February 28, 2012

Life on the Carnival Magic

Today's post will be my last before our big move to Jacksonville!  While I plan to write a "farewell to Corpus Christi" post first thing in JAX (complete with pictures from my "See Ya Next Time" dinner tomorrow evening), today's post will be the last one that I actually write from our old home in south Texas.  It's hard to believe...and a little bittersweet...but I guess I should wait to write about all of that until the farewell post.

Today is all about life on the Carnival Magic!

Although we stopped at three ports during our seven-day cruise, three full days, and every morning and evening, were spent on board the massive luxury ship.  We were never bored during that time.  On the contrary, the Carnival Magic crew kept all 4,000+ passengers (including over 800 children) entertained, relaxed, and well-fed.

Here we are on the first day of the cruise, right after we stepped on board.  We were so excited to be on vacation!  I wore my nautical-striped dress just to honor the occasion. :)

The ship had twelve decks (with several others below for the engines, crew, etc.).  Decks three, four, and five were the main decks and were outfitted with bars, restaurants, shops, and a theater.  At any time of day, hundreds of people could be seen exploring these main floors.

On the first evening of the cruise, Bo and I spent the majority of the evening exploring the ship.  We were astonished to find:

  • over half a dozen restaurants;
  • a coffee shop;
  • a martini bar;
  • a karaoke bar;
  • a comedy club;
  • a nightclub;
  • dozens of shops;
  • an outdoor theater;
  • a large indoor theater; and
  • much, much, more!

On our second full day on the cruise ship, we went to an art auction.  Although we didn't bid on anything, we were amazed by the shear number of paintings available!  Who would have thought a cruise ship would have an entire art gallery for sale?!

We also spent our fair share of time in the sun.  That being said, we were always smart about how long we stayed out in the daylight...no one wants to burn on the first couple of days of their vacation!  However, we realized that travelling to the Caribbean in mid-February was very smart for a couple of reasons:

  1. The temperatures were relatively mild.
  2. There were not that many tourists around when we docked in port.

Every day, but one, of our cruise looked like this!

So we did a lot of lounging, laying out, swimming, and reading.  AAAHHHH...vacation!

During our cruise there were two "formal nights".  On each one of these evenings, women who planned to dine in the main dining room were required to wear formal/cocktail attire, while men were required to wear a suit or tuxedo.  On the first formal evening I wore a new "tropical" dress!  I thought the pattern was so much fun, and it seemed perfect for a cruise.  I had bought this dress several months back, but had been saving it for the right occasion.  I think it turned out perfect!

You can't tell from these two pictures, but my earrings are in the pattern of coral (from a coral reef).  They looked great with the design on the dress!

Bo looked pretty snazzy as well in his navy blue suit and grey dress shirt.  Together we made a handsome couple, don't you think?!

Note:  Bo wanted to take this picture here because the American flag was in the background.  I wish it would have stood out a bit more; but regardless, I think it is a nice touch.

In case you were wondering, I did my own share of lounging by the pool as well.  Bo calls this my "pin-up" pose! hahaha...

Here we are at one of the evening quiz shows.  I can't remember which one this was, but I think it was "Name That Movie Kiss."  We almost won that one!  We got 37 out of 40 questions correct...the winner got 38...bummer. :(

There was also a ropes course on the top deck of the ship.  There were beginner, intermediate, and advanced courses; and Bo chose to do the advanced course (DUH!).  On his first try, he fell right at the end.  But on this second try, he made it all the way through without faltering once!

What can I say?!  My husband is one. handsome. athlete. :)

On Friday, after visiting all three of our ports and starting our journey home, we had our final formal evening on the ship.  I wore a beaded, ivory cocktail dress that my friend Stephanie helped me to pick out.

I have to say, this dress made me feel beautiful.  

I love clothes like that...you know the ones...those that just make you feel beautiful inside and out?!  Well, this dress did just that.  Although, I must say, I don't think it hurt that I was able to re-wear my wedding earrings and bracelet as well.  Those touches made it feel extra special...

If you have never been on a cruise - GO!

  • First of all, it is the best bang for your vacation dollar, BY FAR!
  • Second, the food is outstanding!  We ate in a sit-down, formal dining room every evening for no additional charge and it was phenomenal.  The service was unparalleled and the food was delicious.  They were also very willing to make adjustments for my veganism!
  • Third, the entertainment is awesome!  Every comedy, dance, singing, and quiz show was top-notch Vegas and/or New York quality.

