Wednesday, April 8, 2015

311 cruise {round 2}

As I'm sure you have gathered by now, at the end of February we went on a 311 cruise.  Yes, another one.  I realize that some people may think it's a little crazy the number of vacations we go on that revolve around this band.  It probably is a little crazy.  But this band encourages such a positive vibe that all of these trips and vacations end up being with such an amazing group of people, it just makes it that much better of an experience.  Hearing their music, being with like-minded people, and going on an awesome vacation - you just can't beat it.  So, call me crazy if you want, but I plan to keep attending 311 events as long as they keep putting them on. :)

So this was the 2nd 311 cruise that Matt and I have been on.  It is the 4th cruise they have put on (see!  we don't go to ALL of their events!) - the first one was just not a good time financially for us so we couldn't swing it, and the 3rd one set sail the day before my due date with Lilly.  So there was that. :)  We made it on the 2nd cruise (as you may remember) and then once again for #4.  This one was a 4 day trip, and we went to Jamaica.  It. Was. Awesome.  Our friends and fellow 311 lovers Ash & Zach joined us as well, which made the trip that much more fun.

We spent the first day of our trip doing nothing but traveling.  We flew from KC to West Palm Beach (not the typical destination for a cruise that leaves from Miami, but we had the HARDEST time finding flights.  This was the cheapest and best option based on flight times as well.).  We then took the Tri-Rail from West Palm Beach allll the way to Miami.  It took us about 2 hours.  Although it was a long ride,it only cost us like $7 a person.  Waaaay cheaper than a cab.  Once we got to Miami we took a cab to our hotel for the night.  We ordered some pizza, drank a few beers, and got to bed early knowing that our vacation was starting for real bright and early the next day!

On Wednesday morning, we caught a shuttle from the hotel to the Port of Miami.  We went through all of the fun registration, waited around in a giant room for a while, and then finally made our way onto the ship!  It was huge, and so nice.

We had a few hours to kill before we were allowed to get into our rooms, so we just explored the ship and got lost for the first of many, many times.  We found the buffet and got some lunch, and what else but a Margarita!  Walk by me with a margarita in a 311 souvenir cup, and you bet I'm buying one. :)

After getting to our room and getting our bags, we found our way to the pool deck where 311 was playing their first show of the trip, as we sailed away.  Such a great way to kick off vacation, I must say. :)

All of us were pretty darn excited! We soaked up the afternoon sun, drank some beers, and waited for the show to start.

Then the staff came around and gave everyone a free shot of tequila to enjoy as we sailed away.  Sold!

The view as we sailed away was breathtaking!

The view once Nick Hexum and 311 came onstage was equally beautiful. :)

And as you can see, about 3,000 other cruisers also enjoyed the show with us.  The energy was unreal, and we loved every minute of it!!

We spent the rest of the evening checking some of the various other shows on board (being a music cruise, there is pretty much a concert happening at all times.  it's awesome!).  Eventually we called it a night...after far too many buckets of beer. :)

The next morning we woke up slowly...and eventually made our way out of the room.  Everyone was feeling a little rough, but when you're on a cruise ship in the middle of the ocean there's no time to be hungover!  So we sucked it up and enjoyed our day.

Ash & I started the day off with some yoga - this was such a fun little activity.  I wish they had it every day!  Bonesaw from the band Full Service led our yoga class, and it was such a lovely way to start the day (and cure a hangover!).  Yoga is already relaxing and peaceful, but doing it with nothing but the ocean and sunshine in your view takes it to a whole new level.

Later that afternoon was one of the highlights of the trip.  Our photo with the band! Now, you may remember how this experience went for me last time.  And if you don't, I'll remind you: I HAD MY EYES CLOSED.  I may be a little bitter about it still.  This time however, I made darn sure to keep my eyes open and we ended up with a much better result!

Totally printing and framing this picture in my house....

