A-campin we will go (we went)

Well, folks, we accomplished the unthinkable (or at least maybe some of you would think it was unthinkable?). We went camping while pregnant! (well, at least one of us was…).

Thankfully mother nature cooperated with us and the weather remained mild and on the cooler side for most of the trip. The wind helped keep away the bugs (I hear mosquitoes can’t resist pregnant women!). And it only rained for 10 minutes on Friday. Unfortunately we forgot our screenhouse at Chris’ parents, but Chris, being resourceful as he is, fabricated a makeshift lean-to for our picnic table out of a tarp, and it kept all our goodies dry.

Chris was also nice enough to ask for the campsite that was closest to the bathrooms–with me having to pee every hour or so, it was a good thing!

We always love camping in at Pinederosa Campground in Ogunquit. It’s peaceful, clean, and pleasant. There are always lots of folks from Quebec who speak French, so sometimes you feel as if you’re camping in Canada, not Maine. We stayed Thurs. through Sunday.

Each evening we walked on the beach, about a mile to downtown to get ice cream (although, since I’ve been pregnant, I’ve had to forgo “dessert for dinner”, or, as I now call it “din-sert”, for a REAL dinner beforehand, THEN ice cream for dessert. But hey, ice cream is ice cream!). The ocean felt nice but FREEZING, especially on Friday!

Fri. and Sat. morning we ate breakfast at the Amore Cafe. Most breakfast places have a long wait for seating during this busy season, but we never mind waiting at Amore because they serve you coffee while you’re waiting, and you can read the paper while sitting on their nice chairs on the porch. Makes you much less crabby if you have to wait 45 mins for a table. Plus, their lemon blueberry stuffed french toast makes the wait worthwhile.

The rest of our meals we fired up the mini camping grill for. We bought fresh corn from a farmstand down the road. It is the BEST when grilled in the husk, then patted with herbed chevre. And of course, we had to have the usual S’Mores and Jiffy Pop over the campfire.

Saturday we caught up with our friends Erica and Mark, who were vacationing in the area with their kids (Mark’s sis has a place on York Beach). They hung out with us for a while at our campground before they headed home.

Saturday night, after our ceremonial beach walk, we went mini golfing. We hadn’t done that in AGES. Bending over for me is becoming problem, so Chris was nice at placing the golf balls on the ground for me to putt at (though he wouldn’t place them in the hole for me instead, like i asked 🙂 ). Chris won, but I beat him a few times at cards at the campsite earlier in the week, so I guess we were even.

Sunday of course came all too soon, but we were grateful for the short respite, one of our last bittersweet getaways before the little one comes into our life. So we enjoyed the free time and napping while we could! But we’re getting very excited for her arrival also.

I was extremely proud of myself for not needing a pulley system to get me up and out of the tent in my current state (although Chris did have to help me a little a few times in the middle of the night). But we did it!

Montreal Weekend= we heart this place!

After hearing that Ministry was performing their final tour, and that they would be performing in Montreal, Chris and I decided to take the trek up there and spend a lovely long weekend in our new favorite city.
Here are a few reasons we decided to make the trip to Montreal:

1. It is only a four hour drive for us, and it’s a chance to say we went out of the country!

2. With the crappy weakness of the dollar against the euro, it’s unlikely we’ll get to travel to Europe anytime soon. Montreal gives you a little taste of Europe and a chance to practice French for a lot cheaper!

3. Ministry was playing their FINAL tour, and Chris always wanted to see them.

We arrived in Montreal Friday night and stayed at the Hotel St.-Denis, an excellent choice for both location and price. An entire long weekend’s stay, right in the heart of the city, in a nice, BIG room was less than 200 U.S. dollars (try finding a price like THAT in NYC for even one night!!). It was in the ultra-hip, modern Latin Quarter, right down the street from a million great restaurants and venues, as well as the largest metro station from which all trains ran from (less than half a block from our hotel). The venue at which we were seeing Ministry was half a block away too!
There was nothing skeevy about the hotel, and included in the price was free breakfast at a lovely cafe next door every morning. Instead of the usual stale danish continental breakfast fare, we got to eat yummy eggs benedict, cafe au lait and yogurt parfaits.

We discovered some neat, inexpensive places such as the CineRoboteque. The cineroboteque is a cinema run by the national film board of canada, featuring hundreds of independent films in every genre imaginable. Films ranged from 3 minutes to 3 hours long (most of them under 10 minutes), and you could purchase units of viewing time (at the cheap price 3 dollars per hour, 1 dollar for kids), and view as many films as you wanted in that alloted time. They gave you 15 minutes free viewing time on your first visit, enough to watch a couple short independent films for nothing. The theater was set up as a giant room with several “viewing stations” that seated 2 people at a time. You sat in big comfy chairs that had speakers in the ears, and you could move the speakers close to your ears so you could listen in peace without hearing other people’s films. You purchased units of time up front and they’d set up a viewing station for you. You’d enter a code and from a screen you’d view a robot selecting your choice and loading it into the system. You could view any film in English or French; we saw some really cute animated ones!

We discovered a wonderful vegetarian restaurant right around the corner from the cinema. It was a vegetarian buffet with everything imaginable, ALL organic and ALL stuff we could eat! It didn’t look like your typical scary buffet either, it was clean and classy. We were in heaven, and we liked it so much that we ate there twice over the weekend.

It came as a surprise to us that, for a relatively big city, Montreal really didn’t have much of a city attitude. In the time that we were there, most people smiled at us and made eye contact. On a crowded street, no one shoved each other to get by. On the metro, we witnessed people offering their seats for the elderly or people with children. We remained guarded as when traveling any city, but really we were surprised by the friendliness and warmth of most people. I tried to practice my french as much as possible, but whenever I ran into a roadblock, the person I was speaking to almost always politely offered to speak in English instead to help.
Even the Starbucks staff in Montreal was friendly, no arrogance or impatience!
Even at a crowded and noisy metal concert like Ministry, people excused themselves when passing by each other, chatted amicably with strangers and even gently picked fallen comrades up if they fell in the moshpit.
What is it about Montreal that does this to a person?? And why can’t we borrow some of this attitude in the states? No place is perfect, but Montreal sure seemed a step ahead attitude-wise.

