Friday, July 6, 2012

A Christmas Vacation...Cruise Style! Part 1

The gang's all here and waiting on our shuttle to the cruise terminal!
Christmas and a Cruise! Many of you may think of Christmas with the Griswold's or some other tacky and terribly movie that depicts a family vacation gone wrong, but thankfully for us our family vacation was great! Well, it was! Almost... Except, on Christmas Day, when we started our trip to the cruise terminal in Tampa, Florida where we had to get on the cruise ship the following day. There were a total of seven of us in our group so we had to take two vehicles since all of our luggage would not fit into one vehicle. Well, wouldn't you know it, we got all the way to Tallahassee, Fl, about halfway. At this point Leon looks over at Chris, out of the blue, and asks, "Hey Chris, do you have your passport?" Chris replies "Nope. I left it in my car back in Troy." If you know my brother, I think he's joking, unfortunately, he was NOT!!!! In the haste and confusion of the day, when we dropped off his car at his apartment in Troy and got into my vehicle he completely forgot about his passport, THE most import piece of information for this trip, considering we are going on a cruise that will take us to three other countries (Mexico, Belize, Honduras). So what do we do? I get out of the car and get into the other car with my parents, sister and sister's friend, Carissa and we continue on to Tampa and arrive around 10:30 p.m. Leon and Chris turn around and head back to Alabama. Chris, thankfully, was able to get in touch with a friend in Troy, on Christmas evening, who went to his car (the window was broken at the time and taped shut, lucky Chris) and got the passport. Chris' friend drove to the Alabama/Florida state line and met Chris and Leon with the passport. Now that is a great friend! Needless to say, they didn't make it to Tampa until around 3:30 a.m. They were extremely tired but thankfully we all made it onto the cruise ship the next morning without any issues.

The first day on the cruise ship we spent exploring the massive boat and finding our way around. Since there were seven of us in our group we opted for the floating dinner time so we didn't have to be ready for dinner at a specific time every night. This worked great and we could take our time and not be rushed each day, but we were all still able to eat dinner together each night. In case you're wondering how the room accommodations worked out with seven of us, my parents had their own room with my sister, Catherine and Carissa in an adjoining room next to them. Leon and I shared a room with Chris, which was very entertaining.
The second day on the boat was spent at sea traveling to Costa Maya, Mexico. The weather through out the cruise was great this time of year and very enjoyable will we were cruising.
It was 8:00 a.m. which was really 7:00 a.m. our time.


On day three we woke up early and docked in Costa Maya, Mexico and set off for our Chacchoben Mayan Ruin Tour. Here is where we ended up with a slight communication melt down. Since our rooms were not on the same floor we had all agreed to meet up on the dock at 8:00 a.m. since our excursion started board the buses at 8:15 a.m. Well, wouldn't you know it, Leon, Chris and myself were all ready to go and on the dock at 8:00  like we agreed to do, however, the rest of our family was no where to be found. We waited until 8:15 but when they started to load the buses we didn't want to miss our excursion so we got on the first bus and off we went. Little did we know there were actually five other buses being loaded for the Mayan Ruins Tour as well, so thankfully everyone else was on the bus right behind us. Unfortunately, we had no cell phone service and didn't know this until we were nearly done with the excursion and finally saw the rest of the family in one of the tour groups behind us. We still had a great time and I really enjoyed the tour of the Chacchoben Ruins. And in case you're wondering, no one knows (still) what ever happen to all the Mayans but what remains of their cities are a beautiful site to see!
           Chris did happen to see the rest of our family about half-way through our tour and we all agreed to meet up at Senor Frogs when we got back from our tours, however, when we got back it was pouring down rain, so needless to say, that didn't happen. Senor Frogs was right outside the gates to the port so that meant you would have to get rained on. Well, Leon, Chris and I didn't want the typical tourist food offered inside the gated area so we asked a local guy at the taxi stand where to get good, authentic local food and he recommend a place called "100% Aguave" or "Fernando's" by the locals. This place isn't anything fancy, we're talking sand on the floor and palm leaves for a roof, but the food was delicious! As soon as we walked in and sat down we were greeted by a friendly waiter who thankfully spoke English because our Spanish was not so great (or non-existent for me, I took French in high school). He greeted us each with a shot of tequila which was THE best tequila I have ever had (and I don't like tequila! Let's just say this was the start of a three hour lunch break. The three of us ordered a delicious trio of dips and chips that were all very fresh and enjoyed a wonderful lunch of fresh grilled chicken, rice, veggies, black bean, mole, much more tequila and some local beers. We even made some friends while we were there. Another young couple walked in while we were there enjoying lunch and I invited them to join us. They were actually from Mexico City and were in Costa Maya visiting friends while they were traveling to Belize on vacation. Andrea and Arturo were so much fun to hang out with and it was really nice to have a local's perspective. They even gave us a ride back to the cruise terminal and we keep in touch with them over Facebook. Our food was so good I forgot to take pictures but I did find some reviews of  Fernando's online in case you're interested and there were a some pictures there http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g499450-d2041181-r98674759-100_Agave-Mahahual_Costa_Maya_Yucatan_Peninsula.html. Here are several pictures of us at Fernando's enjoying ourselves and having fun with our new friends!

