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Best of 2009

Friday, January 1st, 2010

Last year, I copied Cindy and wrote my Best of 2008. I had intended to do more summary posts from 2008, but I don’t think I got around to it. So, here is my attempt at the Best of 2009!

Best Restaurant: Once again, we didn’t really eat out very much. We had an anniversary dinner at Second Empire, which was new to both of us. I ate at Poole’s Diner for brunch before my Christmas date with Audrey. Those were the two notable restaurants. Both were very good, but I think I’m actually going to make an odd choice here and not go for “tastiest” or overall great experience but make the choice based on the frequency and convenience of Ruckus Pizza. We find it easy to take Maddie and have found it to be a good place to go with family and friends. We like the pizza and garlic knots.

Best Book: This is always a difficult category for me. I don’t get the opportunity to read as often as I did before having Maddie, but I still read enough to make it a challenge to pick the “best.” Once again, I’m going to limit this to books that I read for the first time this year (My Sister’s Keeper and To Kill a Mockingbird are disqualified). I choose The Help by Kathryn Stockett. This is a book club pick for March, so I’m a little ahead in reading it. Of course, I haven’t yet read the books for January or February, so I’m not that ahead.

Best Vacation: We actually managed to take several significant trips this year that did not involve visiting family at their homes. We went to Bermuda, Cincinnati, and New England/Canada. All were wonderful trips! I’d have to pick the New England/Canada cruise as the best of the year.

Best Movie: We didn’t get to watch too many movies this year. We saw even less in 2009 as we did in 2008. One of these days, we’ll get to the theatre more often, though I have a feeling we’ll be seeing even more kids’ movies. I’d have to say the best movie that we saw this year was Pixar/Disney’s Up.

Best Reunion: While this isn’t a reunion exactly for me, it was great to finally meet Gabe’s dad, sister, and niece on our trip to Cincinnati.

Best Album: I just don’t listen to new music all that much these days. Gabe got a bunch of new albums for Christmas, but I haven’t had a chance to give them all a listen. I guess I’ll have to pick Here Comes Science by They Might Be Giants (another children’s album). I haven’t had a chance to listen to it too much, but I’m hoping Maddie will like it, too!

Best Board Game: I’m not sure why I didn’t think of this category last year. We were exposed to several new games this year as we had the opportunity to play more this year. My favorite by far has to be Dominion (and associated expansions). It has great replayability, is fairly easily accessible for less serious gamers, and plays awesome with two players.

Best Video Game: This is another new category for 2009. I have to admit that I barely played any video games, but I wanted to include the category so I could plug our newly acquired New Super Mario Bros for the Wii. Fun! Maddie shows some interest in “playing the Mario,” and we hope to turn her into a mini video gamer sometime in 2010!

Best TV show: I’m not sure why I didn’t think of this one last year either. Let’s see, looking over my Fall Television Update, I think I’d have to pick either LOST, Chuck, Gossip Girl, or Dollhouse. Tough choice! Since LOST and Chuck haven’t started yet for this season, I think I’ll have to pick Dollhouse. Too bad the series only has a few more episodes. It seems like we often like shows that get canceled. Boo.

Favorite toy: Ok, this is random, but I’m trying to pick MY favorite toy of Maddie’s (not necessarily her favorite). I think I’d have to go with her new Melissa & Doug Sandwich Making Set from Christmas. The wooden pieces are cool, and I love how they stick together with velcro and are quite satisfying to cut with the “knife.” Fun toy!

Happy 21-months, Madeline!

Friday, November 20th, 2009

It’s time for another letter to Maddie! As usual, I have a lot to say about my little girl. I’m sure many of you are shocked.
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Happy 3rd Anniversary!

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

Today, Gabe and I are celebrating our 3rd anniversary! Last year, I wrote up a little summary of the major events that have happened since we have been married. Whew, we have covered a lot of ground! In the past year, we have added a few more milestones and major events.

  1. We are expecting our second child, a son, in a few short months.
  2. We went on TWO cruises in the past year, experiencing cruising with a toddler for the first (and second) time. It’s very different from our cruise to Alaska in 2007. We were excited to do some traveling again (but wonder if it will be possible with two small kiddos).
  3. Since our last anniversary, we have added a few more places to our list of destinations that we have experienced together. We added a new country (Bermuda), a new state (Maine), and two new Canadian provinces (New Brunswick and Nova Scotia).
  4. We continued to take a massive number of photos, adding probably another 9,000 to our archives.

