Adventure Time: Norfolk, VA Edition (Round 6 – An Evening with Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox)

Al and I discovered Postmodern Jukebox (PMJ) on YouTube within the last year. When we found out they were touring and coming to Norfolk, we bought tickets in April!

Sadly, Al wasn’t able to go because the concert date conflicted with his recent work trip to Mexico. So, we invited our 13-year-old niece, Mia, to be my date. It was awesome!!

The ensemble told everyone up front that photos and videos were definitely allowed, which was amazing!

This was the set before the concert started. The curtain was gorgeous!

There was such a vintage theme. I took pictures mainly because of all of the costume changes!

This woman. Holy cow! So soulful, and beautiful. She reminded me so much of Aretha Franklin!

All of the different dresses!

One of the singers, and the resident tap dancer!

The beginning of their rendition of “Africa.”

The whole band! Every single one of them was awesome!

They were singing and dancing to “Umbrella.” So colorful!

The trombonist’s last night on tour was in Norfolk. He was awesome!

The tap dancer! I love this action shot!

She sang a fabulous version of “Time After Time.” It brought the house down!

It was such a wonderful experience! If they come to your city/town, it’s completely worth the money!


For more information, check out these links and videos:

There’s so many more on YouTube!


Have you heard of Postmodern Jukebox?

If you have, do you have a favorite version / rendition of theirs?


Until the next headline, Laura Beth ๐Ÿ™‚

Writing Adventures #2: Discovering Evernote

Evernote

Image Credit: Evernote

Welcome back! Thanks to everyone who read my first post in this new Writing Adventures series that I’ve started. I really appreciate all the support and encouragement, so far!

Here’s the link to my previous post:


Today’s post is about a new tool that I’ve learned about, called Evernote. I was intrigued from the very beginning, and I wanted to try it out and see how it worked.

I first learned about Evernote from my friend, Madison (Madi) Grace.

Here’s the link to her post:


I love their motto / tagline:

Get organized. Work smarter. Remember everything.

Yes, please! I love it!

I took some time on Saturday, June 16th (yes, the same day this post was published!) to sign up for Evernote and start playing with it. About 10 minutes in, I love it. I really do. This is a game-changer for me.

My first notebook has the tentative title of my WIP, “Experiences From Camp.”

I’ll load my chapters in from Microsoft Word slowly, piece by piece, but for now I just wrote myself some reminders, and where I started with this whole thing!

Here’s what my notebook looks like right now:

“Experiences From Camp”

  • I started this during NaNoWriMo 2012, which was my first-ever NaNoWriMo. I wrote around 10,000 words by the end of that month.
  • In March, I signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo for the very first time, thanks to Madi’s encouragement.
  • During Camp NaNoWriMo April 2018, I exceeded my goal and won Camp! My goal was 20,000 new words. On April 30th, I surpassed my goal with approximately 20,256 new words! Yippee!
  • June 2018 monthly goal: Write 1,000 new words.
  • Sign up for Camp NaNoWriMo July 2018 before the end of the month.
  • Set my Camp NaNoWriMo goal before the end of the month.
  • Current word count: 34,130 words.

I also plan on using Evernote’s handy Note templates for creative writing projects.

I’m excited to keep playing around with Evernote. I love it already. Thanks again, Madi, for your awesome post!

Come back in about a month for the next Writing Adventures post!


What about you?

Have you used Evernote?

Are you writing anything special?


Until the next headline, Laura Beth ๐Ÿ™‚

Adventure Time: Florida Edition (Round 3 – Richard Madan’s Celebration of Life & Family Trip)

Image may contain: 3 people, including Laura Beth Vardaro, people smiling, people standing and wedding

Mom, me, and Uncle Richard, on my wedding day, November 2015. Image Credit: Stellar Exposures

It’s a funny thing sometimes, your conscience.

Saturday, April 7th, was my Uncle Richard’s 68th birthday. It was a busy Saturday, but this little voice in my head kept reminding me to call him for his birthday. Between a successful blood drive and going out to dinner with our friends Casey and Beth, that voice kept at it. I had a wonderful 20-minute conversation with my uncle that night. I could almost hear his smile in his voice.

Little did I know, that would be the last time I would hear him speak.

The following Tuesday, April 10th, my parents called after Al and I finished dinner. I could tell my dad was hesitating about something, but I couldn’t put my finger on it.

Finally, the words that always signal bad news to me came out of his mouth: “Are you sitting down?”

My uncle had been in a car accident, near his house in Miami, Florida. Immediately after the accident, he was found unconscious in his SUV. Thankfully, medical personnel got him to the nearest hospital in time to save his life.

It was a flurry of activity that week. Mom flew down on Sunday, April 15th. My dad drove 17 hours straight from Monday night into Tuesday morning. They started organizing his house while visiting the hospital daily. Originally, there was hope of rehabilitation, and eventual discharge to some sort of assisted living facility.

But, the stroke was worse than everyone had thought. More moderate to severe. He wasn’t speaking, or eating. My mom made some of the most gut-wrenching decisions in terms of aggressive treatment and resuscitation. Thankfully, my dad was there by her side.

We knew things were near the end when he was transferred to an excellent hospice unit of another medical center. At five minutes to midnight, on Wednesday, April 25th, he passed away peacefully.

I had the opportunity to attend his Celebration of Life, and help spread his ashes. I took a full week off of work, and I’m so glad that I did.


