Happy Channukah, Merry Xmas & Happy Holidays. Warning: the adorable videos may make you smile

‘Tis the season! The holiday season is upon us, and tonight marks the first night of Channukah (which means my birthday is quickly approaching)!  On a personal note, it is also a memorable night for Mr. Fiancé and I, as tonight marked the first time we have lit the candles on our own menorah that we bought together and the last time we will celebrate Channukah as a dating couple.   A big Happy Channukah goes out to all my fellow heebs.

“Oh Channukah Oh Channukah, Come light the menorah, let’s have a party, we’ll all dance the hora. Gather round the table, we’ll give you a treat…”

To help spread the holiday cheer, I thought I would share with you some awesome holiday goodies that I came across today.

Lastly, I want to share these three videos that come to us from Jessica. They are just way too cute not to spread around the smiles and cheer. Thanks for sharing Jessica! She has a few more holiday videos, so be sure to check them out!  These are guaranteed to put a smile on your face and bring out the holiday spirit.  Enjoy!

Puppies’ first Christmas, it really doesn’t get any more precious than this. I love the one that gets stuck in the Santa hat. I just want to wrap them up and take them all home! But can you imagine training them all?

Great parody/mashup of the Channukah story with songs like Stayin’ alive, Born to Be Wild, Can’t touch this, and Move Like Jagger and more.

These sailors look like they are fun people who sure know how to get in the holiday spirit. I want to be friends with them!

People always say Merry Christmas this time of year, but for those of us who don’t celebrate it, it can get kind of old. Since you don’t always know the person’s religion, I prefer saying Happy Holidays, across the board to everyone. Happy Channukah, Happy Kwanza, Merry Christmas & of course Happy Holidays to all!

Happy Holidays to all!

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I’m on a boat! You sure this isn’t just a floating city?

Some people have been asking, “Where is your post about your vacation?” I honestly debated because the goal of this blog isn’t to be a diary. However, due to popular demand, I have decided to share a bit about the week that I spent at sea with Mr. Fiancé’s family.

There were four pools, two on each side separated by the Central Park in the center, 8 floors down!

 

I love traveling and cruising is a great way to do it. While different vacations require different things, sometimes, cruising can be a perfect vacation – you have sun, entertainment, travel, professional photos, lodging, casinos, and 24/7 food, all-inclusive, in one spot! People cook for you and clean up after you. I love laying out and relaxing on the pool deck,  a strawberry daiquiri in hand, listening to Caribbean music like Bob Marley or UB40.  (Tell me you hear Red, Red Wine and don’t think of the Caribbean?) This t

Mr. Fiancé has the sweetest, most loving little Nanny any grandchild could ask for.  Her goal in life is for her family to be happy so it was her pleasure to take both her children and their respective families on a Royal Caribbean cruise for a week. All 11 of us ate dinner together every night, served by one of the best waiters I have had on a cruise, bar none.  Even though I will not officially be part of the family for another year, I am lucky to have been included on this family trip as if I were already family.

My own family loves to cruise and I am lucky enough to have been on all the major cruise lines and to the Caribbean before. So, where we went this time was not important. I was just absolutely thrilled to be included. We were scheduled to go to Nassau, Bahamas; St. Thomas; and St. Maartin. The Oasis, was a bit on the big side, to put it mildly. Afterall, it is the largest ship on the seas, today. It is bigger than some towns! There were 5,000+ passengers and 2,000 crew.  Our first port was Nassau, where we explored the Atlantis for a bit. Apparently without purchasing an expensive day pass, you can’t really see much. Womp! When we got back on board, Mr. Fiancé’s brother told us we were changing course due to a hurricane! That little jokester, I thought he was kidding. But sure enough, there was a note in our stateroom that said we were changing course due to a tropical storm that was 100% likely to become a hurricane.  100%? Yeah, that sounds like a guarantee to me. GET ME OUTTA HERE! So the Captain made the executive decision to avoid that and head west to Mexico. I heard some passengers complaining, and I really can’t understand why. Would you really rather travel straight into a hurricane? Really people?  You are on a vacation, on a boat, floating in the sea. Be thankful there is radar technology to detect this. Stop complaining and enjoy your vacation. We thought it might affect us when we were returning to Florida, but it dissipated near Haiti. Thank goodness!  The seas were like glass and we had the most perfect weather you could ask for. I even saw dolphins chasing the side of the boat!  Dolphins! In the wild!  Every cruise I go on, I always look over the edge but never see this. I was like a little girl in Disney World for the first time!

