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Date Weekend Fun in Northern Virginia

13 Mar

This past weekend, my parents generously kept Jack overnight while Travis and I had ourselves a bit of a date weekend. I HIGHLY recommend getting away for even a night if you can, because even if you are only an hour or so away from home (like we were) it is such a mental refresh!

For our date weekend, I booked us at a Springhill Suites in Northern Virginia. The hotel was super nice and clean… and less than $100 for the night, which included breakfast. Once we arrived, we checked into the hotel and immediately went rummaging for some food nearby.

After filling our bellies at Elevation Burger, we decided to go do some wine and cider tasting at a couple nearby wineries.

First stop was Corcoran Vineyards where we had the choice of tasting their ciders or their wines, so we went with a cider tasting. From there, we went to 8 Chains North where we did a wine tasting and also enjoyed some locally made chocolates!

We started to get a bit hungry again, so we went back to the Loudon One area to buy our movie theater tickets and then went by SlapFish. To be honest, we chose that restaurant because the name made us giggle… but we were too busy making yummy noises to laugh when we got our Clobster Grilled Cheese and Lobster Grinder Roll! HOLY WOW it was soooo good!

After dinner we had some time to kill, so we stopped by B Doughnut, Starbucks and killed some time in the Barnes & Noble.

And THEN… we saw Captain Marvel!

AHHH, so good! I honestly wasn’t sure if I was going to love this one as much as I love the Guardians of the Galaxy movies, Thor: Ragnarok, and Avengers: Infinity War. The bar was set very high, but I LOVED Captain Marvel and it was a fantastic addition to the series!

It was also a great end to our date day! We enjoyed the comfy hotel room and had the free hotel breakfast in the morning — I just love those make-your-own waffle set ups! We hung around the room and watched some HGTV until check out at noon, then hit up Lost Creek Winery for one last tasting.

After our tasting, we stopped at the Roots 657 Café for an AMAZING lunch. I got the country pulled pork sandwich with a side of corn pudding and Travis got the bacon cheeseburger with a side of fries. We did a little splitsy action, so we both got a little of everything and YUM.

All in all, it was a fantastic date weekend and I ate way too much delicious food. So yeah, it was perfect.

Do you go on date weekends?

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Jack is 7!

18 Feb

Each year on Jack’s birthday I get a little teary as I remember his birth story and the month we spent in the NICU. If you are a more recent follower, you totally can’t tell looking at my giant child that he was born at just 31 ½ weeks! Well, here we are, 7 years later… and he’s growing up so fast.

{sob}

This year to celebrate his birthday we had two mini celebrations. Last year’s kid party was a little overwhelming, so this year we decided to have something on a smaller scale. The weekend before the big day, Jack invited two of his favorite friends to join him in painting some pottery. After the masterpieces were complete, we walked across the street to a fun local ice cream parlor and ate a bunch of ice cream. While Jack forbade ME from singing Happy Birthday, apparently it was okay for his two friends to serenade him. So. Freaking. Cute.

I took a bunch of photos, but won’t share them here because I don’t like putting pictures of other people’s kids on the internet. But believe me… it was adorable.

Jack’s actual birthday was on Friday (February 15th), so Travis and I visited Jack at school and joined him for lunch in the cafeteria. We decided to keep it a surprise that he was coming home with us, so after lunch he went back to his classroom before the teacher had him gather his things and go to the front office (this is totally a school rule, we weren’t allowed to take him straight from lunch).

This was apparently a terrible idea. He’s never been told to go to the front office before, so as soon as he rounded the corner and saw us, he burst into tears. He cheered up though when we told him we were going to Great Wolf Lodge for an overnight trip RIGHT THEN!

This was actually our 4th year of visiting Great Wolf Lodge in Williamsburg, VA. They had a really good special for the Friday night of Jack’s birthday – I guess most people don’t want to go to an indoor water park for their romantic Valentine’s trip – so I hopped on it! When we got there, they said we qualified for a room upgrade, so not only did our room have a fireplace… but it also had a little bunk bed section just for kids.

We had such a fun time and came back home on Saturday night. On our “way home” (totally not on our way, but we had a gift card) we stopped by our favorite Mexican restaurant and had them do the birthday song, complete with clapping and a sombrero!

In honor of Jack’s 7th birthday, here are 7 things about Jack:

#1: Jack STILL looooooves his mommy. I know at some point he won’t be my number one fan and will probably turn into a sullen stinky teenager, but we are so not there. He’s happy to hug and kiss me, even in public. And I LOVE it!

#2: Jack lost his first tooth on his 6th birthday and another one a few weeks later. And that was it. While his front top teeth have been slightly wiggly for months and months… he hasn’t lost any other teeth.

#3: For Jack’s pottery painting birthday play date, he picked a little hedgehog figurine to paint.

#4: Jack is still obsessed with LEGOs. He will spend over an hour building his various inventions and has stories to go with every single thing.

#5: Jack’s current favorite thing to watch on TV is Youtube videos by Unspeakable all about Minecraft. He likes to get ideas for Minecraft worlds and then create them on his own. He also thinks the Unspeakable guy is hilarious.

#6: Jack is currently loving the fluffy robe he got for Christmas from us. The moment he gets home from school, he throws off his shirt and wears his robe with his pants like a little Hugh Heffner.

#7: Current favorite foods are egg sandwiches, scrambled eggs, cheeseburgers, spaghetti with meatballs, steak, ham sandwiches from Subway, and mini chocolate donuts.

Happiest of birthdays to my super awesome, fantastic, lovable Jack!

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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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