Happy New Year to you, my dear reader... Have you missed me?
Well, I've sure missed you... So let's catch up, shall we?
First, an apology for my absence. It's not that I didn't think about you
every day or didn't want to update my blog, I did! However, ever since I
returned from my trip to visit my parents at the end of October, every day
has felt like an hour and every week like a day! Nevertheless, I hope you'll
forgive me and let me share with you a little about what's been going on!
As usual, going home always begins with my fear over flying... Not to
mention that I had to navigate a busy airport and travel in a cast due to
the re-injury of my Achilles, which happened during that accident I had
in August when someone crashed into my Jeep. Oh, and then there was
this little fellow that kicked my seat all the way from Charlotte to SFO!
All of the fear and stress melted away though... The moment
we landed and I found my parents waiting for me at baggage!
Of course, the first stop on the way home is always the beach...
Just to make sure it's exactly where I left it!
Funny story... Just after dad took this photo of me and mom, a gentleman asked
if I'd take a photo of his family. Of course I said yes; but imagine my surprise
when I realized his family included the little fellow from the plane - No... Really!
I couldn't believe it! I'd just told mom and dad about how miserable my
flight was because of this little stinker and there he was! Oh, and when
his father mentioned they were on their way to LA, I may have mumbled
something about hoping that his little dear kicks his seat the whole way!
Nevertheless, being home couldn't have felt better!
We did all of my favorite things... We went to the Carmel Mission,
where both of my sweet boys were baptized on this spot!
And, where this beautiful bride was about to
enter and begin making memories of her own there!
Mom and I spent several days shopping our favorite spots in Carmel!
Soaking up the glorious sunshine and breathing in the fresh sea air!
I also took her to the Apple store...
Where mom got her very first iPhone!
We also went to Mass together...
It was wonderful... As it always is!
Quite simply, we revisited all my favorite places while I was home!
The places I miss seeing every day...
I also managed to cook dinner for my parents!
My dad loves chili so of course...
I made a big pot of my chili with cornbread!
Knowing how much I've been riding my bike at home,
dad offered to bring their bikes out of storage for me!
So the next morning before the sun was up, I was on my mom's bike!
It was a lovely morning for a ride!
I rode all the way from Fisherman's Wharf to Asilomar Beach!
Past my favorite lighthouse...
And, I stopped along the way to take photos... Lots of photos!
I also forgot my dad's riding gloves on that bench so that little
circle on my FitBit you see is where I had to ride back to pick them up!
On the way back I stopped on Cannery Row...
Just as the shops were opening...
So I picked up some goodies to take to some special people back home!
Mom and I goofed off a lot!
We spent a lot of our time together by the sea. Feeding the gulls...
And my little buddies... The ground squirrels!
I love them and I know they love me!
All too soon it was time to say good-bye again so dad and I ran down
to Asilomar beach for one more look at the place where it all began...
Where my little beach bums used to chase birds and sunsets...
The place where I grew up as a mom and where I most wish for us all to meet again!
Dad and I watched this surfer, who was having considerable trouble with his form...
So we decided to show him how it was done!
Didn't we, dad?
After our form lesson, surfer went back into the
water. And, I think he did much better... Ha!
And just like that...
All the fun we had...
All the many gifts my parents gave me...
All the spoiling they did...
Along with our strolls through the Monterey Farmers' Market...
Came to an all too soon end...
It was time to pack up all the great finds...
From our trips to the thrift stores...
And, head back home!
Dad and I were on the road to San Francisco just a little past
4AM, which totally explained this unfortunate sock mishap I had!
And, just like that I was back in North Carolina, rushing to
get back to Forsyth before the polls closed so I could vote!
We made it just in time!
But, as happy as I was to be home there was no time to relax,
let alone blog to tell you about it, because 48 hours later...
A sweet friend of mine and I were on our way to Mixed!
Where yours truly worked the registration desk!
