Tuesday, December 6, 2016

#TravelTuesday 11// Fun on the Allure of the Seas

Happy Tuesday Adventurers!! 
It's time for another #TravelTuesday Linkup and I can't wait to see where everyone has been! 

This past week we packed our bags and headed out on the high seas! A week aboard Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas was the perfect getaway. Babe surprised me with the trip as a way to say bon voyage to my 20s, since I turn 30 (eek!) on the 18th. While I can't wait to go into all the blissful details and each adventurous, exciting moment from each port destination, I am still playing catch-up around these parts. So I figured I would start by just sharing my top 5 favorite moments from the week and dive into the details later! 

So here they are (in no particular order)...
1.) Our very first balcony room!! We LOVE to cruise, but had yet to opt for a balcony because (1.) they are typically crazy more expensive and (2.) we are never in the room and therefore didn't think they would be worth the $$. Y'all, we were wrong!! So, we get on the boat last Sunday morning and here I am planning for an interior room and dreaming about the amazing sleep I will get since those rooms let in absolutely no light. Well, we start walking towards room 208 and I start to realize all the even room numbers are on the side of the ship that I keep seeing balconies in (the doors were open because people were still cleaning rooms). I turn a give Babe a "what's going on" look, but he looks clueless and so I assume at some point we will hit the end of the balconies and be at our room. Enter room 208 and there is sunlight streaming in through the sliding glass door! That stinker splurged and surprised me with a balcony as the cherry on top of our adventure and it was worth every cent! We had breakfast out there pretty much every morning, enjoyed coffee with views of the ocean while still sitting in our pjs, and were able to enjoy the most glorious sunsets while getting ready for dinner. With an interior room we were always planning around sunset to enjoy the beauty, even if it cut close to an event we had scheduled that we needed to get ready for. With the balcony we were given constant access to the stunning views! Though we won't be opting for it every time (it's still expensive, yo!) it will definitely be something we fork out the extra cash for when it's an extra special celebration (so maybe in another 10 years or so)! 

2.) Time to RELAX!! We usually read through the itinerary for each day and pick a couple activities to keep us busy (trivia, dodge ball, ping pong tourneys...), but this trip we ended up doing a whole not-a-lotta! We laid out in the sun, splashed in the pool, soaked in the hot tub and basically didn't leave the sun deck until it was time to go get ready for dinner. 

I even managed to read this month's book club selection, even though when I first started it at the beginning of the month I hadn't been sure if I would read it. I am really glad to say I did! Two from Galilee is a great book for the Christmas season. Though hard to get into at first, about 1/4 way through I ended up hooked and was crying by the end. It is a historical fiction story about the life of Mary and Joseph, as Mary finds out she is going to give birth to Jesus. It was really interesting to read about Mary through the voice of a young girl, coming of age and falling in love who then must shoulder this huge blessing and responsibility. It made her seem so much more human to me. Though it is fiction, it played closely to biblical scripture and to be given glimpses into what Mary may have been thinking and feeling really pulled at my heart strings, so that by the time they flee to Egypt I am in tears on the my lounge chair trying to not look like a blubbering baby on a cruise ship! 

3.) Dragon Tail Coaster! On Royal Caribbean's private island, in Haiti, there is the option to do this bobsled mountain coaster thing. So. Much. Fun!! It's twists and turns down the mountain and gives awesome views of the beauty of Haiti. You control the speed, so of course when it was Babe's turn to drive he is literally full-throttling it around each turn (even when it says to break), but it made for one wild ride! More specific to come later! 

4.) The BLUE HOLE in Jamaica!! Jamaica is a beautiful place! We chose to go to the Blue Hole, which was an awesome spot for any adventure lover! There's cliff jumping, waterfall hiking, waterfall repelling and so much more to explore. I could have stayed all day! Sadly, our window of time was short, but at least our time was packed full of adrenaline loving moments!! 

