Friday, August 29, 2008

Marketing Evolution Evangelist

What are your strengths? You have probably been asked this questions in an interview before (don’t even get me started on the weakness question…seriously there just isn’t a good answer for that one and 90% of the time it will probably be some BS that will be turned into a strength). Back to the real topic here- Strengths! Everyone has at least one and we need to devote more time to developing these. Enter StrengthsFinder 2.0 (I love how they worked that buzz word 2.0 into the title).

I bought this book a month or so ago when I was so frustrated at work (not that I’m not still frustrated. I’m just on to the acceptance phase now). Anyway, I went on a business book shopping spree that night at Barnes and Noble (hey- it’s better than eating a carton of Ben and Jerrys!). I ended up with StrengthFinder 2.0 and “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” (also a great book). I read both that week and felt so inspired!

Anyway, I was reminded of how much I loved this book today when I looked up on my cubicle wall and saw my little strength summary report:


I think these fit me to a T in the workplace. Part of the reason I get so frustrated at work is because there never seems to be time for strategy. If there is any strategy talk, that’s all it is –talk. There is no one leading the charge for change (and believe me it is needed). No one looking past Q4. No energy behind the ideas.

So I guess I need to figure out how to work these strengths into what I do everyday more in order to feel more fulfilled. There could be changes on the horizon soon and that is always a good thing. Have no fear. Keep moving forward and embrace the change! (See also the book “Who Moved My Cheese?” or Obama’s acceptance speech from last night.)

Fortunately for me there are a whole slew of marketers preaching about the need for change in our profession (see some funny cartoons that address this

You can check out a review of StrengthsFinder 2.0 on my Bookshelf Blog.

More to come about the changes on the horizon soon!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Excited about Church!

Since January I have been attending a great church- The Summit Church in Briar Creek. The pastor there, JD, is young and a great speaker and even though the service is long, it doesn’t feel that way at all. I can relate to almost everything that comes out of his mouth and sometimes find myself wanting him to continue even though we have been there for 2 hours! The worship music is outstanding (I’ve even downloaded some songs I’ve heard there from I-tunes to motivate me on my runs)! The people I have met there are great. They even have great multi-media presentations sometimes that are very well designed (which appeals to the marketer in me!). Even though Southern Baptist is a big departure from Episcopalian, I really like it.

They are starting a new series next Sunday that I am really excited about:
Pastor JD says on his blog:

Over the course of the next 2 months we will be looking at the 7 most common objections people give against Christianity. Whether you are a Christian or not, this series will be for you, as we will probe into the foundational relationship between faith and doubt.

8/31: “How can there be only one true religion or way to God?”
9/7: “How could a good God allow suffering?”
9/14: “Christianity is too restrictive”
9/21: “The Church been responsible for so much injustice”
9/28: “How can a loving God send people to Hell?”
10/5: “But science has disproved Christianity!”
10/12: “Everyone knows the Bible can’t be taken literally”

I am so excited about these topics because I feel like not only will it help with answering questions from non-Christians (I always find myself fumbling and changing the subject when things start to get uncomfortable and I don’t have the answers they are looking for) but it will also help answer any lingering questions I have. Like:

What about dinosaurs? Did they just not make it on the ark?

So all Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Scientologists, and people of every other religious faith are going to Hell? Really?

A lot of churches are so hypocritical and corrupt. Why does this happen and do I want to be associated with that?

Have you read some of the rules in Bible? “You should not lie on a bed where a menstruating woman has lain, and you can't sit on a chair where she has sat” (Leviticus 15:20). What’s up with that? (Check out the book “The Year of Living Biblically” by A.J. Jacobs- he tries to take all the rules literally for a whole year.)

So yeah, it should be interesting. And it just might inspire me to start #27 on my list- “Read the Bible all the way through”. If anyone is interested in coming with me to church over the next few weeks, just let me know!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Cruise 2K8- Day 6 and 7

On Day 6 we arrived in Cozumel at 8 am. Our Dolphin swim was scheduled for 10 am, but we weren’t sure if that was ship time or Cozumel time and we didn’t even know what the time difference was! So we got off the boat at about 8:45 and found a taxi to take us to Chankanabb Park . We were early and the park wasn’t even open yet (we only had to wait about 5 min. though- until 8 am Cozumel time). Pretty much the only other people there were the 100 or so people for the Carnival Dolphin swim.

