Category Archives: married life

Spring Break Quarantine: Week 1

20200318_171023Although I have not traveled outside of the country, my famiy’s spring break trips have been canceled due to threat of the coronavirus. Since we’ve been stuck inside, I took to Facebook and started posted daily quarantine updates in a style I like to think mirrors a Jane Austen heroine.

What follows below are my famiy’s exploits from our first week in quarantine.

Day 1 of Spring Break under quarantine: The day dawned as usual, although it was with a heavy sigh that I lifted myself out of bed. Today I was supposed to embark on an adventure to a Magical Kingdom, but alas, I am relegated to spend the next month at home.

After a morning and afternoon spent trying to sort out various travel issues for my clientele, I was finally able to take a short repose in my favorite chair. I sent the children outdoors for a constitutional, hoping they would stave off cabin fever with a frolic in the snow. My youngest was delighted. My eldest is displaying his dissatisfaction by tossing snowballs at my window and glowering at me. I fear this will be the first of many withering looks in the weeks to come.

As food shortages have already begun at the local markets, I am baking bread.

I have finished reading the first of the novels I plan to read during this long spring. I have high hopes that all will be well.

 

20200315_144241Day 2 of Spring Break Quarantine: Everyone was beyond thrilled when I served bacon for breakfast, since breakfast is usually a rushed affair so that we can be on our way to school and to work.

As a family we took our first daily constitutional around the neighborhood. The wind was bracing and made me long for the tropical climate we were supposed to be experiencing as we toured the world in only a few hours thanks to the magic of Florida. But there is no use bemoaning what should have been. Jumping over mud puddles on our walks will have to suffice as our daily thrill rides.

Later I finished the second of the novels I brought home to read. I also made progress on two other heavier works of non-fiction.

In addition to our twice daily walks, I am also instituting a family game hour. My daughter chose Munchkin Shakespeare and although I should not take quite as much pleasure in this as I do, I trounced both of my children and more than my fair share of Elizabethean monsters.

Dinner was a hearty soup with some of the homemade bread from day before.

The children were enconsed in their beds with little fuss and I settled in to my favorite chair, blanket on my lap to play some virtual cards with dear friends.

 

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Day 3 of Spring Break Quarantine: Books are sustaining us through this long, cold, distance with others. I have finished the three of the books I brought home with me. My son has read twice that number. I fear he will soon run out. And with no libraries to sustain him, madness may set in soon….

I began cleaning our homestead. Although much was accomplished, my work was brought to an abrupt end when I found some mementos of my dear departed father and decided to seek solace under a warm blanket and Netflix.

Our morning constitutional was a success, but sadly as we headed out for our evening waltz around the neighborhood, a light drizzle began to fall and my children stubbornly refused to remain out of doors.

Despite the slight rain, spirits did improve with a delivery from Amazon which brought Nerf guns for my son. He is planning a full scale attack on his friends once this quarantine has been lifted. For now, he seems to be plotting against his sister. At the moment a peace holds, but I can’t help but wonder how long it will last.

 

20200318_103523Day 4 of Spring Break Quarantine: Cabin fever has suddenly set in. The day began with sibling squabbles which culminated in sibling shouting. It was truly much ado about nothing, but it is hard to reason with children in the throws of unreasonable anger.

Tempers cooled and clearer heads prevailed when a Lego challenge was issued. My son took up the gauntlet and created a new roller coaster for a theme park. My daughter created passengers for his ride. A small dose of teamwork brought them together.

Thankfully we were able to take more than just a turn around the room and actually escaped outside for our daily constitutionals. We desperately needed the fresh air and escape from the confines of our humble abode.

I was also able to finish my fourth novel of this quarantine and make impressive progress on The Story of the Trapp Family Singers. Sadly, I did not make as much progress on my Fast and Furious quest. This was due in part to the hour I spent in a Zoom meeting with the dearest companions of my heart. They lifted my weary spirits and made this time apart a bit more bearable.

20200318_171030Day 5 of Spring Break Quarantine: The weather foiled our attempts to get some fresh air. The rain came tumbling down upon us and drove us back indoors. Since it did not cease until after dinner, we were a bit more desolate than usual. The dreary day made our spirits even drearier.

Thankfully a delivery of food arrived from the local market, so I had some beautiful carrots and potatoes to accompany my roast. I also made some biscuits to round out the evening meal.

My daughter decided we needed a special project to busy ourselves, idle hands and all…so she suggested baking cookies. Sugar cookies were her choice so that we could make a thorough mess of the kitchen. They have special unicorn chips in them and are quite tasty. But now we have three dozen cookies and only four of us. Normally I would take these extra goodies into school to share with my students, but alas, since school is not in session and we are quarantined, we will have to put our best effort forward and make sure none of these precious morsels are wasted. In hindsight, I should have frozen half of the dough. Clearly I have not adjusted to this new world we find ourselves in.

My son found solace in his drawing lessons and my daughter in her music. I retreated into books again, and have finished my fifth book during this isolation.

20200319_164603Day 6 of Spring Break Quarantine: Today we actually left our home! What was originally supposed to be our day of rest in between two whirlwhind visits, first with family in the bustling city of Orlando, and then with friends in the quiet countryside of Athens, was instead the first day we’d left our neighborhood in nearly a week.

Fear not dear friends, our sojourn into the world did not put us at risk. We had to pick up some medicine from our local apothocary and also had to stop by the local market to acquire some additional ingredients for our meals. We did not actually venture in to either of these establishments, but waited for our items to be passed to us outside. We were back home in less than half an hour.

We were home in time to take our morning constitutional, which was much needed, especially when the rain picked up again and our evening one had to be forgotten.

After luncheon, we moved to the parlor where we wiled away the afternoon playing games the children invented, which were surprisingly amusing. Later, while the children played more games remotely with their cousins, I found even further entertainment from one of my favorite musical groups, The Indigo Girls. They had a concert in their parlor and invited the world to watch. I was so excited at how so many people who were so very far apart were brought together through the wonders of this modern age. My heart delighted in it and I may have danced in my kitchen.

20200320_105341Day 7 of Spring Break Quarantine: It’s been a week and the days are beginning to blend into one another.

One noticeable difference was that my husband was not needed in town until later in the day, so he spent the morning with us. The children were happy to have some time with their father, and disappointed he had to leave before our morning constitutional around the neighborhood. It was windy and the sky was overcast, but it was suprisingly warm. Although we wore our coats, we almost didn’t need them. It gave me hope that maybe we’d see the sun again soon. My spirits were further lifted when my daughter reached for my son’s hand and he actually let her take it for a few minutes as they walked.

