Friday, December 30, 2011

{Snapshots of the Jing'an Temple}

As I mentioned in the previous post, Jeff and I took the day to explore some of the more touristy parts of Shanghai today. We spent the morning at the Jing'an Temple, which is just a short skip away from our hotel, and then the afternoon at People's square and the fake market. Jeff's a much better tourist than I am and is always on point with remembering the camera and taking pictures. So you have him to thank you for these:
I'll try to persuade him to write a bit about his take on his experience in the fake market. I'm sure it would be insightful.

In other news, I could get very used to sending my laundry out through a service. Everything came back the next day neatly folded and bundled in little bows. I feel so spoiled!

I officially start working all by myself in a center tomorrow, so wish me luck!

Hugs from far away,

{Trucking Right Along}

While the first week crept by painfully slow, this week flew quickly. Having Jeff here and overcoming jet lag has been a blessing, and I've been able to relax and enjoy my surroundings more. We officially finished training yesterday, and tomorrow I will begin floating around centers in Shanghai until I get my and Jeff's visas back. That... could be a while, considering getting Jeff taken care of has been a little trickier than myself. In spite of that, things are going smoothly and the transition has been smooth.

It has been great to have that " insta friends" in my group to bond with through this experience, and I look forward to having contacts in different cities as we branch out and travel over the next year. This month we will have two weeks off for the Chinese New Year, but the likelihood of having paperwork back by then will be slim, so it will most likely be spent touring our current city rather than traveling.

I look forward to spending my last Sunday off in a LONG time with Jeff at church and relaxing before a long week of work. I went to church on Christmas with a guy in my group, and enjoyed the experience. It's different meeting in a conference center, but the message and structure remains unchanged. It was also a welcomed experience to have someone genuinely curious and unbiased about my faith come along and understand me and my beliefs better.

Poor Jeff has been experiencing jet lag the last couple of nights and has been very kind to me as I sleep through the night. He's also getting used to the new style of mattress, which I'm personally a fan of, is a little ( lot) harder than what we are used to back home.

Today we'll be exploring some tourist sights around Shanghai, the fake market ( China town in a mall), and getting adventurous foods. Hopefully pictures to follow.
Stay tuned!


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

{A Giant Among Men ( from the brain of Jeff)}

Hello everyone, I made it to china in one piece. But I now know how sardines feel, the flights were ok but the seats were small.  My first flight was good the plane was small and the door to get on the plane was 4 foot tall and 2 feet wide. And I made a new friend on this flight he is a soldier in the USAF and for Hawaii, he was on his way home for Christmas.
And oh the flight from Dallas to Seoul Was the longest thing I have done in my life, to start it off I left my phone in the bathroom in Dallas and didn’t know it until we left the ground. Then I was sitting next to a Korean priest that wanted to save my life and convert me(lol)  he didn’t like that I pointed out flaws in his teachings.  So without a phone and no way to get ahold of Ashley , and her getting mad at me without knowing what was going on, I got lucky and got a computer to send her an email from Seoul.
The last flight to shanghai was the best part big seats and good food and short as hell. I was so happy to see Ashley, and she looked beautiful, it makes you realize that in just a year you can really become a part of someone’s life so much that you miss them more then you realize.
Now let talk about the taxi back to the hotel, for anyone that has been in the car when I drive and I scared the crap out of you I’M SORRY!!  I now know how you feel. The driving out here is nuts they don’t have any real traffic laws. It’s fun to watch and see how they can drive all over the ride and not hit other cars and then drop in the scooters and bikes, it’s like a great dance, that will scare the crap out of anyone not from here.
On my first day here I walked around and got to see the markets and shopping here. And here in china I know that they have seen Americans , but nothing like me, I have seen peoples jaws drop as I walk by and yes I have watched someone on bike run into a car as they were looking at me. And it’s funny to walk around and see the looks I get.  Last night me and Ashley went to dinner with some of her friends here, and then we went to the store, where we found some sales people that were soooooo existed to see me that they had to take 20 pics of me and with them standing next to me. But so far I can say I’m having fun and I’m so glad to be here and learn everything china wants to show and teach me.
And the food is great, and for now I say good bye for I’m going to get some noodles now.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

