Monday, November 23, 2015

Cruising - December 2015 - Carnival Splendor

Thanks to my daughter, I get to go on another cruise!!

In less than 2 weeks, my daughter Cody and I will be boarding the Carnival Splendor for a 7 day cruise.
This will be my 6th cruise, and her 2nd.

The reason we are going on this cruise is because my baby girl is turning 25

Time sure flies. It seems like yesterday she was a little bitty girl. She grew up so fast!!!

She was only a few minutes old here:

She was about 18 months old in this one:

2 and a half:

 4 years old:

Just after her 5th birthday:

She was 7 or 8 here:

About 15 years old:

I think she was around 21 when this was taken:

And a more recent picture:

See how fast she grew up??? And now we are already celebrating 25

How did that happen??

Cody and I had been talking about doing something for her 25th birthday for a while. We both really wanted to do a birthday cruise for her, but when it came down to it I told her I just couldn't afford it.

At the time I was working on paying off my upcoming 50th birthday Disney vacation and I just couldn't spare any money for a cruise.

Cody really wanted to do a cruise so she offered to pay for my flight, cruise and hotel. It didn't take long for me to agree to that deal!

The apple didn't fall far from the tree. It seems my Cody likes to plan whopper vacations just like I do. She made all the choices for this vacation, and I couldn't have planned a better vacation myself.

Here are some of the details of what we will be doing:

She decided she would like to spend a day or two in Miami before the cruise. We both wanted to stay at our favorite Intercontinental Hotel in downtown Miami, but rooms there were $350.00 a night and that is outrageous. I have stayed there twice before and never paid over $120.00 a night.

We looked around for other hotels in the area and we found there is an art show or something going on in downtown Miami the weekend we will be there, so all of the hotel prices were a bit high.

We found the Miami Marriott Biscayne Bay for a reasonable price (for a Marriott) and we booked a room for 2 nights before the cruise.

Pictured below, the Miami Marriott Biscayne Bay has red letters across the top:

She picked a 7 day cruise on the Carnival Splendor. Neither of us has been on this ship before, so it will be fun to explore a different ship.

Our ship sails from Miami on Sunday December 6th, 2015

We will visit 4 islands and have 2 sea days.

The islands we will go to are:

  • Half Moon Cay - Carnival's private island in the Bahamas
  • Grand Turk - South of the Bahamas
  • St Thomas - Neither of us has been to this island before
  • San Juan - We haven't been here either

For reference, I marked the locations of the islands in red on this map

We talked about the different types of cabins on the ship (inside, balcony, spa cabin, suite)
 She changed her mind several times, but she finally settled on a cabin at the back of the ship with a huge balcony.

The red arrow is pointing to our balcony in the back corner of the ship:

Here are a few pictures of the inside of the cabin she picked for us. We happened to find these pictures online. (Thank you if you posted these pictures) It was nice to be able to see pictures of the cabin before we booked it:

 Because it's in the back corner of the ship, the room is shaped like a triangle.
The beds will be separated into twin beds for Cody and I - we don't have to share a bed

The brown thing on the bed is a luggage mat. They put that out for you on arrival day so your luggage won't get the bed dirty wile you unpack.

Here is a picture someone posted of the balcony
I can picture us standing at that railing at sailaway time with fruity umbrella drinks in our hands

OOooohhhh! I'm getting pretty excited about this cruise!!

With Tim's help, I have a few things planned to celebrate Cody's birthday on the ship.

For her birthday present, Tim and I are splurging for Cody and I to get spa passes for the week. She really wants to go to the spa, and since we didn't book a spa cabin, we will have to pay for it separately. Thank you to Tim for making that happen for us!

We will be able to go to the spa every day. One of the things I can't wait to do in the spa is to lay in these awesome heated tile lounge chairs.

I also plan to take Cody to the ship Steakhouse on the night of her birthday.

On one of the sea days, they have a Dr Seuss breakfast with green eggs and ham!
We both want to go to that

After the cruise, Cody doesn't think she will be ready to go home yet.

She booked 2 nights for us at Lago Mar resort in Ft Lauderdale.
Fine with me!

I stayed here a few years ago with my friend Christina, and we absolutely loved this place.
Cody wants to see what we have been raving about.

Hopefully we will be well rested after this vacation. Three weeks after we get home we will be loading up and moving to Maryland.

I can't forget Thanksgiving, Christmas and the New Year will all be somewhere in there too!

Cody did a good job planning out this whole thing, and she worked really hard for over a year to pay for it all.
 I am one lucky Mom to get to enjoy this birthday vacation with her.

