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2013 Year in Review

2013

2013

We rang in the New Year quietly at home and just a few days later I was off  to run Ragnar: Miami to Key West

Chuck Norris Never Ragnar'd

Chuck Norris Never Ragnar’d

I opted out of February’s Donna this year due to my hip, but we still made it out to cheer

Cold!

Cold!

For Spring Break, Alex came to visit!

<3

<3

And T:E Girls partied at One Spark

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And rocked it out at the gym

TE

In April, Ben and I hopped on a plane to spend a few days in Santa Barbara and Malibu for my cousin’s wedding

Cheese

Cheese

Malibu Beach

Malibu Beach

Wedding!

Wedding!

In May, we started enjoying Florida’s beautiful beaches again

Date Night

Date Night

By June, I was back in the open water

Duval Ocean Swimmers

Duval Ocean Swimmers

And finally able to run again by July (see: #hipsaga2012)

July 4th 5k

July 4th 5k

CROME (formally known as Timed Exercise) also took to the beach this summer

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TE2

Midway through July we ran away for a week on the Allure of the Seas with my family for my dad’s 60th birthday

Docked at Labadee, Haiti

Docked at Labadee, Haiti

Cozumel, Mexico

Cozumel, Mexico

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Come August, I swam my second Hammer Head 2.5 Mile Ocean Marathon and place 2nd in my age group

Running to the finish

Running to the finish

And Hannah came to visit before shipping off to college :)

So proud of this girl

So proud of this girl

In September I joined JumpingFish for Up The River – Downtown – a 10k/6mi river swim escorted by 45 kayakers/boaters!

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Source: Jacksonville.com

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Soon after I spent a weekend in NYC with friends. We ate cupcakes, ran through Central Park and celebrated Lindsay’s upcoming wedding

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October brought several events including my second Siesta Key 5k Swim with a 4th place finish

Siesta Key 5k Ocean Swim with DOS

Siesta Key 5k Ocean Swim with DOS

My 30th Birthday

Thirty

Thirty

My first GORUCK

Damn good heart if you ask me

Damn good heart if you ask me

One Team

One Team

A trip to Virginia with Ben for Sarah’s wedding

Sarah and Andrew :)

Sarah and Andrew :)

Rainy Day

Rainy Day

And my fastest 5k ever!

29:33

29:33

In November I traveled home for Lindsay’s wedding and to see some of my favorite people

Eric!

Eric!

And on Thanksgiving morning I ran the Subaru 13.1 in 35 degree temps (Florida?!?) – this race was iconic for me because it was the first 13.1 after all my hip issues. I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to run the distance again. I ran it thanks to my wonderful PRS group.. I even PR’d by a minute :)

2:20.29

2:20.29

Before we knew it, it was December and time for my second GORUCK.

GORUCK Light Class #153 - Jacksonville Beach

GORUCK Light Class #153 – Jacksonville Beach

I also ran a painfully difficult soft-sand beach 5k, but had a ton of fun AND placed!

Patrons of the Heart Beach 5k

Patrons of the Heart Beach 5k

The next day (Sunday 12/22/13), Ben and I went to the beach, like any other Sunday. It was incredibly warm and beautiful for just three days before Christmas.. but that’s Florida for you.

Little did I know...

Little did I know…

Little did I know that I’d walk to the water with my boyfriend and walk back up the beach with my fiancé :)

Yes!

Yes!

The next couple of days included engagement excitement and Christmas

Christmas Eve Shenanigans

Christmas Eve Shenanigans

We rang in the New Year with a simple dinner and home before midnight (noticing a NYE theme here..)

Bye-Bye 2013

Bye-Bye 2013

And started 2014 with friends at an extremely rainy Gator Bowl

We managed to have fun anyway :)

Mid field, 6 rows back – can’t complain

It was seriously an exciting year and we have so much to look forward to in 2014! My calendar is already filled with a trips to Atlanta/Blue Ridge, Islamorada for venue shopping, a one-week south Caribbean cruise with friends, Lake Tahoe for a wedding, Portugal/England with Ben as well as things like the Wolfson’s 55 relay, Gate River Run, Hammerhead Ocean Marathon, Siesta Key 5k swim, many 5ks and fall running :)

One last thing

While it’s important to focus on the good in life, I had one very sad event this year. On 12/1/13 my sweet Alley girl went missing. We have absolutely no idea how she got out of the house and we don’t understand why we didn’t see her lounging around in the sun within two days. She has literally up and vanished. My loving girl is 14 years old and I worry about her every single day – she’s been my devoted snuggle friend for over 11 years. My heart is broken and I just wish she’d find her way home.

