Tampa

Last weekend CSP & I took a quick 4 day trip with his parents to Tampa.  The main goal of the trip was so CSP & his mom could go to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers game against CSP’s beloved Minnesota Vikings.  The trip down was fairly uneventful, if loooong. We found our hotel then went to grab a quick dinner at Mimi’s.

The next morning we got up and had the hotel provided breakfast.  We were in a Homewood Suites and it was quite nice.  CSP and I had one room, then there was a living room, then CSP’s parents in their room.  Great set up.  After breakfast we got ready for the day and hung out in the room planning our route for the day.  Once it was all figured out we headed toward Ybor City (pronounced EEE-bore) to go to the Columbia Restaurant for lunch.  IMG_5927

The Columbia is Florida’s oldest restaurant. IMG_5938 It’s SO cool!  And as you can tell by the pictures, it was a GORGEOUS day!!!IMG_5923 Such amazing details and architecture. IMG_5937 You could spend a whole day there looking at everything. IMG_5924IMG_5925 We arrived right at 11:30 am and it was a good thing because the place really filled up and had a wait by the time we left.  CSP was so excited to order a real, traditional mojito, complete with sugar cane!IMG_5928IMG_5929  They bring each person their own warm loaf of Cuban bread. And all the waitstaff are in tuxedoes.  Very nice.  I ordered the Pollo Riojana.  It was so good. IMG_5934CSP enjoyed his Bean SoupIMG_5933 and the 1905 Salad that they make right by the table.  So mad I didn’t get a picture of our sweet server tossing that up!  We even had desert.  We shared an incredible White Chocolate Bread Pudding.  The best I’ve ever had.

IMG_5935After lunch we went into the Columbia’s gift shop.  CSP bought the salad dressing from the 1905 Salad, some hot sauce and a cigar (which he still hasn’t smoked!). Then we hit the road looking for the beach!

CSP’s mom really wanted to see the Gulf of Mexico since we were so close.  We thought about going to Clearwater Beach where I used to go as a child.  Boy has it grown!  It was so busy you’d think it was the middle of the summer, not the end of October! So we drove over to Sand Key and drove until we found a public beach access. IMG_5939 It was such a gorgeous day IMG_5953I would have been happy to nap on the beach and swim but we had other plans. IMG_5948 We did get to walk around a bit on the beachIMG_5949IMG_5943 and put our toes in the water. IMG_5946IMG_5952I could have stayed all day!!!  But it was time to get back in the car and drive over to St. Petersburg. We drove around looking at the city a bit and went to a park for a little while.  Then we found a Starbucks for drinks.  I tried the Shaken Green Tea Peach Lemonade and it was delish! IMG_5954By now it was starting to get late in the day and we were thinking about where to have dinner.  There were a couple of ale houses CSP was interested in located in St. Pete so we did a quick drive by.  Oops!  They were having their Halloween parties a little early so they were packed with costumed party people.  We even saw a clown throwing up on the side of the road.  At 5:30 in the afternoon!  They party hard in Florida!!!  So we headed back to Tampa.  Let me tell you that each trip from Tampa to Clearwater to St. Pete were not short.  Traffic- the struggle is real in Florida.  And people drive like maniacs. So we spent the better part of the day just in the car trying to get places!

We found ourselves back in Ybor City (Tampa’s Latin neighborhood) for dinner at Tampa Bay Brewing Company, a place visited by Guy Fieri on Diner’s, Drive Ins, and Dives. IMG_5955IMG_5956I had the beer cheese soup and the Firecracker Shrimp.  Best beer cheese soup ever! IMG_5985CSP really enjoyed the wings and house brewed beer. IMG_5984 You can see the big brew tanks behind us.  After dinner we were all tired from our long day so we went back to the hotel and promptly to sleep.  I love sleeping in hotel rooms.  It’s so dark and the sheets are so crisp and smell faintly of bleach.  Ahhh.

Sunday was game day!  We woke up and had hotel breakfast again then I laid down with a nasty headache. CSP came in to say goodbye and he was off to his game.  I napped until about 1:30 then showered and got ready for the day.  FIL wanted to go to Mimi’s again for lunch so we headed over there. After lunch we went down toward the stadium to find a place to park and wait for CSP & MIL to get out of the game.  We found some shade in a grocery store parking lot and waited.  Then the game went into overtime.  Luckily I had my phone with me so I passed the time texting friends and cruising Facebook.  We were parked on the main drag so once the game let out all the fans were walking by our car.  So fun to people watch!  Drunk people, families, people all decked out in team wear.  We found CSP & MIL and they were starving.  So we went to Miller’s Ale House back near our hotel.  I’m sorry I don’t have a picture of CSP & MIL in their jerseys.  They looked really cute.  At Miller’s we heard a play by play of the game.  I needed a cocktail so I ordered a creamsicle.  Very yum. IMG_5987We hung out at the Ale House for a couple hours watching the late football game.  Then it was time to go back to the hotel and pack up to leave!

