Saturday, December 31, 2011

Last Days of Christmas


The last week leading up to Christmas just FLEW by. Between getting in last minute visits with friends, family time and singing, the week disappeared so quickly that I suddenly found myself back in the car, driving across the country before I even knew what was happening!

So, here goes:

Visiting with Friends - I got to visit with so many friends, including Jessi and Steph (who were in town from Portland and South Africa respectively). It was so much fun to see them and have some quality time together!

Left to Right: Steph, me, Jess!

Sick! - One of the hard parts about having a three year old preschooler for a goddaughter is that oftentimes you end up with an awesome sickness that she picked up from some other kid. Yum. Caity's parents Nik and Solange ended up getting sick along with Jason and I with some awesome stomach funk. We're all finally feeling better, though!

Caroling! - I had a great time spending a few days caroling with Rene's quartet. We even were the quartet that will be featured in next year's Knott's Berry Farm Christmas Commercial! It was so much fun to spend a few days with my tenor from last year, Reggie, and to get to know Rene and Janell better. Thanks, guys!

All dressed up for the Knott's Tree Lighting Show! Left to Right: Rene, Janell, Me, Reggie

Christmas Day! - Caity-monkey received a big basket of dress-up jewelry from my parents. She proceeded to dress me up like her own personal doll! Check out all those mardi-gras beads! (Insert crude joke here.) It was a slightly hectic, but lovely, Christmas day! Check out how glam my sister Kelli was!

Dressed up by Caity for Christmas! The flower on my head is the final touch. Aren't I beautimous?

Kelli and I all glammed up for Christmas!

Driving to Florida! - We made the drive to Florida in three days, stopping for a while in New Orleans (my first trip to the city ever!). It was a surprisingly smooth and easy drive, although we both are still recovering from the trip. By the way, check out the gas prices we saw on the road. Jealous?

Gas somewhere in Arizona.

Sunrise over Texas!

So, that's where we're at! It's currently New Years Eve, and we're in Orlando, packing to leave on our cruise tomorrow. We're headed to Honduras, Belize and two stops in Mexico. The weather should be beautiful, and the seas calmer than our last trip. :) Tonight? We continue our lovely Christmas celebration with Jason's family, simultaneously welcoming in the New Year.

How about you? What are YOU doing New Years Eve? And incidentally, let me wish you a very Happy and Prosperous New Year!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Caity is Three!

On Sunday, my amazing goddaughter Caitlin Erin, turned three! She has grown up so fast, and is such a special girl, being raised by her awesome parents.

To celebrate the Monkey's 3rd birthday - here are some of my favorite Caity Monkey and Auntie Bears photos! (Disclaimer - it's a LOT harder to get a 2-3 year old to slow down for a picture than an infant who has no choice!)

Happy Birthday, Caity Monkey! I can't believe how quickly you've grown!

What to get for the three year old ballerina princess? A BELLE tutu OF COURSE!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Misadventures of a Sometime Christmas Caroler

Before I begin this story, here are a few things that you should know about me: I love to sing. I love to entertain. I unabashedly love Christmas. I desperately hate traffic (even more now that I've lived in Wyoming). The thought of being late to ANYTHING gives me a borderline panic attack.

I've been blessed to sing several gigs with Mixed Company this season, although I was unable to sing in a quartet due to our travel plans. It's been just the right balance of enjoying my Christmas and getting my caroling fix in. So far I've been able to see and/or sing with just about everyone in the company, and standing side by side with them in our Christmas velvet has been one of the highlights of my season!

That said, I live in the South Bay. Mixed Company works primarily in Orange County. This results in lots of drive time and too much traffic time. So, for the last three years, I have made a conscious effort to drive early - hours early if need be - to avoid traffic, and ensure that I am not late for a gig. I just wander through a mall, or sit in a coffee shop and read - anything to alleviate the incredible stress that I put myself under if I'm afraid of being late.

Last year, in the pouring rain, I got a flat tire while driving in the fast lane. OF COURSE - I had allotted only an extra half an hour of drive time, and that one night had not left for the gig hours before it was necessary. Still - thanks to the heroics of my incredible husband, I made it to the Summit House and was dressed and ready to sing 5 minutes before gig time. I almost had a heart attack trying to get there on time. After that misadventure, I was neurotically early for every gig the rest of the season.

