Busch Gardens with the Fam!

29 10 2012

The past two weeks have been a whirlwind of activity, mostly work-related. I can’t believe it is almost November! What’s even crazier to me is that stinkin’ hurricane causing a raucous up north. My hometown is directly in it’s path, so I’m keeping all my friends in my prayers. Stay safe friends!

Thankfully, my family is down here visiting me! My parents and brother came into town on Tuesday and they planned on staying until today (Monday). Unfortunately, all flights in and out of Atlantic City have been cancelled, so they have to stay down here until Thursday! Too bad we have a cold front coming in. I guess a few cool-weather Florida days is better than windy/wet/powerless/cold NJ hurricane days.

On Friday, I took off work so we could spend the day at Busch Gardens! I think the last time I was here my dad was pushing me around in a stroller. I didn’t remember much about the park, but I knew it had a bunch of roller coasters. What I didn’t realize was there are animals all over the park, like a big (expensive) zoo.

We spent the day walking the park and checking out the animals. I was so exhausted from my week at work that I wasn’t really in a coaster-riding mood. I’ll need to go back with my thrill-seeking friends!

Especially if I plan to ride this thing:

uhhhh…Maybe not.

The park is smaller than the parks in Orlando, but walking around and seeing all of the animals took up the entire day. I don’t know how you’d have time to get on all of the rides and see the animals in one day!

I finally got to see Florida gators up close and in person!

And I saw a baby kangaroo nursing!

There are a lot of opportunities at Busch Gardens to get within inches of the animals.

One of which was the safari ride, which was a discounted $20 for the month of October.

This was probably my favorite part of the day, because we really got up close and personal with the animals. I’m sure it doesn’t really compare to a real African safari, but for $20, it was well worth the 30 minutes of riding around and seeing the animals in their “natural” habitat.



And the best part? We got to feed the giraffes! They knew that tours=food, because they walked right up and stuck their heads into the back of the truck.

We fed them leaves of lettuce for about 10-15 minutes, posed for pictures, and then said goodbye to our new friends.

We spent the rest of the day meandering through “Nairobi,” “Timbuktu,” “Jungala,” and the other sections of the park. I loved seeing the big cats (duh), and we watched the gorillas for quite some time.  One stood on a rock beat his chest all tarzan-like, and a few of the others were chasing each other. One even ran up to the window and loudly banged his fists on the glass, which was a little startling! I’m glad that glass was sturdy!


Watching them made me wonder what it would be like to be going about your business, but you’re being watched by these weird creatures who take pictures and point and stare?

Speaking of “business,” we saw (and heard) a giant tortoise handling some of, uh, his own business. Who knew tortoises grunt and groan?

There’s just no privacy, I tell ya!

And on that note, I’ll leave you with my favorite picture of the day:


Happy Monday friends!

Christmas Traditions

26 12 2011

Merry (Belated) Christmas Everyone! Did you have a good weekend? I was able to spend my long weekend at home in Jersey with family and friends.

One of the things that makes Christmas so special in my family is the traditions we have. It makes coming home each year fun, and I enjoy the nostalgia of the traditions.

I thought I’d share a few of my family’s traditions with you!

Christmas decorations

One of my favorite parts of Christmas is seeing my family’s stockings all hung up on the mantle.

I’ve had the same stocking since I was a little girl, and it’s extra special because it was hand-made by my grandmother.

I think it is so cute! It makes me smile every time I see it. Everyone else in my immediate family has one too, made by my grandmom. When the stockings became too much for my grandmother to make, my mom took over this tradition. She now creates personalized stockings (no kit!!) for friends and family. She recently made one for my cousin’s daughter:

Another Christmas tradition is mom’s moving doll collection. She sets up a little display inside the house of with these moving dolls. Some might think they are a bit creepy, but to me, they mean Christmas!

Christmas Eve


Every Christmas eve for as long as I can remember we have a lasagna dinner. My mom makes her traditional meat and cheese lasagna:

She pairs it with crispy, buttery garlic bread. I could eat 10 pieces of this stuff!

And for our veggie, she made her Broccoli Cheese Bake:

Oozing with cheese and loaded with cream of mushroom soup, it might not be the healthiest, but it sure is tasty!!


For the past several years at least, we’ve been going to a Christmas Eve service at a nearby church. The lights are turned down low, and the small church is decorated beautifully.

Yes, that is as wide as the building is. It’s tiny!

In the recent past, I feel like I haven’t really gotten into the spirit of the season until I’ve attended this service. Something about being surrounded by my actual family and church family, singing Christmas songs, and hearing the Christmas story in this quaint space puts me in the right frame of mind. I find the candle light service so peaceful, a nice break from the busyness of the holidays.