As in the previous two years I've attended Mixed, it was a blast! I
finally got to meet one very special long-time blogger friend
in person and see others I've missed since the last time we were all
grand prize winner in the Dixie Crystals baking competition!
Just as soon as I returned from Mixed, Thanksgiving knocked on the door!
And I will not lie to you...
With the exception of these rolls I made
from scratch, I phoned the rest of our feast in...
Using mostly pre-made everything!
And yet, we managed to have a wonderful
celebration of all the things we are most thankful for!
I would have liked to have done better... But the motivation to
focus my time and energy on food this year just wasn't there!
I barely had time to decorate the house for Christmas
before we packed our bags and hit the road again!
After all, it was December and time for our annual
month-long celebration of our wedding anniversary!
Our first get-away was a relaxing weekend in Cherokee, North Carolina!
Where we stayed at Nantahala Village. I was a little worried
after reading some of the reviews on-line since I'd already
made a non-refundable reservation before reading them! But...
It was a fantastic place to stay near Cherokee!
I chose a fireplace lodge suite and couldn't have
been more delighted with what we found waiting for us!
The whole place exceeded our expectations!
After checking into our room, we headed
over to the Bryson City train depot to catch the...
Great Smokey Mountain Railroad's...
It was such fun!
We were served hot chocolate and sang Christmas
carols as the train made its way to the North Pole!
Following our return, we stopped for pizza at
Nate and Nick's, a little place across from the depot!
I had the salad but heard the pizza was quite decent!
After dinner we decided to drive into Cherokee to do a little gambling!
Where it didn't take long to take this
warning seriously and get out of there quick...
Before any real Wicked damage could be done!
The next morning we said goodbye to our little fireplace lodge and headed...
To Asheville where I immediately bumped into another bride...
And, we toured Biltmore house for probably the hundredth time!
After our tour we grabbed a late lunch at our favorite place in the village!
As usual, Cedric's did not disappoint!
Not too very long after our visit to Asheville, it was time to embark
on the last get-away planned to celebrate our 29th anniversary...
Indeed... We were off to the Bahamas, via Savannah and Charleston!
I have always wanted to visit, ever since learning it was one of the
places our Ranger could have been stationed, had he been assigned
to second Battalion. Of course, he wound up with 3rd Ranger Battalion
down at Ft. Banning; therefore, we never did make it to Savannah!
But all that changed when we decided to go see REO Speedwagon for our
anniversary. You see, I've always wanted to see them so when I found out
they were playing on a cruise to the Bahamas, which was sailing out of
Charleston, I made sure to add a stop in Savannah to our itinerary!
We had the best time!
Savannah is really something to see. Our only
regret was not having enough time to see it all!
SpaBoy gave me all the best recommendations
for what not to miss in the short time we had!
First on our list was the Olde Pink House Restaurant...
Where we enjoyed an incredibly beautiful lunch!
The food was amazing!
We ordered a little bit of everything to share!
The staff treated us like royalty... Even before they knew we were celebrating!
After our lunch, we strolled through Forsyth Park!
Where I finally got to see...
The fountain of all fountains in Savannah!
We ended our day strolling through shops at the historic waterfront...
Where we chatted with a couple of tour-guide locals...
That told us about some other not-to-be-missed sights!
So we grabbed a quick dinner at Churchill's Pub,
where we shared fish and chips and a wedge salad!
We got up early the next morning...
To find Bonaventure Cemetery!
It was fascinating!
But if you go looking for that one statue made famous in the
movie Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, don't bother...
pieces home with them, it was moved to a local museum!
That's not to say there aren't plenty of other
interesting memorials to discover, especially this one!
After our walk through Bonaventure we visited Tybee Lighthouse!
You know how much I love a good lighthouse view of the sea...
And this one was pretty spectacular!
See what I mean?
After delivering a few postcards to
the Tybee post office it was time for lunch...
At Paula Dean's Lady and Sons restaurant near downtown...
I sincerely wish I could say the food was even slightly
good; however, I cannot lie to you... The food was awful!
But go! Go for the great gift shop because you never know...