Just like on the last cruise, I was pretty much all smiles the rest of the day after getting to meet the guys and take this photo.  All of us were pretty darn excited.  We spent the afternoon watching more concerts, and again discovered some awesome bands.  Full Service, Pepper & The Green are some of the bands that we fell in love with.  Really, all the bands on the ship were great, there was always good music around!

We watched The Dirty Heads (who Matt & I discovered and fell in love with after the last cruise) that evening, with a pretty awesome view of the ship, the crowd, and the sunset.  

That night, the girls threw in the towel early while the boys continued the fun.  I'm glad I decided to go to bed, but the boys kept telling us how much fun they had that night so apparently we missed out. :)

Friday morning, we once again got up slowly (can you see a recurring theme here?), but we didn't have too much time to poke around as we had arrived in Jamaica and we had a full day of fun ahead of us!  We grabbed mimosas and bloody marys and enjoyed the view from the front of the boat before heading down to get off and start our day.

Once we did make our way off the ship, we got on a bus to go to our excursion in Jamaica.  

The excursion was a 2 part adventure, where we could go to the beach or the river.  We started at the beach.

It. Was. Beautiful.  

We found ourselves a spot in the sand, laid out in the sun, enjoyed some fruity drinks, and just relaxed.  It was so nice!  Full Service showed up right where we were sitting for a little impromptu beach show, which was even more awesome.

We were also treated to a Jamaican lunch, which was quite tasty! After getting our fill of the beach, we hopped back on the bus and went over to the river.  The drive through Jamaica to the river was quite interesting as well.  Definitely a different culture!  The river was completely different from the beach atmosphere, but it was equally beautiful there!

The tent you see in the photo below housed a local Jamaican Reggae band that was playing when we arrived.  (This was called the Irie River by the way...)  We got in the water to enjoy the music for a bit, and then explored the rest of the river and surrounding jungle.  It was just beautiful all the way around, and there was always something to see.  

We were wishing we had more time, because we felt like we had to leave so soon after getting there!  I think we easily could have spent 2 days there (if not more) just enjoying the atmosphere and all there was to see.  But, we had to be back on the ship by 5, with a full night of activities ahead, so off we went.  On the way back, there were tons of little shops set up where you could buy souvineers.  Unfortunately, though, the line to get back on the ship was SO long that we had to get in line right away, and it ended up moving so fast that we barely had time to look or shop.  I managed to buy a little dress to bring back for Lilly, but that was pretty much the only souvenir I was able to bring back from Jamaica.

Here's a view of the ship as we were walking back from Jamaica.  Told you it was huge!

As tired as we were from a full day of fun in the sun, we had a night of activities ahead of us that we had to get ready for.  It started with another 311 show, where they played their Soundsystem album from front to back.  Such an amazing show!

Another Dirty Heads show followed, and then there was the costume contest.  Don't ask me how I stayed awake and alive through all of this, but somehow I did (the contest STARTED at midnight...)!  We reused our Halloween costumes, and dressed up as the Wizard of Oz group.  We actually put our costumes on before the Dirty Heads show, and unfortunately our scarecrow bowed out during that time (and by bowed out I mean stumbled back to the room and passed out. Lightweight. ;) ).  So, I never managed to get a picture of all of us together...but I did at least get one of our sleepy scarecrow before we lost him!

We entered the costume contest not realizing what we were in for...we ended up having to wait for what felt like hours (no idea how long it actually was) to then go out on the pool deck and be "judged".  I'm not really sure how it all worked, but we stuck in it, and got nothing in the end. Ha.  We got an official photo taken, so I guess that is something?  It was insanely windy on the pool deck that night, so that made it especially fun for a dress... :)

I once again called it a night early (well, it was after 1am which I do NOT consider early by any means, but Matt & Ash were still up so I guess it was early compared to those party animals). They wandered the ship for a few more hours, saw a few more shows, and who knows what else.  I was happily snoozing. :)

We woke up the next morning for one more day of this adventure.  We took it easy that morning and day...I think everyone was getting pretty worn out by that point.  We spent most of the day hanging by the pool, which turned out to be pretty awesome as we had a great view of the stage for the shows that were going on. It was wonderful and relaxing, and a really nice way to spend our last day on the ship.

