Thursday, July 19, 2012

Gaycation 2012- Gatlinburg, TN

Who decides to go on vacation in Gatlingburg, TN, as a biracial couple and bring along two gay outlets, one of which is also biracial? Apparently, we do. What were we thinking? All joking aside, we did have a fabulous time, despite a few peculiar looks. Our friend's father has a time share down in Gatlinburg, find he was kind enough to let us use it for an extended weekend. The condo was lovely-except that it was two bedrooms for four couples. Oops. The hubster and I ended up sleeping on an air in the living room. Not exactly a romantic retreat, but the worst part was the bathroom arrangements. While there were two bathrooms, one was accessed through the master bathroom, while the other could be accessed through both the second bedrooms and the front hall. Somehow, though, we ended up not being able to into the hall side of it in the morning, and the master bedroom couple was not yet up, restricting access to that bathroom. Needless to say, both the hubster and I nearly had a few accidents trying to make it down to the bathroom.

We left on Wednesday, July 11, once the hubster was done with school and I had taken Pilates. The trip took about 8 hours to get down there, and really wasn't that bad. Our travel mates had gotten down there a about 2 hours before us, so they were settled in, and waiting for us with drinks in hand.

Thursday was our big wine tasting day. There are several wineries in the area, and we ended up doing two different trails. The first was right in the area where we were staying: Hillside Winery (loved it, fabulous sommelier), Apple Barn Winery (fun sommelier, wine was too sweet for me), and Mountain Valley Winery (horrible sommelier, pretty good wine). We got a complimentary wine glass for hitting up all three, and all the tastings were free. Then we drove into Gatlingburg proper for the Grapes, Grains, and Brews trail. The firt winery we visitc was Smoky Mountain Winery, which had decent yet over priced wine, but the most horrible tasting experience due to the lack of personality on the part of the sommelier. From there we visited Sugarland Cellars, who kicked us out. Granted, he was just doing his job, but he completely misinterpreted what was going on. The hubster was fighting a nasty sinus infection, and had fallen asleep in the car. The sommelier took this comment to mean he was drunk, and state law prohibits him from serving visibly drunk patrons. From there we walked down to Bootleggers Winery, which was too sweet for me, and then entered my favorite of them all, Ole Smoky Moonshine. The moonshine was awesome, but even better was our taster. She seemed to be off in noman's land, which made it convenient for all 6 of us to fit in and taste there. She said she was relinquished out there because she "doesn't play well with others," but she was perfect for us. The last stop on the tour was Smoky Mountain Brewery, which was enough to complete what as needed to get our free tshirt, but nothing that super excited any of us.

Friday was supposed to be our big hang by the pool day, but, unfortunately, the weather had other plans.  We decided the outlets were a better alternative. The hubster and I demonstrated a great amount of restraint; however, I had a $30 J. Crew gift card burning a hole in my pocket. I walked away with a long sleeve button down shirt, a pair of shorts, a pair of capris, a 3/4 length tshirt, and a thick Henley for the hubs...all on clearance, with my 15% teacher discount, totaling $60 before the giftcard. I was happy as a lark.

Before dinner, the hubster and I ventured out on our own back to Gatlinburg to visit Cooter's and the Star Car Museum. Not my first choice, but we did have a lot of fun, especially being able to go off by ourselves.

Saturday was white water rafting day. We ventured down the Pigeon River, which allegedly has class 3 and 4 rapids. I was very nervous at first-I had never been on something like this-but, I really enjoyed myself. I felt like most of it was rather tame. And no one fell into the water! A few of us almost fell into the boat itself a few times, but otherwise, we were pretty balanced.

The best part about the vacation, though, was being able to go down to the pool and relax in the hot tub every night, drinks in hand. Makes me seriously considering getting a hot tub put in at the house....

Sunday was time to say good bye, and after a good ole fashioned breakfast at Cracker Barrel, we hit the road. Somehow, the drive home took less time but seemed a whole lot longer....I think it was just the anticipation of finally getting in my own bed!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Vacation Recap 3: Boston, MA

After a fabulous Breakfast at Colby's in Portsmouth, we bid farewell to Courtney and headed down towards Boston.

Colby's, Portsmouth, NH

 We finally found a hockey store for the hubster, got in a fight with a non functioning parking meter, and went to a horrible wax museum in Salem. (I was so disappointed.)

