Saturday, May 30, 2015

Saturday States: California

State Nickname: The Golden State

Year(s) of Family Trips: 2000, 2006

Cities Visted: San Francisco, Sacramento, Livermore, Anaheim, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Juan Capistrano

Can't Miss Tourist Attractions: Everything...don't blink!!

Redwood Forest

Golden Gate Bridge and Pier 39

Hollywood Sites and Sounds

 and Disneyland!!

Needless to say, there is no end to the number of sites you can visit or fun you can have in the great state of California!  We sure made the most of it on our trips there!  We spent the most time there on our 2000 trip, but in 2006 we managed to check out the Redwoods and see a bit more of the Northern CA sites!

Fireworks in Livermore

On our 2000 trip, we timed it so that we would arrive in Livermore, California, on July 4th.  That may not seem significant to most, but we are from Livermore, Kentucky, so we were all excited to celebrate our nation's birthday in another Livermore.  As it turns out, there wasn't too much going on in this Livermore either.  We watched the fireworks from our van since it was so chilly outside by the time it got dark enough for them.  We also managed to hit the state capital in Sacramento...ironically, the name of another city in our small KY county.

The Attack

Our most memorable travel experience in all 50 states happened right after we ate in the fancy steakhouse pictured above on the left.  The steakhouse was an experience in itself complete with a mechanical bull and crazy tight valet parking spots.  Truly an impressive place in the general vicinity of Rodeo Drive.  Soon after pulling away from the restaurant, the attack occurred.  An attack of the IBS variety.  I'll leave the family member nameless here, but let's just say it was something our whole gang will never forget!  We have laughed about it for years!!

Our 15 Seconds of Fame

We managed to experience both a movie premiere and a taping of Family Feud during our 2000 California adventure.  We went to see The Kid starring Bruce Willis at El Capitan theater just across from the Grauman's Chinese Theater area.  I was so excited about the possibility of meeting a movie star at this premiere.  I was on the edge of my seat thinking that any minute someone would walk in that I recognized.  What I should have done was take a walk downstairs to the restrooms with my parents...because they met the director of the film (Jon Turteltaub) when they ventured there.  I was beyond distraught that I hadn't been with them.  Our taping at Studio 9 was a blast!  We were in the audience through two tapings of Family Feud that aired later that summer.  When we watched it on TV, you could actually see the back of our heads as the camera panned to the host, Louie Anderson! 

Mother Knows Best

Our biggest regret in all our travels was not going to the San Diego Zoo.  When we started planning the California trip in 2000, I was SO excited to learn that we would be able to check out the MTV SoCal Summer beach house when we arrived in San Diego.  I just knew that I'd be able to meet Carson still my heart!!  As it turns out, we spent two full days at the beach and all I ever saw was the backside of Mandy Moore.  Jordan and I did manage to meet VJ Raymond Munns.  A far cry from Carson Daly, but better than nothing.  Lesson time, we'll go to the zoo!

Which is your favorite California city?
Any suggestions on fun things to do there?

Andrea :)

Friday, May 29, 2015

Book Review: Ruby

Living a tortured life can't be easy.  Discovering that it didn't have to be that way....unfathomable.  From being sold as a sex slave at an early age to becoming the town bum after returning from an extended stay in New York City, Ruby Bell sure had a rough life. 

Ruby by Cynthia Bond* is not for the weak at heart or stomach really.  This book was difficult to read.  Many of the acts described in great detail were not just repulsive, but also despicable.  Set in the small East Texas town of Liberty, it spans the lifetime of Ruby Bell and Ephram Jennings. The content of the book might have been a tad more comprehensible if the structure had been written more orderly.  Ruby is broken down into three sections with the last one being far and away the best.  The first section begins in present day (1960's), but quickly takes us back to the childhood days of Ruby and Ephram.  Many clues are given here to what type of life lies ahead of these two youngsters.  But the text jumps back and forth from past to present until finally they meet again after a couple decades apart.  The second section follows Ruby's escape from and eventual return to Liberty.  It paints a picture of her life much differently than described anywhere else.  She is a tortured soul, but being away seems to be working to her advantage at least for awhile.  It's not entirely clear the reason why she stays in Liberty after her return, but the book finally begins to introduce the idea of hope through Ephram's pure motives with her.  I found the final section to be the most interesting.  While it still flip flopped between current day and the past, much of the rich family histories of both Ruby and Ephram are revealed.  This was the only time in which I felt that I didn't want to put the book down.  Much of the ending is steeped in redemption and hope for the future.  It would have been nice for the ending to provide a bit more closure, but it was fitting to the story told.