Christmas Day

So this year was a little different, since Christmas was on a Sunday and we went to church, but I thought it would be fun to tell you the way Christmas morning usually goes in my house.

Christmas morning in my house never started at 7am (or earlier) with my brother and I running down the steps and tearing into the presents under the tree. No sir. Mom and dad had some pre-present opening requirements for us.

First, we had to make our beds. Chores on Christmas morning? UGH.

Then, we always had to clean up (shower/bath, brush our teeth, get out of our PJs and into real clothes, yknow, like it wasn’t CHRISTMAS MORNING or anything!!)

Then, we sat down for breakfast together. When I was a kid, I’m pretty sure we ate the fastest we’d ever eaten in our lives on Christmas morning.

Then, we got to run over to the tree and attack the presents. Just kidding, not yet!

When my grandfather was alive, we’d call him and invite him over to watch us open presents (and of course get his too!) He lived less than 10 minutes away, but as a kid, those 10 minutes felt like forever!

When Pop Pop arrived, we all moved to the living room. Mom got her camera and a notepad to take notes of who got what so we could write Thank Yous later. Then, my brother and I FINALLY got to open presents. We alternated opening one gift at a time, and then we’d pose for a picture with our new gift.

This year, we didn’t follow all of those steps, but I did make my bed, and my mom took a few shots of us posing with some special gifts.

Santa was good to me 🙂

Christmas Dinner

Of course, there’s always the traditional Christmas dinner. Basically, mom does Thanksgiving Part 2. This year, we had some friends over to join us for dinner. Mom didn’t hold back, making a tremendous meal with all the fixins.


Mashed Potatoes


Creamed Onions

Candied Sweet Potatoes

I loaded my plate up with a little bit of everything. Mmm so good! After taking a walk around the block, we ate some dessert of Christmas cookies and Pumpkin pie. Stuffed to the gills!
My Christmas night ended with yet one other tradition, a trip over to my friend Gina’s house. She and I grew up together, only a few blocks apart. We’ve been best friends forever, and I’m so glad I was able to stop in last night:-)

I hope you all were able to spend time with friends and family this weekend! Now, time to get back into the swing of things…

Question of the day: What are some of your Christmas/Holiday traditions?

Gobble Gobble

28 11 2011

Well hello there! Are you trying to shake off the last of that food coma? Have you started decorating for the next holiday? Well, before you’re fully into “It’s Christmas” mode, let me give you a little recap from my Thanksgiving weekend!

BUT- before I go there, I need to congratulate Lauren for totally ROCKING her first Ironman! She spent yesterday romping around Cozumel for 140.6 miles. I’m SO impressed. I really hope she’s lounging on the beach right now with a margarita or two in her hands!

I certainly didn’t do an Ironman this weekend, but I did get a little workout in!

Thursday morning started off with a Turkey Trot!

It was a perfect morning, the sun was shining, and it was a brisk 40-ish degrees. The run was a 5K on the Ocean City (NJ) boardwalk. It is flat as a pancake, with the ocean off to our side to cheer us on.

Have I said that I love the beach?? Gah, it is so beautiful!

The run got started a little late because they had a lot more people show up than they expected. For a small-town race, a turnout of 600 is pretty impressive!

I should have done a little warm up jog, but instead I stood in the sun to keep warm. I haven’t quite figured out my strategy for the 5K distance, but I think it probably should include a little warm up run. I’m also not sure how to pace myself for this distance. I know, I know, it’s only a 5K, I should just go out hard and hang on…

Well, I ran strong, and sprinted to the finish. I’m not sure my final time (results aren’t up yet), but I think I may have (barely) broken 25:00! That would be  PR for me, I believe! Whoot whoot!

I went home, cleaned up and got ready for mom’s feast!

Gobble gobble! It’s Turkey time!

Mom’s cole slaw, made from a family recipe. This is one of my favorite parts of the meal!

One of our guests brought a traditional Russian salad: carrots, peas, potatoes, cucumbers, bologna, hard boiled egg, and mayo. It was really tasty!

Multiple kinds of bread.

There were other sides too, I just didn’t get a picture of them individually. But, here’s my plate:


Of course, there was pie! My mom made a pumpkin pie, and she bought a pecan pie too.

Clearly I was so excited about dessert, I forgot to take a picture before diving in. Whoops! One of our guests brought cranberry bliss bars too. They were really sweet, and I couldn’t finish that little piece without taking off all the icing. A bite was sufficient for a sugar fix!

I stuffed myself to the gills, and after clearing off the table, plopped on the couch and napped. I spent the rest of the day napping and reading. It was glorious.

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! I certainly did!

Question of the day: What was your favorite part of your Thanksgiving meal?