Life just keeps getting better and better, and I’m so happy to spend it with Gabe and my sweet little girl. We are looking forward to what this next year will bring with the birth of our son and the transition to a family of four.

New England and Canada Cruise – Day 6, Halifax, Nova Scotia

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

Photos from Day 6 have been posted. Click on any of the photos in this post to see the full set.

Once again, we had a morning excursion, this time in Halifax, Nova Scotia. We had originally planned to take Maddie with us on our tour, but after our experiences on the 2nd day, we decided against that idea. We offered my parents to go along with one of us or stay behind with Maddie. They had a great time with Maddie in St. John, so they decided to babysit her again in Halifax. Maddie woke up in time for breakfast, so we went to the Windjammer with my Mom where Maddie ate 3 boxes of Cheerios (and half a donut!).

We left Maddie with Mom and headed to our tour. We were very glad that we decided to leave Maddie with my parents because the tour bus was very full. We had to sit in the very front seats and were not able to sit together. Gabe actually sat in the tour guide’s seat. I would not have felt safe with Maddie at the front of the bus (and holding a wiggly toddler on a bus for almost 4 hours is not my idea of a good time). This time the tour only had one stop, though it was an hour long, so that was good. This tour was called Famous Peggy’s Cove and Fishing Village. It turned out to be our favorite one from this cruise.

Once again, the day started out very foggy. We weren’t sure we were even going to be able to see the lighthouse up close! It cleared a little bit when we got there, but it was still a little misty. I was concerned about the camera, of course. When we arrived at Peggy’s Cove, the tour guide gave us a walking tour of the fishing village and a memorial before we had time to explore the area on our own. We learned about the history of the area (and more about lobsters!).

Peggy’s Cove was a neat little area to explore and very picturesque. They had an unusual number of cruise ships in Halifax, so I think that the area was more crowded than usual. It was impossible to get a photo of the lighthouse without a ton of people milling around the base. Even with the overcast conditions, it was a pretty place to explore.

We loved climbing around on the rocks, though we were careful about it. The area has tons of warnings about avoiding dark rocks that may be wet and slippery. The ocean is pretty rough along those rocks, and we enjoyed watching it from a distance.

We didn’t have too much time to climb around the rocks, but it did remind us of Red Rocks near Vegas (well, except it’s much cooler and not in the middle of a desert!).

We tried to go into the gift shop, but it was so packed full of people that we couldn’t even get inside. We found a secret back entrance to an upstairs part of the gift shop which didn’t have very many people. I found some maple cream cookies which were quite tasty! I wish I had bought two boxes!

We searched for our tour bus in the sea of buses and headed back to Halifax to rejoin with Maddie.

Maddie started her morning with Bapa and Nana at the Royal Tots playgroup. Then they took her to Halifax which involved a short bus ride to town since we were in a secured area in port. It was a bit wet out, so she mostly stayed in the stroller and took in the sights. She had another great day with her grandparents! We met them at their cabin on the ship and went to lunch together at the Windjammer. Gabe had just enough time for lunch before his next adventure with Dad, Kristin, and Chad. They were all signed up for the Halifax pub tour.

Chad, Kristin, Dad, and Gabe enjoyed the pub tour (maybe a bit too much according to those of us who stayed behind!). They were forced to wear silly yellow hats and parade around town with a bagpiper. Very amusing! They received a lot of attention everywhere they went. They visited three pubs. Kristin was happy to drink the beer that the tour provided, but Chad, Dad, and Gabe went above and beyond to truly enjoy the Halifax pub scene. We heard all about the Jameson whiskey that Chad and Gabe seemed to really enjoy.

Mom and I had planned to go into Halifax while Maddie napped in the stroller, but we decided to just stay on the ship. Since we had to take a shuttle bus to get there, it wasn’t going to leave us with much time for Maddie’s nap before we needed to return and get ready for formal night. We walked around the ship with the stroller until Maddie was asleep for a little bit and then spent a little time on the balcony in our stateroom. I decided that it was a fabulous time for a nap and slept until Maddie woke up after about 2 hours.

Maddie and I woke up just in time to go to Rock’n'Roll trivia. She had her snack while I joined a team to Name That Tune. The trivia game was great! Our previous experiences with the Rock’n'Roll trivia involved all songs from the 50s, mostly. This one was real classic rock and actually just the right bit of challenging. We only heard short clips from each song, and the guy on our team was quite good. I felt pretty good to contribute a few answers that he didn’t know.

