Cruisin’ by the Seat of our Pants

Just for Fun

I am a planner. I like to research, analyze, and organize my life as much as possible. Not because I don’t like surprises (or not just because I don’t like surprises), but so that I can handle the inevitable hiccups when they occur. And I doubt anyone reading this is at all surprised by that statement.

But you might be surprised that a little over a month ago Todd and I booked an anniversary trip with no planning other than our travel dates!

Questions had come up about travelling for Thanksgiving, but I only had enough vacation days left to do one trip before the end of the year, and one of the few goals I set at the beginning of the year was that we would take a trip for our anniversary, even if it was just a small weekend getaway. That was on a Tuesday, I believe, and by Friday Todd booked us into a suite on the Carnival Sensation for 3 nights leaving out of Cape Canaveral and heading to Nassau, Bahamas.

Have monkey, will travel. She was impatient waiting for us to get to the car...

Have monkey, will travel. She was impatient waiting for us to get to the car…

We left Wednesday night after work, the plan being (and I use that term loosely) to drive as far as Todd was comfortable and then get a hotel room for the night. It’s not a terribly long drive from Thomasville to Cape Canaveral–only about 4 1/2 hours–but to leave our successful arrival in the hands of us waking up on time early on Thursday and no major traffic snarls didn’t sound like a great idea. Around 11ish we were getting ready to stop, but before we settled on an exit we were already on SR-528E and there didn’t seem like any place to stop by that point. So we drove the whole way down, after all, and pulled into the first hotel we saw once we passed the Welcome to Cape Canaveral sign: Country Inn & Suites.

Apparently all my room "pictures" are in video format and that hasn't been edited yet. Instead, have some breakfast pics and a monkey posing with an astronaut.

Apparently all my room “pictures” are in video format and that hasn’t been edited yet. Instead, have some breakfast pics and a monkey posing with an astronaut.

It was late, but we still had time to be pretty impressed with the pretty first-floor room with very high ceilings and the next morning we enjoyed a very tasty breakfast (including omelets) before heading to Park Port Canaveral. Parking at the ports is usually around $20 a day, but I heard about Park Port Canaveral on one of the cruise boards (I did do some post-booking research) and it was far cheaper, a little over $20 total, and just a quick shuttle ride to the port. Definitely recommend looking into port parking alternatives in the future!

Our first glimpse of the Sensation on the parking shuttle (with various marina bits in the way).

I see the funnel!!!

One of the perks of booking a suite was that it qualified us for priority check-in and the Captain’s Lounge waiting area. Before you get the wrong idea, it wasn’t all that. We did get to sit in cushy chairs to check in and not have to wait in line, but the waiting area was just one end of the larger waiting area cordoned off from the rest. (No pictures allowed in the terminal.) Still, we got to board the ship in the first wave of guests and it was kind of eerie to walk around the Lido deck when there was no one else around. Definitely a first. We picked a table with a nice view and had an early lunch from the buffet.

Some highlights of our meals on the Carnival Sensation.

Some highlights of our meals on the Carnival Sensation.

Rather than do a day-by-day play-by-play, I’ll just highlight the different bits of our trip. First, the food. The menu selections were a little less elaborate than our last cruise, 6 years ago, but the food was fine and plentiful. I don’t think there was anything I was absolutely floored by, but we didn’t have a bad meal on the ship. Over the course of the 4 days we dined in the buffet, the main dining room, at the poolside grill, and in the alternate dining room for the SeaDay Brunch. We never made use of the pizzeria, the deli, or room service on this trip, but I did grab a mochachino from the coffee shop on the sea day and we did the afternoon tea in the piano lounge. Again, nothing bad to say about any of the dining amenities available.