Fast forward one year. I have been obsessively early to every gig again this season. On Thursday morning, Jason and I picked up his cousin Lara at the airport. To make sure there was space for both Lara and her luggage, I took my costume out of the car. Later that afternoon, I drove to Newport Beach for a gig at the Five Crowns. My call time for the gig was 6:30pm, and I arrived in the area at 3:30pm (SEE? Obsessively early!). At 5pm I left the mall to get something to eat, put gas in my car and touch up my hair and makeup before the gig. As I got into the Jeep, I realized that something seemed strange. My Costume was in TORRANCE!!!!!! And it was RAINING! And the 405 was basically a parking lot going both directions! I would NEVER make it home to get my costume and then back to the Five Crowns in time. Jason couldn't be my hero this time as he was in Burbank with Lara and Bob. My mom wasn't answering her phone. I called my dad and my cousin Mark (who works with Dad), and begged them to bring my costume halfway down the 405, to meet me in Seal Beach. In the meantime, other members of my quartet for the night were stuck in traffic, almost getting in accidents, or calling out sick at the last minute. It was nuts.

Mark and Dad came through for me, though and managed to navigate the traffic and get my costume to me by 6:30pm. I then jammed the rest of the way BACK to Newport, and while we weren't able to start the gig at 7pm (as scheduled), were on the floor, and singing at 7:15pm - IMPRESSIVE considering how far we had to go! And you know? For a night that started so crazily, we sure had a great time! So thank you, Mark and Dad, for being my heroes on Thursday!

As you might expect, this made me even MORE neurotic about being early. The next day, I was singing a lunchtime freebie in Downtown LA. I had also accepted a 2pm gig that I thought was in Agoura Hills (a stones throw from Downtown LA). Of course, I realized too late that it was not Agoura Hills, but the Agora Steakhouse in IRVINE. That's a 50 minute drive with absolutely NO traffic!!!! I thought I was being so helpful, and that it would be NO problem going from one to the other! Boy was I wrong! The freebie ran a little long (but it was awesome to sing with Molly, Reggie and Rene!), and the valet service took an ETERNITY to bring me my car. I hit every light on the way to the freeway, and changed routes mid-trip to avoid traffic. All the while fighting a panic attack, brought on by the fear of being late two days in a row.

I made it. Not by the 1:30pm call time, but at 1:50pm - ten minutes before the start of the gig. And I had a great time!

Still though, I NEVER want to feel panicked like that EVER again! I'm trying to avoid any extra encouragement of my neurotic obsession with being early. Early is better than late, though. And we have a saying in the business, "Fifteen minutes early is on time, on time is late, and late is fired." Apparently I've taken that to heart!

December Recap to date!

WOW!!!! Seventeen days since I've blogged! Not sure where the time has gone, but it has seriously flown!

Here's how it's flown:

-Jason was gone for sixteen days, and returned last Monday. I missed him a ton while he was gone, but it was great to be able to freely plan my days - scheduling visits and sub days and caroling gigs on a whim! However, sixteen days was just a tad too long, and I was beyond ready to have Jason home.

-Christmas party at Nik and Solange's - this was the first time I've been available for the party (and not caroling) in a few years, and it was a great time! I won the Christmas song contest (I have an unfair advantage - being that I am a professional caroler AND can generally read Spanish, Latin, French, Italian and Portuguese), plus there are some carols that can be traced to specific countries - i.e. The Carol of the Bells is often called the Ukrainian Christmas Carol - hence, I see a song title in Ukrainian and automatically know that it's the Carol of the Bells without needing to read Cyrillic. Plus, in their annual "build something cool" contest, everyone was assigned a figure from the Nativity to create out of foodstuffs. I was assigned a "Wise Man". It was really fun to see how everyone created their characters! Then, in the gift exchange, I won this amazing Flamingo Wreath. I knew that Jason would love it, too, and he DOES!

-Substitute teaching. I worked a total of 9 days subbing, and it wasn't as bad as I expected. It wasn't great, and I DID have to remind myself regularly that "when these kids are back in school in January and February, we'll be in the Caribbean, South Africa, and back to the Bahamas." With that reminder, I did just fine. I am, however, grateful that school is now out for Christmas!

-Caroling! It turns out that this was the season to be an alto sub for the caroling company. They needed someone who was available for gigs and knew the book, I've been able to be that person for them, and I have been singing QUITE a bit, while still being able to have a personal life during the Holiday season. Works for me! PLUS - I've been able to sing several times with Nate, Rovin and Reggie - my boys from my last two seasons, and it has been a BLAST!

