Saturday, October 24, 2009

101 Update - part 2

51.  Get my car windows tinted - Yay another check!  Darren did this for me for my birthday.  It looks so good and I can definitely tell a difference inside!  We've started calling my car the mafia car since it is black and now has dark windows.

60.  Hike on a glacier - this almost feels like cheating hehe.  Yes we did this while we were in Alaska.  It was one of the things I was most looking forward to and one of the things I enjoyed the least.  I was sick that day, and our tour guide was going way too fast for me.  So I spent all my time trying to keep up and not slip on the ice and fall to my death - there was no time left to enjoy it.  I'm still glad I did it.  And I think it had potential.  Just due to scheduling on our part we had to "hurry" and that was a bad idea.

65.  Visit 2 friends out of state - I did go visit my friend Laura in Baltimore.  That was a fun trip!

69.  Get money back for Portugal tiles - Here's another one with an exciting outcome!  While on our honeymoon we ordered handpainted tiles that said "Casa Gibson".  They said it would take about 2 months to arrive.  So we waited, and waited.  We emailed and called and all to no response.  We had basically given up on ever seeing these and just wanted our money back (it was a decent enough chunk of change to pursue it.)  Then, out of nowhere, they showed up on our doorstep in early September.  Seriously, 7 months later.  Seven Months.  Who would've thought?!?  But we have them now and all is well with the world again.

73.  Learn 5 ways to cook fish - Well considering we shipped home 50 pounds of fish after our fishing adventure in Alaska, you'd think I'd have this one done in no time!  I have learned on new excellent method of baking fish that I've tried twice.  I should post the recipe here soon.  we still have a freezer full of fish, so hopefully I will be trying more new things here in the future.

85.  Make cute baby gift for friend's new baby - I knitted a multicolored blanket for Laura.  I'm so excited for her and her pregnancy, and I can't wait for her baby to (hopefully) enjoy the first blanket I ever made.  yay!

86.  Go to a UF football game - We bought tickets on ebay for the UF-Tennessee game and it was awesome.  We also have tickets for the Vanderbilt game coming up and I can't wait!  Two games in one year, this is great!  Go Gators!

88.  Get 6 new stamps in my passport - I ended up with 3 stamps after this tri p to Alaska.  Ironic huh?  Getting that many stamps on a US trip. While in Haines, we rented a car and drove into Canada for the day, thus getting a British Columbia stamp on the way in and an Alaska stamp on the way out.  Then, our cruise docked in Vancouver where I only got one new stamp.  I'm very pleased since this is a brand new passport (due to name change) and it was looking quite lonely and empty before.

89.  Get 2 more astronaut signatures - Recently, I was able to get Tom Stafford's autograph, who flew on Apollo 10.  There is an autograph show coming up here at KSC soon where I hope to get Fred Haise's autograph.  He was the lunar module pilot on Apollo 13.  That will leave only 4 Apollo astronaut signatures I don't have who are still alive - Frank Borman, Neil Armstrong, Ken Mattingly, and Bill Anders.  Anybody happen to be related to one of them?

94.  Develop a mail filing system - Well we've started on this, although I wouldn't say it is without its kinks.  This definitely needs some more work.

99.  Hike 100 miles - I didn't mean all at once when I wrote this.  I meant cumulative.  I would guess that in Alaska our total was somewhere around 20 miles of hiking, but I will have to give this some more thought.

Friday, October 23, 2009

101 Update - part 1

It's been a while since we've looked at the list, so let's do a quick check-up.

1.  Create a website for spachulas - well the domain name has been bought  (not by us, but by a friend who was "helping" us out.  that makes me a little :-/).  Work has not actually begun on the site yet though.  The blog is showing slightly more progress, with at least a design and an introductory post.  This all needs a lot more work and we just need to make it a priority.

3.  Create a wedding album - I did!  I finally finished it after soooo much work.  And it's so beautiful.  I'm very proud.  EXCEPT (and there's always and except isn't there?)  Two of the pages were printed incorrectly.  And the company graciously offered to reprint it for me if I would remake the two pages how they are supposed to be (I guess they only have the corrupted files.)  I unfortunately have been dragging my heels on doing this and the changes have not been made yet.

