Monday, April 28, 2014

Trip Fever

We are in the midst of purchasing a home and all of the fun stuff that goes along with that so this spring, instead of taking a trip, we are having a stay-cation.  And while I do love a nice, relaxing week at home, I also LOVE to travel.  And it doesn't help that my best friend and her family are currently at DisneyWorld. 

We are thinking of going somewhere in the fall, so we need to narrow down a location soon.  I'm up for anything - cruise, beach, mountains, etc. 

I was going through albums on Facebook and I was filled with good memories of our recent travels...

Panama City Beach

Definitely one our favorite places.  We always stay at the same place, the Osprey Motel.  It's an older, family-owned hotel and each room has a kitchen and balcony.  What I love most about the Osprey, well besides their unbelievable prices, is that this isn't a high-rise like so many places in PCB now.  It has 5 floors with easy access to parking both underneath the building and in a lot directly across the street.  No waiting 15 minutes for an elevator or traffic leaving a parking deck.  And there is ample space on the beachfront.  I always feel at home here and that is a big deal to me. 

The Osprey Motel (view from the beach)

View from our balcony
In PCB, one of our favorite places to visit is Pier Park.  Located just a short walk from the Opsrey, Pier Park is a huge shopping and entertainment area.  We enjoy browsing the stores, hitting the movie theater (a beach tradition for us), and having a snack.  In our past visits, we have eaten at Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville, Hofbrau Beer Garden, and Red Brick Pizza.  We have also made stops at Tootsies for drinks and Kilwin's for delicious fudge and ice cream sundaes.

Deliciousness from Kilwins

Stop #2 - Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

I have loved going up to the Smoky Mountains since I was young.  My parents took my brother and I just about every summer.  My parents visited Gatlinburg on their honeymoon as did Hubs and I. 

It is one of those classic places with lots of shops, amazing food, and beautiful scenery.  And it is home to one of my most favorite places ever - Dollywood!

This area is also home to about 5,459 breakfast places.  Hubs loves it.

I seriously love Dollywood.

We have mainly stayed at hotels because we tend to go and do a lot.  We don't usually kick back and relax when we are in the mountains.  I don't know why.  On our last trip in April 2012, we visited my The Old Mill - my new favorite restaurant.  Their food is amazing.  And the restaurant has a water wheel outside.  I love it.  My parents LOVE their corn chowder and last time I was there, I took back $50 worth of corn chowder mix for them.


Next up, we get a little interational...Cruise #1

We went on our first cruise in August 2011 with my parents and some friends.  Carnival still had a port in Mobile at the time so we took the quick trip to Mobile and boarded the ship around lunchtime on a Monday.  Our cruise was a 5 day to Cozumel and Calica, Mexico.  It was a great experience for us.  No sea sickness for me (which is huge because I get nauseated quickly on various transportation devices) and everyday was perfect weather (well it was HOT).

Cruises are most famous for their food - all you could eat, anytime of the day.  We indulged.  A lot.  We had buffets at breakfast and lunch and formal dining for dinner.  Plus, ice cream anytime I wanted. 
Chicken and Fetticini in the formal dining room

Carnival's famous Chocolate Melting Cake.  Amazing.
Cruise #2
Hubs and I took cruise #2 with my cousin K in October 2012.  We left out of New Orleans for a 4 day trip to Cozumel and back.  We visited a different port in Cozumel so that was really nice. 
We actually took the same ship as our first cruise.  But for us, we just enjoyed the relaxation and weren't so concerned about a different ship, or even a different location.  Plus, it helped us get around faster since we were Elation veterans.
Docked at Cozumel
Deliciously fresh guacamole and salsa.
While my first cruise proved perfect in terms of ship movement, this trip made up for it.  It was very windy and we felt it quite a bit more.  The night we left Cozumel, they posted some nice bags to use in case you got sick.  Thankfully I had plenty of dramimine but I could see where those bags might come in handy. 

Barf bags.

So overall, the sea sickness was a bit rough this time.  And land sickness was actually really bad.  I spent all evening at home in my recliner.  But that wasn't Carnival's fault. 

Despite all of the bad press Carnival received last year, I am still up for another trip. I know that certain circumstances can't be helped.  But one thing I have to praise Carnival for is their staff.  Everyone we have never came in contact with was friendly and always willing to help.  They really see to it that your vacation is as perfect as possible.  Really and truly, the only thing you have to do for yourself is shower.  They do everything else. 

I highly recommend that everyone take a cruise at least once.  If you aren't sure, take a 3 day.  That will really tell you if a longer cruise is in the cards for you.  I don't know if a 7-day is my thing but 4 and 5 were just perfect. 

And lastly, Gulf Shores, Alabama

We visited Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama, with some of our best friends and their little girl last July.  We stayed with Ash's dad, who lives in Orange Beach.  They graciously opened their home to us and while it was cramped quarters, we had a blast.  Besides one minor hiccup with our car, it was a great vacation.

Hubs and EK on the beach for the 4th of July

While we were in town, we got our fill of seafood for sure.  First our first real evening, we picked up steamed shrimp from Billy's Seafood.  Their motto is "If it swims we got it."  The shrimp was amazing!  We took it back to the condo and had corn on the cob, potatoes, and hush puppies.  Delicious.

For lunch one day, we hit up the Shrimp Basket on all-you-can-eat popcorn shrimp day.  It was so good!  And their tarter sauce is amazing.