Thursday, May 17th

I was very fortunate to find a seat on the same American Airlines flight as a friend from church. Her wonderful husband drove both of us to the airport. Aside from some unruly thunderstorms, it was an uneventful flight, direct from Norfolk to Miami. This was my first time on a plane in nearly three years!

After an adventure getting the rental car, my parents met us at Kathy’s hotel in Coconut Grove. My parents took me back to Richard’s house in Miami, where I saw first-hand the fruits of their labor. In the four weeks they had been living there, they cleaned everything out, painted everything, and deep cleaned the carpet. They hand-scrubbed half of the back deck, and were preparing to cut a big branch of the beautiful mango tree that was hanging over the deck. We picked at least 100 mangoes! I was very impressed with their work.

For dinner, we went out to Il Bambino, a wonderful Italian restaurant nearby. They spent several hours with Shirley and Bill, dear friends of my grandparents. They’ve been married for 65 years!


Friday, May 18th

The Celebration of Life was scheduled for Friday evening at Plymouth Congregational Church, and there was a lot to do before then. This is the church where my mom and uncle grew up. I have many memories of this amazing church since I was a kid.

Our friends Debbie and Lucy flew down from Virginia on Friday morning, and they stayed at one of the church guest houses. Plymouth is a sprawling church campus – 17 buildings on more than 11 acres of beautiful, lush, tropical land!

Kathy was wonderful – Between Mom, Dad, her, and me, we loaded multiple food trays from Publix into the rented Kia van and my uncle’s Durango SUV in the afternoon. We had plenty of time to get everything set up at the church before the celebration was scheduled to begin.

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The entrance table.

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I helped buy the guest book. I thought it was fitting that we had several Pan Am pens for people to use.

These photos are just some of the memorabilia from National Airlines and Pan Am. Richard was hired as a flight attendant by National Airlines in 1973. National merged with Pan Am in 1980. Richard flew with Pan Am until the company’s demise in 1991. He also worked as an instructor and trainer.

There were amazing letters from passengers, too, complimenting Richard on his professionalism, service, and more!

We had 50 people come to the celebration, which exceeded our expectations. We laughed more than we cried. Mom spoke. I spoke, telling the story of my conscience telling me to make that phone call. A dear friend from Plymouth, Dickie, echoed my words and implored everyone to “make that call.”

Richard’s best friend, Michael, an Episcopal priest, shared stories of their 45-year friendship. We could tell that Richard’s death has affected Michael greatly, since Michael called my uncle every night and they talked for an hour. Every night. For years. Now, he can’t make those calls any more.

A few flight attendant friends also spoke, but most of the evening was very much a beautiful, non-alcoholic wake. I was so happy to see so many friends, and to catch up with them and learn more about their lives. We sent everyone home with food, and by 11:00 p.m., we were beyond ready for bed!


Saturday, May 19th

Saturday started early. In preparation to sell Richard’s house, the wonderful real estate agent (who happens to be married to Plymouth’s amazing associate pastor) asked that one of the big branches of the backyard mango tree be cut down.

No problem!

I got to use power tools, and work with my dad and our good friend, Tim. Tim was a business associate of my grandfather’s and Richard for years. Tim’s kids, Timmy and Megan, grew up with me. Tim’s wife, Nancy, told me that whenever they told Timmy and Megan that we were coming to visit, they would get so excited. One of the best area restaurants is The Big Cheese Miami, and Timmy and Megan knew that when the Strickers were coming to visit, that meant a trip to The Big Cheese for everyone!

This was part of the branch that hung right over the deck. Not great appeal to potential homebuyers. It had to go!

That’s Tim, using the special mango picker. We also picked a bunch with pruners, and by hand!

We filled this crate, and two other big boxes, full of mangoes. My dad printed signs for the boxes, imploring people in the neighborhood to come and take mangoes!

The branch is gone! We set up the patio furniture, too, which I hosed down.

You can see where we cut several huge branches, in the left of the picture.

All clean!

After working in the backyard, Mom and I showered. We met Kathy, Debbie, and Lucy at Plymouth. We drove over to Terri’s gorgeous condo in Coral Gables, where she was hosting us for lunch.

The beautiful tropical plants surrounding the entrance.

Terri and Walter’s condo is on the 15th floor, and the elevator stops at their place. Such opulence! A few steps in, there are gorgeous floor-to-ceiling windows that give a panoramic view of Miami, Key Biscayne, and more.

The most beautiful orchids – They were everywhere!

Lunch was delicious, and it was so nice for my mom to have some “girl time.” I think Terri was pleased to host, and we learned more about her, too. She and my mom have been friends since third grade. Terri’s mom was Richard’s 5th and 6th grade teacher, and my grandmother was the “room mom,” so naturally, their families became friends. Terri was also a flight attendant with Richard for several years.

After lunch, we went back to Plymouth to spread Richard’s ashes. Plymouth has a beautiful memorial garden, with nameplates of those who have passed on. My grandfather, Norman Madan, and grandmother, Grace Madan, have nameplates already. Richard’s will be added soon. It was overcast, but wonderful words were spoken by Michael, and Moira McGuinn, one of the church’s amazing associate pastors. Mom, Dad, Michael, Moira, and I all took turns spreading his ashes in the garden.

As we were concluding the ceremony, I heard an airplane flying overhead. Perfect symbolism, in my opinion.

After we finished, we showed Kathy, Debbie, and Lucy the church and the grounds. It’s such an impressive place. Here’s some photos.

We went back to the house, where Mom and Dad met with the real estate agent. While that was happening, the rest of us packed our rented Chevy Tahoe full of the remaining items that needed to come home to Virginia. Kathy is an expert packer, so we had the job done in just a few hours.