You may just bump into one of the handsome Dean sons,
like I did - Which will help you forget all about Paula's food!
Speaking of shopping... The Paris Market
in downtown Savannah is not to be missed!
I had no time to shop for Christmas before we
left home so I did almost all of it in Savannah!
Between the Paris Market and Savannah Bee Company...
Everyone on my list was checked off in no time!
My entire Christmas shopping was done in one afternoon!
The next morning I quickly delivered all of our packages to the post
office... Where I was busted by a local news station asking customers
about mailing so close to the last possible deadline for Christmas delivery!
After Savannah, it was time to make our way to the equally beautiful Charleston!
As you know, we've visited Charleston many times...
It's our favorite destination for sea kayaking and so much more!
This trip lasted only a day though so I made extra sure to have everything
planned out as to not waste a moment! As for where we'd eat... Despite a lot
of terrible reviews, I really wanted to try the Bay Street Biergarten after
seeing one of their chefs compete on the FoodNetwork show, Chopped!
Fortunately, all the nasty things I read about their staff and the
horrendous service happened before we even ordered. I say fortunately
because it saved us further disappointment and from wasting our money!
Left without a plan B, we headed downtown to shop... We
And hit all of my other favorite places!
A too-late dinner at some Mexican joint ended up being a total bust so we
decided to call it a night and do what we needed to do to prepare for our cruise!
But Janet... You said you would never cruise again after the awful experience you
guys had with Carnival during your 25th anniversary cruise! I hear you and,
that's exactly what my love said when I proposed this cruise. However, there was a
very specific reason for wanting to take this particular trip and it had to do with...
I love them and I've always wanted to see REO Speedwagon in concert!
Plus, the Atlantis Resort and water park has been on our
to-do list for a while and this boat was headed that way!
The Carnival Fantasy is a much older and smaller ship than
the Glory we previously sailed on. It also became clear very
quickly that this is basically a floating party bus that makes
almost non-stop weekly circles between Charleston and the
Bahamas. Almost everyone that chatted us up said they'd taken
this cruise multiple times. What made this experience different...
Was the service and the attention we received from the staff!
The moment we embarked... We were glad to be aboard!
Although we didn't do a suite this time our ocean view stateroom was nice!
My mom was worried about us after all the stories in the media recently about
germs and disease break-outs on cruise ships... So I promised to go prepared!
But really... For as many people and as much use as this ship sees...
I couldn't have cleaned it any better. Everything was perfect!
I have to tell you that I was a little worried about this trip and the holidays in general...
You see, I decided to make some huge changes in the way I take care of myself
after Ranger left the Army. For five years and seventeen weeks I lived consumed
by fear, worry and extreme stress. I coped and comforted myself with food. And,
when I wasn't cooking, I was baking and decorating cookies because it was
obsession craft which allowed me to isolate myself for hours and often
even days. Hours and days that I spent consumed by all of my worst fears...
I could write forever about the feelings I had/have about the experience of
watching my first born deploy to Afghanistan five times and never scratch
the surface of what it was really like or meant to me as his mother or how it
affected us as a family. I feel such a sense of gratitude every day for his safe
return; but there is also a sense of overwhelming sadness that I feel for the
mothers I know who weren't as fortunate me. And, although some of the
struggles from his service have carried over into Ranger's civilian life...
I decided that being dead from stress and obesity wasn't going to bring me any
closer to helping anyone. So, I took control. I took control with the same kind of
skill, concentration and dedication it takes to create the thousands of cookies
I created and donated to everyone and every cause that asked! You could say
that I took a mental health vacation from all things that didn't concern our
little our family and that didn't begin with the letter M. As in the word, ME!
In terms of the cruise... I spent a lot of time away from the buffets here!
And here, in the ship's gym! So how did I do it? I can tell you I did not
do it with the assistance of any kind of bariatric surgery, fad diets, shots
or medications. As obvious and as simple as it will sound... I learned how
to become a better emotional manager and in the end, put myself first!