Once home, we sat and wrote letters to some of our nearest and dearest. My daughter was excited to post hers, but was filled with grief when I informed her that her cousins would not get her letter or the game she sent them for several days.

Upon my husband’s arrival back home, we decided to play parlor games. My daugther chose Apples to Apples and we had a delightful time playing with words and clever turns of phrase. Once again, I won, much to my husband’s chagrin.

I was downtrodden when one of the avocados was completely spoiled, but still managed to produce a passable guacamole that my family loved with the remaining fruits. It complemented the tacos perfectly. Even during a pandemic, it is hard to complain when there are tacos.

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Royal Caribbean: Brilliance of the Seas Minstrel Dining Room

20191231_181140With four children, three of whom were hungry, restless almost teenage boys, we knew the Windjammer Cafe buffet was going to be our main source of food on our cruise. But since we were celebrating not only New Year’s Eve, but also a birthday, we wanted to make at least a few nights a bit fancy by eating in the Minstrel Dining Room.

At first our boys were a little reluctant, until we mentioned that while it might not be a seemingly never ending buffet, they could order more than one appetizer, dessert, and even main dish if they wanted to. And of course, they did!

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On this cruise, my son was about two months shy of his 13th birthday and very tired of ordering off of children’s menus. He’s a very adventurous eater and always wants to try exotic things on menus. Unfortunately, those things are often some of the most expensive on the menu, so he’s been relegated to standard kid’s fair for most of his life. Granted, we do take him to some awesome places that have amazing kids menus, including one that will make junior portions of any regular entree at half price, but for the most part he’s been relegated to hamburgers, pizza, and chicken fingers for a large portion of his restaurant life.

So the chance to order whatever he wanted was pretty much his idea of Nirvana! He salavated over choices of steak, lobster, salmon, Beef Wellington, various tartlets, and escargot. And yes, he did get escargot as ONE Of his appetizers during one of our dining room meals.

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The first night he got salmon (one of his favorite foods) and loved it. The next time when we went to the dining room and he had a choice, he really wanted the salmon again, but he also wanted to try some steak. So we told him what the heck, have them both. He did…and ate every single bite of each meal.

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Thankfully the portions in the dining room are not huge. Even I found myself torn between two appetizers, but didn’t feel bad about ordering both as I knew the portions would be reasonable. In fact, our first night in the dining room I not only got a tasty pumpkin soup, but also an order of calamari. In fact, everyone in my family got calamari and my son got escargot and calamari.

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My absolute favorite appetizer was a slice of brie, which was lightly breaded and fried and served with a delicious raspberry compote. It was the perfect blend of salty and sweet. My son also got that one, along with a shrimp cup.

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My brother-in-law and I were thrilled when one night they offered a caprese salad as an appetizer. It was light, refreshing and tasty! Then again, I am always a sucker for a caprese anything.

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I was a bit wary of ordering the lobster dinner on New Year’s. It’s so easy to overcook lobster and I figured so many people on the ship would be ordering it in celebration that it might be quite overdone. My worries were completely unfounded. My lobster was perfect. My son was thrilled that he got one of his very own instead of just a small bite of mine per our usual routine.

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My favorite meal was the steak with a mushroom sauce, mashed potatoes and asparagus. The beef was perfectly cooked and the mushroom sauce was light but rich. I could have used a few more stalks of asparagus, but it was otherwise delicious.

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Of course, dessert was a highlight for all of us. I think my favorite one was an apple pie blossom with vanilla ice cream. Interestingly, it was the same exact one I get at a local restaurant (clearly a food service type dish), but I just love them so much that I didn’t even care.

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My son was super excited about trying Baked Alaska. I am not a meringue fan, so I didn’t try this one, but he said it was fantastic.

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My daughter was excited about her banana split, even if she didn’t eat the banana! She really just wanted the ice cream, but her brother was fine with that as he got to eat her ice cream tinged bananas!

My nephews were all about the lava cake with ice cream. I got it too and was happy that the cake was moist and just warm enough to get the ice cream melting.

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My husband was all about the creme brulee. He also really loved the apple blossom with ice cream and ordered it twice in the dining room.

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The only dessert I was not overly fond of was the peach shortcake parfait. The description sounded great, but it was mostly air and not much flavor. There was a ton of whipped cream-like topping and a tiny piece of sponge cake in there, but there wasn’t much peach to speak of.

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Still, one mediocre dessert compared to a whole bunch of yummy appetizers, main dishes, and actually brilliant desserts is not something to complain about. While I wouldn’t want to miss out on all the AMAZING Indian food at the Windjammer Cafe buffet, I am glad we ate a few meals in the main dining room. The kids had a blast, got to try lots of new food, and we all got to be a bit fancy!

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Royal Caribbean Cruises: Mayan Ruins at San Gervasio

20191231_123858I’m a sucker for history. I always have been. Not in a “Can’t repeat the past? Why of course you can” sort of Great Gatsby way. I’m more of a let’s learn all about the past so that we can actually learn from it and also keep a portion of it alive sort of girl. When I was a kid and we went to DC, I was mesmerized by Ford’s Theater and later Gettysburg, even though I am profoundly anti-violence and anti-war. Even as an adult when I found myself visiting a friend in DC and realized he lived a few blocks from Ford’s Theater, I dragged my best friend who was visiting with me over for a tour.

So when we were considering shore excursions on our most recent Royal Caribbean Cruise, I really wanted to visit Mayan ruins during our time in Cozumel. I visited different Mayan ruins on my honeymoon cruise and found them beautiful and fascinating. When I found out that we could explore the ones at San Gervasio on this trip, I definitely wanted my kids to be able to see them. It didn’t hurt that the trip to the ruins was combined with a stop at the Mayan Cacao Company.

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We got off the ship and headed down to find our guide. His name was Edwin and he was spectacular! Since not only lives in Cozumel but also works in the archeology department at one of the colleges, he was full of great information. He was also funny and just so nice! We all loved him, which was good since we spent about 3 hours with him.

To get to the ruins we went on a scenic drive which took about 20 minutes. I’m not sure if it was the most direct path to get there, but it did allow Edwin to tell us quite a bit about life in Cozumel. I had no idea that basically everything in Cozumel has to be shipped in from the mainland and that tourism is basically the only industry on the island. I was also amazed that such a small island (you can drive from tip to tail in about an hour) has three universities/colleges. Even more amazing is how much of the island is uninhabited because it is covered by lush mangrove forests. There are parts of the island that humans aren’t allowed on and that is pretty cool.