By then, we were famished. I called The Big Cheese for takeout, and Dad drove me to pick it up. We did family style. All I cared about were their amazing garlic knots, but the rest of the food was divine.


Sunday, May 20th

Mom, Dad, and I left Miami around 10:00 a.m. We headed toward Seminole, on the west coast of Florida, to see my Grandpa Stricker. He’s 92 and doing great! I was so happy to get to see him, since I was woefully overdue for a visit.

I was happy to help Mom and Dad with the driving. Along the way, we stopped for lunch in Port Charlotte, Florida, to visit with our dear friends Rick and Kyle Watts. Rick and Kyle were Mom and Dad’s neighbors in Virginia Beach before I came along, and we’ve kept in touch all these years. They are currently taking care of Kyle’s mom, and Kyle herself has been keeping a close eye on Rick. He got a new heart via transplant in February, and overall, he’s doing great! It was so nice to see them – It had been too long.

We got to Grandpa’s in the early evening. We had leftovers from previous meals. Mom and I both showered, and turned in early. I got almost 12 hours of sleep!

Before Mom and I went to bed, she noticed this amazing male angina bird outside the window. Unlike other birds, they don’t produce oil to help dry their wings. So, when they get wet, they perch in a tree and spread their wings to help them dry out. We stood at the windows and watched this guy for nearly 30 minutes!


Monday, May 21st

We had coffee early, but knew Grandpa wanted to take us to breakfast. There’s an awesome hole-in-the-wall place near his house called Suzie Q’s Diner. Amazing food!!

This was my delicious breakfast – Their special spinach, mushroom, and Swiss omelet. Complete with hash browns and sourdough toast. Mmmmm!

After breakfast, Dad and I cruised around, seeing how much Seminole has changed in the last few years. The old Seminole Mall that we shopped at and the Cinemas 8 we went to in the summers is long gone – Now replaced by the hip and trendy Seminole City Center. There’s everything anybody could want there – Shops, restaurants, a LA Fitness gym, an upscale movie theater, and more. Very impressive.

We had lunch at home, but went out to dinner at the local Applebee’s. After dinner, we came home and vegged. We watched Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy, and an episode of Antiques Roadshow before I turned in for the night.


Tuesday, May 22nd

We got up at 4:15 a.m. – My usual!

We were on the road about an hour later, preparing for the long haul drive home. I’m glad I decided to drive back with Mom and Dad. I was able to help out with driving both vehicles. Plus, I spent some quality time with both of them.

We stopped once in every state – Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia. It all worked out. It was just a long marathon, 14 hours of driving.

Mom and Dad dropped me off at home around 7:00 p.m. – It was a nice end to a great trip.


I’m sad that my uncle passed away, but I’m grateful for my parents. I’m grateful that they’re both retired and were able to travel when they did. They spent 38 days together in a 940-square foot house – A true test to their 36-year marriage! They were a great team. There’s still more work to be done, but they accomplished quite a long list in the five weeks that they spent together in Miami. A true roller coaster of emotions.

I’m grateful that my work provides such generous PTO. I’m grateful that my colleagues were so understanding, and they appreciate the importance of family. I’m glad that I was able to spend the time off with my family, and seeing many wonderful friends.

Hold your family and friends close. Time is precious. Time is valuable.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth ๐Ÿ™‚

Writing Adventures #1: Creating A Success Journal

Success Journal

Image Credit: Stacia Pierce

Welcome to a new series on Hot Shot Headlines!

After my rousing success with my first-ever Camp NaNoWriMo in April, I’ve decided to make more writing happen in 2018. I’m determined to finish the novel that I started in 2012, and outline the other novels I have in development. I have so many ideas!

So, when I stumbled upon this post from What Inspires Your Writing last week, I figured that starting with a success journal was a logical first step.

Here’s the link to their post:


I love this idea of a success journal!

In fact, I already kind of have one, but I haven’t written anything in it yet.


And, a success journal is certainly not limited to writing. Not at all! I encourage anyone to keep a journal, diary, whatever works for you. Writing is like therapy for me, so it makes sense that I document my progress, my successes, and my failures!


So, I’ll be posting about my writing adventures periodically on the blog. My initial goal is to post about once a month, at least in the beginning. And then, we’ll see what happens.

I’m excited to take my success journal everywhere I go!

Check back here about a month from now, and we’ll see what adventures I’ve gone on, and what adventures are to come.

Thanks for following along on this exciting journey!


Do you have a success journal?

Are you writing anything special?


Until the next headline, Laura Beth ๐Ÿ™‚

Adventure Time: Newport News & Williamsburg, VA Edition (Greyhounds, Colonial Williamsburg, and Romantic Escape Package)

Al and I had a great weekend! We got to meet and greet some greyhounds, and then spent some time at The Williamsburg Winery!

We went to a meet-and-greet with Old Dominion Greyhound Adoption. This was their first meet-and-greet at the Care-A-Lot in Newport News. There were nine greyhounds there, with their owners, along with the Director of the group. Everyone was so nice and friendly! The dogs were incredibly sweet. We went home with an application, and are excited to start this process!


After the greyhound meet-and-greet, we went to Colonial Williamsburg for lunch. The Trellis Bar & Grill is a really nice restaurant, right in the heart of Merchants Square.

We enjoyed a hearty lunch – Al had “The Burger” and I got their tortellini.

I love the unique touches, from their birdcage lanterns, to their cute salt and pepper grinders.. Their water comes in epic bottles!