-Disneyland! My dear friend Jen volunteered to sign me and two friends into the park for a day. Jason is Disney-ed out after a lifetime of Disneyworld, so I was able to take Solange and her sister Jenny, who in turn brought their daughters for the day. It was really fun, and amazing to see the wonder and excitement on the faces of both Caity and Brooke - who prefer to be called "Belle" and "Barbie Fairytopia" respectively. Thank you, Jen, for a special day!

Jenny and "Barbie Fairytopia" (Brooke)

Solange and "Belle" (Caity)

We're here in California for nine more days and then hit the road headed back to Orlando. Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from La-La-Land!

Thursday, December 1, 2011


It is the first of December, and I'm working my heiney (I'm not really sure how to spell that!) off substitute teaching and caroling, too. With the passing of Thanksgiving, I've been reminded of how absolutely blessed I am with a wonderful life, incredible husband, generous family, and awesome friends.

Since Jason's back at the ranch until Dec 10-ish, I've been filling every moment with work and fun things - namely quality time with friends and family. And while I'm missing Jason like crazy, I'm taking full advantage of him being gone, and honestly... I'm having a blast!

Here's a quick recap of what we've been up to since we made it to California!

I finally made it to the dmv and renewed my drivers license in person, since this was OF COURSE the year that I HAD to go in in person for a new photo. After 13 years, my old photo is no longer "the one". Unfortunately, I no longer have a hilarious topic of conversation. Fortunately, I will no longer have bartenders and the like who ask for my ID laughing at me. Here's the before and after. Wish it could have been clearer, but all the security measures on the cards makes it difficult to get a clear shot!

Obviously, it was high time for a new Drivers License Photo!

I was able to attend my god-daughter Caity's preschool Thanksgiving "performance". She is at SUCH a fun age right now, and it totally warms my heart that she still knows who I am and is so excited to see me! The more of a little person she becomes, the more I realize that we must be kindred spirits. I swear, she is just like I was at that age. Always singing and dancing and being girly. Very friendly with everyone she meets and absolutely precocious. Even better? She noticed I was at her performance, and in the middle of one of their songs screamed out, "Hi Auntie Bears!". For those of you that don't know, one of my longtime nicknames as been ErBear, shortened to Bears by Caity's parents Nik and Solange. So that's what my Caity Monkey calls me! And Caity and Bears dance ballet every time we're together. We sing princess songs while we dance and it's an absolute BLAST!

Caity in her Thanksgiving performance!

Jason smoked another turkey for Thanksgiving this year, and it was just as delicious as it was last year! My cousin and his wife were down with their precious new baby who is a total sweet nugget - no pictures, sorry! And Thanksgiving was wonderful! Here are my sister Kelli and bro-in-law Jeff on Thanksgiving!

Kelli and Jeff!

My parent's Christmas gift to Jason this year is a compound bow. He and Dad already picked it out and have had it properly weighted, so the two of them have been practicing with their bows in the backyard at Dad's arrow target.

They are too cute together. And Dad's shirt is awesome, by the way!

Since Jason is back at the ranch, I've been cramming lots of friend time in - Lunches with Jen, Visiting time and dinners with Solange, making dinner and Christmas tree decorating with Kelli. It's been an absolute blast!

Decorating with my glamorous sister!

My Michigan Wolverines went 10-2 in the regular season, defeating Ohio State for the first time in 7 years! AND we have a serious shot at a BCS Bowl Bid. It's Great to Be a Michigan Wolverine!

And to top it all off, I get to sing many, many gigs as a sub for the caroling company this season. I lost the opportunity for a regular season since we've been all over the place, but they've thrown me many gigs already as a sub, and I'm hoping for a few more! Tonight, I'm off to sing with a quartet at the Five Crowns in Corona del Mar!

And mostly, I'm thankful to be "on vacation" at home. I'm really appreciating the time and making the most of it! Happy late Thanksgiving to you all!

Monday, November 28, 2011


I am so abundantly blessed. Beyond blessed.

As far as first years of marriage go, I'd have to say that Jason and I might win the award for the most unusual and exciting. At least as far as I've heard!

It's amazing how friends and family have embraced our adventure, and are encouraging us to live it. We thought we'd be hearing a lot more concern about "responsibility" and "settling down", but the overwhelming response has been "I'd do it if I could."

Would you? Pack your home into a storage unit and move to a ranch in Wyoming for seven months? Then, spend the next five months vacationing? Would you really? Would you become a turtle, packing what's not in the storage unit around in your car like a shell, when the reward is three weeks total in the Caribbean and two in South Africa? When you get to spend weeks visiting with both your family and your husband's family? When at the end of five months of vacation, you get to go back to work in one of the most beautiful places on earth?