Here we are enjoying dessert, as well as every minute of our belated honeymoon together!

Interesting side-note:  The hot water was out on the ship that evening, so I wasn't able to take a shower.  I had to wear my hair air-dried and slightly wavy.  Who knew it would look so decent?!  I think I will have to try this hair style more often!

Our final evening on the ship was relaxed and low-key.  We enjoyed our final sit-down dinner in the dining room and went to bed early.  The ship was pretty rocky that day - all day.  You might notice that I drank a Powerade with my dinner that evening.  My tummy was pretty unsettled from the swaying, and rocking, and dipping.

I took it pretty easy that evening because I didn't want to get sick...


...like after Jamaica...

...but that's a story for another post...

As you can see, all that motion didn't phase Bo one bit...lucky dog!

Still to come from our cruise:

  • our port in Jamaica;
  • a scuba and private beach party; and
  • dancing with the cast!

See you in Jacksonville!

Question of the Day:

Are you prone to get motion sickness (i.e. in cars, planes, or boats/ships)?  If so, what do you do to prevent or improve its symptoms?

Ally and Bo

February 27, 2012

Carnival Cruise: Animals

  We're home!

...well, what will be "home" for four more days anyway...

After our seven day cruise on the Carnival Magic, Bo and I returned to Corpus Christi yesterday afternoon.  Overall, we would award our vacation a rating of 8 out of 10...and the only reason it's not a 10 out of 10 is due to a few health matters we encountered along the way (more to come on that in later posts).  Other than that, the ship, the crew, the food, the excursions, and the performances were all superb!

In other news, I have exactly 48 hours to finish packing up our house...and today I am packing up the kitchen (GROAN!).  With that being said, I don't have a ton of free-time to write an elaborate post on the cruise.  I assure you that I will do that as soon as I can, but the reality is, I don't know if I will be able to fit it in before the big move...it just might have to wait until JAX.  Regardless, those posts will be worth waiting for.  So, keep reading!

Today, I am going to share with you the animals that we met on our cruise.  To be specific, these aren't real, flesh and blood, animals.  No, I'm talking towel animals here :) (Don't worry, they are just as lovable!)

The Housekeeping Staff on the Carnival Magic was above-and-beyond wonderful!  They worked tirelessly to keep our quarters clean, organized, well-stocked, and comfortable.  All in all, they cleaned each room a total of two to three times a day (see, I wasn't kidding when I said they worked tirelessly!).  Each evening, during their final cleaning, they left a towel animal on our bed.  Bo and I thought they were so cute that we decided to chronicle their work and share it with you here, on the blog.

On the first evening, we found a seal:

On night two, we encountered an elephant (one of my personal favorites):

Day three left us with an animal we weren't quite sure of (whaddya think it is?!):

Here's a side-view to help you guess:

On the fourth night, we found a crab on our bed(!):

Evening number five left us with a pretty cool bunny rabbit (courtesy of Bo's sunglasses, that is):

On the sixth evening, a peacock was perched at the foot of the bed:

On the last night, Bo and I retired early and didn't give housekeeping the opportunity to clean the room and leave an animal.  Oh well, six different animals is still pretty cool, right?!  Before I go, here's a picture from one of the formal evenings on the ship...just to keep you coming back for more! :)

Coming up in future posts:

  • life on the Carnival Magic;
  • a Jamaican experience;
  • a scuba and private beach party excursion; and
  • dancing with the cast(!).

Question of the Day:

Have you ever been on a cruise?  If so, did you enjoy it?!

Ally and Bo

February 18, 2012


Yesterday, we started packing up the house.  

Although I always embrace moving to a new city, and look forward to the new adventures that await us there, I have never enjoyed packing.  

For those of you that know me relatively well, you have probably picked up on the fact that I am a neat and well-organized person.  If you have ever visited my home, you know that everything has its place...and is almost always to be found in that place.  Keeping things organized provides me with a sense of peace.

Note:  I openly acknowledge that my need for organization can cross over into the obsessive-compulsive realm at times.  However, Bo is helping me to relax a little in this area.  I still think a straight house is something to be proud of, but as yoga and Bo continue to teach me, everything needs balance...