We decided to be proactive and get most of our packing done later that afternoon so we could enjoy the rest of the night and not have to worry about it in the morning, knowing they would probably be scooting us off the ship bright and early.

We had a nice dinner out on the deck on the back of the ship, and took a lovely little group photo in front of the sunset (sort of.  the sun is over to the right, but there were a bunch of people in the background over there so this just had to do).

That night we had one last 311 show to watch, and it was possibly the best one of the trip.  We ended up getting a great spot, pretty close to the stage, and it was just a really fun show! 

Afterwards, we watched a comedy show in the theater, followed by one last Dirty Heads show, which was a close second for one of the best shows of the whole trip.  I can't even explain it, but the energy inside the theater, along with the music, was just electric.  Not to mention the wind and the ocean was rocking, making the boat do some serious swaying.  Watching a whole crowd of people sway back and forth together with the boat was crazy.

I tried to talk everyone into calling it a night after the shows, but I was overruled.  I wanted to be responsible and get to bed knowing that we had to get up early the next day, but everyone else wanted to make the most of our last night and go to Headphone Disco.  I reluctantly joined, but am so glad I did!

I don't think I can properly explain headphone disco to you, it's one of those things you just have to experience.  I'll try though. :)  Basically it's like a dance club, except everyone is wearing headphones.  There are 2 separate DJs, playing completely different music, and your headphones can switch back and forth from one DJ to the other.  Sounds weird, right?  I thought so too.  But from the minute we walked in and put our headphones on, I was in tears I was laughing so hard.  Half the room is dancing to one song, while half is dancing to the other.  You can't hear anything but the music, so you can't talk to anyone (but you inevitably try, and end up just randomly yelling).  It was absolutely hysterical, and so. much. fun.

I really wish I would have taken a video of that adventure (well I did, but it was really short and Ashley thought I was taking a picture the whole time, so it's funny in it's own way!) - but it was quite the way to end our trip.

We took one last walk around the deck of the ship before heading to bed, and took one last group selfie to remember our trip by.

The next morning, we were woken up bright and early, and just as I suspected, were pretty much scooted off the ship.  Although, at one point, before we had made our way to the line, they came over the speakers to say that they were backed up so we needed to wait a bit...which was fine by us.  We got some breakfast, and just hung out until it was finally time to go.  The rest of our day was another travel marathon...taking the tri-rail back to West Palm Beach, then flying to Atlanta, and finally making it home.  Of course the very last leg of our flight was delayed, just the icing on the cake.  We finally made it back to KC around 11 that night, then promptly lost our car in the airport parking lot.  Eventually we found it, and finally made it home.  Everyone was ready to just be home at that was a looong day.

All in all, it was an amazing trip!  Like I said after the last one, I'm not sure that I could go on a "normal" cruise after having now been on 2 of these music cruises, I don't think anything could compare.  They've already said another cruise will be happening in 2017...I'm hoping we can break the every-other-cruise streak and actually make it on that one.  But a lot could happen between now and then, so we shall see. :)  

Friday, April 3, 2015

{365 project} March

It's so hard to believe that March  has already come and gone!  The good news is, that means Spring is finally here!

Highlights from March included:
~ returning home from the 311 cruise (only a highlight because I got to see my girl again after a long week apart!)
~ Lilly's 2nd birthday!
~ and of course, the big 2nd birthday party!
~ St Patty's day
~ lots of time outdoors enjoying the sunshine
~ Easter prep fun
~ the start of swim lessons again!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

second birthday party!