I sure hope so. And I hope that our continuing adventure has spurred you to be a little more adventurous, too. To step outside of your comfort zone and try something new and fresh and different, even if it's in your hometown. Maybe to re-evaluate where you are in life, and see if something needs to change. Or to put your marriage first, ahead of your career, and to invest real, quality time in it.

We've come a long way from where we were on March 28 last year when we stepped out in faith and started this journey. We have so far still to go. But I am so, so thankful that we took this chance. That we stepped over the fear and the "what-if's", and decided to see where our adventure would take us. Goodness knows there have been some road bumps, and a few unexpected twists and turns along the way. But aren't the best rides like that? Unexpected and wild, leaving you breathless with a huge grin on your face?

That's my wish for you. Moments of unexpected joy that take your breath away, and the feeling of having a fresh lease on life.

Go ahead - grab that brass ring and fly. You won't regret it.

And you certainly won't look back and say, "I wish..."

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Disney Days!

This post is WAAAAAAAY overdue! Thank you to those of you who are still hanging around the blog, looking for a new post!

When we came back from Cruising the Caribbean, I got to spend a few days doing the Disney thing with Jason and his family.

Let me just say this - if you are ever in Orlando in the fall, you MUST make it a priority to get to the Food and Wine Festival at EPCOT. Must. Not only is EPCOT a gorgeous park, during the festival you can buy small plates and taste delicious beverages all the way around the park! We had a blast!!!!!!!

Fun at Epcot! Top to Bottom: Jason, Bob, Me!

What trip to EPCOT is complete without a viewing of Captain EO?

Then, Jason and I spent a whole extra day visiting the rest of the parks - Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom. It was my first visit to Animal Kingdom, and I must give it two thumbs up! Seriously, though, the park is gorgeous and it was SOOOO fun to experience an entirely new park with attractions I've never seen/ridden!

That's two very enthusiastic thumbs up for Animal Kingdom!

And in true "It's a Small World" fashion, I ran into a friend from my first season of Caroling in Los Angeles, who now lives in New York City and was on tour with SEUSSICAL in Florida, on a bus traveling between Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. It's a Small World After All!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Puerto Rico and Great Stirrup Cay

Welcome to the second half of our cruise!

With my seasickness bracelets on, we continued on with our Eastern Caribbean cruising. First to San Juan, Puerto Rico and then to Norwegian Cruise Line's private island - Great Stirrup Cay - for a beach day.

At the beginning of our cruise, Jason predicted that my favorite stop would probably be Puerto Rico, because of the old buildings. You see, I'm a sucker for old Spanish style buildings - the kind with the patio in the middle. It's probably my favorite kind of construction - and I have dreams of remodeling some hacienda some day, with big wooden beams crossing the ceilings, and spectacular spanish tile. :)

And, as expected, old San Juan lived up to my expectations. It was beautiful - like a tropical version of Barcelona in some areas. I really, really hope that I'll get to go back there and explore for more than a day sometime soon. But seriously - go and look at Jason's photos from Puerto Rico. They're gorgeous! In the meantime, here are some of my own little point and shoot photos.

Then, our beach day on Great Stirrup Cay - the weather wasn't cooperating (hello, Tropical Storm!), but we were able to spend about an hour snorkeling. While the incoming storm churned up the water and the sand, there was still decent visibility - enough to see some fish.

Looking forward to heading back to the Caribbean in January for calmer waters and more adventures!

Thanks Catherine, Bob, G'ma Joyce and Aunt Irene for a great vacation!!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Nassau and St. Thomas

Well, we're back! One day off the cruise and I still feel like the ground is moving beneath my feet. A few words on that - I'm a naturally motion sick kind of person. Always have been - my Uncle Joe can tell you about one particularly vomitous drive we made in his old Peugot up Kern Canyon. So you ask - what the heck was I doing on a cruise ship? Praying for grace, really. This particular trip we got hit with a few nights of 10-15+ foot waves. Awesome. I doped myself with Dramamine and Bonine every day and when it was just too much, assumed the fetal position on the bed in our stateroom with my eyes closed for hours at a time. Our second night, I spent 16 hours in the fetal position. The next morning, I bought the sea-sickness bracelets. The bracelets use accu-pressure on a certain point on your wrist to alleviate the symptoms of motion sickness. They were a god-send. I will never cruise without them again - from that point on, at the worst I felt mild nausea, and mostly felt just fine. Not sure if it was the bracelets, or what I believed they could do that made the difference, I'm just grateful they did!