We arrived at San Gervasio, which didn’t initially look like much. Edwin gave us our tickets and we headed in. There is a very pretty little courtyard at the entrance. There are some fountains, a small restaurant and a few shops selling mostly jewelry and native crafts. Edwin was leading our tour and wanted to get us in before larger tour groups came through, so there wasn’t really a chance to look around. He did point out the people offering to spray visitors with bug spray for $1 each. I thought this was a bit strange…until I got into the ruins and got more than my share of bug bites. We went in December when Edwin said the bugs weren’t too bad. I cannot imagine what it would have been like had it been June! If you ever visit the ruins, either bring bug spray OR pay the $1. It would have been money well spent and it is my only regret from my day in Cozumel.

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The ruins themselves are interesting. They aren’t as complete or elaborate as the other ruins I visited in Mexico, but this was a much smaller Mayan settlement, so that makes sense. We did see what would have been the king’s palace, the well where their water came from, the altar, the plaza, the big house, the arch, the small house, and the tall house. Of course, we only got to see a portion of the actual ruins. There are actually four “districts” that the ruins are in and only portions of one of the districts is open to the public. The ruins are also part of a wildlife sanctuary and full of iguanas and other lizards. We saw tons of small lizards roaming around the ruins.

You can watch a video of our exploration here.

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My favorite part of the ruins was a structure that I think is referred to as the Murals because it used to have murals decorating its walls. Although these are no longer visible, what I liked was the really cool tree that is growing up through the stone and has burst through the thatched roof overhead. There is just something so beautiful about nature reclaiming something man made.

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I also really like the Las Manitas, which was the residence of the Mayan ruler. It gets its name from the red handprints that are visible on the back wall of the structure. Originally it was an outer room that served as the ruler’s home and an inner sanctum reserved for his personal shrine. Visitors can still make out the two different areas and it’s pretty cool.

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Another really cool part of the ruins is the original stone road that runs through it. Edwin told us that the road actually many miles not only through all of the ruins, but out into the city itself. Apparently it is about 12 miles long and there are people who try to follow it (and sometimes get lost) every year.

We also learned some cool information about why the steps on the altar are so skinny. It’s not that people’s feet used to be smaller. You were not meant to walk up the steps the way we walk up them–forward facing the top of the altar and our back toward the space we left. Instead, you were supposed to walk up them sideways (and at an angle) so that you would always be facing where you were going as well as never turning your back on where you’d been. For the Mayans, it was a sign of respect. When walked the correct way, one foot perfectly fits the steps.

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Despite visiting during the “cold” season, it was still in the mid-80’s and since the ruins are largely unshaded, it was hot! We were all withering a bit by the end. Thankfully we got a bit of time at the end to explore the shops. The older I get, the less I want to fill my house with little objects de art, so I don’t really buy souvenirs much. I skipped the stores and went straight for the small restaurant. I needed some more bottled water (we’d exhausted the two bottles we brought in with us). On our arrival, Edwin had mentioned that if we were looking for some authentic Mexican tacos that the restaurant’s were great.

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Now, it wasn’t much of a restaurant. It was open-air with a roof to shade the five or six tables, cooler with drinks, and small counter to order from. There were only two people working. One took orders and one made tacos on a small griddle-like cooking service right behind the counter. The choice was chicken, pork, or the special. I figured I had to go for the special. It turned out to be a combo of egg and pork with some pico-like veggies on top. You could get one taco or three. My son and I were the only adventurous ones in our group. I added some of the green tomatillo sauce to mine and he ate his two just the way they came. They were absolutely delicious and if you get a chance to visit San Gervasio, I suggest you try them.

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Heat and bugs aside, this was a great excursion and I cannot recommend it enough. My family learned so much, we got some wonderful pictures, and got to try some truly delicious food.

Oh, and while I was in the restroom, the rest of my family ran into a man with a GIANT bird who was offering to let people take pictures with it for a small fee. Both of my kids had to do it, so my husband paid the fee and our kids got to play with the bird. I am not really a bird fan, but my kids adored it and love to talk about their friend the parrot.

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If you are looking for a truly fantastic shore excursion in Cozumel, I highly recommend the Mayan ruins and Mayan Cacao Company combination.

 

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Royal Caribbean Cruise: Dolphin Push-Pull Shore Excursion in Grand Cayman

20191230_074625When I sat down to look at the shore excursions for our Royal Caribbean cruise on Brilliance of the Sea, I was ooverwhelmed. We only had two stops on our 5 night cruise, but there were at least 100 different options. While there may have only been a dozen or so basic components, there were so many combinations of those different components that I broke down after the third page of options. Finally I just sent my mom and sister some generic options: beach, animal encounters, historical sites, or something sporty.

Ok, I just threw that last one in as a joke. I knew no one in my family was going to pick something actually sporty. There are definitely several physical options for any shore excursion, but my people are not the sporty types. In all fairness, two of the group have limited mobility, so it’s understandable that we had to pick activities that were a bit lower-intensity.

The kids all wanted some sort of animal encounter. When I was listing some of them off to my mom, she was very keen on a sea turtle adventure. My kids thought that would be pretty cool too. And they even offered sea turtles with an additional option of stingrays. My daughter was not too keen on that one. But then my sister told my nephews that swimming with dolphins was an option and the decision was made.

That’s how we found ourselves sitting in the Pacifica theater at 6:45 in the morning on the third day of our cruise. No one was particularly happy to know that that particular hour still existed on vacation. When we signed up for the excursion it definitely did not mention the need to get up before the sun in order to hang with Flipper. If they had, I think my mom might have insisted on befriending Crush and Nemo instead.

20191230_110814But, we’d pre-booked and we were not about to cancel and lose that money, so when our group number was called we headed down to disembark. We had to get the tender boats over to Grand Cayman and all 9 of us boarded together and tried to stifle our yawns as we made our way to the shore. Once there we were bustled into vans with about half a dozen other group members and we set off for our adventure. Our van was just doing the dolphin swim. The other van that drove behind us had one of those combo deals and was heading off to a beach after we finished.

I had no idea what to expect. It was actually pretty confusing at first. We were one of the earliest groups to arrive, but it still took our guide about 10 minutes to get everything squared away. We’d been told we could bring cameras, but once we entered in to Dolphin Discovery, the employees told us we had to leave everything in the provided lockers. Aside from our suits, and our locker keys and our shoes (which we took off close to the pools, everything else had to be left behind. I was disappointed as I wanted to take some pictures of my kids frolicking with dolphins.

20191230_081819Once our gear was stowed, we were taken over and given life vests. We were then split into groups of 10. Somehow we got separated from the rest of our family, so instead of one big family group, it was my family of 4 with 6 strangers. They were very nice people, but I had hoped to share the experience with my entire family.