Suite V3, Carnival Sensation

Suite V3, Carnival Sensation

After a couple hours exploring the common areas on deck, we headed up to our stateroom on the Verandah deck (deck 11 of 12). We were just over the bridge and just behind the observation deck on the starboard side. When Todd booked the suite, be booked by category, meaning he didn’t choose the specific room himself. About a week later our online registration showed our stateroom assignment and I was happy to see we were not in one of the obstructed-view suites (those are parallel to the lifeboats, a little farther back). Our steward left a sweet note on the mirror wishing us a happy anniversary and we came back from dinner the first night to a couple of gift cards–$25 off a bottle of wine and $50 for the spa–as anniversary gifts.


I used the spa card for a shellac manicure after we got back from touring Nassau. I called that morning and they were already pretty full for the day, but thanks to our late dinner seating I was able to snag a spot after our excursion with plenty of time to clean up for supper. We wandered through the gym and the Serenity pool area on our first day, but aside from a seminar that Todd attended before we got to Nassau (which ended in a $600 sales pitch, to the surprise of no one), we didn’t end up using those areas much. A) We were here to relax and b) we had our own balcony if we wanted some sun. Todd had wanted to play mini golf one day, but the sea day was overcast and very windy, so we never made it up

There's plenty to do on the ship, even if you're not interested in gambling or pool antics.

There’s plenty to do on the ship, even if you’re not interested in gambling or pool antics.

We’re not really one for poolside activities (that would require us being at the pool, after all), but we generally enjoy the shows on the ship. The first night was a show called 88 Keys and it featured an ensemble singing and dancing their way through all sorts of music. I was particularly impressed with Come Sail Away (fitting, no?) and that they included one of my favorite Barry Manilow tunes as well. The second night we skipped the Love & Marriage game show in favor of an early night (though it was replayed on the ship’s television channel the following day and was pretty funny) and opted for the late night comedy show after dinner on the third night. We’d hoped to meet up with our tablemates from dinner but the Polo Lounge was standing room only when we arrived, so we just hung out in the back.

The fun 66% of our dinner table.

The fun 66% of our dinner table.

Speaking of our tablemates, we were assigned to a 10-top in the main dining room with 4 other couples. One couple was celebrating the husband’s birthday on this trip, two couples were on their honeymoon, and the other couple… well, there was a misunderstanding. The birthday couple was travelling with another couple, but they didn’t make it to dinner the first night. So, on the second night, when the missing couple turned up, we thought it was the aforementioned friends and acted like they knew what was going on (though we thought it strange that they didn’t engage with their friends or us much during supper). Turns out that, no, the missing friends were at another table entirely and those folks probably didn’t know what hit them. The other honeymooners weren’t quite as chatty as the rest of us, left early the first night, and didn’t even show up the last. But that was okay, the rest of us had more than enough fun for 10!

Highlights from our Nassau Excursion

Highlights from our Nassau Excursion

Another last-minute decision was our plan for Nassau. We’ve scheduled excursions in some ports and gone off on our own in others, and I can usually take or leave a Caribbean port–I just like being on the ship. Todd definitely wanted to get onto dry land for a bit, though, so we booked the Nassau Top 10 Tour, a bus tour that took us a good way around the island and featured stops at the Bahamas Rum Cake Factory for a tasting, Atlantis resort for pictures, Fort Fincastle, John Watling’s Distillery, Frankie Gone Bananas Fish Fry for a conch demonstration, and ending up at the Straw Market, among other stops. We bought rum cakes, rum, and sugar cane-based vodka, had a late lunch of conch chowder, fritters, and salad, and made a cursory pass through the Straw Market so Todd could see it (and see why I wasn’t crazy about going to it in the first place). It was a fun 3.5 hours (more like 4, thanks to a slight delay at Frankie’s), and we’re glad we did it.


And with this last, cheesey picture of us from “Cruise Elegant” night in the dining room (the same day as our Nassau excursion), I’ll wrap up our unplanned cruise vacation highlight reel. We took over 600 pictures and I’ve got probably an hour or more of video to go through and edit. It was a fabulous anniversary trip and I’m so grateful to Todd for just going ahead and booking it, research be damned! I’m not sure I’d always opt for this sort of loosey-goosey vacationing, but it definitely paid off this time.