4.  Renovate the bathrooms - Well you all know this is in progress.  We have hit a little snafu lately, but that is another topic for another day.

10.  Tell my grandparents I love them - A few months ago we went to North Carolina for my grandmother's funeral.  It was sad amd a relief all at the same time.  I was able to spend some good time with my grandfather which I am grateful for.  I'd like a chance to visit my grandparents in Virginia sometime soon, but am having trouble finding a good time to go.

14. Knit gifts for everyone for Christmas - I've been knitting a bunch lately.  I doubt there will be gifts for "everyone" this year, maybe next.  It's so relaxing though, I really enjoy it.

16.  Learn how to shoot in manual mode on my camera - I did a lot of learning before our trip to Alaska, and I am now able to put it in manual mode and take decent pictures.  I know what aperture, shutter speed, ISO, metering, and white balance mean, and I am learning how to adjust all those knobs to get the look I want.  I still have a long way to go, but it's encouraging to even be able to take these first steps.  My favorite setting is still aperture priority, especially taking advantage of my 50mm f1.8 lens!

23. Go on a backpacking trip - Our time in Denali was a pseudo-backpacking trip.  I don't think it quite counts for the spirit of this goal.  I'm sure we'll have other trips in the future though!

24.  Move the piano to our house - Check and check!  I hired movers a few weeks ago to do this.  Now I just need to get it tuned (it sounds awful) and maybe try to carve out a little time to play.  I know when I was younger playing the piano was a big stress relief outlet for me.

26.  Plant a garden - Wellll... we now have basil and cilantro in pots on our front porch.  That must count for something??  j/k.  Our current plan has us using this winter to get the "garden" plot ready, and planting our first go round in the late winter/early spring - basically whenever the season starts down here in FL.

32.  Finish the FAS model project - this is a project I have at work and I swear it is going to be the death of me.  That is all.

34. Buy a suit - This might actually happen this weekend.  I am presenting in a pretty important review on monday that I need a suit for.   I'm going shopping tomorrow, but might just borrow one from a friend if I don't find anything. 

35.  Learn 5 new crockpot recipes - Just this past week I made apricot chicken from this recipe.  I was kind of middle of the road in my opinion of this.  Maybe next time I will try it with chicken breasts instead, I think I might enjoy that more.

39.  Go on a US vacation each year - Well Alaska definitely counts for this year.  We're also going to DC next weekend for a quick trip.

42.  Sneak into a movie - I did this with My Sister's Keeper and The Hangover.  Went to the first movie with some girlfriends, and the guys joined us for the second.  As much as I hate to say it, I think I enjoyed The Hangover more.  I love My Sister's Keeper as a book, so of course the movie just wasn't quite as good.

43.  Read 50 books - I am keeping track of that here.

44.  Blog more regularly - 50 new posts - Well this post makes 12.

50.  Give away something that I could've sold - We gave our kitchen table and chairs to Darren's brothers when we got a new one.  I don't think I'll count this one as done yet, because there's something of a generous attitude in this that is really the point.  I have a tendency to be a tiny bit stingy when it comes to money, that is something I am still working on.

This is getting long so I think I will save the second half of the list for tomorrow!  That is a good sign though, it must mean I am getting things done.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


So I really meant to post a little more about our Alaska trip, but I keep getting distracted by all the craziness going on next door to my bedroom.  ie. the bathroom.  Or in it's current state I guess it would be correct to call it the empty room with the hole in the floor, or something like that.

Let me back up a bit.  Before the hole in the floor, there was the hole in the wall.  When we took down the medicine cabinet, we discovered this gem hiding behind it.  Nice, huh?  Like whoever did this last just didn't feel like fixing anything else and thought, eh, it'll be covered up, no biggie.

Now we're getting somewhere.  Here's the shower in the middle of the demo process.  Filled with debris.  Doesn't a picture like this just warm your heart a little?  Right..?

It's so hard to take good photos in such a little space.  Below, everything is out (tile, walls, floor, shower, toilet, etc) and we're about to sledgehammer our way through to the guest bedroom.

This is looking a little scary.  (Do those walls looks pink to you?  This is the "beige" Darren picked out before I was ever in the picture.  I like to tease him that he painted the bedroom pink.)

