Carnival Eastern Caribbean Cruise Recap

Summer vacations.  Do you love them?  Are you a beach person, mountain person, cruise person?  A lot of times, we are a beach vacation family.  This past year though, we opted to go on a cruise, and I couldn’t be more happy with the time we had.  It was so nice to HAVE to unplug and relax.  We booked a seven night Eastern Caribbean cruise through Carnival that left out of Port Canaveral, FL.  So….let’s go, I’m excited to tell you all about it.

Carnival Breeze docked at Amber Cove, Dominican Republic

 

Day One:  Travel Day.  This was a long day for sure, but we wanted to give ourselves plenty of time in case of a flight delay, which meant we scheduled our flight for 5:10 am.  We landed in Orlando at 7:20 a.m. and had to just hang out until the bus company we were using to get over to the port opened.  Let’s talk about that for a minute.  We looked at several options to get us on to Port Canaveral which is about fifty minutes from the airport.  Ultimately, we ended up choosing Go Port which worked out really well.  Their counter is located inside the airport by the car rental companies.  Just check your group in, get tags for your luggage, chill in the waiting area until it’s your turn, and hop on the bus (think tour bus).  They run daily from the airport to the port from 10 to 1.  I believe it was $15.00 per person one way (we were doing something different when we returned which I’ll tell you about later).  Once we arrived at Port Canaveral, our luggage was unloaded for us (we did verify all of ours had been taken off the bus successfully;)), and all we had to do was board the ship.  We were at the port before our scheduled boarding time; however there were lines for early, late, and on time arrivals, and Carnival did a great job of getting everyone through quickly.

Waiting on Go Port to open.
If we look tired, we were….but some of us were doing better than others! 🙂

 

Once on the ship, we had to wait a little bit for our rooms to be available so we grabbed some lunch.  Most of us grabbed something from Guy’s Burger Joint (delicious, you’ll probably want to eat there more than once).

Our Rooms:  We had two rooms on the ship since we had a total of 7 in our group.  One room was a deluxe ocean view, and the other was an interior room that slept four.  The deluxe ocean view room had four closets, a vanity area, a queen size bed and a couch that served as a twin bed.  It also had two bathrooms, one full with a shower, sink area, and toilet and the other with a sink and tub/shower combo.  All in all, it was very spacious for a stateroom.  The interior room had four twin beds (one upper and one lower on each side), three closets, and one full bathroom.

Deluxe ocean view room

 

We opted for late dining so we could spend as much time ashore as possible, so after dinner in the Blush Restaurant, we called it a night.

Day Two.  Fun day at sea.  Our first full day on board.  We chose to eat breakfast in our dining room (Blush Restaurant), rather than at the Lido Buffet.  This seemed to be a less crowded breakfast option most days.  After eating, we hung out on one of the decks and soaked in the sun.  Some of us had lunch/snacks at BlueIguana Cantina, while others ate at Pizza Pirate.   One thing I was really excited about doing onboard was playing bingo! ( I know, I know…we were going to all these fantastic places and I was excited about bingo).  No one won, but we had fun.  We also purchased the pass for the Thrill Theater.  At the time of our cruise, it was $5.50 per showing or $14.95 (adult) and $11.95 (12 & under) for the unlimited pass. Since most of us wanted to take in more than one show, it made sense to buy the pass.  I think my favorite was the Level 1 show.  This ship has a video arcade that we checked out this first day and added some money to the boys’ sail and sign cards so they could play throughout the week.  Camp Ocean (ages 2-11), Circle C (ages 12-14), and Club O2 (ages 15-17) are the club options onboard for kids, so we checked the two for older kids out the first day.  Nate (17) took advantage of hanging out in Club O2 a few times during our cruise.  Before changing into our “fancy” clothes (this night was one of two elegant dinner nights), we took in the Jodi White PG comedy show at The Punchliner Comedy Club.  After dinner, we were down for the count again.

*Side note:  Dan and I opted to dress up both elegant nights because…why not?!  I mean when else do you get to dress up?  I wore a dress both nights, and Dan wore a tie and suit jacket.  Some were just as dressed up as us, and others were a little more casual.

Our dining room and the limelight lounge where the comedy shows & bingo were held.

