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Happy First Birthday: Reece Turns One

29 Oct

Dear, Reece.

Today, you are one year old, and I can’t help but reflect on what this year has meant to both me and your proud dad. I wrote you letters while I was pregnant with you, dreaming of the little boy I would one day hold in my arms. I wrote that I knew two things about you: You’d love the Yankees and we’d love you more than anything in the world. I wrote about all the fun things we’d teach you: How to ride a bike, how to tie your shoes, how to catch a lizard with your bare hands. I imagined you running up and hugging me after a long day at school, I dreamt of us baking holiday cookies together, I pictured taking your Prom photos on the front stairs. And I made of list of all the places we’d take you: to the zoo, to Grandma’s house, to the splash park, to a baseball game.

But today, I’m not thinking about all the things we’ve done, all the places we’ve gone and all the things we’ve taught you. I’m actually grateful for the things you’ve taught me, lessons I didn’t even know I needed to learn.

You’ve taught me how to be patient. You’ve reminded me to be curious and to continue to learn something new every day. You’ve taught me to trust in myself, because even though I had no idea what I was doing as a Mommy, we figured it out as a family. You taught me to trust my gut — Daddy and I fought a few doctors to figure you out. You taught me that while schedules are certainly important, there are a few good reasons to break them every now and then. You showed me that hearing one of your big belly laughs could cure the hardest of days. You taught me that every day is a reason to dance.

You’ve taught me to loosen up … have fun … life doesn’t have to be so serious all the time. You’ve reminded me of all the fun I had as a child, all the games I played, where my imagination took me. You’ve allowed me to rediscover the world through your eyes.

Having you in our lives allowed me to see a whole new side of Daddy, a softer, gentler and stronger man than I ever knew before. Daddy’s eyes lit up the second he saw you, and he was by your side right from the start, keeping you company in the NICU until I could see you. Daddy became the ultimate protector of both of us in that hospital room. And watching the two of you together fills my heart with overwhelming joy! You’d reach up to Daddy and you could just see his heart melt.

But when I look through the photos in this last year, it’s the quiet, everyday moments that I’ll cherish forever. Some of my favorite memories are the first time I felt you breathe on my chest. I loved looking down at your long beautiful eyelashes. I loved the way you would snuggle with your lambie in your crib. You loved sleeping on your left side when you were little. I was so scared to dress you in the beginning because I’d never dressed a baby before — so you stayed pretty much naked for the first week.

Me, you and Daddy used to take LONG car rides, because it was the only way you’d fall asleep, so we spent many afternoon touring the Tampa Bay area. In fact, you blew the engine in Daddy’s Commander with all the trips to the Skyway Bridge.

You loved to be bounced, so I’d spend days literally walking in circles with you, just bouncing and bouncing. I’d even bounce when I wasn’t holding you, just out of pure habit. Your favorite toys were your giraffe rattle, your keys and lambie. You’d play with your shadow and you loved looking in the mirror. When you’d fuss, I’d sing to you in the car, and you’d just watch and listen. You thought Peanut and Cashew were hysterical, and you’d crack up whenever they came around.

But today, I’m supposed to see you as a big boy now that you’re one, but I still see my sweet baby boy. I’ll always see your little ringlets and dimples when I see your smiling face, no matter how big you get. I’ll always remember your tiny fingers wrapped around mine. And I’ll always be honored that you decided to make me your mommy.

I love you, son.