Yesterday, we had a plumber come to redo the piping in the floor.  Since we're rearranging the layout of the room, the pipes needed to be moved.  We're basically looking at the dirt underneath our house.  This stuff hasn't seen the light of day in 45 years.  It was a noisy, messy day, but they got everything done.  Today they came back and repoured concrete in the hole.  We'll give it a few days, and then we plan to start rebuilding the wall this coming weekend.  Progress!  Yes!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

What we have planned

As a followup to my last post, I thought I'd say a little about our plans for the bathroom. Currently, it's the master bathroom, but our grand plan involves turning it into the guest bathroom, and vice versa.

These drawings are NOT to scale (please remember that!), but they convey the general idea of what we want to do. First, is the current configuration. Tiny master bath, long skinny guest bath, TINY master closet, etc. By switching the bathrooms, we hope to solve a lot of the "problems", as well as making them extra nice in the process. :)

Next, you can see what our final plan is. The small bathroom will make a nice guest bath, and that is the one we are working on first. The larger bathroom will be combined with the extra closet space (linen and AC) to make a mini master bath "suite". The closet should increase in size, which will be amazing, and the rest of the bathroom should be laid out a little better as well. It looks a little squished in the drawing, but I think that's just due to my hastily drawn not to scale model. We've handdrawn the layout to scale and it looks really good.

As for what is going in the bathroom, we've picked out a few things. Here's the sink we want. I think it's a really classy alternative when you have a small space that will only fit a pedestal style sink. This is from the "Archer" series by Kohler. I also like the idea of the blue walls, I'm thinking about doing something like that, but there's more time for those decisions later.

Here's a picture of the bathtub we're getting (minus the whirlpool jets). It's a soaking tub, so it's a little deeper than your standard tub. We also want to get the drop-in style, and do a tile deck around it like in the picture. Our tile will be different, of course, although we haven't picked it out yet.
So that's basically where we are so far. This weekend is demo weekend, so we'll have some pictures of that soon.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Bathroom - Before

When Darren and I were engaged and trying to decide where to live after getting married, there was only one request I made. If we were to move into his house, please, for the love of everything holy, could we redo the master bath. Seriously. Not only is terribly outdated and ugly, but it is just, well, nasty. In the almost 9 months that I have been living here, I have been avoiding the master and using the guest bath.

After much debate and research, we have finally begun! We've made some decisions, drawn up some plans, and started the demolition earlier this week. We'll be doing 90% of the work ourselves, so this might take awhile, but I can't wait!

So, to kick this all off, I thought I'd share a few of our "before" pictures. Goodbye bathroom!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Denali National Park

The first big adventure of our trip was Denali National Park. We were so excited about this part of our trip that we gave it almost 5 full days and did not disappoint in the least. It seems like most people who travel to Alaska just take a cruise, but I can't tell you enough how amazing the rest of the state is. Denali is only a few hours from Anchorage and truly a must-see to get a real sense of the Alaskan wilderness.
Denali National Park is named for Mt McKinley, which is called 'Denali', meaning 'the great one' in the native language. The park covers over 6 million acres, but there is only ONE road to the interior. Did you hear that, just one 90-mile road. In 6 million acres. Can you imagine that? Literally, as far as the eye can see, there is no one, save the chance backpacker. The road is like this tiny slit cut into the vast land to give us a peak, but just a peak, at the secrets it holds. (OK, this is getting a little too deep for even me. But I loved it, ok? Moving on...)

The system they have for park visitors is really ingenious. Generally speaking, you can't drive your own car into the park. Instead, they have a system of shuttle buses. Picture below - pretty sweet, eh? Well, they'll do. But it's so nice not having the roads clogged up with everyone's cars. The buses will stop for any wildlife you spot, so there's plenty of picture taking opportunities. You can also get off anywhere you want, and then just hop on any other bus that comes by later. Really, any random spot along the road you'd like to get off is fair game. There are almost no hiking trails in the park, they encourage people to spread out and hike whereever you'd like with the goal of not creating trails. Amazing.