On Saturday morning it was raining something awful, and we read about a place called the Biodome , which sounded like the perfect place to spend a rainy afternoon.
The Biodome is an amazing infrastructure that houses wild animals (particularly enangered species), and tries to closely mimic their habitat. There are several ‘climates’ that you can walk through in the Biodome, ranging from rainforest to Polar. It was incredible to see the animals in such an open setting–wild birds flew overhead us and we spotted marmosets climbing trees. There were all kinds of fascinating things to see, from wild plants and bugs, to fruit bats, anacondas and swimming otters.
It looked like a great place to take kids, as there was a ton of activities centered for young ones, with a focus on environmental awareness. The proceeds from admission go to maintaining the sanctuary.
The Biodome was definitely an awesome way to spend a rainy afternoon.

Later that evening we grabbed a quick dinner and headed to the Metropolis to see Ministry. Chris offered to do a writeup about the concert, so he will add that later. All in all it was a wild time and the venue was great. The best part was only having to walk a half a block back to our hotel after the show!
The scariest thing we came across was finding that the streets were flooded with riot police before the show. We wondered why? but then we found out that the Stanley Cup playoffs were happening, and the riot police were stationed at every bar downtown, because if it’s one thing Canadians can go crazy over, it’s their hockey!
They are so die-hard about their hockey that at the Ministry concert, a television played the playoff in between the sets.
We were terrified that we would be in the midst of a massacre, but we were glad to find the streets calm and quiet on our walk home–even though Canada lost!!

Sunday morning, the streets were quiet and rainy (not to mention COLD!). After breakfast we checked out and grabbed coffee and a croissant at an amazing bakery that specializes in food from Lyon, France called “La Brioche Lyonnaise”. It truly was a little taste of Lyon and it brought back memories.

Then we bid a fond “au revior” to Quebec. On the way home we stopped by to visit some good friends who live in the Burlington area–it was great to see them and to catch up.

All in all it was a wonderful weekend, even if the weather didn’t cooperate!

In other news, i’m starting to get a real belly. We’ll be posting pics of our weekend up soon, and you’ll see!

Four days of Fun in Florida

This past week Chris and I snuck away for a semi long-weekend in our fave quick getaway spot, sunny Florida.
We spent Wednesday through Saturday there at the Best Western hotel in downtown Disney.
Although check in time was 3, our hotel wasn’t ready yet so the front desk woman told us to return in half an hour. When we did, it STILL wasn’t ready and when they called to see when it would be, the housekeeping dept. gave them a snotty response saying they had no idea when.

We returned again at 4: 15 and the room was STILL not ready. At this point we just wanted to lay down, so we asked if any other rooms were available that we could switch to? After checking 10 floors and still finding nothing, the front desk woman was nice enough to offer us one of the nicer, business suites at no extra charge–she felt bad because the room should have been ready a long time ago. That was nice of her.

Wednesday evening we grabbed some iced mocha’s downtown at Ghirardelli’s and snagged some salads at Earl of Sandwich. we saw the movie “Charlie Bartlett”, which was very good. The main character reminded us of a Ferris Bueller type guy (Bueller? anyone?).

Thursday we spent at our favorite little hideaway beach, Clementine. The weather was warm and mild, and we napped in the sun. The rain and thunderstorms were nice enough to hold off until that evening. Since the weather was too lousy to do anything else, we caught another movie, “Be Kind Rewind”. It was hilarious, we loved it.

Unfortunately when we got home that night poor Chris got food poisoning! I felt terrible seeing him so miserable.
We were hoping to go to the Magic Kingdom on our last full day, Friday, but alas no Mickey… the poor hubby was bedridden and looked like death warmed over the whole day (I’m sure he felt like it too). We did get a chance to take a couple of short walks (it was a very warm 85 and sunny) and I caught up on some reading. Poor Chris caught up on sleep…

By the time Saturday rolled around we were bummed because, as always, it went by too darn fast. I came down with a bad head cold, but I’ll take that over food poisoning!The weather was cold and windy which was depressing, but made it easier to leave. We had a turbulent flight home due to windy conditions but we made it in once peace, and by each other’s side.

I just felt lucky to spend a few quiet days in the sun, just me and Chris.

For the most part the weather cooperated…even if our bodies didn’t!

St. John!

(*note: I’m sorry this hasn’t been posted in so long! for the past 2 1/2 weeks I’ve been battling terrible bouts of chronic nausea which was enhanced by looking at computer screens, reading or watching TV. It’s been incredibly frustrating as the doctors haven’t been able to find out what is wrong with me, even after a slew of tests. I am feeling better enough to be on the computer today, and actually have somewhat of an appetite. I’m hoping it’s a good sign. Meanwhile, here is the long overdue St.John writeup!-kathleen)

What a wonderful time we had renewing our vows in St. John!

We arrived the day before our vow renewal. After a long plane trip to St. Thomas, a taxi ride to the Red Hook ferry port, and a ferry ride, we got to St. John in one piece. Our friends Donna and John met us at the dock; they had arrived a few days beforehand. They even brought ice cold Coronas for us, what could be better!? That night we ate out with our friends at a great restaurant that we loved 5 yrs ago, Morgan’s Mango. We were happy to find that they served the same vegetarian platter that they served back then, fried plantains and all. Yum! We tried to behave ourselves and not have too many rum drinks because it was the night before the renewal; I felt nervous like it was the first time all over again!

We stayed at Star Villas, which was a bit of a disappointment. The villa was not at all what we expected. It was in poor shape and looked like it had been given a minimum cleaning. There were tiny ants everywhere and the décor was dingy and old. The bedroom was small and you had to get to it by climbing a rickety metal spiral staircase not much wider than us. The shower was so small that you basically had to put one body part in a time to wash it!
But the view was beautiful and the location was great. There is not much you can expect in that price range for a private villa, so we made the best of it. Besides, who spends a lot of time in their room on vacation anyway?

The next morning we were at Hawksnest Beach at 8:30 a.m We felt so fortunate to have a few friends and relatives there: Chris’ parents, sister and his cousin Anne Marie were there; our friend Erica and her friend Kerry, our friends Donna and John and my Aunt Claire and Uncle Gary. We had the same justice of the peace, Anne Marie, who did a wonderful job making it a beautiful ceremony. We even hired the same photography company. The weather held out wonderfully and it was an incredible moment. I felt like we were married all over again, and it felt beautiful to have our loved ones to witness it this time.