Mommy

Here are just a few of the highlights in the last year.
• October 29, 2013: Reece is born at 8:24 p.m. weighing 7 pounds and 20 inches long
• October 30, 2013: First time getting your wild hair washed
• October 31, 2013: First time trick-or-treating and you cleaned up at the nurses’ station (Kit-Kat) while wearing Frankenstein pants
• Rolled over in the first month
• November 28, 2013: First Thanksgiving at Grandpa Orlando’s, wore a turkey butt outfit
• Went picking out a Christmas tree together and you had one in your room
• You hated bath time with Mommy but LOVED it with Daddy
• You loved your bouncer, you’d swing your leg up and down just to bounce more
• Wore an elf outfit on Christmas morning and a tux on New Year’s Eve
• February 2, 2014: Superbowl, first time sleeping through the night
• February 14, 2014: You and Daddy surprised me at work on Valentine’s Day, dressed in your “Most Eligible Bachelor” shirt
• March 30, 2014: Went to Oldsmar Days, and you were mesmerized by the fair rides
• April 20, 2014: Easter at Aunt Steph’s house, wore bunny ears
• April 21, 2014: First time at the park, went on the slide and swings
• April 26, 2014: First time in the pool at Grandma Tam’s house and you LOVE it
• May 4, 2014: You get the jumper
• May 4, 2014: First time eating food (peas). You loved corn, squash and pears. You hate sweet potatoes.
• May 16, 2014: First time flying on a plane to Nan and Pop Pop’s house
• May 21, 2014: First time putting your toes in the sand in Delaware, but you hated the cold ocean water
• May 24, 2014: You met my Grandpa Tam for the first and only time, but you brought such joy to him in his last days and he loved looking at your photos.
• May 31, 2014: Attended Mason’s graduation party
• June 1, 2014: Now you love sweet potatoes
• June 29, 2014: First tooth pops through (bottom left) and sat up unassisted for the first time
• July 4, 2014: Work the cutest “Mommy’s Firecracker” outfit and Lady Liberty crown
• July 10, 2014: First time dressing like a big boy (no onesie) and heading to sushi with Mommy and Daddy
• June 19, 2014: First time crawling
• July 25, 2014: You say your first word (“Da Da”) and started climbing up on things at Aunt Stacy’s annual Pig Roast in CT
• August 3, 2014: Became an outlaw at Madison’s birthday party
• August 16, 2014: First Yankees game. Daddy was SO proud to take you there.
• August 27, 2014: Reached expert cruiser status
• August 30, 2014: First time seeing mermaids at Weeki Wachee and going to the splash park!
• September 17, 2014: Said “Momma” for the first time
• September 26, 2014: Leaned how to wave goodbye
• October 22, 2014: You’ve turned into a break-dancing fool over night!
• October 26, 2014: First time at the Oldsmar Fall Festival/Pumpkin Patch
• October 27, 2014: First time with whole milk in your bottle
• October 29, 2014: First time carving pumpkins

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Turning 33: Living it up in the Keys

6 Oct

I don’t think I’ve ever looked forward to a birthday more than my 33rd birthday, which took place last month. It’s not because I was thrilled to be turning another year older, but this birthday would mark the first time PoppaNut and I had a vacation sans baby since his birth — and we needed it! And so my amazing hubby planned a surprise trip to KEY WEST!!

Woohoo! We packed our bags, lovingly dropped off Reece at his grandparents’ home, removed the “parent” title from our vocabulary and proceeded to the Ft. Myers’ Key West Express dock to kick off the weekend.

My Mission: To reclaim my former, no-baby self. No schedules. No backup plans. No searching for reviews and recommendations. No judgment. And for the love of god, no Cheerios in my purse!

Here’s a look back at some of the highlights of our Key West vacation.

Key West Express
This is the only way to get the Keys. After boarding in Ft. Myers, you have three blissful hours to enjoy the beautiful breeze and ocean views while sipping Mimosas and Bloody Mary’s to your heart’s content. If it happens to rain, there might be a group of wild yet inviting travelers who befriend you and insist you do shots of straight vodka for the next two hours — which they may or may not have smuggled onto the boat in the first place. It will kick your trip off right, so just do it.

And We're Off!

And We’re Off!

Sloppy Joe’s
Live music, unbelievable sloppy joe’s and one rowdy crowd equals one of the best spots in Key West! Plus, this place is filled with rich history, considering it’s been located at the corner of Greene and Duval streets since 1937. Beginning at just 9 a.m. (again, no judgment), customers can enjoy their favorite beverage!

Time for Lunch and Some Live Music.

Time for Lunch and Some Live Music.

Ocean Key Resort & Spa
Step into paradise. Spacious rooms with large Jacuzzi tubs and panoramic views of both the Gulf of Mexico and Duval Street just melt all your cares away. The modern green-and-white pool area features first-come, first-serve cabanas and the most friendly staff — they delivered frozen towels, fresh drink samples and even frozen fruit to make the sun just a bit more tolerable. In fact, the entire staff made us feel right at home … if our home was a luxury waterfront mansion! I can’t wait to return.

Most Captivating Views!

Most Captivating Views!

Time for a Frozen Towel!

Time for a Frozen Towel!