We weren’t quite full after our entrees, but we decided to spring for dessert and their signature mock-tails. For dessert, I chose their Flourless Chocolate Torte, and Al had their Burnt Sugar ice cream. Al had the “Moscow Pony” mock-tail, and I had their “No-Jito” mock-tail. They were awesome!


After lunch, we ventured 12 minutes away to The Williamsburg Winery. Al won a very generous gift card at his company Christmas party in December, which allowed us this experience!

We chose the Romantic Winter Escape Hotel Package:

  • One Night in a Tradition room, with king-sized bed and wood-burning fireplace*

  • A Tour and Wine Tasting for two at the Williamsburg Winery, including a tour of the barrel cellar and a tasting of seven wines

  • Bottle of Williamsburg Winery wine

  • Artisanal chocolates

  • $100 Dinner Voucher for Cafรฉ Provenรงal

  • European-style Continental Breakfast for two including croissants, pastries, fresh fruit and more

We got to the winery around 4:00. We checked in around 4:15, which gave us just enough time to unload the car before the 4:30 tour and tasting.

These are the giant oak barrels where the wine is stored!

Barrels of wine in the cellar.

This is the “reserve cellar,” where a more extensive tour and tasting is held.

The shelves hold different vintages of wine, dating back to the late 1980s.

These are the three concrete eggs that hold the white wines.

Once the barrels are past their prime (Their life span is about 10 years), they are sold to private collectors, or used as trash cans in places like Colonial Williamsburg.

The tour and tasting were fabulous. Our guide, Stephanie, was incredibly knowledgeable and awesome! We tasted several different wines. It was really nice and relaxing!

The view from our hotel window. That’s the winery in the distance.

Our room at Wedmore Place was the “Brittany.” I felt like we were in Europe! The bed was incredibly comfortable. I wanted to take the mattress home!

I got to wear my new LuLaRoe Maxi!

Chesapeake Bay Crab Cakes.

Filet Mignon.

Poached Apple Tart.

Pumpkin Cheesecake.

We had an amazing dinner at Cafe Provenรงal, which was located in the lower level of the hotel. Everything was divine! Al got the Caramelized Onion Soup (no photo), and the Filet Mignon. I had their delicious Chesapeake Bay Crab Cakes, along with a glass of their A Midsummer Night’s White.

For dessert, Al got the Pumpkin Cheesecake, and I had the Poached Apple Tart.

There were exquisite pieces of furniture, like this, throughout!

The courtyard.

Our complimentary bottle of merlot, wine glasses, and artisanal chocolates!

Part of the package was a bottle of wine of our choice, wine glasses, and artisanal chocolates! We took it home. With our complimentary tour glasses, we have four new wine glasses at home!

On Sunday morning, we ate breakfast at the cafe. It was a lavish feast, with fresh fruit, strong coffee, assorted croissants, and quiche! We took our time, and checked out about an hour later. We went back to reality quickly – Getting gas, grocery shopping, getting ready for the new work week.

It was a much-needed mini-getaway. A piece of Europe is only 45 minutes away!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth ๐Ÿ™‚

Adventure Time: Roanoke, VA Edition (“Mimosas in the Mountains” – Savy’s Bachelorette Weekend!)

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This was one of our gifts! Savy got them on Etsy!

I was waiting for this past weekend for what felt like FOREVER!

This weekend was definitely full of many “firsts” for me:

  • First time visiting the Roanoke area in several years.
  • First time ever staying in an Airbnb.
  • First time going on a significant hike.
  • First time ever getting an Uber.
  • First time, since college, going out and dancing.

There were six of us sharing the Airbnb – Savy, Crystal, Vong, Anna, Brittany, and myself. We all got along great, and had a fabulous weekend!


Friday

Anna and I both were able to take the day off from work. Since I offered to make breakfast for everyone on Saturday morning, I went to Aldi and got all the fixings for French toast and bacon, plus OJ, milk, and coffee. I took my time, since I was picking up Anna at her house in Virginia Beach at 11:00 a.m. My parents offered to let me borrow one of their coolers, plus ice packs and frozen water bottles, so I stopped by their house for about 45 minutes and caught up with my mom.

I got to Virginia Beach early enough to figure out where Anna lived, then topped off my gas tank at BJ’s in Norfolk. I got back to Anna’s around 10:45. We got her stuff in the car, and then headed out!

Traffic was blissfully light – It was just a long-haul drive. We stopped for lunch at a McDonald’s just outside of Richmond. This restaurant had the traditional line, but also two new ordering kiosks. That was certainly interesting.

We got back on the road, and made it all the way to the Waynesboro area before I stopped at a Wendy’s for the bathroom, and the biggest root beer they offered. We still had about two hours left at that point!

All told, it took about five hours to reach the Airbnb in Roanoke, and we got there around 4:45 p.m. Anna and I explored the house, claimed our bedrooms, and then unloaded the car. We hung out for a while. Savy, Crystal, and Vong rode together, and arrived around 6:15 p.m.

I didn’t take a lot of photos of the Airbnb, but it was a really nice house. In addition to the six beds (Three on the second floor, and the other three in the finished basement), there was a spacious living room, sweet kitchen, and an awesome deck right off the first floor!

Once Savy, Crystal, and Vong arrived and got settled, we headed out to find dinner. The good news was we were just a few minutes from downtown Roanoke, and we had a TON of food options. Savy recommended eating as much starch and protein as we could, in preparation for the hike.

