Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Do They Know It's Christmas?

If by 'they' Band Aid meant 'Tim and Mary Byrne' the answer is a resounding NO this year! It's extremely bizarre to live somewhere warm after a lifetime of celebrating Christmas somewhere that has seasons.

I'm sure some if it has to do with not having a 'normal' work routine. Any other year we'd have been looking forward to 'Christmas Break'- taking off the time right before Christmas all the way through the New Year- and making plans for it. Any other year we'd have gone Christmas shopping at malls annoyingly packed with people. Any other year we would have gone to holiday parties, all dressed up and been SO sick of Christmas music by now. Any other year we'd be in St. Louis visiting with old friends before returning to Chicago to celebrate New Year's Eve with our friends. Any other year we'd have put up our tree, wrapped the presents and put them under it, decorated the condo and made Laddie wear the Santa hat she so dearly hates. Any other year we would have certainly shoveled a snowstorm or two by now.

This year we both work on Christmas- there are three cruise ships in so it's a busy day in St. Thomas. This year Christmas shopping was done almost entirely online or over the phone- I mean, do any of you really want something from K-Mart? Yeah, didn't think so. Besides, that place is annoyingly packed any day, any time, all the time. This year I've worked OTHER people's holiday parties and have heard very little Christmas music. This year we are spending the Christmas holidays away from our families and friends. This year we have no Christmas decorations because we really don't need to add to the items we are accumulating here and Laddie's santa hat is in storage. Our gifts sit on an end table under our bugzapper :) This year- snow? Right... This year is just kind of bizarre!

I'm not looking for sympathy because we really do love what we are doing. It's just that Christmas 100% snuck up on us because we didn't have our normal routines prepping us that it was coming. I'm guessing the other 'holidays' we celebrate (St. Patrick's Day, March Madness, etc) will hold the same kind of surprise!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Aw man!

Okay, so it's happened: I'm homesick. How did it happen you ask? I got my mail. Yep, that's right. All the Christmas cards and care packages have made me homesick. Don't get me wrong- I love, love, love getting mail!! However, it makes me miss everyone!

Right before we left on our boat trip I picked up a care package from my mom that was all homemade Christmas cookies and fudge (note to mom: chocolate does not make it in the mail, sorry!) as well as a few things she picked up for me. I left it in the car while we are gone but I did have oatmeal cookies for breakfast today. That has to count just like a bowl of oatmeal, right? Maybe a bowl of oatmeal sprinkled with a bit of sugar...

This morning I stopped by our PO Box and we had two more care packages from my mom, a small package from my friend Buxton and a BUNCH of Christmas cards. I was anxious to get home and open everything! I couldn't hold out on the small package so I opened it. When Chicago first got snow we asked Jen and Michael to send us some- so they did! It's in the form of a snowglobe with a picture of Chicago on one side and a picture of the four of us on the other. It literally about melted my heart. I wanted to laugh and cry at the same time. We have the bestest friends ever, I miss you all!

I waited until I got home to open the rest. Lots of cards from our closest friends and family plus those infamous Christmas letters. Normally I tend to skim these (sorry guys!) but this year I read every word- I didn't want to miss a thing. Tim's dad and stepmom sent us pictures from this years Thanksgiving at the farm. I'm not going to lie, it got me a little choked up. The kicker though was a music card from my parents that sings 'Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas'. At that point I did cry. It wasn't helped when I opened the care packages from my mom (thanks Uncle Larry for shipping them!) and found she had wrapped everything we asked for in Christmas paper. I really want to put on the slipcovers but I feel like I need to wait until Christmas morning to open them so I think we will! PS- that means you all have to wait for Thank You cards because I believe they are wrapped in one of the packages!

I love it here but I'd love it even more if we could have wrapped everyone up and taken them with us. Don't worry- I will be fine. Keep the mail coming- I've listed our address again in this post hint, hint ;)

The Byrnes
9715 Estate Thomas, PMB #127
St. Thomas, VI 00802

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Kate's Birthday Boating Bonanza

For Kate's birthday she wanted to do a boat trip to Culebra, an island just off the coast of Puerto Rico. Nine of us headed out late Saturday afternoon for a three day adventure on Cameron's 65' catamaran. Unfortunately, Tim was going to be in Florida for some PGA stuff so he couldn't go :(

After a sunset sail to Culebra we anchored in the harbor and sat around talking/eating/drinking. After going to bed in the wee hours of the morning we got up the next day to figure out what to do next. Kate and I dingy-ed ourselves ashore to walk around Culebra. We learned quickly that we have no idea how to tie a knot and learned the phrase 'If you can't tie a knot, tie a lot' so we did and crossed our fingers hoping the dingy would be there when we got back. Being Sunday and early at that, not much was going in Culebra so we decided to set sail to Culebrita which is basically one big, beautiful beach. One side of the beach is totally calm and the other is rough, it's so amazing!

Instead of going back to Culebra, we decided to head to Vieques which is another island off the coast of Puerto Rico. It was a ROUGH ride into Vieques and we were bouncing all over the place- literally. I wish I could have taken video with my camera because it was insanely funny! The ocean definitely owned us! We headed into Vieques for some dinner. It was at this point that I determined I was a little seasick. Who knew? I guess it's different being out in the ocean vs. at the Lake of the Ozarks! We had a great dinner and were trying to find an open bar to watch the Phillies/Giants game at. The closest thing we found was an open bar showing the Food Network. Oh well- we got half of it covered!
Monday we woke up and headed back to land to rent Jeeps so we could drive around the island. It's such a beautiful place- so much of it has been undiscovered and is just lush and overgrown. Or maybe it's because the US Navy had control of it until 2003 and used to bomb it! We ventured out to several beaches, trying to hit as many as we could in the time we had there. We had planned on leaving around sunset and getting back into St. Thomas around mid-night. While sitting at Lazy Jack's bar, we decided we really wanted to try the Bio Bay excursion. Basically, there's this bay there that glows. You can read more about it here- there's a lot of big words that I'd likely misuse and mispell!


