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Celebrating My Sister’s Wedding with a Family Cruise

12 Dec


We had the BEST time last week on our amazing cruise! I’ve actually been putting off writing this post because I’ve just been savoring it and don’t want to admit that it’s over.

As I’ve mentioned before, this is a year of weddings. My brother (Jason) got married in September, my sister (Kelsey) is getting married in May and my other sister (Katie) got married last week… in St. Thomas.

For Katie’s wedding, she decided to have an amazing cruise vacation on the Oasis of the Seas with 60 of her closest friends and family. The ship cruised out of Florida and then had three stops – Nassau, Bahamas, St.Thomas, and St. Martin – as well as a few days at sea. While on the ship we had her bachelorette party, an amazing rehearsal dinner, a cocktail hour, group dinners in the dining room, etc. The actual wedding was held on St. Thomas at Villa Botanica, their botanical gardens.

I could go through the entire week day-by-day, but I thought it would be more fun to just hit some of the highlights!

What I read:

I was super excited to turn off my phone (and all social media) for the duration of the trip. I had asked you all for some book recommendations before I left and you certainly delivered! Many of the suggestions are on my ‘to be requested at my local library list’, but I did download a bunch of books to my Kindle (mostly free) and got some reading done.

  • The Magnolia Story, by Chip and Joanna Gaines
  • Match Making for Beginners, by Maddie Dawson
  • The Kiss Quotient, by Helen Hoang

I loved all three of the books and highly recommend all of them. The first two books were free on Kindle Unlimited and The Kiss Quotient cost $10 to download (but you could probably reserve it at your library if you are patient).

What we did on the ship:

The Oasis of the Seas was an amazingly huge ship… much bigger than any ship I’ve cruised on before. In fact, the balcony in our room overlooked Central Park… an actual PARK with living greenery in the center of the ship. There were tons of places to eat, as well as lots of different activities like the kid’s camp, zip lining, and rock climbing. There was even an ice skating rink and an aqua stage.

 Jack loved the kid’s camp, especially when they offered science lab and art studio activities. We also all tried rock climbing, and Travis and I both did the zip line across the ship. Travis and I also took a sushi making class where we learned how to make our own sushi!

We also saw a bunch of shows… our favorites being a diving show at the aqua theater, Fly With Me (a show with aerial acrobatics), and Frozen in Time (an ice skating show).

We also ate ALL the food. The rehearsal dinner was at 150 Central Park and it knocked our socks off!

{In this photo from left to right is: Jack, me, Katie (the bride), Kelsey (her twin), and Jaclyn (my new sister, by way of my brother’s marriage). Me, Kelsey and Jaclyn are all about the same height within an inch or so… Jaclyn is just wearing super tall heels. And yes, we all kind of look alike!}

What we did off the ship:

Nassau: For our Nassau, Bahamas stop we decided to book an excursion which took us by ferry to the Blue Lagoon Island and included a Stingray Encounter. Upon arrival, we spent the first portion of the day sipping fruity drinks and floating around the ocean.

At the end of the day, we walked over to the animal area to learn about and touch the stingrays. Jack wanted NOTHING to do with them, but both Travis and I were able to pet the stingray, kiss it, and even put our fingers in its mouth to feel its teeth.

Yeah, that’s right. I put my finger IN a stingray.

And I totally love that photo of my husband cracking up!

 St. Martin: I’ve been to St. Martin a few times before and it is one of my favorite islands. I spent a week there about 15 years ago with my friend Annie and have re-visited the island a couple more times on cruises. Once we got off the Oasis, we walked a bit, grabbed a taxi, and then rode the scenic route over to Mullet Bay.

The water was perfect. The beach was perfect. I basically never wanted to leave.

The wedding:

St. Thomas: Due to an emergency on board the ship, we ended up getting to St. Thomas later than planned. However, even with a little delay the wedding was fantastic. Our uncle officiated the wedding, I was honored to serve as Matron of Honor, Kelsey was Maid of Honor, my new sister was a Bridesmaid, and my brother was a Groomsman. It was quite the family affair.

And yes, there were tears.