We hit the road fairly early the next morning but ran into major traffic around Orlando so we didn’t get home until about 11 pm.  CSP fell asleep as soon as we got in the car. IMG_5993The pugs were happy to see us and we were happy to see them!  They were very well taken care of by our BIL, who stayed at our house the whole weekend and sent us funny text updates throughout.

Now we’re all rested up and ready for our next adventure!

 

 

 

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Big Bear and Day 7 of 30 Days of Thanks

I am thankful for CSP’s job.  He’s worked at the same company since 1990!  He works so hard and it is because of that that I’ll be able to stay home with our kidlets.

The other day he told me that the guys he works with have a new nickname for him.  If you’ve never seen CSP he’s a big guy.  He’s 6’5″ and pretty beefy.  So in my opinion his new nickname fits.  They call him Big Bear!  Ha!  And when he gets mad at them they’ll say “Ooh, Big Bear angry!”  Like he’s the hulk!  And when they see him eating his lunch they’ll say “Big Bear hungry!”   Bahaha!!!  This cracks me up so much!

Disney Magic- Day 9

Saturday, February 4, 2012.  Back to the USA.

I can’t believe I forgot to tell you that we saw Stitch last night!  We made one last trip to the gift store to pick up a thank you for CSP’s mom for taking care of the pugs.  We were getting on the elevator and there he was!  Stitch is my favorite!   And he was dressed up as Pirate Stitch!  My favorite favorite!!!

Before we disembark I want to show you some pictures taken around the ship.  Disney is world famous for a lot of things, one of them is their attention to detail.  There isn’t a boring nook or cranny on their cruise ships.   They have art everywhere and even the hand rails are decorative!  One spot where this is very evident is Beat Street- the adult section of the ship where most of the lounges and bars are located.   Even the ceiling is decorated with twinkle lights to resemble stars.   This is Diversions- CSP’s favorite hang out.  It’s the sports/games bar.  They have everything from big screen tvs to giant Twister and fooseball.  This is the Mickey Pool.  You don’t often see it empty so this is a big deal!  Here are some more shots from around the ship.  Just places we thought were really nice. Even the light fixtures in the common areas are nice! Here are the gift shops, on either side of this hallway.  The Walt Disney Theatre is where all the big shows are performed.

SO…this morning we woke up early and got dressed and packed up all the last minute things.  Then we went to breakfast.  The elevator doors opened and OMG the line for breakfast was insane!  But we made it in finally and had a nice breakfast.  We turned on our phones and watched them blow up with emails and texts from the week.  The guy at the next table was wearing a Minnesota shirt and so was CSP (there were TONS of Minnesota people on this cruise!).  You could tell the next table guy was dying to talk to CSP about it but he never got the chance.  After breakfast we dropped off our customer satisfaction survey and headed to debarkation.  Once you’re off the ship you pick up your luggage (easy color coded system).  Then you go through customs.  The line went quickly and next thing you know we were back on Florida ground!  I waited with the luggage while CSP picked up Blanca (our RAV4) then we hit the road for home!  It was so weird to eat breakfast on a cruise ship in the ocean then eat dinner at a Mexican joint in NC!

We arrived home and CSP’s parents were here.  His mom stayed the week taking care of the pugs and the house.  We showed pics after being attacked by 3 pugs who were full of kisses for their missing parents, then went to dinner.  We made it home in record time.  We didn’t stop for lunch, just gas, so that helped.

Overall we had a blast and can’t wait for next year to go again!  My only complaints:  if your child is screaming please remove them from the dining room/show.  Also the hair dryer.  They look like a vacuum tube.  It does a fine job of drying your hair, the only problem is it gets so hot I couldn’t hold on to it long enough to dry my hair!  And I have short, baby fine hair.  I felt bad for long haired girls!  I’m definitely bringing my own next time.