 

Watching Friday the 13th in the thrill theater…frightening! Just kidding. 🙂 This is the waiting area to go into the theater.
First elegant evening. My favorite picture of the entire cruise.

 

Day Three.   Amber Cove, Dominican Republic.  We were up and at ’em early this morning so we could go ashore quickly.  We did not do an excursion at this port since there is a large pool area, two waterslides, a lazy river,  a swim-up bar, and several lounge chairs.    The Coco Cana Lounge is located right at the port as well if you’re hungry.  We did not eat but we did buy some non-alcoholic drinks from the restaurant.  Of course, we had to buy some souvenirs before getting back on the ship. Not to worry, there are plenty of stores to shop in.

There are several items that can be rented and activities to participate in that do not have to be booked through an excursion.  WiFi, kayaks, zip lining, and cabanas to name a few.  Prices ranged from $5 (pool noodles) to $1,170 (grand cabana).

Back on the ship, we ate a late lunch/snack and got ready for our late dinner time.  This was the night that Terrick decided to start trying all the crazy food options.  I was both impressed and disgusted.  After dinner, some of us watched the Motor City show, and a few of us took in the over 18 comedy show afterwards.  If you are easily offended, just skip this.

Looking out from the ship at some of the cabanas available to rent and part of the pool area.

 

On the left…the ox tongue that Terrick ate all of, and in other news…my fried chicken.

 

Day Four.  St. Thomas, USVI.  Excursion time!  We took an open air bus to Sapphire Beach. The water there was absolutely beautiful.  While there, you could relax in the chairs that were provided or take time to snorkel.  The snorkeling equipment was provided as well.  Four of us (I’ll let you guess who) went snorkeling, and three of us relaxed on the beach.  Those that went snorkeling were able to see a huge (10-12 feet, no joke!) stingray, among other cool creatures.  Unfortunately, the underwater camera we had purchased broke, so no pictures.  Sounds like a big fish tale now, right?  But I promise, if you go and ask the snorkel shop gentleman, he will tell you the stingray exists and has a name!  We had about two hours on the beach before it was time to head back to the ship.  On the way back, our bus made a stop at a spot that overlooked the port area.  Once back at the port, it was souvenir time again so we ran to some of the stores that are located close by.  Dinner and the Love & Marriage Show wrapped up the evening.

*If you care about connecting with anyone back at home, your phone will work on St.Thomas since it is a U.S. Territory.

Some of the scenery from St.Thomas, and Terrick’s crazy food choice….rabbit.

 

Day Five.  San Juan, Puerto Rico.  We weren’t sure we were going to get to stop in San Juan with all the political protests going on at that time, but we did and what an historical day it turned out to be with the governor resigning the evening we had been there.  I’m not going to lie, there were a few times we felt just a little uncomfortable seeing the grafitti, boarded up windows, and some protestors,  but never really felt unsafe.  We walked around Old San Juan, went to several of the shops (which felt a lot more authentic & not so touristy), and just took in the sights.  We stopped for lunch at El Jibarito, after asking for recommendations from some of the locals, and grabbed an iced coffee at Cuatro Sombras just before getting back on the ship.  My only wish is that we had had a little more time to explore.   Not really sure what we did back onboard, other than it was the second elegant evening of the cruise.

*Your phone will work in San Juan as well 🙂

A snapshot of our day in San Juan.

 

Day Six.  Grand Turk.  This was an all day beach day for us.  We had read that the chairs were free, despite the numerous people that will insist you pay for them.  We tried the tactic of refusing to pay, until Dan went and asked the port attendant who confirmed that only a certain color of chair was reserved for the Carnival ship. Who knows? Maybe she was in on the scheme too.  🙂  Regardless, we negotiated a price that seemed fair and enjoyed the day!  The water is beautiful and crystal clear.  There are several places to shop before or after relaxing on the beach.  We wrapped up the day back on the ship with dinner, the Cowboy Comedian comedy show, and the Country Road production.

The beautiful beach and water at Grand Turk….and one last look at Terrick’s food (frog legs)

 

Day Seven.  Fun Day at Sea.  More like sad day at sea. 🙁  We tried to squeeze everything in that we hadn’t done or wanted to do one last time.  That included participating in several of the trivia games, going to the Thrill Theater a couple more times, and playing miniature golf to name a few.  Oh! We also attended Tea Time.  Other than that, the day was spent packing everything up.