Catch is that you have to wait until it is pitch black to go see it- the tour we were looking at would be over at 8:15 PM which wouldn't put us sailing until 10 or so, getting us into St. Thomas around 4 AM. We decided to go for it and I got Laddie covered (thanks, Amy!). The Bio Bay tour was amazing! I must admit, it was a bit different that I thought. I kind of pictured it Simpson-esque and glowing instead it glows when anything moves in the water. We kayaked out to the center and got out and swam for about half an hour. Poor Dawn got stung by a jellyfish :( That was definitely not mentioned as a possibility and likely a good thing I wasn't aware until then! The picture below was taken at night yet it looks like the water is clear as day- that's the organisms glowing!

After the tour we set sail home :( What should have been a 5-6 hour sail back hit a little snag when we snapped a chain that steers a boat. Luckily, Cameron knows his way around boats a little. He sailed the boat all the way from Maine to St. Thomas by himself. He actually knows more about his boat than anyone I've ever met (sorry, Mike!) and it's amazing. We finally pulled into Yacht Haven around 9AM - just a few hours late! We were certainly given the full sailing experience and I can't think of a better weekend here so far! Great times in great locations with great friends!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Deep Breaths...

Okay, I'll be honest. I love the lifestyle here- laidback, relaxed, etc. But sometimes I just want things to WORK and to HAPPEN! The last 24 hours has been a whirlwind of just crap. Does anyone remember the 'terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad day' speech from grade school? I know some of you do b/c/ I saw it posted in your Facebook status! Well, that has been my last 24 hours.

First, last night while bartending a private party, ice cubes found their way to where my phone was and melted rendering my iPhone (note: 2 months old) useless. Grrrrr... I had JUST saved it from water 2 days earlier when a bottle of water I had in my purse became uncapped. You don't realize how much you rely on your phone until it's gone. AT&T has given me a phone to use until they can get a new iPhone in from St. Croix for me and it is totally old school. Oh- and they will have it after 2:30 PM.... I leave on a boat trip at 9 AM... I think. At least I am back on the grid!
This morning I left the house without several things: (1) a key for Amy to walk the dog while I'm in Calebra and Tim is in Florida (2) the phone number for my Jeep guy (since he was in my phone...) and (3) black clothes to wear for the private party we were having up at work tonight. Luckily I'm married to the world's best guy and he stopped at home and got all of them for me. (He also braved hellish St. Thomas traffic to get to the AT&T store to get my phone, thanks honey!)

Then, the private party at work just wouldn't leave! It was supposed to be 5-7 and they didn't leave until just before 9. Not good for someone who hasn't packed for a 3 day boat trip and has no idea what time they are actually leaving. Oh and did I mention I spilled a good deal of Bushwacker on me (Kaluha, Bailey's, Amaretto, Vodka, Rum, Creme de Caco and Coconut Cream drink) as the party was starting rendering me a sticky mess??

To top it off, Romeo picked my car up to do some inspecting and to change my oil. When he brought it back he said that it was being sensitive about reversing and it's likely we need to rebuild my transmission. Great! Just what I was looking forward to paying for! Oh- and he was right. My car did NOT reverse when leaving work. Luckily I was parked on an incline and I just kind of coasted backwards until I could pull forward. However, it is now parked at the top of the driveway and I have no idea if it's going to work tomorrow....

As if this wasn't enough- the cable is out. The only channel we are getting is the TV Guide Channel which is showing the Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights movie. Blech. Let's just say I'm glad this 24 hour period is almost up because I really have nowhere to go but up!!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Timeline of an Island Car

Finding a car down here? Not so bad. Actually receiving it, making it work, etc. Not so good. Here is a look at how we came to own our cars!

Saturday, November 7th: We land in STT and rent a Jeep to get all of our crap from the airport to Kates.

Sunday, November 8th: We return the Jeep and rent a bright blue Dodge Calibur for a week so we can run errands and look for cars. It is due back on the 15th.

Monday, November 9th: We drive past a house that has two Jeep Cherokees in the front yard for sale so we call the number on the car and are told one is a '99 for $5K and one is a '97 for $4500. We say thanks and ponder.

Wednesday, November 11th : We drive past again, pull over and call. Antonio says he can be there in 5 minutes, we wait 20 with the family that lives in the house- clearly not related to Antonio. He comes, tells us the '97 is alread sold but we can take the '99 out for a test drive. At this point he realizes he only has the keys for the '97 and we decide to meet the next day.

Thursday, November 12th: We drive to meet Antonio at 11 AM, he decides he can't meet us then, ,how about 530 PM? So we have 6.5 hours to kill... We meet him at 530 (correct keys!) and Tim goes to start the car and it won't turn over. Antonio goes away somewhere and returns with the keys for the '97, switches the battery and we drive the car. It drives just fine for an island car and we tell Antonio we will call him tomorrow.

Friday, November 13th: We call Antonio and ask him to meet us at the 'lot'. He pulls up in a green Ford Escort we had seen around the island. It is also for sale. Tim asks him how much he wants for it and he says $2800. Tim offers him $6K for both cars, he thinks for 30 seconds and says okay. There are a few things that need to be done on the cars- Escort needs a new tire and the Jeep needs a mirror. Oh- and let's not forget titles, plates, etc. Antonio says 3 business days- Wednesday- so we follow him to his shop and give him a $500 deposit. Then we extend our rental car through the 18th.

Wednesday, November 18th: First things first- we are trying to figure out how to drive three cars with two people and make it to our jobs when we need to. Guess it doesn't matter because when we call Antonio- he doesn't have the paperwork. Oooookay. So we call and extend the rental car until the 19th.

Thursday, November 19th: Yeah! We get the Jeep (complete with tags, plates and insurance) and I follow Tim to return the rental car. We leave the rental car place only to find that the car is pulling like we have a flat. Really? I've had this car all of an hour. Luckily we are right by a tire place so we pull in. He replaces the stem. Okay, $20 fix. No biggie. Oh yeah- and the Escort isn't ready yet. Maybe tomorrow.