We checked in with the Dolphin swim people and then we were free to explore the park. It was so pretty. They had these big wood Adirondack chairs and straw cabana huts everywhere. They had a big blocked off snorkeling area, a nice pool, a lagoon swim area, an outdoor bar, a restaurant, and a shop where you could rent snorkeling equipment (they even had those bubbles you put over your head!) We walked down the beach and looked for Play Uvas (that’s where the rest of our group was going). Apparently it was right beside us, but in the opposite direction we walked. We saw a couple wild iguanas sunning themselves. We finally decided to go hang out in the pool until our dolphin swim. It was so relaxing.

After our dolphin swim we decided to hang out by the pool area for a little while until heading back to the port to go to Carlos and Charlie’s. We tried getting a drink at the swim up bar, but they didn’t serve alcohol. So we took turns going over to the bar by the lagoon. They had great pina coladas and a great strawberry/banana margarita! After getting some sun and cooling off in the pool we headed over to the bar together for one last drink. I got a coco loco (which is like a long island except with coconut milk instead of soda.) The best part about it was it came in a real coconut! So cool! At the bar we met a local tour guide who was really nice and was teaching us lots of funny (aka-bad) Spanish phrases. He was super nice and also gave us a coupon for some free nachos at Carlos and Charlie’s.

We then got a taxi back to the port and headed to Carlos and Charlie’s. There were all these people with monkeys/parrots/iguanas and they were charging to take a picture with them! Crazy! Carols and Charlie’s is crazy! It is loud and the energy is so upbeat! The drinks come in these long yardsticks. We each ordered fish tacos and used our coupon for the free nachos and each got a yardstick drink (our total came to like $30 each at the end). I went to the bathroom and when I came out they were doing a conga line through the restaurant so I jumped in. Well, this wasn’t any ordinary conga line. They had about 4 people throughout the restaurant that would shoot tequila into your mouth as you passed. It was crazy! Shortly after that the rest of our group got there and we had a great time! Some people had their specialty tequila shots where the girl pours it down your throat, shakes your head around, and pats and jiggles your whole body. Kristin and I got a free drink with our armbands from the dolphin swim- Sweet! But sadly the party had to come to an end so we could get back on our boat by 4 pm. That night some of us missed the second formal night due to our over-indulgences!

The last day was pretty lazy. Just packing, laying by the pool, and our last meal (Roger’s B-day!). We all pretty much did our own thing during the day which was nice because 7 days in a big group like that can get stressful. We set out our luggage that night and went to bed early. We got up early, cleared out our room and had our last breakfast in the dining room (it was all very bittersweet). We had to wait around just a little bit before debarkation, made it to the airport super early, and made it back to Raleigh safe and sound by 2 pm. It was so nice to be home!

Here are some pics from Cozumel :
Hint: Don’t click “Download this Video” just use the arrows at the bottom

Some other funny/interesting/strange/notable moments from the cruise:

- Stephanie and Brooklyn trying to figure out where the camera was on Medusa’s dance floor

- Carnival staff having to drain the pool because a kid pooped in it on our last sea day

- Thinking a burger and fries in Cozumel was $77 because we didn’t know everything was in pesos

- Finding “Zeta” brand water in Belize !

- Slipping all around on the pool deck

- “Butt-hole covers” (seriously some of the suits were way too skimpy)

- Almost our entire table special requesting mac and cheese every night

- Jeff throwing a cigar off the boat and into the ocean because it "sucked" (reminiscent of the watch incident!)

- Running into the same people over and over on the boat (hello Clayton Family)

If there are any that I missed please leave me a comment. These posts are really for me so I won’t forget what a great time we had! (But I hope you enjoying reading it too!)

New Bookshelf Blog Post

Check out my review of the last book I read "Remember Me?" by Sophie Kinsella on my Bookshelf Blog. I LOVED it!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Cruise 2K8 Day 5- Belize

When we woke up that morning we went to Follie’s Lounge and got our tickets for the tender (group 2!). We were off the boat by 8:30, so it wasn’t too bad. We did have a long ride to the island though which seemed unusual to me that we had to “park” so far away from the mainland. (Belize is not an island, it is part of Central America and boarders Guatemala.)