Day Eight.  Travel back home day.  We were up early so we could eat breakfast in our dining room which was served from 6:00 am – 8:00 am.  I haven’t mentioned it, but if you eat breakfast in the dining room, make sure you try the pineapple juice.  Yum!  We kept our luggage with us so we could immediately leave the port after disembarking.  We took a short shuttle ride (Enterprise shuttle, just tip the driver) over to Enterprise to pick up the van we had rented since our flight back home wasn’t until 4:40, which was the only reason we did not use Go Port like we did at the beginning of our trip.  From there we headed to Disney Springs, had some lunch, and spent some time looking around before heading to the airport.

*If your group is on two different decks, make sure you communicate your plan well prior to the debarkation morning.  It got a little hectic for us just making sure we knew where everyone was.

Overall it was an amazing cruise with a great itinerary.  There wasn’t a single destination that we wouldn’t want to go back to and explore even more.  If you have any questions, I will most definitely try to answer them, just leave them in the comments!

Five Simple Hiking Tips

If you had told me 10, 15, 20 years ago that I would like hiking, I would have thought you had lost your mind.  I am, by nature, (haha) not an outdoorsy girl.  The older I get, the more I seem to enjoy being outside though, and there is something about starting a task and seeing it through that appeals to me.  We are no experts (my husband & I), however we have learned a thing or two that might be helpful.

Download the AllTrails App.  I’m sure people have been hiking for years without technology, but it’s available so why not take advantage of it?  We use this app on almost every hike we go on. Some of our favorite features are the maps, trail reviews,  personal statistics tracker (miles hiked, elevation gained, calories burned, etc.). The app will show you trails near you or you can search by destination. The map feature is handy so that you can keep track of how far you have left (or how far you’ve already come!).  Just remember to download the map before you hit the trail as you may not have signal once you get out in the boonies, and many trails aren’t well marked.  Some features require subscription to the “Pro” version, but many are free.

Pack a bag.  Unless it is a super short hike, we always take at least one bag.  Most of the time, we each take one.  What do we take with us?  Water, water, water, and more water.  I know 2, 3,…5 miles doesn’t sound like a lot, but you want to make sure you have plenty (now, you don’t want to overdo it and drink too much either).  Snacks.  We usually take some granola bars, slim jim sticks, or snack crackers, just something to get a little boost of energy if you need it.  This is especially helpful if you have kids with you.  I mean they think they’re starving on a regular day, let alone on a 2-3 hour hike.  Rain gear.  We’ve been rained on more than once, so we now take a cheap poncho with us, just in case.  1st aid kit.  We have a small one with just some band-aids, wipes, and antibiotic ointment.  Bug spray and sunscreen.  If you’re not going to be out long enough to reapply, I would put some on before you head out and leave it behind.  No need to have extra weight to carry around.

Wear the right clothes.  Obviously, you will want to check the forecast ahead of your hike, if possible, so that you can dress for the weather you will encounter. Having said that, there are some basics that will apply regardless. First and foremost, wear shoes appropriate for the hike. We recommend hiking shoes or boots. They will be more likely to provide the traction, support, and durability you will want.  Maybe more important than the shoes is a good pair of socks. Merino wool is a good choice as it will provide cushion while also keeping your feet from getting too sweaty. As we said above, plan for the weather if you can, but dressing in layers will allow you to adapt to unexpected changes in weather.

Start early.  This will help you avoid a crowd on the trails.  Depending on the length of the trail, it will also help to avoid hiking during the hottest part of the day.

Let someone know where you’re going.  Last, but certainly not least, tell someone where you are going.  Goodness forbid something unforeseen happen, but if it does you want to make sure someone knows where you are.

Resolution or Improvement: You Decide

Resolution.  Definition:  a firm decision to do or not do something.

Improve.  Definition:  make or become better.

Last night (at this point, last night was 3 days ago) I wrote a few things down as resolutions for this new year, most of which I had written down at the start of 2018, and didn’t even bother with in 2019.  There’s the obvious lose weight or exercise more, be more organized, etc.  But as I was writing, I started thinking about my day to day routine and what I could do to improve my life one day at a time or maybe even help improve someone else’s day.