5.) Broadway on a boat!! Typically we cruise Carnival; it's just become our preferred line of cruising. We love the variety and endless options at any hour of the day, but one thing we find lacking is the headlining shows. Royal Caribbean takes shows to another level and this cruise we got to watch Mamma Mia on the high seas! When Babe first told me I must admit that, while super excited, I was also a little skeptical. Mamma Mia is my all time favorite Broadway play. I am not sure how many times I have seen it (and no, I am not counting the movie), but I think this was probably my 6th time seeing it. Needless to say, I was hesitant that a cruise ship production would do it justice. When I say I love it I mean that I have the original cast recording on CD, know every lyric to every song (which helped me win the If You Know It, Sing It Game Show on board actually), can repeat most of the cast lines and had a mother-daughter dance to " " at our wedding. The first time I went my mom (being a die hard Abba fan) literally had to drag me to it, but 10 minutes in and I was hooked! So I like to think I know when it was done right and when it wasn't. The cast on literally KILLED IT! They were amazing! Though there were a few I thought could have been better cast, most of the characters were actually the best I had ever seen! I was singing, I was half ready to burst forth from my seat and start dancing in the aisles, I LOVED every single minute! Royal Caribbean tends to be a bit more expensive than Carnival cruises, but with shows like that it isn't surprising. "Mamma Mia, here I go again, my my, how can I resist you?" I couldn't! I was entranced!

It really was one great trip and I can't wait to share more about all the awesome happies soon!!

Happy Travels! 
Where have you been exploring lately? 
Share your link below and let's travel together! 
~On the 2nd Tuesday of every month I will be sharing a new travel post and would love to see where you have been exploring! 
~Any linked posts will be pinned under Travel Tuesday on my Pinterest
~No real rules, as I am not a huge fan of those sorts of things! Just add any travel related link and I encourage you to peek around and see where everyone else has been. Leave a little love where you like! 
~Feel free to grab the image from the sidebar and add it to your post so others know where to link up. 
~I will also be sharing my favorite post from the month before. November's fave was from Emma Eats and Explores, because a wine tasting in Tuscany totally makes me go goo-goo eyed and gets my wanderlust flowing! 

Monday, November 21, 2016

Honey Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

It's that time of year again! 
It's pumpkin seed season!! 

The time of year where I start hoarding pumpkins, asking friends if they will be using the ones they had sitting on their porch steps now that Fall is ending, and seeing if I can make them last into the new year. Last year I was still baking pumpkin seeds in January! This is not an exaggeration! I love me some pumpkin seeds, so I figured I would share my favorite recipe again, for anyone who loves them as much as I do!! 

Ingredients
Olive oil
Honey
Garlic Salt 

I am not a measurer of things, so if you need precise, then I'm really sorry. I kind of just throw in a little of this and a lot of that depending on my feelings in any particular moment. So here is a general overview of my step-by-step process... 

Step 1) Start by preheating the oven to 350 degrees. 
Step 2) Cut open pumpkin and scoop out seeds. Then place all the seeds in a bowl of semi-warm water. I let the seeds soak for a minute or two and swoosh them around the get the stringy pulp separated. The pulp should settle to the bottom and then I fish the clean seeds out and place them on a paper towel. I like my seeds to be cleaned (no thick pulp), but not too clean (still a little orange film), because I think it adds more of that pumpkin seed yumminess when finished.  
Step 3) Pat the seeds dry with a paper towel. I will usually do this twice, transferring the seeds from the first paper towel to a second in between patting (that way the seeds aren't sitting on a wet paper towel). The new paper towel will help to soak up some of the extra moisture, but I don't ever wait for the seeds to dry. Some people will tell you that's a thing (and that you must wait), but I am too impatient to have that be one of my things, so they are still moist when I stick them onto their baking sheet and this method hasn't failed me yet! I prep the baking sheet with aluminum foil and a sprinkle of olive oil (makes cleanup a cinch).
Step 4) Place the seeds in a plastic bag and pour in just a tad of olive oil, quiet a good squeeze of honey and about two shakes of garlic salt. I close the bag and get to shaking. I shake (and knead) until all the seeds are coated, check to make sure I feel they are evenly coated (if not, or I just feel in the mood for more, I will add a dash more salt and honey) and then spread them evenly onto a foil lined baking sheet. *Note: You could mix in a bowl, I just find the bag helps to spread the honey and salt evenly and makes cleanup a lot easier!
Step 5) After making sure they are evenly spread (not a lot of seeds overlapping) I will sprinkle more garlic salt on top so that the seeds have an even coating of salt. Then for good measure, I squeeze just a bit more honey to give it a good pop and then place the pan in the oven. 
Step 6) Bake for 12 minutes and then take the pan out and flip the seeds. Pop back in oven for another 12-15 minutes or until golden brown (or crisped to your preference). Babe prefers his seeds a little more crispy so sometimes I will leave them in a little longer for him. Just watch carefully, they can go from brown to burnt real quick! 
Step 7) Voila! Just let cool and enjoy!! 
  