We found our tour guides from easily right outside the port where they had told us to meet them. We boarded a nice air-conditioned bus and enjoyed our tour guide, Kevin, as he told us a little about Belize, what to expect on our ATV and cave tubing adventure and even gave us a taste of the island’s cashew wine (it reminded me of homemade scuppernong wine). Kristin had jokingly asked if she could have the whole bottle when he was pouring her shot and after he had given everyone a taste, he called her to the front of the bus and challenged her to chug the rest of the bottle! She made a good effort but couldn’t finish it, so we helped her out!

It took about 40 minutes to get to our ATV spot. Now I have to say, when we booked this excursion I was worried about getting all muddy. Well, I had to let that go because there was no way to avoid it! It was the rainy season in Belize and the whole trail was one big mud hole. But I had so much fun! I did make sure to stay a good distance back from the person in front of me so I would avoid getting slung in the face with mud, but my legs were caked with it by the end. It was a pretty good, long, narrow, winding trail through the rain forest and we all had a great time bouncing and sliding around on our ATVs!

After washing most of the mud off we boarded the bus to go to the cave tubing spot. We got there in about 5-10 minutes and got our tube and head lamps and made the hike up to the cave. It was a pretty long hike through some really beautiful rain forest areas and caves. We didn’t have time to do 2 caves so we stopped and got in the water at the first cave. The water was very “refreshing” (AKA- cold) but it felt good after that hike. The cave was so BIG! We got in our tubes and linked our feet through each other’s arm to form a chain. Our guide Richard did all the work. Pulling us through the cave and telling us “butts up” at all the shallow spots. It took a good 20 minutes or so to float through the cave and it was amazing. After we came out of the cave we floated a ways down the river back to the staring point. We even saw a HUGE boa constrictor sunning himself on a rock about 10 feet from us (yeah that really freaked me out!).

We took the bus back to the ATV spot where we bought some home-made tamales (soft corn tortillas and chicken backed in a banana leaf) and sampled the local Belkin beer (pretty good!). We also bought some souvenir “butts-up” t-shirts. Then we got back on the bus for the long ride back to the port.

This country is also very poor so I took lots of pictures of the landscape and sights on the ride back. We had to pass through a police check point and right beside it were what looked like fresh graves which kind of freaked me out. Our tour guides told us most people don’t live to be 65 there.

Our guides told us to visit the local market right outside the port for some good deals. We got back to the port and did some shopping and went to the bathroom inside first. We then visited the local market and I quickly realized I did not want to be out there. They are so pushy and it is kind of scary. This lady kept pestering me to braid my hair and I kept telling her no and she finally resorted to asking me for a dollar just for trying so I gave it to her just to get her to leave me alone! Some others in our group witnessed a local man stealing a handful of necklaces from a lady’s table. The local men were creepy and I kept trying to stay close to the guys in our group so they would leave me alone. It was NOT my cup of tea!

Even inside the port it freaked me out because all these people were selling marijuana pipes and even offered the “stuff” to go with them. I was so happy to end that shopping excursion and get back on the tender boat!

That night we had dinner in the dining room and then headed up to the Lido deck for the big deck party. Their drink special that night was Mojitos. They were pretty good! They had encouraged people to wear their bathrobes to the party, but that just seemed silly to us. Some people did and some didn’t, but it made for some interesting people watching. They had a really good Caribbean band that played all the cheesy group dance songs like the electric slide, Cupid’s Shuffle, and the Cha-Cha slide. (Yes we participated and it was fun!) They had a conga line competition between the red and blue teams (red was even # cabins and blue was odd # cabins). They did a big circle and went around and had people dance in the center which was funny. Overall it was a good time and I was glad it didn’t get rained out like the deck party on last year’s cruise.

Pictures from Belize:

Hint: Don't click "Download this video" just use the arrows at the bottom.

Next stop: Cozumel!

Cruise 2K8 Day 4- Honduras

I was going to try to do the Honduras and Belize post together, but it just got to be so long! So here is Honduras and I'll post the Belize summary tomorrow:

On day four of our cruise we pulled in to Isla Roatan, Honduras. We couldn’t get off the boat until 11 am, so we took advantage of this and had breakfast in the dining room again. The waiters this day really sucked. I ordered Belgian Waffles and I got one little waffle smaller than an Eggo. The waiters would drop off stuff at our table and then disappear for 20 minutes at a time. At one point I was joking around about how bad the service was and put my hand in the air and snapped my fingers. It actually got the attention of a nearby waiter, so I took advantage of this and gave him all our requests and he wasn’t even our waiter!! There were also some very strange things happening to the ship that morning that were causing all these awful grinding noises and shaking the entire dining room. We never found out exactly what caused it, but our best guess it was because we were turning and trying to “park” in the port.