The best parts:  being able to spend so much time with CSP with no distractions.  It was awesome!  Going to a fancy dinner every single night!  The shows.  Castaway Cay.  Our balcony.  Sleeping.  I sleep like a baby on a boat.  The constant gentle rocking. Seeing CSP so happy and relaxed.   The people watching.   Everyone is just happier on a Disney cruise ship!

Disney Magic- Day 8

Friday, February 3, 2o12    Castaway Cay

Today is the day we’ve been looking forward to all week!  Castaway Cay!  Castaway Cay is Disney‘s private island.  They have 3 separate beaches– the family beach, the sports beach, and the adults only beach called Serenity Bay.  Paradise I tell you!

We woke up early and had breakfast in our room.   Look at that view!  Just as we were about to put on our swim suits and SPF, a message came over the loud speaker.  It was the captain telling us they were having technical difficulties.  Boo!  So there was a 2 hour delay getting to the island.  One of the ships’ side thrusters (used instead of tug boats) was malfunctioning.  They got it running again and the next thing you know we were docked at Castaway Cay!

We got off the boat and went to wait for the tram.  On the way to the gangplank we ran into Donald.  Then CSP got stopped by Minnesota people who recognized the TC (Twin Cities) on his shirt and had to talk baseball! 

We walked over to the tram station.  On the way we passed the post office.   Chip and Dale were there!   We took the tram (even the tram route is pretty)  to Serenity Bay and got lunch(since it was so late now) before we picked out our chairs on the beach.  Lunch was a buffet and I didn’t take pictures.  But it was great!  Mahi mahi, ribs, chicken, burgers, hot dogs, lots of different salads, fruit, ice cream even!

CSP and I picked out our chairs (there are hammocks too!).  I didn’t bring my good camera on the island so these are all iPhone pics, but not too shabby eh?  This was the view from my chair.   We went out into the cool water and swam and swam.  Or bobbed and floated!  There were some snorkelers nearby who warned us of giant starfish and stingrays.  We saw lots of fish and I was calling for a dolphin baby to come see me but no real wildlife.  UNTIL…we decided to go chill out on the beach.  We were really far out in the water and were doing the stingray shuffle as to not step on one.  I noticed some holes in the sand under our feet and pointed them out to CSP.  I reached down to see what it was just as CSP saw the tail.  It was a stingray!  CSP started yelling “Crocodile Hunter!” and tackled me to get out of the way of the tiny baby stingray who just wanted to hang out with me!   CSP is not a fan of wild animals.  We made our way back to our chairs.  CSP went and got us some cocktails.   We relaxed on our chairs for a while.  Reading books and I may have nodded off a bit.   We eventually noticed people making their way back to the ship so we packed up and hopped back on the tram.    Back on the ship we went up on deck to get some shots of the island. 

We went back to the room and packed up our luggage since this was our last night on the cruise. 😦    Then we got ready for dinner.  Dinner tonight was in Animator’s Palate.   We haven’t been to Animator’s Palate since the first night of the cruise.  CSP’s appetizer was a sesame seared tuna tartare.  So pretty!    He also had some sort of seafood mixture.  I can tell that’s shrimp and scallops and maybe salmon.  Not sure why I didn’t write this down.I had the chicken sate .    If you’re wondering how I remembered all the things we ate, I brought a tiny notebook and put it in my purse.  Then after we ordered I’d write down everything we ordered.  Just before bed I’d write down everything we did that day.  There’s no way I’d remember everything on my own!

We both had soup- CSP had lobster and crawfish bisque while I had potato leek soup.  Our entrees included orange roughy stuffed with crab for CSP and seafood pasta for me.  Lobster, scallops, shrimp and clams.  I put those clams on CSP’s plate immediately.  I can’t stand the idea of their shells touching my food!   Dessert was a yummy strawberry and creme cake called Celebration Cake for me and the trio for CSP.  It included chocolate mousse,a chocolate tart and a little celebration cake.    During dinner service there was a little show.  The man waving is Val, our waiter.  We love Val.  He’s from Romania and his wife works on the ship too.  There are over 55 countries represented in the dining staff alone!

After dinner we went back to our room and went right to bed because tomorrow we have to get up early for breakfast and debarkation!

DIsney Magic- Day 7

Thursday, February 2, 2012.  Last Sea Day.

I can’t remember exactly when during the trip, but we watched a ton of movies.  Mostly just before bed.  Included in these are Apollo 18,  Puss in Boots, Cowboys & Aliens, and the end of Dolphin Tale.