Harpoon Harry’s
Authentic breakfast diner and a full liquor store in one? This urban myth is certainly true in Key West! While they serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, I’m recommending breakfast. They’re known for their Bloody Harry (a spicy Bloody Mary) and the Heapin’ Harry breakfast platter: 2 eggs any style with cheese atop potatoes sittin’ on ham, smothered in sausage gravy and served with toast. Yummy!

Booze and Breakfast

Booze and Breakfast

Some Interesting Decor Around These Parts!

Some Interesting Decor Around These Parts!

Mallory Square
This quaint shopping square has anything and everything you might want to buy for those friends and family who are angrily reviewing your Facebook feed updates while they sit at work. Plus, the nightly sunset celebration includes amazing street performers and talent acts.

Time for Shopping

Time for Shopping

Smallest Bar
Don’t blink or you might just miss this one. This is LITERALLY the smallest bar in the world, with just a small yellow awning documenting its existence. It’s a great pit stop as you make your way down Duval Street and all the patrons are super friendly!

Their Not Kidding About This Being a Pretty Small Bar!

Their Not Kidding About This Being a Pretty Small Bar!

Rick’s Bar
PoppaNut and I spent a few beers’ time here, mainly people watching from the front stools. It happened to be raining this evening, and this was the perfect, down-home joint to quench our thirsts. Rick’s Bar is actually one of eight bars in a larger entertainment complex so they truly have a spot for everyone!

Perfect Spot for People Watching

Perfect Spot for People Watching

With my liver barely functioning on the ferry ride home from the Keys, I’d say “Mission Accomplished.” I think we just might make this an annual trip for my birthday. Where should we stop the next time we head down to Key West?

And that’s life in a nutshell.

MommaNut

Mommy Meltdowns: When Your Baby Isn’t a Baby Anymore

30 Sep

I’m completely in love with my IKEA rocker. In preparing the nursery, I ran across a blog combining an IKEA chair with a rocker attachment, and I just had to have it! I loved this rocker from the first time I sat in it, and I knew this is the spot I’d rock our sweet son to sleep at night.

Waiting for Baby to Arrive for the First Rock

Waiting for Baby to Arrive for the First Rock

But when Reece was born with acid reflux, the rocker saw more screaming than sleeping, from both me and Reece! PoppaNut found me there a time or two when he came home from work, and I’d be crying in frustrating not knowing how to soothe our little one who was obviously fighting his own pain.

But as we figured out the cure to Reece’s aliment, the rocker turned into a place of peace. I’d rock with Reece just before bed, using this quiet time to say our prayers and cuddle. I’d watch as he played with his little curls, wrapping his tiny finger around each ringlet as he finished his bottle. I’d feel his warm breath on my hand, completely in amazement that we made this amazing child. PoppaNut would stand beside us, giving us each kisses and saying goodnight. And on hard days, this would be the place where Reece and I would find happiness again, each forgiving each other for whatever “mistakes” we’d made and we’d promise to do better tomorrow.

Falling in Love With Reece's Tiny Fingers While We Rock One Night

Falling in Love With Reece’s Tiny Fingers While We Rock One Night

As Reece has gotten older, things have changed. Our 11-month-old no longer has the most perfect whale mobile above his crib, which also now resides in the lowest position available. In fact, Reece ripped the mobile down himself in an “I’m not a baby anymore, Mom … Get this freakin’ whale deal out of here” rage of defiance. We are also now greeted by a standing toddler each morning, rather than a burrito-wrapped infant.

Now, We Are Greeting With a Standing Baby

Now, We Are Greeting With a Standing Baby

The onesies have been replaced with 18-month “real” T-shirts and the footie pajamas have been swapped for matching two-pieces. The rattles and teethers that used to make Reece so happy are collecting dust wherever he last threw them. Instead, matchbox cars and shape sorters keep him entertained. His whale tub is on the verge of retirement (probably should’ve happened a month or so ago but I can’t bear to send that to storage, too) and now rides to daycare in a “big boy” seat.

I’ve packed up Reece’s most iconic baby clothes — his first Frankenstein Halloween PJs he wore in the hospital, his baby-blue going-home outfit, his turkey butt pants from Thanksgiving, his elf costume from Christmas, his Yankee hat — and I’ve lined his closet with his upcoming sizes in preparation for the next growth spurt.