So many times , I get up (late most of the time) and am just blah about going to work, and then by the time I get there (late) I’m already frustrated.  One look at the piles of papers and I’m overwhelmed, which leads to more frustration.  I find myself just having a bad attitude.  Ouch!  Not what one likes to think about themselves.  It’s true though! Someone will compliment me, and instead of just receiving the compliment and being thankful, I’ll come back with “it could’ve been better”, or “well thanks, but….”  Gah!  Why do we do that?  Just say thank you!

Which leads me to one of the things I wrote down last night….pass out at least one compliment daily.  Be it at home, at work, out for lunch, wherever.  Do you know how many times I see someone wearing something I like, or I see someone do something nice, or a co-worker does a really great job on something and I just keep my mouth shut?  Why??  Maybe because I know how I react to compliments, maybe because I tend to be reserved…whatever the reason, it is my hope that this year I improve my attitude, pass out the compliments, and in doing so maybe improve someone else’s day.

So, for me, that’s what 2020 is going to look like: improving.  Rather than making resolutions that I’m bound to fail at, I’m going to work on improving one minute ( to work earlier) , one pile of papers, one workout, one blog post, one compliment at a time.

What about you?  Is there anything you hope to improve on in 2020?  Maybe you could join me in giving out daily compliments.  Imagine how many days we could improve if we all speak up when we see something we like or to recognize a job well done.

Five Hikes To Take In The Smokies

We try to squeeze at least one hike in every year when we go to the Smoky Mountains, so I’m sharing five of our favorites with you.

Rainbow Falls.  This trail is rated as moderate in difficulty, however you are climbing up most of the way to the falls.  That just means the way down is easier, right?!  It is 5.4 miles round trip and takes between 3-5 hours to complete.  You will likely hear  water flowing several times and think you’re close.  Just be patient… you will get there.   About half way to the actual Rainbow Falls, there is a smaller, but very pretty, waterfall that is worth taking a break and snapping some pics.  If it is a sunny day and you are lucky when you make it to the falls, you may get to see a rainbow created by the mist.  Be careful on the rocks around the falls, they do get very slippery due to all the mist.

Grotto Falls.  Another trail rated moderate in difficulty.  I would say that is more true on this one.  It is only 2.6 miles round trip.  Terrick was fairly young when we hiked this one, and didn’t have any trouble.  You are able to walk behind the waterfall which is a cool experience.  We did get to see some black bears in the distance, too!

Laurel Falls.  Laurel Falls is one of the most popular trails in the Smokies, so it can get pretty crowded.  I would recommend going early.  The trail is paved and is probably the easiest one we have hiked.  Depending on how much time you spend at the falls, you can make it there and back in less than 2 hours.  Of these five hikes (four with falls), Laurel Falls is the prettiest in my opinion.  The falls are 80 feet high, and flow down into a stream at the bottom of the upper section.  They continue under a walkway bridge and form the lower section.  Great spot for pictures!

Baskins Creek Falls. Phew!  This is definitely the most difficult hike we’ve taken in the Smokies, although it is rated as moderate as well.  This is a good hike if you don’t like crowds, as it is not one of the most well known trails.  Definitely take plenty of water and wear good shoes on this one!  There are a few places you will need to use both hands to steady yourself going up or down some rocky areas.  The waterfall at the end is neat, although getting closer to it is a little tricky.  Let’s just say one of us ended up with some wet pants, socks & shoes.  The trek back is mostly uphill, and we’re talking pretty steep.  If you hike this in the winter or spring, there are some decent views of Gatlinburg at the beginning of the trail.  We also spotted two deer on our hike. *Hint:  Don’t cost yourself extra time looking for the Baskins Creek Falls sign (it doesn’t exist).  The sign that says Baskins Creek Trails is indeed what you’re looking for.

