Life is a Carnival… when on a cruise.

Ready to embrace deadly sin #3 and #7? Take a cruise! Food, food, food, food, food, food, laying around, lots of fatness, red neon burns and food. People say they want to lose weight for a cruise but honestly as long as you take neck up pictures, cruises are the safest fat zones ever. Because there will always be someone fatter than you, redder than you & wearing less clothes than you.

But enough of the pithiness.  I enjoy cruises. Though they make me feel slightly guilty in their extravagance.  They are pound for pound (literally) the best value you can get from a vacation and a nice departure from the usual hectic, you have to remember to do stuff vacations.  Because the beauty about the cruise is, other than liquor, souvenirs and some tipping, everything is paid for up front.  So all you have to do is show up.  Then you can meander the ship, either taking advantage of the onslaught of onboard activities (karaoke, mini golf, wall climbing, etc) or just catch some sun with a drink.  And I don’t even like sun.  Then all of a sudden you arrive in an exciting location for 8 hours but even then you could stay on the boat.  If you do get off the boat, you can meander around that exciting location and then meander back on boat.  I say this with great love for my fiance but our first cruise we fought for exactly zero percent of the time.  And that’s not to say we fight a lot but usually with vacations/site seeing there’s bound to be at least a small tiff.  With cruises they take out the messy part of “having to be responsible for yourself” in order to enjoy yourself or get somewhere.  That leads to a very stress free vacation.  Especially if you don’t have the internet so can’t check work email.  I’m sure there were ways to get to it but I did not look…

My History With Ships

Austin and I have taken two cruises in the last year:

  1. Royal Caribbean  – Monarch of the Seas – 3 days – Bahamas & Coco Cay – for our 4 year anniversary.
  2. Carnival – Inspiration – 5 days – Grand Caymens & Couzumel – took our mom’s as their christmas present

We were frightened about trying Carnival after a SUPER awesome first cruise with Royal Caribbean.  We heard that it just wouldn’t be up to snuff.  To be honest we found ourselves constantly and sometimes obnoxiously comparing Carnival to Royal Caribbean (“Well you know on Royal Cariiibbeaaannn…”) BUT the difference was not that stark.  And while we liked Royal Caribbean better, Carnival was still VERY good and we would take a cruise with them again, especially since they are cheaper.  You get what you pay for but you still get a pretty good deal!

Royal Caribbean vs. Carnival: Sudden Death

Some key comparisons and tips (sorry for the table style… you’ll have to imagine the borders):

