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The last few days have been a whirlwind of exciting things, and I want to go into detail on all of it, but the whirlwind won’t stop for blogging, apparently, so I’m just going to have to stick with the highlights for now.

First things first — I got a new camera! (Take that, number 33!) This was not a rash decision by any means. We’d saved up gift cards, and done research, and finally, this weekend, I realized there were a number of things I really wanted a Big Girl Camera for on the horizon, and, well, why not just do it now? And, to top things off, a nice guy at Best Buy gave me his 10% off coupon to use, out of the blue. I wasn’t even showing (much) cleavage!

I’ve quickly learned that the curse of owning a really nice camera is that you tend to photograph everything, and, well, I have so many pictures that it’s almost impossible to edit down to a few of the best. So, I’m saying screw the best, and I’m just going to show a couple of favorites. And you’ll like it. (Well, I hope you’ll like it, anyway!)

We went to St. Pete Beach with the dogs. I won a slogan contest at I Love Dog Friendly, and the prize was two nights at a pet-friendly hotel. We chose the Tradewinds Island Grand because, for one thing, it’s a gorgeous property, and it’s near where we got married, and my parents were spending a week in the area, so we thought it would be fun to hang out with them for a couple of nights. AND IT WAS.

The hotel was great — we particularly liked the little fenced in play area and the doggie room service.

island grand welcome

A warm welcome and gorgeous view.

ball fire hydrant

Classic Hollie. No interest in the fire hydrant or ball. Just hunting lizards.

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There are plenty of things I’m good at, like applying eye makeup, rapping “Ice, Ice Baby” (with accompanying dance moves), or opening bottles of champagne. But there’s something I’ve discovered I’m really, really bad at — turning off my phone and taking actual time away from work.

It’s not like I’m so important, or so damn good at my job. I’m just … I don’t know … neurotic? But by the end of last year, I was actually starting to crave some time (and more than a weekend) away from work, away from my phone, and just away. Oh, and the fact that Jared was heading to Hawaii for work without me (not his fault — we tried to make it work out and it just didn’t, plus he brought home presents!) kind of added to my itch for travel.

For the first time since we got married and went on a honeymoon nearly six years ago, we planned a vacation that had nothing to do with a work trip or visiting family or friends. We made plans based entirely on what we wanted to do and what we wanted to see. We booked a southern Caribbean cruise.

And you guys, it was awesome (and not like a hot dog; more like 100 billion hot dogs).

Not a bad view in Barbados. You can almost see the sea turtles.

Not the ship, although it was beautiful and totally impressive (and had a demographic of about 80% senior citizens — seriously, we were definitely in the running for youngest couple not there with a parent. And we’re NOT that young). And I’m not talking about the food, although it was delicious and hella plentiful. I’m not even talking about the hot dogs, which, of course, I didn’t eat, but Jared thought were just fantastic.

I’m not even sure it’s accurate to say the fact that my phone was off (TOTALLY TURNED OFF!) for 10 whole days was awesome in the true sense of the word, though it did feel pretty awesome.

No, you guys, it was the seeing and the doing and the experiencing. We explored the most beautiful natural settings, checking out the Baths of Virgin Gorda, which we only went to because a nice lady at the tourist information booth in Tortola suggested it.

The Baths

One of the few pictures of the two of us -- a hazard of traveling without anybody else!

Clearly, this is our kind of place.

Hooray beer!

We hiked through the rainforest in Grenada, smelling and tasting fresh spices from the trees as we passed them, and swimming in the crystal clear water of the Seven Sisters Falls. (We also smelled some other, uh, “spices” when our tour guide, Rooster, lit up a doobie while we swam. Do people still say doobie? Because I think that’s such a fun word and I so seldom get to use it.)

Jared and Rooster

Seven Sisters Falls (and us, and some lady)

The "popular" falls (AKA the easy ones to get to. Strange how "easy" and "popular" so often go hand in hand!)

Seriously, if you go to Grenada, book a private hike to this area and bring a picnic lunch so you can stay all day. I would still be there now if I had the opportunity (and could bring the dogs). I was literally breathless, which could have had something to do with the brisk pace at which we climbed the rocks, or the cold (COLD!) water, but neither of those things explain the pure joy I felt looking up at the top of the falls. Even though you know hundreds of people see these areas each week, it’s easy to imagine you’re the first.

We snorkeled with sea turtles in Barbados after running into a couple who mentioned that they’d gone swimming with sea turtles the last time they were on the island. (Paynes Bay, folks. It’s a cheap cab ride and you can swim right out from the beach, bypassing the super expensive excursions and tours.) After swimming out, I don’t know, 20 yards or so from where our comfy, shaded chairs were, I looked down and OH MY GOD THERE WAS A SEA TURTLE. I mean, yes, that’s why we were there, but that didn’t stop me from gasping and laughing in amazement while continuously poking Jared and pointing.