Waiting on lunch at Fernando's.

Leon had to try the Leon Beer!

So glad the conversion rate is good!
This included the food for three of us
and we bought our friends a few shots too.
 
The gang's all here!














We made it back to the ship with plenty of time to spare thanks to our friends! We went back to the room to rest for a little while before heading off to dinner later that evening.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Kitchen Creations

Lately I have really gotten into cooking. I have always enjoyed cooking, but not necessarily the process of making sure I have the right ingredients, meat thawed and enough time to prepare and cook the meal. Well, a few months ago I had a revelation. What if I planned out our weekly meals and made sure, ahead of time of course, that I had everything I needed for these meals? Why hadn't I thought of this sooner?! Well, this has been a life saver, not to mention I think Leon has enjoyed knowing what his next meal will be before it's on the plate in front of him. Usually I make out our weekly meal list the weekend before based on what new meals I have found, mostly thanks to Pinterst (www.pinterest.com), the greatest thing on the internet since Google (in my opinion at least). If you're not familiar with Pinterest, I'll be glad to tell you all about it but there simply is not enough time for me to go off on a tangent about Pinterest. Also, I found this link today to a weekly meal planner (http://733blog.blogspot.com/2010/09/another-freebie-from-closed-shop.html). Think I'll give it a try next week! Anyways, I wanted to share several of the recipes I've tried out lately. And best of all, every recipe has been simple, delicious and affordable! These are just a few of the recipes, so if you would like any additional recipes let me know.

Roasted Lemon Garlic Herb Shrimp
1/3 cup olive oil
1 lemon, zested then half cut into thin slices and other half into wedges
3-4 fresh thyme sprigs, leaves removed
sea or kosher salt and fresh black pepper
spaghetti/pasta, couscous or rice for serving
1 pound fresh shrimp, medium-sized, deveined with tails off (you will want them this way, it's worth paying the extra couple of bucks)
5 cloves garlic, minced
I served mine with brown rice and a side salad. Here is a link to the full recipe and instructions.

Honey Lime Chicken
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (2 limes), plus the zest of both limes
2 Tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
2 pounds of chicken (I used boneless skinless breasts, but use whatever suits you)
Full recipe here:
I served my honey lime chicken with grilled squash. Just add a little seasoning and throw the squash on the grill in some tin foil until it is soft. Since it is colder now you can always put it in a baking dish with some EVOO, salt and pepper and bake it on 375 for about 30 minutes or until soft.

Crockpot Potato Soup
1 30oz. bag of frozen, shredded hash browns
3 14oz. cans of chicken broth
1 can of cream of chicken soup
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1/4 tsp. ground pepper
1 pkg. cream cheese {don’t use fat free. It WON’T melt!!!}
This was DE-LI-CIOUS!!! It made enough to eat for several days and it tasted just as good, maybe even better the next day.

Pumpkin Muffins
One Can of Pumpkin
One box of Vanilla Cake mix
*Mix the two together, pour into muffin tins and bake on 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes*
Yes, it is that simple and oh so delicious!!!