Friday, November 20th: We go back to Antonio who gives us the keys to the Escort. While Tim is writing the check I happen to ask where the title is for each car. He said in the glove compartment. I go back and check the Jeep- yeah... it's in his name, not ours. So, we have to leave the Jeep with him and keep our check with us. At this point, you can tell he's getting frustrated with his guy who did the licensing. Luckily he gives us his Trailblazer so we have two cars and tells us to come back on Monday.

Monday, November 23rd: We call Antonio, not ready.

Tuesday, November 24th: Jeep is not ready still. Tim's car won't start. Buy a new battery and still won't start. Some cords are loose according to a guy Tim works with. They jimmy it as a quick fix.

Wednesday, November 25th: Jeep is ready! We give him the Trailblazer, have him fix the battery cord issue in the Escort, deduct the cost of the battery and are on our way.

Sunday, November 29th: Tim's car has a flat tire at work which he alleviates by filling with air from the golf cart air supply!

Wednesday, December 2nd: Busy car day! We drive to Stumpy Beach, rough road to say the least, and the same thing that happened to my tire (pulling right but not looking flat) happens again. It occurs to us this happens when you switch out of 4WD into 2WD- great. Put Fix a Flat in it and it's fine. Text Kate to get her friend's contact info who works on Jeeps. Take Tim's car to Western Auto for an 'inspection' of sorts to see if anything is wrong and to figure out his tire situation. He has a screw in the wall making it unpluggable. Buy tire. I go to work, security goes to move my car- it no longer reverses! Call Romeo, my new car guy, he comes up to me and magically makes it work. For now he says- transmission fluid was burnt. He will try and flush it in hopes that will fix it and I won't need to rebuild my transmission. We make arrangements for him to come get my car on Friday.

Friday, December 4th: Romeo takes my car and does a transmission flush. He said all is good and I tell him he can have the car again next week to look at the tire/4WD thingee, wondering if this will ever end!

All quiet on the car front.... for now!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Laddie's Day at the Beach

Sigh... it's been two years or more since the last time Laddie tried to eat another doggie. Well, that streak is over and I'm the one that has the battlescars. Kristin- I now know EXACTLY how you felt that night, except I'm not getting married next week!

On Wednesday, neither of us had to work until the evening so we decided to join Kate, her friend, Mark, and his dogs at a place called Stumpy Beach. It's very secluded and we were looking forward for a place to run Laddie around. Unfortunately, since the terrain around our place is pretty steep she doesn't get out much. Even her trips to the bathroom are short- just down to the bottom of the hill. We try to through her ball in the breezeway but it is only so long!

(For those of you that don't know Laddie's background I'll make it short and sweet or you are going to think we have a monster dog! She was adopted from the Anti-Cruelty Society when she was about 6 months old. They thought she was abused or a bait dog or something along those line. She was terrified of most things bigger than her and water. Yes, we own possibly the only labrador who hates the water. We used to take her to the dog park and dog beach in Chicago until, around 2 years old, she started not liking other female dogs. So no more doggie interaction for Laddie! That lasted until about 2 years ago when, suddenly, she really didn't mind them anymore. I'm sure it's because she's older!)

So anyways, back to the story. We thought it wouldn't be a problem with Mark's dog. Yeah, not so much. The minute we got there she and one of them went at it. In her defense, she didn't start it. She was put on her leash for a little time out and then we tried to coax her into the water. She got sooooo close! She would run at the shoreline, get her feet wet and then run away from the ensuing wave. It was absolutely adorable! At one point she got all the way up past her stomach. I'm really thinking she has no clue how to swim though... After about an hour, I was on the shore with her and the other dog when all of the sudden she was nipped at and it was Round 2! This time I was literally in the middle and able to grab both collars except as I did that Laddie was lunging at the dog and got me. I now look like a wife beaten heroin addict.

On a positive note, for the first time, we gave Laddie a bath! She's been a PetSmart bathed dog forever but that is just not an option down here. She was very good and the Pert Plus left her fluffy and smelling good! Now, on to brushing her teeth and clipping her nails ourselves...

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving- Island Style

Ah- Thanksgiving. Our normal Thanksgiving plans involve getting up at the crack of dawn to drive from Chicago to Gerald, MO in order to get to Tim's stepgrandparents farm before noon. There we eat amazing food and drink wine, go on a hayride and round the day out by playing hearts. The following day my mom and I typically hit some Black Friday sales while Tim and Brandon watch football. The night is filled by the annual 'Everyone's Home for Thanksgiving So Let's Get Drunk' Soiree I started 5 years ago. Saturday we would head back to Chicago so we were refreshed for work on Monday. I was curious what was going to be in store for us this year as we celebrated our first island Turkey Day.

The day started off a little different namely because instead of 35 degrees it was a sunny, beautiful day. Tim had to work in the morning so I took advantage of the great weather and headed to Magen's Bay for a little relaxation. I laid out for a bit, read for awhile (Cheryl- your book may return to you with a bit of sand, sorry!) and swam some laps so I could indulge later guilt free. After leaving the beach I went home to make my standard potluck dish- cucumbers and ranch spread on individual multigrain bread- for the Thanksgiving dinner we were going to at Betsy's Bar. Yep- you read correctly, we were doing our dinner at a bar!

We picked up our friend Kate, who was returning from visiting family in Chicago, and headed to the bar. Betsy's husband spent all day cooking turkeys and there were plenty of people there bringing side dishes. The spread was FANTASTIC! It had all the staples: turkey, ham, 3 kinds of mashed potatoes, tons of different kinds of stuffing, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce and pecan pie. In addition to all that there were other things like cheesecake, pumpkin chocolate chip bread, cream cheese salami rolls and taco dip. I couldn't wait to attack those tables full of food. After ordering some wine and someone saying a short blessing we were let loose. I filled my plate with a little bit of everything- I wanted to try it all! Of course, we all overindulged a bit and had to wait to go get dessert. We filled that time with more wine and more friends met up with us.

After leaving Betsy's we decided to go out for some 'nice' drinks. We figured it was Thanksgiving and we should treat ourselves to a martini or two at Grand Cru. We had the bar to ourselves and filled the time with just hanging out talking. It was a very nice way to end the night.