Even in the early hours of the morning, the beach was HOT! So we headed back to the beach later in the day to swim and hang out with friends. Later that night we took everyone out to a nice dinner at the Lime Inn on Cruz Bay. The Lime Inn has been around on the island for many years and the owner is an amputee with a sense of humor-he fully makes the use of his “hook” for a hand and can bus tables with more gusto than those of us with 2 hands!

Friday we took the ferry over to St. Thomas to send off our friends Donna and John; we were sad that they had to leave! We spent the rest of the afternoon on St. Thomas and grabbed drinks at our fave “touristy” bar, Duffy’s Love Shack. Duffy’s is the epitome of fun cheeziness, serving character themed drinks in their own glasses that you get to take home as a souvenir (ex: the “Pirate Painkiller” comes in a cheezy pirate glass and they give you a pirate patch to wear :). You even get a lei and a sticker that says “I got LEI’D at Duffy’s”. Gotta love it. Later on we headed back to St. John and discovered the best little bar on the island: Woody’s. It’s cheesy decorum didn’t hide the fact that the drinks were good and their happy hour was the longest-and cheapest-on the island. Most drinks were only 1$ and the happy hour was from 3-6. The bartending staff was nice there and it was a great spot to meet up with everyone (“let’s meet at Woody’s!” Was the usual thing we did before going out to eat in the evenings), and a great place to chat up with locals.

Saturday we spend hanging out with Chris’ family at the resort they were staying at, the Westin. The Westin was pretty swanky, with its own private beach and a gorgeous big pool w/ a giant TV that played movies over it. We had a great time hanging out and playing in the water. There were giant trampolines that you could swim out to and bounce on, and a giant blow-up climbing wall that was hard to climb-but we had fun trying. We played like little kids all day, it was great!
Later on that evening we hung out with our friend Erica who was staying at Cruz View-where we had stayed 5 years ago. We forgot how STEEP the hill to the villa was, but the view atop (and the room) made it all worth it.

Sunday we spend the day at Trunk Bay. The weather was great but the snorkeling wasn’t the best due to the boats and the high volume of people that go there. Unfortunately the reef has been damaged due to all of this. But the beach was nice to relax and catch up on reading and tanning at. Even with factor 45, you can burn! That night we revisited Morgan’s Mango for drinks and dinner. The drinks at Morgan’s Mango are absolutely the best because they use fresh fruit in their drinks and no cheap mixes. The “Bahama Mama “ was my personal fave, as it was made with fresh bananas and coconut milk-the bomb!

Monday morning was Erica and Kerry’s time to depart, so we sadly said farewell to them at the docks. It was nice to have friends and family on our vacation!
We later headed over to the Maho bay campground which was on the eastern side of the island. We had heard a lot about this eco-conscious campground and thought we might check it out and do some snorkeling on their private beach. After a long, winding and bumpy taxi ride during which we praised the merits of Dramamine, we arrived to find this neat little tucked away Maho community. The tents looked like screened-in little treehouses. They recycled everything, including bathwater. There was a giant common room and dining hall and a community swap area. The private beach proved to be great for snorkeling (it was much less spoiled than Trunk); Chris even spotted an octopus!
It became very buggy and looked like rain when we got out of the water, so we took a taxi ride back to the bay.
That evening we grabbed dinner with Chris’ family at “del Livo” an authentic Italian restaurant that just opened up near Cruz Bay. The owner hardly spoke a word of English and had to have his busboy translate at times. The food was fabulous, with homemade pasta and all! The chef even made a fabulous cinnamon liquer for dessert. It was a very memorable meal. Unfortunately, with the fact that the owner speaks little English and the restaurant is on a back alley and does not take credit cards—I fear that this restaurant won’t have a long life. Most tourists who come to the island crave more “island” fare, and might avoid this little gem, as wonderful as it was. I wish the best for them.

Tuesday morning we said goodbye to the Arnini clan and spent the morning with Chris’ cousin Anne Marie, who had a flight early the next morning. We walked to a supermarket a few miles away from Cruz View and discovered Satyamuna, a little Meditteranean restaurant that was all vegetarian. I had some BBQ tofu and Chris had some spicy tofu curry. The tofu wasn’t stellar but for what you can get on the island it was pretty good. The unfortunate part about St. John is that the majority of foods you and I are used to need to be imported there-so that makes them very expensive. For instance, a pint of Ben & Jerry’s costs 7 dollars! A box of cereal could run you 10. But the rum and fresh produce our cheap, so that is what we mostly had. We packed some granola bars for the trip and were happy to have those on hand too!

On Tuesday night we had dinner at Margarita Phil’s; boy, what an experience that was! We sat at the bar and were greeted by a waiter who appeared to have severe A.D.D Right after he asked us what we wanted to drink, he headed away from the bar without even waiting for us to answer. He went to go talk to some people who had just arrived and then waited on a few more people before finally returning to us. Here is a dialogue of what went on in the next half hour or so. (A few drunk girls at the bar next to us decided to make up a name for the bartender and they called him “Kenny”).

“Kenny”: So, what did you guys say you wanted to drink again? I forgot…

“us”: well, um.. we didn’t say before. But we’d like….

“Kenny” (interrupts) : Wait can you hang on a sec? I gotta handle this bill. (Tries to handle the bill but can’t seem to work out the calculator.) I think I broke this calculator (hands it to us). You think you can fix this for me?

FINALLY, Kenny gets our drink order! But we come to find out that the bar is out of Coronas, rum, and most of their tequila—and it’s only 8 pm! They do have some beer left, but most of it is crappy. We settle for Dos Equix.

Kenny comes out with a Heineken and 2 styrofoam cups. We tell him this isn’t what we ordered, but he asks us if we can open the bottle and pour ? into each cup for him and his friend. Say what?

As the night progresses, we watch “Kenny” screw up 4 more orders, break a margarita glass, and ask the group of drunk girls at the bar if they want to participate in a “foursome”.

The busboy, obviously irritated with the bartenders dubious mixups, gives Kenny another order even though Kenny is nowhere in sight. Kenny comes running over to us and asks us “Did you guys get that order?”

The most exciting part of the night came when a group of patrons almost got into a fist fight with “Kenny” over a bill dispute. Somehow, they thought they were being cheated by the amount of lobster that was on their lobster quesadillas?

We DID get our drinks (20 minutes later), and about an HOUR later, we actually got to EAT too.
The food actually wasn’t that bad, I have to admit.