Again, these are just a few of the recipes I've tried out lately. I'll post some more later on, but in the mean-time give these a try and let me know how you like them!



Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Second Job...If You Want to Call it That


The entire squad after their scavenger hunt to find their uniforms.

A few months ago I started a second job, sort of, if you really want to call it that. For me it's more like an extra curricular activity since I enjoy it so much. What is it you may ask? I am one of the cheerleading coaches for Auburn University at Montgomery (AUM). For many of you who know me you know I have always loved cheerleading. I cheered in high school and for two years in college at Troy University and I have always missed cheerleading ever since. Now, obviously I have not stayed in as good of shape as I once was and I cannot do most (all) of the tumbling I used to be able to do, but I enjoy teaching what I do know to this group of girls. It's a lot of fun most of the time, but also a lot of work and frustration at times when the girls are not getting a certain stunt or when they are frustrated with themselves. Overall, it has been a fun few months and myself and the other coach, who cheered at Auburn University for two years, have really enjoyed getting to know our squad of eight, energetic and enthusiastic girls. After their tryouts in September we planned a lock-in and spend-the-night event (per their request) for the squad. During the lock-in portion at the campus gym we worked on motions, jumps, stunting and basketball chants. The girls worked hard and caught on pretty quickly, considering several of them have never cheered or haven't cheered in quite a long time. After the three hour lock-in we treated the girls to Chik-fil-A and then ventured out to my family's fish camp, as we refer to it, and had a slumber party. We played several ice breaker and get-to-know you games and the girls all quickly warmed up to each other and myself and the other coach. We enjoyed a lot of junk food and made s'mores around the bonfire that I, yes me, started all by myself with out any lighter fluid or other flammable materials. Around midnight the girls finally started to get a little tired after all their hard work and laid out their sleeping bags on the bunk beds. I think it was around 3:00 a.m. when I finally heard the last whispers and giggles. However, 8:00 a.m. came quickly since several of the girls had to get back to town for class, work and other weekend activities. On our way back to dropping the girls off at their cars or dorms they laughed and talked about how much fun they had and how glad they were we didn't spend the night in tents, like I had sort of lead them to believe! They even said they wanted to do this again! I was so glad they had a great time and I look forward to the rest of the year with them. Their first basketball game is next week and I think I'm just as excited as they are for them to show off their talents.

Below is a video of some of the girls on the squad and a stunt they nearly mastered in about thirty minutes at practice Monday night! So proud of them!!
video

Monday, October 31, 2011

Super Summer


Summer time is the time of year I look forward to the most. The lake, beach, pool and sunshine all the time beats any cold day in winter, in my opinion. This summer Leon and I took several beach trips, numerous trips to the lake with friends and enjoyed plenty of time by my Aunt Georgiann and Uncle Kevin's pool on slow Saturdays. Our first of several lake trips started Memorial Weekend with some of my old friends from my college days in Troy. A group of us rented a lake cabin together and Anna and Bryan brought their boat over and we enjoyed a long weekend of eating too much, riding to Chimney Rock, skiing, swinging on the rope swing and just having fun. We had so much fun we have all agreed this is a tradition we will keep up every year...hopefully! And apparently we had so much fun I forgot to take any pictures. I borrowed these pictures from Anna and Clayton's Facebook. Thanks guys! 
Floating around.

 
One of my favorite times during the summer is when July rolls around and it's time for the Maddox Family Reunion. I look forward to this every year and can't wait to see all of my extended family and catch up with everyone. This summer we returned to Panama City Beach, FL and spent a long weekend reminiscing and have fun. Thankfully I went down a few days early and was able to enjoy the beach for a couple of days before it decided to rain all weekend long. Even though it rained everyone still had a lot of fun during our Saturday nigh pot luck dinner. After dinner several of my younger cousins showcased their talents and played their guitars while singing. Tess and Brittany did an amazing job and both have an amazing talent for music. Next summer we will be going to Destin and I am already excited just thinking about the trip.