For Roatan we had booked Jolly Roger’s Catamaran excursion through Carnival. This excursion was broken into 2 parts. The first was a tour of Gumbalimba Park and the second was a catamaran sail and snorkel. We met our tour group at the pier and rode a school bus (no air conditioning here) for about 30 minutes up to the top of the island (great views and such a pretty, undeveloped landscape) and then over to the West side of the island to Gumbalimba Park. We then toured Gumbalimba park which included: seeing a huge tarantula, seeing and being told the history of different plants (including seeing the one tequila comes from), seeing parrots and getting a picture with one on your shoulder, visiting the monkey area where the tour guides would coax them to climb all over people, going through this cheesy, hot, man made cave thing, and seeing a swinging bridge (we didn’t cross it because there were too many tour groups and it would’ve taken forever).

I have to say this isn’t what we were expecting from the tour (we didn’t think it would be a tour but more of an “on-your-own” exploration of the park). There were well over 50 people in our tour group so everything took forever! We walked in a little line and stopped at all the little various attractions, but the experience at each attraction was diminished because the amount of time you spent waiting on the rest of the group was just horrible. When we went to see the monkeys I waited forever to try to get a chance to have a monkey climb on me, but I am just not one to push other people out of the way so I never got my chance. It was funny though when one of the monkeys stole this woman’s plastic baggie that had their passports, money, credit cards, and sail and sign cards in it and took it up in the tree. We had been told numerous times to put everything away because the monkeys would steal it. She was just stupid to have it out in the open! It took 20 minutes chasing the monkey and then he finally opened the bag and dumped out all of the contents. Money and stuff was flying from the trees and she and the guides were chasing it down. Seriously they must think Americans are all idiots.

Next we waited around on the beach at the park (which was small but really pretty) for our catamaran to be ready. Finally we got to pack onto the catamaran and set sail. The catamaran wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t like our experience in St. Thomas last year (probably still one of the best days ever!). I still enjoyed myself though. We sailed out into the ocean just off a coral reef and then stopped for snorkeling. I had heard that this was one of the best snorkeling spots in the world, so I dove in.

Now if you have never been snorkeling let me tell you some things, it isn’t as easy as it looks! First, if you do it on the tour with their equipment, you have to ignore the mold on your vest and not think about how many people had your mask on their face and your mouthpiece in their mouth. Second, there is a fine art to getting the fit of your vest just right. You can’t inflate it too much, but you want it to hold you up a little. You also have to adjust the straps just right or you will end up with the vest bobbing all over your head and trying to wrestle it into place while trying to keep yourself afloat in the water. Third you have to navigate walking across the boat, down the stairs and jumping into the water with these huge flippers on your feet. And once you’re in the water it isn’t over. The mask will sometimes leak water into it and you have to stop and get it out so you can see. The tube will sometimes get water in it that you have to blow out. Plus, I have a fear of small fear of sea creatures (in particular jelly fish- a really, really HUGE fear of jellyfish), so I spent a lot of my time being freaked-out by the stupid straps on my vest while trying not to inadvertently bump in to anything.

But it was some pretty snorkeling. Lots of coral formations and I even saw a live conch and a school of these bright neon-blue fish. So I really did end up enjoying the excursion. There is just something about sailing that I love. I love the big, tall sails, the rhythm of the waves rocking the boat, the sun shining on the water, and the breeze blowing through the air. It really is one of the best feelings in the world!

Finally we boarded the bus for the ride back to port. This country is really poor. I took lots of pictures on the bus ride back of their houses and roads to remind myself of how others live. When we got back, we stopped at the little open air bar to sample some local beer (which was very good!). I also stopped at the little market they have set up and bought some nice little black pearl earrings. All we did after our long day was get ready for dinner and eat a nice meal in the dining room before getting to bed to get some rest before our 8 am arrival in Belize.

We did have a little scare right before bed. According to our Caper brochure (activity guide), we were going to have to tender to Belize and if you didn’t have an excursion booked, you would have to wait until 9:30 to even get in line for the tender! Well, this wouldn’t work for us because even though we hadn’t booked through Carnival, we had arranged to meet our tour at 9:30. We called the purser’s desk and they told us to go to Follie’s Lounge at 8 am to get our ticket to get off the boat so that we would get to our excursion in time.