This Weekend, Last Year

The Gingerbread Diaries

We officially moved into the Dollhouse.


Not from moving day, but it’s the only pre-paint picture of us and the house that I seem to have!

My day started at 6am, trying to get UHaul on the line to find out where the truck we “reserved” was going to actually be and getting nowhere quick. Penske saved our bacon, that day, and we made 3 round trips–the last one just Todd and I–before crashing late that night. We slept downstairs on sofas that first night, and for a few more afterwards as the upstairs a/c was just not able to keep up with the record high temps that first week, especially with the downstairs unit freezing over during the move. We spent the first several months showering downstairs because we couldn’t settle on a fixture for the upstairs bathroom until the end of October.

On the one hand, it doesn’t feel like we’ve accomplished much this first year aside from unpacking (Todd’s office excluded, it’s still 80% in boxes). But really we’ve done a lot of living in this first year in the Dollhouse! We got the upstairs bathroom fully functional; installed a shed in the backyard for extra storage (because no, 2900 sq ft is obviously not enough); replaced a dishwasher, a microwave, and a washing machine; banished blinds in several rooms; lucked into a china hutch for the dining room; and have hosted friends and family for parties and holidays. And probably most of that stuff I still need to blog about (oops).

And though we knew, going in, that the Dollhouse would be a long-term project and we weren’t in any sort of true hurry to start turning rooms over, I still thought we’d maybe manage to get one room updated (or at least started!) this first year, but we spent a lot more time in triage than expected. There were the roof issues to deal with, which led to the gutters, which led to Todd’s accident, which puts us firmly in a holding pattern, waiting to see what the finance dept will rule on Todd’s medical bills and how much of our savings will be therefore consumed. It’s certainly not the end of the world–far from it!–but it’s still a delay.

During that delay we’ve had time to think, to mull, to consider some options. And we’re now faced with (should we have the funds available at all) the decision of what to actually do next (or first, as the case may be).

  • The drain pipe leak (from the 2nd floor) that we (Todd) patched last year only got us about 6 months and is leaking again. Obviously this has to be fixed pronto, but the question is do we remove a small piece of the ceiling, enough to patch the crappy cast-iron connection that is failing and leave it at that, or do we commit to bringing down that ceiling and the damaged back wall (from ages of water damage the tenants didn’t report) and redo the back hall/butler’s pantry/mudroom area, that’s the question.
  • It’s getting hot again (says Captain Obvious) and the upstairs is routinely 85+ degrees when we get home from work. We’re pretty sure insulating the attic would help with that (and the astronomical utility bills that are a result). Of course we also recently realized there might not be any vents on our roof to let the heat escape from the attic (hipped roof, so no gable to put a louvered vent in), and we’re thinking that an eave vent might be a less expensive option to start with.
  • Or we could fence the backyard so we can get that dog we’ve been talking about for, oh, ever! (Not to mention gain some privacy and maybe a bit of noise break from the neighbors on each side. Oh, wait, there’s a catch to that plan–the shared driveway. And the best solution is escalating in that ‘if you give a mouse a cookie’ sort of way.

Really it’s a no-brainer that we do one of the first two first. But part of me really wants to do a fun project, a pretty project, a project that’s not solely fixing something we didn’t break. Because a big part of me is afraid that if we don’t start doing some of the fun, pretty projects soon, we won’t ever do them. And we’ll wait so long that it won’t be worth it to get started and the Dollhouse will be in it’s current state for the duration. And while that’s not the worst thing ever–the house is perfectly livable the way it is–it’s not what we saw when we first looked at the Dollhouse 18 months ago. I don’t want to lose sight of that potential.

I think this calls for some design inspiration boards. You’ve been warned…

Happy House-iversary to Us!

The Gingerbread Diaries

I’m so glad I finally told the roof tale last week and got it out of the way before today, the anniversary of our buying the Gingerbread Dollhouse.