One place Hubs really wanted to try was Lambert's Cafe.  They have delicious southern foods and several all-you-can-eat pass-arounds like fried okra, fried potatoes, and hot rolls (thrown to you).  The only thing I don't care for is the humor they use.  For example, one waitress (not ours) acted like she tripped and her trick cup looked like coke was about to be all over me.  And some of them are sarcastic.  Some people think that is hilarious but I'm not a fan.  Just give me good food and leave me alone.  I'm not high-maintenance.  The food really was delicious though and I took back a plate of leftovers for a midnight snack.

And that last place we tried was the Original Oyster House.  It is a landmark.  The wait was 45-1 hour.  However, they overlooked up so at 1 hour and 45 minutes, Jim went to check and sure enough, we were skipped.  Anyway, I had the salad bar (which was yummy!) and shrimp.  I wasn't so impressed with my dinner.  And everyone sort of had an issue.  Either it was wrong or in some cases the fish was way overcooked.  So I won't say I wouldn't go back but I wasn't so impressed since it has such a reputation. 

So now I'm craving a trip even more! 


Monday, April 21, 2014

Aunt Mel

I have four adorable kids in my life.  They call me Aunt Mel.  I am truly blessed to have them all in my life.  I currently do not have any children but these special kiddos make my world a little bit brighter.  They are the children of mine and Hubs' best friends.  Two couples who I truly wouldn't know what to do without.  They are the kind of people who would be there if we needed them.  Regardless of time or place.  They are those kind of people.  I cherish them all so much and I am so thankful I get to join in and watch their sweet babies grow up. 

With the birth of our newest little guy, I thought I would talk a little bit about each of these special little people.

N was born right before his mom and I become good friends.  We knew each other through a mutual friend but it wasn't until later that we became close.  Now, she is one of my best friends.  In fact, N and his mom are the reason I started my photography business.  I began photographing him at 18 months.  He just turned 6.  His is so handsome, super smart, a wickedly-good baseball player, and the sweetest guy ever.  He still runs up to Hubs and I for big hugs.  For a boy, that's a big deal. 

EK has a double first name.  We often guess whether she will keep it or might drop to one name or the other as she gets older.  But, we realized that more times than not, we simply call her EK.  It's unique.  Just like her.  She is a ball of energy.  Our favorite little diva princess.  She's 4 going on 24.  And I hope she never changes.  It's probably a good thing both her dad and her Uncle Bob own shotguns.  And she pretty much thinks her bud N hung the moon.

Baby C joined our group in November.  Apparently she knew her mom's OCD number issue so while she was scheduled to be born on November 22, C decided to make us wait until the 23rd.  We were not only surprised at her long-awaited arrival but then she decided to be born with red hair.  Our little red headed, fair-skinned doll.  N is her big brother and he LOVES his sister.  I was so blessed to be there to photograph our entire journey.  It was a day I will never forget.  And as girly as her momma is going to make her, her dad is still an influence.  She recently learned to spit.  Sadly, it's the cutest thing I have ever seen.

And last but certainly not least...

Big Man L just arrived last week.  He's a tax day baby.  And he might just be one of the most beautiful babies I have ever seen (except for maybe N, EK, and C).  I got to love on him at the hospital and again at his house.  He is so laid back (at least when I am around).  I can't wait to really see his big sister EK interact with him.  I have a feeling she will be bossying him around before long.  I can't wait to see him play with C the way their older siblings play together. 

That's them.  My babies.  I do love them so.  I wish them all lives full of love, laughter, and amazing friendships.  I pray they are strong, compassionate people and that they follow their dreams.  The world is a big place and I hope the four of them can cover as much of it as they want.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Awkward Moments

So I thought it would be nice to scan all of my parents old family pictures.  I am scanning them and will create discs so that we can preserve these memories forever.  And boy did I find some memories.  I have scanned maybe 40% of the pictures and I have found some major doozies.  Awkward-city.

The teddy bear?  Why??

Me.  In a cowboy hat.  On a donkey.

Apparently Santa and I were not hitting it off.

Easter - circa early 1990s. I'm the short one.  I don't even know where to start. 
White shoes?  That dress!  Oh lawd the hair!
 Another Easter.  This time - 1989.  My purse matched my shoes.  And please be jealous of those socks.

 And last but certainly not least.  Miss Awkward 7th Grade.
Band picture. Huge, gold-rimmed glasses.  Boy haircut.

Menu Plan Monday

I'm back!  It's been a while.  I can't believe it is already April!  We have some fun stuff happening in the next few weeks.  One of my oldest friends is getting married on May 3rd and I'm in the wedding.  Then we leave for a week at the beach for Hub's big 30th birthday.  Very excited!  Not to mention I have two huge photography events in June and another wedding!  Busy times.

Recently we have been trying to control our grocery budget.  For two people, we can sometimes spend entirely too much on groceries.  And then we have a lot of waste too.   We are trying to be more conscious about what we are purchasing and definitely taking advantage of things like leftovers!

Here is this week...

Saturday - Barbeque Chicken Legs and Turkey Smoked Sausage, grilled squash, rice, and garlic bread

Sunday - Skillet Hamburgers and fries (we were going to grill but thunderstorms kept us inside)

Monday - Cajun-seasoned, skillet-fried chicken with roasted potatoes and asparagus

Tuesday - Grilled Chicken with Provolone Cheese, Corn on the Cob, Mashed Potatoes, and garlic bread

Wednesday - Grilled Hot Dogs and Brats with fries

Thursday - Grocery Night!

For hundreds of menu ideas, visit!