Pictures from Roatan:

Hint: Don't click "Download this video", just use the arrows at the bottom.

Stay tuned for Belize!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Cruise 2K8 Review: Day 1, 2 and 3

WARNING: This is going to be a LONG one!

I have to say this was probably the best vacation I have ever had. Everything travel wise went pretty smoothly. Our flights were on time. We did have to get up super early to be at the airport a little after 5 am for our 7 am flight. But we ended up getting the seats in the very front of the plane so it felt like first class- so much leg room! We got to Tampa early and had to wait for the port to open at 10 am. But we didn’t have to wait around long for embarkation after that though. The Carnival Legend was a little bit smaller than the Glory we sailed on last year. The only thing bad about that was the ship did sway a lot once we were out at sea. I could feel us moving almost all the time except the last day when we were in the calm waters of the Gulf of Mexico . The ship even made a lot of weird noises that I had never heard on a cruise. But the waiters said it was normal, so I tried not to worry too much. That first day, we just ate lunch, had a few drinks, and got acclimated to the ship (which wasn’t too hard because the ship wasn’t as big as last year’s).

The next day- our first day at sea, I soaked up the sun and read my book by the pool. It was very relaxing. We had breakfast in the dining room and I got to have my Eggs Benedict. (I do have to say I think Briggs in Raleigh has them beat). The waiters at breakfast weren’t the best. It took them forever to do anything, but the food was good, so it was worth it. We could only make it to the dining room for breakfast a few times. Mostly we just got room service because we had to be ready to get off the ship so early almost every day!

Lunch at the buffet on the Lido deck the day before was not my favorite. So for the rest of the trip, I mostly stuck to the burgers at the grill or pizza up there. We did eat lunch in the dining room that day and it was ok. It was 3-course and the sushi appetizer and the dessert were good, but my sandwich was not what I was expecting (some kind of shrimp salad, not actual shrimp). The sushi at the sushi bar was also really good.

Dinner every night was pretty good. (Monday and Friday were formal nights- I missed Friday due to too much tequila in Cozumel that day!) But I did have wonderful food all week! I had crab cakes, pork loin, filet mignon, shrimp, crab legs, the BEST Caesar salad ever, the BEST macaroni and cheese EVER, crème brulee, soufflé, and we even had birthday cake twice (once for mine and Brooklyn’s B-day and once for Roger’s B-day).

Our first island was Grand Cayman- mine and B’s birthday! We got off the ship early (like 7 am!) and took a taxi to 7 mile beach (Royal Palms). We walked up and down the beach a little while. It was so pretty. The sand is white and fine and the water is so clear. We saw some interesting things in the water while walking down the beach: a jellyfish (EEK!), a big crab, and a bra (someone must have had a wild night!). We walked back to Royal Palms and hung out in the water and enjoyed the almost deserted beach for about an hour or so.

Then we took a taxi to Margaritaville. They had some shops here so we strolled around and looked at stuff. We went in this diamond shop and looked at the most beautiful diamonds. They were Hearts on Fire, and they were stunning. The one I fell in love with was about 2 karats, flawless, and cost about $40,000 (without the setting)! I tried some rum cake (the coconut one was good), but I didn’t want to buy any and have to carry it around on our excursion. They also had these caged parrots there that kept squawking “Hello, Hello”. I finally went up to them and said “Hello”. The parrot said “Hello”. I said “How are you?”, and the parrot said “I’m fine!” (I totally wasn’t expecting that!). It was so funny. Margaritaville also had a waterslide so we spent a while having fun on that. We HAD to get some Margaritas here! The souvenir glass one was $20! So I opted for the smaller one which was still $11! We had lunch here too and the bill for the 4 of us was over $120 (we only had 1 drink each, nachos, a quesadilla, and a burger so that was a lot!).