Today, I spent two hours in line at K-Mart in order to get a great deal on a 32" LCD TV. Seeing that the line at the K-Mart here is usually 45 minutes I feel that I still won! It wasn't quite the Black Friday shopping I was used to but that's okay! I'm sad that we are missing the Soiree tonight but know that Shamel and Becky are being amazing hosts. We're laying low because tomorrow, you guessed it, we both have to work. I think I'll take making money over that drive from St. Louis to Chicago anyday!

It's the time of year to give thanks. I'm thankful for the support of our family and friends in our big adventure. I'm thankful for the great group of friends we have made here. Our island Thanksgiving gets two turkey legs up!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Pictures of the House- Finally!

Sorry for the delay but being without a camera was quite annoying. About as annoying as being without internet to be honest! I know I could have used my iPhone but it wouldn't have done nearly as good of a job. I've put these on Flickr- you don't need to sign up or do anything unless you want to comment on the photos. I'm not 100% sure how you USE Flickr but you should see the pictures lined up with their titles. If you double click on the set (to the right) that says 'Our St. Thomas Home' you should be able to enter more of a slideshow. Enjoy- and come visit!


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Career Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes!

Okay, so obviously this is not the career path I envisioned a few years ago. However, the change is surprisingly welcome. My eyes have been opened to a few things surrounding the 'then' and 'now'.

Career Then: Creating, Managing and Reconciling a Multi-Million Dollar Budget
Career Now: Counting Down the Drawer

I guess they both involve money. While the budget sounds like a lot more responsibility, I'm coming to think the drawer is. If my drawer is off it comes out of MY pocket. If my budget was off, I was always able to move money around to balance it.

Career Then: Business Casual with heels
Career Now: Short, T-Shirt and Tennis Shoes. Or flip-flops if desired.

I think this one is pretty self-explanatory!

Career Then: Never leaving work at work
Career Now: Always leaving work at work

My biggest worry about work now is do I have my schedule right and did I set the alarm correctly? It's an amazing feeling to not be tied to a Blackberry. I thought I loved it- the pace, the necessity of 'me', the job. Maybe I just needed something to do! Now I have plenty to do but it doesn't revolve around work!

Career Then: Busywork
Career Now: Sidework

Sidework- now THAT is a task I thought I'd never do again! I don't mind it though and would trade doing it anyday vs. doing busywork in order to do the 'facetime' of being in the office. After all, I'm a DAMN good silverware roller!

Don't get me wrong- I truly miss event planning. I loved the job, the people, the pace. I am enjoying my new role as a server and bartender though. I get to meet people who are happy because they are on vacation and drinking in an amazing environment. While my career changed was not planned, it is welcome and appreciated!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Lessons I've Learned So Far

Here are a few things I have learned in our 2 weeks in St. Thomas:

1. Creepy Crawly Things: they are EVERYWHERE! Take a look at the picture here and look at the size of that... moth? I'm not even sure if that qualifies to be called that! Compared to the size of the real moth in the picture that thing is a freaking teradactyl! Last week Tim found a tarantula in a water bucket. I understand they can't hurt humans but if I woke up to one anywhere near me I may have a heart attack. Not to mention there are lizards of all sizes running around and not all outside. We are routinely placing glasses over them and letting them go outside. I don't want them to die because we need them to eat mosquitos. That leads me to...

2. Mosquitos: wow. I have NEVER experienced bug bites like this. We bought the electrified paddle and enteratined ourselved by swatting them and watching them light up but that didn't do the trick. It has gotten to the point that we bought a bug zapper and it is hanging in our family room- no joke. Laddie gets freaked out everytime it zaps something. Luckily, it sounds like after a few months our skin will change and we will be less likely to be bit. Something about sun, salt and rum although I think the rum part is just for fun :)

3. Contracts?: today we bought MiFi from Sprint- it's basically a portable hotspot. Like any cellphone/internet carrier you are supposed to (a) pay a ton for the equipment to go without a contract or (b) pay a lower fee for the equipment and sign a contract. Well, we paid the lower price yet signed nothing. Am I missing something? People are very trusting. We were able to 'buy' two cars by putting down 1/12 of what we owed. We were even allowed to take them both without paying. Granted we went back and had to leave one b/c they messed up the title but it's not like they left us hanging. The guy gave us HIS car to drive!

4. The BMV: You think the DMV in the states is bad? You have NO idea how lucky you are. I will never, ever speak badly of them again. It took us over 2.5 hours today to get our USVI Driver's Licenses and that's because people kept going on their lunch breaks while we were in lines!

5. Time: Everything is flexible. If you say 6, people show up closer to 7. If someone tells you they'll have something for you on Wednesday don't even think about expecting it until Thursday. Speaking of, we are STILL waiting for our cars. Well, one of them at least!!

6. Midwesterners: People FLOCK here from the midwest. I cannot tell you how many people I have met from Mizzou and St. Louis. Not to mention Chicago, Michigan and Indiana. It's actually pretty cool and I love it! It was so great to have someone look at my application and know where Nerinx Hall is, where Mizzou is, what S&P Oyster Co. was. Ironically, that was Jessica (my now boss) who apparently grew up 5 blocks from me, went to Parkway South and had Tim's stepmom for English. Seriously- this is a SMALL world!
7. TV: just because we get to see the ads from the continental US doesn't mean they apply to us :( We went to K-Mart today all excited because they had a 32" LCD TV for $379. Yes, they do have one on sale today and tomorrow, just not here! Plus I'm getting tired of seeing the Kohl's and Sonic ads- it's almost torture!

I'm sure this is just the tip of the iceberg, more lessons to come!!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Wow- Those Are Some BIG Boys!