We zipped through the rainforest in St. Lucia, which, if you know me AT ALL, you’ll realize is huge. I’m absolutely terrified of heights — bridges, in particular. And not only did our “treetop adventure” take us on 11 different ziplines (some ridiculously high, others really long, and one which was crazy fast), but it also forced us to walk over two rope bridges — by FAR the most frightening part of the excursion. On the first, I shook so badly it made the entire bridge shake. That smile? Ohhh, that’s fake and plastered. (No, I wasn’t plastered. Yet. Just the smile.)

All I could think of was, "Hang on lady. We going for a ride!"

There were other sites that were, well, slightly less awesome (but still totally fun). In St. Maarten/St. Martin, we had no plans, so we headed over to Orient Beach. Yep, that’s the one that’s partly topless and partly fully nude. Now, we did not go fully nude (and Jared was the only Seymour who went topless), but we did walk the beach and HOLY COW WIENERS EVERYWHERE. Umm, in case you didn’t guess that. See also, BOOBS. Aside from all of the naughty bits on display, the beach was absolutely gorgeous, and we fully enjoyed the calm waters and cheap beers. And also, the Sexy Fruits.

I honestly have no idea what this means. But I still love it.

A warning of not-so-sexy fruits

Aruba was absolutely picturesque, and we did a snorkeling excursion on a pirate-type ship (with a rope to swing on! and rum punch!). We nearly didn’t make it because, well, to put it delicately, there was a virus. The most horrible, disgusting, miserable virus EVER, actually, and the day before (when we were in Curacao, which I’m sure is lovely) I really didn’t get out of bed (except to go to the bathroom, because, you know, DISGUSTING VIRUS).

Not a bad ride.

Anyway, I was thrilled to be feeling up to snorkeling, but at our first stop, the water was waaaay rough, not to mention there was nothing much to see. J and I headed back to the ship, along with pretty much everyone else — the waves were picking up quickly. I was next to climb up, but saw a large, older gentleman to my right who was really struggling, so being polite and kind like I am (oh SHUT UP), I moved aside to let him climb. It was a little tricky because I’d already taken off my flippers and was holding them in one hand, but since they’d made us wear life vests, staying afloat wasn’t a big deal.

Anyway, I saw him get to the top, I swung around to the ladder. BIG mistake, because he fell (yes, from the top of the ladder, a few feet above the water) ONTO MY HEAD. Aside from a lingering stiff neck, I’m totally fine, but the bitch of the whole thing is that he knocked my mask and snorkel off my head. My PINK mask and snorkel, which fit me and worked. Ugh. So, the next time you’re in Aruba, if you see a turtle wearing a pretty pink mask, you’ll know it was mine.


You know what else was awesome? Realizing that the world (and the internet, and my job) doesn’t end when I unplug for a few days. I still feel like I’m catching up somewhat, but considering I was able to completely forget what day it was on multiple occasions, I think that’s not a bad trade.

So naturally, now, we’re working on our next travel plans. Where have you been and what have you done that you’ve positively loved?

More pictures to come (yes, there are more!) on Flickr.

You may or may not know that I am not really a beer drinker. I love wine, margaritas, vodka tonics, and lots of other yummy drinks, but until recently, I only drank beer if there really wasn’t anything else available. Because you know I’m not going to stick to water.

In the last few weeks, I’ve started drinking for the occasion — when we’ve gone to places that specialize in fancy beer, I’ve had fancy beer. Big step for me. Probably, there’s no place that’s more about beer than Oktoberfest, which we went to in Frankenmuth, Michigan while we were on vacation. And boy, did I drink some beer.

In fact, I drank beer from a boot. Surrounded by big, German men. In leiderhosen. Have you seen Beerfest (go to 8:18 in the video, and you’ll see, basically, us)? If so, you know the game, except instead of all of us having to chug a mug of beer, we all drank out of a giant glass boot.

Yes, you heard me right — I drank out of the same glass as six or seven random strangers. The drinking of the beer wasn’t so tough (at least not for me — Jared, who both started and finished the boot, might feel differently), but knowing about the germs — the germs!!! — nearly killed me. Still, I think I did my German heritage proud. As did Jared his Jewish heritage.

The start of the insanity:

Going around the table (of course I have to drink after literally everyone):

It’s go time! Notice, I’m not the one who looks hammered:

And, to finish it up:

Oy vey.

The entire time we were in New York, I was keeping my eyes peeled for celebrities. I mean, hey, I live in Gainesville — we get excited when we see one of the college athletes around here. Alas, there were no famous faces to be found. And why? Obviously, they were all in Fenton, Michigan. Of course.

We just got back from spending a few days with my cousin Jen, her husband Dave, and their daughter (and my goddaughter), Jorie, and it was only when we got to Fenton that we saw a celebrity. And, for the record, you shouldn’t be worrying that you don’t recognize the town. I lived in Michigan for 20 years and hadn’t heard of it.