Then we met our ride for our Jet Ski excursion. It was just our group (me, Brooklyn , Kevin, and Kristin) and a family of 4 from our ship (a mom, dad, teenage girl, and boy about 8-10 years old). When the guy was driving us out to the beach club to get on the jet skis we found out gas is about $8/gollon on the island (and you thought it was expensive here)! We had booked our excursion through and it was probably my one of my favorites. The jet skis were really nice. Kristin and I rode together. The little boy was scared I think, so we kept having to stop to wait on them to catch up because they were going so slow. We rode across the ocean to this natural sandbar they call “ Stingray City ”. There were already a lot of other boats and people out there. I wasn’t scared at first, but then I saw how big they were and how they weren’t scared of us at all and I freaked out. I was holding onto Kristin because I didn’t want to put my feet down and I ended up getting back on the Jet Ski for most of our time there. Our guide got the rays to come up to us by feeding them. He then let people in our group hold one and gave us all back rubs (he picked it up and it flopped on our back–yes I even did it!). A few of us (yes- me too), kissed the Stingray which was supposed to bring us 7 years of good luck. He even showed us his stinger (yes it was big, but he didn’t seem scared at all). He said they were southern stingrays, not the aggressive bull stingrays that killed the Crocodile Hunter. But the little boy with us was FREAKING out over the stingrays. It sounded like someone was trying to kill him. And the funny thing was the parents didn’t even really care that much- they were too into the stingrays!

After Stingray City we rode the jet skis out to Rum Point which is this quaint, secluded beach spot. We relaxed in the hammocks a while and looked around, but we were worried about getting to the ship on time (because our ride back was going to take over 1 hour) so we headed back across the ocean. (I wished we would have had a mudslide at Rum Point because I hear it is their signature drink). The waves were really rough on the trip back and I was holding on to the Jet Ski for dear life. In fact I was holding on so hard it rubbed the skin raw on my left leg. It hurt so bad, but it was worth it and we all made it back on time! It was a GREAT excursion!

That night was my birthday. Kristin had got me and Brooklyn each our own birthday cake which was a great surprise. And Stephanie decorated our rooms so there was no doubt it was our birthday! I already told you about how I prepared for karaoke that night. Let me tell you, after that I was DRUNK! I didn’t get a picture of the sting ray towel animal that night because I apparently messed it up by falling all over the bed and I called the pursers desk to ask where I might find this hot guy that I had seen on the ship’s TV channel earlier that day who worked for Carnival (they thought it was the most hilarious question they ever heard). It was all a blur, but luckily I didn’t have to get off the boat until 11am the next day (thank you itinerary change!).

Pictures from the first Days 1-3:

Hint: Don't click "Download this video", just use the arrows at the bottom

Coming up next: Honduras and Belize

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Diamonds are Forever

The third thing I crossed off my list was “Buy an expensive piece of jewelry for myself”. The last day of the cruise I had to get online to check in to get my boarding pass for my flight the next day, and when I was in my email I noticed my account balance notification. I forgot I had been paid while I was at sea! So this got me thinking and I thought it would be a good idea to make this purchase while at sea because:

a) I had a little cushion in my account
b) I had other things on my list that I will need to save for in the future
c) I wouldn’t have to pay taxes on the purchase
d) They were having a big sale since it was the last day of the cruise

So before dinner, Kristin and I went to the shops. I knew I wanted a pair of diamond earrings. Something simple I could wear everyday if I wanted to. The first pair I looked at was $1500. All the earrings were marked down from the suggested regular retail (over $2000) but $1500 was still too expensive for me. The sales guy said I would also get a 15% discount, but that was still too much. I liked the square shape but they were all close to $1000, so I decided to look at the round ones. I found a cute pair that was $700 and then the guy showed me some that were just a tab bit smaller (about 1 karat total) for about $400. I tried them on and they were perfect. After the discount they were offering and no taxes my total price was right at $300. Not too bad! They are small and simple, but just what I was looking for. (they are much prettier in person!)

Kristin was looking for a watch and she decided to look at these really pretty watches. When they guy told us the price I tried to act cool like that was what I was expecting, but it totally wasn’t. The watch was over $2,000! It didn’t even have any stones in it and it didn’t look THAT fancy. If I had a $2,000 watch it better last for the rest of my life and I would have that thing glued to my wrist! And that was one of the cheaper ones…just think what some people are walking around with on their wrists!

On a side note I also saw the most amazing diamond in Grand Cayman . It was about 2 carats, but perfectly flawless. It was round and when you looked at each cut up close, it was a perfect heart and the thing sparkled so much! Just the diamond with no setting was $40,000. If someone really rich falls for me, they need to go back and get that diamond and put it in a beautiful setting for me! If not, oh well, I suppose I can settle for something less extravagant…Heck, I would probably even take a gumball ring if it was presented in a romantic way- it’s all about the proposal, not so much the ring for me. I mean you can always upgrade later on right?