Cucumber Gap.  I think this may be my favorite of these five.  There are two trail heads – Little River Trailhead or Jakes Creek Trailhead.  We started on the Little River which literally runs parallel to the river.  It was so peaceful, and this half of the trail is flat making it very easy.  I love listening to the sound of the water flowing and watching it flow over the rocks.  Beautiful!  About an hour in, if you start on the Little River Trailhead, you come to a bridge and will see a stream that is fed by Huskey Branch Falls.  Get off the beaten path just a little bit if you’re able and take the short climb to get a better view of the falls. Although not as large as some of the other falls in the park, they are worth seeing.  The second half of the trail is a little more difficult, but not bad.  There are a few exposed roots that you have to make sure you don’t get tripped up on.  There are also a couple streams you have to cross which, for me, just makes it more fun!  Be on the lookout for ruins of the early Elkmont settlers.  At 5.6 miles and about three hours to complete, it is well worth the hike.

Read my other post on what to do in the Smokies here.

Rainbow Falls
Rainbow Falls
Baskins Creek Falls
Cucumber Gap
Cucumber Gap

What to do in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg

Spring Break 2019 was spent in Pigeon Forge & Gatlinburg.  Spring Break 2018 was spent in Pigeon Forge & Gatlinburg.  Spring Break 2017….are you starting to see a pattern here?  We enjoy going year after year.  There are so many things to do.  You can spend as much money as you want or as little as you want and have a great time either way.

What we like to Do:

Oh goodness.  Where to start?  There is so much to do.

1.  Mini Golf.  We always end up playing mini golf at one of the many places to choose from.  One of our favorites is Professor Hacker’s Lost Treasure Golf, where you ride the mining train to the first hole.   There are two 18 hole courses to choose from. Crave Golf Club is one of the newer attractions in Pigeon Forge.  There is an indoor and an outdoor course that put a new twist on how you play.   They also offer mini bowling, which we’ve played the last two years.  If you are craving (pun intended) something sweet, grab a milkshake or a treat from the candy store.

Riding the mining car to the first hole at Professor Hacker’s.
The “twist” on how you play at Crave. Spin to see what you have to do…putt on one knee, close your eyes, etc.

 

Cocoa cliffs milkshake at Crave.

 

2. Parrot Mountain. Parrot Mountain is a sanctuary for birds that have been abused or just need a new home.  We went for the first time in 2018, and it was a request to go again this year.  I cannot say enough good things about it.  It is such a neat experience.  There are so many birds…parrots, toucans, peacocks.    In one area, you can feed, hold, or pet several of the birds.  We have not eaten there, but there is a snack bar area if you get hungry.  If you are really liking these birds, there is a baby bird nursery where you can pet the babies and make one yours if you’d like.

So much fun. Pretty sure we were having a deep conversation in the bottom right pic. Some of them will talk to you though…”whatcha doin?” has been my favorite.
Feeding the lorikeets nectar.

 

3. Anakeesta.  Anakeesta is a theme park located in the heart of Gatlinburg that offers several things to do.  Start by riding the enclosed gondola [one of us was a little apprehensive, so we did this the first time up] or the open-air chair to Firefly Village  where you can grab a bite to eat or do some shopping.  Take a humbling stroll along the Memorial Forest Walk area and read about the devastating 2016 fires and the resiliency of the people of Sevier County.  Sit in one of the many rocking chairs and take in the beauty of the mountains.  If you have little ones [or big ones…the boys may have checked it out], they will love to play in the Treehouse Village Playground.  Then, it’s on to the Tree Canopy Walk which is a series of sky bridges amongst the trees.  This was especially cool in the evening.   If you are feeling really adventurous, try the mountain coaster or zipline adventure.  One of the great things about visiting Anakeesta is the admission price is good all day long, so if you want to go back for dinner or to watch the sunset you can definitely take advantage of the opportunity!

Our daytime trip to Anakeesta.
Beautiful sunset from atop Anakeesta.
Tree Canopy Walk at night.

 

4.  Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies.  Now, it has been a couple years since we went to the aquarium, but I’m sure we will make it back soon.  I hear they have a new glass bottom boat adventure that we need to check out.  I think my favorite part is the Penguin Playhouse.  The penguins are just so cute and always look like they’re having fun.

5.  Escape rooms.  While there are several of these to choose from too, we opted for Kryptology Escape Rooms in Pigeon Forge.  We did Da Vinci’s Challenge, and although we didn’t escape (bummer!) we had a blast.  I felt like it was family friendly, and the staff was great!