Today was our last sea day.  I love sea days.  It’s so odd to me that we can be all the way out there in the ocean and see literally NOTHING.  No land, no ships, no nothing. Except if you look closely you can see another cruise ship on the horizon.  Didn’t happen often so when we’d see one we’d try and capture it.   And by the way, I get the best sleep of my life on a cruise ship.  It’s the gentle rocking I think.  Today we slept late, skipped breakfast and went to Lumiere’s for lunch.   CSP had sushi.  I think sushi is so beautiful.  I wish I wanted to eat it!  Ha!  He also had a salmon cake and salmon over risotto.  The man has been putting down some fish!

I had fruit, then a pear/nut salad, and a burger.  CSP ate my fries since they were the big fat ones.  I like skinny fries.   I asked for ketchup and this is what the server gave me.   So cute!  After lunch we went back to the cabin and read books on the balcony.  Then I delivered my Fish Extender gifts.  That took a good while of touring all over the ship.  After a short nap it was time to get ready for dinner and the show. I finished my bottle of wine tonight. SO good.   Thank you Christina!  Tonight’s show was Dreams.  We’ve seen this one before.  It’s really good.   All about believing in your dreams.   After the show we stopped into Diversions so CSP could have a beer.  Diversions is the sports/games bar.  It’s family friendly until 9pm.  They also have a little buffet with nachos and wings on it.  CSP liked the wings.   Tonight was semi formal night.  Minnie was all dressed up again.   It’s so interesting to me what people wear on cruises these days.  When I was 7 I went on my first cruise.  Back then people REALLY dressed for dinner.  And formal and semi-formal nights meant tuxedos and suits and fancy dresses.  Some people on this cruise still fancied up but there were some who wore beach wear into the dining room for dinner!  Disney asks that no flip flops or shorts or beachwear be worn into the nice dining rooms.  I think it makes it more special when you put a little effort into it.

Anyway, tonight’s dinner was at Lumiere’s.    CSP started with oysters rockefeller  while I had some grilled shrimp.   We both enjoyed the wild mushroom soup.  Tonight was lobster night!  We both got the lobster tail with green beans and rice.   CSP also got the sesame seared tuna.  He actually liked the tuna better than the lobster!   It is really pretty!

For dessert CSP had  the tropical sundae and I had the trio- coconut macaroon, amaretto cheesecake, and banana creme brulee.  So yum!

After dinner we went to Rockin Bar B to see the adult show of Buckets N Boards.  Not sure what was adult about it except there were no kids there.  It’s not like they tell dirty jokes or drum more sexily.  ha!  This show was really funny and we had a great time.

Tonight was the late night dessert buffet.  We were really close to the front of the line so I was able to get some pictures before it was picked over.  So gorgeous!

Once we were finished ogling the desserts we went straight to bed.  We were so excited for tomorrow!  Castaway Cay day!

Disney Magic- Day 5

Tuesday, January 31, 2012  St. Maarten

We woke up today at 7 am to have breakfast in our room and watch the ship pull into port.  Can you guess who’s idea that was? 🙂 Once we were parked we took a nap as we were up super late the night before.

We woke back up and put on our swim gear then headed over to Quiet Cove Pool.   Ahhh, now this is the life.  Everyone was off exploring the island and we had the pooland hot tub nearly all to ourselves!  We’ve been to St. Maarten and decided to skip it this time to enjoy the ship without the crowds.  We swam for like 3 hours & hot tubbed it for a while too.  (check out how great my iPhone takes pics!) We got hungry in the sun (but didn’t get sunburned thanks to our new SPF swim shirts! (mine came from here and CSP’s from here) so we went to Topsider’s for the buffet.  We were wet from the pool or we would have gone to Lumiere’s for sit down service.  I wasn’t all that impressed with the buffet, but CSP found some things to eat.  I got a salad and a crepe.

After lunchwe walked around the ship so we could get some pics of the island  andall the ships.  It was likea parking lot  and CSP could not get over it!  Look!  Five ships in a row!  And that’s not counting the one behind us! It IS pretty amazing that they can parallel park these HUGE ships theway they do!

Since everyone was off on the island it gave us a chance to photograph the pools without the throngs of people!  Here’s Mickey’s pool and slide.    And this is theFunnel Vision big screen tv over Goofy‘s Pool.   They show movies on this screen day and night.