Instead, we sailed to Costa Maya and Cozumel.  In Costa Maya, we went to a beach with an open bar. At the port, there was a pool in the middle of the shopping area.  We swam for a bit, until his cousin puked in the pool. GROSS! Even if I saw a shark, I don’t think I could have gotten out any faster! I bolted.

Costa Mayan port pool. In the distance you can see The One and Only Huge Boat.
I think they forgot they were writing in English.

In Cozumel- I saw a jewelry factory and ate Mexican food! You would think Mexico would have the best Mexican food, but sadly, I make better guacamole.  But the water in Cozumel is GORGEOUS!  Crystal clear sea green, turquoise blue and deep blue, all together. Four of the grandchildren and I went on a snorkeling catamaran. There were a lot of people on this excursion, but to my surprise, the fish around the reef still came near the swimmers anyways.  It completely astonishes me that under the water’s surface is an entirely different world.  Sharks, whales, dolphins, sting rays, octopus, fish, and all kinds of sea creatures, all have their own life that you cannot see when you are floating atop the water. But when you snorkel or scuba you get a small glimpse into their world.

Does it getting any prettier than this?
Would you buy anything from this store?

Back on the boat, I realized it surprisingly didn’t feel big at all, despite its 16 floors, 7 ‘neighborhoods’ and endless entertainment opportunities.  In fact, I wondered if I explored all there was to see on the ship because it was just so easy to find your way around. It was the most brilliantly designed ship I have ever been on. I am not kidding, you could fit an entire other cruise ship inside it and not know the difference!  One comedian even joked the Norwegian Sky passengers were relaxing in port  on their top deck tanning until The Oasis pulled up next to it (hear: Star Wars Imperial March song) and suddenly the sun was gone!

The back of the boats are lined up. Look how HUGE The Oasis is!

The boat has beautiful tree-lined Central Park neighborhood in the middle of the boat. That’s right, trees on a boat!  Necessary? No.  Brilliant? Yes. Listening to a guitarist play classical music, under the stars, sitting in a park, while floating at sea was extremely relaxing and pure perfection! There was a full-sized carousel, a zip line, two rock-climbing walls, a basketball court, putt-putt course, and a simulated surfing wave pool in the back of the boat.  I wanted to try the zip line and FloRider, but didn’t have the chance. There was just so much to do and so much sun to soak up.

Central Park. Yes, this is on a Boat.
Park benches

Most boats have the running track on the same level as the pool causing joggers to trip over people laying out. Not this behemoth.  It had a state-of-art gym and a designated open-air private running track equipped with motivational signs to keep you going. Genius. We saw the Broadway hit Hairspray and a water acrobatic diving show during the sea days.  The boat even had a floating bar that vertically moved from floor to floor, but this was anti-climatic and actually quite problematic if you had to use the bathroom.

Despite the hurricane detour, this was one of the most delightful cruises I have been on. I came back from vacation feeling rejuvenated, refreshing and relaxed.  Isn’t that what a vacation is supposed be like?!

I had 1 1/2 of these puppies. Look at that portion size!
Carousel in the Boardwalk neighborhood

 

Look what Nanny did on a 2 cent machine!! I can’t even get one row!
Alice in Wonderland chair

How do you like to travel?  Have you cruised before? What is your favorite cruise line? What is your perfect vacation?

I’m Engaged to the Man of My Dreams!

It was the fall of 2006, my senior year in college. I had just returned from a fabulous semester abroad and was adamant about not dating anyone and continuing my new-found freedom.  I wanted to enjoy my senior year without the stress of a boy. Early in the fall of my senior year, I had become really good friends with this one particular boy who was sweet, thoughtful, and genuine and he made me feel free to be myself. We would stay up all hours of the night talking on my porch swing.  We went to see The Departed, our first of many movies together, strictly as friends. Neither of us considered it to be a date but convincing my mother wasn’t as easy. The conversation went like this: “Mom, We’re just friends. No, he didn’t pay. No Mom, it wasn’t a date. Yes, I’m sure…”

During my sorority live-in years (Sophomore & Junior year), we had waiters who helped the kitchen staff with dinner. Most, if not all the boys, lived in the fraternity next door.  Our house mom didn’t want the boys interacting with us (lame) so I didn’t get to know the boys all that well, until I moved out. Turns out that this boy I had become friendly with was one of our waiters and remembered me because according to him, I always said, “Please and Thank you”.