Our group headed over to a large pool-like area. I don’t know exactly how to describe it, but I found this picture of it, so hopefully that will help. Our “pool” was at the far left-side of the picture–it’s the large one. Ours was actually divided into two with our group down on the non-sandy side. All 10 of us got into the water. There was a ledge about 3 feet wide and about 3.5 feet deep that ran the length of the area. Since only one person could swim with a dolphin at a time, it was a good waiting spot for the rest of us.

The weather was beautiful (in the mid 80’s) and the water was warm. Our instructor introduced us to Sherlock, our dolphin. Sherlock was charming and very well-trained. He waited patiently as our guide explained the “pull” part of our adventure. Each person would swim along the wall a little less than halfway out. Then, when given the signal, we’d swim about halfway into the middle of our “pool.” Our right arm would be outstretched ready to grab Sherlock’s fin when he came around and our left would be bend across our chest in order to grab hold of his flipper. Then Sherlock would pull us back to the ledge.

20191230_093226While we were waiting for the first person to swim out and get in position, Sherlock posed with the rest of us. We each got four non swimming interactions with Sherlock. We got to dance with him, get a kiss from him, give him a kiss, and hold his face next to ours. Each of these interactions were photographed for us and after the encounter we’d have the chance to buy our photos, hence why we weren’t allowed to bring cameras.

Frolicking with Sherlock was fun. He was very sweet. I’d never touched a dolphin before. His skin was sort of rubbery. His fins were oddly hard, but also flexible, which was such an odd combo.

When it was my turn to swim out, I did, worrying the entire time that I’d mess up and end up missing Sherlock. Thankfully Sherlock was a pro and our instructor told me when to grab, so I caught on the first time and Sherlock sped me to shore. Now, I am not a tiny person, but that dolphin had no problem pulling all of us back to the ledge, even the gentleman in our group who had to weigh close to 250.

After getting pulled by Sherlock, everyone was laughing. We all clearly enjoyed it. Well, everyone except my daughter. Her anxiety kicked in pretty hard core and she decided she did NOT want to swim out there (she gets very anxious in water). Our instructor offered to let her start from the ledge and have Sherlock just take her a small way and then turn around, but even that scared her. When he realized this, he was great with her. He let her play a few fetch games with Sherlock, so even though she didn’t do the swimming, she still felt connected to him and had fun.

Once our “pull” was done, it was time for the “push.” For this we each used a boogie board and swam out to the middle of the “pool” again. This time we had to lay on the board with our legs completely straight behind us. Sherlock’s job was to put his nose on one of our feet and “push” us back to the ledge. I watched as the first person, a young girl was pushed back to us. She zoomed at us giggling the entire time. Her dad was not as successful. He couldn’t keep his leg straight and Sherlock had to nudge him several times. He eventually got it and came at us a bit slower. When it was my turn I was once again worried I’d bend my leg and mess it up (like my husband did), but I managed to keep my leg rigid and Sherlock flew me through the water. Not nearly as fast as she shot my son through it though. He was like a 5 foot, 90 pound torpedo. I was worried he’d crash into us. But Sherlock knew when to stop and he came floating in.

When were were done, we changed back into our clothes and headed into the gift/photo shop. I took one look at the prices and realized no matter how cute they might be, there was no way we were buying them. To get all pictures for our group of 4 would have been about $250. I loved the experience, but to me it was more important to have it than to capture it on film. I would have liked one to, but I knew if I saw one, I’d want them all. So instead I let my son buy a little bottle of Grand Cayman sand in a bottle, and I bought a can of Pringles for my family to share.

Swimming with dolphins was something I’d always wanted to do and I was glad we got to. Even if my daughter was a bit scared, she had a blast and fell in love with Sherlock. It was definitely worth it!

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Travel Tuesday: Royal Caribbean Brilliance of the Seas balcony rooms

balcony view.jpgMy family and I just returned from a 5 night cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas. This was actually our second trip on the Brilliance of the Seas, and this time I felt like I had a real handle on the ship. We did a 4 night Thanksgiving cruise on Brilliance of the Seas a few years ago with my in-laws. It was fun, but this trip was about extended family and cousins, so I knew there was going to be a different vibe entirely.

This cruise there were 9 of us: myself, my  husband, our kids (aged 9 and 12), my sister, her husband, their kids (aged 13 and 15), and my mom. We knew we were going to need some space, which is not easy to find on a cruise ship. If you’ve never been on a cruise ship before, the first thing you need to realize is that the rooms, even when they give them names like suites and veranda balcony, are usually much smaller than their land counterparts. There are exceptions to every rule, of course. Some of the luxury suites on the larger ships are simply amazing. For example, this Ultimate Family Suite from Royal Caribbean makes me wish I was insanely wealthy and 8 years old.

But, since we are not fabulously wealthy, we decided on balcony staterooms, which not only have a bit more space, but offer a little outdoor get away and spectacular views while sailing. Personally, I love sitting on the balcony and reading a book. It’s the perfect escape from the world. And yes, I may have actually even taken a quick cat nap on my balcony after a VERY EARLY shore excursion in Grand Cayman.

master bed.jpgOur balcony stateroom slept four, although on initial glance, it wasn’t obvious. When we walked in the room, all we saw was the Royal king bed (two twin beds that are joined together) and a couch. Since we’d been on this very ship before, we knew the couch actually folded out to a bed AND that there was a secret bunk bed lurking above it. Each night while we were at dinner, our room steward would turn down our bed, fix the blankets on the bunk bed for our son and pull out and make up the couch bed for our son. Then,  in the morning when we went to breakfast, the couch would be restored so we had more living space.

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Unless you are in a suite, the bathrooms on cruise ships are tiny. But, the designers know how to work with small spaces. There is tons of storage both in and out of the bathroom.

bathrooom 1In the bathroom, one of the mirrors opens to reveal great spaces to store all of your toiletries. The shower may be small, but the shape and curtain mean little water escape and there are several racks for stowing  toiletries as well. The four of us had no trouble fitting all of our bathroom items in the bathroom. It’s important to note that unlike most hotels, cruise ships do NOT provide travelers with toiletries. There was a container in our shower of a combo shampoo/body wash. This was fine for my 12 year old, but the rest of us brought our own shampoos and conditioners. Royal Caribbean also provided small disks of soap in the room, but it’s not like a regular hotel, so bring what you need.