Even though it was a raucous night, it made for great entertainment and we might just go again for the entertainment alone! “Kenny”, wherever you are, and whatever your REAL name is…this Bud’s for you.

Wednesday we spent snorkeling at Cinnamon Bay. The weather was exceptionally hot, but the beach was nice and the snorkeling was great. Cinnamon Bay is the only beach that has its own campground. As cool as it sounds to fall asleep to the sound of crashing waves, I’m not sure I could handle camping in St. John for long. The lack of air conditioning in the 90 plus degree heat, and strange insects and “island” sounds at night might make me want to run for the hills… But I’m sure it would be romantic, too.
(Speaking of strange creatures roaming about the island, St.John is home to free roaming iguanas (They are the island equivalent of the New England squirrel), and wild donkeys! Imagine my surprise when, after showering in one of the public showers at Cinnamon Bay, I turned around a corner to find a wild donkey quietly munching on some dry grass. Talk about surprise!)

Things we discovered while snorkeling at Cinnamon Bay:

schools of yellow and silver fish
blue and green parrot fish
sea urchins!
and….a nurse shark. I know nurse sharks are generally bottom feeders and harmless to people, but the sight of those shark fins and that ominous outline made Chris and I a little uneasy. After seeing that, we decided maybe we had enough snorkeling for the day.
Near Cinnamon Bay are the ruins of an old sugar plantation. Chris and I explored the fascinating building remains, made out of stone laced with local shells and coral. An amazing but sad little bit of history. We took pics!

Thursday we spent snorkeling at Salt Pond, which turned out to be by far the best snorkeling of the trip. We took the local bus to the other side of the island. It took a while but it only cost 1$ AND it was air conditioned—if we took a taxi it would’ve been an open-air taxi and it would have cost us 60 bucks!!
Salt Pond is a nice, quiet beach with pristine and abundant reefs. We saw schools of jeweled blue fish that we’re unsure of the name of, some bright pink and green mottled parrot fish, and white crabs.
I had been secretly hoping that we would be able to spot a sea turtle, but they are often difficult to find and only reside in certain parts of the reef. The last time we had been to St. John we hadn’t been able to spot one at all. Since today was our last day of snorkeling, I made a wish that we’d get so see one…just once. Only a few moments after I made that wish, what did I see but a beautiful, large sea turtle. He appeared right in front of our eyes. I was so excited I almost cried and I started screaming to Chris underwater (which sounded pretty pathetic). After I finally got his attention we watched the sea turtle for quite some time. He was incredible, soaring up and down and coming up for air. He munched on a little seaweed and swum around, and finally disappeared into the reef. These are the times we wish we had a good underwater camera! It was the perfect ending to our trip.

Friday was our last full day, so we decided to take the ferry to St. Thomas to do some duty-free shopping on Charlotte Amalie. Once there, we realized why we DID not want to stay on St. Thomas. There were way too many shops and it was overcrowded, noisy, and smelly. The majority of the stores were not unique, just your usual gold jewelry, Prada bags, tourist t-shirts and booze stuff. Everywhere we went people were trying to sell us stuff or get us to come in their store. We did at least go to a Kmart which had really cheap prices for rum, and we bought a few bottles to carry with us on the way home.

Friday evening we decided to commemorate our 5 year anniversary by getting tattoos, just like we had gotten on the islands our first time. This time we decided that we should get 5 stars signaling our years of marriage around our original tats. We went to Octopus Ink on Cruz Bay, where tattoo artist Pat Mazza did our work. We came to find out that she used to work on St. Thomas and had actually done my tattoo there! She did a decent job but her personality was about as painful as her tattoos—she didn’t have much interpersonal skills and spoke very little. She also had a HEAVY hand! But she did well AND she touched up my luna moth tattoo for free. So that was nice! We were happy to have our permanent souvenir, one we DIDN’T need to buy at Charlotte Amalie.
That night we had one last hurrah at Woody’s (sniff sniff, hard to leave!), and ate at a great Italian restaurant called Cafe Roma. It wasn’t as authentic as the other Italian restaurant but it was sure better than an Olive Garden and there were LOTS of things for vegetarians to have! Chris had a baked ziti and I had penne with vodka sauce. Yum!
We were sad that the next day was our last day, so we tried to enjoy every last minute.
We were going to miss the sounds of the ocean and tree frogs outside our villa at night, and seeing the beautiful aquamarine water in the morning. We were going to miss fruit smoothie stand guy, “Kenny”, and some of the other funny locals. We hated to leave our Woody’s happy hours, our lazy days of snorkeling in the sun, and the overall amazing time we had renewing our vows and being with family. Alas! But it was a trip to remember—and one to do again in another 5 years!

Mickey, Miney, Mocha

Chris and I were lucky enough to sneak away this Labor Day weekend to our favorite easy, sunny getaway vacation-Walt Disney World. Yes, I know to some it may be the mecca of conglomerate evil, but it has a special place in our hearts because it was where Chris asked me to marry him. I know, I’m cheesy, but what can I say. It’s also a place where we can be kids again.

We had a relatively smooth flight (this time we went with Delta because it was cheaper) and got into Florida in less than 3 hours straight. Our flight was hilarious because a big family was going to Disney for their first time and it appeared to be their first flight ever. When we took off, all the kids squealed like they were on a roller coaster ride, a couple of adults cried “Dayyyyummmm!” and an older woman (grandma?) cried “Lord Jeeee-ssuss!!!”. We couldn’t help laughing.

It was DAMN hot every day when we got there, with heat indexes of 100 most days and a lot of humidity. Nevertheless we walked everywhere (we stayed in the shade and stayed hydrated and sun-blocked); we had to earn our ice cream calories somehow.
Nutritious food prospects in the Orlando region are less than favorable for vegetarians, and unfortunately becoming increasingly more so. It’s as if Florida isn’t trying to avoid becoming an obese state, they are trying to vie for this national title! Every where you went, there were all you can eat buffets at The Sizzler, IHOP and Steak n’Shake, and Krispy Kremes and KFCs up the Wazoo. We lucked out that the resorts and parks usually at least served a veggie burger, and in Orlando proper we at least could eat Indian food. We ate at a great Indian restaurant called Dakshin, and we also lucked out veggie-wise at their Mexican chain called Chevy’s. At the airports, we could only find greasy veggie burgers at Burger King. But hey, beggars can’t be choosers, and we definitely felt more like “beggars” this time. Although, we at least had ice cream. So we weren’t too upset.
We stayed at one of the “value” resorts at Disney, Pop Century. A stay there is relatively quite cheap, however you have to keep in mind that you kind of get what you pay for. Meaning that bus services to all aspects of Disney from the resort were very slow and often crammed with as many people as possible. Eating at the resort cafeteria left you feeling like herded cattle. It is crowded and noisy but it’s a place to sleep. We made the unfortunate discovery on our first night that we were placed in what is called an “adjoining room”, meaning there is a doorway from one room to the other. If you don’t rent both the door is kept locked, however you can easily hear your neighbors. We lucked out by being next to the LOUDEST, most obnoxious family ever. The parents screamed at their kids all night long and the kids whined and yelled back. It was a regular red-neck riot. We didn’t sleep a wink. Luckily the next day the resort kindly switched us to another, non-adjoining room without a problem. Phew….