Overall, I wouldn't really recommend this book to very many people.  There are a multitude of quite serious topics covered and many of them are sensitive and difficult to digest.  I drug out reading this book for nearly three months because I found it incredibly hard to read much of it in any one sitting.  I appreciate the final product and did find various parts intriguing and thought-provoking, but ultimately it proved to just be a tough read emotionally.

Andrea :)

*I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my review. For more info about how to purchase a book, click here.  And for additional information about the author, click here.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Our Honeymoon: Kotor, Montenegro

Our first official day of the cruise started with a honeymooners brunch!  It was such a fun surprise to find the invitation waiting for us when we returned from dinner on departure day.  Our ship wasn't set to arrive in Kotor until mid-afternoon so the brunch was a great way to spend our morning.  As it turns out, there were twenty couples aboard the ship on their honeymoon.  We played some fun get to know you games and they raffled off prizes before we were treated to mimosas and cake.

We enjoyed the beautiful scenery as the ship arrived in Kotor.  The mountains were spectacular from every angle.  At this port, the ship would be tendered rather than docked.  We weren't sure what to think about leaving the ship via glorified life boats, but soon enough we were safely onshore.

Our excursion included a trip up to the top of the mountains where we dined on local cuisine - ham and cheese with a side of wine - before descending back to our starting point.  The journey proved nerve wracking at times.  Our huge charter bus seemed to barely fit on the road.  And meeting oncoming cars...forget it!  Not to mention it being pitch black dark on our downward journey...

The day concluded with a brief tour of the small town at the base of the mountain.  Lots of history to soak up before we boarded our ship!

And a nice treat at dinner, too!!  Then, we were off to the next destination...

Andrea :)

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

#MarriedMaitlands: Little Cuties

We had a large bridal party with Men of Honor, Bridesmaids, and Groomsmen, but our little cuties most certainly stole the show.  And that was 100% ok with this bride.  They were so little and just absolutely adorable.

My niece was the flower girl.  She did so good practicing everything, but on the day of the wedding she was doing good to just make it down the aisle with her basket.  I think she was a bit overwhelmed by all the people.  Her daddy made sure to throw out a handful of flowers at the very end of the aisle once she made it there.

Chris' godson was the ring bearer.  He was adorable in his top hat.  Looked like a little man.  He managed to get about halfway down the aisle before he bolted back toward his mom at the back of the church.  So cute!

And my nephew was our announcer.  That title took some convincing - especially since the little guy couldn't even talk yet at that point.  Oh, and I was surprising Chris with the sign that would be his announcement.  In the end, Chris was willing to just shrug it off and let me call him whatever I deemed appropriate.  Smart man!  The sign (made by my sister-in-law) was a huge hit!

The only thing I regret is that we didn't manage to wrangle them down all together for a photo with both of us on the wedding day, but we did get several fun candid shots.  Love these little cuties!

Did you have any little cuties in your bridal party?

Andrea :)

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

#MarriedMaitlands - SEVEN months!

The months seem to be flying by these days!  Our six month anniversary fell on the same weekend as our five year dating anniversary so we celebrated with a night out for dinner.  It's hard to believe it's already been over half a year that we've been married!  This month we were home nearly every weekend, spent time meal planning and trying some new dinners at home, and just relaxed and enjoyed married life!

Date Nights

-BBQ at Butcher Bar in Astoria

-We bought the Mayweather/Pacquiao fight and watched it together.  Chris even scored the fight.  He's really gotten me to come around to boxing the past few weeks.  We watched the Derby earlier that day as well.  More about my pre-race/fight thoughts here.

-Taco Night for Cinco de Mayo


-Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Chris' Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
*We watched this entire series on Netflix in about three days.  Definitely some solid laughs in there!  I had heard the show was amazing, but it didn't blow me away.  Maybe I'd hyped it up too much before we started watching.  We liked it though...and I think we'll watch the next season, too.