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Plus, there is even a clothes line that stretches across the shower to hang wet bathing suits. There is a surprising amount of towel storage, including four hooks on the back of the door (and the towels are hooked to fit).

dresser.jpgThe closet and desk/dresser also hold hidden places to stow all of your items. After we unpacked all of our clothes (there were only 8 hangers in our room…we had to ask for more), we were able to store our suitcases in the closet floor. Thanks to the built in shelves in the closet, we had plenty of room to store our pajamas, under garments and anything that did not need to be hung in the closet. The dresser/desk also had six drawers, hidden storage behind the mirrors and several shelves on the end where we stored games, books and some toys our daughter brought with her.

medicine cabinet.jpgOne of my favorite things about our room was the giant, heavy curtain that we could pull closed to divide the room in two. That way the kids had their bedroom and so did we. It may not have been perfect privacy, but it did allow my husband and I to read and even stream some shows after our kids had gone to bed. The small bedside lights kept it bright enough for us in our “room,” but the curtain meant the light didn’t disturb the kids. I also really appreciated the bedside tables on either side of our bed for additional storage.

balcony.jpgAnd then there is the balcony. It’s small, but it’s perfect. There are barriers put up on either side so that you don’t have to see your neighbors (but you can definitely still hear them). You get your own little piece of the ocean and it is glorious. I spent quite a bit of time on my balcony just enjoying the quiet, the breeze, and the sun. And the views in the morning and evening were simply magnificent.

Being on a cruise ship is a bit like living in a tiny house. There are hidden spaces for storage and dual purpose items everywhere. What seemed like a bit of a small room turned out to be plenty of room for my family of four. I think the balcony rooms are perfect for families. There is just enough room to spread out a bit, but the rooms are still affordable. They are also highly sought after, so if you want one, better move quickly!

And if you need someone to help you maneuver those sometimes rough vacation waters, drop me a message.

on balcony.jpg

 

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And the bathroom remodeling saga continues

refinished floor part 2Dear Journal: 

I fear I must write this quickly before I succumb to the vapors escaping from my room. As if the hardship of once again being reduced to one toilet and having to reside in the guest room was not enough, the smell of the polyurethane wafting beneath the door is making me light-headed.

But the smell does signal a step in the right direction, even as it hinders me from taking a step on my floor. And we probably won’t perish from the fumes, right?

I do hope not as I would like to actually be able to shower in my bathroom at least once before I shuffle off this mortal coil.

Before he began work on the floor, he did refinish the mirror frame, so I suppose that is also a tally in the positive column. I am still uncertain whether or not our vanity can be installed tomorrow. I do not believe that tomorrow will bring an end to this saga.

vanityDear Journal: 

The second deadline for completion of the bathroom renovations has come…and gone. As I feared, it is still not finished. While on the surface it appears to be a fully functional bathroom, there is something evil lurking within. Or rather there is something broken sitting right in plain sight.

When I walked in the door, I was thunderstruck at the addition of the vanity. I remembered it differently from the photograph I was shown, but considering that the fleeting photo I saw was viewed over a month ago, I chalked that up to a mere fault in my memory. What is not a trick of time, however, is the fact that the faucets my husband was so proud of finding at a stellar discount, are both broken, although interestingly in different ways. One has a hairline crack which cannot even be detected unless the water is turned on. The second is missing a thingamabob which does not hinder its function, but according to my husband cannot be endured.

So, in addition to the time we will be unable to use the shower due to painting and allowing the paint to dry, we also cannot use our sinks until these faucets are returned and the new ones are ordered and installed.

My husband’s prediction is a fully functional bathroom by Tuesday. I smile, nod my head in agreement, and secretly assume it will be another week.

Oh, did I mention the floor has to be resanded and resealed on Monday as well?

paintingDear Journal:

As we enter the fifth weekend with only one bathroom, I was prepared to rise from bed, sighing heavily at the prospect of two more days without progress. Miraculously, this did not end up being my lot today. For today, there was progress. Granted, that progress is completely due to my husband’s obsessive nature.

While I am still faced with the prospect of at least three more days without a functioning bathroom, today my husband took up a brush and began painting. For the past 10 hours he has been working toward two full coats of paint on the walls. The inner shower room has been completed. Now he is working on the outer area, which is much larger.

The paint is darker than I anticipated and I am anxious to see how it all comes together. But, as of this moment, I have hope.

bathroom painted with toilet.jpgDear Journal: 

While technically there was no further progress made today, late last night my husband set his paintbrush to rest.

Last night I was not able to fully appreciate it, but in the dawn of this new day, I was able to truly view his endeavor. While the paint is still darker than I expected, I do think it will grow on me.

I have been assured that tomorrow our house will be completely restored to us. Our contractor claims he must away and instead of starting the kitchen job for another client, he now says he is leaving the country. Maybe I have become a bit jaded as a result of this project, but this latest development sounds dubious.

Nevertheless, the final payment is on the counter and tomorrow our garage will once again be capable of holding two cars. Alas the project will not be finished as we are still waiting on the replacement faucets to arrive. So we will have two sinks but no way to use them. But maybe by Tuesday I can actually shower in my own bathroom.

Here’s to dreaming.

 

no faucets.jpgDear Journal: 

The bathroom is finished! Of course the floors are still drying so we must sleep in the guest room. And if you look at the photo, you’ll notice there are no faucets on the sinks. We are patiently awaiting replacements for the defective ones that at least made our sinks look usable. Our best estimate is that we might have working sinks on Friday.

The trim still needs to be painted and some sort of shoe molding also must be applied. In addition we need two additional lights and a vent for the shower room.

Alas, it appears I have at least one more day to endure the children’s shower. Although at this point I have become numb to the torment.

Dear Journal: 

It is a Christmas miracle! Yes, of course I do realize it is not yet Christmas. But there were snowflakes yesterday and a simple jaunt across the street today found my legs and ears nearly frozen stiff, so it’s close enough. Although really the miracle has nothing to do with the season and everything to do with with five weeks this bathroom fiasco has persisted. But as I have mentioned, this morning there was a minor miracle. Not a water into wine miracle, but a water based miracle nonetheless.

Yes, that is right dear readers, I was able to shower in my bathroom for the first time in five weeks! It took a bit of adjusting. My first hurdle was the fact that now there is only one shower door to slide open. This may not seem like much of an obstacle, but I did not want to be pelted with cold water while I waited for the water to heat. Nor did I want water to pour from the shower while I kept checking to see if the water was ready. It was a bit like being in a hotel.

Before I’d had a chance to completely digest the door dilemma, I realized there was an even weightier matter to deal with: I did not even know how to turn the water on. It took a moment or two of finagling, but then a cascade of warm water rushed out and I was able to step inside with minimal water leaking onto the floor.

Of course, since we still do not have working faucets, I still had to use the children’s bathroom to relieve myself (so I could wash my hands). I had to venture back in there right after the shower because my contact lens was bothering me and needed adjusting. Still, it was a relief not to have a child banging on the door, demanding to be let in to use the toilet while I showered.