Flashback to a year ago to-date.

Flashback to a year ago to-date.(And no worries, we changed the locks shortly after this picture was taken.)

We had some ups and a number of downs this year, but overall we’re still very happy to be homeowners, especially of the Dollhouse.

For the paper anniversary I’m afraid we haven’t done anything special for our pink lady–unless you count throwing dollars at her! As I mentioned, before, we were waiting until our taxes were tallied for 2014, just in case we owed anything (we did, but it wasn’t as bad as we were afraid–a busy convention season helped offset some of it), before starting any major renovations. Taxes were submitted on Sunday so we’re more or less clear to plan, right?

Except for a little analysis paralysis, that is: too many choices, too many places we could start.

But let’s go back to paper for a minute, shall we? Namely: wall paper.

Our rose-filtered entryway.

Our rose-filtered entryway.

We get a lot of compliments on the pretty rose wallpaper in the front hall and stairwell, but it’s just not in great shape. I thought I had my mind made up that we wouldn’t paper any of the walls, but I’m so used to seeing this pattern I’m afraid the entry would look terribly boring if we just chose a color scheme and painted.

If I’ve learned one thing from all the Victorian home magazines I read while we not-so-patiently waited (3 months, 3 weeks, and 3 days) to close, it’s that Bradbury & Bradbury is THE place to go for period-perfect wall papers. They are beautifully silk-screened art wallpapers made in California and the weight of the samples I received is amazing: not too flimsy, but not as heavy as some wallpaper samples I’ve crafted with in the past.

It so happens that Bradbury & Bradbury is also the wallpaper of choice for a very popular “landmark” of a slightly more modern era…

Image via Disney.Go

Image via Disney.Go

Yup, the Haunted Mansion.  In fact, they use patterns from the Victorian-Era Dresser II (named for designers Christopher Dresser, 1834-1904) in the Ashes of Roses colorway.

Screenshot from

Screenshot from

I ordered samples of both the Ashes of Roses colorway as well as the Terra Cotta/Burgundy colorway as well.

Screenshot via

Screenshot via

The “Lily” pattern is a touch too busy for my taste, but the Roland could definitely work, at least going up the stairs at about chair rail-height, topped with the Pinstripe Border. Above that, we might stick to just paint or use one of the more subtle patterns (not grabbed in the above screenshot), the Plaza Ceiling with its metallic pattern.

Now, it goes without saying that these are beautiful patterns in their own right, but the fact that they have a tie to one of our favorite places without being obnoxiously obvious is the kind of fun trivia that makes the decision more compelling.

I don’t know when we’ll bite the bullet and repaper the stairwell, but I’m almost certain it’ll be with this paper. Of course, there’s the not-so-small matter of needing to replace the front door (and the back door, and while we’re at it maybe the kitchen door, too) and frame, which means finding one I like that doesn’t look too modern for the house and in a material that Todd’s comfortable with that (of course) won’t break the bank.

Here’s to many long years ahead of us in the Dollhouse!

We've come a long way, baby!

We’ve come a long way, baby! From this before

To the after (so far)!

To the after (so far)!

Nice Round Numbers

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My celebratory gluten-free chocolate cupcake.

My celebratory gluten-free chocolate cupcake.

Something kind of important happened this weekend and I totally forgot until last night: turned 10 years old! Can you believe it?

On February 23, 2003, I registered my first domain. I still have my original sketches of what the site was going to be but never was, and I still remember how many ideas I had back then that, if I’d actually done them and stayed focused and all? Yeah, I’d totally be Internet Famous by now.

Instead, though, I was more or less content to just rattle around on my little MoveableType site (oh, yes, it was way back in the day) for the first couple of years before I heard about this new thing (I don’t even know that I knew it was called a platform back then) called WordPress that was supposed to be so much simpler to use, so I switched over in 2005 and I’ve never looked back. has always been self-hosted, and always been on DreamHost. We’ve had a few wobbles over the years (the weekend blackout of 2012 still gives me pangs) but all in all I’m happy I’ve stayed with them and still recommend them every chance I get.