I am still trying to get all my pictures uploaded from the cruise, so stay tuned for reviews of my adventures in Grand Cayman , Honduras , Belize and Cozumel !

Oh and check out my new Bookshelf Blog post about the book Lost and Found :)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Dolphin Day!

The second thing I crossed off my list was to swim with a dolphin. My friend Kristin came with me. When we got to Cozumel we took a taxi to Chankanaab Park for our Dolphin Swim Adventure. The park was actually really beautiful and we ended up getting there early and spending almost the whole day there (but I will post more about that in my cruise review later this week!).

Our dolphin’s name was Malinche (she had a boyfriend Chuck and they were hoping to get pregnant soon- how cute is that?!). They were so excited they kept jumping up out of the water and smiling at us while we were still on the dock. Our trainer guide told us Malinche was a princess and we had to do our hand motions exactly perfect or she would not do what you were asking her. She took us through the hand motions for each trick: a kiss, a hug, a belly ride, and the boogie board push. Each one was really cool but my favorite was the belly ride. She comes up behind you and flips over to her belly while you grab her dorsal fins and she pulls you through the water. The boogie board push was cool too. You lay on a boogie board and she swims up behind you and pushes your feet (they are strong, so you go pretty fast!). Malinche talked to us (we even got to hear what they sound like when they talk to each other underwater!) and she did lots of tricks for us…it was so cool! I don’t have the pictures from my water camera developed yet, but as soon as I do I will post some.

We also got to see the kindergarten area. This is where they have the baby dolphins (mostly still with their mothers). They even had one that was only 5 months old (and he was still pretty big!). Overall I think they have about 10-15 dolphins there.

After it was over they had us watch this really cheesy video of the whole thing that you could buy (for $435- pesos not dollars we learned) and they also had some cute pictures you could purchase as well. But since we had our own pictures on the water camera and it was so crazy in the store, we decided against it.

On a side note, if you ever do this while in Cozumel , I highly recommend booking through their website and NOT the cruise ship. The cruise ship excursion was right before ours and it looked like they had 100-200 people as opposed to our group of about 20 that was broken down into 2 groups of about 10 or so each. Plus it was cheaper than doing it through the cruise ship!

Also I will say it made me sad to see the small enclosures the dolphins have to live in. They were areas of the ocean blocked off to be about the size of a double car garage. They also had a big area in the middle that was about the size of a football field (not quite as long though). But they seemed really happy there so I tried not to think about how much it reminded me of a really hospitable dolphin jailhouse.

Oh and did you hear about the baby whale whose mother abondonded him and he is now nuzzling up to a boat? So sad. I heard about it on the Today show this morning and it made me want to adopt a whale. But really, where would I put him? I barely have room for myself, a crazy dog, and a fat cat in my house!

Tomorrow I’ll tell you about the third and final thing I crossed off my list on this cruise adventure!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Singing at Sea

Since I have WAY to much to blog about from my trip to even form cohesive thoughts, I thought I would go ahead and tell you about the things I crossed off my list (that is why you’re here isn’t it?)

The first thing I crossed off my list was to sing karaoke. The third night on my cruise was my birthday. I figured if I was going to rock out one night, this would be it. So before dinner I had a few cocktails while getting ready. I don’t think I drank anything at dinner (I was already feeling good!) but after blowing out my candles, I headed straight to the bar for some more liquid courage.

We waited for the karaoke to start (the bar they had karaoke in this year kind of sucked). But this night was the tryout for the Carnival Legends show (passengers trying out to be Ricky Martin or Brittney Spears or some other washed up singer) so the place was packed. As soon as they started passing the book around, I submitted my request. Luckily a few people went before me. Then they called my name. I was so nervous. It went by really fast and all I really remember was that I sang “I Love Rock and Roll”, all my friends were cheering, and I was so confused as to what to do, I never took the mic off the stand (which looked really stupid). I just held on for dear life and sang the words that came up on the screen. But I do have the pictures to prove I did it! (thank goodness no video!)

It wasn’t too bad, but I think it would be more fun in a group…So how about it girls? Karaoke Night?

Tune in tomorrow for my Dolphin Swim Adventure!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Back to the Real World

I'm back! It was AMAZING and I got 3 things crossed off my list! I am so tired and not looking forward to going back to the real world. Tonight I am going to catch up on the TV shows I DVRed and go to bed early, but I will try to post some pics and some more about my adventures tomorrow!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Goodbye Real World...Hello Paradise!