Maddie and I headed back to the room afterward and started to get ready for our second formal night. Gabe returned from his tour and was quite talkative. Mom and I were ready to send them away and go to dinner by ourselves! They threatened to wear their hats to dinner. Dad actually walked into the dining room with the hat, but at least he refrained from wearing it at the dinner table (whew!).

Maddie and I stopped to get our photo made before dinner while Gabe finished getting ready. He had a bit of trouble with his tie…

We were able to catch the sunset that evening, though Gabe and I had to go back to the room to change a dirty diaper while my family took some nice photos on the outer deck.

It was a very pretty sunset, and we could see several lighthouses in the distance. I think we could even see Peggy’s Cove.

Too bad that Gabe, Maddie, and I couldn’t take advantage of the photo opportunity!

After we got Maddie into her pajamas, Gabe, Maddie, and I headed up to Deck 13 to play some minigolf with Kristin and Chad. That night we could see the other two ships that had been docked with us in Halifax. They were traveling a bit faster than us, so we saw them pass all lit up for the night. We have rarely seen other ships on our other cruises.

Kristin won both rounds of minigolf. Maddie watched us play and seemed content to sit in her stroller with her buddy Jojo. After our minigolf game, I went with Mom and Dad to the Majority Rules game show. I think that this one is relatively new as we hadn’t encountered it on previous cruises. Everyone had a team, and you submitted answers for each round. You would get points if you had the most popular answer, and he would read out all the answers which was usually great for a few laughs. Questions varied and included things like, “what is the first feature that men notice about women” (the answers did not vary widely on this one, as you can imagine) and “what item from your stateroom would you grab if we had an emergency evacuation” (lots of very funny answers on this one!). We had a good time.

The next day would be our last on the ship and a sea day. We were looking forward to taking advantage of the activities on our final day!

New England and Canada Cruise – Day 4, St. John, New Brunswick

Monday, October 19th, 2009

More photos from the cruise have been posted. Click on any of the photos in this post to see the Day 4 albums.

Our 4th day on the cruise meant another port stop, this time in St. John, New Brunswick in Canada. I was excited to add another Canadian province to my list (and Maddie added another country to hers!). We had to set our clocks forward an hour and had another early morning shore excursion. It’s a tad bit exhausting to have so many port days in a row to start the cruise.

My parents have been to both St. John and Halifax, so they offered to babysit Maddie while we went on a shore excursion in St. John. After our experiences on the previous day, we gladly took them up on the offer (and hoped that maybe they wouldn’t mind hanging out with her during our excursion in Halifax!). Since Maddie was peacefully sleeping by the time we needed to get breakfast, we decided to have Nana come down and watch her while she slept. It seems quite wrong to wake a peacefully sleeping toddler.

So, we all went our separate ways this morning. Mom and Dad stayed on the ship for a little while with Maddie, and then they ventured around St. John and spent some time in a park. Kristin and Chad went kayaking in the Bay of Fundy and then explored a bit on their own. Gabe and I went on the Covered Bridges and Murals of Sussex shore excursion. We didn’t have very many stops, so it turned out to be a very good thing that Maddie wasn’t along for another long bus ride.

The day started off very foggy, so we were concerned that we weren’t going to be able to see anything on our tour. The further that we got from the shore, the better the weather was. By the time we got to Sussex, we had another clear, beautiful day. We made only a few stops on the tour and only stopped at one of the covered bridges. We did get to see about 5 different bridges and even drove through two of them. I was surprised that we could drive our tour bus through the bridges. We were able to get some decent photos at the one bridge, but I was again disappointed not to have more photo opportunity stops along the way.

The covered bridges were really neat. We traveled through some very pretty countryside and had nice views from the bus. Again, it was difficult to take photos through the bus windows. We saw a good number of osprey nests and learned a lot about the area. I didn’t know much about New Brunswick and hadn’t realized that it was the only truly bilingual Canadian province. Most of the road signs and other signs were in both French and English.

We made a quick stop at a large mural on our way into town (seen above) and then another pit stop at a mall where we had a restroom break. I was thankful to have a restroom break on this tour that didn’t involve port-a-potties! Unfortunately, this stop turned out to be much longer than intended as one of the members of our tour fell and hit her head. We thought that they were calling for an ambulance, but she felt well enough to get back onto the bus after being checked out by some medics. She did not look like she felt well! When our tour guide told us about what happened and asked for our patience while we waited for them to resolve the situation, one resourceful lady asked if she had enough time to go to the Dollar store to buy some postcards. Gabe and I were amused by her inappropriateness (and she was happy with her postcards).