Not one to let something silly like seasickness ruin my vacation, I made the most of it! Our first port was Nassau, The Bahamas (where we will return for a week's stay and diving on February 14!). It was beautiful, and I was so grateful to be on solid land. We explored Nassau, did some shopping in the straw market and ended up finding a beach to play at for a few hours, complete with a Beach Bar. I had a rum and pineapple made with fresh cut pineapple. Woo-hoo! Can't wait to come back and really see more of what Nassau has to offer!

Two days later we made port in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. We didn't have an opportunity to explore the island from any place but a boat, so this is also on my must return to visit list. As St. Thomas is the most expensive island in the Caribbean, I doubt that return visit will be very soon, but someday! Our day in St. Thomas was my absolute favorite day of our trip. We went out on two dives - the first on the reef, and the second on a shipwreck: the Cartanza Senora. The ship has a really cool local history, and it was my first dive on a wreck - awesome. It's really incredible how the ocean takes the ship in. We saw an incredible amount of sea-life on the wreck. We also saw an incredible amount of divers, too. I've been very spoiled in my dives prior to this one - groups as small as three divers. Not the case in St. Thomas, but well worth the day of diving. Looking forward to my next dives in the Caribbean - Belize and Cozymel in January and Nassau in February!

As always, my husband shot some incredible photos on our trip. Check out his posts from the Bahamas and St. Thomas!

Friday, November 4, 2011

La Nouba

Last night, Jason, G'ma Joyce, Aunt Irene and I went to see Cirque du Soleil's La Nouba at Downtown Disney. It was pretty darn spectacular! I love Cirque du Soleil - O at the Bellagio in Las Vegas is still the best thing I have EVER seen on stage. But, La Nouba was pretty fantastic, too. It's the combination of clowning, spectacle and sheer beauty that just makes my heart sing. I'm probably the ideal viewer for Cirque, honestly. I'm captivated by all of it - every moment. Plus last night, I was inspired to pick up juggling again, and I've asked Jason for a Diablo for Christmas. It's time to start playing with those again! Anyhow, it was a blast, and it was so fun to go and see it. Such a nice treat!!!!!

L to R: Aunt Irene, G'ma Joyce and I at La Nouba.
G'ma Joyce isn't THAT small - I was wearing shoes that make me about 5 inches taller. :)

Since we'd been at Cirque du Soleil, I thought you'd get a kick out of this pic from Circus school in Bristol, UK.
I've been to Circus School AND studied Clown while I was in College - the most difficult and most rewarding class I ever took!

Today is mani/pedi day, and tomorrow we board our ship in Cape Canaveral and head for the Caribbean. First stop? Nassau, Bahamas for some fun in the Straw Market and exploration. :) I'm sure it will be easy to find Jason and I tomorrow after we board. It is College Football Game Day, so best guess? Sports bar - after all LSU and Alabama play each other tomorrow. I'm rooting for the LSU Tigers and their Coach, Les Miles. After all, Les Miles is a Michigan Man. :) Plus, my 7-1 Wolverines will be playing in Iowa tomorrow. Go Blue!

Can't wait for all the new adventures we're about to embark on. Not sure if I'll be blogging from the ship - if I don't, I'll be sure to do some posting as soon as we get back!

Indy hopes you had a Happy Howl-o-ween!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Lunch with Annie

On Tuesday, I got to spend several hours with my mom's half-sister, Annie. It was so much fun - we had lunch, did some window shopping, picked up my cousin Gracie at school, got some frozen yogurt, and talked a million miles an hour. She looks so much like my mom - when she dropped my off at my in-laws house and met everyone, they couldn't believe the similarities - it was just like talking to my mom, they said. Our Italian (Sicilian) gene pool runs deep - Gracie is built just like my sister Kelli was at that age, and Kelli is so much like Annie - in style, in personality, and in those genes. Annie was even wearing an outfit that I think my sister owns! Anyhow, it was a blast - I'm so glad that we were able to find the time to get together. Thank you Annie and Gracie for a great day!!!!

Yes, sometimes it can get cold in Florida - we were a little chilly!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Pumpkin Time!

