Monday, January 25, 2010

Oh when the Saints go marching in...

Geaux Saints!!

This year we are both so pumped for the Superbowl! I (Sheila) have to mention that New Orleans has a special spot in my heart for several reasons. A dear cousin of mine is a Hurricane Katrina survivor. She actually worked for the Superdome, which housed over 26,000 people when Katrina hit! It's easy to forget about the mess there, but one of my classmates at the Mandel Center worked for Habitat restoring and building homes in New Orleans, so it comes up often. Thinking about Cleveland's smaller downfalls (bankruptcy, river on fire, massive layoffs, etc.) and knowing how long and hard it is for us to bounce back, I truly believe we all need to root for New Orleans' survival and growth as a city. A football team can play a huge part in that effort. We hope to see all of you who are in Cleveland at our Superbowl party in a couple weeks!

Superdome After Katrina

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Carnival Pride!

The end of the semester and holiday season were so busy that they made the school year seem leisurely and relaxed in comparison! Fortunately, everything turned out well though--my last final went quite well despite the fact that I had a harrowing experience while submitting it and our Christmas celebrations with family and friends were very blessed and enjoyable. To top it all off, the Browns won their last 4 games and the Cavs beat the Lakers on Christmas Day! Needless to say, I was excited about going on the cruise and relaxing. Of course, I was super nervous before we left because I was afraid that we had forgot something! (As it turned out, the only thing that we forgot was my sandals. *Side note from Sheila: "And ONE of my flipflops!")

We have been on many trips since we got married, but this would be our longest one (longer, in fact, than our honeymoon!). Although we were a bit worried about getting bored, we were definitely excited to have some time to relax and to enjoy some sunny weather in the Caribbean.
Doing this day-by-day would be far too long, so I think I'll just cover the highlights and the lowlights of the trip. Of course, Sheila put up plenty of pictures on Facebook for your viewing pleasure!


--By far, one of the highlights of the trip was having the opportunity to spend a lot of time relaxing. I've forgotten how great it can be to relax and read all day long! I read a great book about three families on welfare, which taught me a lot about the intricacies of the American welfare system and various attempts to reform it. I also began reading Twilight, but this endeavor coincided with the beginning of the Jets\Bengals game, and I didn't get much read.

--Eating in the Normandie Dining Room. Every element of the cruise dining experience was fantastic. Initially, we were scheduled to eat by ourselves every night. However, we realized that doing that would mean that we would talk to nobody but each other for the entire week! Thus, we switched over to the late seating. We were seated with two older ladies who were friends and two younger girls who were sisters; we hit it off very well with them, and it was definitely sad to say goodbye at the end of the week. Sheila and I have been on three cruises together, and we have had great dinner companions every time! Our head waitress was named Martina and she was great--we had excellent service all week long and she was very friendly as well! I was particularly impressed with the fact that they picked up on my beverage preferences and towards the end of the trip I started getting an iced tea brought at the start of the meal without having to even ask for it. Of course, the food was amazing. The varied selection of food was impressive and I was able to try many foods that I had seen on the Food Network such as chilled fruit soups and various desserts. Best of all, everyone at the table ordered multiple items at each course, so we didn't feel bad about doing so either =)

--Our airboat ride in Port Canaveral. Neither of us had ever been on an airboat before, and I was especially interested in going on one after seeing Kourtney and Khloe Kardashian ride around on one when their car ran out of gas in The Everglades. Although the ride was frigid, the ride was beautiful and a lot of fun! We saw a ton of birds, including a very cute mother stork and her little flock of baby storks. Although we didn't see any gators in the wild, we did have the opportunity to see a tame gator and some other tame wild animals up close because a woman from a local wild animal rescue was there with some animals who are too tame to be in the wild and need homes. Sheila even got to hold the gator...and both of us even got to eat gator, since all who attended the airboat ride got fried alligator bites! It was yummy--a bit sweet and a bit salty!