Criteria Royal Caribbean Carnival Stuff To Know
Food Pretty Impressed! Wasn’t as impressed but still delectable. Good selection on both. Pretty much unending food. Carnival might have had more nonstop food.  Pace yourself… its not going anywhere.
Dining Methods If you pay your tips when buying your tickets (there’s an obligatory $7-$10 per person per day tip) you can get “My Time Dining”. Which means you have to select a time block (early or late) but each day you can go to the Maitre De and select a specific time and server depending on your mood. We got to know our server (Tony!) so we always asked for him. You then can show up at that time and get sat straight away rather then waiting. It’s European style though, as in, you get sat possibly with other groups. But we enjoyed the chance to meet other people and on our anniversary celebration date they sat us alone on request. We really enjoyed this method of dining. They also have the option of sit down breakfast. Carnival once again you choose Early or Late but there is only one seating time. Though they would still sit you if you come late. You also get an assigned table which is nice but we missed meeting random people at dinner. One thing nice which Royal Caribbean may have had but perhaps we didn’t take advantage of was you could have sit down dining for Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner. We preferred this rather than buffet style, very relaxing. For Breakfast and Lunch you get sat randomly sometimes with others groups.  Tip per day is paid at the end. Cruise sit down dining is certainly an experience… an extravagance. I just never truly was able to sit down and order five entrees if I wanted without one single care of the bill. Because there is no bill. In fact, on Royal Carribean since we were the last dining group they PUSHED us to order more, because it was going to go to waste anyway. Both also offer free room service. Which we never took advantage of.   Bring extra cash if you want to reward your favorite servers.  Which they will become your chums and you will want to.
Service Amazing!! Very good. Very close to Royal Caribbean. Maybe not as lavish though? It’s AMAZING what good service you get even though your servers aren’t asking for a tip. I was expecting to have crappy service but cruise service is the best I’ve ever had. Both cruiselines employ people from allll over the world and they take their job seriously and with pride. It was very interesting and fun to meet such diverse and happy people. I still remember everyone who served us as they really become part of our vacation experience. Thanks Tony, Slavko, Rado & Aslam! But honestly I found overall that service is better over seas, so perhaps its the “take your time and dine” mentality of europe and aisa I like. I could sit for hours in a Parisian bistro/cafe with only a cup a coffee without any dirty looks from the server…. not so much in the US. But then again servers more have to rely on tips in the states it seems. Tipping is not obligatory overseas. Hence why foreigners get a bad rap when they come to the US, as they are not used to tipping.
Onboard Activities Rock climbing, dance shows, trivia gameshows, gambling, gamboling, karoake, ping pong, live music, weird old people grinding night clubs, meetups & lots of sun. Same stuff only not as good dance shows and minigolf and water slides instead of Rock Climbing. We did less on this cruise but the quality seemed fine and they were better about announcing things coming up. Do as little or as much as you want. Most activities are free, some have fees like wine tastings. Both will have a daily newsletter keeping you up to date.
Cabin Nice, clean, small, dark. Bigger! I suppose this depends on the ship but we were very impressed on the size and cleanliness. People were constantly cleaning and tje rooms were immaculate. For a cheaper cruise we were impressed. They also had this feature which was a fake window (pictures to follow/really it was a curtain with a light behind it) which at first I laughed at but was pretty nice, made it feel less like a closet. The fake window did not follow daylight outside so you could keep it dark if you wanted. Surprisingly enough though Carnival’s rooms were not as dark as Royal Caribbean’s so it wasn’t as disorientatingly tomb like. I think the door wasn’t as tight? You can take that as a plus or minus. I like to be buried. Bring a watch… your cellphone will not be reliable and while they have wake up calls you will want to not TOTALLY lose your sense of time. Our first cruise we forgot and ended up buying one on the boat. Water proof is best.  This is also useful for when you are off the boat and need to know when to return.
Alcohol We were to scared to sneak on alcohol though we heard of many people successful on the ship (disguising it as soda or just checking it). We ended up spending quite a bit on alcohol, but the drinks were priced at a reasonable bar price and well mixed and strong. Tipping was appreciated and you could choose the amount. Mixed drinks sucked. And seemed more expensive. Also, the tip was included. BUT Carnival allows you to bring on a 750ml bottle of wine per person for the departure day. We filled the bottles with colored vodka and corked them. It was excellent. So we ended up saving money on that. Still spent a lot of money though… Great thing about Cruises is that you can buy cheap alcohol to take home after the cruise. Sometimes buy one get one! We always stock up. They do not let you have it until you leave so that’s not an option for drinking on the boat. One thing to note is that if you want to buy alcohol off the ship, lets say Grand Caymans you have to do it as much as 2 hours before departure so they can deliver it to the ship. We got burned on this. But at Couzumel you could carry it on and check it! So you’ll want to check on this at each port of call, as ships don’t really advertise it as they want you to buy on board. Also, both cruiselines allow you to take on soda in your checked baggage. You can use this as a trojan horse just to ensure your alcohol doesn’t get confiscated. I heard some stories of that. Or you could use it to bring on soda/water/juice… Soda you have to pay for. But you can get a soda pass which makes it cheaper. Side note: on Royal Caribbean cappuccinos at dinner you had to pay for (Carnival it was free).
Decor Very nice. Very crazy disco casino (perhaps to encourage you to go to the casino). But it was an older ship. My mom was not drinking and claimed that looking at the main atrium lights for more then 15 minutes made her feel drunk. Also really dark in the main atrium… rather then light and airy. Just strange. But not tooo obnoxious. You’ll see in the pictures to follow… Also the main buffet room looked like the inside of an alien that swallowed you.
Off the Boat/Excursions Did one snorkel trip in Bahamas. Was nice! Did none. Found a local excursion to do. Both cruiselines seem to offer a variety of excursions. But two things to note: 1. Will be more expensive then going on a tour given by the locals. 2. They will leave you if you get delayed by your tour if you are on a tour that is noncruiseline affiliated. So its up to you. Pay more but be secure? Or pay less and risk being left? But to be honest, if you just take tours with buffer time, you will most likely be fine. In Grand Caymans, we took a 3 hour Sting ray petting/snorkeling excursion and it ROCKED and was at least $60 cheaper per person then the boat one. Technically you don’t even have to plan that far ahead though we made reservations. Just walk off the boat, peruse the different signs for local tours bombarding you as you get off the boat and go! Don’t get robbed. ;p I would say, if you are interested in snorkeling, bring your own gear for islands you can snorkel right off the beach (Coco Cay, Couzumel). Otherwise you have to pay $40 to rent them. In Couzumel we just rented a jeep and drove around stopping and ruins and beach side bars. It was only $70 with insurance and a lot of fun! Though potentially nerve wracking of the place has bad traffic.

So overall both good.

Picture Recap

Just a few pictures from our last Carnival cruise. A few more here….

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Austin with our corked vodka. You could probably get screw top and glue it to look like its sealed.

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Carnival Room. It’s roomy! We have a window!

It's a lie!
Or its a terrible lie…

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Dress up night with our lovely mothers.

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Tattoo’d and white.

Dancing with Aslam
Dancing with Aslam our Waiter

Dance and you Will be Their God
Man dance a little in the crazy disco atrium and you become a cruise star. Old people love to see swing dancing.

So I guess that’s it! Try a cruise even if you hate the sun like me! Because some sun is good. And relaxation is even better. Also check out: http://www.vacationstogo.com/. Never have done me wrong.  Though a travel agent helped us find a single for cheaper on our last cruise.

Next I review Tom Cruise – S

Piranha Plant/Mario Quilt: Pattern Level Up!

So I may be too ambitious but you can’t say I’m not creative!  Tonight at my second Quilt meetup I started planning my first real quilt project, a mario piranha plant quilted jersey scarf.