Love this pretty girl

Love this pretty girl

The silver lining in this tragedy, is that while trying to find Alley, we rescued an 8 month-old feral kitten. We weren’t sure what to do with her at first, because she was a bit insane (which earned her the name “Ninja”). But she’s pushed our way into our hearts and our home, so we think she’s here to stay.

Not such a ninja anymore

Not such a ninja anymore

All we have to do is convince Savannah

She's still undecided

She’s still undecided

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One Week at Sea – #AllureoftheSeas

My dad decided that the perfect way to celebrate his 60th birthday was on Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas – heck yeah! We are loyal to Royal and have enjoyed the Liberty of the Seas and Freedom of the Seas many times, but this was the first time we were lucky enough to sail the Allure. I’ve heard all kind of things about this ship… I’ve heard mostly praises but I’ve also heard statements like, “It’s simply too big.” Well, let’s just put that little rumor to rest. There is no such thing as too big when cruising the Caribbean. This ship is absolutely incredible and absolutely perfect. And to quote the late night comedians, “You book a trip on the largest ship in the world, and then complain because it IS??” Seriously.

Docked at Labadee, Haiti

Docked at Labadee, Haiti

Our big beauty next to itty, bitty Carnival

Our big beauty next to itty, bitty Carnival

Our eight day trip sailed from Sunday to Sunday, complete with a day at Labadee, Haiti, a day at Falmouth, Jamaica, a day at Cozumel, Mexico and a total of three days at sea. Although not overly “wow’d” by the ports (simply because I’ve been to them all before), the trip was amazing.

Check in was a breeze, as it always is with Royal Caribbean. We headed straight for drinks and to check out our rooms… we decorated my dad’s room while he was out having a Margarita.

Dad's stateroom

Dad’s stateroom

Happy 60

Happy 60

Staterooms

My dad booked the staterooms based on recommendations from a friend and a private tour of the ship he had taken (per usual, dad). Normally, we’d choose mid-ship overlooking the ocean. My dad booked our staterooms on the 12th floor, aft, overlooking the Boardwalk. Best decision ever. The location of our rooms allowed us to view the activities on the Boardwalk, watch the Aqua Theater shows from our balcony, watch the zip-liners above us and view the ocean out the back of the ship. We literally had the best of all worlds. Additionally, decks 11 and 12 have aft balconies that seemed completed secluded from the other 6,300 passengers on the ship. We pretty much had the giant balcony, with lounge chairs, all to ourselves. It was our daily meeting place for appetizers and wine prior to heading to dinner.

Panoramic view from our balcony

Panoramic view from our balcony

Loving our "private" aft balcony

Loving our “private” aft balcony

Loving our view

Loving our view

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The only downside to the rooms was that you really had to remember that the people across the way can see directly into your room. Don’t forget those curtains when you’re stepping out of the shower. It’s especially concerning when that unintentional peeping tom is your father….

Oh, hey dad

Oh, hey dad

The Ship

Massive. Seriously massive. A floating city. 225,000+ tons with 7 neighborhoods, 4 pools, a splash pool and countless hot tubs. There’s an ice cream parlor, hot dog stand, candy shop, Starbucks, pop corn/cotton candy booth, cupcake shop and multiple specialty restaurants for lunch and dinner. Most impressively: the ice skating rink, TWO Flow-Riders, carousel, mid-ship zip-line, TWO rock climbing walls, basketball courts, mini golf course, comedy club, jazz club, night club, a bar that moves up and down between floors (yeah, a moving bar – you read that right), casino, etc. etc. etc.

The bar getting ready to raise up to Central Park

The bar getting ready to raise up to Central Park

They won before they lost

They won before they lost

My favorite neighborhood was the Boardwalk; it was just fun, exciting and had such youthful charm. A close second was, of course, Central Park. Central Park houses several specialty restaurants, Central Park Café (great for lunch), an incredible amount of live vegetation, several quaint seating areas and live music throughout the day/evening. My only gripe about central park is that since it’s mid-ship and on a low floor, there is little to no breeze, making it extremely hot during the day. The same goes for my favorite sun spot, the Solarium (adult only pool area); the Solarium has sections of covered glass, which is necessary considering it’s at the front of the ship. Without the glass, it would be ridiculously windy… however, the glass pretty much deters all breeze, turning the Solarium into a sauna. One really can’t complain when cruising through the Caribbean in JULY, though……

Solarium

Solarium

I was surprised and pleased with the amount of seating available on the ship. The Freedom and Liberty are smaller ships with less people and finding a chair by the pool, or anywhere for that matter, is constantly a hassle. This was not the case on the Allure. Even with over 6,000 passengers on board, I never had trouble finding a seat anywhere; the pools were easy, dining areas were easy, shows were easy (except the tiny comedy club) and there were plenty of tucked away seating areas available.