PoppaNut Holding Reece in His Halloween Jammies

PoppaNut Holding Reece in His Halloween Jammies

But in all this changes, one thing in the room has remained constant: the rocker. The rocker is there each night, ready to snuggle us together once again. It caps off the end of our day together before we get to spend the rest of our evening with some much-needed alone time.

And The Rocker Remains ...

And The Rocker Remains …

PoppaNut knows this chair is important. So, on an unassuming weeknight, PoppaNut and I are discussing the latest details in our master-bedroom renovation (more to come in a later post), and he points to an empty corner: “I was thinking this would be a perfect place for your rocker … I know how much you love that chair so I thought we could add it into our bedroom.”

Tears are probably not the most anticipated response from such an innocent idea, but that’s exactly what happened. I didn’t even have time to really digest the idea … the tears just flowed like running water with a babbling of words: “But that means Reece doesn’t need me anymore and he’s not a baby anymore and that’s our snuggle time. I’ve already packed up his baby clothes and did you see him rip down the mobile? I know we are supposed to teach him and watch him grow wings but, he’s only 11 months old and I’m not ready to start letting go …”

PoppaNut’s face went completely white … and I imagine his internal dialogue went something like this: “What the heck is happening?? I didn’t ask her to give Reece up for adoption, did I? No, I think I was just talking about moving the chair. Yes, I’m sure of it. I mean, I thought she loved the chair and I thought she would love having it in the room. I didn’t know the waterworks were going to pour out. What do I do? Ok, I need to say something here because she’s still crying and babbling incoherently at this point.”

PoppaNut wrapped his arms around me, letting me cry a little longer just to get the emotions out, before gently saying, “You can rock him as long as you want to, baby. You can leave the rocker just where it is for as long as you want. But if you do want the chair in our bedroom, you can still rock Reece before bed in there. There’s no rush.” And with a few more hugs and kisses, this crazy momma finally settled down.

Our Big Boy

Our Big Boy

And now a few days later, I can laugh at myself. Did I need to have a full mommy breakdown over a rocking chair? No. Now that I’ve cried it out, can I move the rocker into our bedroom? Maybe. I know eventually I’ll need to put on my “big girl” pants and let our little one turn into the boy he’s meant to be. But until he’s in his “big boy” pants — which I’m defining as size 2T — I’ll just let us both be babies for a little while longer. And that’s life in a nutshell.

MommaNut

Vacation Time: Visiting Maryland, West Virginia, Delaware and More

26 Jun

So, speaking of West Virginia (see my last post), I need to tell you about all the awesome things we explored on our first family vacation. As I mentioned, I had never seen PoppaNut’s hometown, a place where he perfected his soccer skills, a small town where he could walk to school, a destination where the hottest bar in town is the Elks Lodge. I’d seen his childhood home in New York, but I guess when you start creating a family, you start to think more about your roots. And I couldn’t wait to see all of it for myself! Here’s a few of my favorite places!

Veramar Vineyard, Berryville, VA: Ok, I have a mild wine addiction, and that’s putting it nicely. Luckily, my mother-in-law shares the same addiction! So, when she mentioned this quaint, lovely winery, we were all game to explore. After one sip of the signature Pink Chicken wine — a light rose with flavors of sweet grapefruit and strawberries, we were signing up for the membership club. Now, we get to enjoy Veramar wine in our Florida home monthly!

Veramar Vineyard

Elks Lodge, Clear Spring, MD: I’m listing this place, because PoppaNut and I had one of the most fun times here! PoppaNut invited some of his old friends out, and we enjoyed a few rounds of cocktails for about $20. Super fun and super cheap ranks high in my book!

Elks Lodge

Seacrets, Ocean City, MD: This place was right on the water, with live music, 18 bars and in-the-water tables! Plus, the outdoor tables are situated right in the trees, a place that makes you feel like you’re on vacation the second you walk through the doors. Word of caution: Look out for the typical Spring Breakers who think twerking and make-out sessions go nicely with appetizers.

Seacrets

The Frog Bar, Ocean City, MD: Overlooking the inlet and Assateague Island on the board walk, The Frog Bar is a laidback hangout with the ultimate bar food and out-of-the-box refreshments. Take this blue/green concoction: DELISH! Reece seemed to love it, too!

