Monday, June 27, 2011

My weekend:

Happy Monday, everyone!  I hope you all had a wonderful weekend!  Here are a couple highlights from mine:

I went to a second (or third...or second, once removed...?) cousin's wedding.  It was beautiful and great to see family!
This was the ceiling at the reception.  Can you tell the white stuff is that plastic table cloth that comes on rolls?  Pretty impressive, huh?!
I just thought this cake was very classy, and could appreciate the amount of time and skill it took to decorate it so intricately.  It tasted good, too!  : )
While this wedding was beautiful, special, etc., it was a little strange for me, because the couple was 1-2 years younger than me.  I know plenty of younger engaged couples, but this was the first wedding I'd actually attended where I was older than those getting married.  I kept thinking, "They're just babies - they can't be getting married!"  Just a weird feeling...that will only continue to arise, I'm sure.

Those of you living in Lincoln (or the surrounding areas) know that we had some crazy, intense storms last night...and we drove home in them.  Thankfully, I wasn't the one driving, but I was the one receiving texts from friends telling us to turn on the radio and be safe just as we were embarking on the edge of the storm.  As soon as we turned on the radio, they were talking about how the worst of it was right where we were headed, and that you should pull over if you're on I-80...which we were.  We did end up pulling off for a bit, because visibility was at 2 feet...or less.  Obviously, we made it home safely, but it took awhile.  
Don't know if you can tell, but it was a double rainbow.  We could see them both in full, but of course, couldn't capture them in a picture from the car.
These clouds were on the edge of the storm.  I'd never seen anything like them.
That's all, for now!  Enjoy the rest of the week!

Until next time,

Favorites of the day:
seeing family so much lately!
cuddly Charlie

Saturday, June 18, 2011

☼ The Sunshine State ☼

Aloha!  I hope you, dear reader, are enjoying summertime and all its festivities!  I sure am - I just got back from a trip to Florida with three other girlfriends!  It was a nearly perfect trip, and I'm going to take this opportunity to share some about what we did and saw while we were there.  I'll include links to websites, where applicable, and pictures (though some of the ones I'd like to share are from the other girls' cameras).  So, without further ado, here is a summary of our vacation (this may be a little overwhelming for some of you to read, so I've bolded highlights and included pictures):

Thursday (6/9):
5:45 a.m. (CST) - Depart Omaha for connecting flight in Chicago.  As it turns out, our flight from Chicago to Ft. Lauderdale was cancelled (the incoming plane ran into weather).  So, we spent lots of time in line and on the phone and running around the O'Hare airport and being stressed out, but we did end up getting a flight that afternoon and arrived safely at our destination about 8 hours later than anticipated.
8 p.m. (EST) - Picked up rental car (which was a silver Dodge Avenger...we named it "Alejandro").  It was in my name, so I got to be the driver for the trip.
9:30 p.m. - Checked into the hotel, ordered pizza for supper and went to bed.
We were all a little tired of standing in line...
Hotel room
Supper leftovers
9:30 a.m. - Breakfast at the hotel and depart for Ft. Lauderdale beach.  While we were here, we got to try out a Segway (they are available for self-guided tours of the area).  It was really cool!  We didn't pay to use it for our walking tour, though - we just wandered around a bit looking at the scenery, etc. in a protected nature area right next to the beach.
5:30 p.m. - Dinner and a Polynesian dancing/fire dancing show at the Mai Kai Restaurant.  The show was awesome, and they also had beautiful gardens to stroll through.  We splurged and got the "Polynesian Surprise" dessert - a tower of ice with fruit pieces stuck in it served with a lit sparkler on top.  Also, we sat next to a really great family from Georgia. 
9 p.m. - Checked into our amazing timeshare resort (one of the girls' parents were kind enough to let us use it for a week!).  We had two suites - each with a bedroom, bathroom, balcony patio, and spacious living/dining room, and one with a full kitchen, and jacuzzi tub; the other with a kitchenette.