Tonight at work we hosted a private party for the NCAA Men's Basketball Teams participating the Paradise Jams Tournament that starts Friday. The teams that are in the tourney this year are: Boston College, Purdue, St. Joe's, South Dakota State, Tennessee, Eastern Carolina, DePaul and Northern Iowa. Here are a few things I learned throughout the course of the evening:

  • Bruce Pearl does not like cheese
  • The Tennessee players use Febreeze. I like it!
  • The Northern Iowa people did not want to eat our corn on the cob. Apparently, living in Iowa the corn doesn't get much better than that!
  • South Dakota State's Mascot is the Jackrabbit. I am rooting for them in the tourney purely for that reason
  • One of the Eastern Carolina players didn't appreciate my answer to him telling me they play Tennessee in the first round. All I said was, 'Wow- good luck!' I'm guessing it was my tone...

I'm very much looking forward to going to the final round games on Monday! It was a fun night and I'm looking forward to next week when we do the same thing for the Women's teams. Again, I'm sure I'll feel very, very short!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Technically We Went to Europe Today!

We decided to do the Breakaway Boat Excursion today. It takes you through several British Virgin Islands and people say it's a great way to find out where you want to spend more time. We left bright and early but luckily these things always include alcohol. Before we left the dock Tiffany, Tim and I already had a Bud Light in hand and were making friends. We met a great couple from Chicago- ironic huh?

Our first stop was about an hour and a half away at Virgin La Gorda to see the Baths. Don't worry- we were given Painkillers the entire way there in sippy cups. Painkillers are Rum, OJ, Pinapple Juice and Coconut Milk- yummy!!! The Baths are greatly considered to be the 8th Wonder of the World and are AMAZING. What's not so amazing about them? My camera decided to meet the ocean :( so I only have a few pictures of the excursion. Please explain to me what Tim and I were thinking when we packed the condo in putting the waterproof camera in storage versus bringing both with us? Thank you to Tiffany for being the photographer from this point forward.

Next we headed to Marina Key for some lunch and, you guessed it, more drinks. Marina Key is a beautiful little island and the home of Pusser's Rum. It also has the Red Box- several locations that have webcams installed and take pictures every 15-30 seconds. The picture on this blog is the picture taken from the Red Box camera before we boarded the boat again.

After lunch it was off to snorkel at Diamond Reef, the second largest living reef in the Caribbean. Nothing like getting in the water after a big lunch and lots of drinks. Luckily they gave us all noodles to float on because I think I would have surely sunk!
Our final stop was in Jost Von Dyke- the home of the Soggy Dollar Bar. Here, there is no way to get to the shore except to drop anchor and swim in. The bar got the name because, you got it, everyone pays with soggy dollar bills. They actually hang them up behind the bar to dry! This bar is also the inventor of the Painkiller. It's amazingly beautiful here- the water is clearer than I can even explain. I definitely plan on spending more time in Jost! We actually can see Jost from our back deck but apparently not the side with the bars on it. Probably for the better- we don't need Tim getting in the water and trying to swim there!

We headed back to the dock exhausted but so glad we did this trip!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Most Dangerous Part of Driving? Our Driveway!!

So tonight, Tim nearly killed us. Well, maybe not killed us but certainly nearly backed off a cliff and ruined a rental car. Our driveway is a gigantic slope with a steep drop off on one side and a stone wall on the other. I wish I had a good picture of it but I don't. It's difficult to back in, difficult to pull in and requires a three point turn regardless. It kind of sucks but what can you do?

We were leaving to go to a Belgian Beer Tasting Dinner at Pie Hole in Frenchtown. Tim got in to drive, I in the front and Tiffany in the back and we were on our way... sort of. As Tim got to the top of the hill and started the three point turn the wheels caught on dirt and, being a front wheel drive rental, spun until we were obviously very close to backing off the cliff. Oh- and did I mention I was on the phone with Tim's dad at the time? (Mike- if you are reading right now, this is why I abruptly hung up on you, sorry!) Getting out of the car, I see he didn't have much room- maybe 3 feet, but I gave him the go ahead to back up JUST a bit to try and get out of the dirt before going forward again. He did and then tried to go forward which just caused him to slide backwards and give himself about 1 foot to work with. At this point, Tiffany has fled the car and I can't say I blame her.

Tim's million dollar fix it idea? Let's put rocks behind the wheels to chalk the wheels. My answer? No way in hell. What's to stop the large, heavy metal car from backing OVER the rocks? While Tim gets to work on this idea, I ran into the house to get Raffi, a local who was tiling our shower, to come out and help. I figured that this was NOT the first time someone on the island had been close to backing off a cliff and I was right. Raffi put some more rocks behind the car and then told me to sit on the hood. Oh, okay! Wait, what??? Excuse me??? He said we needed to sit on it to put more weight over the front tires so they'd grip. All I could see was the car going backwards but figured I could bail before it went over the cliff and got on. Tiffany, likely smarter than I am, stood by and watched. Tim put the car in drive and up the hill we went, yea! Raffi saved the day and I am so happy he was here. Otherwise I can imagine the bright blue Dodge Calibur would have been front end up leaning on our shed.

We made it to dinner about 15 minutes late, which in island time is still early. Thank god it was a 6 course pairing- we all needed each and every one of those beers.

All Good Things Come in Twos?

Moving day!!! So yesterday was great, exhausting but great. From the time we got up at 8:00 AM until the time we went to bed after midnight we did not sit down. Well, except for all the time spent in the car!!

After dropping off all of our stuff (4 checked bags and two carry ons, not that much!) we were all about getting the most out of our day. I'm pleased to report that our first appointment of the day resulted in me getting a job!! You are now looking at a new server at Paradise Point. Or bartender, I'm really not sure! Anyways, Paradise Point is the #1 tourist attraction in St. Thomas. It's a tram ride up to the very highest peak (at the low discount price of $21.00 per person, of course!) where there's a bar and cafe. It totally caters to the cruise ship business so I can kind of gauge my schedule based on when they are in town. Plus, they are only open at night 2 days a week- sweet! Check it out at:

We learned that our landlord's idea of fully furnished and our idea of fully furnished vary a bit and were in need of a couch or two. We found a great deal on the local paper, the Island Trader, and headed to check out a sofa and loveseat for sale. We got there, we thought they were okay (I mean they have a fish print on them, who doesn't love that in the islands??!!) and told the girl we'd take them. She was kind enough to throw in her end table and coffee table as well as transport them to our new house. I love the people we are meeting here!