We had to blame someone for not escaping…sorry babe! 😉

 

6. The Island in Pigeon Forge.  We always end up here, if for no other reason than to take in the sights and sounds.  This is one place you can go that won’t cost you a dime, yet you will leave still having had a great time.  The dancing fountains are so pretty to watch.  There are so many stores to wander in and out of.  The Beef Jerky Outlet, Sweet! candy store, and the Parrot Mountain store (because you know…we didn’t get enough of the birds when we went to Parrot Mountain) are some of the stores we always seem to go in.  If you are wanting to spend some money, there are plenty of activities like The Island Ropes Course, The Great Smoky Mountain Wheel, or the Island Mirror Maze to name a few.

Dancing fountains with The Great Smoky Mountain Wheel in the background.

 

7.  Chimneys Picnic Area.  Back to Gatlinburg for this one.  This is one of our favorite areas, and also won’t cost you anything.  It’s so serene, but full of rocks to climb on.  Just be careful…they are slippery when wet!

Cades Cove, gem mining at the Pigeon Forge Gem Mine, racing at Nascar Speed Park, and taking the challenge at Magiquest are a few more of our favorite things to do.

Stay tuned for our favorite places to eat, shop, and hike.

Tough Girl (or guy)…You’re Not Alone

Anxiety, depression, self doubt, panic attacks….all words that, before late summer or early fall of 2016, I probably would have rolled my eyes at to be honest.  Not that I didn’t believe people could go through these things, I guess I just thought I was immune to them or maybe too strong for something as ‘simple’ as that to get me down.

Well….I was wrong, and wrong in a big way. We had just returned from a beach vacation, so I should have been relaxed, but instead I kept not feeling well.  My symptoms started out like this….I would be sitting at my desk at work and would feel dizzy.  I actually described it as somewhere between dizzy and passing out.  I told Dan if it kept happening I was going to have to go to a doctor.

So…go to a doctor I did.  In the middle of the night, to the ER.  I had gone to bed with a headache.  I was having terrible ones at this point (worse than usual as headaches had been a part of my life for awhile).  I woke up, head still hurting, heart racing, sick at my stomach, in a cold sweat.  If I remember correctly, the ER diagnosis was heart palpitations.  The reality of it was, it was a panic attack.  The first of many to come.  I just didn’t know it yet.

I had no family doctor because, well…I wasn’t sick a lot.  A sinus infection here or there, but that was about it.  So I had to start making phone calls, find out who was accepting new patients, etc.  A few weeks and several panic attacks later, I was finally in.

Before I talk about how things went at the doctor, let’s talk about what a panic attack looked like for me.  If I’m going to write this, I might as well share the whole ugly truth.  It was rough.  I would get one of those dizzy feelings and that would start the panic attack.  I would pace the floor (sometimes for hours), I would have trouble swallowing.  I couldn’t be still, I played with my hair, or was just fidgety in general.  I had to have people go with me, and/or drive me places. I missed work, or if I was at work, I would spend a good portion of the day fighting off whatever symptom I might be having that particular day.  Thankfully, I had been employed at the same place for quite some time, so they knew this was totally out of character for me.  My poor family couldn’t do anything for me.  Trust me…they offered, they asked, they tried to distract me when I was in the throes of a panic attack.

I went through lots of blood work, took a heart scan, wore a heart monitor, made another trip to the ER.  I kept telling my new doctor I was not an anxious person, there was nothing in my life to be anxious about, on & on.  He believed me…or at least I thought he did.  But when test after test kept coming back A-okay, there wasn’t a whole lot left that could be wrong with me.

Talk about frustrated…I KNEW something wasn’t right, and it wasn’t anxiety.  I didn’t want to see a counselor, I didn’t need to work anything out.  I was tough and could get through anything.  Come to find out, maybe I had been too tough for too long.

I tend to take on a lot of responsibility (especially at work).  I’m usually the one to call when there’s something that needs done…like rushing a parent or grandparent to the hospital, or picking up a niece when the other niece is in the hospital.  Yep, all of the above happened during the time I was having all these issues.  Every week, I would go in to the counselor having endured a new crisis, none of which would’ve been enough to get me down under normal circumstances.  But man, it was like I couldn’t catch a break, and these were definitely not normal circumstances.  At some point, I know I told the counselor I was exhausted.  I was on constant alert, trying to stop the next panic attack before it could start.