We went back to the room for nap time.  When I woke up I put my Fish Extender Gifts together.  Outside of every stateroom door is a fish. It’s a little place where crew members can leave you notes/ materials.   The fish extender is a long thing with lots of pockets that usually has your family name on it.  We got ours when we went on Lisa & Pete’s wedding cruise back in 2008.  Besides the exchange (which I’ll explain shortly) they are great as a landmark so you can pick out your room in the long hallways.  You can either make your FE (fish extender) or  buy one from someone crafty on Etsy or eBay.   By the way, the room doors are metal so you can decorate with magnets (just no tape).   Here’s a great explanation of the FE ritual.  You sign up to be part of the FE exchange via your cruise thread on the DIS boards.  It’s a big message board for Disney travelers.  There is a thread for each cruise date and someone from that group organizes it.  Everyone comes up with inexpensive little travel friendly gifts to exchange.  I like it when the gifts say something about where the giver is from.  Like last time we got maple sugar candy from people who live in Canada.  This go round we had 15 total cabins participating.  CSP and I went to Shealy’s to get barbeque sauce since the Carolinas are famous for BBQ.  I also included a Thirty-One key fob and a mini catalog since I’m an Independent Consultant with Thirty-One.  Did you know our new catalog is out and this month’s special is amazing!  For every $31 you spend you can take 31% off ANY catalog item!  Ahem, back to cruise reporting!

Tonight was our dinner at Palo!  We were so excited!   Palo has their own elevator lobby.  Everything Palo is so gorgeous.  Maria was our server again.  She brought out our bread first in a cool basket that CSP wanted to try and fit in my purse.   She also brought out anti pasta.   Then came our appetizers.  I chose polenta with portobello mushrooms.  SO good.  CSP got cioppino- a mixture of mussels, clams, scallops, and shrimp in broth.  It looked amazing and he about licked the bowl.   Maria brought us a lemon sorbet to cleanse our palates before the main course.

For our entrees we shared a lobster ravioli on Lisa’s recommendation.  OMG.  You could totally tell the pasta was handmade.  It melted in your mouth.  And you could taste the lobster.  Ahhhmazing.  CSP got the osso buco with the creamiest risotto ever made by human hands.   Osso buco is a veal shank.  They included the bone and CSP scraped out the marrow like some woodlands animal.  He was all proud of the empty bone at the end but I refused to photograph that carnage!   He really loved it all though and said the meat was like butter.   I was more civilized and ordered a tuna steak with potatoes, artichokes, and truffles.  I’d never had truffles before!  I felt like I was on the Food Network.  Dessert came next.  CSP got coffee and a tiramisu.  That boy loves tiramisu.  He said this one was fantastic.   I had a pot of the most amazing jasmine tea and a dessert called amaretto indulgence.  Honestly, I barely tasted any amaretto (one of my most favorite flavors), but it was still wonderful.   The little orange circles were some sort of orange liqueur so when I dipped the chocolate in the orange circle it tasted like the chocolate oranges you get at Christmas.  So yum.   Maria was kind enough to take our picture for us.   Don’t we look cute? And full?  ha!

We missed the Pirates IN the Caribbean dinner and party because of our Palo dinner.  We left Palo just in time to watch the fireworks through a window.  So no firework pictures. Oh well.  It was worth it.

We got back to our room and met our towel monkey.   You know, the turn down service is one of the things I miss most.  It’s so nice to slide into a tightly made bed every night.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention CSP’s favorite tv channel on the ship.    He loved being able to see how fast we were going, how strong the winds were, and see our position in the ocean.  I admit, it was really cool.  We didn’t stay up too late tonight and were asleep by midnight.

 

 

 

CSP turns 40! Third & final day of birthday bonanza!

Monday CSP & I met up with his parents at The Liberty Gastropub in SouthEnd for birthday lunch.  After lunch CSP & I went home to get Zoe then we headed out to his parents’ house for dinner, cake, and presents.  They had their tree all decorated.   Zoe LOVES going with us to her granparents’ house.  Usually it means lots of treats and a present or two, even though it’s her daddy’s birthday.  We had a lovely dinner then it was time for cake and presents.   Notice a theme?  Purple & yellow for the Minnesota Vikings, CSP’s favorite team.  Zoe helped open presents  then got tired and just wanted cake.   The big present of the night was a custom jersey with CSP’s name on it!  He was thrilled!    He had a wonderful 40th birthday.  People kept telling him he doesn’t look 40.  The waiter at Growler’s said the same thing.  He said “You don’t look 40.  And I normally save that for the ladies.” ha!  It was a fun 3 days.  Next up on the list of 40th birthday celebrations- our cruise in January!!!