The murals were all over Sussex, and we saw quite a few. We walked around the downtown area which offered us nice opportunities to take photos and learn more about the local history. Lunch was at a local cafe and our sandwich choices were smoked chicken, smoked meat, or egg salad. Most of us were a little unsure about the unidentified smoked “meat.” Many of us on the tour made a side stop at The Cream Puff Bakery for desserts – yum!

After lunch, we got back onto the bus for the long ride back to St. John. I snoozed a little bit on the bus. Meanwhile, Maddie was having a wonderful time in a park with Bapa and Nana. She had a great time running around the park and chasing pigeons with Bapa. When we arrived back at the dock, Maddie was incredibly excited to see us. It was a great feeling to be greeted with such exuberance. I love that little girl. I was just as happy to see her. We enjoyed our tour, but I couldn’t help thinking about what Maddie was doing and worrying a little bit about whether she was ok. It’s a little scary being in a foreign country with no way to contact my daughter! Everything was great, and Maddie had a wonderful time with her grandparents. I think that her grandparents enjoyed the extra Maddie time as well.

We took Maddie to lunch and walked around St. John a bit where we were also able to get our passports stamped. It’s harder to get your passports stamped these days. They just don’t do it in customs anymore. You have to hunt for the proper place to do it. Maddie fell asleep while we were walking, and we took her back onto the ship while she was sleeping. Fortunately, they did not require us to take her out of her stroller to get back onto the ship. She ended up taking another 2 hour nap in her stroller. We have been very thankful that she naps so well in the stroller since it allows us to be out and about while she gets her much needed snooze. We walked around the ship and spent some time in the casino which eerily was one of the quietest places on the ship (it is closed while in port).

Maddie was not in the mood for dinner again tonight, and we had to remove her from the table and get the stroller once again. Fortunately, this was the last night that we had to take her out of the dining room. This was a big improvement over our cruise in May when she didn’t make it through any of the meals! We had ordered baked beans for Maddie the night before, thinking she would love to eat those. The waitstaff had pureed the beans, so of course Maddie wouldn’t touch them. It was nice and thoughtful of them to prepare the food in this way and good to know that they will puree foods if needed. Of course, Maddie hasn’t needed pureed foods in almost a year. She’s not crazy about the unfamiliar, and I don’t blame her for not touching the bowl of brown mush.

Maddie did enjoy the music and dancing at the end of the meal, at least! After dinner, all of us went to the Crown & Anchor Society Welcome Back party. Everyone (well, except for Maddie and me) had a different type of champagne. The captain usually attends but was navigating the ship through the fog. Maddie did pretty well at the party, and we all went to play pool on the self-leveling pool tables in the Safari Club. I blamed all my missed shots on my growing belly and inability to bend. We played some regular games as well as some games of 9-ball.

Gabe took Maddie to bed, but she was not being terribly cooperative, and we decided to try the stroller. We hoped that maybe she would fall asleep and we could all go to the Love & Marriage show together. Unfortunately, that didn’t work too well and Gabe opted to go back to the room instead of going to the show. This was the first time that I witnessed the Love & Marriage show in person. It was amusing, and I enjoyed our British cruise director and his humor. The questions were different than they had been on the previous two cruises – we’re learning that a lot of the ship’s activities vary based on the cruise director. We had had the same cruise director on the previous two cruises (odd coincidence).

We spent a little time in the casino before and after the show. I watched Mom and Dad play a little video poker before heading to bed. I was very glad that our next day was an at sea day!

The Sunday Somethings, 27sep09

Sunday, September 27th, 2009

Others writing The Sunday Somethings: Audrey

Something that made me happy this week: Spending time with my family on the New England and Canada cruise.

Something I’m thinking: Traveling with a toddler can be exhausting!

Something I’m hoping: I’m hoping to get organized with my trip photos this week. We took less than a thousand, so that should be manageable, right?

Something happening around the house: Laundry and unpacking.

Something I’m reading: I read a little bit of Loving Frank by Nancy Horan on the cruise, but not much. I’m in another reading slump.

Something tasty I ate this week: I had many tasty things on the cruise! I really enjoyed the oatmeal each morning. Yum. Too bad I’m too lazy to make anything other than instant oatmeal at home…

Something Maddie did this week: Went on her 2nd cruise. She’s working on her Platinum status with the Crown & Anchor Society.