On to talk to someone about another job for me in town at a place at Cafe Amolie. They are looking for me to do a swing shift, a 12-5 during the week. Until I get my schedule at Paradise Point it is a tentative job!!

From there we decided to do a little shopping. You all know me- a 'little' shopping? Come on! There were a lot of things we needed to get- a TV (apparently not part of fully furnished either?!), mattress covers, towels, cleaning supplies, etc. We headed to PriceSmart which is basically a Costco. I don't know if I've never seen Tim so happy. It really does make you feel at home- especially the food court (see picture)! We both took guesstimates at how much we spent and were pleasantly surprised at the outcome. While things may be a bit more expensive here the bonus of paying no sales tax is quite worth it on big ticket items like the TV!

We dropped off the stuff (still not so sure on how I feel about leaving ANYTHING in the car) and headed over to meet a guy about buying a Cherokee. Oh yeah- to backtrack- we had a 1997 Oldsmobile Bravada all lined up from the guy we were renting our car from only to get a call yesterday that said to stop by and see it as the last guy to have it gave it a bit of damage. Yeah- he basically backed down a wall so we were back to square one. Anyways- we test drove the Cherokee and Tim liked the car he drove up in so we made a deal to get both. It's going to be another few days though b/c they handle getting the plates and registration. If they want to wait in line and deal with the BMV- more power to them!!

So here we are, about to go grocery shopping before grabbing the dog at our old place to drop her off at the new place before going to get our first visitor, Tiffany, at the airport. Oh- and did I mention most of this entails crisscrossing the island a couple times and we only have a couple hours? Yikes! Somehow we got this done and managed to get Tiffany just a few minutes late. We were very excited to see her for two reasons: (1) who doesn't love visitors? and (2) I used her as a packmule to get me King Sized Sheets, Blister BandAids and a few other things. I'm already missing some conveniences....

So that's our day! 2 homes, 2 jobs and 2 cars!!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Laddie the Houdini

So we've been here all of six days and Laddie has already managed to escape the house to try and follow us down the mountain. When I say mountain guys, I mean MOUNTAIN. To get to where we are living you drive about 3 miles straight up and down and up and down until you get to the top of the 'hill' as locals call it. I mean- where did you think that amazing view comes from?

Anyways, Tim was test driving a scooter and decided it was best to drive it from where we met them, up the general road and then up to our property to make sure it worked. If it did he could grab money and we could buy it. Tim gets up, grabs some cash and walks out of the house. Now, I should preface this with the fact that it's fairly isolated up here. No keys to the place and, if we are home, we don't close the wooden door- just the screen. For some reason, Tim forgot to close the wooden door as he left. About 1/3 of the way down the hill (remember- it's 3 miles!!) Tim hears 'cling cling- cling cling' and turns around to see Laddie chasing him! He immediately stopped but she kept going a bit to go to the bathroom, unaware that it's a pretty steep drop off the side of the road. She fell a few feet, struggles back up and Tim takes her home by riding and her following.

Needless to say, Tim learned his lesson about closing the door. Even though we move tomorrow I'm sure she will find a way to chase us out the door at the next place too!! I promise to have more to write and more pictures as soon as we are moved in and settled. We miss you all!

PS- she did all this with a goofy grin on her face. Maybe the Benedryl is having delayed effects?

PPS- oh, we didn't even take the scooter. It doesn't do so well going DOWN the mountain!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

We Made It!

It's official- we now live on an island!

After a great night with friends in Chicago on Friday, we flew out bright and early on Saturday morning. A special thanks to the Hardwick's for letting us crash there and taking us to the airport :) By the way- I have a newfound respect for all of my friends with kids after travelling with all our luggage and the dog. How in the world do you get through security on a regular basis with all your stuff?!? Luckily the United people were (suprisingly) very, very helpful. Laddie got in her crate, we ziptied her in (quite an escape artist that one is) and was wheeled all around O'Hare. It was SO sad when we finally had to let them wheel her away and she pawed at the cage door like she was saying bye :-(

Anyways, we did the whole flight thing and landed in beautiful St. Thomas, collected 1, 2, 3, 4 bags but no Laddie. We waited a bit and the guy at the counter said they ususally bring them to him. All of the sudden we turn to the luggage conveyor and there was on dog riding on it!! She seemed okay so we cut her out of the cage and we were on our way.

We headed to Mojos, where our roommate works, and then on to our home! Honestly guys- I don't have much more exciting news to report! We did some K-Mart shopping, had dinner and came back to unpack.

Today we got Tim's job secured as the Assistant Pro on Mahogany Run Golf Course and drove around the island looked for cars to buy. We headed out after that to watch some football and are back at home for the night. Tomorrow we get to apply for our health cards and I don't even want to tell you what that requires. Let's just say I had to eat a lot of food today...

More to come!!!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Moving is...

... I can think of several words- exhausting, emotional, frustrating and a few more that I probably shouldn't type because I know my family is reading this! However, the most important word right now is - DONE!

Thursday we moved all of our stuff out of the condo and into a 53' semi. These guys were amazing. I have to admit I was a little worried when they got there- two of the three of them probably weighed 150 pounds soaking wet. However, they were picking up multiple boxes and putting it on their backs like they were empty. Where DO they hide those muscles? The third was named Vladd and he looked like a Vladd- he did not worry me. You'd think since we hired movers this would be an easy experience, right? I mean, we aren't moving a thing- just watching. Well, I swear that took just as much out of me! I was so drained on Thursday night that one margarita, two beers and a glass of wine actually caused me to kind of hurt on Friday!