After the ceremony my sister and her new husband, Craig, did the sweetest choreographed dance for their First Dance. And then the rum punches happened… so many rum punches. And SO MUCH dancing. It was an amazing night!

I probably have a million stories I could tell from the cruise. I know I certainly have a ton more photos… but didn’t want to spam you with them all. I can’t wait to see all the professional photos from the wedding and may share some more at some point, maybe with my rehearsal dinner speech…

All in all, it was a wonderful way to celebrate my sister and her new husband. He’s been with us for 11 years, but now he has been formally welcomed into the family! It was such a great way to spend the week and it made it even more special that I had my parents, siblings, their spouses/fiancé, and a ton of their friends on the vacation with us.

Oh, and we also got a pretty fantastic Christmas card picture by the full sized Christmas tree in the Promenade. ON THE SHIP.

So I guess I should probably start thinking about Christmas now. And ordering those Christmas cards. Oh yeah, and Christmas gift shopping. Um… and cookie making.

Sigh… I think I want to go back on vacation…

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Disneyland, a Netflix Hub and a WB Tour… Oh My!

18 Oct

{This post is not sponsored, but the trip was paid for by Netflix DVD… so I want to put that out front and center for transparency. I was not required to blog about the trip, or Instagram it, or tweet it, but I did anyways because it was AWESOME and how could I not share it with you all?!}

I blogged last week that I was leaving on a jet plane to take part in an incredible trip to California. I’ve been working as a DVD Director with Netflix DVD for the past couple years (I write for their blog, Inside the Envelope) and they invited seven of us to join them on this amazing ‘thank you’ trip.

Here are the lucky 7 DVD Directors who attended and quick links to their Inside the Envelope posts: me, Bean Miller, Amy Chesler, Linda Shortman, Ann Silverthorn, Raquel Stecher, and David Raether.

Although I’ve been blogging here at Pocketful of Joules for almost 8 years, I purposefully don’t work with a ton of companies/sponsors… so this trip was something totally out of the ordinary for me. The ladies from Netflix DVD, Vanessa and Annie, totally spoiled us all with the trip and gifts and I am totally honored to have been invited to go!

Tuesday
I had an early flight out – and there is also a 3-hour time difference between Maryland and California – so I knew Tuesday was going to be a looooooong day! I woke up at 2:50 am. Yeah. That hurt a bit. I successfully rubbed the sleep from my eyes, got dressed, drove to the airport, bought a super-sized Starbucks drink, and got on my first plane. On that flight I ended up chatting with the lady in the seat next to me, she was a total sweetheart (hi Misty!) and it helped the 3 hours go by quickly. I had a short layover in Houston and then hopped back on another plane. I arrived in California around lunch-time and after picking everyone up at the airport, Vanessa and Annie took us to lunch at a nearby restaurant.

As soon as the hotel texted me that my room was ready, I basically ran across the parking lot, booked it up to my room, threw off clothing and took a 45-minute power-nap. My allergies had started to act up — apparently I’m allergic to California in the fall – and I knew I wouldn’t survive without a little rest. As soon as my alarm went off, I did a ninja-roll off the bed, threw on my Disney outfit and met up with the rest of the group in the lobby to Uber over to Disneyland.

DISNEYLAND!

I had never been to Disneyland before (only Disney World in Florida) and was so incredibly excited! Literally my only goal was to ride the new Guardians of the Galaxy ride. Oh, and wear my adorable Minnie Mouse-inspired outfit.

We ended up breaking into two groups, with me, Bean, Annie and Amy heading straight to the Guardian’s Ride.

It’s lucky that we did, because they literally shut the line after our group! I would have been so disappointed if I had missed that ride and it was AWESOME. SO much fun!

By the way, while all the ladies (and David) were fabulous… I just LOVE Bean. Like I wish she lived closer so that we could drink and thrift shop and cross-stitch together. Is that weird? Anywhoo she basically jumped into my lap on the Guardian’s ride and so that obviously started a friendship-bond.

We had 5:00 reservations at Tortilla Joe’s in Downtown Disney, so we all enjoyed a delicious dinner of Mexican food and tequila. As you do.

Photo credit: Raquel Stecher 

 

You may be thinking ‘um, Joules… you really thought it was a good idea to drink tequila and then return to the parks?” and yes. I did.