It really does seem that this nightmare will be over soon.

Dear Journal: 

I did not write last night on the eve of our bathroom’s completion date. After all, it seemed silly to me to crow over some painted trim when today I was finally going to have working sinks, a finished floor and lovely shoe molding…the finishing touches on a job that began so long ago on that much warmer November day.

But alas, Fate has stepped in and dashed my hopes yet again. It seems at every turn I am crushed by the universe’s cruel sense of humor. Each time this job is brought to the precipice of completion, something pushes it back so it is miles from finished.

What malicious turn befell my bathroom today? Just after nine am, my husband received a message from our contractor. Despite waiting the entire week in anticipation of his arrival today, he did not appear. The message explained that he’d been delayed on his return from Singapore. Yes, as in the country half the world away. He and an old friend were “piggybacking home,” and our bathroom would have to wait until at least Monday. Yes, that is correct, our two week bathroom project has now entered its sixth week. And yes, this is now the fourth time in those six weeks that our contractor has contacted us the morning he was supposed to arrive in order to tell us he would not, in fact, be arriving.

So, for my friends who felt sad these posts were ending, I hope you’re happy. I feel your longing for amusement has inspired Fate and prolonged my suffering.

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The never ending odyssey of bathroom remodeling

toilet restoredDear Journal: 

Today I am truly thankful that our toilet was reinstalled yesterday. Nothing else in our bathroom may be functional, but thank all that is holy that the toilet is. I know some have wondered at what might appear to be an obsession with having two toilets. Our contractor chided me about it yesterday and I know was a bit bitter that he stayed later than planned (he didn’t arrive to start work until 11 am) to reinstall it, but I had a premonition that could not be ignored.

Even though it is only the four of us gathering around our table for a decadent meal this evening, my husband awoke with one of his violent migraines. I was roused much earlier than I expected by his retching. Since that first unsettling event, he has been on a continuous toilet-bed loop for the past several hours. if it were not for that second, much begged for toilet, we would all be far more miserable than we currently are.

As it is, I will be cooking a huge meal with my husband’s favorites, that he may not be able to eat. But at least he can vomit in peace without a child banging on the door with a bladder emergency.

Dear Journal:

Yet again I mourned the loss of my second bathroom. Our contractor was supposed to be here this morning. On Wednesday he spoke of finally attaching the shower doors, cleaning the floors and removing the carpet from the vanity area in order to begin work on that area in earnest. But, like so many other mornings during this project, an emergency arose. While we were celebrating my husband’s birthday with a special breakfast, our contractor called and left a message that he would not be arriving today.

So now we sit through four days of no progress at all. IF this bathroom is finished by next Friday, I will be amazed beyond belief. My hopes of a three week bathroom remodel have been dashed and I fear my revised hope of a four week remodel will meet a similar end.

At least I have mashed potatoes and cranberry orange sauce to sustain me in this, my hour of need.

Dear Journal: 

There is no progress. I am adrift in a world without my shower.

 

Dear Journal:

It seems silly to continue to write at this point. Nothing has changed. When I put fingers to keyboard, all I feel is despondent and lost.

bathroom vanity #2Dear Journal: 

We have been assured that the bathroom will be completed by the end of the week. To say I am dubious would be an understatement. Understatement is probably an understatement of how dubious I am about this situation. After four days without any improvements to our bathroom situation, I was desperate for some real progress today. What I found made my heart sink. Did I mention that I am dubious this project will conclude by Friday? The odd clearly are not ever in my favor.

shower doorsDear Journal: 

Today I returned home to find massive wind machines pointed toward my bathroom walls. Apparently their job is to help the “mud” on the walls. I am still uncertain as to why mud on walls is a desired aspect of construction, but I am assured it is a necessity. I was pleasantly surprised to find actual doors attached to my shower. I was nearly giddy with delight when my husband told me that tomorrow morning I would actually be able to bathe in my own shower.

But alas this happiness was short-lived. My visions of showering without Barbie dolls and plastic whales at my feet are still but dreams. Less than an hour later he requested I wait one more day to make sure everything was fully dried before I could be introduced to my new shower. I am not sure exactly why shower doors need to dry. There is so much that is utterly perplexing about construction.

 

refinished floor part 1Dear Journal: 

Reality has gobsmacked me once again. 28 days later, 7 days longer than I anticipated, I am still bereft because I only have one bathroom. There was a bit of a kerfuffle yesterday evening with the contractor. Apparently there were differences of opinions about how much of the small strip of the wood flooring in the bathroom needs to be finished. My husband and I fell firmly on the “all of it” side. Our contractor did not wish to refinish the the portion that will rest beneath the vanity

However, since the vanity is raised, the unfinished wood would show underneath it and the mishmash would be unseemly. Tempers flared. Words were exchanged. Nails were bitten in anxiety.

While I am happy to say that cooler heads prevailed this morning, and the contractor cane around to our way of thinking, this means almost no work was done and alas, it appears the job may spill over into next week. I nearly fainted when I heard this news.

And since this nightmare refuses to end, once the work begins on the floor tomorrow, I will be evicted from my bedroom as well. It appears I will be relegated to the guest bedroom until the floor is dry. So not only will I be down to one toilet again, I will also have to suffer in a full-size bed.

The horror!

 

 

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Odysseys in remodeling: Life with only one bathroom

20191107_182927Dear Journal: 

Today is the first day of the remodeling.  As I looked around the wreckage that was my bathroom, I felt most dismayed. I shuddered at the memories of past repairs. I stared at the place where my toilet had been and thought, “oh dear, with four of us in this house, I think I’ll miss you the most.”

Of course, that was until I entered the children’s bathroom for a shower this morning. It was then I remembered how much I hate that shower. The showerhead is tiny and hung about two inches below my head, so I have to crane my head uncomfortably far back to wash it. Not a problem for my kids who are a good 8-14 inches shorter than me. Since it is so low on the wall, I get the full force of the stream and it’s way to strong!

Will I survive living in these conditions? Honestly, I don’t know.

second day of remodeling

Dear Journal: 

As day two comes to an end, there has been some progress made, but I fear it is not enough. While I have been assured that this “floor” is great, the lack of toilet and shower are burdens to my soul. Since no work can be done on the weekend, I am forced to seek out new places of refuge.

This search led me to a new life experience: I showered at the gym. Yes, I actually ventured out of my house unshowered, something I have not attempted for years. Even when I am going directly to the gym, I get up and shower. So today threw me for a bit of a loop.

It was going well until I realized I forgot my hair gel. So, I am exercised and washed but have flat hair. When will this nightmare end?