Friday night we had our going away party. What a fun night! To anyone reading this who was there- thank you! We were so lucky have such a great group of friends. I was shocked at how many people came out to say goodbye- it makes me teary just to think about it! We had a great time and, based on the way people we talked to Saturday felt, it sounds like everyone else did too! We've made a great friend base in Chicago and it makes me so, so sad to leave everyone. I sincerely hope everyone comes to visit :-)

We left for St. Louis before 8:00 am on Monday to meet the truck at our storage unit. Let me preface this by saying all three of the movers who quoted us said a 10 x 15 storage unit would be sufficient. That being said we got a 10 x 20- we wanted to be safe rather than sorry. Upon opening the unit, looking in the truck and looking in the unit again- I knew we were going to be sorry. They did one heck of a tetris job but not even a Nintendo wizard could have made all that fit. My parents are now the proud owners of a desk and chair, the top of our treadmill, random boxes and my bicycle. Tim's dad got the good end of the deal- the Harley. Still -watching them load all of that out of the truck was just as exhausting as watching them move it out of the condo and, again, I didn't do a thing!
So that's it- all of our earthly possessions now lie in a 10 x 20 storage unit, 4 checked bags and 2 carry ons. Now- it's off to catch up on sleep because I'm STILL tired!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

We've Created a Monster!

Laddie is 9 years old and hasn't been in a crate since she was two. So crate training her has been... interesting. Let's just say that our methods will likely not work with children!

We started her training with the top off the crate, a convertible so to say, and a blanket in the bottom. We put her food in the back of the crate expecting her to walk in and eat it. Not so much- she stood with her front paws in and back paws out, stretching her head to reach the bowl. Odd, but we weren't deterred. We started putting treats in the back and giving her another one when she went all the way in to eat it. Within a day she was getting in and staying in- making us think, "What's so hard about this?" Ha!

We wanted her to get used to it for nighttime so I decided to sleep next to her, in front of the crate 'door' (keep in mind there is still no top on her crate) so she can't get out. To be fair, this idea came to us after getting home from a bar. So Laddie falls asleep in the crate, I fall asleep outside the crate. Again- yea! I wake up three hours later to her jump over the side of the crate and right into my spot in bed. Boo. Needless to say we ignore the crate for the next two weeks.

We put the top on the crate yesterday and have been using treats for EVERYTHING. A treat when she goes in, a treat when she lays down, a treat when she stays in. Now, every time we head upstairs, she rushes past us to get in her crate and claim her treat. We are moving tomorrow, do you have any idea how many times we are up and down the stairs?!

We may have created a monster begging for treats every 3 minutes but at least she learned! She may not fit IN the crate by the time we leave though....

Friday, October 23, 2009

Ever Try Fitting the Next Year of Your Life in 2 Bags and a Carry On?

Seriously, everything I need for the next year has to be packed in two checked bags (not overweight, of course) and a carry on. Ever tried that? I doubt it, but if you have- please give me advice! One of my friends, Brendan, said it's kind of like packing for an extended vacation and I totally agree. Except (1) I don't get to come back and get anything I forgot and (2) anything I have to replace needs to be bought at K-Mart. Granted, Tim gets 2 bags and a carry on too... maybe I can encrouch on his space? Oh- and not to mention we have to fit Laddie's stuff in ours. She travels light but still, every inch counts!

I've managed to get all my clothes in with just having to give up a few pairs of shoes to the STL boxes. I'll tell you though, when I got bag one done and looked in the closet at what I had left, I thought there was no way. Somehow, it fit! My carry on, right now, has all my clothes for the next 2 weeks in Chicago/St. Louis. Luckily I can leave most of those at my parents when we are there and transer some of my summer clothes into it so I have room for liquids in the checked bags! All in theory of course, I may end up losing some shirts to an express shipped box to St. Louis before we leave on the 7th!

The movers come in less than a week and, as I look around, I think we are going to be okay. Although we have yet to tackle the garage, storage closet or entire 3rd floor. Sigh... maybe we'll win enough money at the casino tonight for Beno's birthday to buy all new stuff!!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Things That Make You Go Hmm....

So we officially have our condo rented- lease and deposit check are in hand with our management company! The new renters are in a building that does not allow them to move on Sundays which means they want to move in on the 31st. No biggie- what's one more day? Well, in order for the management company to get things in order (patch holes, paint, clean carpets, etc.) we need to turn it over to them on the 29th. What?!?! That's just DAYS away! Time to turn this thing into overdrive. Where to start? Hmm....

Last night I began packing. For three straight hours I wrapped and boxed up the bar, our china, DVD's and such. I was exhausted and still looks like I haven't touched a thing! I did discover while packing our wedding china that, somehow, I have 10 water glasses and 14 wine glasses when I thought I had 12 of each. How did that happen?? Hmm....

I'm extremely confused on how to pack my clothes. We are leaving on the 7th but moving out of the condo the 29th. We will be in St. Louis the 2nd - 5th and living with friends for the other days we are in Chicago (thanks Hardwicks!). So that means I need 10 days or so of Chicago/St. Louis that will NOT be packed for St. Thomas. Oh, did I mention we are going to the Bears game on the 1st? Please, please let the 15-day out forecast be SOMEWHAT right! Hmm....

On a bright note, our fantastic new roommate, Kate, got us our PO Box so you can send us mail if you want. Address is:

9715 Estate Thomas
PMB #127
St. Thomas, V.I. 00802

Okay, it's off to pack many, many more boxes and wait for moving companies to come tell me how much we get to pay them!!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Official Move Date: November 7th!

Not that the move wasn't official, but we booked our tickets today! Prices skyrocketed from less than $200 a week ago to more than $600 for the target date of November 5th/6th. That's one way people, one way! I found a decent deal on United for the 7th and the biggest plus is that it is a direct flight. No layovers, no connections, nothing. This puts my mind at ease when it comes to Laddie, whose 'ticket' was only $15 less than ours to ride in the cargo area of the plane!

Now it's on to pick up boxes and start packing. Not that we can set a move out date yet- we haven't heard anything from Nate about our condo and that makes me sad :( Keeping our fingers crossed that everything will be fine on that end and just plugging on down the to do list in the meantime!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Place There: Check! Condo Rented Here: Partial Check!