Anyway, we went to a restaurant called The French Laundry (seriously, if you’re ever just south of The Thumb, you MUST GO. But, I digress. We went on Friday night, had a lot of really good wine, beer, and yummy, yummy food, and saw … Matthew Lillard! Okay, maybe not an A-lister, but WE WERE IN FENTON. I thought, as such a big-time blogger, I’d be the most famous one there, you know (she said, tongue planted firmly in cheek)?

And he wasn’t the only famous face to grace The French Laundry in recent days — earlier that week, Cedric the Entertainer was apparently there with his (very rude) entourage. Matthew Lillard, by the way, totally cool, just hanging with, like, five friends in the corner, being less obnoxious than I was. But it’s not my fault — my cousin is a wine pusher, and I’d had, like, two bottles of wine throughout the day before we even left for the restaurant. Not. My. Fault.

Since I leave again in a few days for another trip, I thought maybe it was about damn time I filled you in on the NYC trip. Aren’t I thoughtful?

It was, in short, a whirlwind. But a lovely whirlwind. We were picked up in a town car, driven to the airport, and the flight was uneventful. Plus, they offered us extra snacks! Woo hoo, go Jet Blue!

We stayed with my old roommate, Robyn, who is fairly new to the city herself. Which is why, when we went to bars we liked (and that first night, there were A LOT OF BARS. If there was a beer shortage in New York on Labor Day, we might be to blame.), Robyn jotted down the names and locations on her map. We also got chance to hang with my pal Chelsea, who is one of those NYC women who can run around in heels. Awesome.

Monday was sightseeing (and shopping! in Soho! and we saw Avenue Q, where we learned the Internet is good … for porn!), taking the Circle Line cruise down to the Statue of Liberty. It was a beautiful day, lots of sunshine, and my lips got burnt. Seriously, folks, they’re still all dry — if you have a super extra happy family lip balm you can recommend, shout it out. I’ve got three kinds on call at all times right now and I’m still way whiny.

Jared and I went to the Museum of Natural History the next day, and DUDE! They have the COOLEST dinosaur skeletons there! You might have thought most people would get that dinosaur excitement out in the second grade, but, nope. Especially when they’re all lively and attacking Jared!

But, at least I made a friend.

The Egyptian exhibit was pretty amazing. I think I fit in pretty well.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art was the last museum we saw. We were going to squeeze in the Museum of Modern Art (not all on the same day), but honestly? We were arted out. How are you going to beat the World’s Most Giant Balloon Dog, anyway? We didn’t hit the gym, but Jared got to show off his chiseled torso nonetheless. Also, $10 Kristen Bucks to anyone who can name the movie the picture of Jared is based on.

I know (assume? hope?) that some of you are super curious to know about the photoshoot, and trust me when I say it pretty much everything I could have asked for. I have some posts going up this week on StyleList, and once those have gone live and I get home from my next globetrotting adventure (to the exotic locale of … Michigan. Please, hold your applause.), I’ll get more pictures up from that. But, you should be pretty well filled in by then — I’m doing a four part series, one post a day starting most likely on Monday. With galleries of pictures! Look through, and leave (nice) comments!

So, I know it’s been, like, a week since you’ve heard from me, but I have good reason:

I was at the beach, relaxing and looking at my newly pedicured toes. I got a manicure, too (J won a gift certificate for me at the Puppy Hill Gala), but I ended up peeling it all off two days in. That’s still two days of pretty nails, which is WAAAY better than I could normally hope for.

Anyway, in between guzzling sipping pina coladas and Coronas and kicking ass at paddleball, J and I improved our minds through literature. He read a classic — The Three Musketeers — and I read The Mother Tongue: English and how it got that way. Yes, we’re a little dorky, but I was completely enraptured with my nerdy little English book — it’s by Bill Bryson, and if you have any interest at all in things like which countries don’t have native swear words (praise jebus I don’t live in one of those!) and whether Appalachian hillbillies speak at all like Queen Elizabeth did, you’ll be fascinated.

I did a little bit of work while I was gone, but check out my office:

That makes going to work a little easier.

The beach we visited was the same beach where we got married four years ago, and my folks were nice enough to rent a place for a week and split the time with us (thanks, guys!). We were hoping to see a wedding while we were there, but no dice. So, we made due with watching the sunset and going to seriously delicious restaurants. Of course, there might be lots of other delicious restaurants there, but we wouldn’t know because we just keep going back to the ones we like: Conch Republic (twice) and Gigi’s. I’m still stuffed (which, by the way, I learned is a rather obscene thing to say in England, but you can tell someone you’ll knock them up in the morning …).

You know, one of the things that’s so amazing about the beach is that only two full days there can make the whole world feel new. And I know that I’m just lucky that I live close enough to the beach that I can do a short getaway like that, but wherever you are, I hope you have something nearby that’s worth visiting for a day or two so you can join me in my post-vacation bliss.

Well, bliss other than the sunburn part. Because I am DREADING having to wear a real bra right now.

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