Because I of course can’t do something simple and want to do something customized (as evidence by such projects as… my wedding), I made my own pattern. Cuz heck, if you are going to spend the time, might as well make it a keeper!  And then never bear to/want to get rid of it and live like a person on Hoarders.

This is how I did it…

DISCLAIMER: I will not claim that I researched this like an intelligent human being (though after wards I didn’t find any good digital way to do it) or it is the best way to do it BUT SO FAR I do not regret it (i.e. in the last 4 hours).  And it only took about 3 hours of solid planning.

  1. Picked out the fabric at Joann Fabrics!  Too much of it!  Or so my quilting sensei suspects.  I suspect as well.  Really I should have made the pattern/cutlist first THEN estimated how much fabric to buy.  But it was on sale and I’m impulsive!  Maybe if this works out I can make like 4 of them… This step also included brainstorming with Austin (as I’m making the scarf for him), overriding his choice and planning the design in my head.
  2. Found a picture on the internetz of what I was going for.
  3. Decided how large I wanted the scarf to be and how big the basic block would be.  I decided on  1’6″x6′ scarf with a 2″x2″ basic “building” block.  Needed the blocks to be smaller since I need detail within a small width.  I might end up making it longer on a whim… but for now I plan 6′.
  4. Created a Mockup in Photoshop:
    1. Cropped the picture to the bare basics of what I needed to plan out (minus the sky trim).
    2. I calculated that with the 2″ sky trim I had seven 2″ blocks across to fit in my image.
    3. Sized the picture to have a 50px to 1″ ratio.  Probably should have made it easier on myself and made the picture actual size… but my computer might have died.  Keep in mind I was more worried about width then length since the middle part of the scarf is just repeated over and over.
    4. Used guides to mark out my 2″x2″ blocks or 100px by 100px, in the case of an image file. This is the result:Marking out Guides in Photoshop
    5. Then using the Rectangle Shape Tool and Polygonal Lasso Tool and my eye, I marked where I saw blocks.  I ensured all these layers were in one folder so at any time I could hide them and see the original. I tried to never go smaller than 1″ sections or have too many crazy triangles or shapes, in order to keep things simple (I’m not totally stupid).  After some haggling this is what I arrived at (neatness was not my aim as long as I understood the relation):My patch mockup!Also you will notice I added some extra guides for the sections I was going to have to break down into 1″ height, this will be explained more shortly…
  5. Now I needed to put this more in a pattern format with inches and such so I could come up with a cut list.  I used Excel!  There has to be a better way to do this… and I kinda made up my only pattern language to accomplish this. The big issue was not being able to merge horizontally… or denote triangles.  Probably should have just played with the grid feature in Photoshop and called it a day… The BEST way was PROBABLY to use graph paper and colored pencils… but I’m a digital girl who doesn’t want to hold on to paper and wants to reuse her patterns so I used excel on google docs.  Quilting on the cloud!  So here it is, explanation to follow…Excel Pattern
    1. Marked out my inches and feet and created squarish cells!  I then saved a copy of it blank for a future use template!  Programming FTW!
    2. I used symbols to denote mixed squares and then colored it with the first color encountered from left to right.  So b/r was a diagonally halfed square with blue in the top left cornerhalf and red in the bottom right cornerhalf.  So r\b would be the mirrored effect.  For the weirder triangles I used symbols such as w>b which meant there was a white triangle chomping through the middle of a blue square from the left.  Or b^r would be a blue triangle chomping through a red square, sprouting up through the bottom.  Vertically split pieces were easier, I used use a pipe (ha!).  So dg|g was dark green on the left and green on the right.
    3. I used some directions to show placement.  Like for the random 1’x1′ in one of the corners of a 2″x2″ I would use wtr or “white top right”.
    4. Any time the pattern suddenly was broken into 2″ by 1″ squares I highlighted the inch indicator to remind myself.
    5. Now the middle part is just repeated so that’s where it says 17-8 or “see row 17 through 18”.
    6. Mirroring was no fun.. but I figured it out. Nuff said.

Next Steps

That’s it so far! Now I must…

  1. Strategically mark out what blocks I will sew together THEN cut rather then do every square separately and what order to sew them together. I will most likely have to print out the excel to wrap my head around this (like this smart lady did)…
  2. Count how many cuts of what dimensions I need, my cut list.
  3. Cut and lay it out.
  4. Sew… Cut… Sew… Repeat…

I enjoyed this.  It was like a puzzle. – S

P.S. For the back I’m using a pattern from a book!  To actually learn standardized pattern instructions… It will be a simple scattered pattern of light blue, blue and white (to stand for the sky).

P.P.S.  I will post my final pattern for use after I finish the cut list.

Scrabbling For the Cure

So I’ve been a bit “involved” lately in the community & work related functions and completed my first Relay for Life this past Friday which benefits the American Cancer Society.  I wasn’t too involved until the end but it was a new experience, great charity & I hope to make it a tradition.  Here are some of my reflections from the event.