I don't know how it happened, but somehow 2 whole years have gone by with this girl of ours in our lives.  And to celebrate, of course we had a party!  It seems that this time of year gets incredibly busy for us every year, making party planning a bit tricky and always down to the last minute.  That doesn't seem to stop me from going a little party crazy, though! :)

This year, we did a very similar party to her first birthday ~ a celebration at our house with family and close friends.  Lilly had more of an opinion on things this year, but we still haven't reached the place where she wants certain things for her party and won't have it any other way.  I'm guessing that will come next year. :)  I was actually having a tough time coming up with the theme this year, there just wasn't anything that stuck out to me right away.  So naturally, I asked Lilly.  After chatting about it a few times, we finally landed on it - Curious George.  Lilly hasn't been very big into TV, and doesn't know many of the popular kids' shows or characters, but one show she does love to watch is Curious George.  Thankfully, its one I don't mind her watching either. :)  So I pretty much just took that theme and ran with it, and Lilly's Curious George themed 2nd birthday party was born!

Last year, I put quite a bit of effort into her outfit, and decked her out in a handmade tutu and "one" onesie, with a special hair bow and everything.  This year - not so much.  I looked for a couple of weeks for the perfect party outfit for her, but just couldn't come up with anything.  At the last minute, I ended up ordering her a Curious George t-shirt, and was planning on her wearing it with the cute polka dot jeans she wore in her 2 year pictures. Wellll, what do I get for ordering the shirt 2 days before the party?  It didn't come in time. (I ordered on Amazon with Prime, and it was scheduled to come the Friday before the party, but due to weather delays I didn't get it until Monday.)  So, the morning of the party, I held out hope until the last minute that it would come, and when it didn't I improvised.  I had gotten this cute yellow sundress at a consignment sale the week before, and since it matched the party colors and it was randomly warm that day, we went with it.  She wore her (adorable) red shoes also from her 2nd birthday photo session, and I was able to talk her into putting a ponytail in her hair.   I know I'm bias, but I must say she looked pretty stinking cute!!

Anyway, enough about her outfit, on to the actual party!

I didn't do quite as many DIY projects this year, mostly just for lack of time {if I haven't mentioned it already, we went on the 311 cruise, and got back in town the Sunday before her party - I also had to go back to work that week, so there was minimal prep time.  I of course intended to get everything done before our trip but...well, yeah.  that didn't happen!} but I still thought the decorations came out looking super cute.  I also had the help of my wonderful friend and graphic designer, Ashley {check out her blog here} in designing both the invitations and a lot of the party decor.  She made the 3 banners, the 2 signs that sat on the mantle, and the food labels.  She does the party accessories as a little side business now, and I think it's just the best idea.  I was still able to have the details that I love about a party, but didn't have to do all the leg work! {check out her etsy shop here}  I really loved the color scheme though, it brightened up our house wonderfully!  As you will see I used balloons as a big part of the decor as well - I ordered 18 of them, and just put them in groups all over the house.  Matt thought I got "way too many" but once they were all set out he agreed they looked great.  My other super simple decor included bunches of bananas. :) Being Curious George themed, it was just too easy.  I just tied balloons to the bunches, and set them out on the various tables.  As someone who makes smoothies every morning, we can never have too many bananas in this house!

Lilly doesn't have a ton of little friends her age yet, but we did have a few kiddos at the party so I set up a little table for them and got "Curious George Says Thank You" books to give as party favors.  I also got "Curious George and the Birthday Surprise" to use as a guest book.  I kind of failed at remembering to tell people to sign it, but a good chunk of people that were still around towards the end of the party did sign.  I would love to keep this tradition at her parties every year, I love the idea and it's such a cute keepsake.

And of course we can't forget to discuss the food!  I went super simple this year, and just did things that I could either prepare in advance, or that didn't require much prep.  I knew I was short on time, and didn't want to over commit myself!  The menu consisted of: pigs in a blanket, fruit cups, beer bread + ranch dip, veggies + ranch, corn cheese dip, and pull apart pizza bread.  Thankfully my mom and BFF helped contribute a dish each, so it really wasn't too much work to throw the rest together.  My "centerpieces" on the food table were just little glass jars I found in the dollar section at Target, with balloons tied to them and ribbons stuffed inside the jars.  For as simple as it was, I thought it was super cute!