Pretty soon, the great city of Boston lay before us. Our plan was to take the rental car back to the rental desk at the airport, then take the subway back to our hotel. The one problem: I was hangry without even knowing it. I was light headed and faint feeling, trying to figure out how to get from point A to point B. it was not pretty. Poor hubster tried to deal with me as best as possible, but I was rough. We stayed at Boston Common Hotel and Conference Center in the Back Bay area of Boston. Our accommodations were great, very convenient, and the staff was fantastic to work with.

After a quick nap and some snacks to subside the hangriness, we ventured out to find dinner and steak out our spots for the dress rehearsal of the Boston Pops 4th of July spectacular. We found dinner at Cheers. In Boston, there are two different Cheers restaurants. We were lucky enough to go to the one that inspired the show. It was originally known by another name, but after it inspired the show, they renamed it. We both got burgers, but I had had enough beer for a while, so I embraced a glass of wine with dinner. 

 The esplanade where the concert was being held was only about a 5 minute walk from the restaurant. I realized that I gravely misunderstood what I had read online about the concert. Turns out, most of what I had read was pertaining just to the oval, not the entire esplanade. We were not able to get seats in the oval, which was fine, and we didn't need to get there quite so early to get good seats in the esplanade. We were near a sound tower and had a great view of a TV screen. The concert was great-I was most impressed and excited by the 1812 overture. Jennifer Hudson was amazing, but I could have done without the 70s sing along and the cast from Mamma Mia! left something to be desired.

Not a bad view

Who can refuse a cheesy self-portrait?

The next morning we headed down to Quincy Market, and the followed the Freedom Trail to see some of the historical sites. It was a bit sobering to visit those on the birthday of our country.

Good Ole Benjamin Franklin

Paul Revere's Grave

Revere House

Old North Church

John Hancock's Grave

We ended our evening with dinner at McGreevy's, the first American sports bar (although not originally of that name) and now owned by a member of the Dropkick Murphy's. It was good and fun. From there, we walked back to the Esplanade to catch some of the fireworks. We left as stormy weather seemed to be approaching, and realized we could see some of the fireworks from our hotel. For the most part, the weather held out for those people out on the Esplanade, but I was thankful not to have to walk back to the hotel in the rain.

The next morning, we were out of the hotel early, and off to catch our flight home. No issues there, and we were back home by lunch time. It was a fabulous trip, but I am so thankful to be home in time to throw together a quick 30th birthday party, and repack to go on Gaycation 2012.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Vacation Recap 2: Portsmouth, NH

On Sunday, July 1, I was lucky enough to sleep just a little later than the previous night. I got up, showered, dressed, went to get breakfast, called my parents to check on the puppies, and finally roused the hubster out of bed. We finally got started heading down to visit our friend Courtney in Portsmouth, NH.

Portsmouth is only about 30-40 minutes from Kennebunkport, but we decided to take the scenic route and take our time getting down there. The hubster, as an avid watcher of "Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives," was on the look out for the Maine Diner, which was right along. It was also only about 10AM, and while I had already had an english muffin, I wasn't really ready for lunch. The hubster, on the other hand, hadn't eaten anything at all and was quite ravenous. So we stopped, and I took this as the opportunity to get a real, authentic Maine lobster roll. And it was delicious.
Lobster Roll, Maine Dinner, Rte 1, Maine

From there, we continued on down Rte 1, stopping at a few kitschy gift shops and the Outlets in Kittery, ME. The hubster was on a quest for a real, brick and mortar hockey store, but none we looked up online either seemed to exist or be open. It was depressing. About 4PM, we pulled up in Portsmouth, NH, just in time for Courtney to get off work. At her suggestion, we went straight to Portsmouth Brewery and Pub for a pre-dinner drink. We scooted home (literally) from there for a delicious dinner of smoked ribs.
Courtney, scooting on home. We had to follow in the car.

The next day we had great dreams of touring Portsmouth Brewery as well as Smuttynose Brewery, but alas, they were both closed. We had to make do with puttering around town, enjoying Brunch at the Friendly Toast, and then touring Redhook Brewery later in the afternoon.

The Friendly Toast-An Absolutely Quirky Diner

Bottling at Redhook Brewery

The hubster, tasting some  fine Red Hook Beer
 We had some time to kill before Courtney's boyfriend got off work, so we hit up the beaches. I knew the coast line was so rocky, but I had the hardest time wrapping my head about it when I actually experienced the ocean with more rocks rather than sand. And it made for some great photos.