Today is Halloween, so naturally we had to do some pumpkin carving yesterday! Catherine had picked up two pumpkins and Marvel Comic Patterns for carving. Jason and I teamed up to get them carved - I poked in the design pattern and he carved them out. He definitely had the tougher job - mine was to make a sort of connect the dots pattern for him. :) I can't be trusted to carve intricate designs anyhow - they'd be a disaster if I had carved them! Anyhow, Jason chose the HULK pattern and I (naturally) chose WOLVERINE - not just because Hugh Jackman is such a cutie, but because it's great to be a Michigan Wolverine! (7-1, baby!) I wanted to carve an M into my Wolverine pumpkin, but they were very time consuming. Maybe next year! So here are some photos from pumpkin carving!

Today was supposed to be the day for Epcot and the Food and Wine Festival they host there every year. Unfortunately, it's pouring today and Jason's sick, so we're postponing until either Thursday, or right after we get off the cruise ship. It's all good - no one wants to walk around Epcot in the pouring rain!

Tomorrow is lunch with my mom's half sister, Annie. That's a story for another time, but just know that in addition to my mom's adoptive family in California, she also has her birth father's family in Florida. Annie and her family moved to Orlando last year, so we're going to get to see each other tomorrow. Should be fun!

How Indy spent the afternoon after killing another lizard. The dead lizard count stands at 3. Poor little lizards!

XMEN WOLVERINE! Ferocious, isn't he? GO BLUE!

Jason carving THE HULK!

Hulk and Wolverine get set outside to greet trick-or-treaters!


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Wyoming to Florida

We are in Florida, and the weather is perfect - warm and only slightly humid and different enough from Wyoming to remind me that we are on a FOUR MONTH VACATION. Granted, we'll do some work during those four months, but mostly, we're on vacation, and it is so good.

We got all settled in today after driving in at about 5pm yesterday. Instead of unpacking, we just decided to visit with Jason's family, and after a slow start this morning, are unpacked. The Hummer is getting new tires put on it (it was time, and we had budgeted for it), Jason changed the oil on it, and Indy's chasing Bugs and Frogs and Lizards and Cats around the screened in pool.

It's great. I'm still having trouble accepting that we really are ON VACATION, but I couldn't ask for a more different change in climate to help me accept that. Life is so good.

Back to our road trip:

Monday, we drove 900 miles from the Ranch outside of Cody, Wyoming to Lincoln, Nebraska. Home of the cornhuskers. At dinner that night, Jason was sitting next to a wall of Nebraska Cornhusker memorabilia, wearing his MICHIGAN long sleeve. Welcome to the Big Ten. I tried to get a photo of him, but he was REALLY tired after driving so far and wasn't in the mood. Not that I can blame him!

Indy the Road Warrior

Tuesday, we slept late and didn't get started until about 8am (late compared to our 5am start the day before). We drove ANOTHER 900 miles from Lincoln, Nebraska to Manchester, TN (about an hour Southeast of Nashville). Basically, Missouri was a lot like Nebraska, but with a lot more trees and more roadkill than I ever thought possible! We drove in Nebraska, across Missouri, down through Illinois, cut the corner of Kentucky (in the dark - couldn't see any of it!), and finally into Tennessee. With the exception of Illinois, all of the states we hit that day were new ones for me! We also managed to drive through St. Louis and past the Cardinals stadium the day before the World Series game, and I got to see the arch. Since we were stuck in traffic (hello, culture shock!), I was able to get a photo out the window for my dad. Cool. :) We also crossed over the Mississippi, but I was too busy looking at the arch to notice it. All good - we'll be driving back and forth across the country several times, and I'll be able to give the river my FULL attention next time!


St. Louis Arch and Cardinal Stadium

Wednesday, Jason was so excited that he woke up at 5:45 and was ready to roll. I was not thrilled to be woken up from a sound sleep, but totally understood his excitement and put my game face on. We drove through the Smoky Mountains at Sunrise headed towards Chattanooga - incredible. Interesting fact - the Smokies look so Smoky because the warm, humid air travels up from the Gulf of Mexico and as it cools over the mountains creates a fog. They are always foggy, and the effect looks like smoke - hence, their name! Anyhow, they were SPECTACULARLY beautiful and worth the early rise to see them. Then it was South through Georgia (also a first for me - I'd only ever flown through the Atlanta airport on layovers, so this was my first actual trip through the state), and then even more south into Florida. 600 miles and about nine hours later, we were in Orlando. It felt like it took forever, probably because the end was in sight.

The Smokies at sunrise, viewed through the bug carnage on the windshield.

Anyhow - we are here! Vacation has begun! I get to wake up to this view every morning for the next ten days, until we head to the Caribbean! Wish you were here with us? Indy thinks you should be - he just killed a lizard.

Pool, patio, screened in porch (no mosquitos!) and the lake!