Polynesian surprise!  (the sparkler only lasted 2 seconds) 
This is where I slept.
Slept in and went downstairs to talk to the concierge, Neil.  Neil liked us and liked to talk, so we were there for about an hour and a half, but it was worth it!  He made some excellent recommendations and got us some great deals!
4:30 p.m. - Took a quick shopping excursion to Ross' and ate a picnic supper on the way to...
6 p.m. - Went on a sunset catamaran cruise.  Got to see some amazing houses and a beautiful sunset on the water.
A couple of us went swimming in our building's beautiful outdoor pool when we got back.


8:30 a.m. - On Neil's recommendation, we ventured to Miami to see the Bayside Marketplace and South Beach.  It just so happened that we were there on the same day the Miami Heat were playing in the NBA finals.  Made for a great atmosphere and some quality people-watching.  The beach was beautiful - white sand and crystal-clear water.  We had a lovely supper at the Carlyle Hotel and yummy gelato afterward.  When we got back to Weston (where our resort was), we saw the aftermath of one of the worst thunderstorms they'd seen in years.  There were palm branches all over the ground...they're huge!

9 a.m. - Complimentary breakfast with a timeshare representative.  We had to take a tour and sit through the whole sales pitch, but we got free tickets for an airboat tour of the Everglades, which we went on later that afternoon.  We got to see alligators, birds, and lots of cool plants from our airboat, then watched an alligator show put on by a couple alligator "wrestlers."
6 p.m. - Dinner at Flanigan's.  We tried dolphin, saw an alligator on the water/fountain near our outdoor table, and shared a pretty amazing dessert.
We may or may not have had a dance party in our room when we got back...then, we watched a movie.
We saw this bird after breakfast... apparently they're really cute as babies - it's the Ugly Duckling in reverse. 
Our boat was the one in the front. 
He's not asleep... 
They're cuddling! 

4 a.m. - Woke up to head to Hollywood Beach to watch the sun rise.  We got there in plenty of time, and got to witness an absolutely picture-perfect sunrise.  
We stayed on the beach reading, napping, and collecting shells till lunchtime, then ate and headed across Alligator Alley to the other coast.  The gulf coast was very different, but just as beautiful.  On Bonita Beach, we saw some unbelievable beach houses, played in the big waves and collected lots of cool shells, then ate some yummy Mexican food at Iguana Mia.  While on the beach, I picked up a really awesome seashell, and while holding it in my hand to show the girls, it started to move.  Naturally, I screamed and dropped it, and later found out from a friendly girl and her Grandma Mimi that there was a snail living in it.  Before seeing the sun set, we walked the beach and found four sand dollars! 
We picked up some ice cream at the grocery store on the way home and enjoyed it in our room while reflecting on the day.

No, that was not our hat.  It was there when we got there. 
The moon!
Slept in and made pancakes for breakfast before heading out on our day of shopping.  We stopped at Chick-fil-a (my favorite!) for lunch before arriving at the Sawgrass Mills outlet mall.  This is one of the largest outlet malls in existance - covers 2.5 square miles - and we conquered it in about 8 hours!  Everyone found some excellent deals (we even had a coupon book, compliments of Neil!), and we had a scrumptious, aesthetically appropriate meal at the Rainforest Cafe afterward.
Upon returning to our room, we filled the jacuzzi tub with hot water and soaked our tired feet while polishing off the ice cream.

Trunk before...
...trunk after.  : )
Slept in, got in some last-minute sun at the pool, packed up, ate our leftovers, said goodbye to Neil, and checked out of the resort.  Stopped for some frozen yogurt on the way to the airport.  Our flight left from Ft. Lauderdale at 6:20 p.m. (EST), and we were back at the coop by 1:30 a.m. (CST).

Of course, there are plenty more pictures I could share, but this gives you an idea.  I'll print more and hopefully show many of you in person sometime!  (There will also be more on Facebook in the near future.)  I'm sure there are some of you who would've been ok with knowing less about our amazing time in Florida, but if any of you would like more details, let me know!

I'd like to say a huge "THANK YOU!!" to those who helped take care of and entertain Charlie while I was gone.  I appreciate you all a whole bunch!  : )

With thoughts of sunshine,

P.S.  Happy Father's Day, Dad!  ♥

Favorites of the day:
finding a coupon for a free haircut and style...and using it  : )
the raspberries that were on sale at HyVee
my fun new trumpet student!