My History With Cancer

I do not have cancer but in the recent years have had several close people around me affected by it.  And to be honest it scares the crap out of me.  My grandfather at 92 had a VERY brief battle with it/decline and died in 2008.  As the doctor said, really in the end with prolonged lives due to medicine, cancer is what usually gets us.  The older the cells the greater the chance for mutation and mishaps.  Taboo or not I will say cancer can be natural.  Perhaps with overpopulation (creating pollution) and longer life spans, its just bound to happen, a natural leveler.   That does not mean though that we shouldn’t look for ways to prevent it and sustain the population we have through the same brilliance that brought us the medicine that lowered the mortality rate in the first place.

In 2008 (year of the cancer), my cousin Kaitlyn was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma.  She had one relapse but is now cancer free!  I’ve had several interesting conversations with her during her battle and the experience has matured her greatly.  It pains me she had to experience it at such a young age (15) but it has shaped her for better or worse.  And honestly knowing her it will be for the better as she hopes to go into medical school due to her experiences.  I can not imagine what she went through and I know that it is something that she will carry with her the rest of her life.  As will I.

So here we have two cases, one possibly inevitable and one so shockingly close to home to someone so healthy and vibrant.  And I think that’s what scares me so much about cancer, it is a disease from within, a lurking lump, pain or otherwise, a weakening, with what we know almost random discretion in its victims.  What we know so far.  Perhaps that’s what makes it so much scarier than heart disease or even something contagious that can be prevented by just eating well or not touching your eye, that it is so mysterious.  Though of course there are obvious causes like nuclear waste…  And while we know how to detect it early and try to prevent it, we need to learn more.

The Relay is Not a Race

So that’s the first thing I learned.  It really is just a community event where groups can hold fundraising tents and as participants take turns lapping the track they can purchase wares, dunk people, throw darts, donate, bond and otherwise. Where I work (CDL/Online@UCF) put together a group (thank you Amy!) and our theme was Scrabble or “Scrabbling for a Cure”.
Austin & I at Relay for Life

I spent most of my time hocking our wares (man I’m good at selling when I believe in the product/its for charity) of scrabble treats. People love themselves a rice crispy treat with a letter on it.  But ask yourself, When was the last time you had a Rice Krispy treat? It was another good company event and in the end an excoworker bought the goodies we had left (though we sold a lot!) and we walked around giving them away for free.  Which by the way, its actually easier to sell baked goods than give them away.  People are suspicious.

 Corey, Kitzzy, Eileen, me, Sue and Amy

Corey, Kitzzy, Eileen, me, Sue & Amy

Charity for the Sake of…

A few reflections occurred to me about, What is the point of charity? I’m not questioning its validity but really its main target.  And perhaps it is moot to try to hone it down to such a black and white question.  Someone at the event expressed that some of the organizers were disappointed that as they got more students involved less money was made.  Basically the event was really not very profitable due to professionals being scared off and students being less well off. BUT there is still the thought, is it better to get young people involved in charity and learning about prevention or make more money towards research?

Because, who are we kidding, 50 cent brownie with a “T” on top is but a “drop in the bucket” BUT perhaps more of its worth is its symbolism.  That’s some deep brownie.

It seems that a great deal of the actual “gallon in the bucket” contributions comes from private benefactors actually effected by the cause.  So is it a trickle up effect?  Fraternity member holds a “Root Beer Pong for the Cure” station, forgets about it, has a sister die of cancer & donates 5 million?  Or Fraternity member talks to his dad, who talks to this person, who donates?  Or fraternity member learns about early screening and saves his life?  Or all three?

Either/all ways American Cancer Society is a great foundation so check it out.  And perhaps the point is charity sometimes is worth it just for sake of getting people active in the community and to learn about the cause.  All though in the end… money may be what makes the cure go round.

$$$ – S

EDIT: Check out: Betsy’s UCF Relay for Life Album

Our Wedding Part I

So the masses want to know how far I’ve gotten in my wedding planning. So let me introduce our special day… so far. I’m doing this in a brief list summary of our steps in chronological order with some insight inserted.

So Austin asked me to marry him on July 2nd, 2009 (you can read about it here) and we set about wedding planning…

  1. We let everyone know!  And picked our wedding party.
  2. The date: 10.10.10. Why?
  3. Location: This was our primary concern since this is a popular date, and securing a location would secure the date. I’ll be honest we kinda went into it blind and probably could have saved money if we a) did it in our family’s hometown (Port St. Lucie) or b) done some research. We ended up just driving over to St. Petersburg two hours away, a location we have sentimental attachment to, going to a few places my mom found and choosing! We couldn’t make a decision between our two favorites so we chose both! Still they are affordable and fun, so no regrets here. Really Austin and I aren’t super outdoorsy but we wanted to design a wedding that would be very “Florida” since many of our guests will be out of towners taking their vacation. Austin and I would elope in a second our real goal is to have an intimate, fun and awesome excuse for everyone to get together and party.
    • Rehearsal dinner at Ceviche – The small restaurant chain which is our absolute favorite and where we celebrated our engagement.  This will be photo themed and we already are picking out some oldies but goodies from our albums.  As per tradition we are keeping this to family and bridal party.
    • Ceremony at Sunken Gardens -A hidden gem in St. Petersburg we will be exchanging vows under a 200 year old oak canopy.  Below is my mama & Austin in the pavilion.Sunken Gardens
    • Bus them all over to Honey Moon Island – The beach is ours after sunset as we party in an open air pavilion!  Pavilion at Honey Moon Island

      We are keeping decorations to a minimum, because why do we need it when we have the beach/jungle as our decoration? Also less stress and stuff to throw away afterwards… Luckily the reception location has a set tasty caterer which includes everything.. makes it simple.  Also, shortly after our location trip we secured a block of rooms at a nearby hotel, VERY important for a destination wedding.