Something happening with the pregnancy: Our son is kicking more and more each day. Gabe was actually able to feel some kicks this past week.

Something I struggled with this week: Keeping a toddler on vacation happy. It’s quite different vacationing with a young child.

Something I’m doing towards my goals: As I mentioned last week, I added a new state (Maine) and two new provinces (New Brunswick and Nova Scotia). Maddie and Gabe had never been to any of those places either (and this was Maddie’s first visit to Canada).

Something I learned this week: I learned many things about Maine, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick through our shore excursions.

Something I’m looking forward to next week: Getting together with friends, book club, and a birthday party.

Something random: New Brunswick is the only official bilingual Canadian province.

Something I captured: One of the many photos from our cruise…more to come soon, I hope.

Progress towards some goals

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

Now that I’ve revealed my life goals, I thought I would detail the progress that I’m making on some of them. Many of them are just ideas in my head, but I have taken some steps towards completing a few. A good number of my goals are ongoing efforts, and I haven’t listed all of those here.

Be able to retire at 50, Fund my kids’ college education, and Become a millionaire: As far as I’m concerned, these three are somewhat related. “Millionaire” can be defined in multiple ways, so I guess I need to figure out which definition applies. What am I doing towards these goals? Gabe and I are both saving as much as we can in our retirement accounts (as well as towards Maddie’s college). I periodically do calculations and projections with spreadsheets and online tools to see if we’re on track. Having the ability to retire at 50 is an aggressive goal, though it doesn’t necessarily mean that we will stop working then. It just means that we’d like to be in a position to do so, if we desire.

Create yearly photobooks for our family: I started making photobooks near the beginning of my relationship with Gabe. We have a book from each full year that we have been together. I am in the middle of working on our 2008 book…though it might end up being 2 books at this rate. 2008 was an eventful year!

Help raise over $100,000 for the MS Society: If you saw my post a few days ago about this year’s Triangle MS Walk, you know some of what I have been doing to raise money for the National MS Society. This could take me many years, but I hope that it is something that I can achieve. You can help! Visit our team’s website:
http://www.nationalmssociety.org/goto/team_bpatrol

Prepare meals for families with new babies or illness: When Maddie was born, we greatly appreciated food that family and friends prepared for us. This is not a goal that I can cross off the list, but something that I would like to do when the opportunity arises. We have several opportunities in the coming weeks to do this for other families.

Take a photo each day for the first year of each of my children’s lives: I thought that this would be a neat project, and it was! We successfully took a photo of Maddie every day for the first year. I loved the results!

Take at least one family vacation each year: We may not be able to do this every year when our kids are very young (like last year, we didn’t go on any vacations with just the 3 of us), but we would like to be able to do it when we can. We recently booked a Bermuda cruise for our first official family vacation, and we will be taking it in May.

Visit all 50 states: I’ve made progress towards this goal throughout my life. I will be able to mark another state off the list in September when we visit Maine.

Visit all Canadian Provinces/Territories: After our trip in September, I will be able to mark New Brunswick and Nova Scotia off of my list.

Our upcoming trips!

Saturday, January 3rd, 2009

We have added a few trips to our list for this year. We’re planning to visit Gabe’s family in Kentucky for the opening weekend at Keeneland in April. We missed opening weekend last year since Maddie was so young, so we are glad we can make it this year. In September, we are going on a cruise to New England and Canada with my parents, sister, and brother-in-law. Since our Alaskan Cruise, we have been interested in taking future cruises. We are very excited for the opportunity to take Maddie on her first cruise. We’re working on a few more travel plans and hope to have more to post soon!

Cruise Photos are posted!

Wednesday, September 26th, 2007

Finally! Gabe and I have sorted through our photos, captioned them, and posted them to the website. Whew! Now that I’ve sufficiently covered the trip in more detail than anyone but us cares about and the baby only has a few more weeks of fruit and vegetable comparisons, what will I blog about? Hrm, I guess there’s always television… Enjoy the Alaskan Cruise photos!

Cruise Day 6 – Prince Rupert, British Columbia, Canada

Wednesday, September 26th, 2007

I have captioned quite a few of the photos, and now I only have a few albums left. I should be able to get them up and running in a few days. I think. I mean we have tons of television to watch. We do have priorities, you know! In the meantime, I’ll try to get these last two trip reports posted. (more…)