Currently, I am practicing the yogic quality of non-attachment...otherwise I might go a little crazy, because my house looks like this:

A messy guest bedroom.

A bare guest bathroom.

Boxes on the coffee table...and a book-less bookcase.

We eat dinner where, again?!

Photos, pictures, and paintings stacked on the floor...

...which, inevitably, results in bare walls.

Empty hangers...

...and half-filled closets.

Before we know it, we will be loading up the Penske truck and hitting the road to Jacksonville!  This move is definitely bittersweet, but since we aren't officially saying "Goodbye!" yet, I will wait to elaborate on that in another post...so stay tuned!

As for the move, it can't be that bittersweet when you have this sweetie waiting for you on the other end of the journey...right?!  Our Lola is such a beauty.

Question of the Day:

How many times have you moved in your life?  
What is your favorite part about moving?  
What is your least favorite part about moving?

Ally and Bo

February 16, 2012

Apple and Peanut Butter Oatmeal

Like I promised, today is all about oatmeal.  But this isn't just any ol' oatmeal recipe, I assure you!

Do you frequently enjoy an apple smeared with peanut butter as an afternoon snack?  Why, might I ask, do you feel as though you must wait until the afternoon to enjoy that perfect marriage of flavors?


You can have your apple and peanut butter, and eat it too...
...for breakfast, that is!

Creamy and slightly salty, this oatmeal will leave you feeling full for up to five hours!  This recipe is perfect for those busy days when you know you might not be eating lunch until late into the afternoon.  For an extra crunch, feel free to toss a small handful of crushed peanuts on top!
Apple and Peanut Butter Oatmeal
Serves 2

1/2 C oats
pinch of salt
2 stevia packets
3/4 tsp cinnamon
3 heaping T PB2
2 C water
1/4 C almond milk
apple, diced

  1. Place the oats, salt, stevia, cinnamon, PB2, and water in a medium saucepan.
  2. Boil, reduce to simmer, and cook for 5 minutes.
  3. Pour the oatmeal into a medium Tupperware container, and refrigerate overnight.
  4. In the morning, add in the almond milk and stir to incorporate.
  5. Meanwhile, microwave the diced apple for one minute.
  6. Divide the oatmeal between two bowls, place half the apple in each bowl, and sprinkle with cinnamon.
  7. Serve warm or cold, depending upon your preference.

Later today, or tomorrow, Bo and I are going to start packing up the house for our big move to Jacksonville. Everything is happening so quickly...EEK!

...oh, and we have that little thing called a cruise to pack for as well...

...I guess I better get going...

...talk to you soon!

Question of the Day:

Apple & PB?
Banana & PB?
PB & J?

Which is your favorite?!

Ally and Bo

February 15, 2012

3-Layer Mexican Casserole

Last night continued my efforts to use up what was in our refrigerator, freezer, and pantry before we leave on our trip.  I almost always have beans and rice on hand, but I wanted to whip up a little more exciting than the boring old staple.  After a brief scavenging around the kitchen, I discovered:

  • salsa;
  • green chile;
  • frozen corn;
  • a red bell pepper; and
  • Daiya cheese.

Visions of the party-favorite 7-layer dip immediately came to mind.  By my count, I had no where near enough ingredients for seven layers...but an idea had been born, so I rolled with it!  

This is a Mexican-style casserole with a little kick!  If you like heat, go ahead and use "hot" salsa and "hot" green chile.  The final result is creamy, hearty, and as Bo says, "fills you up right!"

3-Layer Mexican Casserole
Serves 4-6

For the Rice Layer:
1 C brown rice
1 3/4 C water
1/2 C salsa (preferably HOT!)

For the Vegetable Layer:
1 C corn
1 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

For the Bean Layer:
1 can refried beans
1 4 oz. can of hot green chile
1/2-3/4 C Daiya cheese (or other cheese)


  1. Place the rice and water in a medium saucepan.
  2. Boil, reduce to simmer, and allow to cook for 20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, mix the refried beans and green chile in a small saucepan over low heat.
  4. In a separate pan, saute the corn, bell pepper, salt, pepper, and cumin over medium heat.  Continue cooking until the corn and bell pepper begin to soften and brown slightly.
  5. Once the rice is cooked, mix in the salsa.
  6. Now you are ready to layer your casserole in a medium/large oiled dish:
    1. Place all of the salsa rice in the bottom of the dish.
    2. Cover with the vegetable mixture.
    3. Spread the bean mixture on top.
    4. Sprinkle with cheese.
  7. Bake at 350 degrees for 7-12 minutes until the cheese is melted.