We ended up at a really cool place called Bushi. They offer sushi burritos and poke bowls. They’ve only been open for three months, but it was a nice set-up. The vegetables were incredibly fresh (The head chef / manager was slicing avocados while we were there), and the staff made everything in front of you, to your liking. I got the “Don’t Tuna Around” sushi burrito – I loved it! The only wrinkle was it fell apart really quickly, and it was pretty messy, but it didn’t matter. I ate every bite.

After dinner, we drove to the local Kroger. Vong got all the stuff for sandwiches for the hike, plus fresh apples, trail mix, a case of water, and a few other things. Savy wanted to pay for some of it, and we said absolutely not! Between Crystal, Vong, and I, we made it work.

For the rest of Friday night, we just enjoyed the amazing cool air on the deck with the patio furniture, sharing stories, popcorn, Cheez-Its, and iced animal crackers. I stayed up until 11:00 p.m. or so, but I knew I needed to get up around 5:30 a.m. to start breakfast!


Saturday

I’m glad I got up around 5:30 a.m., because I needed the prep time for breakfast! I made the French toast first, and then started on the bacon. I saved the scrambled eggs for last. I used 11 eggs total!

Vong was the first one up, and we waited for everyone else to get up to eat. It took some brain power to figure out the Ninja coffee maker, but it worked like a charm.

We ate together at the dining room table and drank mimosa with our mugs, along with coffee. After breakfast, everyone scattered to take showers and get dressed. We also slathered ourselves in sunscreen and heavy-duty bug spray.

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Scrambled eggs, bacon, and French toast with syrup.

I drove Vong and Brittany in my car, and then Savy took Crystal and Anna in hers. It was about a 20-minute drive to McAfee Knob. It’s part of the Appalachian Trail!

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The parking lot was already pretty full when we arrived, which was around 9:15 a.m. We set off to start at 9:20 a.m. There were several people coming DOWN the trail as we started!

This hike was HARD. I’m talking steep elevation, billions of rocks and boulders, thinning air, and navigating tree roots. But, it was completely worth it. I was definitely the slowest of the group, but we took several breaks for water and KIND bars to keep our energy up.

There were gigantic boulders throughout the hike!

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This was one of the places where we stopped for a break. The clearing was full of thousands of plants and wildflowers!

This was a series of photos from the top. It was absolutely breathtaking. I almost cried! It felt like a huge accomplishment. It took us 3 1/2 hours to get to the top, but it was absolutely worth it. We spent about 45 minutes at the top, where we ate lunch, people-watched, dog-watched (So many dogs!), and taking photos. According to my FitBit, it was 11,000 steps!!

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Obligatory group photo, or it didn’t happen! L to R: Brittany, Laura Beth, Savy, Anna, Vong, and Crystal.

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Most everyone had their photo taken like this. I was a little nervous, but it was awesome!

In total, it was basically a six-hour hike, round trip. I counted 22,000 steps total!

After the hike, we headed back to the Airbnb. I’m so glad Savy took me through a series of stretches, because otherwise, I definitely would not be walking so easily today! Everything from the waist down hurts, but it’s an awesome feeling.

We took showers and vegged out for several hours on Saturday. Savy and Vong made a freaking fantastic spaghetti dinner, with three pounds of meat in the sauce, plus garlic bread, and salad. I don’t know what Vong did, but she added orange juice to the leftover honey mustard for salad dressing, and it was amazing!!

After dinner, most of us took power naps, since we were going out dancing later. We had a blast!

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This was the selfie that I sent to Al before going out!


Sunday

We were able to extend the Airbnb check-out time to 12:00 p.m., which was great, since many slept in, Brittany made an amazing bread pudding for breakfast, and we had to clean up!

Brittany’s bread pudding consisted of day-old croissants, ham, cheese, eggs, green peppers, onions, and probably a few other ingredients. It was SO GOOD!

After checking out, we headed toward Charlottesville to visit the Michael Shaps Wineworks. It was on the way home, and highly recommended.

We visited the Tasting Room, and dined on amazing Brie cheese and toasted bread. Michael Shaps offers various French and Virginia wines, and it’s a family-owned business. It was really cool learning about the history of the winery, and how they grow their grapes in France, as well as Virginia. Anna got a bottle, and I bought Savy a bottle of her favorite red for the wedding!

After the tasting, we headed toward home. It was a long drive, but it was a great end to a fabulous weekend. Anna was so sweet and paid for my gas on the way home, and I dropped her off around 6:30 p.m. My car got basically 40 miles to the gallon between Friday and Sunday!!

I got home just after 7:00 p.m. Al helped me unload the car. We started a load of laundry, and then we compared notes about our weekends. Al celebrated Nick’s bachelor weekend in Virginia Beach and Richmond. Everyone was thoroughly entertained, to say the least. By 8:30 p.m., we headed to bed!


Savy – I had an AMAZING weekend. Thank you so much for including me in the festivities! I had so much fun.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth ๐Ÿ™‚

Adventure Time: Newport News, VA Edition (Virginia Living Museum & Nature Connects: Art with LEGO Bricks)

Legos

Image Credit: QuotesGram

With every “dating anniversary,” Al and I try to do something fun and different.

This year, since our anniversary fell on Labor Day, we decided to head up to Newport News!

For lunch, we ate at Harpoon Larry’s Fish House & Oyster Bar. I had eaten there a few times with my work department, but it was Al’s first time. I figured, since Al loves seafood, it would be a good place. It was delicious! I had their Mediterranean-style pasta with shrimp and scallops, and Al had their fried shrimp. We also split their crab dip. Yummy!!