According to my post counter I’ve got 1,093 posts logged on this platform (the MT stuff might be on an old harddrive, but I doubt it’s worth looking up), but 368 of them are Twitter logs, so the real number of posts is slightly less impressive: 725. I wasn’t really using this site much when my webcomic was updating regularly–it felt a little redundant–hence the use of the blog to log my microblogging. Once the comic backed off a bit and I got the idea to start blogging my way through the 64 Arts, though, then I was happy I still had my blog, here, to make use of.

Since starting the 64 Arts project I’ve blogged 160 posts on that subject since January, 2010, and we’re still just barely halfway through the list! (Don’t worry, I’ve got it worked out so we’ll get through #50 by the end of the year!).

I was curious as to how much I’ve posted across all my sites over the last 10 years (well, 8 in recorded history):

  • Scraps of Life 725
  • Sips & Shots 199
  • Nibbles ‘n Bites 230
  • Cocktail Hour 397
  • What to Feed Your Raiding Party 188
  • Random Acts Radio 11
  • Where the Geeks Are 167

Total = 1918 active updates!

Not bad for a decade, huh? (and I know I’ve left a few sites out–yes, there’s more… all in good time)


Most people consider round numbers to be those that end in 0, but I count the halves (those that end in 5s) as round, too. And just after Valentine’s Day I completed a project that put together the last 5 years of Todd and I into one custom-made album. You can check out the full tutorial of how I made a scrapbook to fit inside a chocolate tin over at my Gauche Alchemy Tutorial.

Have you looked back at your last 5 years lately? What about 10?

5 Years In, 1 Year Out

Third Time Wife, Wedding Planning

Friday, November 2, was our 5 year dating anniversary and also brought us exactly 1 year until the wedding!

Suddenly my Inbox is full of countdown emails from various wedding websites and we can finally say we’re getting married in less than a year!

For our actual anniversary we went to the local Greek Food Festival but didn’t stay too long–last year we closed it down and then came home with friends to play cards until 3am–this time we were home in jammies before 10pm! Then, Saturday night we had a slightly more “proper” anniversary dinner at Buca di Beppo, which recently opened in the mall, followed by going into every jewelry shop for some impromptu wedding band shopping.

Todd went in thinking he wanted a brushed-and-shiny two-tone look, only to find he liked the look of highly polished Tungsten Carbide band.

Tungsten Carbine Band from Kay Jewelers

Tungsten Carbide Band via Kay Jewelers

And I’m still set on an open-work band with plenty of sparkle.

Sterling Silver & Diamond Band via Kay Jewelers

Sterling Silver & Diamond Band via Kay Jewelers

Not necessarily that ring, but something along those lines. We decided a while ago that, rather than getting a ring custom-made to fit around my engagement setting, I’d get stand-alone ring and wear my engagement ring on my right hand. At first I was against the idea, but then had so many problems with the setting that not wearing it every day seemed like a not bad thing. And, hey, it’s more shiny things for me and I’m not going to fight that!

Ring shopping was a nice way to walk-off dinner but it wasn’t all fun and games. We went into one of those all-but pawn shop jewelry stores, just on a lark, and I regretted it immediately. There was a very wrong feeling in that place and we made a polite circuit of the cases and got the hell out of there. Not that I really expected my dream ring to be in there, but a bride on a budget needs to examine all options.

One more thing I decided, with a year left to go, was to scrapbook this last year of wedding planning, Project Life-style. This will not only get me to take more photos of us and our wedding activities over the next year (something we’ve been really bad about, so far), it’ll also be nice to have a definite reason to scrapbook again. It’s a hobby from way-back for me, but now I do it digitally.

Title Page for our Project: Wedding scrapbook using the Becky Higgins Tourquoise Project Life Kit

The Cover page to our Project: Wedding Album!