Recently, I've been trying to learn more about my camera.  I have been taking it off of "automatic" mode in an effort to take more professional pictures for the blog.  However, a lot of the recipes I end up putting on the blog are cooked in the evening.  Therefore, by the time I need to take pictures, the sun has gone down and I am left without any natural light (which, I have read, is best for quality photography).  Last night I took several with the flash, and several without...but I can't decide which one looks better.  What do you think? (just leave a comment in the "Comments" section below).

With the flash...

Without the flash...

Bo ate his casserole with roasted chicken.  Believe it or not, every bit of this plate was devoured, and later on in the evening he went back for seconds of the casserole.  Today, he asked me if there was any left for lunch...if you ask me, I think he kinda likes this one! :)

FYI - This picture is without the flash.

Next time - I promise you that oatmeal recipe that will keep you full for hours!  And this time, I mean it!

Question of the Day:

What's your favorite throw-together meal?  Or, like most people, do you just get take-out on nights when the refrigerator/pantry are low?!

Ally and Bo

February 14, 2012

Apple Coconut Barley

First things first, thank you(!) for your warm reception to Bo's post about getting his wings.  It really was a milestone that took years to accomplish, and I could not have felt more proud of him that day than I did.  We know that many of you wished that you could have been present with us for the ceremony and all its festivities; but truthfully, you were all there with us in spirit.  Once again, we are thankful for "the ABC blog" for keeping us all connected!

Moving on to today's post, I have a yummy savory/sweet recipe for you that uses whole grains!  I am having to get pretty creative with my recipe making this week, because Bo and I are headed out of town on a cruise this Sunday (I am getting SO excited!!!).  As many of you know, Bo and I never got a honeymoon.  So, with our move to Jacksonville coming up, and with the unexpected awaiting us in our new home (and Lola!), we figured we better take a trip while we can.  Until then, we are trying to use up the food that we have...it's already starting to be a challenge, but I have to say that I was pretty impressed with last night's creation.

If you tend to get stuck in the rice/quinoa rut, give this barley recipe a try!  Slightly sweetened with apple, raisins, and coconut, and spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice, this recipe is the perfect side-dish to roasted vegetables!

Apple Coconut Barley
Serves 2-4

3/4 dry barley
1 apple, diced
1/4 C raisins
3 T shredded coconut
2 T coconut oil, divided
1 1/2 C water
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp allspice
1 stevia packet
1/2 tsp coconut extract


  1. Place the barley, water, 1 T coconut oil, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, stevia, and coconut extract in a medium to large pot.
  2. Boil the mixture, and then simmer for 20 minutes (or until 90% of the water has been absorbed).
  3. Meanwhile, heat 1 T coconut oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
  4. Add the apple and saute for 3-4 minutes.
  5. Add the raisins and shredded coconut to the apple mixture, and continue to cook for 1-2 minutes.
  6. Once 90% of the water has been absorbed from the barley, mix in the apple mixture.
  7. Continue cooking for 1-2 minutes until heated throughout.
  8. Serve immediately.

As you can see, I served the Apple Coconut Barley alongside roasted broccoli (and ground turkey for Bo).  We both left the dinner table feeling full, but not stuffed, and agreed that this recipe is a good one to keep in our grain rotation.

Up next - an oatmeal recipe that leaves you feeling satisfied for hours!

Question of the Day:

Other than rice, what other whole grains to you enjoy eating?

Ally and Bo

February 12, 2012

Navy Wings of Gold: A Dream Come True

Hello all, and welcome to the first blog post by Bo (the "B" in the ABC blog). My wonderful wife Ally has worked hard bringing you many posts covering a variety of different topics in the last few months. I felt it was time I made a guest visit on the ABC blog. What's the occasion you might ask? It just so happens that on Friday, February 10th I received my Navy Wings of Gold and I thought I would share a little bit about the special occasion with you, our trustee readers.