Mickey’s Halloween Party was so much fun! The entire park was decorated for Halloween and there was even trick-or-treating for so much candy. We rode a few more rides, including the Haunted Mansion, where the theme had been switched over to The Nightmare Before Christmas. We somehow missed the light up parade, but the fireworks were some of the best I’ve seen in my whole life. And I’m a bit of a fireworks connoisseur! Our friends at Netflix DVD gifted us each with a gift card to buy some souvenirs, so I made sure to grab a few things so I could spoil Jack. We left the park and got back to our hotel around 11:30 ish, so considering the time change I had been up and going for 24 hours straight.

Obviously, I crashed basically the moment my head hit the pillow.

Wednesday
Wednesday was going to be another crazy exciting day, so even though I didn’t get a ton of sleep, I was ready to GO. We met in the lobby at 7:15 to go tour the nearby Netflix hub. We drove to a somewhat unassuming office park where the hub was hidden. Fun fact: they keep the hubs on the down-low, otherwise people tend to show up at their door and try to exchange their movies for the next one in their queue!

They provided us with a delicious breakfast spread (which included Krispy Kreme donuts!) and then we had a cool tour where we learned all about how the hub worked. Notice the fabulous Netflix DVD jackets — I LOVE mine and wore it most of the time because I somehow forgot to pack anything heavier than a lightweight cardigan. Oopsie!

Photo credit: Annie Jung

 

A few fun facts I learned:

  • Each cart has 45,000 disks on it and there are about 335 different titles in each box. The warehouse we toured had about 3.25 MILLION disks.
  • The day that we visited, they shipped 42,000 disks out to Netflix DVD subscribers.
  • About 5% of the inventory gets relabeled every week due to dirty or worn disk sleeves.
  • People will accidentally mail their own DVD disks (or PlayStation disks) to Netflix DVD. When this happens, the machine knows and spits it into a special bin so that they can track down where it came from and return it!

At the hub they also displayed a bunch of Netflix DVD envelope art!

After our tour, we had the opportunity have a writer’s meeting with fellow DVD Director, David Raether. David worked as a writer on Rosanne for 111 episodes and you can read a really cool Q&A with him here: Spotlight on David Raether.

After our meeting, we returned to our hotel and had another delicious lunch. At that lunch, Vanessa awarded Amy and I prizes for having “The most Disney Spirit”!

And yes, Jack loves my Halloween Mickey!

After lunch, we took a limo bus to the Warner Brothers Studios, which was about an hour away from where we were staying. I actually did a Warner Brothers Tour back in 2016 (you can read about it here: Exploring LA) but this one was a private tour, so it was much more inclusive. We had our own tour guide, who led us to a viewing room with personal sized champagne bottles.

After watching an intro movie and enjoying our bubbly, we loaded up onto a cart and explored the WB lot. Our tour guide was a wealth of information as we went through all sorts of sets.

Photo credit: Linda Shortman

 

My favorites were Miss Patty’s dance studio from Gilmore Girls:

I also loved the Harry Potter/Fantastic Beasts collection on display:

We even had the opportunity to go through the Prop House, which was so freaking cool. The second I entered, I saw a prop being held for an episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, which is one of my current favorite shows!

Here are a bunch of Agent Smith’s from the Matrix:

After our amazingly thorough tour, we had dinner reservations at Santuari. The restaurant was absolutely gorgeous inside and the food was amazing! My allergies were sneaking up on me though, so I was pretty much ready to return to my room and put on some pajamas!

Photo credit: Vanessa Fiske

 

We returned to the hotel around 11pm and I basically fell into bed and then woke up with just enough time to pack in the morning. Bean and I took one last photo before taking an Uber to the airport. We can’t thank Netflix DVD enough for making us feel like total rockstars!

We both ended up on the same flight to Chicago, so I got to spend a little extra time with one of my new favorite people! I landed in Chicago and then hopped back on another plane to get to Baltimore, and returned home a bit before midnight (darn that time change!).

The entire trip was absolutely wonderful. Vanessa and Anne could not have made us feel more special and appreciated. I had a fantastic time and it was totally worth the lack of sleep!