Dear Journal:

Because day three is the Lord’s day, no work can be done on the bathroom. Things are as desloate as ever. I am starting to abandon all hope. Showering in the children’s bathroom has left me utterly bereft of happiness. Before I could even get in the shower today I had to go back to my own room three times for supplies just to make the shower possible. Also, the bathroom is turning into a jungle of towels.

 

Dear Journal:

I should have written yesterday, but we’ve had a setback that has left me desolate.

For the third day, no progress has been made. An emergency befell our crew and all work ceased.

In a valiant act of chivalry to bring some sort of civilization to the children’s bathroom, my husband ordered a new showerhead. In my fear of losing our only working source of cleanliness, I begged him to wait for the experts.

He ignored my wishes, but to his great consternation, the old showerhead would not budge. So once again it was a pale imitation of a shower for me this morning.

I pray our crew will be able to return today and bring some light back into this darkness.

 

showerhead

Dear Journal:

There has been much rejoicing by some of the locals over the installation of a new showerhead in the children’s bathroom. It was certainly a marvel to behold.

I had my first experience with it this morning. To my husband’s dismay I am not as enamored of it as he is. While the increased height is a wonder and I rejoice that I no longer have to strain my neck to shower, the water pressure is a disappointment. This is touted as a rainfall showerhead to be a bit less of a sprinkle and more of a downpour!

There has been some progress made in our bathroom. My walls now sort of look like walls again and my shower has a curb if no actual floor. I have been assured these are giant leaps forward, but after the trickery of the rainfall showerhead, I feel I might have a different definition of leaps.

destroyed sink.jpg

Dear Journal: 

It has now been one week since I was last able to enjoy my beloved shower. None has been its equal since. My husband assures me that once the new showerhead is installed he will devote himself to making sure the disastrous pressure issues of the children’s bath do not haunt us in our own. I remain skeptical.

Some sort of “mud” has been placed on the floor of the shower, which my husband insists on calling the pan. I am not sure if it is actual mud or some sort of nickname created by those in the construction arts. I have been told that it must set up and dry for at least 48 hours, which has destroyed my hopes of seeing tile this week.

The work has not extended beyond the shower area. Demolition has begun around our sink. I’d hoped it would lift my spirits to see that ghastly 70’s blue tile gone, but my broken walls are a constant reminder of my broken dreams. I am not sure how much longer I can last.

mud pan

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We’re all “Disney mad” here

family with characters 2Recently a friend of mine texted me and told me I was, “Disney mad.” She said it in good humor to tease me a bit for all of my Disney posts. And I get it, I really do. Of course, she knows I’ve always been “Disney mad,” it’s just coming out more since I started working as a Magical Vacation Planner.

Of course, since I’ve just returned from four days at Universal Orlando where I had an amazing time and then four more days at Disney World, where I also had an amazing time, my posts about theme parks have quadrupled.

I also know that if you’ve liked my MVP FB page, you see not only my regular posts, but my business posts too. And I appreciate that.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am not a “salesperson.” I HATE the idea of trying to get someone to buy something. I’d constantly worry they may not really want it. Or that I was being pushy. Or that I was bothering them. I’m not aggressive like some salespeople and I don’t have the natural ability to just chit chat with people like others.

My husband has been in sales for decades now and I don’t know how he does it. It’s funny, because of the two of us, most people would pick me as the outgoing, social one, but that’s only if I know people, and fairly well. I’d much rather be at home, curled up on the couch with a good book or Netflix. My husband has been known to reach his social threshold at parties in our own home and just walk into the den and get on the computer to avoid talking to anyone else. And yet, give him a phone, products he knows about, and strangers, and he thrives. 

Of course, anyone who knows me, also knows that if I truly believe in something, I cannot stop raving about it. I was once shopping at Godiva when a fellow customer was trying to figure out what to get his wife for some holiday. The clerk was new (and I know this b/c I used to spend a LOT of time at Godiva) and was struggling a bit with suggestions. I jumped right in, talked to him about what his wife likes, gave him some great suggestions and ended up helping him create a box for her. The manager had come out at this point and offered me a job on the spot. I declined, because I had a great teaching job, small children at home, and frankly, I’d already done my time in retail. But I’ve done similar things in Lush, DeBrand’s, and yes, Disney.

Whatever it is that made me jump in at Godiva has always been a part of me. I think it’s probably why I became a teacher. I like sharing what I know. I like helping people. I like connecting with people over something we have in common. Which is why becoming a Magical Vacation Planner makes total sense to me.

I grew up with Disney. We had annual passes to Disneyland when I was a kid. I consumed a heavy diet of the movies, books, TV shows, and the parks. I have been to Disney World about a dozen times and shared those incredible experiences with the people I love most in this world (except for my BFF who gets horrible motion sickness and won’t go with me). A few of those trips were shared with my dad and step-mom, who both passed away a few years ago, so those memories and pictures are even more precious to me. Six years ago, I took my own children for the first time and knew I was passing on something precious to them.

My husband and I were annual passholders for Universal Orlando. We lived in Florida for about six months (we thought we’d be there longer), early on in our relationship and it was an absolute blast. We had great little dates where we’d go ride a few rides, get some dinner and see an IMAX movie. It was so much fun.

For me, being a Magical Vacation Planner isn’t about selling anything. It’s about helping people explore the world (because I can book way more than just Disney World and Universal) and create their own memories. My favorite part is talking to people to find out what they want to do and helping them figure out how to make it happen. I actually haven’t made a penny on this endeavour yet and have no illusions that, or desire for it to replace my first career love: teaching. I’m doing this because it is fun, and I love the idea of helping people create those life-long memories that are so much more precious than a new video game system or fancy phone or whatever people are thinking about buying right now. I’d take a trip somewhere with people I love any day over some material possession.

So, yeah, I’m going to keep reaching out and being “Disney mad” and “Universal kooky,” “cruising crazy,” and “internationally wacky,” because I love it. It makes me happy and yes, I want to help make you happy too.

And yes, even if you’ve been on a dozen (or more) trips yourself, I can still help plan your next one. It’s not that people can’t plan travel on their own. It’s the digital age. There are tons of options out there (although that alone is crazy confusing at times). What I am offering is someone to listen to what you really want, do all the research, make all the phone calls and get all the payments made. You won’t have to worry about remembering reservation dates, Fast Pass dates or payment due dates, because I’ll send you those reminders. You won’t have to slog through the menus of the over 200 eateries at Disney World to figure out the best one for your family, I’ll help do that for you. And when you have questions, you won’t have to go and try to track down the answers. I’ll get them for you.