Ever since I was about six years old I have wanted to be a naval aviator. It all started with a VHS copy of the movie Top Gun that my dad had bought my brother and I. Although we always had to fast forward through the love scene, my brother and I watched the movie so many times we practically had the whole movie memorized. I would venture to say I have seen Top Gun at least 50 times in my life (and no, that's not an exaggeration). Something about the high paced, action packed flying got me excited to watch the movie, and frankly, it never got old. What an amazing job I used to think- the speed, freedom, and something Kenny Loggins referred to as the "Danger Zone" seemed mesmerizing. 

But the path to earning my wings wasn't easy...no, it was a long, challenging process. I could probably write twenty pages on the subject, but instead I will give you the cliff's notes. 

  • In 2006, after three years at the University of New Mexico (where Ally and I first met), I gained my acceptance to the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. There, I studied political science and got involved in a variety of extracurricular activities including tennis, ju-jitsu, and many brigade positions. 
  • During my junior year at the academy, I competed for a Naval Aviator position and was elated when I earned the spot that same year. 
  • In May of 2010 I graduated and shortly thereafter made my way to Pensacola, FL for Navy API (Aviation Preflight Indoctrination). API included aviation academics and tests, water survival training, equipment training and a variety of other courses. 
  • In December of 2010 I graduated API and was chosen to attend undergraduate pilot training with the Air Force in Enid, Oklahoma flying the T-6 Texan II.
Air Force pilot training was by far the most stressful and challenging six months of my life. Of my class of roughly 30 student pilots, we lost over twenty percent through attrition, medical issues, and students dropping out on their own. Although I was determined to finish the program, I had my share of failures, scares, and overall terrible days. I would eventually lose over 12 lbs. due to not eating enough - mostly caused by all the stress. Needless to say my time in Enid was not a "fun" time, but I made some life-long friends and most importantly made the final cut. 

In August of 2011, after graduating from undergraduate pilot training, I received my follow-on orders to Corpus Christi, Texas where I was going to begin advanced mulit-engine pilot training.  In September of 2011 I started the advanced multi-engine training at Naval Air Station Corpus Christi where Ally and I are still stationed today. Here, I have flown the Navy TC-12 and have thoroughly enjoyed the training. For me, the training at NAS Corpus Christi has prepared to me to fly my fleet aircraft which will be the P-3C Orion, and eventually, the P-8 Poseidon. Both Aircraft are multi-engine aircraft used for anti-submarine, anti-surface and reconnisance missions. 

Sooo...long story short, my winging this past Friday was a culmination of all the hard work and dedication thus far in my life. The "Navy Wings of Gold" signify that an individual is a certified Naval Aviator and are worn with pride.

Now then, let's get some pictures into this story! 

For my winging I was accompanied by my beautiful wife, my parents and many friends. On Thursday, Ally, my parents, and I went to a local German bakery that we had been wanting to try for awhile now. Here is a photo of some of the tasty baked goods. I had a apple struddle-  it was scrumtulesant!!! :-)

Here is my wife and Mom having a smiling contest. :)

We found an old school hanging chair. My Dad tells me these were big in the 60's.

On the morning of the winging we had an informal breakfast with all the graduating students, their families and the commanding officer of our squadron, VT-35. In the photo, Ally and I are accompanied by my good Air Force buddy Domingo and his fiance Codi. Aren't they a cute couple?

Also during the breakfast, the Commanding officer gave us our "soft" wings- they were almost like a teaser to the real wings we would receive later. Even still, I was pretty pumped to put that nametag on.

Here is Ally and I in front the the TC-12 that I flew here in Corpus Christi.

Here we are inside the cockpit of the TC-12.  Ally's first comment was, "I can't believe you know what all these buttons and guages do!"

And here is a close-up of the cockpit:

Would you like to go fly?

Later that day, the time had finally come for the winging ceremony. It was held at the base Bay Club in front of a packed room of family, friends and fellow pilots. Here is a photo of my best friend Sean and I after the ceremony. Sean is an Air Force pilot himself. The real question is who looks better in their respective uniform?

P.S.  Ally says it's me, for sure!

Here is Ally and I after the ceremony. Doesn't here dress look cute?! Forgive me for the squinty eyes, I had taken about 40 photos by this point, and I couldn't handle another flash. However, a small price to pay for such a terrific day spent with loved ones.

Question of the Day: 

What is your lifelong dream, and how have you worked so far to achieve it?

Ally and Bo