So many rocks!
So there is some sand...

Umm...How do we get back?

 And, of course, we had to go back to Portsmouth Brewery for one more beer before dinner. 
A Trinity of Beers

30 Before 30 update...again.

So here I am, 30. In my quest of attempting to accomplish 30 things before I turned 30, I think I was relatively successful. Some of my ideas were rather lofty, and other were just silly. There are a few things I am disappointed I don't have completed yet, but I think I have a better idea of how to get them accomplished.'s what I did.

1. Go on Vacation. It doesn't have to be exotic, but it has to be for fun, with the hubs, and spend at least 2 nights in a hotel. Staying with family does not count. (June 30-July 2, stayed in Charlotte, NC and then met up with the hubs family at the beach for 2 days; June 29- July 5, 2012, Tour of New England)
2. Come to grips with whether or not we want children, and if we do want them, a plan for when we might want to start trying.
3. Read 8 books between now and then. Yes, the ones I am currently in the midst of count. (Poisonwood Bible 2/6/11; Water for Elephants 7/3/11; Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom 3/12/2012;   Dancing on My Grave 5/27/2012; Taking Charge of Your Fertility 5/27/2012 ; still working on Apollo's Angels and The Last Romanov; accomplished if you count the two I'm reading now)
4. Wear a two piece bathing suit. (Tankini purchased May 28, 2011; wore all summer 2011.Will try to embrace a real two piece in 2012.)
5. Attend a dance intensive without students. (Didn't happen, there have not been many available, but I did attend some with students.)
6. Have organized closets that stay that way. (organized on April 4- Still working as of July 10, 2012)
7. Find a signature hair cut/style. (New hair cut June 24, 2011)
8. Start a vegetable garden. (Joined a CSA May 2011...not the same, but certainly is good for increasing our vegetable intake. Maybe we'll grow some of our next summer. No such luck this summer, but I count it was accomplished. )
9. Lose Weight. (91 lbs to be exact.) (Met my goal as of December 15, gained some back during Christmas)
10. Apply to grad school.(After much soul searching, I decided this isn't the route I want to go.)
11. Create a cleaning schedule and stick to it for at least 2 weeks. Modify what doesn't work and stick to it for at least another month. (I've worked on the schedule part-have not been able to keep it. Still experimenting. Downloaded HomeRoutines App on 7/18/11, set up a schedule for cleaning zones as well as daily and weekly tasks.)
12. Try 4 new local restaurants (no chains!) (Soprano's Pizza 6.12.2011; On our Charlotte Vacation we only ate at 2 chain places: Buffalo Wild Wings (it was late, and convenient when we got to the hotel) and Sheetz on the way back; ) Tuscanny Italian Ristorante for dinner tonight, 7.10.2011; Revisited the Surrey House Restaurant for the first time in at least 20 years 7.16.2011; Tried the Japanese place in Yorktown; Cinco de Mayo in Yorktown)
13. Try being vegetarian for a week.
14. Buy a houseplant-and don't let it die. (Received an Orchid on 2.14.2011; Dead by the end of May 2011; Received a second Orchid for Christmas-died before Valentine's. I think this one is doomed.I know have 2 peace lilies from my grandmother's funeral that I am working on)
15. Organize jewelry. (Completed 2.12.2011)
16. Go to the zoo. (Planned to go 7.10.2012, but weather prevented it. Definitely going later in the summer.)
17. Complete JL's tshirt quilt. (Not accomplished, goal is to be complete by Christmas.)
18. Complete SD's onesie quilt.(Not accomplished, goal is to be complete by his birthday in August.)
19. Try at least 3 new craft projects. (Jewelry Organizer Completed 2.12.2011; attempting some jewelry making 6.28.11; Citronella Wine torches 7.7.2012)
20. Take a real yoga class. (Know where to go, just need to actually go.)
21. Go Hiking.(Completed on 4.23.2011)
22. Have a reunion with at least 2 friends from college (Matt: April 28; Courtney July 1-2)
23. Sing at a Karaoke. (Completed at Tarra's Wedding, 6.30.2012)
24. Go to a Wax Museum. (Lame-o one in Salem, MA, 7.3.2012)
25. Update Resume
26. Take new, good head shots.
27. Create a jazz dance syllabus. (Began June 2011. Working with some preliminary information found online, trying some of it out on our students and then adjusting as appropriate. Still incomplete, goal is to finish by the end of the summer.)
28. Write an original children's ballet to correspond with the VA SOLs.(Still a professional goal, but I am having some many issues with where to start. This will happen eventually.)
29. Pay off Credit Card.(Worked on it, not complete)
30. Sex. Let's just leave it at that. Check.