--Atlantis! I had seen the commercials on TV and looked at it from afar during our previous two trips to Nassau, but I had never been there. We finally decided to make the trek over on our own after looking at the price of the shore excursion. All of the reports of crime in Nassau made us a bit nervous, but I felt pretty comfortable after I saw that the taxicab company was licensed and that it was operating in plain view right at the port's entrance, complete with a booth inside of the passport processing area. I didn't know what to expect, and both of us were pretty disappointed at first because it seemed that we couldn't see much without paying. We bit the bullet and paid using the money that we had originally been given for a different shore excursion--what a great decision! I had a blast--Sheila almost had to drag me out of there! The resort itself was gorgeous--I can't wait until we can stay there--and the aquarium and re-created Atlantis in "The Dig" were amazing! We talked about going to Bobby Flay's restaurant to share an appetizer for lunch, but unfortunately it was located in a part of the resort that was available to guests only.

--The piano bar! Sheila and I had a great time at the Schooner Bar on our last cruise and we were excited about hearing some live music on this one. We had been listening to a lot of Billy Joel and Elton John while studying for finals too. Anyhow, the guy at the piano bar was awesome--he played for long stretches of time without a break and everyone sang along and had a great time. Many of the entertainers on the boat talked way too much in between the songs or took too many breaks. The variety in songs could have been a bit better, but you can't beat hearing a lot of Elton John and Billy Joel on a regular basis.


--We had the misfortune of frequently sitting next to people who thought that it was perfectly fine to talk during the evening entertainment. I find that to be very distracting to my viewing experience and very disrespectful to the people who rehearse and work hard to put on great shows each night. Most of these chatterboxes were my age or younger. I don't know if they happened to congregate on the second and third levels of the theatre--we sat there because the seats were much more comfortable--but in any case, it definitely was something that hadn't been much of a problem on our earlier cruises.

--Many of the guests also seemed to be in a every-person-for-themselves mentality on the cruise and there was TONS of congestion and waiting. Lunch was especially bad--the lines were exceptionally long all of the time! Someone literally cut in front of Sheila to try to get some of the pizza that we had ordered and I had to literally yell over him to get our pizza. Is this how it is on longer cruises with more people? Man, I can't imagine what it's like on the Oasis of the Seas! (That's the biggest cruise ship in the business; it just opened up in December, and I am excited about going on it in the future!) People would stop and have conversations in the middle of a walkway like there was nobody else around or something.

--The weather was definitely a bit of a downer. I had expected it to be cold for the first few days, but the weather in Port Canaveral and Nassau was colder than expected. I didn't mind too much--I like it a bit cooler--but Sheila was pretty bummed. Fortunately, God blessed us with wonderful weather in Freeport, allowing us to take home some pretty nice suntans. In addition to the cold, the ocean was also pretty turbulent. I felt awful on the second day, but I'm not sure if that had to do with the brilliant idea of doing stomach exercises right after I ate or the waves. Praise God that I didn't throw up and that we were fine for the vast majority of the trip!

All in all, it was a great end to Christmas break, and it definitely helped us to get rested up after a long and hard semester! We were truly blessed and it was a fabulous time.

RIP Scruffy

Such a sweet dog. Isn't this a beautiful picture? He didn't look so 'spritely' towards the end. Anyway, sometimes it just feels good to care about something so innocent when the rest of the world isn't so blameless.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year! Wow, we've been behind in posting. We're enjoying our break in Potomac, Maryland. Tomorrow we are headed out for not-so-sunny-and-warm cruising for a week! Here's our home for the next week, sailing from Baltimore, MD to Orlando, FL and the Bahamas:

Anyway, it's been great seeing some year-in-review blog posts and photos! Hopefully we'll get a decent post done soon, along with some New Years Resolutions. Thus far, the year is off to a great start... stereotypical resolutions aside, we are already feeling the need to rely on God deeply and faithfully this year. We are hoping that this year's events will include:
  • Sheila's graduation
  • Joe's second (hopefully awesome) legal job
  • Joe and Sheila's MPRE (professional ethics exam)
  • Sheila's Ohio bar exam (all three days of it...)
  • Joe's last birthday of his 20's
  • Our third wedding anniversary (and sixth year together!)
  • At least 4 weddings of dear friends - including another stint as a bridesmaid for Sheila!
  • Sheila's first permanent, full-time job
  • Sheila's swearing-in as an attorney
  • Our first law school student loan payment :-(
  • A highly unlikely move from the Lovenest in Little Italy
  • The birth of our first child (JUST KIDDING!)
It will certainly be a roller coaster year. So, we're kicking off the New Year with a bang. We can't wait to spend 2010 with you all. Bon Voyage!

Joe & Sheila