It's amazing how much can happen in 24 hours! Yesterday we got confirmation that we have a home in St. Thomas! We are going to be living with our new friend Kate who is old friends and roommates with our friend Bill (thanks again Billy C.!). It is such a huge relief to (a) have a home and (b) be living with someone who knows much more than we do about the island. Laddie is even going to have some playmates- 2 kittens and a Retriever that live upstairs. Check out our pictures- they are the ones that have 2BR under them (the 3BR is the other unit). They are on Facebook though so I don't know if you can see them if you don't have an account.


It does occur to me that I have NO idea what our address is nor how to get to the house!

Secondly, we've shown the condo twice. The couple that came through today gave a verbal definite to their leasing agent for a 2 year lease! One catch- it begins November 1st! Can't decide if I should be jumping for joy or curled up in the fetal position with panic. If they can give us just a few more days- say November 3rd- we'd be in great shape. That way we can move out of here November 2nd and head to St. Louis for a few days before we fly out of Chicago at the end of that week. Granted, nothing is a done deal until the paperwork is signed!

It's actually all coming together!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do...

So I've kind of come to the realization that moving is like breaking up. Instead of a specific person I feel like we are breaking up with our condo, Chicago and, most importantly, our friends. It sucks we can't just take it all with us. Knowing that we are never coming back to Chicago to live, rather moving directly to St. Louis at the end of this adventure, makes it that much harder to go. Whomever said a clean break is easier is a big, fat liar.

I love, love, love our condo. I always have and I always will- even when it's no longer ours. It's a great place to hang out with friends- especially in the summer. Such a unique layout for a place in Chicago. Tall and wider vs. the standard long and narrow. So many memories here- too many to even begin to name and I promised no ridiculously long posts!

There is so much that I have not done in Chicago in my 8 years here that I need to fit in over the next 3 weeks! I've never ridden the Ferris Wheel at Navy Pier, been to Brookfield Zoo, Chinatown, Greektown and so much more. Tim and I never biked down to the lakefront and took a picture of us with the city as a backdrop. We've done the ride and a picture but never them combined, not sure why! And why did I wait until it's 50 degrees to start doing these things?!?

And friends. Wow, not sure where to even start. I have the bestest group of friends- several groups actually! It's hanging out with them, doing things like we did today (Pumpking Farm/Apple Picking followed by making chilli, apple pie and carving a pumpkin) that make me realize how lucky we are to have such great people in our lives. I'm so bummed that I won't be to another Blood Thanksgiving or "First Friday of the NCAA Tourney" party again. No more Fernando's on Friday or McGee's on Football Sundays. It's weird to think about all the traditions we have been a part of up here!

I know, before I get too sappy, I have to think about this amazing opportunity we have. And whenever one door closes a window opens. So maybe I'll close the windows on Chicago so I always have a door to walk back through!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Condo, Meet Rental Market

One very long to-do list has been made and I was able to check a few things off already!

1) Yesterday we met Nate with TriView Property Management. He's hopeful he can have this place rented by December 1st which makes us very excited. At the same time we have friends that may want to move in AND have us leave some of our furniture! Either way, the place hit the rental market officially this morning. Check it out:


2) Laddie got to go to the vet (I know, like it's a privilege) and get shots that city dogs don't need to get plus flea/tick medication. We learned they highly discourage her being sedated (damn) during a flight and guess we'll resort to Benedryl to at least make her groggy. Now to find her a crate and get her used to spending time in it. I have a feeling that's going to be a lot easier typed than done...

3) We MIGHT have a lead on a place to live. No details, don't want to jinx anything!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Decision Made: Now What Do We Do??

It's more like what do we NOT do? Where do we even begin? We have to get a storage unit but how big? We won't know how big until we find out if we can rent our place fully furnished or not. We have to get movers to move our stuff to the storage unit but can't do that until we know what we are moving. We can't schedule movers until we know what date we are moving but can't move without a place to live in St. Thomas. We can't schedule a trip to St. Louis to hang out with the fam and leave our cars until we have a move date. I feel like I'm running in circles!

Okay- deep breaths. What CAN I do? I can make to-do lists, I'm very good at those.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

You're moving WHERE?!

So this is blogging, huh? We figured this was the best way for everyone to be able to follow us if they wanted to know how we were doing. Many of you are probably wondering how we got here and that's what I'm going to tell you! Bear with me- I promise I won't ever do a blog this long again but I have a lot to explain!

When this whole economic crisis thing happened, we felt very fortunate to have not been affected. We both had great jobs and nothing had changed in our lifestyle. Little did we know that over the next 4 months our lives were about to be very, very affected.

Late in March, my husband, Tim, lost his job. We decided to wait on the job search until we got back from a wedding in Cabo the second week of April. I mean, why bother to apply to jobs when no one can call you back because you're on the beach celebrating with the best of friends? We get back and I'm crazy busy with a program for work that is taking place in Dallas the last week of April so we push back any decisions until after I get back.

So here I am in Dallas, having a good time working (I LOVED my job) and get the startling news that my department is going to be evaluated and outsourced by the end of June. What?!? Seriously, my deparment was CREATED for the sole purpose of avoiding outsourcing. Guess some people will do anything to climb that corporate ladder. Anyways, I'm getting off track. Once again, we decide to wait until June when I find out for sure whether or not I will have a job.

During those 60 days, one of my friends at work and I begin joking that we should move to the islands and become bartenders. Her husband, a pilot, can fly puddle jumpers while Tim can work on the golf course. It made sense- it's a US territory, I had a good friend who did it and timing was perfect. I mean- why not take off for 6 months or a year? Eventually I sold Tim on this idea and, when the axe came down June 24th, we said we'd do it. But saying and doing are two very different things....

We enjoyed our summer of unemployment together- lots of pool time, golf and road trips. It takes us over three months to get down to St. Thomas to visit but we finally go for a 5-year anniversary/exploratory trip at the end of September. Armed with information and many people to talk to (thanks Billy C.!) we go visit the island for 4 days. I come back dazed, confused and unsure of whether or not I want to leave my security blanket that is Chicago. On the flip side, Tim was gung ho and ready to go! It took a few days, a few fights and a few promises before we were on the same page but on Tuesday, October 6th, we made our decision: we are moving to St. Thomas in 4 weeks.

Let the adventure begin!