Wine tasting at 105 Park

Wine tasting at 105 Park

Doughnuts and Starbucks on our last day

Doughnuts and Starbucks on our last day

99% of the ship’s crew were attentive and went above and beyond whenever possible. I did feel like there were a few disgruntled employees, but you’re likely to find that anywhere. I also felt like the crew were more strict/had more rules than usual… but there ARE 6,300 passengers on the ship; they did an excellent job ensuring there was constant order. Our stateroom attendant, Marlon, was top notch – super friendly, very helpful an went out of his way to help us on multiple occasions. We also enjoyed our dining room staff (we chose My Time Dining, but had the same table each night): Sandra and Ilber. Though slow to warm up, which I attribute to language barriers, each night got better and better. Sandra gave her honest opinions of selected menu items, which was more than welcomed ;)

Ports

Our first stop was Labadee, Haiti. I’ve always liked Labadee because it’s quit and simple. We laid out in the shade under palm trees, I did a little open water swimming and we walked through the market. Our second stop was Falmouth, Jamaica, where we chose a zip-line course. Although we did a lot of standing around/waiting in line, the actual zip-lines were impressive. They were by far the longest traverses I’ve been on and at the greatest heights. I really wish I could’ve brought a camera with me, because the views were stunning! Our third stop was Cozumel, Mexico. Originally, we had no plans in Cozumel, but my dad talked us into kayaking and snorkeling. There wasn’t a ton to see under water, but the area was beautiful, the tour guides were friendly and we all had a really great time.

Labadee, Haiti

Labadee, Haiti

Cozumel, Mexico

Cozumel, Mexico

And that’ that. I distinctly remember saying on Day 2, “It’s only day two….” and then suddenly it was Day 7 and we were placing out bags in the hallway for the night. Time flew, as it always does on a cruise. And speaking of bags… finding my luggage was a nightmare. We waited out the crowds in the dining room during breakfast, leaving the ship way after our number had been called. My luggage was nowhere to be found. For whatever reason, it didn’t make it off the ship in its assigned group and ended up being one of the last bags off the ship. Not a major crisis, but slightly irritating.

Overall – fantastic vacation. I’d sail on the Allure again in a heartbeat… maybe next time the Oasis? Actually, we’re contemplating sailing from San Juan next Spring, which means a smaller ship.. but more/different ports of call. Time to start planning :)

Posing for the professionals

Posing for the professionals


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LA Vacay

My cousin finally popped the question to his girlfriend of five years. Needless to say, we all gave a sigh of relief and announced, “Thank God,” because we really love her. :)

So, last week, Ben and I hopped on a plane to Los Angeles. Since he’s never been on the west coast and I’ve done just a little out there, we decided to make a vacation out of the trip and hit up Santa Barbara prior to the Malibu wedding. Our 7:00am flight was delayed an hour because no one bothered to move the airplane from the maintenance hangar to the gate the night before. We were going to miss our connecting flight in Dallas, so we were moved over to another airline. Thankfully, the rest of the morning was uneventful. We did feel the need to entertain ourselves toward the end, though:

In-flight iPad Entertainment

In-flight iPad Entertainment

With the help of the nicest Hertz car rental guy (hi Syed) and Siri, we made our way over to the Pacific Coast Highway… in the rain. Yes, it rained in California. Thankfully, it was the only day it rained.

Random stop along the PCH

Random stop along the PCH

We ate at a place along the water called Duke’s. Great hamburgers; “ok” fish and chips. Most importantly, we loved the drive. Ben was in charge of the Santa Barbara hotel and he did an excellent job :) We stayed at the Upham, a historic bed and breakfast with the nicest front desk guy (and I’m so sorry I don’t remember his name). He realized we’d had a very long trip and upgraded our room. So far, lucky with the nice people, huh? The Upham is absolutely gorgeous yet quaint and only two blocks from State Street. It was incredibly quiet, they have cheese and wine by the fireplace in the afternoon and cookies and milk in the evening.

The Upham & our little private entrance

The Upham & our little private entrance

The Upham

The Upham

Our cute room

Our cute room

Cookies and milk :)

Cookies and milk :)

We received a complimentary dessert with dinner at the restaurant next door, but decided to find the energy to walk to State Street (after a short nap). We thoroughly enjoyed our dinner at Opal on State Street, but as Ben put it halfway through the evening, “I’m just trying to keep it together.” We were incredibly tired from the trip and jet lag… and were in bed by 8:30pm. The good part (maybe?) is that we were wide awake at 6:00am and quickly read to hit the town.