On our first full day at Disney, we headed over to one of the waterparks (Tyhpoon Lagoon). It was nice just to sit in the lazy river all day on one of the hottest days there. We didn’t even get sunburned! That night we went to the movies and saw “Stardust”. It was a very underrated, cute fairy tale film! (And not cute as in cutesy…guys can handle this one too).

Our second full day we spent at our favorite little private beach at the Fort Wilderness resort, Clementine Beach. We sat under a shady tree in the sand and read…until it started pouring rain! Luckily we hopped a ferry back to catch our bus just in time…

Our third day we headed over to Animal Kingdom. Animal Kingdom houses an actual wildlife refuge and focuses on teaching conservation. There are four “countries” with hiking trails along each displaying animals in their most realistically-mimicked habitats. Several endangered species seek refuge here. We got to see some pretty amazing animals up close, including Black Rhinos, apes and bengal tigers. The apes were hilarious, just chilling lazily in the sun, so human-like. The tigers hung out in a wading pool in the shade to keep cool. We also saw hippos, meerkats, okapi and an antelope-like creature called a scimitar-horned ork. It was pretty damn awesome to be there.
Later on in the day we hopped over to the Magic Kindgom to ride a small handful of rides. Unfortunately, our absolute favorite the Haunted Mansion was closed for refurbishment (what…isn’t it supposed to LOOK like a shambles???). We did get to ride on The Pirates of the Carribean, and Buzz Lightyear (Chris was happy to beat my score at defeating the evil robots and Zurg!). We also went on a new Monster’s Inc themed ride (The Laugh Room) and visited one of Walt’s oldest inductions to Disney World, the Carousel of Progress.
Our feet were sore but we had a great day.

Day four was our last full day (boo hoo!). We took “sad” pictures, had Ghirardelli’s iced mocha took a long walk to get Indian food and then forgot that it was closed on a Monday (at least we got exercise), and bought some small souvenirs (we always buy a Disney ornament when we go).
All in all we were lucky to get away for a nice time at a memorable place.

I must also add that sometimes a trip to Florida can make you realize just how DUMB some people are. I know we all do stupid things (hello, Queen of doing dumb things talking right here), but some things just take the cake. I hate to say it, but Florida is mostly a “red” state, and I think it goes without saying…well, here are some examples.

There is not one, not two but SEVERAL evangelical channels out of a small handful of channels available to watch at the Disney resort. These are not the calm, introspective religious monologues..oh no…these are “fire and brimstone”, show us your money and we’ll heal ya bible banging programs! One program claimed that only buy buying their special brand of blessed holy water can you be saved…another that you could be saved by buying their special album of healing music. The so called “witnesses” of good deeds on the program were so fake and appeared to be salivating for their promised “crack-if- you-do- this- evangelism- commercial” fix.

Speaking of evangelism, apparently one church in Florida thought that they could speak to volumes of people by sky-writing. Instead of spending those precious hundreds of dollars on feeding the poor or helping the hopeless and reaching more people that way, they decided to waste it on a few seconds of “air-time”, in which a pilot sloppily wrote “Trust Jesus” in the sky over Downtown Disney. He did such a terrible job and the weather was so foggy that in a few seconds the letters started to dissipate, so that to an onlooker the disappearing letters merely spelled out “RUST JESUS” in the sky….

We witnessed a group of people trying to cross the street when the “walk” signal was obviously blaring. The mother told the children not to cross (even though it was perfectly fine to!) because she saw a sign that read “no turn on red” by the crosswalk. (Lady. That…was for TRAFFIC!!!!! DUH!!!!).

Oy vey…we could go on and on. We witnessed people complaining about the most ridiculous things. There wasn’t enough cheese sauce on their whoppers (Sir, you already look like the Michelin Man; I think you could do without the cheese sauce and lose a few tires!). The bus didn’t come fast enough and they had to stand for 5 minutes, people didn’t bow down to their bratty children’s every request. . It made us want to scream “PEOPLE! You are on VACATION!!! Chilll OUT!!!”. Ugh…oh wait a minute, this was supposed to be post about what a NICE, RELAXING vacation our Florida trip was….sorry, I got sidetracked on an angry tangent there.

(sheepishly backs away…)

Pics to come soon!

Annual Ogunquit Trip-aka “Can’t get theyah from heyah”

Well we just returned, sunburned and weary, from a great camping trip in Ogunquit Maine. We stayed at our usual campsite, Pinderosa, and were surprised to find it packed to the gills. With there only being 2 bathrooms with 3 showers each and hundreds of campers, we were a bit concerned! But things worked out fine.

Our first day there, we realized that we forgot the following things: 1. An axe to cut firewood. 2. Paper plates to eat on 3. A sleeping bag (!). But we managed.

We lucked out with beautiful (but HOT!!) weather every day. Our first full day there it was so hot we decided to head to Water Country, a water park in NH, not more than 30 minutes from our camp. We were happy to get soaked while spiraling down “The Black Hole” and tubing it down the lazy river. It seemed like everyone and his brother had the same idea that day, so waiting in LINE to get wet wasn’t fun. But it was worth it once you got that splash of cool water! While waiting in line, we noticed how many people get bad tattoos. To each their own, but the “butterfly/tribal design on your back” is very overrated, and the “dream catcher with a tiger in it” is a little too much. And not everything with eagle claws around it looks cool. But tats are tats and we shouldn’t judge, really.

Our second day we headed to Drake’s Island, a small beach in Wells, Maine. We were happy to spend that day in the 90 degree heat with the cool ocean breeze surrounding us. The breeze can be deceiving, however; we thought we were meticulous with the sunscreen but when you’re not sweltering you forget how much sun exposure you really get. Hello, major sunburn!

