray paint.

Little picture above the plate – thrift shop!

Little dragon fly candle holder – thrift shop.

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Topiary – something I already owned.

White candle stick – it used to be gold and I spray painted it antique white.  It was another thrift shop find.

Little clay chick tea light candle holder –you guessed it, thrift shop.

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All the bottles are thrift shop finds – the flowers are from my garden.

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The bottle in the middle was too plain, so I added natural twine to it.

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I made the banner out of scrap pieces of fabric and added chip board letters to spell out SPRING.

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I like the way it turned out – what do you think?  Would you do anything differently?

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Linking up with Thistlewood Farm
Linking up with Embracing Change

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Dear Daughter,

World, I bequeath to you today, one amazing young lady. I trust that you will treat her well….

This weekend, my daughter will be graduating from college. 

She graduated from high school in May 2009 and will be receiving her Bachelor’s degree in Communications with a minor in Professional Writing from the Ohio State University in March 2012 in and out of college in less than 3 years!

She accomplished this feat by taking college courses during her senior year of high school (for free!) and taking a few summer classes at a community college during her first two years.

She is graduating with less than $2500 in student loans, pretty darn amazing!   She did not receive any financial aid.

I am so proud of her! She worked no less than two jobs and paid for two thirds of her tuition with money earned from those jobs.

I still don’t think she realizes how lucky she is to be graduating almost debt free when most students are graduating with $20,000 or more in student loan debt.

That $2500 she borrowed was from her very first semester at a school two hours away from home…she wanted thecollege experience” of living in a dorm. Unfortunately, she was often driving home on the weekends and I constantly worried about that long drive home. So, after gettingdorm life” out of her system, she moved back home and transferred to OSU.

She lived at home the next year and a half, worked at a popular downtown bar where she made great tips, interned at two different places to get communication and Public Relations experience, and carried a full course load at OSU. There were times when I wondered how she was keeping it all together.

One weekend, she worked till 2:30 a.m. and was on Good Morning Columbus at 8:00 a.m. for a short segment on Dog Adoption (this was through one of her internships) the very next morning! It must be nice to be so young and full of energy!

I think she is a very driven person which will do her well as she enters the workforce as a young adult. I wonder what she will be when she grows up? I still ask that question of myself from time to time. I hope she figures it out and does something that she loves.

She moved out six months ago, she wanted a little more freedom and I knew it was time to let her go.

I cried after she left that weekend. As I was cleaning her room and taking stuff off the walls, I cried but not for too long. I remembered that I was cleaning the room of a daughter who had merely moved out, not the room of a daughter that will never come home again. That thought really put things into perspective and I was happy again :)

I just want to say congratulations to my first born daughter. I became a single parent when you were 3, and quickly realized the value of an education. You attended my graduation when you were 5 years old and then again at 9 when I got my MBA. Now, I get to see you walk across that grand stage I am so incredibly proud of you!

So world, I bequeath to you today one amazing young lady. I trust you will treat her well! 
Love, Mom

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Manzanillo, the Final Port

Our fourth and final destination on our 9 day Mexican Riviera Cruise was Manzanillo, Mexico.  The city is known as the Sailfish Capital of the World.  Manzanillo is a major tourist and busiest sea port destination in Mexico.  We were told by Carnival that this was mainly a “working town.”  I wasn’t sure what they meant by this, but when we got off the ship and boarded the tour bus, I saw hundreds and hundreds of shipping containers as we drove down a major thoroughfare.  It was indeed a busy sea port!

Carnival offered an excursion called “Beach and Shopping Tour” and it was $45.95 each.  The tour consisted of:

· Begin with one hour of shopping in the fine stores located in the downtown area.

· Drive through the port of Manzanillo, one of the largest on the Pacific Coast, towards the peninsula of Santiago.

· Enjoy scenic views of Las Hadas Resort & Marina and the twin bays of Manzanillo.