  4. Budget: We kind of started this before location shopping (and really should have finalized it before) but we definitely finalized it before signing the contracts! Just wanted to insert this to show how important it is although it may be awkward to sit down with your family discuss it.  See what they can contribute and ensure no matter what you can cover it!
  5. Guest List: This was very very hard, in fact the hardest part for me so far in the process. I know a lot of people and want them there, but with us trying not blow our whole nest egg we decided to limit the event to close family and bridal party. Besides it will be more intimate and HOPEFULLY I can spend time with each guest. A few others slipped in, but I had to be as assertive as possible with ourselves and our family. LUCKILY Sunken Gardens’ Oak Pavilion can only accommodate 75, so that helps keep us on track.  Before the wedding we are hoping to have a sendoff dance/party with the rest of our buds.
  6. Color Scheme: I first started with a pink and brown scheme but then switched over to a tropical peacock theme shortly after selecting our location.  Brown in a jungle would be bad… I used Kuler by Adobe to create the color palette.  I am a BIG proponent of getting this decided a.s.a.p. and just sticking with it (not that I’m great about staying on theme…), so that you can move forward with designing your wedding.  Kuler makes it easy and it’s free!
    Bridal Pallette

    Austin and I are peacock colors. Although I’ve never met a peacock I liked… but it’s pretty and tropical! Tee hee!

    Brides' Maids Dresses

    Bridal Party Color Scheme: Each of the ladies will be a different Florida Flower!

  7. Now we had a theme I designed us a logo. Branding is important to me… its the one piece of glue keeping this A.D.H.D. wedding together!
  8. Austin and Sheila's Logo

  9. Website – http://wedding.austinandsheila.com created!  Very important for getting the information out quickly to all those needing to know information, especially if they are traveling far.  We asked people to early r.s.v.p. and that’s been SEMI successful… not really. Hopefully they’ll be better when they get the invitation.
  10. Brides Maid’s Dresses – Coordinating via email we picked these out and ordered them.  I’ll leave them as a surprise.  I’m glad we did it so quickly because if you are going with traditional bridesmaids dresses IT TAKES SOOOO LONG for them to come in.  We ordered them in January and they won’t be in until May… All my bridesmaids are out of state, in fact two are over seas!  Thank god for gmail/googledocs and the internet.
  11. Save-the-Dates – We had soooo many different ideas on how to announce our date.  We ended up throwing in another facet to our tropical wedding, a tourist/destination feel.  So I came up with these magnets (ordered from vistaprint.com) that we attached postcard backs to:

    save the date

    I sent this to my maid of honor with no envelope to test if sending a big magnet in the mail as a postcard would work (sorry hard drives it came into contact with).  But it showed up a little torn.  So we ended up keeping the postcard back but mailing it in an envelope.  Bummer but let me sleep at night.

  12. Engagement Photos – An engagement photo shoot is super fun and if your photographer offers it, go for it!  Awesome to document this wonderful time of your life, as well as, great content to use in your invitations or website if you design them. Austin luckily is a big ham so we had a lot of fun, despite the cold, as our good friend and photographer Hilary Mercer took us on an all day shoot.  Check out the results. Austin and I really only planned the first location (Lake Claire) and the two sets of outfits.  From there we just roamed the city!
  13. Bride’s Attire: I did not want to spend a lot on a dress that I would never wear again and knowing my eccentric tastes neither would any daughter, that I may spawn, want to wear it either.  I anticipate a “trash the dress” shoot… I found my best option was prom dresses!  MANY of the dresses could be ordered in white, still very princessy, LIGHT & cheaper. When I tried on traditional gowns I felt heavy and hot. Plus, what else is a wedding but your dream prom that you spend a lot of money on? One where you most certainly are prom queen and king?  I’m going to keep my dress a secret but it is most awesome.  I saw it online, hunted it down, tried it on & fell in love.  As for the veil that is being pieced together because I’m crafty, with the help of some accents I bought from etsy.com.
  14. Honey Moon/Registry:  With little else to turn my attention to as most is planned or must wait until closer to the date, I started attacking our honey moon.  Austin and I have it mostly set and at least purchased our initial tickets to Madrid.  We have decided instead of asking for traditional home goods, we would like our guests to purchase us portions of our rockin’ honeymoon.  We have been living together for four years so home goods… we got.  But a rockin’ honeymoon?  That’s new.  Here’s a sneak peak at our registry set up through honeyfund.com. Our itinerary is  ALMOST set, we might simplify it, but otherwise we are super excited.    I’m sure I will in the future post a long diatribe about the dos and don’ts of planning this kind of trip.
  15. Cake Topper: Put down our deposit on one by Sophia’s Workshop on Etsy.com. She did one for a friend of mine and I can’t WAIT to start the design process.  Check her out but keep in mind she has a waiting list.
  16. Rings: This we just finished yesterday!  Austin bought me a very unique engagement ring that requires a customized interlocking band to not look all goofy.  Horrible resolution picture of initial ring:Enagement Ring

    Sketch of new ring! Notice how they wrap together? That’s the original diamond in the center.
    Sketch of my band.