After lunch, we headed to our destination: The Virginia Living Museum.

We were mainly going for their Nature Connects: Art with LEGO Bricks exhibit, but neither of us had been to the museum since we were in elementary school. We had so much fun!

In addition to traveling exhibits and displays, the museum has permanent indoor galleries, the Boardwalk Trail, Dinosaur Discovery Trail, Living Green/Gardens, and more. They also have the Abbitt Observatory and Abbitt Planetarium. The museum’s main goal to educate visitors about Virginia life and conservation. It celebrated it’s 50th anniversary in 2015!


Can you tell that I really like turtles?

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The Aviary was so cool!

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I love all the animals!

The beautiful scenery makes me feel like I’m in the woods or at the lake, far away from sirens and cars!

The flowers are gorgeous!


Now, on to the LEGO sculptures!!

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This bonsai tree was the only indoor sculpture. What a great way to start!

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Beautiful deer family.

Amazing spider!

Grandfather and Grandchild working in the garden, with red wheelbarrow.

Better photo of the red wheelbarrow.

Cardinals and squirrel in birdbath.

Bumblebee visiting a pansy.

Galapagos tortoise!

I think this one was my favorite!

This is a depiction of a rare pink dragonfly.

Stunning peacock. Did you know – The male bird is called the peacock, but the female bird is called the peahen?

Which sculpture is your favorite?


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We loved visiting the museum! We can’t wait to come back when we have kids!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth ๐Ÿ™‚

Adventure Time: Virginia Beach, VA Edition (The Magical Music of Harry Potter)

Al bought these tickets on September 12th.

On Saturday, October 29th, the wait was finally over!

The performance was at the Sandler Center for the Performing Arts in Virginia Beach.

The Virginia Symphony Orchestra always puts on a good show!


Before the show, Al and I went to dinner at Bahama Breeze Island Grille, which is across the street from Town Center. It was my first time eating there, and it was delicious! We splurged on the Firecracker Shrimp appetizer, and Al had a Lemon Breeze – Very tangy lemonade.

I ate the Jerk Chicken Pasta – Yummy! It was a perfect dish for me – Bowtie pasta; perfectly seasoned, thinly sliced jerk chicken; asparagus; mushrooms; and a Parmesan cream sauce.

Al had the Calypso Shrimp Pasta – Linguine, spicy shrimp, tomatoes, peppers, onions. We both had our plates topped with freshly grated Parmesan cheese, after dining on Caesar salads.

We will definitely be back – We had no room for dessert!


Then, on to the show! I proudly wore my “Just A Wizard Girl” T-shirt from my awesome Little, and my new Gryffindor socks! Al and I went to a Halloween party last weekend with our Gryffindor ties and wands!

We had Orchestra seats, about six rows from the stage. It was awesome!

The orchestra was conducted by Benjamin Rous, who seamlessly inserts himself into every performance. We’ve seen several performances conducted by him (The Music of John Williams, Looney Tunes, etc.), and he is so animated and lively. He also takes the time to explain certain aspects of the music – Recurring themes, how notes are put together, and showcasing different parts of the orchestra.

Each of the eight films were showcased, and Rous lauded each composer with high praise. We know John Williams is a genius, but Nicholas Hooper, Alexandre Desplat, and Patrick Doyle are just as amazing.

Rous quoted Desplat, saying that them man considered his score a success if he even attempted to honor John Williams.


Here’s the rundown of the show. I’ve posted a few links to the music so you can hear a bit of what we did. It was awesome!

Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

  • “Harry and Hermione”

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone

  • “Nimbus 2000”

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

  • “Double Trouble” (featuring the Virginia Symphony Orchestra Chorus)

– Intermission –

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

  • “The Chamber of Secrets”

Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone

Encore!

  • “Aunt Marge’s Waltz”

It was awesome to see a few fellow Harry Potter nerds at the show – Shelby and her husband, Jake, and Kristi and Tiana!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth ๐Ÿ™‚

Adventure Time: Hampton Roads Edition (Katie and the Sleepover, Round 2)

Fuller House Youtube

Image Credit: youtube.com

” … Everywhere you look, everywhere you go

There’s a heart (There’s a heart), a hand to hold onto.

When you’re lost out there and you’re all alone,

A light is waiting to carry you home … ”

~Jesse Frederick and Bennett Salvay


This all started with an announcement, way back in April 2015:

Full House Revival Fuller House Headed to Netflix in 2016!

… Say what?!


Disclaimer: I’m a big believer in zero spoilers for at least a week after a movie/TV show premieres. This is a spoiler-free zone!


FINALLY … Almost a YEAR later … The day arrived – February 26th!!

My workday was ridiculously slow. This always happens when there’s excitement in the air!

Katie agreed to arrive at 7:00 p.m. It worked out perfectly – Dinner was ready!

Reminiscent of our Star Wars: TFA weekend in December, the menu was spaghetti and sauce, garlic bread, and salad! Katie also brought dessert – Princess cupcakes!

Al headed upstairs to his computer, and Katie and I proceeded to plow through the first SIX episodes! It was awesome ๐Ÿ™‚

We stayed up until 11:00 p.m. – A record for me!


Katie was the first to get up on Saturday morning, to get a shower.

We then proceeded to have the breakfast of champions: French toast sticks, scrambled eggs with cheese, and coffee!


After breakfast, Katie and I went to Leigh Allyn Jewelers in Western Branch to pick up the peridot combination ring that I ordered on Valentine’s Day.

