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!