So what did I learn through all this?  Several things.  It’s ok not to always be the responsible one.  It’s ok to accept help.  It’s ok to take days for yourself.  But most importantly, I learned I was not alone.  So, so many people let me know they had been through something similar.  And that’s my sole purpose for sharing my story…to let you know you’re not alone.  I know it may feel that way, I know you think absolutely no one understands, I know it feels like it’s never going to get better.  It will though, and trust me there is someone out there who understands.

There were two songs I listened to on repeat during this time, “Chain Breaker” by Zach Williams and “Eye of the Storm” by Ryan Stevenson.  Sometimes it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but these songs were two more reminders that I wasn’t fighting this battle alone.

7 Ways to Wear Burgundy Pants

 

 

I don’t know about you, but we have to dress up at work every day except Friday.  I tend to get in a rut of wearing the same pants with the same shirt, and a lot of times it’s black pants….so here’s a few ideas to add a little variety to your work outfits.

    Pants ( I size down one in these to a 6)  Sweater ( I size down one in this to, wearing in XS)  Boots ( I sized up a half size to 7.5, probably should’ve sized up a whole size)  Similar Necklace (if I remember right, I bought this one from a school fundraiser 🙂 )

Same look, just different shoes, and I liked the boots better so I’m sharing both.  Similar shirt and scarfSimilar purse.

Sweater ( I sized down to XS in this one)

Floral shirt (TTS, wearing in small)

Cowl neck sweater (TTS, wearing in small)  Belt (wearing in small)

Sweater (TTS, wearing in small)  Heels (I sized down a whole size, wearing in 6)

Hopefully these ideas gives you some inspiration!

Jenni

Weekend Getaway – Asheville, NC and Biltmore Estate

 

Dan recently surprised me with a weekend getaway to Asheville, NC.  I had no idea where we were going until we got a little closer.  All he told me was the weather forecast, how long a drive it was, and to request a certain Friday off.   We’ve went on plenty of trips, but never one that I didn’t know the details of.  I was pretty excited, and honestly didn’t try to guess the destination.  The Biltmore Estate has been on my list of things to do, and it didn’t disappoint.

Day 1:  We had plans to leave Friday morning after getting the kids off to school, so of course there was a two hour fog delay.  After a little re-arranging, we headed out around 8;30.  It was about a seven hour drive which, for us, is not bad at all.  We usually drive everywhere we go.  If you prefer to stay on property there are several choices.  The Cottage on Biltmore Estate, The Inn on Biltmore Estate, or Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate.  Dan had booked us a room at the Country Inn & Suites  near downtown Asheville, and about 15 minutes from the Biltmore Estate .  When we arrived I found out that we had tickets for the Candlelight Christmas Evenings at Biltmore.   How romantic 😉  Before making our way there, we went to Bone & Broth for dinner.

Steak Frites for me, and Lamb Chops for Dan.

 

On to the Biltmore.  A little history before we get started….George Vanderbilt started building the house in 1889, and it was finished in 1895.  He was single when the construction started!  The house boasts 65 fire places, along with 35 bedrooms, and 43 bathrooms.  If you are interested in the history of it at all, I would highly recommend doing the audio guide.  It was very informative.

Driving onto the property.

 

Choir performing for the Candlelight Christmas.

 

One of the many Christmas trees throughout. This one was in the banquet hall.

 

These fireplaces were also in the banquet hall, and although they are massive the room still felt cozy and was one of my favorites.

 

I pretty much had to share this picture since it has Jennifer and Ginger on the list. I do not want a puppy or a horse, however!

 

Looking like a tourist, listening to my audio guide.

 

This picture was in the basement on our way to see the bowling alley, indoor swimming pool, and workout area.  How crazy is that since this house was built in the late 1800s?!

One of the 1st residential bowling alleys, the workout area complete with showers, and the swimming pool which still has the original underwater lighting!

 

That wraps up day 1.  Our tickets were for 9:15PM, and we finished  the tour up at about 11:30 , to give you an idea of how much time you will need.