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My Boston Trip: Shopping Fun, Dressing Room Snaps & Thrifting Treasures

9 Jul

Before I went to Boston I received all sorts of great tips on where I should go, what I should see and what I should eat. And yeah. I didn’t really do any of that.

Instead, I sat in my hotel at my conference from 8am – 5pm and then walked back up to my room and sat in front of my laptop and worked on midterms from 6pm – midnight. Then, did it all over again. And again.

It wasn’t what I WANTED to do in Boston. But it was what I HAD to do… to get my midterms done. I just got my midterm grades back and at least the time was well spent… I got a 90% on one and a 99% on the other! Heck yeah!

I did have a little bit of time the day I flew in (Tuesday afternoon), in between midterms (Thursday night for an hour) and before I flew out (Friday afternoon). And I found some awesome deals… so let’s check them out!

I landed in Boston on Tuesday morning and wanted to enjoy the daylight before handcuffing myself to my laptop, so I decided to walk to one of the consignment shops on my list.

Boomerangs Consignment Shop (1407 Washington Street, Boston, MA). This was a small little shop with super nice people working there. There were some really high-end brands and the prices were relatively reasonable for consignment. I tried on a few items, but didn’t end up taking anything home with me.

On my walk back from the consignment shop, I saw a cute little store called Gifted (2 Dartmouth Street, Boston, MA). This store had all sorts of unique and cool stuff with handmade items by over 90 US artists. I spent lots of time just wandering around the two level store touching everything. I ended up buying a super cute salt and pepper shaker (I’ve somehow accidentally started a collection…) and two engraved bracelets:

The “Mama Bear” and “Actually, I Can” bracelets were exactly what I needed to power through my midterms! I’ve been wearing both bracelets every day since I bought them… I love them so much!

On Thursday, I saw that there was a consignment store only a couple blocks away from my hotel. So, after my conference ended at 5pm, I ran out to do a quick look before they closed at 6pm.

Castanet Consignment Shop (175 Newbury Street, Boston, MA). HOLY CRACKERS, this shop was amazing! The only drawback is that the majority of the clothing was very tiny sizes. They had tons of amazing brands, cocktail dresses, shoes, scarves. You name it!

I almost slobbered on this pair of sparkly Jimmy Choo heels. And then, I turned around and ran right into a whole table of Manolo Blahnik sandals. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!

The prices were also pretty darn good… so I kind of wish more stuff fit me! I did find a few items to try on though, a romper that totally fooled me into thinking it was a dress, a blazer and an amazing scarf. They had some great dressing rooms too, so I did snap a few photos.

I didn’t buy this one, but it made me laugh. I totally thought it was a dress… and then this happened. As someone pointed out on Instagram, I got “romped!”

Bird & Knoll Cinque Terre/Bella Boats Scarf, $49

When I picked this scarf up, I knew nothing about the brand. I just knew it was huge, beautiful and incredibly soft. The consignment shop had it originally marked at $78 and on sale for $49, so I did a quick google to make sure it wasn’t actually some cheapo brand and pulled the trigger to buy it.

When I got back to my room, I did a little research. Bird & Knoll is an Australian brand of cashmere and silk printed luxury scarves for women. I found this exact scarf on their blog from June 2015 and it was called the Cinque Terre/Bella Boats scarf and it has an image of the Cinque Terra (located between Florence and Geona in Italy).

Based on other similar scarves on their website, I’m going to assume that the one I purchased is also 20% cashmere, 80% model and made in Italy. The cost on their website is $335 AUD, which equals about $250 in US dollars.

Didier Parakian blazer, $35

I wasn’t familiar with this brand at all either. I liked the look of this blazer and it looked about my size, but the tag said 44… which is either French sizing for a US size 12 or Italian sizing for a US size 8. Since it fits my shoulders well, I’m guessing it is French sizing. It was difficult to find information on this brand, but I did find this website and it appears that the clothing are made in Italy, but the brand started in France and has “the exotic tastes of the Armenian culture combined with the chromatic sensitivity of Mediterranean cities and the elegance of the French style.”