We camped the first night at the park entrance, and then the next 3 nights at Wonder Lake, which is around mile 85 of the 90 mile road. During those days we'd catch the bus early in the morning and ride towards the entrance. Then at some random awesome looking spot we'd get off, get ourselves lost, and hopefully find our way back to the road before the last bus heading into the park drove past. It was a little annoying making sure we were at the road at the right time, since the later buses were a little sparser (since the majority of the people are headed the opposite direction by that time of day), but other than that it was a really great system.

The picture below is Wonder Lake. On a clear day, you'd be able to see Denali (Mt. McKinley) in the distance, reflected in the lake. I do have some "clear day" pictures of the mountain, but I'll save that for another post. Don't want to spoil the surprise!

The next picture is the view from our campsite. I think we were making dinner when we spotted this rainbow off in the distance. It was a little weird how it stayed light for some many hours of the day. There were only something like 4 hours of darkness every night, and I know I slept through them every night we were camping! I was so exhausted after the days' activities.

Just so gorgeous.... You don't get this kind of view from a cruise ship.

Friday, September 18, 2009


I wanted to blog a little more in depth about our trip to Alaska, so it seems like the best place to start would be our physical starting place - Anchorage. Granted, we were only there for about 18 hours total. And I have almost no pictures. But I'll give you what I got, practical, fun, or otherwise.

First, renting a car in Alaska. This was a huge expense. Not only did we want a minivan for 10 days, but we also wanted it to be a oneway rental. You can imagine how not cheap that was. The oneway rental was because our cruise was leaving from Seward, so we wanted to drop the car off there. There are several train or bus options between Anchorage and Seward, but in the end that wasn't practical for us.

There are 2 main things we did to save money on the car. One, I joined AAA for their 15% discount at Hertz. Yes this rental was expensive enough that the money saved more than covered the cost of membership. Two, we didn't rent from the airport in Anchorage (see you knew I had to tie this in to Anchorage eventually). Here's the secret - Hertz has another rental office a mere 10 minutes away from the airport. They close at 5pm, but as long as your plane arrives before then, just hop in a quick cab and go pick up your car there. We saved over $600 from this alone. Not bad for a $20 cab ride.

Here's where we stayed - the Arctic Adventure Hostel. At less then $50 a night for a room for two, this was a great deal compared to other options in Anchorage. True, the bathroom was shared, but I'll tell you I've stayed at a lot of hostels and I had absolutely no complaints about this one. The people who ran it were super friendly, and even offered us some bear spray and fuel for our camp stove that other guests had left behind.

Meet Dave. Dave is a buddy who travelled with us on this trip. (There were 5 total, plus my family joined us later for the cruise.) You see that shirt Dave is wearing? Can you make out what it says? Let me tell you - Snow City Cafe. Seriously, best. breakfast. ever. If you are ever in Anchorage, please please go there for breakfast. Then take pictures so I can drool all over my keyboard in envy. Or maybe not.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


Alaska has always held a special appeal for me. When I was younger it seemed to be a land of mystery, a land of adventure. Anything could happen there; it was so far away, you could be anyone you wanted. My best friend and I even made up secret identities who were always getting into mischief together in Alaska. Maybe it something about the fact that it's not connected to the rest of the United States. Or maybe it's all that snow that fascinated a Florida girl, born and raised.
To say that it was breathtaking, is in a word, cliche. But also so true. It was just so... vast. Denali National Park was incredible. Wildlife (bears, eek!) spotting was fun, though the numbers certainly didn't compare to Yellowstone. But the expanse, the emptiness... the land was untouched, the way you imagine this world was supposed to be.