    We decided to follow a Victorian tradition I read about in some book (really authoritative huh?) of using the stones to spell out a message/word.   Mine will have either aquamarine tear drop stones standing for Austin, or if I can figure out a good blue “F” stone, an aquamarine, the diamond from my engagement ring and then the “F” stone making Austin David Flores.  Suggestions?  Austin’s ring will have two sapphires laid out mimicking my ring, standing for Sheila Suarez.  I don’t have a picture of his ring (oops) but its a thinner lighter (good for dancing) matte white gold band with polished cut edge.

So… that’s basically it!  Many are surprised at either the geekiness/nonswing orientatedness of our wedding (including myself on the latter) but it’s all about family and joy and I like it damn it.  Plus very few of our guests swing dance. :/ Though they will in fact cut a rug. Any way we shall not be pigeonholed, we are a many faceted duo!

We are in the process now of finalizing Austin and his groom’s outfits, creating the overall structure of our ceremony which will be administered by my maid of honor, then on to program designing, invitation designing, losing weight, flowers, center pieces, dj set list (we are just running a MP3 player), favors & finally some tastings!  Maybe I do have quite a bit to do in the next 6 months…

Now you know. – S

Corporate 5k Pic Recap: Lots of Thumbs

Just a few choice photos. More here.

Online@UCF Team
Most of our Team! Kitzzy our lovely organizer of course on the phone.

5k Virgins
5k Virgins… Austin did not want to take this picture.

You can do it!
AFFIRMATION SHIRT! YEA!

Jason with Helmet Cam
Voyeur… Jason Cam He still finished in like 24 minutes with that camera on his head…

Thumbs up!
Thumbs!! Please note that they have invented a contraption to replace pins to hold your number. What will they think of next?

Walking to the start
12k people…

Chuck, Sheila, and Sherry at start
Chuck, Sherry and I at the start!

Sheila and Sherry ready to go!
All Thumbs!

nothing but thumbs – S

TRY THAT MILK and Other Pre-Wedding Tips

This is the first in a series of “what I learned so far” wedding posts.  Honestly only now with the wedding planning at a semi-lull (at that awkward not a lot to do until closer to the wedding stage) have I had the time to reflect on what I’ve learned!  As well as, trying to help my maid of honor who is recently engaged plan her wedding in 7 months, helps rehash the memories.  O. The horror.

So You Are Engaged?:

This may not work for everyone but I suggest to begin putting yourself into a “fake marriage” if you haven’t already.  What does this mean?

  • Plan the Wedding Together: Or as much as possible! And when I mean planning, I mean not just the woman stereotypically ordering the man around, but both making all decisions together. Throughout the rest of your life you’ll be planning (hopefully) together, so start now.  Planning a wedding can be an ordeal and is a BIG learning experience.  Heck, for most people its the first and only 100-200 person two day event they’ll ever plan!  Wedding planning can bring to surface a lot of family, personal and otherwise ticks.  You’ll want to do this together and use it as a bonding experience and not just a hassle. Sure, if the woman relinquishes some of the control she might get a WOW cake BUT not only will she be less stressed (if you guys work well together) but he’ll feel he owns the day as well.  It also means learning each others strengths.  Maybe one is a better designer, they’ll take more of a lead there, but in the end both need to be happy and in agreement.
  • Move In: If you haven’t already moved in together. It doesn’t ruin the magic in fact it doubles it! Austin and I moved in together after a year… which may have been quick but we never regretted it. Comes down to this, it is the TRUE test of if you guys can work as a team and cohabitate. When you get married the least amount of surprises the better. What about this doubling the fun? Here’s my road plan for those with trepidations about ruining the magic.
    1. Imagine moving in together in your first apartment, you’re saving money, learning about each other & giggling every night because you are having a sleepover with your bestbud. Better yet move into a place with roommates and each have your own room. Sleep in the same room but still have your haven (this is probably good after marriage as well). Roommates are good because they help you save money (we are planning a wedding after all) and they are a bit of social fun that doesn’t make you feel SO all alone with one person and that nothing will ever change before it even started to change.
    2. Now a year later you get married and move into a new house/apt! Better yet, no roommates! You will be sick of them by now. This has all the newness you need plus you are prepared with “living with your hubby” skills. You still need all that fun stuff from your registry and you feel more married with just the two of you!
  • Start Merging Assets:  There is no better test to see what you are getting yourself into then to see how your partner manages money and the responsibility of dispersing it to bill collectors.  We weren’t sure how to go about it so I asked for advice from friends/family and finally decided to have one joint bank account and two personal ones.  90% of our paychecks go into our joint account and 10% go into our own personal accounts.  I can’t even see his personal account and that is OKAY!  This way we don’t feel guilty or have to explain to each other (and our budget) when splurging on ourselves, as well we can surprise each other with gifts!
  • Now Make Budget: Aside from the wedding budget which anyone could tell you should be your FIRST action when starting to plan (more on this later), you need a life budget!  Austin and I use Mint.com and a spreadsheet that we share through Google Docs to keep us on track.  Not only do we have a regular budget but a savings budget.  This savings budget shows over the year how much we are saving and any big expenditures we are going to pay out from savings (vacations, loan lump-sums, foreseen medical expenses, etc).  Budgets aren’t perfect so after we pay rent each month, Austin and I try to sit down & categorize our expenditures in Mint and tweak our budget if need be (or our drinking habits).