IMG_3187

IMG_3188

IMG_3191

Dumser’s Ice Cream and Thrasher’s Fries, Ocean City, MD: When we posted our location while traveling, several Facebook friends mentioned the amazing milkshakes from Dumser’s and the crisp vinegar French fries from Thrasher’s … and of course, in the interest of research, I had to try both! And I was NOT disappointed. I’m still dreaming about that delicious combo.

Dumser's

IMG_3197

Guidos Burritos, Ocean City, MD: We stopped in here for GIANT margaritas, known simply as Monsteritas” to the locals. This 60-ounce bowl of goodness is the entire reason people check this place out. Just be careful of the mega brain freeze that can accompany this treat.

Guidos Burritos

Rehoboth Beach, DE: This is the place to be at sunset! The soft light makes everything just glow, and it was the perfect place to dip Reece’s little toes into the sand for the first time. He wasn’t thrilled with the cold water, but he does like his toes in the sand just like Daddy!

Rehoboth Beach

High Rock, Highfield-Cascade, MD: Holy, view! Located just off the Appalachian Trail in Northern Maryland, this is a popular destination for hang-gliding. From the top of the rocks, which have been decorated with graffiti-style love notes, you can see the surrounding mountains and valleys. Just breathtaking!

High Rock

IMG_3224

Pen Mar County Park, Cascade, MD: After recovering from that crazy view, we picked up some home-style lunch from Hartle’s Subs and headed to this relaxing park for a romantic picnic (Reece was with Nana). We laid out a blanket, listened to the train go by and just let life stop for a few moments.

Pen Mar

Pen Mar 2

St. Paul’s Church, Clear Spring, MD: PoppaNut and I were driving around, looking at local places in Clear Spring that he had visited while growing up there. He pulled into St. Paul;’s, and told me about the day his mom married his stepdad, right there in that church. It was so beautiful to be a part of that moment that we captured it, this time with us standing at the doorway.

St. Paul's

St. Paul's 2

PoppaNut’s Childhood Home, Clear Spring, MD: Funny how things work out. PoppaNut took me by his old home, and it happened to be for sale. So, we parked that car and marched up to the front, peering in each window while PoppaNut told me his memories from room to room. I loved the vintage design, wood floors and wraparound porch!

IMG_3240

Dam No. 5, Clear Spring, MD: Known as “Honeywood Dam,” Dam No. 5 is on the Potomac River, originally built for the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. Listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, this place was rich in history and beauty.

The DAM

There are SO many more places I’d love to list, but these were certainly my favorites. I hope if you ever make it out that way, you visit at least one! And that’s life in a nutshell.

 

MommaNut

Holy Luggage: Traveling With Baby

25 Jun

Back in December, PoppaNut and I decided to book a spring trip to West Virginia — I’ve never seen PoppaNut’s hometown, a place where he perfected his soccer skills, a small town where he could walk to school, a destination where the hottest bar in town is the Elks Lodge. I’d seen his childhood home in New York, but I guess when you start creating a family, you start to think more about your roots. And I couldn’t wait to see it all … every school, every neighbor’s home, every mountaintop!

And we couldn’t wait to take Reece there, too! It would be his first official family vacation. So, we booked those tickets and started counting down to departure day!

Now, this was our first time traveling with a baby. Needless to say, the planning started weeks in advance with tons of research, calls with friends who had traveled with a baby before and several text messages to my mother-in-law to make sure we had all the gear we needed — because God forbid Reece doesn’t have his jumper, bouncer, swing and more.

I spent days thinking of all the things Reece might need, researching the weather forecast, scouring our itinerary and finally developing the perfect packing list for him. And once we arrived, SURPRISE, Reece’s bag was the only one that didn’t make it. So, I put together a few no-fail mommy travel tips for your amusement pleasure!

Break Your Formula into Different Suitcases: Reece has a prescription-based formula, and I luckily packed half of his formula in his suitcase and the other half in PoppaNut’s bag. That bought us some time to locate the bag before completely freaking out!

Yes, this is how much luggage it takes to leave home with baby.

Yes, this is how much luggage it takes to leave home with baby.

Over-Pack Your Diaper Bag: Most airlines let you take on a diaper bag for your baby. I swapped out my regular diaper bag and purse for one of PoppaNut’s Quicksilver oversize backpack and loaded that thing up with everything I could find: Toys, extra clothes, an extra shirt for me in case of any puke issues, bottles, pacifiers, diapers, wipes, a changing pad, our tickets, my wallet. With this setup, I also didn’t have to keep track of my purse, since it was all combined!