The big event for this weekend was another trip to LUSH Handmade Cosmetics in MacArthur Mall. We both stocked up on bath bombs, bubble bars, and a few other things!

Katie Uyak

We loaded up! Photo Credit: Katie Uyak.

One thing that we didn’t get to do with Heaven in December was the Color IQ test at Sephora. It was great! They took three photos with this nifty hand-held camera, one at the forehead, one at the cheek area, and then one at the neck, and that helps formulate your IQ.

Katie has a red undertone, and I have a yellow undertone. The really nice girl helping us showed us different foundations, lip colors, and concealers! We also signed up for Sephora’s Beauty Insider program.


After the mall, we went to see my dad at NOAA.

It was his last weekend, he is now officially RETIRED!

He gave us a quick tour of the NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson.

I drove the “Classic” wagon to Mom and Dad’s and we said hi to Mom. They just bought a replacement for the old girl … Sadface!


Then Katie and I picked up Al and we took Katie to Zaxby’s for the first time!

We got to episode 9 of Fuller House before Katie had to leave!

After Katie left, Al and I watched the rest of the episodes!ย I officially became a binge-watcher: All 13 episodes within 24 hours. Wow!


If you haven’t watched it, I recommend it. I didn’t grow up watching Full House, I discovered it at Longwood, thanks to ABC Family. But it’s one of my favorites.

I promised zero spoilers, and I’m upholding that.

I hope they do a Season 2! There’s a lot of potential.

Did you watch it? What did you think?


Until the next headline, Laura Beth ๐Ÿ™‚

Adventure Time: Florida Edition (Round 2 – Honeymoon!)

Image Credit: quotesgram.com

Image Credit: quotesgram.com

We decided where we wanted to go on our honeymoon in June. We knew that we needed to go see Jody, a travel agent at the AAA center in Suffolk, per my mom’s recommendation.

We thought we wanted a week at Disney World.

What we ended up doing was so much better!


When we met with Jody, we told her we were thinking of Orlando and Disney World for the week before Thanksgiving. She listened, thought about it, and then said,

“Have you heard of our Harry Potter Experience package?”

… Say what now?

When we left to get Mexican food on that June Saturday morning, we had signed up for three days at Universal with park-to-park passes, spending the whole week at Universal’s Cabana Bay Resort, breakfast vouchers at Three Broomsticks and The Leaky Cauldron, and a session at Shutterbuttons Studio. Wow!

Believe me, we certainly were excited for our wedding, but we couldn’t wait for our honeymoon!


Day 1 – Sunday, November 15th

Waiting for our flight! So excited!

Waiting for our flight! So excited!

After our wedding, we stayed overnight at the Hampton Inn near the Norfolk airport. We flew Southwest, thanks to my parents for snagging an awesome deal! It was a direct flight from Norfolk to Orlando, so we landed around 2:00 p.m. Our travel package instructed us to go to the Universal Orlando store. There, we received our shuttle information and our special “We’re Celebrating Our Honeymoon!” buttons. I received a series of texts indicating where our shuttle would be and what time.

Sure enough, this fancy black shuttle came to pick us up right on schedule. The driver took our bags and we settled in. It was about a 20-minute drive from the airport to Cabana Bay, our home for the week.

Cabana Bay Beach Resort is one of Universal’s newest resorts. It looks like a classic resort from the 1950s! Imagine a lot of neon and bright colors. It was massive – Five wings of rooms, two pools, a bowling alley, an arcade, a full-service diner, and more!

We spent most of Sunday exploring the resort, which felt like it went on and on. It was so awesome!

One of the two pools.

One of the two pools.

The front of the resort, all lit up.

The front of the resort, all lit up.

They had these classic cars permanently parked outside the resort.

They had these classic cars permanently parked outside the resort.

This was a cool cook in the lobby.

This was a cool clock in the lobby.


Day 2 – Monday, November 16th

We used our Disney World Hopper passes on Monday and Friday.

We decided to hit up the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom!

All of Disney World had their Christmas decorations up! This was just beyond the entrance to the Magic Kingdom.

All of Disney World had their Christmas decorations up! This was just beyond the entrance to the Magic Kingdom.

The Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse.

The Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse.

Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor.

Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor.

Animal Kingdom Christmas Tree. Every park had a huge tree, and they were all different!

The Animal Kingdom Christmas Tree. Every park had a huge tree, and they were all different!

The Tree of Life.

The Tree of Life.

Beautiful macaws and parrots!

Beautiful macaws and parrots!

Monkeys!

Monkeys!

One of the staff holding a gorgeous great horned owl before the "Birds of Wonder" show.

One of the staff holding a gorgeous great horned owl before the “Birds of Wonder” show.

Expedition Everest! We were in the front row! It was an awesome ride.

Expedition Everest! We were in the front row! It was an awesome ride.


Day 3 – Tuesday, November 17th

Day 1 at Universal!

As part of our package, we were able to enter the park an hour early!

The entrance to Universal CityWalk.

The entrance to Universal CityWalk. CityWalk has shops, restaurants, a movie theater, and even mini-golf!

Hogsmeade!

Hogsmeade!

If you haven’t been to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, it is totally worth it. I felt like I was on the set the entire time. The sheer amount of time and effort that was put into researching these worlds – Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley – was evident. Everything looked perfect. There were several people that were visiting from the U.K., and they were impressed!

The Hogwarts Express!

The Hogwarts Express!

On Tuesday, we had breakfast at Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade. Delicious! I tried the pumpkin juice there - Not bad!

We had our first of two breakfasts at Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade. Delicious! I tried the pumpkin juice there – Not bad!