21 out of 30 complete, 5 with definitely plans of completion, 4 looming in the future.

Not too bad...although I had really hoped some of these would be complete.

Other New Experiences
1. Attended Minor League Hockey Game - 2/18/2011
2. Visited NYC on Band Trip-not necessarily new, but it was with the hubster! 4/28-29
3. NASCAR Hall of Fame and 4 different race shops/museums - 6/30-7/2
4. Surry County Peanut, Pork, and Pine Festival- not completely new,  but I hadn't been there since I was 3. I also tried a new food-pork taquitos from a local restaurant (Bubbas'n'Franks in Carrollton, VA). They were awesome-and very different.
5. Attended the Guinea Jubilee for the first time as an attendee, instead of with the marching band. (Not something I recommend). 9/24/2011

Monday, July 9, 2012

Vacation Recap1: Kennebunkport, ME

A dear friend I work with came to me with exciting news last August: she was getting Maine! Her family is from that area, and her mother offered to take care of all the details, so my friend said, sure, why not. I had never been up to New England, so I was excited to make this trip our vacation for the summer.

We left on Friday, June 29. After much hemming and hawing over how to get to the airport, we decided it would be easiest to drive up ourselves and leave it in economy parking. BEST DECISION EVER. As it turns out, things were crazy for my family, so it was much more convenient for everyone. Not to mention, $44 was not too bad for 6 days. We flew into Boston, MA, and went straight to the rental counter. We rented with Enterprise, and I had absolutely no complaints about the service at all.

An hour and a half later, we were checking into our motel. We stayed at the Lodge at Kennebunk, which was about 30 minutes outside of where the wedding was in Kennebunkport. I found the motel through Expedia, and I must say, I was quite happy, with our accommodations. First of all, I like it when I can honor a local business instead of a chain. The rooms were cute and clean, the bathrooms were a bit dated, but fully functional. There was also a small refrigerator and freezer in the room.  And my small, I don't mean a mini fridge or something you would seem in a dorm room. It was more like a full sized fridge that had been minimally shrunk to fit in a condo or motor home.There was no central air, but a window A/C unit. I later found out that this was pretty typical of some older places up there. The weather was cool, so we didn't turn it on...until we woke up hot in the middle of the night. Oops. The hotel also included continental breakfast and a pool, so there was little to complain about.

After getting ourselves settled in, we ventured down to Kennebunkport. The town is ridiculously cute-looks like something out of a post card. We spent most of our time hanging out by the river, visiting the little (tourist) shops. I am pleased to say the only money we spent, though, was on toiletry items we couldn't bring on the plane.
Kennebunkport, ME

From there, we headed on to the rehearsal dinner. The wedding was being held at a house that over looks the beach, with the ceremony on the back deck of the house. The entire setting was gorgeous. 
The beaches by the wedding location

Hi, Hubster!

Add caption

And what else do you have for dinner at a wedding rehearsal in Maine? Lobster. It was the first time I had cracked and peeled my own, but it was so delicious. Poor hubby couldn't enjoy it, though-he's allergic.

The next morning, I woke up bright and early with the first crack of dawn. There was, of course, a window that faced East in our room, and lucky for me, I was on that side of the bed. After  waiting about 2 hours for the hubster to get up, I called Federal Jacks Restaurant and Brewery to see if they were doing tours.  We had visited the giftshop yesterday, and we were already familiar with one or two of their beers, so we were hopeful to get a tour. No such luck. We did, however, go there for lunch, and got some delicious food and a beer sampler.

Lots o' Beer

The hubster and I-he hates pictures
From there, we headed back to motel's pool and then got ready for the wedding. The wedding was a fabulous time. Both the bride and groom are artists, and they made all the glass pieces on the tables. The setting was absolutely picturesque. The bride was gorgeous and we had an absolute blast. 


Man, that water was cold.
Did I mention there was Karaoke?

The Hubster looks a little happier here.

We were some dancin' fools.

 By the end of the evening, we were exhausted. It was a beautiful night-we were so happy to be able to share it with our friends. At the same time, we were also ready to move on to the next phase of our trip: Portsmouth, NH.