This is just a small portion of everything Leon and I did this summer. I'll be back soon with some more blogs about the rest of the summer.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Just Me and You, Travel for Two

Nashville, Tennessee is an especially enticing place, there is no doubt this is one town that will leave you wanting to come back for more long after your trip is over. I have been to Nashville twice and each time I leave I am dieing to come back again. In May, Leon and I took a trip to Nashville and not to hear country music as most people would assume. We went to see a concert featuring Bullet for My Valentine, Three Days Grace, and Avenged Sevenfold. I know what you're thinking, not exactly my kind of music, right? You'd be correct. However, being the wonderful wife that I am I agreed to go with Leon to this concert in exchange for staying in Nashville for the rest of the weekend and listening to country music. Sold! It didn't take much persuasion to convince Leon. So, we bought tickets and off we went to Nashville. I'll admit, the concert was pretty good and I did know a lot of the songs the bands played, especially Avenged Sevenfold. I ended up knowing almost every song they played thanks to Leon always playing their music in the care. I even did my best to fit in with the crowd, who was mostly wearing black t-shirts with images of skulls, death angels and other "dark" images splattered across them. However, I only wore a dark colored tank top and jeans. That's as far as I would go. But, I did earn some MAJOR brownie points with husband and I may have even earned a few cool points too!

While we were in Nashville we stayed with my sweet friend and sorority sister Amy Latimer. She and her boyfriend, Shawn, were nice enough to let us spend the entire weekend with them at their condo that was just blocks away from downtown Nashville and all the excitement of Broadway (the street in Nashville with all the bars, restaurants, shopping, etc.). Friday after the concert we walked around and listened to several different bands and enjoyed some lively music from several street performers as well. Saturday we ventured out to Centennial Park (I think that was the name) were there was a life-size replica of the Parthenon. There was also an art fair going on in the park and we wondered around and looked at all the neat art work that was offered and we enjoyed some delicious food from all the various food trucks that were there.
The food trucks were what Amy was most looking forward too! We also enjoyed a free concert in the park that featured several local, up-and-coming musicians. The main person we wanted to watched was Sara Bareillis, who sings the country song "Outside My Window". She put on a great show and afterwards we went back to condo and relaxed for the afternoon.
Saturday evening we walked back downtown and Shawn and Amy took us to this wonderful local restaurant called Demos' Steak and Spaghetti House (http://www.demosrestaurants.com/menu.cfm). Now, you might be thinking this is a slightly odd combination, but you would be way wrong! The neat thing about Demos' is you can order a steak AND pasta together, well, on the same plate but separated. You get the idea. So I order a 7 ounce sirloin and alfredo pasta, which also came with a side salad and a roll. Let me tell you, this was one delicious meal. I was absolutely stuffed when I left. It was a good thing we walked around for a while or I would have gone straight to sleep after that wonderful meal. After dinner we visited several more bars and stopped in at a few places Shawn knew people playing in the band. Shawn is also an amazing artist and musician. He has an awesome voice and can play the guitar with the best. Check out his song "Boots" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gBaAGQa0n4k). Amy put together the video for the song and did a great job! Just thought I'd put a plug in there for these two great friends. 

Anyways, the variety of bands that play in Nashville are great and offer something for everyone. There is everything from traditional country, classic country, blue grass, and even a few bars that play pop and rock music and of course a karaoke bar or two as well.
Needless to say we had a great weekend in Nashville and hope to be able to go back again sometime in the near future. Sunday morning we packed up the car and said our goodbyes and headed back home to Montgomery. On one of our rest stop breaks we stopped at the Alabama rest center near the Alabama/Tennessee state lines. We took a few pics of the rockets that are located there on the grounds and the other interesting items that were there. Just a little interesting tid bit to round out our trip.

If you've never been to Nashville I strongly encourage you to make a stop there some day. There are a lot of great places to see and visit while there. If you read my previous blog titled "Nashville" (http://amandaandleon.blogspot.com/2010/04/music-city-crazy-town-whatever-you-want.html) you can read all about my trip to Nashville in the Spring of 2010 and see what else Nashville has to offer.

Here are a few more pictures from our Nashville trip. Enjoy!

The view of downtown Nashville
from Amy's condo.