Day 3 was spent at the outlet stores in Kittery Maine, because we wanted to nurse our sunburns and stay out of the sun, but it was too hot to do anything else!

Every night at dusk we headed over to Footbrige beach and took a nice long, romantic shorewalk into downtown Ogunquit for “Kathy dinner” (ice cream, of course). Downtown Ogunquit is charming with nice little shops and cafes. Overall the atmosphere is very small town and friendly.

A good 90 percent of the campers at our campground were from Quebec. Everyone was extremely nice and polite, yay Canadians! It was also nice to hear nearly everyone speaking French. It felt like a European vacation. In the evening, we’d see many families sitting down to a nice dinner via campfire light, with glasses of wine and cheerful conversation. It was such an amiable atmosphere. One night while we were on the beach, a nice French Canadian man saw that we were trying to take a picture of us, and without being asked he ran over to our rescue and made sure he took one just right. He only spoke French but seemed pleased when I told him he was ” tres gentile”. It seems that at least in one country, politeness hasn’t gone out of style.

We had some good eats while we were in Maine (sorry, no lobster for us). Breakfast was our usual meal out as it was an easy vegetarian bet. We had decent veggie benedict at the Maine Diner, yummy french toast at Nancy’s kitchen, mediocre omelettes at The Egg and I (not worth the wait in line!), and fabulous lemon bread french toast at the Amore cafe, complete with fresh blackberries and blueberries. They even gave you coffee while you waited in line, allright!

Most days we ate a late lunch back at the campsite. Our favorite new thing to eat is corn on the cob, grilled with the husks intact, then covered with basil chevre. Beats a pat of butter any day! We stocked our cooler with plenty of ice cold Coronas and sliced lime, which was the perfect thing on a hot day. We ate jiffy pop and s’mores, camping traditions; and some not-so traditional eats such as grilled frozen stuffed pretzels (they were good!).

Dinners usually consisted of ice cream in some form, usually a frozen yogurt on our nightly beach walks. One night we ate at a little ice cream place called “Sundaes at the Beach”, which made their own ice cream and had a make-your-own-sundae bar. Yum!

It was a nice little break from the usual grind, a time to unplug and unwind and have no outside distractions like phone or email to weigh you down. We had fun just hanging around reading books (note to self : “A Thousand Splendid Suns” by Khaleid Hosseini is an excellent book. WAY too sad, however, for a vacation read!). I beat Chris at rummy most nights but he was a good sport, AND he taught me how to play poker! He also defended us from the possibility of scary bears.

As much as we miss the smell of citronella and fire, the feel of the ocean breeze and the taste of smores, it is kinda nice to be home. Especially to be able to go to the bathroom at night without taking a flashlight with you and walking 1/2 mile!
Photos located on the next page
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Fun in the Garden State

The weekend before the 4th of July, Chris and I decided to hope on the Amtrak train near our house and go to visit my sister and nephew in Somerset, NJ.
We had some momentary difficulties when our train arrived at Penn Station an hour and a half late and we missed our connection. Thankfully, NYC always has plenty of trains running so we were able to get on the next train an hour or so later. We arrived in Somerset at 10 pm, but hey, we didn’t have to drive! We brought some Coronas in a cooler with us for the train ride, so it was a nice relaxing trip.
We got to spend 3 whole days with my sister, her fiance, and our adorable nephew Jeremy, who is a year old now–can’t believe it! Pics will be coming soon. Chris taught Jeremy to grunt like a caveman and we introduced him to naughty foods like ice cream (that’s what aunties and uncles are for, aren’t they?). It was so great to be able to spend some time there. My sisters house in Somerset is nice and she has a beautiful english garden in her backyard. It has little stone pathways, a tiny goldfish pond, ivy trellises, lilac bushes and a pear tree (no partridge). Siggghh….
On Saturday we took the NJ transit train from New Brunswick into NYC to see a free concert in Central Park. Central Park is always a blast in the summertime and we lucked out with gorgeous weather.
The concert was packed! We saw 2 great bands. The first band, Babylon Circus, you have to see to believe. They were a French gypsy reggae/ska/punk band and they were just so much fun! The lead singer was wearing a pinstripe suit and acting out the songs, and the guitar singer was hopping around on stage like a shirtless banshee. They had tons of energy and made everybody jump around (have you ever seen people moshing to accordions?). They spoke mostly in french and their lyrics were crazy–one song was about a banana named Paul.Definitely a band to see live again!
The second band, Ozomatli, has been performing live for years and is one of the most fun bands I have ever seen live. I had the good fortune of seeing them earlier this year at Mass MocA (Chris was unfortunately in Maryland and couldn’t make it), and I couldn’t wait to see them again after that–so I was thrilled to find out they were performing for free in NYC!
When they came on stage (their intro was a snippet from “A-Team”-genius), there wasn’t a single person in the entire crowd who didn’t get up and move, and not stop until they ended their set (which was 2 hours!). Ozomatli combine funk/hip-hop/latin and ska and they just have such talent and a love of performing that they’re infectious. Everyone was dancing and having an awesome time. We had some great people watching opportunities, including a 70-plus year old white bearded man who was dancing and moshing around non-stop (we affectionately dubbed him “Santa”, and nobody could keep up with him!), and a man who was dressed up like Batman and salsa dancing. Gotta love New York!
On our way home we stopped by a great cafe called “Le Pain Quotidien” and had some excellent organic French food (we had sandwiches made with ricotta and figs and drizzled with honey, with mint lemonade, mmmm!). They had huge European styled communal tables and prices for NY were very decent–highly recommended yumminess!
All in all it was a great day and for a free concert it couldn’t be beat.

Sunday we went to New Hope, PA which is about a half hour from Somerset. New Hope is a fantastic little artsy watertown which reminds us a little bit of Salem and a little bit of Northampton. Chris was happy to find a Medieval Armor shop, and we had fun poking into all the little boutiques and cafes. We had lunch at a great Cuban restaurant, “Havana”, and we ate some yummy frozen custard from “Rita’s”. Chris and I want to move to New Hope because it was cool and we’d be closer to our nephew, but ideally it would suck to leave everyone else. Dilemmas…alas!