· Continue on to the Miramar Flea Market where you can shop for a variety of arts and crafts.

· Drive to a beach club to soak up the sun, go for a refreshing swim or walk along the beach's golden sand, or relax with a cool drink as you enjoy approximately 2 1/2 hours at the beach.

We did not want to spend this much for a tour, so we got off the ship and found a super nice tour bus that took all six of us to Miramar Beach (which included the Miramar Flea Market) for $10 round trip per person – what a deal!  Miramar Beach is a very popular beach with sun shades ($10 for the day and there are four seats), thatched-roof restaurants, and the arts and crafts market.  Vendors walk around the beach selling their wares.  I ended up purchasing a couple bathing suit cover-ups and a beautiful Mexican blanket – well it ended up being a table cloth.  LOL, it was still beautiful!

We just spent the day on the beach relaxing, drinking Pacificos (Mexican beer) and taking in all that the week had brought.  We had to be back to the ship by 3:00 p.m. so it was a rather short day.  Two more sea days and I’d be back home in the great state of Ohio.
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What will I miss about my cruise vacation/adventure?

The crazy things you only see in only in California! 

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The beautiful scenery:

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Can you spot the seals?

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The cozy little “love shacks” in the adult only section of the ship!  Boy were these hard to get.

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The super-cute little towel animals that await you each night after dinner!

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Pretending like I’m “Queen of the World” – always wanted to do this!

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Making the hubby pose for a picture at the most perfect time Smile

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But mostly, I’m going to miss experiencing and seeing new things with my wonderful husband!

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Can you tell I really enjoyed my vacation?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

25 Things you might not think to bring Cruise Packing List


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Tendering away from the Carnival Spirit

Since I just came off my third cruise, I thought I would put together a little cruise packing list.  I was searching on the internet and I came across so many sites that tell you to pack things like bra and underwear – well duh, I don’t need help remembering to pack things like that!   So, this is not your normal cruise packing list, this list contains stuff you might not think to bring.  Please feel free to add anything else you can think of to the comments section of the post. 

1.      Walkie Talkies – since you won’t be using your cell phone on the cruise, these would have been invaluable to bring.  Notice I said ‘would have been.’ We were cruising with some friends and there were times that we wanted to get in touch with them, but we had to rely on pure luck to just “run into them.  

2.      Power Strip – there was only one outlet to plug two items into (and it wasn’t in the bathroom).

3.      Jeans – even if you are going someplace warm. We had a couple cold mornings and evenings on-board ship.

4.      Jacket and/or Long Sleeve Shirt – I almost didn’t pack a jacket and it was the best thing I brought on the trip.  Mornings were cold and so were the small boat rides on the ocean.

5.      Band-Aids – most people buy new shoes for a cruise and I got a blister on the first day.  Just grab a few from your medicine cabinet so you don’t have to buy them on ship or in port before you leave.

6.      Tums – you will be eating a completely different diet than what you are used to.  Just sayin.

7.      Stool softener – sounds gross, but again, you will be eating a completely different diet.  Out of the three girls that went on this last cruise, it took all of us almost 5 days to REALLY go (if you know what I mean).

8.      Bottle Opener – we were left on the beach with 36 beers that were not twist-offs.  We improvised and used a bottle of suntan lotion to get them open.  Don’t ask, not sure how Nathan did this!  Amazon sells Reef sandals with bottle openers attached (which is where the link above will take you).  Wish we had bought a pair for hubby!

9.      Small pair of scissors – I had to go down to the customer service desk two different times to cut new tags off my scarves.  It would have been more convenient to have my own little pair.

10.     Small collapsible cooler – Would have been great for sitting on the sundeck of the ship to carry ice and sodas (or whatever you sneak on the ship).  Just kidding, you’re not supposed to sneak anything on the ship ;)

11.     Icy Hot – My hubby got a back ache from one of the boat rides we took in the ocean.  It was a little choppy.  If you already have back issues, this is something you should consider bringing. 

