Sunday, December 13, 2009


My family went on a cruise over Thanksgiving. We had ridiculously fun adventures and ate ridiculous amounts of food. Here are some pictures that kind of sum things up. (Some of these pictures have been graciously provided by my younger siblings.)

Cruising Family Style

The boat

Ready for the Jungle Zipline

In case of emergency, head to the nearest mustard station.
Norman loves to muster.
Foreesto gettin' his groove on at line dancing lessons.

Durd's t-shirt dragon vs the iguana.

Momma and the monkey

Dad braving the jungle and the MOSQUITOES.
(This is about 10 seconds before I ran to hide by the fire pit until the tour was over. 15 mosquito bites in 10 minutes is TOO many!)

I like to ride on boats.

See those black blurs? Those are stingrays. We swam with them, and I got to hold them! However, until my mother gets the underwater camera film developed, this is the best picture we've got.

Foreesto at the iguana farm. Trumpet leaves, anyone?

Stormie with the assist.... The ladder took up too much room. And I can't use my arms very well when laughing.

Food, food, food. I never got hungry after the 2nd morning.

Looking fab on formal night.

He missed a spot...

Fiesta Norman.

Mom and Dad dancing the night away with the help of PASSION. (Passion being the band that we listened to every night on the cruise. They even let Dusty play with them on the last night!)

Totally awesome.
The only thing that would have made this trip better is if Sunshine and company had been along. Next time, Bramwells. Next time!

Megan Reincarnate

For those of you have are fortunate enough to know my good friend Megan, click on the following link and watch this GAP ad. See the screaming blond child in the middle of the commercial?

Does that remind anyone else of Megan? Cuz, wow.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Seeing Clearly

The eye doctor is not a friendly man. He announces, immediately upon my arrival, that if he cannot get the contacts into my eyes, he might have to decide that this was not the time for me to get them.

And, being the brat that I am, my first thought is, "Excuse me? YOU are going to decide whether or not I can have contacts based on whether YOU can put them in MY eyes? And if YOU can't then I just can't have contacts? I haven't even gotten to try!"

I mean, my students have contacts. My siblings and friends have contacts. How hard can it be, right?


The doctor is holding a contact on his finger. He says, "Just tell yourself not to blink."

Sure, I think. Don't blink.

And then he leans over to try to put the contact in my eye, and my face REBELS. Without permission, it pulls into this horribly grotesque, squinty grimace. And I am TRYING to get my face to relax. My brain is firing off demands ("What are you doing? Relax! Relax!"), but my face continues to cinch itself down into a teary, puckered scowl.

The doctor takes a step back, favoring me with a grouchy eye-brow quirk. I apologize under my breath, and he steps up for attempt #2.

But NOW my body knows what is coming. I can feel the muscles around my eye preparing themselves for another Hunchback of Notre Dame impersonation. My mind is chanting "OPEN, OPEN" so my right eye stays propped up. Barely. To compensate for that loss of ground, other facial muscles take up the fight, and now my mouth is pulling sideways, my eyebrows are hiking towards my hairline, and my left eye is streaming.

The doctor says, "Don't blink yet." Right. So I dig my fingers into the armrests, as my lips inch closer and closer to my left ear. And then I blink. Whether the doctor wants me to or not. Luckily, the contact stayed in place. One down.

He readies the 2nd the contact. My left eye is still streaming. I'm taking hasty swipes at it, terrified that he will tell me that I can't handle the pressure. That I'm just not contact material.

He leans over, and my left eye sets off a preemptive volley of super blinks. The doctor steps back, and I sheepishly apologize again, promising that I will try harder. He is obviously not impressed.

Gearing up my will power, I open my eye as wide as I can. I can literally feel my face twitching-- I probably look rabid--but I'm holding my own, and then YES! It's in! They're in!

The doctor is not in the mood to share in my triumphant cheering. He sends me to the next room where one of the ladies from the front counter coaches me on how to take the contact OUT.