Yeah, so I don’t think I’m the only one confused about the brand…

Anywho. This blazer was originally tagged at $44, but it was marked down to $35. My best guess at an original price would be $344 based on what came up on Lyst when I searched the brand.

After I left, I stopped by a nearby Anthropologie because they had a ‘sale on sale’ going on.

Anthropologie Adelina Embroidered Blouse, $52

I should be ashamed about the amount of clothing I took into the dressing room at Anthropologie. The location I visited in Boston had a HUGE sale section… and everyone on sale was an extra 25% off. I have no idea how I narrowed it down to buying only one item. I can say, that this shirt is the kind of special-fantastic-unicorn shirt that I love. It makes me feel so pretty and it looks adorable with jeans. And I love it SO MUCH. And there are pompoms on the trim. POMPOMS! Original price at Anthropologie was $118 and it was marked down to $69.95 and then down to $52 (find it here).

After my two stops I headed back to the hotel to do some more work and eat some dinner. On Friday, my conference ended at noon, so I packed everything up and decided to go… THRIFTING!

I only had time to make one thrifting stop, so I decided to go to a somewhat nearby Goodwill (1010 Harrison Ave. Boston, MA). It was a nice day, so I decided to walk the 1.5 miles there. However, by time I was done thrifting all afternoon I grabbed an Uber back!

This Goodwill was absolutely huge. Just going through the dress racks (that lined the entire back and side of the store) was exhausting. My arms were actually sore from pushing back dress after dress! I mainly concentrated my time on the dresses, tops, and skirts. Each category had their own area, but nothing was divided by size… so it was a free-for-all. There were only a couple dressing room stalls and people were hogging them, so I basically tried everything on over my clothes and hoped for the best.

After HOURS of digging through everything, I found 4 winning items:

Joie Silk Dress, $5

I found an almost identical Joie silk dress online and it retailed for $368. This one has a fun pattern, fabric covered buttons at the bust, and a drawstring waist. It was also marked as a dress ($8), but the lady decided it looked more like a tunic, so she charged me just $5 for a shirt! I’m thinking I might wear this one either over a pair of skinny work trousers, or paired with black tights and booties in the fall. I think this one might be the score of the day!

Boden Jersey Dress, $8

I actually own this dress in a purple print and love it, so when I saw this blue version for just $8 I knew I had to snap it up! This one is actually a size larger than the one I have, but the fit is fine on me. I love it so much and wore it to work already last week!

Eileen Fisher dress, $8

This one is a bit of a risk, as it has a weird floppy pocket on one side. I don’t know. I thought it looked kinda interesting. Similar Eileen Fisher dresses go for around $200, so I figured I’d give this one a try for $8. It did smell SO BAD of mothballs when I bought it… but two rounds in the washing machine and it’s smelling great now.

Talbots cardigan, $5.50

I really like the mixed stripes and ¾ sleeves on this cardigan. It’s perfect for work or weekends. I didn’t realize when I bought it that it has 10% wool though… so I’ll have to pack this one away until winter or I’ll sweat to death.

All-in-all, I spent about $27 to thrift 4 items with a total retail value around $778!!

So yeah, I had some great Boston shopping luck! Which item is your favorite?

 

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Traveling Fun: Share your Boston Tips!

11 Jun

I’m being sent out for a work conference at the end of the month, which isn’t really much of a hardship. I feel like quite the grown up when I fly off on a plane all by myself with just my carry-on and no husband or kiddo. Then, I get a fancy hotel room ALL to myself for a few days. I can eat room service in bed while watching whatever I want on the television… which is basically like some kind of heaven. I also like stuffing my brain with work-related knowledge and exploring a new city. So, I can’t wait for this month’s trip to Boston!

Source: Google Maps

 

I’ll be staying at the Boston Marriott Copley Place and won’t have a car, so I’ll be walking or use Uber to get around. I’d like to eat a lobster roll. And do some shopping/thrifting. My sister recommended Quincy Market and Mike’s Pastry. I may visit the Boston Public library because it’s quite close to my hotel. My friend recommended that I do some shopping on Newbury Street. I’m not really stuck on any plans though…

I have some free time on Tuesday and also on Friday afternoon, so I’m open to ideas!

What are your Boston recommendations?

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