12.     Little Packs of Tide to Go Laundry Detergent (in the travel section at Target) – my friends used this to wash small items like bathing suits and workout under-garments.  To have a small load washed on the ship and returned to you that day is $15. 

13.     Hat – Second best thing I brought on the trip.  When you go on excursions, bring it with you even if you don’t want to wear it right away.  Some tropical places get so hot that you may want to wear it later in the day.  Better to have it than not.

14.     Pair of Sweats or Yoga Pants to lounge around in – we would go up in the mornings to grab a freshly brewed cup of coffee.

15.     Leave-In Conditioner Cream to put in your hair after being in the ocean or pool water.  My friend Kim suggests Garnier Fructis.

16.     Small Mirror – I like to see what the back of my hair looks like before going out.  You may or may not need this.

17.     Motion sickness medicine – my husband brought this along even though I said I wouldn’t need it.  I did need it one day!  He said, “told ya so.”  Darn, hate when he’s right :)

18.     Beach Bag with zipper.  This ended up having a dual purpose.  We used it on the ship and at the beach, but it also came in handy when our luggage was over 50 pounds.  We took a few items out of our suitcases and put them in the zippered beach bag to stay under 50 pounds each (we were on a 9 day cruise, so our bags were a little heavy).  We flew Southwest so our bags flew free!

19.     Small flashlight – I’m so glad I brought this!  I used this when I had to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night because it was really dark in our room!

20.     Watch – Another great item to bring.  I would adjust the watch in each port so I knew when to be back to the ship.  You may have your cell phone, but it’s nice to have a back-up in case your phone dies.

21.     2 pair of sunglasses – you may be wondering why?  I lost my first pair and my friend Kim broke the only pair she brought.  They sell sunglasses on the ship for about $30.

22.     Spay Sun Tan/Sun Protection lotion – it’s just convenient.

23.     2 twelve packs of cola and rum runners.  Just kidding.... ;)

24.     Vacuum Pack and Seal Bags – we met a group of Aussie’s who were traveling for more than 3 weeks and they knew how to pack. They all had vacuum sealed bags that made packing a breeze.  I will definitely use these on my next trip!

25.    Your turn – what should be number 25???   

Linking up to Home Stories A to Z

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Carnival Cruise Puerto Vallarta Eco Adventure

This is the only excursion on our 9 day trip that we bought through Carnival.  The trip was 6 hours in duration and was $115.95 each.  It was worth every penny and would make my top 3 excursions list and I have been on several. 
Want to race across the ocean on a speedboat going 40 mph, ride a horse through small streams and tropical jungle, or witness a beautiful waterfall while sipping on ice cold beers and eating baked chips dipped in authentic mouth-watering guacamole?  OK I’ll stop there, but there is more.  Let me tell you about the entire day!

As we got off the Carnival Spirit in Puerto Vallarta, we were met by Pablo, our tour guide for the day.  There were about 20 of us in the group.  Once assembled, we went straight to the inflatable all-weather speedboat and hopped in.  I didn’t realize how far we would be going in the speedboat, but it was about 25 miles out, or a 35 minute boat ride going 35 – 40 MPH.  Our destination was the remote seaside village of Quimixto.  We pulled right up to the boat dock and got out. 

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Speedboat Ride

We walked through the beautiful village of less than 500 inhabitants while Pablo explained the local lifestyle, culture and history. 

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Pablo, our tour Guide

We walked for about five minutes back to an area where we are given helmets and a safety briefing for the horseback ride. We then continued on to the staging area for the horses.  Once there, the local village people helped us mount the horses. 

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Hubby on a very small horse!

When we were all mounted up, the adventure began.    And yes, this was my first rodeo and I was a little bit on the nervous side!  See my hubby above, a 6’5” man on a small Mexican horse! 

Although the ride took us through a small stream, a bit of jungle, and up and down narrow rocky dirt paths, our final destination spot was the beautiful and breathtaking Quimixto waterfall.