Day 2:  We were up fairly early to eat the complimentary breakfast.  We’re always willing to save a little money, so we can go on more trips. 🙂  Then it was back to the Biltmore to tour the grounds and gardens.  Unfortunately the rain from day 1 continued into day 2, but we made the best of it.  A little info on the grounds, the estate covers 8,000 acres!  Sounds like a lot, right?  But, it originally covered 125,000 acres.  Since we were visiting for the Christmas tours, we didn’t see a lot of the gardens.  The flowers and plant life in the conservatory were beautiful, however, so I can imagine the gardens are as well.

This is the front of the Biltmore house, although it doesn’t capture the enormity.

 

 

A few of the flowers and plants in the conservatory.

 

After leaving the garden area, we drove over to Antler Hill Village & Winery where we had reservations for lunch at Cedric’s Tavern.  There are a few restaurants to choose from on property, along with some shopping, and an exhibit on The Biltmore Legacy.  Also in the Antler Hill area is the barn where you can see some of the farm equipment that was used in the 1900s, woodworkers, and blacksmiths.

We shared the fish & chips, and bison burger.

 

That wraps up day 2 at the Biltmore Estate.  It is somewhere we both said we would visit again in warmer weather to experience the gardens in bloom, and more of the property.  There are also several outdoor activities to choose from when the weather permits, such as hiking, horseback riding, and river float trips to name a few.

We weren’t finished yet though….on to Asheville for a comedy bus tour with Lazoom .  We learned some things about Asheville we otherwise would not have, all while laughing and having a good time.  We enjoyed the downtown area.  It was very walkable, albeit a little hilly (or maybe we just need to get in shape), so many stores to look in, coffee shops like City Bakery where we enjoyed a cheese danish and coffee.  Dinner was at white duck taco shop, and no trip would be complete without a stop at an outlet mall.  We didn’t have much time there, but the Asheville Outlets looked like we (who am I kidding…I really mean I)…I could’ve spent some more money…er, time there.

Me and the man responsible for this trip.

 

If you have the chance to visit Asheville and the Biltmore Estate, I would definitely do it.  It made for a great weekend getaway, and it’s only a short 90 minute drive from the Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge area if you happen to be visiting that area, and want to venture a little further away.

 

What’s In A Name?

Picking a name for the blog was probably the most difficult thing to do to get started.  I feel like I’m starting a little late in the game, so every name was already taken.  If the “.com” wasn’t taken, then the Facebook, Pinterest, or Instagram was.  I knew I either wanted the name to have something to do with the beach or Ginger.  I used name generators, I asked my family, I made lists, I looked at everything I could think of that might give me some inspiration.  Every time I thought I was on to a good name, I would check and it would be taken.

Have I drawn this out enough? 🙂  Would you like to know why Ginger?  Ginger is my husband’s nickname for me…I guess because it sounds a lot like Jen.  The Just For Fun part is simply because this blog is just for fun, and I don’t want to lose sight of that.  So, there you have it…the reason behind the name of Ginger Just For Fun.

Coworker Christmas Gifts

 

Do you usually give presents to all your coworkers?  Or more specifically the ones that you work most closely with?  We usually do, and I struggle every year trying to figure out what to get without breaking the bank and still having it be something they will enjoy.  Here are a few things I have received over the years, and I use them all.

Spove Polka Dot Flip Flop Design Manicure Kit (Set of 6 Kits)

I carry this one in my purse every day.  I actually liked it so much I ended up buying for stocking stuffers as well.  It has come in handy a time or two….maybe even to open a mayo packet that was impossible! (Don’t worry I hadn’t used the scissors on anything else)


Coffee Mug Cozy Oatmeal

Grey and Mint Heart Cup Cozy Coffee Sleeve

I have one very similar to the oatmeal one.  I use it on weekends when I can take a little longer and enjoy my cappuccino.

RoyAroma 2PCS 30mm Car Aromatherapy Essential Oil Diffuser Stainless Steel Locket Air Freshener with Vent Clip 12 Felt Pads

I must admit I have not actually used this one yet, although I do own it and keep intending to.  I love the idea of it since I use some essential oils anyway.

Wrapables Unisex-Adults Plaid Print Infinity Scarf, red/Green, One Size

And if all else fails, who doesn’t like a scarf?

These would also work well for teachers, babysitters, neighbors.