Our friendship was developing into something special and I was starting to have feelings for him.  I debated if I wanted to be single for senior year as I originally intended or if I should give this boy a chance.  For the first time in my life, I hadn’t been looking to date anyone.  After all, I had just told another friend who I thought was interested how I intended to be single for senior year. (I laugh now because literally two days later I started dating Mr. Boyfriend.)  I didn’t need to be told twice that it was a good idea to go for it, but always liking a second opinion, I asked my friend Laurie what she thought. She encouraged me to follow my gut and go for it.

Little did I know at the time, that guy who used to live next door and whom I almost didn’t date because I thought I wanted to be single, would be my future husband.

We broke up twice along the way, but both times made us stronger and learn about ourselves as well as each other.  Both times we fell more in love upon our return.  While they were hard times, we wouldn’t change anything.

On July 9, 2011 – after close to 5 years of dating, the day had come that would change my life forever.  Here is the story of the day that my best friend, the man I love, asked me to spend the rest of my life with him.  

A little more history: Back in April, Mr. Boyfriend went home to Texas to visit his parents, but I knew he actually went home to go ring shopping with his mom.  When he returned, he made comments hinting that he had to be more cautious with spending.  I could put two and two together. I knew he had to have The Ring but I did not know when or how he was going to propose.

Jump forward to this past weekend. On Friday, he got home from work around 2pm. He told me he sat on the couch all afternoon, but I insisted he must have done something because the weather that day was gorgeous. I can read him like a book, so I knew he was up to something. I also saw the start of a note to me in his backpack but he grabbed it from me before I could read more.

On Saturday, we had plans to have brunch with another couple. Mr. Boyfriend suggested we could go for a walk along the beach after lunch, so we dressed accordingly.  He insisted on bringing a sports bag with us. I didn’t understand why he needed such a big bag, so I incessantly asked why he was taking it. Who would want to carry it on our walk along the lakefront? Why not just take my little tiny backpack? He wouldn’t let me touch the bag or tell me anything. Knowing he was up to something, I put in my contacts.  Even at brunch, he made a stink about me not touching the bag. During the meal, while he was in the bathroom, I told the other couple that I thought he might propose to me that day.  Then at the end of the meal, he excused himself and he went to the bathroom again. This is nothing new; he ALWAYS uses the bathroom after a meal, so I didn’t think anything of it. After a little while and a couple of jokes about him possibly flushing himself down the toilet, the other couple insisted that I open the bag.  I was stubborn and refused. I didn’t know if they knew something that I didn’t, or if they were just trying to peer pressure me because they wanted to know what was up with the bag. I didn’t want to go in the bag and find something I wasn’t supposed to see, AKA The Ring.  Eventually, I realized he wasn’t coming back, and I opened the bag.  In it was sunscreen, my gym shoes, water, the tiny backpack and an envelope with a letter.  It was the start of the scavenger hunt. I had clues to get me to my next destination and instructions to take pictures everywhere I went.

I quickly figured out the first clue and headed over to Bobby’s Bike hikeThis scavenger hunt was a complete surprise to me, so I didn’t know what they had for me.  I was alone and didn’t know if I was supposed to get on a bike or the boat that was boarding on the dock right outside the shop.  It took the employees a while to figure out what I needed because I didn’t know what to ask for. I decided to ditch the bike idea and take a cab because I was afraid I was taking too long. Finally they found my next clue and I made my way to the Lincoln statue in Lincoln Park. This was one of the stops on the bike hike, so it was easy to figure out.  In the cab I tweeted:

The boyfriend has me on a scavenger hunt through the city! Already running behind. I think he’s up to something! 🙂

Once there, one of Mr. Boyfriend’s coworkers was waiting there with another envelope and clue for me. I took my picture and headed over to the camels at Lincoln Park Zoo. Last year we saw the camels having sex, and now there are three. Because I had ditched the bike, I had to run to the zoo. It was so hot, I was nearly dying. It was then that I realized the purpose of the bike.  I arrived to find my sorority daughter sitting there at the camels, waiting for me, with another clue.