By the time I leave the doctor's office, I look like I've been in a fight. My eyes are bloodshot, and I have been trying to rub off the mascara that has smeared itself across my eyelids. I have managed to successfully put in and take out my contacts.

However, that night I still had to have Russell call Bryant in order to have him talk me through how to get the dang things OFF.

This is going to take some getting used to.

Monday, November 09, 2009

So Very Awesome

Now this, this is fun.

(Does this look like Annie is falling off the arch?)

Some days are just that good.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Bella Italia: Venezia

Last stop: Venice.

We arrived in Venice late after a very long day on trains. We were staying on the island of Lido (just off Venice), and so we rode a vaparetto (water bus) to the island. The hostel we found was called Villa Stella. Yes, I am totally guilty of booking the place because it translates into "Star's House." Regardless, the place was great. It SO didn't fit in the hostel category. It was a little bed and breakfast/hotel. We had two little adjoining rooms, and each room was named after a star or constellation. (Which, of course, I totally loved!)

The next morning we went to visit Venice.

Venice was awesome because it is an island. Which means you can't really get lost. You can't get off, so you can just literally wander around the narrow, winding streets.
So for two whole days we wandered around the island, and this is what we saw:

San Marco Cathedral

Including the famous pigeons.
Weird 24-hour zodiac clock.

The Bridge of Sighs.
This was the bridge you crossed before going into prison. You would look out those little windows and see your last glimpse of the outside world. I thought it was ironic that the entire bridge is currently encased in a gigantic, sky blue sunglasses advertisement. A little too cheery...

Happy #28!

We went to dinner that night at a little outdoor cafe, and we shared our table with the owner's big, black cat. He snoozed on the chairs the whole time. When the owner found out, he sent us glasses of limoncello to apologize. We didn't mind--and we gave the drinks away.
We didn't have any candles on a birthday cake, but we bought gelato and Russ blew out the candles on one of the restaurant tables we walked passed.

I really liked the shops in Venice.
Book shops.
Food shops.
Mask Shops.
We found this mask shop on our first day. We decided to try to go back the next day, and it took us two hours to find the place! (And we were never more than a few blocks away!)

Venice was idyllic. Although I was tired, covered in mosquito bites, and completely out of clean clothes, I was still sad to leave. I would like to return very soon, and I recommend this city to anyone who is in need of a truly excellent adventure!

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Bella Italia: Cinque Terra


This was my favorite area that we visited. The Cinque Terre region is a row of five tiny villages literally perched on the cliffs above the Mediterranean Sea.
You can't drive to them; you either take a boat or a train. We took a train, and got off in the 4th of the 5 villages: Vernazza.
Coming off the train was finally like stepping into that ultra-romanticized vision of Italy I'd had floating around in my brain. Little shops and houses piggy-backing each other up and down steep, narrow lanes. We did not have any kind of reservation (no monastaries here), but Russ was sure we would be able to rent a room from someone in the village.

As we left the train station, a plump, little Italian woman approached. Speaking very rapid Italian, she asked if we wanted a room, how many nights we were planning to stay, and then without hardly a pause, instructed us to follow her. And this is where she took us:

It was a fabulous, tiny, cave-like apartment that had a bed in the loft, and beds on the ground floor. I had to really scramble to communicate with our new land lady, but we ended up doing all right!

Our first stop in the village was the castle at the top of the cliff. It was literally used to ward off pirates. (Could this be any cooler?)
Here is the view of the village from the castle tower.

We ate dinner at a restaurant we read about in the guidebook that night. We ordered "six plates of fish" and this is one of the plates that we received:
Yes, those are tentacles.

The next day we hiked the trail that links all of the villages. It took us the majority of the day.





Between Manarola and Riomaggiore there is a path called Via del'Amore. Yeah, the road of love. Apparently, there is an Italian teen romance novel that mentions the old tradition of closing padlocks as part of a lovers' pact. So we found padlocks all over the path.

We rode the ferry boat back to Vernazza that evening. It was fun to see the villages from out on the water.
Cinque Terra was my favorite stop on the trip!