adventure

Cruisin’

For the first time in a long time, our family went on a full-fledged vacation together. It took several reschedulings, but we made it out on the Anthem of the Seas this past summer.

I had never been on a cruise. I have friends who swear by cruising as a travel way of life. After making my way around the Caribbean and coming back to land, I will say that cruising is it’s own kind of thing. I can see why people love it, for sure.

Here are some of my ups and downs of cruising:

The biggest plus…It’s all done for you. We come from a restaurant family. When we go on vacation, we generally always pick a place to stay with a kitchen and cook for ourselves. On the cruise, I loved never having to cook or clean up. Just grab a plate, have some food, and away you go. It was an amazing break. It helped us all to actually relax. No laundry to do. Even the bed was made each day. Bonus was ordering coffee to be brought to the room at 6 am each day. Which leads me to my next cruising kudo…

The water, of course. Our cabin had a balcony. I don’t think I would go on a cruise without it. Waking up, rolling out of bed for coffee delivery then taking 10 steps to sit on the balcony and watch the water, the rainbows, the dolphins, all of it. It was soothing at all times of the day and always the perfect view.

Endless entertainment. There was always something going on..usually many things from early morning yoga to late night ballroom dancing. I loaded my app with activities I might be interested in, from trivia at all hours to Elton John tribute performers, to a pretty amazing ice show (yup, an ice rink on a ship!). We played mini-golf and rode the water slide. Even a roving piano player who fit into elevators. I don’t drink, but drinking sure is a way of life on cruises. So was gambling (which I also skipped). And shopping, which didn’t really hold much charm on the ship. But the shows and activities were interesting. You could see the ship was designed to appeal to many different people and interests. (Kids clubs, teen events, adult pools, etc.) There were lots of families on board, and people of all ages. There was also a tour group of about 500 teens from Brazil who were quite busy taking insta-photos most of the time. So, you can customize things as you see fit, doing as much or as little as you like. We went to the gym each day, walked on the deck, grabbed a water for trivia, and just took it all in.

Learning as we go… There are so many little quirks to watch. People who are clearly cruising pros had towel clips to claim their deck chairs first thing in the morning. Cute little magnets for their doors signifying events or celebrations. The carpets in the elevators change to remind you what day it is. All the little lingo things that make cruising unique. It’s interesting as a lifelong learner and observer.

I also love the towel creations. I seriously looked forward to this each day.

As for the downs, there was just one major limitation…

Ports of call. We had a lot of fun doing some excursions. Swimming with the pigs in the Bahamas, kayaking and snorkeling in Haiti, but the strange thing is that I don’t feel like I can say I’ve been to either of those places. Whether it’s for ease of movement or to keep your dollars going to the cruise line, you don’t just get to traipse around the island at your ports. In our case, there was no way to leave the Haitian port of Labadee and the Bahamas stop was the cruise company’s “private island.” Both were nice breaks, but just sort of surprising to a person who likes to go to little local spots when visiting a place. Each spot felt like its own little cruise line amusement park. Not good or bad necessarily, just interesting.

Would I go again? Probably, but I don’t think it would be a regular thing. It was quite the opportunity to relax. I might hop a cruise with a few friends just to get away and have it all taken care of. You can really focus on just chilling and not worrying about pretty much anything. After you book it, the work required is minimal which is a break from the research-intensive part of travel (which I enjoy). I’d love to see what they do on a more upscale cruise line (even Disney!)

Chalk it up in the experience books.

adventure

Mystery Coffee Date

The adventure begins with the drive. Over the bridge, missed exits, over the bridge again and again. The chaos that ensued on the ride to the coffee house in an unknown city was one for the record books. Giggles galore, but we made it!

The Bold Bean was our destination for today’s adventure. The task was to order three coffees selected by the barista with ingredients unknown to us. A complete surprise to uncover the flavors or fail trying. We sipped and sipped. We took notes on our phone for suspected flavors. We snacked a little to cleanse our pallet. We had to sip and sort out the flavors. We failed miserably.

Coffee 1 was a lavender vanilla latte. We thought it had curry. This was a major failure on our part.

Coffee 2 was curry chocolate cappuccino. We got the chocolate right only because of the darker coloring but we really thought the flavor was nutmeg. Wrong again!

Coffee 3 was iced vanilla / honey / cinnamon. We got the cinnamon right only because of the aroma and the residue on the top of the ice. Also we thought this had oat milk but it was whole milk. We are not good at guessing.

This adventure was super fun. 1 hour of sipping, sorting out flavors, snacking on pastries and lots of photos to prove how bold we were today in trying something new to us.

My partner in crime was my pal Kim who traveled miles upon miles with many missed turns, oh shit moments, and too many bridges to count for this experience. It’s a one of kind Saturday morning episode of KT’s Bad Idea Club. She was a willing participant for the most part.

Before I wrap up this post I must also explain the ambiance of the coffee house. It’s an eclectic and calming place. From exposed ceiling beams to the abundance of brick and simplistic furnishings. The patrons are a mixed bag. We have two cyclists nearby breaking from their morning ride. A few couples out on what appears to be a morning date. A few groups of young ladies catching up on life. The strays on their laptop as a big party of one. The dad who is adventuring with his toddler boys to the coffee shop. Soft background music adds to the calm.