Up with the birds

Up with the birds

We enjoyed a fantastic breakfast at a local French bakery:

Yum

Yum

And headed straight to the Wharf. The weather was crisp and cool but warm in the sun. It was perfect.

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Giant starfish

Giant starfish

Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara

We shopped for a bit and contemplated lunch in Santa Barbara, but decided to move on to Malibu. We quickly learned that there is.. well.. nothing.. in Malibu. I guess I’ve always thought it was a city with, I don’t know, stuff to do/see. It’s pretty much just (beautiful) mountain roads with (beautiful) homes and a (beautiful) beach. Which, honestly, was just fine. I just didn’t know. We did find a decent restaurant on the east side of PCH with a 2nd floor that allowed for a view of the ocean. Most importantly, Ben touched the Pacific Ocean for the first time!

Oh yeah, it's cold...

Oh yeah, it’s cold…

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malibu

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We made it to our hotel just in time to meet the rest of the family. Grandma flew the 4.5 hours from Ft. Lauderdale and survived the trip like a champ. About 25 of us headed out to a Jewish Deli/Diner across the street. I will admit… my tuna melt and noodle kugel were delicious (and I was SO stoked for kugel!) and they offered the largest bowl (crock pot?) of matzo ball soup I have EVER seen:

Two were ordered, one was sent back

Please note the size of the soon next to it…

The next morning Ben and I headed out with my sister as our tour guide. We literally drove all day. We started off with Griffith Observatory for a 360 view of all the surrounding cities and the Hollywood sign.

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And then onto Venice Beach/Muscle Beach (after enjoying LA traffic):

Venice Beach

Venice Beach

Venice Beach

Venice Beach

Venice Beach - Skate Park

Venice Beach – Skate Park

Muscle Beach - I wanted to join them

Muscle Beach – I wanted to join them

We ate lunch on Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, had some damn good gelato and then headed back to Malibu for the rehearsal dinner… where I failed to take pictures.

Saturday morning we slept in, hung out with grandma, visited some distant cousins and before we knew it, it was wedding time. The ceremony and reception were held at Calamigos Ranch. I can’t even begin to explain how beautiful everything was. It was incredible. We had perfect weather at the perfect location.

Party bus kisses

Party bus kisses

Sister

Sister

Family photo

Family photo

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The groom’s younger brother was the officiant for the wedding; a nice, family touch for this interfaith ceremony. The bride and groom each wrote their own sweet, yet hilarious (they ARE Hollywood people, after all) vows and there were several moving mentions of my late uncle. The entire ceremony was stunning, as was the reception. My phone died before the night ended and I was forced to enjoy the party versus living through a lens (good, right?). I recall lots of dancing, a family circle of shots, cart-wheel attempts and denials and a life-threatening bus ride through the mountains back to the hotel…

My handsome date

My handsome date

The dessert table in place of wedding cake

The dessert table in place of wedding cake

They had a Lego thing going on... it was cute

They had a Lego thing going on… it was cute

pic stolen from someone on fb ;)

pic stolen from someone on fb ;)

Grandma (92) danced with the groom

Grandma (92) danced with the groom

And hopped in the photo booth

And hopped in the photo booth

The next morning we had brunch at the hotel.

Outdoor brunch - perfect weather

Outdoor brunch – perfect weather

Cousins, minus the bride and groom

Cheese

Cousins!

Cousins + “significant others”

The Ortners :)

The Ortners :)

Our flight wasn’t until 11:20pm. So, we headed back to LA with my sister and dad to play tourist a bit longer. We visited my sister’s place in Redondo Beach and headed up the hill to Palos Verdes for some views followed by an early family dinner.

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It really was the perfect vacation… until the flight home. I hate red-eyes to begin with, but it was the best way to get the most out of our time there. On top of it, checking in with United was a horrendous process AND our seats were separated for both flights (wtf? we booked MONTHS ago). We both had a middle seat, which made it impossible to sleep. Thankfully, we had the next day off.. we landed at 9:00am and sent straight to bed. We did, however, make it to the gym at 3:30… of course :)

And now we’re home… back to life. We’re counting down the days to a cruise on the Allure of the Seas in July and Virginia for another family wedding in October. I also have Marco Island in May, NYC with friends in September and a wedding in SoFla in November. It’s a bit busy between now and Christmas!