This post basically espouses knowing what you are getting yourself into it. Trying the milk first is not bad because when you buy the cow there’s a whole buncha new stuff and places to go with said cow. Playing house!  So that when you do get married its not like getting dumped into a desert island with you and that person on the marriage license.

What now?

Next wedding themed post shall be about the nitty gritty start of wedding planning and some money saving tips I’ve realized a long the way.

nitty & gritty -S

Get Active in Your Community (and don't pass out)

So tonight I ran my first 5k! I never thought it would be my bag and I still don’t think it is but I’m glad I did it and I may do it again. So I guess it’s my minibag, a satchel per say.

Some Background:

So you guys know I’m getting married in 6 months.  Haven’t been so successful in losing the “new job 20”.  Kitzzy & Jason my awesome coworkers at Online@UCF/CDL/UCF (where I work) decided to put together a group for the Orlando Corporate 5k, the biggest sporting event in Orlando with 12k people!  Really its a stroke of genius because coworkers feel the pressure to bond/participate, its short enough to walk, office workers always need exercise and this is a gateway activity.  So CDL set up a team and a blog and though my knee and extra bone in my foot makes it hard to run I felt this was a perfect opportunity to jump start my routine.
Online@UCF Learning to Live Well

Didn’t work that well.  But I tried.  Allergies/sickness and lethargy kept me to only training 2-3 weeks for it.  But the beauty is, with a 5k you can always walk!

Why I’d Do It Again

Not sure I’d TRAIN heavily for a 5k again (due to knee/footness I’m sticking to biking) but I’d do one again.  Especially if I move to a new city.  Because:

  • You get to see the city. Roads blocked off, bands playing (mariachi!), running in mass, its a pretty awesome sight.
  • You get to meet people. Like 12k of them… all in mass.  Running.  Humanity running, often in funny outfits.
  • Entertaining t-shirts: Everything on them from godzilla killing a city to threats of being superior to commands to “eat your dust” to ascertains of their physical prowess over you.  Okay, really there are just a lot of threatening t-shirts.  In fact, I think our team was one of the few positive ones, with affirmations blaring on the back.
  • Feel accomplished: Run as much as possible, walk, then jog, do whatever.  No matter what by the end you feel pretty good!
  • Community outreach: Not only can you reach over and touch your brother but many of these events are charities.  And charity is good, as well as, brotherly love.
  • Pack Mentality… I mean Spirit! It’s just a good bonding experience where people are taken out of their element and must rely on each other for support. Not that I talked much, what with concentrating on breathing, but it was nice to have them there (nicer than I expected as I liked training in quiet). I’m not sure I’d want to do it without seeing the happy affirmations on the backs of my team member’s shirts… as I pass them… like Godzilla. ;p  At least, you’ll know who you can outrun in the office, for when the zombies attack.

So I guess what I’m saying is, not sure I’d do more then a 5k but its a fun occasional community activity that should not be intimidating!

How’d I do?

Why thanks for asking.  Did it in 36-37 minutes (not good at this number thing).  I jogged/ran the whole way except for one minute.  Pretty proud I must say. Austin pushed over some grandmas to make his time of 25.5 minutes.  You see it is a race to him.

Possible pictures to possibly come.

run sheila run – S

Quilting Dumbledore Would Be Mildly Embarrassed Of

So a friend of mine Jessica offered to hold a quilting learning bee.  I happen to have a sewing machine that I got for high school graduation but have never used (other than Austin’s foray into tailoring).  I think I shall call her baby Olga after my Baba.  I have lots of t-shirts I can’t bear to part with.  Quilting + Learning – Whole T-Shirts = T-shirt Quilt or EXCELLENT!

First project is just piecing together some scraps. This is how Jessica taught me.

  1. Iron your fabric.
  2. Cut out pieces of fabric, squaring off and leaving a 1/4″ margin on all sides for seams.
  3. Sew these together being wary of straightness of stitch and tension.  You can sew large strips together and then cut these to make your squares!  Very handy tip.

    Practice Stitching

  4. Lay out/plan your pattern (though you probably already had this in mind).
  5. Plotting

  6. Sew these pieces together keeping in mind that the seams are going the same way (ironing helps ascertain a set seam flappy direction).
  7. Sew together these blocks in bits.  Combining these bits to make bigger bits.
  8. OILA!  You have the front of an oddly Hogwartish Wall Hanging front.  Still have to edge this off and put backing and all that fun stuff.