Keep Your Baby Hungry and Tired: So, a good friend told me this little tip. If your little one is supposed to eat at 11 a.m. and take his second nap at 1 p.m. and your flight is at noon, push his bottle back and try to eliminate his first nap. He might be cranky but he will take his bottle as soon as he gets on the plane (helping his ears pop) and then he’ll conk out! It worked like a charm for us.

Out like a light, thanks to his bottle during takeoff!

Out like a light, thanks to his bottle during takeoff!

Bring the Carrier: I loved the carrier because Reece gets bored hanging out in his car seat. He likes to move his legs around more, and the carrier allows him to kick while still being secure. We used the carrier quite a bit, especially once we made it through airport security.

My two boys are seriously the cutest!

My two boys are seriously the cutest!

Think Outside the Box: So, PoppaNut is AWESOME at this! I’m a very much “the book says” kind of person. But Mr. I’ll Change a Diaper Anywhere (and he literally has, including on a government vehicle) is always coming up with new ways to entertain baby. So, while waiting for our flight to board, PoppaNut spread out a spare blanket in a vacant row and let Reece roll and play with his toys. PoppaNut got right down there on the floor to play, not really giving a hoot what anyone thought of it!

Playtime can happen anywhere, thanks to PoppaNut!

Playtime can happen anywhere, thanks to PoppaNut!

Brush Off the Complainers: Look, babies are going to cry. And of course, you’re going to try to calm them down but there might be a few hairy moments. And just then, some mother will tell you how you could be doing it better, like you’re a complete idiot. You’ll want to physically rip off her face … but don’t. I hear airport jails are horrible.

The unexpected is going to happen. It certainly happened to us with a misplaced bag. But I wouldn’t trade visiting there for anything in the world. I got to spend some of the most amazing days with my husband, reliving parts of his childhood that make him the man he is. And in the end, it’s not the travel stress or the misplaced bag I remember the most … it’s the moments with my family that I’ll never forget. And that’s life in a nutshell.

MommaNut

Bentonville Culture: Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

23 May

From time and time, I head to Bentonville, AK for work. And that last time I went, I had the great pleasure of visiting the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, and I was completely blown away. Now, you’re probably thinking that a museum in Arkansas can’t compete with the likes of those in New York, Chicago, D.C. and others. Well, I’m going to beg to differ.

Crystal Bridges Museum of Art was actually founded by Alice Walton, the daughter of the late Walmart founder Sam Walton. Alice spent years collecting just the right works of art to display at the museum, and her taste is impeccable. And because the museum is sponsored by Walmart, general admission is free.

Alice has been well-recognized as an influential leader within Arkansas’ small community, and national press has picked up this story like hotcakes. And with a story like that, I was dying to check it out. Here are some of the pieces that I loved the most. I hope you also enjoy and plan a trip to visit the museum yourself.

And that’s life in a nutshell … one person can really make a different in the life of others. Alice sure did on me!

MommaNut

 

At Last, Atlantis: Visiting the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas

9 Apr

I’m crazy about pink hotels. This is not the first time you have heard this. You’ll probably remember my pink-house story. When I was a little girl, I dreamt that my dad built me a pink house with rainbows and diamonds on the outside. A girl can dream, can’t she?

And while I don’t have diamonds outside my home, PoppaNut always takes me to pink hotels for special occasions as a tribute to making all my dreams come true. Our wedding night was spent in a pink hotel, and my birthdays are always spent at a pink hotel. And now, our second anniversary also involved a pink hotel: The Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas.

Now, I don’t know that I can call that a hotel … it’s more like a city in itself! There are a ton of things to do in this hotel, but I couldn’t help but just look in awe of the overall beautiful of the resort’s design. Once I was able to shake the fact that I wasn’t in “Couples Retreat,” we took our map and set out to explore!

I have to say we were lost the majority of the time, but we didn’t care. Everything around us was gorgeous! We jet-skied, we laid out in the sun, we went through the aquarium, we ate delicious food, I saw a shark (and a million of his friends) and we found a gift shop.

And that’s life in a nutshell … there is something magical that happens in a pink hotel, and I’m lucky enough to get to explore each one I come across.