All the clues were really well planned out and executed.  The next clue sent me to The Bean at Millenium Park. Sweating profusely when I arrived, I walked in circles because I had absolutely zero idea who I was looking for. Finally, after seeing brides, tourists and Quinceañeras, I spotted one of my closest friends. She gave me my next clue which led me to the W Hotel.  I later found out that none of the people who helped knew any detail of the day except the part that they took part in.  He wanted to make sure no one told anyone anything, and that it was as much of a surprise as possible.

I was hot and sweaty, and I had no idea what to expect when I arrived at the hotel.  Would our friends and family be waiting in the hotel? Was he going to propose while I looked like a drowned rat? But when I arrived, I checked in as per my latest clue and was given a key to a hotel room.  I went upstairs and of course managed to get lost. A sign said Steam Room #301. I was alone and followed the sign to a workout room, thinking the steam room was Room #301.  Once in, I wondered if this was correct. Why was he sending me to a workout room? So I decided to call him to be sure and quickly realized I needed to find a hotel room instead. The room was gorgeous and huge – a suite with a Jacuzzi. (The inspiring words in the sideshow below were on the wall unit in the hotel room).

There was one final clue in the room. It told me to rinse off and be ready for a visitor at 430pm and be ready to go at 715pm. The 430pm visitor was a masseuse! It was Ah-maz-ing!  Mr. Boyfriend took care of everything, every little detail and possible situation. He had come by earlier in the day and dropped of my nice black dress, heals, makeup, purse, hairdryer, flat-iron; everything I could possibly need to get ready for dinner. I got ready for dinner and made my way downstairs. I was thankful I was able to clean up after the long hot day of running around.

He had arranged for a car to take me to dinner.  Once again, I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived at dinner.  Was my family going to be there? Was his? Where were we eating? Was this even the dinner location? Upon arrival, I realized dinner was at Everest, one of the most elegant and classiest restaurants in all of Chicago and definitely the nicest restaurant I have ever dined at. According to the website it is one of the country’s most premier dining experiences.  I felt special and beautiful and a bit out-of-place.  I do have good manners but I realized it is a different world when it comes to high-class dining etiquette.   I walked in to see Mr. Boyfriend sitting there with a rose and we talked about the day.  I do not like scallops but they were absolutely divine.  I thought he was going to propose at dinner but dinner came and went and still nothing. Again, after the meal was over, he went to the bathroom.  I thought, “Maybe he isn’t actually going to the bathroom. Maybe when he returns, he will ask?” But after dinner we got up and headed back to the hotel.  Now I was really confused.  Maybe he wasn’t going to propose after all this? Maybe this was just an elaborate ploy to throw me off?

When I opened the door to the hotel room, the lights were dim, candles lit, In My Life by the Beatles was playing, chocolate covered strawberries sat on the table, champagne and wine on the desk, and there were red and white rose pedals on the floor leading to and all over the bed. I thought, OH MY GOSH, THIS IS IT! HE IS GOING TO PROPOSE!  He instructed me to go over to the bed, where there was a present lying there. First instinct, “is The Ring on the bed? No, the box is too big. Is it a lingerie box?”  I opened the box and it was a photo album of our relationship together. I love photographs and photo albums. We looked through it, and when we got to the end, he got down on one knee and said this adorable, sweet, heart melting speech and asked, “Will you marry me?” Even before I saw The Ring, I practically tackled him and said YES!!

We had gone shopping months before to see what I liked. I am a bit indecisive about things like this, and this was too much money to be indecisive. I liked bits and pieces from various rings, so he designed The Ring based on what he knew I liked.  He designed it for me.  It is stunning and beautiful and I couldn’t be any happier.  He pulled out all the stops on this and I love it!  I can’t stop looking at my hand, to remind myself this is real!  He chose me! I love adventures like this and he was original in a way that was special to us. The scavenger was unique to experiences we have shared together. He was romantic, thoughtful, and sweet and I’m overcome with so much excitement, joy, happiness.

He is smart, funny, generous, loyal, honest, genuine, loving and handsome. He is my best friend and now my Fiancé. Mr. Boyfriend will now be known as Mr. Fiancé, and yes this still sounds weird to me.

I look at the stunning ring on my finger and it all feels so surreal.  But it is real. I still can’t believe that I am engaged to marry my best friend, the man of my dreams next year.

**If you are in a reader, be sure to click-through to see the slide show of photos.**

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