-Albany for fun with friends and a wedding!

Notable Events

-We mostly just relaxed and took it easy this month.  It was a nice change in pace for us!

-I started a new series - Saturday States - on the blog.  It details my travels to all 50 states with my family.  

-Chris spent a weekend in Philly with some of his best friends in mid-May.

Andrea :)

Monday, May 25, 2015

#MarriedMaitlands: Groomsmen

Christopher's groomsmen are not only loved by him, but also by me.  Each of these guys are great men.  I haven't known them nearly as long as Christopher, but I can't imagine our lives without them. I've included the mini-bios that Chris wrote for our wedding website to introduce you to them.  Chris selected two Best Men - Rich and Justin.

I met Rich in the hallway of Forbes Hall on the first day of class our freshman year at the University of Pittsburgh. We hit it off immediately primarily due to our mutual love of professional wrestling. We have been close friends ever since and talk on an almost daily basis. I am honored to be the godfather to his son, Trey. 

Justin and I met in a World Politics class at the University of Pittsburgh. I gave him the nickname of "The Answer" because he actually was a multiple choice answer on our final. He is my go to guy on all movies especially the Oscars.

I met Nick freshman year. I thank him for letting me borrow his car sophomore year and not getting mad at me when I left it running in the Media Play parking lot. 

Fess and I also met at Pitt. He was responsible for me living on Hobart Street and the first time I wore purple. He and I are close enough that I prevented him from becoming a lost soul.

I met Matt at Rockefeller College and at one point we lived and worked together. Matt has taught me about the wonders of Western New York and we are both enthusiasts of smooth grooves.

Gil and I met my senior year at Pitt. He won me over with his wit and charm. He is also from Wilkes-Barre, a place that I was not sure existed until we became friends.

These guys are THE best!  They are wonderful friends to Chris.  And each accepted me as a part of the gang from Day One.  Couldn't have possibly asked for a more wonderful group of groomsmen!

Andrea :)

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Saturday States: Wyoming

State Nickname: The Equality State

Year(s) of Family Trip: 2000, 2006

Cities Visited: Laramie, Cheyenne, Jackson Hole

Can't Miss Tourist Attractions:
Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park

The Ranger Motel

The most notorious hotel in all our travels was without a doubt the Ranger Motel.  This motel was special...and not in a good way.  We arrived in town on a busy rodeo weekend so there was limited no available rooms at normal chain hotels.  Enter the Ranger Motel...complete with a pool hall full of bikers attached.  To say it was an interesting night is to put it mildly.  We were privy to hoots and hollers from the pool hall that evening and discovered an open window in the bathroom the following morning.  Definitely an experience to remember!

In Laramie (2000), we also stopped for a church service at a nearby Baptist Church.  As it turns out, our family made up half of the congregation that week.  The church is located in a college town and all the students had just gone home for the summer.  Nice people there though.

Sweet Potato What?

In Cheyenne, we saw the most unique and colorful boots all around town.  After visiting the capital building, we stopped for a bite to eat at a local restaurant - Snake River Pub & Grill (now Shadows Pub & Grill).  The restaurant had its own brewery and one wing was still a Union Pacific Train Depot...built back in 1886.  A train even made a stop during our meal.  However, the most interesting thing we discovered here was sweet potato fries.  It was love at first taste!

Grand Tetons!

The Grand Tetons are stunning!  Completely remarkable in every way.  Gorgeous scenery!  The photos were taken in the Jackson Hole area of Wyoming.

Animals and Geysers Galore

Last, but certainly not least, no trip to Wyoming would be complete without spending some time in Yellowstone.  I really liked checking out all the bison as we cruised through the park in our minivan.  Much to the dismay of my mom, I actually got out of the car to capture a better photo of me with the bison.  I was obsessed with these beasts.  And also scared enough to hustle back into the car when they started moving.

Our other Yellowstone excitement occurred in the form of geysers.  In particular, a famous geyser known as Old Faithful.  We had every form of precipitation fall on us as we toured Yellowstone...culminating in a hail storm just as Old Faithful erupted with McKinley looking on in shorts and a t-shirt.  Who would have thought a winter coat necessary in mid-July anyway?

Have you ever been to the beautiful state of Wyoming?

Andrea :)