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Through Streams

Off the horses, walking to the Falls

Once at the waterfall, you can relax at this nice little restaurant that the locals have been working on for years – this is where I ate the mouth-watering guacamole dip!  A few people chose to swim in the crystal clear waters next to the waterfall.  Those who were brave enough jumped from the rock ledges.  I’m not that brave and the water was too cold for me.  Besides, one slip on those rocks and you could really do some damage.  We just enjoyed the beautiful scenery, cold drinks, and great friends.

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After twenty minutes, we headed back to the horses to return them to the villagers.  The ride back was much easier, as I started getting a little more comfortable on my new ride.  

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After returning our helmets, we headed back to the speed boat and took off for our next great adventure – snorkeling! Our guide took us to a cozy little remote cove with rock reefs and friendly tropical fish.  He educated us on the interesting sea life and even brought some fish up to the top of the water so we could see them up close and personal. 
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We snorkeled for twenty minutes or so and then it was back in the boat for our last stop of the day, Pizota.  Pizota is a remote fishing village of about 100 residents with a tropical ambiance; a secluded piece of paradise if you will.

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The beach boasts hammocks, picnic tables, coconuts, sand mats, an open bar, and an amazing authentic Mexican grill where we feasted on grilled chicken and steak, Mexican beans, salsa, quesadillas, cheesecake, and more!  The food was AMAZING!  We had a few drinks on the beach and relaxed in the sun – bring sunscreen, the sun in HOT!!  Other things that I recommend you bring:

· Hat
· Sunscreen
· Chapstick
· Towel
· Sunglasses
· Long Sleeve Shirt – the boat ride can be chilly going 40 MPH

With not much time left, we hopped back in the boat and headed back to Puerto Vallarta.  Let me say this, the boat ride is pretty smooth, but there were times when we hit a wave or two where the boat came down rather hard.  If you have a bad back, I would not go on this trip.  If you’re borderline, sit in the back of the boat where there is less jarring.  I sat in the very front of the boat, and I felt it.  It was fun though, I had a blast!

I loved our eco-adventure tour.  Unfortunately, we found out that the day after we arrived in Puerto Vallarta that a Carnival Cruise excursion bus tour was robbed.  This is very unfortunate as Puerto Vallarta is a beautiful place to visit.  A few more instances such as this one will more than likely cause other cruise lines to pull out of Mexico.  At least I got to see the good in this place.  Hats off to our tour guide, Pablo – he was great!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Carnival Cruise in Cabo with a little stop at Cabo Wabo, Oh Yeah

Stop number two on our magnificent 9 day cruise was Cabo San Lucas, or Cabo for short.  Cabo is a great spot for beach-goers.  With 360 days of sunshine, you can’t go wrong. Pulling into port, we had to be tendered in (a small boat ride from the ship into port).  Cabo is a beautiful sight for the eyes to see.  There are numerous fishing boats, water taxis, and sail boats adorning the harbor.  As you taxi in, excitement and smiles fill the air.  I can’t wait to get our day started!

A little about Cabo:
· is located at the very tip of the Baja California Peninsula
· is bordered by the Pacific Ocean and Sea of Cortez.
· it began as a small fishing village and is now one of the top tourist destinations.
· Christmas is the busiest time in Cabo
· cheapest time to go is June to mid-November which is when temps are hottest
· hurricane months are September and October

We had two days in Cabo although we had to be back to the ship by late afternoon each day.  On our first day, we again decided against doing a Carnival excursion and instead opted for an impromptu excursion.  We knew we wanted to do whale watching.  When we first got off the ship, we made the mistake of talking to the very first guy that came up to us – in the end, he was trying to get us to go to a timeshare presentation.  No matter what free stuff they offer you, DO NOT get roped into a timeshare presentation.  We walked a little further down the street and talked to a few more people who were offering whale watching excursions.  In the end, we settled on a 2 hour whale watching tour with an additional 2 hour stop at Lovers Beach with snorkeling.  He also threw in 36 beers and a cooler with ice (there were 6 of us).  We were charged $35 each.  To compare, a whale watching tour through Carnival is anywhere between $76 and $99 per person according to which tour you take.  I thought we got a pretty good deal!