Monday we walked a little around my sister’s neighborhood and then got lost driving on our way to Ikea in Elizabeth. But we finally made it and converted my sister into a lover of that mecca of Swedish furniture and funkiness-even Jeremy liked it! We all made lasagna that night (Chris did most of the work), and sat in her kitchen with her sliding door open to the garden. Ahhh….

We both were sad to leave everyone but we had a restful, pleasant long weekend and, thanks to the convenience of the railroad station down the street from us, hope to do a repeat visit soon.

Happy 4th of July Everyone!

You Tube clips from our trip:

Babylon Circus:
[flash http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qopzeREN2aE%5D

Batman doing the salsa at Ozomatli:
[flash http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oNV_yaiylX4%5D


[flash http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QxgFbK9oDSI%5D

Fun in NJ

We are having a good time down in NJ visiting Kathy’s sister and her fiance and our nephew. The weather has been amazing, the day trips really good. We are sad that we are leaving tomorrow to go back to VT. Will post a bunch of photos and videos when we get back.

Disney Vacation 2007 Trip

Chris and I were lucky enough to be able to sneak away for a handful of days to our favorite inexpensive and instant -sunshine vacation-Orlando,Florida. For six sun drenched days we partied it up at the Happiest Place on Earth. And we only ran into a couple of obnoxious southerners this time! We stayed at the All Star Movies resort, a value resort –pretty much it is a room and a public pool and a giant cafeteria—lots of families go there—it’s cute and cheap—so you kinda hafta take it at face value. Apparently there was some big dance competition and a lot of the teams were staying there. Down side: lots of obnoxious giggling teenage girl. Plus side: it sure beat the cheerleaders! One funny snippet was that we overheard some girls talking on the bus later that week that they had won the national championship. Some college guys were trying to flirt with them so they asked one of the girls what they are judged by in the competition. The girl’s oh so intelligent response was “like, by how able you are to dance”.

Our flight was decent w/Southwest—quick and pretty smooth, but the plane was chock full so it gave one the feeling of being a cramped and sweaty sardine.

Most of our vacation was spent reading out in the sun, most days hit low 60’s to high 70’s—not too bad–”cold” for native Floridians but just fine for us Northeasterners! Chris struggled through the final Harry Potter installation before the up and coming finale, and was pretty much cursing JK Rowling for such addictive and depressing reading! I spent most of my time doing crosswords and laughing with Augusten Burroughs (read him!!!). We took several long walks and spent a day exploring Fort Wilderness and our favorite little private beach there, Clementine Beach. We also spent a night walking around Coronado Springs, which looks like a walk downtown in a beautiful Southwestern city.

We only went to the theme parks for one day, because the park hopper passes we bought a couple of years back still had some days on them. We went to Epcot to look up our picture that we had put on the “Leave a Legacy” wall last time we came. (see photos). We got to ride “Soarin’” which was amazing! We had to pick up an Early Fast Pass, because lines are insane (an hour plus wait) and fast passes (which allow you to skip the lines) go out in minutes! It was definitely worth it, as it felt like you were really hang-gliding over the Everglades. You could even “smell” the oranges in an orange grove and feel the sea breeze on your feet! Way cool!

Although returning to 2 degree weather wasn’t fun, it was nice to have a little get away at one of our favorite places.

Most of Florida’s food, as you know from previous posts, consists of masses of fried chicken wings and all you can eat meat buffets. However, even poor vegetarians like us were able to scramble and find some good things to eat. To digress off of the “healthy eating” tangent for a second, however, I must say that Hotties donuts are arguably the best donuts ever!!! We went 3 times, but we DID walk a few miles each way, so technically we were being good ….about being bad. Speaking about being bad…I don’t mean to sound rude to say this but there were certainly a lot of people in Florida who look like they have had a little too much fun at the all you can eat buffets. The “turkey neck” and bubble-front trend was in style there it seemed. Sadly it’s due to all the deep fried fast food at every corner.

The resorts themselves have fewer options for vegetarians, the food at All Star is very unremarkable so we avoided that as much as possible(aside from “Mickey waffles” now and then for breakfast and ice cream sundaes at night). Here is a breakdown/rating list of our food experiences:

  1. All Star Resorts—2 stars for their regular fare, 3.5 for dessert…because you pretty much can’t screw up ice cream. Overpriced and unremarkable, only good if you’re in a hurry and have nowhere else to go. Their “veggie” burgers were dry and weren’t even advertised on the menu.
  2. Seasons at Epcot_4 stars for a resort. We were amazed at the array of foods offered, and how healthy and good it really was! We were surprised to see unique menu items such as Warmed Beet and Goat Cheese salad, but it was extremely good! We had an unusual breakfast there consisting of oatmeal, a cinnamon bun and some sushi (I know a weird combo but it was good I swear!). There were several vegetarian and kosher options, and none of it looked like it was prepackaged or left sitting out too long.
  3. Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe-3 stars, because they do have really good veggie burgers and a whole bunch of stuff, like hot peppers and mushrooms—that you can put on them.
  4. Earl of Sandwich—located at downtown Disney. A good sandwich joint that makes great Earl Grey tea lemonade and iced tea. You usually wait forever in line but their sandwiches and salads are usually worth it. We love the Caprese salad with mozarrella and basil. 3.5 stars
  5. Ghirardelli’s—it’s chocolate, it’s ice cream, it’s “iced mochas”. Need I say more? 3.5 stars
  6. Wetzel’s Pretzels-3 stars. It’s pretzels, what more can you ask for?

“Off-resort” food:

    • Chevy’s—a chain of mexican restaurants down South, this is better than “Chili’s” and certainly beats “Taco Bell”. They make homemade salsa and guacamole on premises, and their food is usually fresh and unique. The waitstaff are very friendly too! 3.5-4 stars for a chain.
    • Hotties Donuts—you have to love a donut chain that offers pb&j donuts, chocolate peanut butter filled ones, and lucky charms-topped ones! They are seriously good, and they don’t use trans fats either. As I will quote the owner, “these donuts are the most fun you can have with your clothes on”. 5 stars
    • Perkins-2 stars. We waited a half hour to be seated and endured a crabby waitress for some sub-par coffee and food. Not worth it.
    • India Palace-4 stars. Unfortunately it’s location and audience makes it not much of a popular place, but we certainly find the homemade baighan bharta dozens of times more appealing than the “all you can eat greasy pizza” buffet next door. Plus, the owners always recognize us and are very friendly!