The entrance to Three Broomsticks.

The entrance to Three Broomsticks.

I rode the Dragon Challenge roller coaster - Front row, and with only one other guy on the train, and he was in the very back!

I rode the Dragon Challenge roller coaster – Front row, and with only one other guy on the train, and he was in the very back!

Hogwarts! This had the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride - So cool!

Hogwarts! This had the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride – So cool!

We rode the Hogwarts Express into Kings Cross station. The Hogwarts Express connects the two parks! After leaving Kings Cross, we set foot in London in Universal Studios. Amazing!

Diagon Alley. It was truly magical!

Diagon Alley. It was truly magical!

Candid shot!

Candid shot!

Welcome to Springfield, U.S.A.!

Welcome to Springfield, U.S.A.!

After exploring Universal, we went back to the resort and enjoyed the Galaxy Bowl bowling alley!

After exploring Universal, we went back to the resort and enjoyed the Galaxy Bowl bowling alley!


Day 4 – Wednesday, November 18th

Day 2 at Universal!

Breakfast at The Leaky Cauldron!

Breakfast at The Leaky Cauldron!

Superman!

Superman! This was in the gift shop after riding Terminator 2 3D: Battle Across Time.

Kings Cross Station!

Kings Cross Station!

We experienced Butterbeer! It was amazing! The frozen kind was perfect because it was warm and humid!

We experienced Butterbeer! It was amazing! The frozen kind was perfect because it was warm and humid!

The day before, we tried to eat dinner at Bubba Gump Shrimp at CityWalk, but the line was insane! We decided to make a reservation for Wednesday night, which was perfect.

We timed the reservation for after the Universal’s Cinematic Spectacular: 100 Years of Movie Memories show in Universal Studios. It was a unique experience – It took place on the lagoon, and they used waterfall screens of amazing movie moments, with amazing music, fireworks, and narration by Morgan Freeman!

Back at Bubba Gump Shrimp, they took us early. It was packed, but we enjoyed a delicious meal! Our waitress was fantastic, and the manager stopped by to wish us well during our stay. All the staff quiz the tables with Forrest Gump trivia at some point during the meal, and between Al and I, we got all the questions right!


Day 5 – Thursday, November 19th

Last day at Universal. We took this day to explore Islands of Adventure!

You can enter Jurassic Park through Hogsmeade! It’s so awesome.

Welcome to Jurassic Park!

Welcome to Jurassic Park!

We rode the Jurassic Park River Adventure as soon as it opened. It was wild – We were the only two on the raft!

After exploring all of Jurassic Park, we made our way to Toon Lagoon! We strategically wore our swimsuits underneath our clothes, because we hit the three big water rides back-to-back-to-back. Unfortunately, that idea backfired – We were still damp a couple hours later!

We loved all the funny comics!

We loved all the funny comics!

Marvel Superhero Island and The Adventures of Spider-Man!

Marvel Superhero Island and The Adventures of Spider-Man!

Dr. Doom!

Dr. Doom!

In the afternoon, we made our way back to Diagon Alley for our Shutterbuttons studio session. It was awesome! We got to star in our own moving portraits, with robes and all! We love the DVD we received!

For dinner, we went toย The Cowfish restaurant at CityWalk. It sounds bizarre at first – A sushi burger bar?!

It was amazing!

We both got bento boxes - Sushi and a burger slider in the middle! So good!

We both got bento boxes – Sushi and a burger slider in the middle! So good!

One of the best experiences that we had was a gift from our dear friend Key – She bought us tickets to Blue Man Group! The venue was right outside Universal. It was so fun!

Selfie before the show! We couldn't take pictures or video, but it was an amazing show!

Selfie before the show! We couldn’t take pictures or video, but it was an amazing show!

If you haven’t seen Blue Man Group, you are missing out! It’s totally worth your money. It’s an amazing experience!!


Day 6 – Friday, November 20th

Last full day in Orlando. Womp womp!

But, we thoroughly enjoyed Day 2 at Disney World!

After breakfast at the resort’s diner, we took a taxi to Disney’s Hollywood Studios!

First on the list was Star Tours, obviously. It was awesome! We got even more excited for Star Wars: The Force Awakens at this point – Check out my movie review!

We did The Great Movie Ride as well.

First in line for MuppetVision 3D!

First in line for MuppetVision 3D!

Pixar Studios! This place was nuts. We wanted to do Toy Story Midway Mania!, but it was over an hour wait!

Pixar Place! This place was nuts. We wanted to do Toy Story Midway Mania!, but it was over an hour wait! I guess we just have to come back again …

Instead of waiting for a Disney bus to head to Epcot, we took a boat ride! It was such a cool experience. We got to see several of the Disney resorts, and then we were dropped off at Epcot!

The amazing model railroad in Germany!

The amazing model railroad in Germany!

We ate lunch in China – Delicious!

Obligatory.

Obligatory. Spaceship Earth!

We also rode the monorail back to the Magic Kingdom!

We had an absolutely wonderful time!!


Day 7 – Saturday, November 21st

The shuttle picked us up and took us to the Orlando airport.

Like our flight down, we had a direct flight back to Norfolk.

We came back home to sunny weather, but 54 degrees!

My wonderful parents picked us up and took us home.

If you take away any tips, I highly recommend leaving for a week-long trip on Sunday and coming back on Saturday. We needed that Saturday and Sunday to rest up and get ready for the following week!


We had an amazing week together that kicked off our married life.

I can’t wait to go back!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth ๐Ÿ™‚