My favorite decor was probably the dessert table.  It just came out looking so colorful and festive!  Last fall I finally got it together and hung a gallery wall collage on our giant blank wall in the kitchen.  Don't ask me why it took so long to finally do it...all but one of the frames I had on hand already, it was just a matter of laying them out and hanging them up!  It makes such a difference in that room though, to actually have something to anchor that giant wall.  Anyway, part of that is a chalkboard that I love to change with the seasons, and of course I gave it a Happy Birthday theme for this occasion.  I also changed out the other frames to all pictures from Lilly's 2 year session, and then one Curious George print for fun. 

I made the cake and cupcakes (from a box!  as much as I love me a good cake from scratch, there just wasn't time for that.), and ordered decorated sugar cookies from Icings by Ang.  My mom also made {amazingly delicious} chocolate chip banana bread which was a hit.  I am disappointed though, I didn't get a very good picture of the whole tray of cookies - they were so unbelievably cute!  I almost didn't want to eat any they were done so well.  When I asked Lilly what she wanted on her cake, all she told me was that she wanted a red cake - well I wasn't about to attempt to make red frosting, so instead I got red sprinkles to put around the edge of the cake.  For decorating it in the wee hours the night before the party, I think it turned out pretty cute!  I ordered the Curious George cake topper & candles from Party City online, and funny enough that little George figurine is her new favorite thing.  Like, she takes him everywhere with her.  It's random, but cute! Guess that was a good purchase. :)

As you can see, Lilly was once again spoiled rotten with gifts!  She was quite funny during the process of opening them, really I think just a bit overwhelmed.  She got into the first few, and then just wanted me to open them all for her.  And after opening each one she naturally wanted to take everything out of the boxes to play with, and could not understand why we were taking them away from her and having her open more.  

Her favorite gift by far, though, was the Cozy Coupe.  The second it came through the door she was in it ready to drive around the house.  It took some convincing to get her to actually participate in the rest of the party and leave it in the living room. :)  After everyone left for the evening we took it for a stroll around the cul-de-sac, and I'm pretty sure that was the highlight of her day.  Toddlers...easy to please. :)

After the marathon of presents, it was finally time for cake!  We decided not to do a smash cake (I seriously could not decide for the life of me if that was what you do at a 2nd birthday or not.  Pinterest seemed to indicate that some people do, some people don't.  We opted not to, just to save the mess and to actually be able to serve the cake to everyone), but we did have her blow out candles.  She was a little funny about it - super excited initially and was trying to blow them out before they were even lit.  But once they were lit, and everyone was staring and singing to her, I think she got a little stage fright and Daddy had to jump in and help her.

She did get her own piece of cake, which as you can see she completely devoured and loved every second.  A bit of a sugar rush did follow, but it was manageable. :)

The rest of the afternoon was spent playing and watching this cute little girl run around!  I think she had a great time, and once again really impressed me with her stellar behavior.  As with last year, she barely got a nap in the day of the party, and I was just sure she would be completely cranky but I was so wrong!  She was her usual happy self, having the time of her life!

One lesson I learned is to take the family photo at the beginning of the party. :)  She was running around outside with the other kids when I realized we hadn't taken one, so I grabbed her and brought her in and all she wanted to do was get back outside.  So, this is the best we got.  Matt's talking, Lilly's looking out the window, but hey at least I'm smiling!  That counts for something, right??

All in all, it was a really great party!  Even with taking it down to the wire and planning a lot of it at the last minute, I think everything came out great and most importantly: Lilly had a blast!  She talked about her party for days afterwards, and was slightly confused when I had to tell her that she only gets one a year.  Pretty sure she was expecting one every weekend. :)

Happy birthday to our beautiful, BIG GIRL!  We can't believe you are two, but we've loved every minute of your first two years of life, and can't wait to watch you continue to grow.  Love you always and forever!!  XOXO, Mama & Daddy