Complete Front!

Next project I’m thinking a jersey/nerdy themed scarf, like this but scarfy.  Need to get used to jersey for my big t-shirt quilt! Or I shall make a throw for my mask room.  Mondrian style!

sew… – S

Superior Donuts: It Ain't Horse Fat!

So tonight I went to Mad Cow Theatre‘s production of Superior Donuts., in its first ever debut on an nonbroadway stage. Mad Cow Theatre is a small theatre that makes awesome use of its space and whose season is varied, affordable and worth the subscription. Acting is not always up to par but valiant and ambitious in its scope.

Superior Donuts Cover

Superior Donuts is an endearing dramedy about an intellectual poor black kid who forces himself into the life of an embittered draft dodging donut maker son of a Polish immigrant, saving him (and himself in the process) from certain loneliness and failure.

Sounds a bit sappy, huh? I’ll spare the sugary donut metaphors.

But really the play is pretty interesting and has quite a bit of the depth. The play explores the dynamics of the American Dream and personal faults of a wide splash of ethnic backgrounds in a small Chicago burrough, from Croatian porn selling immigrants to star trekies. Good and attention keeping writing overall.

As for the production: The set was awesome (as per usual) but it didn’t make up for the lack luster main actor. I’ve seen him in other productions and he ALMOST fit but the wavering accent really kinda lost it for me. Franco, the young ragamuffin, was much better but still in the first serious scene wasn’t quite convincing. The secondary eccentric characters were much more awesome (and sinister) and hilarious. Overall the comedy could have been a little bit more discrete and fitting if the director toned down the acting. Still as the play hit its climax the acting hit its stride (accents or not) and the emotional payoff was good.

All in All: It was my second favorite play I’ve seen at Mad Cow (of 4 this season) and worth checking out.

I give it a three out of five penguins. – S

P.S. It also will most certainly get you hungry for donuts. I bet they did better in concession sales in this production than any other (except maybe Superior Concessions). So bring a few dollars and support local theatre.

The Importance of Being Mrs.Ernest.com

There are very few careers nowadays where public image does not matter. I find myself constantly aware of it, despite wanting not to. It all amounts to “Am I seen as a professional?” And a large part of starting to build awareness of your professional knowledge is creating a “personal branding”. I know that word is bandied about to the point of being a scare tactic. But it’s true: If people don’t know who you are how will they give you lots of $$ and props?

This is what I propose: The modern woman might be giving up even more then just her history by changing her last name. Street cred? Pride? But is she giving up more by refusing to?

I’m not sure my stance other than I’ve been afraid to admit that I can’t wait to change my name in domestic bliss. This is a bit more deep rooted than the personal branding angle.

Some history: I’m getting married to a one Austin Flores. After much debate I have decided to change my name to Sheila Suarez de Flores come October when we wed. I am modern enough to keep my last name but honored enough to append. I have a website called sheilasuarez.com, as two years ago, I tried to abandon my wishy washy handles that I always grew tired of (deltaspark, eatther0ses, esscore, bluespringtied, birthdayzoot, smapdi3000… and so on) for something I have always been: Sheila Suarez. Plus then when an employer saw my awesome CSS skillz they’d know who to call.

But now as I’m relying on this handle more and more, filing my taxes (or failing to) online, banking, handing out business cards and otherwise, I realize that with the ring comes the destined name change. I know who I will be in six months. Why not change now?

Pride. I always thought myself the feminist, a sensible one, likes to pay dutch but doesn’t mind a car door being opened for her. But with this has come a stubborn streak that won’t admit that she WANTS to change her name. Aghast when other girls did so before their wedding. Changing their handle to include a “Mrs”? Good lord not your internet handle! If guys don’t do it at all or get all giddy about it, why should I (working in a male dominated field probably doesn’t help this…)? If it was more acceptable, would guys do it? I do not want to be defined by my relationship but supported (like Hedwig!). Why do I really think this name will define me?

But I’m here to admit it. I like that I’m changing my name because I’m proud of being Austin’s. Can’t wait to change my name! But pride has also kept me from doing it sooner than later. Until tonight, setting up hopefully a blog (god I hate that word) that will last me through several adventures (including marriage), I had to pick a name and I picked: sdeflores.

Is this me being realistic or girly? Austin is pretty dreamy… and there really is no good reason to change my name other than that fact. But if I’m going to do it, why not do it now?

My point has quickly deflated as I’m out of coherent blogging practice. But a little part of INDEPENDENT WOMAN OF STEEL AND CAREER-NESS, named so man or not, has died in me tonight. I know its not a bad thing. In fact, I have missed out on all the giggles. I don’t need my old name to define me! Take that maiden name! In the end, its not that big of a deal. A redirect added from sheilasuarez.com and new business cards in 6 months, but, at what point should we define ourselves? How do we define ourselves? And what is there in a name?

What’s the big deal?

A rose by any other name would taste just as sweet… – “Mrs.” Sheila Suarez “de Flores”

P.S. I need to go to Feminist-Anonymous and admit I like fluffy things and that’s okay.