Disney 2004 Trip (January 13-January 17)

Okay, so YET AGAIN Christopher Arnini is the SNEAKIEST person in the world! We had made plans to take the week of Jan 9-18 th off. On Tuesday morning we packed our bags to go visit my sister in Stamford , CT for a few days (or so I thought). As we drove past the CT border and headed south on 91, we turned off an exit and few minutes later, Chris handed me an envelope and told me to open it. When I looked inside my jaw dropped. In it were two plane tickets to Florida ! “Happy Birthday, honey!” he said. As I gawked speechlessly for about 20 minutes, Chris pulled in to Bradley airport and began taking luggage out of the back seat. He had packed summer clothes and snuck them in the trunk! “What about my sister?” I asked. He of course had been planning this trip for a while and even my sis was in on it. I was so surprised I couldn’t even think straight. Chris’ Dad met us at the airport to say goodbye. It was very sweet of him. Our flight down was excellent. We flew with Southwest, and I have to say it was the smoothest, most comfortable flight I’ve ever taken. We even got to Orlando a little early. Getting off the plane was such a welcome change. In Vermont , temperatures were reaching 45 below. Here, it barely went under 70. We had sunshine every day and couldn’t get enough of it. Chris had reserved a hotel room for us at the Lake Buena Vista Resort owned by Best Western, which was conveniently close to everything so we didn’t even need to rent a car. We just walked everywhere in the sun together (ah.). We had so much fun on our trip. The first night we walked to downtown Disney for our beloved Ghirardelli iced mochas. They are to die for. The next day we had breakfast at the hotel, which was mediocre. At least they served lots of fresh fruit and had make your own mickey waffles (hee hee), but the rest left something to be desired. We spent the day walking around town and looking at shops. Anyone who knows our favorite cheap place to eat knows we love Wendy’s! We always go there to order Frosties, baked potatoes and side salads (the only vegetarian choice!). So, silly us, we had a craving that afternoon for Wendy’s. Little did we know the nearest one was about 4 miles away. By chance we were walking around and saw the sign far in the distance-so we made the trek over there! I know it’s pretty pathetic, but we had to have our Frosties. At least we had a good walk and earned them.We had lots of fun bus hopping to different Disney resorts to see what they were like. Our definite favorites so far have been Coronado Springs (we had some great drinks there and it’s so beautiful to walk there at night, like being in the Southwest), Wilderness Lodge (there is a river running through the middle of the lobby!), and Caribbean Beach (it reminded us of St.John’s a little). We also checked out the new Pop Century resort and were impressed! There are five different “decades” that people can stay at (50’s through the 90’s) and at each of those decades where nostalgic items like statues of old toys, popular albums and sayings of the time, and fun facts about the era. It was very cute. We also went back to the resort we stayed at the first time we went to Disney-the All Star Movie resort-and got cherry cokes to walk around with and reminisce.

Thursday was the best day of all. We went to the Magic Kingdom and Epcot for my birthday, just like we did 2 years ago (Wow! Can’t believe how time has flown.). Of course we had to ride our favorite rides a few times in a row. We’re suckers for the Haunted Mansion (oooh-scary!) and the Pirates of the Caribbean (Chris was a pirate in a past life-arrggh! “Dead men tell no tales.”). Chris bought himself another pirate hat and we even got our pics taken with Captain Hook! When Chris went to go to the bathroom later on in the day, Captain Hook found me and put his arms around me. When Chris came back Captain Hook got jealous and shook his hook at him! It was so cute.

We took the monorail over to Epcot later on in the day, and went on Spaceship Earth twice (one of our favorite Epcot rides, we went at least 5 times the last time we went!), Test Track (yaaaaaaah!!!!), and Ellen’s Energy Adventure (with Ellen Degeneres, it’s very funny). We wandered over to the World Showcase to go to Morocco where they have a great veggie platter and Tangerine tropical drinks.

We basically tried to relive that wonderful day 2 years ago.

We spotted Victoria Gardens , the wonderful place where Chris proposed. Being back there I remembered how I felt that day, and it brought tears to my eyes. We sat down on a bench by the waterfall. Chris went down on one knee like he had done on that day, and said “Kathleen, you know I love you.will you marry me? You don’t have to say yes”. He said he was so nervous that day that he said that last part just in case. I felt like we got engaged all over again. I’m so glad we took pictures this time because that place is often in my mind, I was so happy to see it again!

Chris’ surprise made my birthday so magical. The rest of the evening we had fun wandering around the World Showcase, riding the Mexican Boat ride, El Rio del Tiempo (“hola me amigos, it’s fiesta time for you.la la la la la” (that song will not leave your head!), visiting Norway (“you are not de first to pass this vay.”),eating dinner at the same place we did when he proposed, having crepes in France, shopping for cheap things in China, and drinking Viking coffees (which really is just a bunch of liquors with a splash of coffee for flavor) as the Epcot fireworks dazzled the sky. Wonderful didn’t even begin to explain it.

The rest of the vacation flew by, as vacations always do. We had some funny adventures. First was my sprained foot. I’m not sure what I did to my foot but I had to limp practically everywhere we went for a couple days, and I looked like an old lady. Chris had to put his arms around me to help me stay up! Next was people watching. We met some.um, interesting.folks out there. We spotted several mullet heads, tried as best we could to dodge bands of screaming cheerleaders (they were there for a competition on the day we left-thank goodness we left when we did!), and encountered a waitress at a breakfast place with quite a few missing teeth. We of course had to visit several cheap discount stores while we were there (you know , the “10 t-shirts for 5 dollars” places) just for amusement. Then of course there was the liquor store/Italian restaurant, the name says it all.

One Indian restaurant, India Palace , had become a favorite of ours on our last visit. We of course had to visit it several times for the lunch buffet! They are so nice there and the food is inexpensive and amazing. We were very entertained by the owner’s grandaugher, an adorable little girl named “Ashi” who took a liking to us. She was our little hostess, showing us toys and asking us to play with her. She spoke two Indian dialects as well as English, but her 3 year old mind couldn’t tell that we didn’t know Indian, so she would often say things in another language to us! She made us laugh, and we miss her!

Going back home was of course depressing, but I have so many happy memories of going there. I still can’t believe we went! I had no idea!

I can’t even explain how it felt to be back there. I was so happy I felt like my heart could have burst. Christopher is the best, sneakiest hubby there is, and I love him so!! Now it’s MY turn to surprise HIM.