And none of this concierge service (because really, working with me is like having a personal concierge just an email, phone call or text away) will cost you even one extra penny. Most people don’t know this, but I’m not paid by you. You’ll pay the same price whether you book with me or on your own. Although, if you book with me and some new promotion comes out, I can help get those promotions applied to your account. The difference is, that if you do book with me, I do all the leg work for you, while you sit back, relax, and well, enjoy your vacation.

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Munchie Monday: Byrd’s cookies

byrd's cookies all.jpgLast week my family made our annual pilgrimage to Isle of Palms, South Carolina. Ok, so it’s not actually any sort of religious trip, unless you’re like my aunt and consider a trip to the beach a way to worship the sun. Ever since my daughter was a teeny tiny baby, 8 years ago, my husband’s family has headed to my SiL’s beach house in Wild Dunes (I can actually see my SiL’s house in the picture on this link) and we’ve spent a week together.

I know for many people this probably sounds like a dream. An entire week spent in a house that is not only right next door to a pool, but can also claim the ocean as its backyard, is the stuff that relaxation videos are made out of, right? Clearly anyone who thinks this has never met my in-laws.

I do not mean this post as a condemnation of my in-laws, who on an individual basis are almost entirely great people–except for that one. It is very hard to share a house, even a decent sized one with 15 other people for an entire week. The actual house only sleeps 10 people comfortably (12 with air mattresses), so thankfully four of those people didn’t actually spend the night at the house. My MiL and FiL had a hotel room at the Boardwalk Inn, which is actually right next door. Additionally, two members of my MiL’s extended family also spent the days at our beach house, but their nights at my SiL’s condo in nearby Charleston. However, for pretty much every waking hour of the day, there were 15 people in the house. Seven were children ranging from 8-14. That is a LOT of noise, especially when most of it is contained between two floors with walls that are surprisingly thin.

And don’t even get me started on the nightly “entertainment” from bands at the hotel next door.

But again, that’s not the purpose of this post. Inevitably what happens at some point during this trip, we all get more than a little sick of each other. For my family this means a trip to a matinee one day. It also means at least one lunch and one dinner (and this year one breakfast) away from the basically required family meals to have some alone time. It also means our yearly trip into downtown Charleston, where we always visit the City Market and the surrounding shops.

Despite a serious need for an extended break from everyone around Wednesday, we had a few hiccups and didn’t actually get into town until Friday, our last full day of the trip. I was excited not only to visit some absolute favorites from years past (Charleston Crab House, Callie’s Hot Little Biscuits, The Spice and Tea Exchange of Charleston, and Kilwin’s to name a few), but to discover a brand new shop I’d never seen before: Byrd’s Cookies.

Byrd’s was so new, in fact, that they didn’t even have their official signage up on the building yet. They’d been open for less than a month and had I not seen a sign on their door offering a taste test of cookies when I walked into The Spice and Tea Exchange, we might have walked right on by. I am so glad we didn’t!

Byrd’s may be new to downtown Charleston, but they have been a cookie tradition for over 90 years. They started in Savannah, Georgia with their original Scotch Oatmeal cookie and now have over a dozen varieties, all of which were available to taste test when we went in. Although I wanted to try them all, I was good and only tried about five varieties. All that I tried were really good. It was hard to make a decision about which four varieties to buy (it was buy 3 get one for $1). In the end we decided to let each person in the family pick their favorite.

My daughter picked the Key Lime cookies. These powdered sugar covered cuties are VERY sweet. They definitely have a bright, limey taste to them, with vanilla undertones as the flavor wears down. My kids and husband LOVE them. I am not quite as big of a fan, even though as a rule I love key lime. I don’t like the slightly odd feel the powdered sugar leaves on the roof of my mouth. However, I have never been a fan of powdered sugar covered treats. One of the reasons I avoid many jelly-filled donuts is because they are covered in powdered sugar. I also don’t like the little Hostess Donnettes with the powdered sugar at all. I hate being messy and I HATE when my hands have food residue on them, which I think is part of the problem. The other problem is that powdered sugar always seems to leave a bit of a residue both on my fingers and in my mouth and I am not a fan. Anyone who likes powdered sugar will probably love these cookies though.

Next up were my husband’s pick: the original Scotch Oatmeal ones. These are quite good, although they do have the tiniest hint of a dark molasses flavor to them. Not that I mind, I just wasn’t initially expecting it and it took a few cookies to grow on me. They actually remind me a bit of one of my favorite childhood cookies: Archway Iced Oatmeal cookies. Yeah, I was that strange kids who really loved oatmeal cookies. I still don’t like Oreos at all and I never crave Chips Ahoy! but give me an oatmeal cookie, with or without icing and I’m over the moon. I’ll take a soft, fresh from the oven oatmeal raisin cookie over a chocolate chip one pretty much any day. I just love the creamy sweetness of oatmeal cookies. Although these little guys are crunchy, not soft, they are still amazingly good. They have that wonderfully oaty flavor that always reminds me just a bit of nuts. They aren’t overly sweet, which I think is perfect at times. I couldn’t eat an entire bag in one sitting, but I know I will be reaching into this bag quite a bit.

Since all of us are huge peanut butter fans, it was not a shock that my son picked chocolate peanut butter. These are so creamy and peanutty! With the crunch, they remind me a bit of eating a spoonful of chunky peanut butter (my favorite). The chocolate in them is subtle and really only in hints, which I don’t mind. The peanut butter is clearly the star here and that is great. I love that when I bite into them I can see real chunks of peanuts. These tiny treats are full of even tinier bits of peanut, but packed with tons of peanut flavor.

Byrd's salted caramelNot to brag, but my favorite, are without a doubt, the ones I picked: salted caramel. I know, I just had a post about salted caramel butter cookies. I also know that these days everything is salted caramel and that many people think it is way beyond cliche/overdone/boring now, but I don’t care. I am not a bit ashamed to say I LOVE these cookies. They are utterly amazing and I cannot stop eating them. They are sweeter than the peanut butter chocolate or Scotch oatmeal, but thanks to the salt, not as sweet as the Key Lime, so they are in that perfect sweet spot for me. They are buttery and delicate. They practically melt on my tongue. The caramel flavor is long lasting and simply amazing. No matter how much I try, I cannot stop eating these amazing cookies. Even though I haven’t finished the 8 oz bag yet (although I have come frighteningly close to it), I have already looked online about buying another bag. Now that I know these exist, they are a must have for me. I cannot imagine a world where my pantry is not stocked with them from now on.

Knowing that Byrd’s is now in downtown Charleston has already got me looking forward to next year’s beach vacation, even if it does mean squeezing into a house with 14 other people!

Overall:

Taste: 10/10 for salted caramel (8/10 for the others)
Appearance: 8/10
Value: 10/10 for the salted caramel (8/10 for the others)

 

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