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Wonderful Weddings...Part II


College friends and sorority
sisters.

About a month or so ago I told you all about several friend's weddings Leon and I had attended. Well, this is the second part to that post. I'll try to keep this fairly short and not too long and drawn out. Let's start with my freshman roommate, Courtney Luster Hanchey. Courtney and her now husband Chris were married on June 18 at The Foundry at Puritan Mill (http://www.novareevents.com/puritan/) in Atlanta. It was a very unique space, which made for a beautiful site for the ceremony and reception. Minus the booming thunderstorm and hailstones during the ceremony, everything was gorgeous and went wonderfully.  The two were married in an intimate ceremony with their closest friends and family looking on in admiration of the happy couple. The funny part was as soon as the minister said "I now pronounce you man and wife," there was a loud boom of thunder. Everyone laughed hysterically! Following the ceremony we enjoyed a cocktail hour with several specialty brews and yummy snacks. After the cocktail time we enjoyed a delicious followed by lots and lots of dancing. At the end of the night Courtney and Chris left to everyone shaking Auburn or Alabama shakers before leaving for their honeymoon in Antigua. They sweet couple now resides in Atlanta and we wish them all the happiness in the world!

Leon and I before the ceremony.

Another one of our good friends, Danna Black Stringfellow, also married the love of her life, Matt, recently in a beautiful rooftop ceremony in downtown Montgomery at the Alley Station. The ceremony was adorned with a gorgeous flower arch and a nice view of the city and the bride was as beautiful as ever. Following the ceremony we enjoyed some wonderful food that we just couldn't get enough of, especially the little macaronis and fried green tomato sandwiches! Yummy! After stuffing ourselves, we went back to the rooftop and enjoyed some great music and dancing. The night was topped-off with some spectacular fireworks. After enjoying a relaxing honeymoon in Jamaica, Danna and Matt now reside in Prattville.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Friends

I truly believe certain people are put into our lives for a reason and a season. Stephanie Harrison Chudley was my roommate at Troy when I was a sophomore. The story of how we ended up being roommates goes like this. I was randomly assigned a roommate and after a week or two of that not going so well, I asked my RA (resident assistant) if there was something, anything that could be done. Thankfully, she had a great solution! There was a girl on the third floor of our dorm that was not getting along with her suite mates, well my dorm room didn't join to anyone elses' so that would lessen the problem of having to get along with more people. So, my roommate agreed to move upstairs and Stephanie agreed to move downstairs with me! Let's just say it was the best move ever. Stephanie and I were instant friends and have been since that fall day in 2004. Sadly, Stephanie moved back home to Florida in the spring but the two of us have always stayed in touch. A few years ago she met and married her wonderful husband, Dave, who happens to be from Canada. After getting married, Stephanie and Dave moved back to Canada and that's where they reside today. Back in March, two days after my second trip to New Orleans, Stephanie and Dave took a week long vacation to Santa Rosa Beach, FL. Thankfully, I was able to go and spend two nights with them and best of all, I got to see Stephanie and her cute baby belly. That's right baby boy Chudley is due in a few months! I am so excited for my friends and can't wait to meet their sweet baby one day. While we were at the beach we ate a lot of wonderful fresh seafood and I got good and sun burned laying out on the beach. We ventured into the picturesque town of Seaside one evening and walked through all the cute shops and even enjoyed a good old fashioned coke float! This was a great idea by Stephanie. Afterwards, we grabbed a coffee (it was chilly at night) and walked on the beach back in Santa Rosa and enjoyed a gorgeous sunset. It was such a wonderful trip and I was so excited to see Stephanie, who I hadn't seen by the way in nearly six years. We are planning a trip to Arizona next year, so hopefully it will not be so long before we get to see each other again. Remember to always be thankful for your friends. Even the ones you don't get to see very often. They're your friends for a reason and we are truly blessed to have friends in our lives.
Ashleigh (Steph's sister), Stephanie, Me

Coke Float :)













The beautiful sunset
at Santa Rosa Beach





Me & Steph















This pic was taken of Stephanie,
me, and Landie at a Troy
Football game in fall 2005.