I have exactly 33 hours and 45 minutes until I leave for Cruise 2K8 and the best thing about this is I don't have to be in the office for a whole week! My workplace is crazy. There is more drama than a spanish soap opera, more awkward moments than a first date with a midget, and more dysfunction than the Spears family. To get away for a whole week may be necessary to maintain my sanity! So starting now I am letting all that go and I won't even give it a thought until I walk through those doors again next Monday.

On Thursday they changed the itinerary for our cruise. We will be in Grand Cayman on Tuesday (my birthday!), Honduras on Wed., Belize on Thursday, and Cozumel on Friday. We'll be at sea on Monday and Saturday. Cozumel and Honduras got flip flopped. I had to contact the dolphin place to switch my dolphin swim (which was really easy with their online chat feature!) The only thing we didn't get figured out was our catamaran tour in Honduras. I called Carnival 3 times and got 3 different answers! But hopefully we will get all that straightened out when we get on the boat. I am so excited! We have been looking forward to this for so long it doesn't seem real now that it is here.

I will be sure to post lots of pics here when I get back!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Bookshelf Blog

I read all the time. I love getting away from the stress and frustration of my own life by escaping into someone else’s. I also sometimes have a little bit of an insomnia problem where my mind will just not shut off and reading has become a great way for me to overcome this. It is also wonderful to relax by the pool or on the beach with a good book during the summertime.

I know a lot of my friends like to read too. And since I know most people love hearing suggestions on books, I am going to do a short review of each of the books I read. This new feature will be called Suz’s Bookshelf Blog. I added a link to it at the top of my homepage so you can visit it anytime.

I know everyone has their own tastes in literature, but this way you can get a short synopsis and my opinion on the book before you go out and waste money on a dud. I’m also going to try to post helpful links to author blogs and other resources. Please comment with your own opinion on any of the books that I review and if you have a suggestion for a good book, send that to me too!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Preparing, Planning, and Packing!

Well, it is back to the working world after a relaxing weekend at the beach. I didn’t do much of anything except lay on the beach, read my book, soak up the sun, and relax to the soothing sound of the waves. It was heavenly. I did have the most amazing dinner at Clawson ’s in Beaufort on Saturday. I had a yummy coconut grilled shrimp appetizer, a salad with a delicious homemade citrus-lime vinaigrette, and the most amazing shrimp and grits ever! We also took a long jog up to Fort Macon Sunday morning which was nice. It was a GREAT relaxing weekend!

Now it is back to work and it is hard to concentrate because we leave for our cruise this Sunday! I have been making my packing list, planning what I am going to wear each day, running errands to get last minute things like Dramamine and other random necessities, and making sure I am getting everything in order before this weekend. All this while trying to fit in working and an hour run with my dog each day makes for really, long busy days!

But here are some of the things I have to look forward to in order to keep me going:

- A relaxing mani/pedi on Saturday

- A really fluffy comfy bed on the cruise ship

- Watching the amazing views from our balcony

- Lots of yummy food

- Caribbean blue waters

- Soufflé (YUM!)

- Jet skis to Sting Ray City in Grand Cayman

- Dolphin Swim in Cozumel

- Drinks at Carlos and Charlie’s

- ATV and Cave Tubing in Belize

- A Catamaran sail and snorkel in Honduras

- The waterslide on the boat

- Eggs Benedict (YUM!)

- Cocktails poolside from a waiter that knows your name and drink everytime

- My Birthday!

I am so excited! Just four more days at the office to get through and then no email, no meetings, no cell phone, no work for a whole week! WOO HOO!

Friday, August 1, 2008

I bought the purse!

Today I made a huge purchase. I bought my first designer purse! It was $275 but I got 20% off by opening a Macy's account so that brought it down to less than $250. I looked at the purse several times over the last 2 months and was obsessing over it, so I decided to finally give in. It also helped that my mom gave me $100 as an early birthday present! Here is a pic (it isn't the best because it is from my cell phone, but trust me it is fabulous!)

I am using this as practice for #30 on my list: Buy an expensive piece of jewelry.

I also made steps to crossing off something else on my list. I booked a dolphin swim adventure for my cruise stop in Cozumel on Aug. 13. I am so excited! Only 8 more days until the cruise!

I'm headed for Atlantic Beach tomorrow, so who knows...maybe I will have something else to cross off my list when I get back!