I guarantee this will be a birthday she (and I) will never forget!

HAPPY 25th BIRTHDAY, DARLIN! I can't wait to celebrate with you on the SPLENDOR!

Stay tuned, I will post my usual over-detailed review (with hundreds of pictures) of our birthday adventures at sea.

Sadly, I won't be able to post it until I make the move to Maryland. If you haven't heard about my upcoming move, read THIS.

Most likely I'll post Cody's birthday cruise review sometime toward the end of January.

Meanwhile, if you haven't read about my "disaster cruise" I took last year, you can read about it HERE
That was the cruise I took where I didn't really get along with any of my cruisemates.

You can click HERE to read about my honeymoon cruise with Tim on the Carnival Destiny in May of 2011.

And HERE is my review of my Carnival Victory cruise from 2013.

I promise I'll be back as soon as I can with more tales of the high seas!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

A year of BIG changes, and its not over yet!


So many things going on at once, and our plans keep changing (evolving)..........
My head is spinning, but we are getting through this!

For 7 years now our lives have been pretty predictable. Then last spring Tim got a job promotion and everything is completely different in our lives.

With his promotion, we knew we would have to move away from Kansas City. We didn't know which state he would be going to until just a few weeks before he left.

We heard Kentucky first, then maybe Texas..............either of those would be fine with me. I was kind of rooting for Kentucky though.

Around mid-May, he found out for sure, we were going to MARYLAND!

Looks like we are heading for the East Coast! The area he is moving to is right next to the Chesapeake Bay.

Its very exciting to be able to explore the east coast for a few years. He will be on this job for the next 2-3 years, and then we will move to another state for the next job. That's really all we know at this point. We are figuring it all out as we go.

Kansas City to Maryland. That sounds like 2 completely different worlds.

We do feel lucky to have this opportunity to travel and see the country while Tim works.

Everything happened very fast, and we had a lot of decisions to make very quickly. 

We had a lot of things going on in Kansas. When Tim had to leave for Maryland, we were dealing with a few things:

  • I have my job at the college, I have been there over 9 years and it would be nice to hit the 10 year mark and get some of the 10 yr retirement (KPERS) benefits. These benefits won't kick in until I am in my 60's, but I want to set myself up for it for our future.
  • I was in the middle of paying off a huge Disney cruise and Disney World vacation for my 50th birthday for May 2016, so I wanted to be able to pay that off before I quit my job.
  • We were just beginning construction/remodeling on the inside and outside of our house.
  • We have 3 dogs and we are absolutely keeping all of them. They are our babies. Also, the 3 of them are pretty close and I don't think it would be good to separate them at this point in their lives. We just need a place for them to live in Maryland before we can bring them out there. 

 We decided that Tim would go ahead and go to Maryland, start his job, and look for an apartment or house for us. I would wrap things up here in Kansas City and join him ASAP.

Our first plan was for me and the dogs to join Tim in Maryland in the summer of 2016.
That meant Tim and I would be apart for a year.

Sad face.
Take some deep breaths.
We have a strong relationship and we can get through this.

So..............In early June 2015, Timmy packed up his truck to move to Maryland. 

As sad as I was to see Timmy go to Maryland..............I was also sad to see our new truck go to Maryland. I really loved that truck. I had been driving it since he bought it almost a year before. I had also driven it 14 hours from Galveston to KC.  I had a special relationship with that truck, and he practically had to pry me out of the drivers seat. Still, I knew Tim needed his truck in Maryland more than I needed it here in Kansas. 

We knew he would be staying in a hotel until he found a place to live, but Tim didn't want me to load him up with a lot of "stuff" that he would have to take with him to a hotel.

We also knew he would be getting an apartment or house soon, and he didn't want to have to buy an entire household of stuff right away. 

I ended up sending him with clothes, blankets, pillows, sheets, towels, and some kitchen stuff.
He also took his motorcycle, a toolbox, and his computer. 

And then he drove off early one morning in the beginning of June.

It was a 1250 mile drive, and it took him about a day and a half (with a stop to see a friend and spend the night in Kentucky).

When he got to Maryland, his company put him in a hotel while he looked for a new home for us. 

When the pictures started coming, I was getting excited! 

It looked absolutely beautiful!
This is the view from Tim's hotel room in Maryland taken back in June. WOW! 

I didn't expect it to be so beautiful there.
Since he was only an hour or so from Washington DC, I thought it would be more like a city. 
Instead, the area he is in is pretty rural. 