Whale watching was pretty darn cool.  The best time for whale watching in Cabo is from mid-January to mid-March – perfect timing for us!  During this time, humpback and gray whales invade the Bay of Cabo San Lucas.  The whales migrate from their artic feeding grounds in Alaska to breed and rear their young in Cabo’s sheltered lagoons.  We saw about 5 whales in our cozy water taxi and they were close enough to get photos.  My only piece of advice would be to wear a jacket or long sleeve.  It was rather chilly speeding through the ocean waters chasing whales!

Lovers Beach is a must see, must do and you definitely need water transportation to get there.  There is a great view where the Sea of Cortez meets the Pacific Ocean.  Once on Lovers Beach, you will enjoy beautiful wind and water shaped rock formations.  Do not try to swim on the Pacific side, it’s way too dangerous.  Limit your snorkeling and swimming to the Sea of Cortez side.  Although we had snorkeling gear, the water was a little too cold for us.  But, we did have a great time enjoying the beautiful scenery and taking in the rays.

After Lovers Beach, we were dropped off in Cabo where we had lunch right next to Senior Frogs.  Again, the food was delicious and the beers were ice cold.  Nice ending to a beautiful day.

On day two in Cabo, the girls wanted to go shopping and the guys were dying to go to Cabo Wabo.  If you have never heard of Cabo Wabo, it is a restaurant owned by rock musician Sammy Hagar of Van Halen. He plays live at the club at least once a year (on his birthday Oct 13th) with his band, “The Wabo’s.”

As stories go, here’s my Cabo Wabo story.  First of all, I got to jump up on stage with the Mexican band that plays 80’s music there.  I’m a rock star wannabe even though I once got kicked off PlayStation Rock Band – I mean, I super REALLY can’t sing.  After my rock star adventure, I had to go to the bathroom.  I head into the bathroom, take my sunglasses off and attach them to the front of my shirt and get on with business (can you see where this is going yet).  I turn around and bend over to flush the toilet and before I could catch them, my sunglasses went tumbling into the flushing toilet, before it completely flushed – EWWWE!!!  I think I sort of threw up in my mouth a little when this happened.  For some reason, I instinctively grabbed the glasses (EWWWE again), ran over to the sink and ran them under the hottest water that would come out and washed, no scrubbed them feverishly with soap.  Because of this really gross misfortune, I’m sure I was gone at least 5 minutes and when I get back, I can tell something had just happened.  I go up to hubby and he is beaming with excitement.  I asked what happened and our friend Rick shows me a picture of Sammy Hagar. 

Our friend Rick got a great shot of Sammy!

Sammy came out while I was in the bathroom.  Seriously, I have to fish my sunglasses out of a flushing toilet and they get to see a famous rock star - that is my stinking luck!  Oh well, that was the hi-light and entire reason hubby wanted to go to Cabo Wabo – so his wish came true.  At least Kim and I had fun shopping! 

Would I go back to Cabo – yes I would!  It was my favorite place on this cruise.  I picked up a few silver pieces for my girls (a ring and a bracelet), an amzing sign made out of license plates that I am saving for a future post, and a cute little hammock to hang from my pergola.  You'll have to keep checking back to see these items.

Next stop, Puerto Vallarta – our most adventurous excursion of the trip!  It involves speedboats, horses, waterfalls, and of course our handsome guide Pablo Smile

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Getting ready to go out whale watching

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Formed Rock jetting out from Lovers Beach

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Lovers Beach Pacific side
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Boat Harbor heading into Cabo
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The famous Cabo Wabo

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My Rock Star Moment
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