How seeds look going in... 
How seeds look coming out! 
Pumpkin seeds are one of my favorite fall snacks! 
Happy munching!! 
How do you prepare yours? Any other sweet and salty recipes I should try?

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

#TravelTuesday 10// 27 Great Travel Experiences aka My ABCs of Travel

Happy Tuesday fellow travel lovers!!
It's time for another #TravelTuesday linkup!! 
Can't wait to see where you have been adventuring lately!

This month I am taking a page from Sea Salt Secrets blog and taking an ABC's of traveling survey, because I thought it looked like so much fun! So here goes...
Age of first international trip: 23 for our honeymoon in Greece
Best foreign beer Beach you've visited and where: I'm much more a wine gal than a beer drinker, so beer to beach seemed like a good trade! My favorite beach so far has been this little hidden oasis we found in Grand Turk (off a trail behind the lighthouse), with a little natural swimming pool, where we had the whole place to ourselves for the entire afternoon. 
Cuisine (favorite): Costa Rican; I have gone on two different mission trips to Costa Rica and while working, the people in the community we are serving in cook lunch for us and then we all enjoy a meal together. Best. Food. Ever!!
Destination (favorite): Oh gosh, this one is hard! Each destination has it's own uniqueness that makes it a favorite for different reasons. Though not a specific destination, I think some of my all time favorite moments happen on quiet trips in our travel trailer, Flo, or while we are on a cruise. There is just something so calming about being unplugged from the rest of the world. I really loved Grand Turk and Aruba!
Experience that made you say wow: African safari in Kenya!
Favorite mode of transportation: Large scale; cruise ship! Small scale; the back of a scooter (driving freaks me out!)! Overall; driving in Flo, so that we are always carrying "home" with us! 
Greatest feeling while traveling: Just taking in all the beauty the world has to offer; the different scenery, diverse and unique cultures, etc. That feeling that you can make you seem so small in comparison and yet so full and connected as well!
Hottest place you've ever traveled: Am I allowed to say home?! Florida is hot, y'all!! Though actually out trip to Savannah was super hot and muggy, so that might beat it?!
Incredible service you've experienced: The people in both Costa Rica and Kenya were so hospitable. Their caring hearts and welcoming nature was far better, in my opinion, than any "first-class" service at any resort ever. They open their homes, hearts and community to make you feel like you are part of their family! 