He is less than 10 miles (as the crow flies) from the Chesapeake Bay. 
He is located between the Patuxent and the Potomac rivers. 

As nice as all that sounds, Tim's move was pretty hard on both of us. I was terribly lonely without him and I felt his absence every minute of every day. 

I'm sure he was pretty stunned by all that was happening too.

Our lives completely changed in a matter of a few weeks, and I think we dealt with it fairly well.
We talked on the phone quite a bit.

Time went by really slowly at first.............

I felt terrible for Timmy, having to navigate a new job and a new town all by himself. I wondered if we had made the right choice for me to stay behind..................but I think having me and the dogs there at first would have made things more difficult for Tim. Especially while he was in the hotel for so many weeks.

He knew a few people that had also transferred from Kansas City, so he did have a few friends out there. 

He was able to get out a little and explore on the weekends. 
He sent these pics in the first few weeks:

I couldn't wait to go out there and see what he was seeing. He was trying to explain it all to me.

He also spent a lot of his time off looking for a place to call home.

He looked at a few places and decided on a very nice apartment that would work for all of us. It has 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a washer/dryer inside the unit, and an attached garage for the motorcycles.

Only some of the bottom units have a garage, so Tim had to wait a few weeks for one to become available before he could move in.

Here is a picture of the apartments. His unit is just like the one on the bottom right:

There are walking trails all over the complex so I can walk the dogs. They have 2 pools, a fitness room, and a duck pond.

It sounds perfect to me!

You can kind of see the pond in the picture below (behind the little picnic area).

The inside of the apartment is very nice too! Here is Timmy's kitchen
(laundry room is to the right of the fridge):

When he moved in, he bought a bed, a couch and a desk and chair.
In the last few months he has also found a TV, a dining room table and 2 dressers.

With Tim's job, he gets to fly home once a month (or I can fly to visit him). His company pays for the flight as part of his package. This is great because we have been able to see each other every 4 weeks.

In early July, Tim came back to Kansas for a long weekend.
I was so glad to see him!!!! (so were our dogs!) He had been gone a little over a month at this point, and still hadn't moved into his apartment yet.

We had a lot to do while he was home..................

We had already started the process of re-doing the outside of our house before Tim got his job transfer.
The timing wasn't good, but we felt we could still make it work.

Tim and Billy (our friend, neighbor, and contractor) went to Home Depot to pick out some of the things we needed.

Choices, choices..............
Timmy and Billy discussing siding options for the outside of the house:

Picking out a new front door:

We had a nice long weekend together, but before we knew it, Timmy had to fly back to Maryland.

I was able to send him daily pictures to keep him in the loop with the house construction.

Home Depot delivered the siding and materials to the house:

Here is a "before" pic of the house.
You can see that we already had the screened porch re-done with new posts and screens. (That's why the porch doesn't match the rest of the house.) The porch is in the new color scheme, and the house is still gray

The old siding was taken down (good riddance!)


There is a layer of foam insulation behind that Tyvek paper.
The windows are still under the Tyvek paper too. They hadn't cut the window holes out when I took this picture.

Timmy came back again in August for another long weekend. It was nice to have him back here again, even if it was only 4 days.

Meanwhile, I kept working at my job at the college.
August is a busy month for us with the school year starting, so I was pretty busy here trying to deal with work, home construction, and keeping up with the housework and the dogs. The garden was in full swing, and there was a lot to do around here. My kids have pitched in and helped a lot this summer.

Here is a picture of the garden at the beginning of the summer, before anything was planted.
This year we doubled the size of the garden, added another gate on the side, flower beds along the outside of the garden fence, and a lot more stepping stones.

While I'm showing garden pics, here is a pic of the fairy garden we started before Tim moved to Maryland:
The purple pebbles are supposed to represent a small water pond.
I have a better fairy water pond now............

In September I got to go visit Maryland for the first time.
I had been to Maryland and the east coast many times when I was a kid. I have family there.

I have never been to the area where Tim is living, and I was SO excited to finally get to go for a visit.

He lives about an hour and a half south of the airport (Baltimore/Washington airport), and this is pretty much what I saw on the drive to Timmy's apartment.
Just beautiful!!!!

Timmy showed me all around. We tried some new restaurants and shopped for some things for his apartment. We found a lazy-boy chair to match his couch, and a night stand for his bedroom.

We looked for lamps, living room side tables, and a few other things he needed.............but we didn't find everything on our list.

We did so much while I was there, and we never went more than 30 miles from Tim's apartment.

He took me across a really huge bridge to Solomon's Island.