And I can’t forget to give a sweet nod to my barista. The fun girl who helped me with the challenge. The one who took a picture of what she made so she wouldn’t forget after she took 50 other orders. And the name for the order was Frances today. For those of you who know me would giggle as I always use an alias at a coffee shop when ordering.

adventure

Going Dutch

My daughter and I recently hit the road and headed to Texas.

It wasn’t too far into our trip that I declared “I don’t want to eat at any chains on this trip.”

If you’ve followed the Chicks for a while, you know we try to support local and small businesses as often as we can, so no chains seems right up that alley. But it was early the next morning when I had to add an asterisk to my “no chains” rule. I made exceptions for chains that didn’t have locations anywhere near our home. And so, bright and early, I started a trek to a coffee chain I had heard about called Dutch Bros.

Dutch Bros. is one of those chains with a cult following. There are secret menus. Collectible sticker days. IYKYK kind of stuff. Thankfully, at 5:30 am there was no line, so I had plenty of time to quiz the bubbly young woman at the order window.

I’ve weaned myself from coffee sweeteners and even cream for the most part, so this would be a treat. My favorite holiday drink is a peppermint mocha, so I ended up with a Dutch Bros. toasted peppermint bliss cold brew. My second drink was an Americano with soft top. If none of these make sense, check out the Dutch Bros. website. I also accidentally ended up with a hazelnut truffle mocha.

All were deeee-lish. Positive messages on the windows and the drink tops. And the woman at the window was a total gem! Win all around.

Yes, it was a chain, but still something completely new and different. Get out and explore and try new things, wherever you may be!

healthy hacks

Mandy Candy Barbie

I heard Mandy. I replied with Candy. Upon arrival I read Barbie. I may have giggled a bit at that point. What am I even talking about?

For those of you who know me I like to use an alias. I especially like to use an alias when I drive through to get a cup of coffee. Sometimes my name is is Penelope. That one gets a giggle when I am immediately asked to spell it. Sometimes I’m Felicia. Hay name is awesome to hear back when the person at the window say bye Felicia….then realizing what they did. Makes my day every time.

Sometimes it’s Frances. An old timer name but it’s my mother’s middle name so I use it for good reason or as a virtual cheers/toast to her. But today it was Candy. Maybe it was what I thought of the day after Halloween. Maybe it was because it rhymed with Mandy. Either way I giggled at myself. Sometimes you need to just giggle at yourself to lighten the load of the day.

As I drive around to the window I’m giggling to myself knowing that when the person sees my app scanned they will see my real name. But it’s okay as her real name was Barbie so I didn’t even hear her correctly. Mandyplay buttonCandyplay buttonBarbie. They all sound good together.

As I enjoy my first sip feeling of my hot cup of coffee on this fall evening, I smile and think to myself how I can just add a little joy to my day with my imaginary names or alter ego and a warm cup of coffee. Simple things make me smile when the rest of the world seems crazy.

I also saw a ton of Barbie costumes this Halloween which made the Barbie name tag extra funny today. Halloween was a little lame this year but my day after made up for it.

Wonder what name I will be on my next visit? I guess it depends on my mood. Maybe once a year I use my real name. Funny nobody working ever questions my silly names.

3Splitz Farm, author moments

Moments of Vacation

We’ve talked about life being lifey lately. In addition it’s just been a busy, hectic time. Sports leagues, long days at work, volunteer commitments, owning businesses and all that goes with it…it’s just kinda out of control these days.

My county had a true fall break this year for the first time. A glorious five-day weekend in the middle of my favorite time of year, the fall. When I saw this coming on the calendar, I imagined a quick trip to the coast for some salt and sand therapy. Or maybe a drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway to see the leaves change. A long hike in the great outdoors or laughs at Dollywood. I dreamed of a getaway.

Life being what it is, enough little commitments popped up that a getaway wasn’t in the cards this year. Just too much going on and the lure of catching up mixed in with a few poorly-timed “have tos” would keep me at home.

As I scrolled through the posts of colleagues and local friends who had hightailed it out of town to Disney or even Napa Valley, I had to reframe my mindset. Instead of being stuck at home pouting, how could I find those moments of vacation in my days?

Coffee Break: I love my coffee in the morning, but it’s generally on a timer. I have my two cups then I’m out the door. I decided to reframe my mind to think of an extra cup of coffee at a leisurely pace as a morning getaway. Even just a slower pace can be a helpful break.

Day trip: I went to a town I had never been to for a few hours to hang out / support / cheer on friends. I ate at a local bagel shop. I saw some new places and things to wonder about. It was less than two hours from home, but just taking that little trip made me feel refreshed from my day-to-day.

Appreciate nature: I had some things to take care of at the farm this weekend. Although I had work to do, I tried to remind myself to stop and appreciate the beauty of the dahlias and fresh fall air. I ate lunch outside on the porch. I took a few extra moments to breathe it all in and notice it.

Maybe noticing is the secret to finding those moments of vacation in daily life. Slower coffee, looking around a new place, taking a moment to observe and appreciate the nature that I often speed by on my way from task to task.

I do still feel that pull to take a trip, but for now these little vacation moments will tide me over. They are always there if I take the time to slow down for a minute and notice them. Yet another instance of how we can choose daily.