Journey that took the longest: Kenya, for sure! But it would have been worth so much longer. Such a beautiful place, with beautiful people! Even though many were living in what were the poorest conditions I have ever experienced; people were smiling and inviting and just so loving!
Keepsake from your travels: We don't like spending much on souvenirs. Instead I like to find little treasures from each place we go; sea glass from Mykonos, shells from Grand Turk, neat stones I find while we are out hiking. I do like to get ornaments from different landmarks if I feel like they are affordable. Hanging them on the tree each Christmas brings back all the memories!
Least favorite destination: Honestly, probably New York City (or maybe Athens, Greece- minus the ruins). Too overwhelming for my senses! I am definitely more of a great outdoors kind of girl, but I love a good city with great restaurants and food close at hand (I mean I do call Orlando home... for now), but I think those cities were just a little much for me. Large crowds of people make me nervous and I start to feel claustrophobic and no matter where you were there just always seemed to be tons of people.
Moment when you fell in love with travel: Oh man, I don't know! I think it's just always been ingrained in my heart. But I think when we got our travel trailer was when my thirst to really "just go" fully kicked in.
Nicest hotel you've stayed at: Honestly, I prefer renting a house or little villa to a hotel. One of my favorite places we have ever stayed was this little cozy cabin in North Carolina. It had a little creek running through the backyard, a lovely fireplace and a tree swing. It could have had just the swing and I would have thought it was the best little place. Give me cozy cabin over fancy hotel any day! 
Obsession (what you take pictures of most while traveling): Honestly, the people I am with... I know there are so many great sights to capture, but I love experiencing it all with the people I call mine. I want to stop that memory, and the feeling that came with it- even if just for a moment- so that I can always look back on it and think, "yep, that was a happy moment and we were all together!"
Passport stamps (how many & where from): I can't seem to find my passport (eek!), so this will be updated when I get my life together and can put my finger on it again!! Soon (fingers crossed)!! 
Quirkiest attraction you've visited: I love a good road-side attraction! I really want to hit up Route 66 someday, but I think so far the quirkiest (and possibly sketchiest) thing would have to be when a friend and I stopped at this little road-side farm/commune when we saw a sign for "piglets for sale". That was one strange little place for sure! A big bus that had been painted all kinds of colors and turned into a type of bedroom (non-ACed and in Florida), huge pigs roaming around, chickens, watermelons for sale, and the list goes on. 
Really frightening (a place you have felt insecure/uneasy): Athens, Greece; there was some political unrest when we were there and a bomb went off not far from where were eating one night. The city itself wasn't super welcoming and I just felt uneasy. I could not have been happier to get on our cruise ship and tour the islands. 
Splurge (something you have no problem spending $$ on while traveling): FOOD!! And drink! Gimme all the yummies and please fill my cup!! 
Most Touristy thing you've done: Oh man, I am horrible! I have since tried to blend in better, but being from Orlando and an avid Disney lover I don't think there is a touristy thing I haven't done. I mean we got engaged at Disney. But, I think forcing Andrew to wear Mickey ears and matching t-shirts would probably take the cake. 
Most Unforgettable travel memory: I am horribly indecisive (as if you couldn't tell already) and these questions are killing me! Maybe our adventure in Aruba, with cave touring and cliff jumping or my entire Kenya trip or the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul... there are just too many things flashing across my brain. 
Best glass of Wine: I am a sweet wine girl and haven't stepped it up to the fancy stuff yet. One of my favorite wines is from this little vineyard in Georgia called the Watermelon Creek Vineyard. Their Lane's Bridge Red speaks my kind of language!

eXcellent view: Snow-capped mountain views give me all the feels!! And the Baths in Virgin Gorda were some of the most awesome views I have ever taken in. 
Years spent traveling: I've always been a traveler, even as a young kid my family made it a priority to see new places. Babe and I have been traveling fairly regularly for the last 5 years, with much more planned in the future.
Z is supposed to be Zealous sports fans, but given that I am not a watcher of the sports I am going with place you get the best ZZZZs: On a cruise ship, no doubt! The darkness of an interior cabin added to the gentle lull of the ship on the water and Andrew literally has to force me awake most mornings (around 10 on ship day; don't judge)! 

And that's a little peek into my travel history! If you've never done one of these it is really fun! If you decide to take it for yourself feel free to add it in below for this month's linkup (or share any travel related fun in your world lately)! 

Happy Travels! 
Where have you been exploring lately? 
Share your link below and let's travel together! 
~On the 2nd Tuesday of every month I will be sharing a new travel post and would love to see where you have been exploring! 
~Any linked posts will be pinned under Travel Tuesday on my Pinterest
~No real rules, as I am not a huge fan of those sorts of things! Just add any travel related link and I encourage you to peek around and see where everyone else has been. Leave a little love where you like! 
~Feel free to grab the image from the sidebar and add it to your post so others know where to link up. 
~I will also be sharing my favorite post from the month before. October's fave was from Global Girl Travels, because the Grand Canyon at Sunset? Yes, please!!