The area is FULL of history (I love history!). We learned about the part of the War of 1812 that was fought in the Patuxent River. You can see the bridge in the background

We ate lunch at this restaurant on the pier

We went to Calvert Marine Museum

Outside of the museum, there was a really neat light house.

Next we went over to the hotel where Timmy lived when he first went to Maryland.
We walked on the docks behind the hotel.

We saw jellyfish in the water. This is a river, but it goes out into the Chesapeake Bay and then into the Atlantic ocean.

Looking back at the hotel from the docks.

On another day we went to see one of the first 13 Colonies.
I want to see all 13 of them while we are on the East coast.

This one was called St Mary's, and was Maryland's colony. It's about 20 miles south of Tim's apartment.

The pilgrims lived in huts. I don't think I knew that before!

Tim also took me to the shore of the Chesapeake Bay.

After a nice long weekend, I had to go back to Kansas City. 

When I pulled up in front of our Kansas City house, I almost didn't recognize it!

Billy had put the new siding on while I was gone. 
It still needs to be painted, but the color is pretty close to the color we want.

It looks fabulous!!!

Here is the before again, for reference:
It's quite an improvement. It looked tired before.

It will be a grayish-olive green, with pale yellow trim. The door will be painted black.
The whole house is getting new windows and gutters (I think they are painting it today, and the new windows go in this weekend).

While all this is going on outside, we are also re-doing the inside.
There were several layers of paint on top of several layers of wallpaper.
We have gone through the entire house and removed everything down to the drywall.

My son Chris and his girlfriend, helping to get the old wallpaper off.
The brown flowered wallpaper has been under there since the early 1950's

It's ready for fresh paint.
I am going to sand and stain the floors too.

I went back to Maryland to visit Tim in the end of October.

Tim's son, mom, step-dad, and nephew also went out to see Timmy and see a bit of Maryland.
We all had a nice long weekend together.

Tim's step-dad is into military stuff, so we visited the Naval Air museum.

I loved that we could walk around and see about 20 old planes they had parked outside.
Tim's nephew:

We took them to Solomon's Island:

This was pretty cool to see:

Tim and his son waiting for us to finish our shopping:

I mentioned earlier how Tim had taken my beloved truck (ok its Tim's truck, LOL!) to Maryland in June. Boy I missed that truck. 

This time when I came to visit, Tim had traded it in for another truck.
I sure do still miss the other truck, but I don't think I will have a problem with this one. 

So..............going forward, here is our newest plan:

Tim and I would much rather be together than apart at this point. We made through about 4 months of living in separate states and we both caved.

 We decided to put a rush on my move to Maryland, which has completely screwed up our previous plan, but we are doing it.

My last day at work at the college is TOMORROW (November 20th)!

I am both happy and sad about this. As much as I don't like working, I will really miss this job, and the people I work with.

 I didn't quite make it to the 10 year mark, but I'm close. After November 20th, I will transfer to a temporary position at the college. When I come back to Kansas to do work on the house, I will be able to do fill-in work at the college too.

Tim will be here THIS WEEKEND! He hasn't been home since August.
I am so excited to have him home FOR AN ENTIRE WEEK. The dogs have no idea where Timmy went, or why he has been gone for so long but I know it will be a joyous reunion for us all when he pulls into the driveway sometime Saturday.

I have spent the last few weeks packing everything up. We are loading the truck, and Tim will take a good sized load back with him to Maryland after Thanksgiving.

Then in two weeks, my daughter Cody and I are going on a cruise for her 25th birthday.
Is my youngest kid really going to be 25 in 2 weeks?? WOW, that went fast!
We are looking forward to some sunshine and a week in the Caribbean!! I am ready to relax a bit. I have been pretty stressed out over all these changes this year, and being without my Timmy for so long. I also need a "do-over" cruise since the one I took last year was such a disaster.
(You can read about my disaster cruise from last year HERE)

I will explain more about my upcoming cruise with my daughter in another blog post soon. I'll also do a review/write up about the cruise when we get back.

After Cody and I come back from the cruise, Tim will be driving back to Kansas City to pick us up and move us to Maryland.

By "us", I mean myself, my daughter, and our 3 dogs.

YES, Cody will be moving to Maryland with me. She wants to go to college out there and get a fresh start with her life. I am glad I will have company out there, because Tim works some really long hours.

So, that's the plan for now! It's been a crazy year for us. I don't know what life will be like in Maryland, but I'm looking forward to it.
I'll keep you posted on our upcoming adventures!