MommaNut

Bahamas Mama: Visiting Royal Caribbean’s CocoCay in the Bahamas

4 Apr

Hello, Bahamas! PoppaNut and I are ready for some much-needed relaxation, and we know CocoCay is the perfect place to forget about real life and let go for an afternoon. After boarding Royal Caribbean’s Monarch of the Sea, it was just one day until we arrived to the cruise line’s private island.

Filing onto the transportation the boat, I’m staring at this water like a four-year-old at Disney. I can’t believe this type of water really exists. You can see straight to the bottom of the ocean floor, the breeze has a salty but warm edge to it, and the sweet smells of the lunch barbeque have all my senses in a tizzy.

As my first toe touches the white, powdery sand, I’m gone. I have lost myself in the Bahamas lifestyle. I forget all about work and houses and busy schedules, and I focus completely on the then and now. My biggest worry is where to get my next cocktail and when to sign up for a jet-ski tour.

This secluded island is surrounded by the gentle, translucent waters of the Bahamas. With its white-sand beaches and spectacular surroundings, CocoCay is a wonderland of adventure. Reserved exclusively for Royal Caribbean guests, this tropical paradise has recently been updated with new aquatic facilities, nature trails and a ton of great places to just sit back, relax and enjoy a tropical drink.

First up: Jet-ski rental, one of the most popular activities to do on the island, followed by a delicious alcohol-infused drink called “Coco Loco.” This sweet, slushy madness got things kicked off just right, enough to get me doing the “Electric Slide” in front of a ton of Royal Caribbean guests.

Another favorite activity is the Caylanas Aqua Park, a fun-filled floating playground out in the water. However, I’m a bit of a chicken when it comes to going into the ocean. Let’s just say I have watched one too many “Shark Weeks” in my day, and I prefer the steady shore where I don’t have to risk a limb to relax. So, we took ourselves right to a cozy hammock (there are about a million to chose from on the island), set up our iPod docking station and melted into island life. I could have stayed there for days, but the boat’s last ferry departed at 4 p.m. Back to the boat to continue our new-found spirit.

And that’s life in a nutshell … nothing takes away your reality quite like a coco loco … now if I could just get the recipe …

MommaNut

 

Have a Holly Jolly Christmas: My Favorite Things About the Holidays

14 Dec

With Christmas right around the corner, there are a ton of things happening that I just love about the holidays. It’s a magical time of year when life seems pure and innocent. You forget about the stresses of life and you simply enjoy all the jolly spirits around you. So, I have decided to countdown my top 10 favorite things about the season.

1. Santa: Christmas would just not be the same without Santa Claus. He is the mascot that brings everything together. I literally saw Santa riding around town on a giant lighted float yesterday. I wanted to tell him to get back to work, but he just seemed so happy. His rosy cheeks and hearty laugh always put me in the holiday spirit.

2. Holiday Lights: I remember when my dad and mom used to take us kids around Winding Brook neighborhood in Mishawaka, Indiana to look at all the holiday lights. This neighborhood is completely amazing. Nearly every house is completely decked with lights and Christmas displays. And while I didn’t really appreciate being stuck in a car with my whole family during my teen years, I can certainly appreciate the tradition now.

3. Christmas Music: There is nothing like listening to “Jingle Bells” on repeat while you decorate your Christmas tree. I get out all my holiday CDs, and just listen as much as I possibly can. It certainly helps to have this type of music playing when you live in Florida. It can trick my mind into believing it really is December while I put my flip-flops on.

4. Hot Chocolate: There is not many times you can have hot chocolate while you live in Florida, so I take advantage of it when the temperature dips below 60 in the evenings. With the air cranked down to 60 in the house, I whip up a cup of hot chocolate and sprinkle in a few marshmallows on top. And just like that, I have created Christmas in a cup.

5. Shopping: I love shopping all the time, but it is especially true at Christmas. Now, don’t get me wrong. You probably won’t find me in a mall. I completely hate the long lines, the pushing, the disorganization in the stores and swiping my card again and again through the manual machines because each one acts differently from the next. No, no, no … mall shopping is for dummies. I stay online, and the UPS man does all the work. I love finding the perfect present for the ones I love, and I love that they arrive at my door about four days later.