I learned that what I weigh has nothing to do with what I eat and
everything to do with how I feel. Doing the emotional work to identify
the reasons I manage my feelings with food was difficult; but in the end,
I can tell you it was far less difficult than being trapped by fear and fat. It
was also easier than feeling the resentment I carried around because I
didn't feel worthy of standing up for myself or capable of saying No to
those that hurt and took advantage of me due to my size. It was also much
easier than coping with the limitations the extra weight put on my life!
There is so much to say on this subject and so much I've learned
that I want to share and, I will. But... I just realized this has become
the longest blog post in the history of all my blog posts these past
seven years; therefore, I will close the subject for now. But since I
realize the thing people most want to know after any revelation of
adopting a healthier lifestyle is numbers, I will share with you that
during the first seven months of this life-long commitment I've made,
the pounds lost now number in triple digits. I still have a way to go to
reach the goal I originally set for myself; however, I am so grateful for
the success I've already achieved. Now, there is a specific program I
am following - So if weight is something you're struggling with too, I
am happy to share it with you. Just send me an e-mail and we'll chat!
After a day at sea it was time to explore Freeport, Bahamas!
The excursion I lined up for our day in Freeport was a Jeep tour of the island!
We were paired with a sweet couple that didn't mind me doing all the driving,
which was super fun. Especially since they drive on the left side of the road there!
We had a blast! And, the scenery was exactly how you'd imagine it...
Our tour took us to the most beautiful places on the island...
Including a botanical garden for lunch!
Our guide, Sammy more than lived up to the on-line reviews we read
about him! He even left us this shell to find when we returned to our Jeep!
Originally, I envisioned we'd take the kayak excursion; but after
this Jeep tour I'm convinced it was the best way to see Freeport!
The following morning we docked in Nassau, Bahamas
where we were promptly whisked away to Paradise Island!
If you've ever seen the Atlantis Resort commercials and wondered if
the water park there was as amazing as it looks... I can tell you it is!
We had such a good time, especially on the rapid river!
Lunch was included as part of the excursion and after this little
cutie began following us around, I decided to feed him all my fish!
After a few hours exploring the water park we played on the beach!
Like little kids!
It was a beautiful day in Nassau!
But there was more to come because after I mailed these postcards...
Which by the way, if you're waiting for one, haven't
arrived yet... Anyway, we had a concert to get ready for!
After all, REO Speedwagon is the only reason I booked this cruise!
It was perfect! Great seats, small crowd, they sounded just like
they did in 1982 and seemed truly delighted to be there with us!
Other entertainment on the ship was pretty decent too!
Which coupled with the gym and spa activities I focused on,
helped to distract me from the unending buffets of temptation!
If you're considering this cruise I would tell you to take it. It's fairly
inexpensive for the places you'll see, things you'll do and the fun to be
had! I booked pretty far in advance (in July) and even with the choice
of an ocean view stateroom, I only paid $700 for the two of us! I will tell
you to skip the shopping for anything more than souvenirs though. They
put on a pretty tough sell on the ship about shopping for diamonds and
high-end watches in Nassau but in the end, I found the diamonds to be
very poor quality and priced far higher than they could ever be worth!
On our way out of Charleston we stopped at the Early Bird Diner... Another
one of the places found through FoodNetwork. But unlike the Biergarten, this
place was well worth the effort to find! I had the corn cake eggs Benedict - Yum!
Of course, no trip home from South Carolina would be complete
without a quick stop in Gaffney at the Pottery Barn Outlet!
I still had Christmas gifts of the liquid variety to package for
my bosses so I grabbed a few of these... Trying to ignore
Pottery Barn's unfortunate choice of bottles to display them!
We arrived home just a day before our Ranger flew in for Christmas! It
was a fantastic visit I cannot wait to share with you! However... Since
this is the longest blog post in history and the Cowboys are playing
now, I will leave you now with my thanks for visiting with me today...
And with my very Best Wishes for a very Healthy and Happy New Year!