We had the chance to go flightseeing, to see areas of this earth that no man has walked on. to see paths carved out by glaciers that were so perfect, so pristine. Glaciers that may not even exist 30 years from now.
And the other adventures - hiking, kayaking, fishing, glacier trekking... There was so much to do. We were completely exhausted by the end of the trip but it was worth it!
Then of course, we took a cruise. It was nice to have a little bit of relaxing at the end. To be a little pampered with the fancy dinners and room stewards who cleaned your room not once but twice a day!
We loved it all. We already have a list of things we want to see and do the next time we get a chance to go. I do believe our next trip won't include a cruise though. There is just too much to see in Alaska to spend so much time sitting around a pool on a boat. Alaska is about being outdoors. It's about pushing yourself to try things you couldn't at home, about enjoying the undending beauty. It's a land of mystery and adventure.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles


whew. I have been a travelling fool for the past month. First, we took a trip to Alaska for a glorious 18 days, which was awesome by the way, and I will hopefully be blogging quite a bit about it soon. Next, I went to Denver for work 2 weeks in a row. This is the first week that I will actually be at home all week in over a month. Man, I'm exhausted just thinking about it again. I mean, I love Denver and all, but 2 quick work trips with barely any breathing time in between? It's not all that.

But, a few good things did come out of these couple work trips. First, for the first time in my life, I am now actually a Premier flyer on United. What does that mean, exactly? Well for one, I can sit in the "Economy Plus" section of the plane - basically in the front, with a few more inches of leg room. So for someone short like me, it doesn't really make a big difference, except that I feel so much more special sitting there hehe. I can also check a bag for free, although when travelling for work that fee would get reimbursed anyway. So really, there's not much change, but somehow I feel like my life is more complete now. Or something like that. Maybe I have a problem...

Second, this last trip earned me enough miles to get a free ticket. That is a pretty self explanatory yay! Our goal is to use that to fly Darren out to CA in December when I am out there for (you guessed it) work. Unfortunately it is so hard to plan ahead because the launch could get delayed by a few days, or even months, you just never know. But still, free flights always make me happy :)


Yeah I don't really have anything to say about trains. My husband has an unhealthy obsession with them. That's about it.


My car was acting up recently. I don't know how to say it other than while driving, I would randomly loose the power to accelerate. The engine would still be on, but it was like the car was in idle, and would just coast along, no matter how hard I pushed on the gas pedal. So I'd pull over, turn the car off, turn it back on, and everything was fine in the world again, until of course it decided to do a repeat performance every few miles down the road.

But this was my 2006 Toyota! not my cringe-inducing Saturn (*worst car ever*). I was distraught, to say the least. But what I discovered is that having car problems is not nearly as bad when you are married. Especially when your husband works at the same place as you. There's no more worrying about getting rides everywhere. No more worrying about how long it will be in the shop. I was fully prepared to drop it off for a week or more, cause you know, I kinda like having Darren drive me around everywhere. :)

So I dropped it off at the dealership Sunday afternoon, a little nervous about the cost. I got a call about an hour later saying they had found the problem, and I could come pick it up. errm, what? What about fixing it, how much is this going to cost me? Do I need to put back all these nice plants I have in my cart because I'm now broke due to car repairs? No! apparently it was just a computer problem that is covered under my warranty! What, I have a warranty? Um, I mean of course I do. (I had no idea, really. I bought the car used, after all.)

So now my car is fixed and my bank account is completely unaffected! Except, of course, for all the lovely plants we bought for the front yard. once we get the mulch in i'll take some pictures!

Friday, July 31, 2009


I've never been a sporty girl. I was in the marching band, not on the soccer team. I was in the girl scouts, not playing softball. And so on. So I feel a little behind when it comes to playing even casual games with friends. I usually suck, which is where everyone starts out, right? But most other people have gotten past the sucking stage by this point in life. It's very discouraging.

Darren and some of his coworkers having started playing tennis after work once a week. He's been telling me every week that I should give it a try, so I finally decided why not? First, I needed a tennis racket. We went to Walmart, and he was trying to tell me all about how to pick one that was the right size for me and everything else. But I saw this and I decided based purely on the fact that it was pink and "cute" that this was my new tennis racket. What can I say, sometimes cuteness is more important than random facts that I don't understand. :)

Playing was actually pretty fun. I did suck. Definitely sucked. But that was ok. I had the most fun when we were just hitting it around, practicing, with no real rules. But playing an actual game was ok too, although it seems like 90% of the time that I hit the ball it went out of bounds. But I had some good moments, too, and that might be enough to get me back again next time. It was definitely a good workout - lots of quick sprints back and forth on the court, but time to relax in between too, especially since we were playing doubles. I think I'll take this over going to the gym, even if I am terrible at it. I can only get better, right?

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