6. Vacation Time: Ok, let’s get real. Everyone loves a day off of work. It is awesome to wake up on a day you should be at work and realize you don’t have to go in. And I LOVE my job. So I know you guys can certainly agree with me. This year, I’m actually able to take three days off around the holidays, and I can’t wait for those days to arrive. Let the Christmas countdown begin.

7. Christmas Pajamas: I love to wear pajamas. You know, those big fleece pajamas with snowflakes or Santas all over them … I can’t get enough of them. Each year, I collect a new pair of holiday pajamas. For some reason, those jammies can just put me in the holiday spirit with their coziness. If you haven’t tried this one, get your butt to Old Navy and pick out your next pair! And mean … if Kim K. can do it …

8. Holiday Movies: I would have to say that I’m completely obsessed with “Elf.” Every time I watch that, I pick up another really funny line that I missed the time before. And I love that the cable channels play it on repeat a million times in case you missed it. “A Christmas Story” is classic, as it takes place in Indiana, my home state, after all. “Scrooged” and “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” are favorites too!

9. Christmas Breakfast: Ever since I was a little girl, my family sat down to a huge Christmas breakfast on Christmas morning. It has always been a tradition, and we have carried on the tradition into our own home. Biscuits and gravy, eggs, hash browns, fresh OJ and coffee are just a few items on the menu. Of course, that is followed by a holiday nap and then another helping of leftovers. Yum! And it all looks so wonderful on my Christmas china too!

 

10. Family: And now for my sentimental closing … the holidays are really about spending time with your family. It is about reconnecting with the ones you love, showing them how much you appreciate them and celebrating your lives together. And while the Christmas pajamas and holiday music help us do that, those things wouldn’t mean a thing if we didn’t have family.

And that’s life in a nutshell … now please tell me what your favorite things are about the holiday season.

MommaNut

 

Sanibel Island: Labor Day Weekend

6 Sep

PoppaNut gave me the surprise of a lifetime this weekend. He simply said, “Pack a bag.” And that’s exactly what I did. When we loaded up the new Jeep on Sunday morning, I had no idea where our final destination would be.

We drove down 275 to 75 … and I started thinking we might be headed to my parents’ home. But as we passed exit 170, I knew that wasn’t it.

About three hours after we left our home, we arrived at the Sundial Resort on Sanibel Island. I immediately assume we are checking in and can’t wait to get to the front desk to secure our reservation. But PoppaNut is sorta dragging behind, texting on his phone. I have no idea what is going on and he is acting so strange. What’s going on?

Melissa and Matt

As we wonder around looking for Building K, I still can’t figure out what is going on. Are we meeting people here? Are we lost? And then, PoppaNut swings me around and I see two very familiar faces: Melissa and Matt from Kentucky, my very close friends from college.

My eyes saw them but my brain couldn’t figure out what the heck they were doing in Sanibel. PoppaNut said my face was priceless … I was completely shocked. I ran up to them and gave them great big hugs! Gosh, I can’t even tell you how great it was to see them. And PoppaNut had arranged it all. He saw that Melissa and Matt were coming down to Florida and arranged the meet-up. Did I pick a keeper or what?

Melissa and MommaNut

As this group of four headed down to the beach, my brain was still trying to figure out what had just happened. We sipped all-natural cocktails while we laid in the sun … Melissa and I catching up on every detail of our lives … and something suprises me. No matter how much time passes between the time I see Melissa, we always pick up as if we haven’t missed a beat. We are instantly catching up and laughing and enjoying the sunny day on the beach.

That night, we head to dinner at a beautiful seaside restaurant called Gramma Dot’s. After a quick drink at a nearby bar, we head back to the pool for a dip, more laughter and way too much tequila. Matt, or JT as some people called him, made us smoked-salmon dip and caprese salad … the most gourmet drunk food I have ever had. And we did tequila shoots with hot sauce and orange slices (it will change your life).

MommaNut and PoppaNut

When it was time to say goodbye, I couldn’t help but cry. I had the best time in the world, and it was amazing to see Matt and Melissa again. And it was so sweet of PoppaNut to arrange this special surprise for me. He said, “I wanted you to be able to see your friends … you never get to see them and I know you miss them.” I could cry again just thinking about it.

And that’s life in a nutshell … getting to see your old friends again can make you feel brand new again. Thank you, hubby! I love you so much.

MommaNut

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