{A day with the Girls}

I feel like I'm settling in a little bit more each day here. The shock of a different language surrounding me isn't so great, it actually throws me off when I see another expat instead of an asian face, and I'm getting out and exploring Shanghai bit by bit, and learning how to meet my needs.
Wednesday we had a half day off because we had to do medical checks for our visas ( FUN STUFF!). After we got back to the hotel, the girls decided to go get lunch and spend the day at the fake market. We ate at a restaurant that serves legitimate American food, and I had a craving satisfying italian sandwich and salad. Two things that just don't seem to work the same here. The fake market, the best I can describe it, is like Chinatown in a mall. It was four stories of booths filled with knock off, fallen of the back of a truck, and random souvenir stuff mostly sold to westerners. Here we got to practice our haggling, pick up a few creature comforts for cheap, and do what girls do best, shop and gossip. I feel like this was the most normal day so far.
I'm starting to pick up on some of the more underlying cultural differences that you don't notice at first glance, and it's interesting having conversations about the chinese attitude and way of life in regards to them. I respect the culture, and their way of living, but it does make one very grateful to have been brought up in a belief system based around principles of freedom, equal opportunity, and human rights.
I'm very eager for Jeff to get over here, I have a feeling if he takes too much longer that my group will start to think he's imaginary. I hope everyone is enjoying their holiday season, time with their families, and making lasting memories. I'll be in touch soon!

Monday, December 19, 2011

{All about Disney...}

Today was day one of being a Disney employee. We sat through hours of orientation, trainings, demos, and measuring ( my least favorite part).
What struck me most today was how much of a connection I have without realizing it to the Disney brand. I could date my childhood based on movies, and knew more characters and movies than anyone else in my group. There are a lot of different ways to teach in China and abroad, but I feel very excited to be able to do this through Disney, and the unique experience and program that is being formed over here.
A little about Disney English:
So, for those who don't know, I'm not just teaching in a university or provencial private school in the middle of nowhere. 3 years ago, Disney actually started a business in China opening up centers that target 2-7 year old children specifically for a fun, American style English program. The genious that is Disney has created an entertainment based emersion program that is extremely interractive, efficient, and motivating to young learners. Each classroom maxes out at 15 children, has one foreign trainer ( like me) and one local assistant trainer, and is decorated based on a disney movie. The rooms ar decked out in the latest technology and equipped with  high energy curriculum that includes music by Ralph Covert who actually is the brother of the woman ( Nancy) that I worked with prior to coming here.
The program is expanding faster than anyone expected, and new centers are opening up almost on a monthly basis in different cities around China. They are also looking to expand to other countries in the very near future. The opportunities are quite good and if I wanted to, there's tons of room to move up, stay longer, and do some really cool things with the company in the future. For right now, though, I think we'll take it one day at a time.

We were treated to an amazing ( and rather fancy) family style lunch lazy susan included at a restaruant that had dish, after dish of mouth watering Sechuan cuisine. I don't know who told me that this food wouldn't live up to my expectations, but they were wrong. We had a couple of local girls sitting at our table to tell us what we were eating, but even without them it was fun trying new dishes and discovering new flavors. They even had my favorites, those scallops that I fed to Jeff in that previous post! YUMMY!
Today was a lot of fun, and I really feel great about going into this job, definitely more so than I was before. It was all wrapped up with a mango smoothie from a vendor on the way home, which just might be a new tradition while I'm here.
Have a great day!

Sunday, December 18, 2011


Yesterday was a rough day. It's funny, because they keep reminding us about the stages of culture shock ( as if I didn't get it the first five times), but yesterday I think was more an issue of isolation. I had a headache, was in no mood to be social, and so I tried to catch up on sleep, which resulted in my keeping odd hours, and NOTHING to do, while being secluded in my room. The withdrawl from social networking hit me hard. I felt severed, cut off, and unable to connect with the familiar. It wasn't the end of the world, by no means depression, but I did feel very lonely.
Today I forced myself to get up and out, and with a little luck ran into a few others from my group at breakfast. We got acquainted with a girl who got here a week earlier, but did the Disney summer program here so she knew her way around a little bit better than we did. So, today was a pure exercise in exploration, forced socialization, and a little dose of the familiar.
Today I got my first taste of the metro system here. It's actually pretty organized and fairly easy to use, compared to some other city metros I've used. We'll have to use it to get to work every day so I was glad to get this chance to learn instead of tomorrow morning during rush hour traffic.
We mostly wandered around different parts of the city getting familiar with where to go for different things, and stopped for lunch. I had some amazing sechuan noodles, watermellon juice ( their juice here is fantastic, glad to know one of my vices can be supported!) and some sort of chicken based broth soup. While it's by no means the same as americanized chinese food here, the food IS delicious, and I have no complaints... Jeff... we'll see about him. He's certainly going to have to learn to be a bit more adventurous. I have a feeling you'll be seeing some guest posts from him in the future letting you know.
I'm still struggling to get pictures. I think that once I'm sure of where I'm going and not so concerned about point a to point b, I'll be able to slow down and focus on capturing things. Still, I managed to snap a whole two pictures today, so I thought I'd share them with you:

So, I took this picture mostly because I knew Jeff , if not Jason as well would get a kick out of it. Jeff's been bugging me ( mostly in jest, I hope) about shipping a hotdog cart and starting his own business here. Apparently there IS a market for here, sweetheart! ( It's still a no. )
I just thought these were cute. The bakeries are interesting here. There's a LOT of american food places here too, if you're willing to shell out the money for it. So far, I've been ok, but I and one of the guys stopped by a coldstone on the way back home. Mango sorbet always makes the world right and shiny again.
And that's my day! I tried to find church this morning... but didn't quite make it. That's on the to-do list next weekend.
Have a good one!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Friday, December 16, 2011

{Day 1 Or, "Will You Be My Friend?"}

Hello my friends! I'm 13 hours ahead of EST dwelling readers, so it's right about 7pm here and I'm settling down into my room after an information overload of a day. The day was spent stumbling through the introduction to basic necessities of life for the next year. Today we signed paper after paper after paper, opened bank accounts, acquired new phones ( and phone numbers!), navigated our first experiences in the local restaurants, culture orientations, health insurance benefits presentations, and more.
There are so many differences between here and home, that to begin comparing right now would be overwhelming. Needless to say, it's be easier just to go with the flow and absorb what I can from my surroundings. So far, I will say that people are generally very patient and generous with us and our language barrier.
Today there was a group of 8 of us, and from what I understand we will be joined by more this next week. I think we are avoiding the massive effect of culture shock for the time being through the insulating bubble of having people shuffle us through all the processes and having english speaking peers to rely on. It's been a lot of fun getting acquainted with the other people in my group. We are a diverse selection of teachers ranging from the experienced in teaching abroad, to first timers like myself. There are some interesting personalities as well... I can tell there are already groups and likely friendships forming, and a sense of comfort in the camaraderie as a result. When we are done training we will ship out to our different cities, but will keep in contact with one another.
At the end of our tasks for the day we all split off, some to go drinking ( no thank you!), other to sleep and unpack, While "Ronald" and I decided to attempt to find the main source nearby for shopping. He needed to look into purchasing a tablet or laptop, and I forgot a razor and a couple of other creature comforts and needed to look for something to tide me over until reinforcements arrive in the form of my husband.
We found the "Cloud Nine Mall" which is 9 overwhelming floors of shopping. A dangerous place for someone with a healthy shopping appetite. While we were looking at the different tablets, we got in a hilarious conversation with the two sales people of a pc tablet, who thought that we were the funniest people they had ever talked to... It was a fun experience to have four people who couldn't speak each other's language try to understand one another, and to turn to humor as a default.
On our way back we decided to try the Chinese version of Italian... um.... I'm going to miss Italian food. That wasn't it, that's for sure.
And so here I am, safely through the torture of day one. Some small victories ( like successfully finding my way to and from the hotel) under my belt, too much information pouring into my head and oozing out the ears, and a ton of homework to do. Luckily, I have the weekend off to acclimate and relax! I'm ready for this next week to zip by, and for Jeff to join me out here and help me navigate the craziness! And now - Sleep!

P.S. Sorry for the disorganized writing and lack of pictures... I was too overwhelmed to man  a camera. I'll work on it!

{The Gap Between Tired & Sleep}

Hello friends!
Well, after a Looooooong series of flights, layovers, and numb posterior/legs, I am safe and sound in the city  of Shanghai. I have a new found respect for our business travelling friends who do this on the regular. I certainly wouldn't be a happy camper if that experience was a regular occurrence.
That being said, all in all, it wasn't as bad as I expected it to be! Check in and all the flights went smoothly, no delays or major issues with the technicality of travel. The travel arranging angel in charge of me had mercy and put me into premium economy, so even though I was still my fidgety self, I had the leg, elbow, and personal space to do so along with lovely service.
There was a lot to absorb in the many hours that I've been schlepping around. Here were the standouts:
First, meet Titus.
Jeff got him for me on one of our first trips together. He's been a good travel companion and is a pretty handy pillow with one cute face. Of course, most people in the Chicago airport thought it was odd for a grown woman to be carrying around a stuffed animal. It's funny though, because as soon as he hit the door of that airplane to Tokyo he has been getting comment after comment about how cute he was. One flight attendant petted him. *shrug* I'm glad cuteness is appreciated somewhere in the world!
That last flight from Tokyo to Shanghai was painful. It was only three hours, but after a 13 hour flight and a 4 hour layover I was stir crazy and short on patience. As I was sitting waiting on our flight, at the same terminal a flight for L.A. was leaving before ours out of the same gate. The area was pretty quiet and void of crowds. Just as the flight was about to leave Zac Efron and a small entourage of people sending him off waltzed by where I was sitting. I only recognized him because Jeff and I had recently watched "17 again". By the time I thought that I should take a picture just to prove my story I realized that my ipad takes unimpressive pictures, and by the time I reached for a better option he had already turned to board. One of my travel companions that I made during a connecting flight asked why I didn't ask for an autograph. I guess I didn't feel that he was impressive enough to me to do so... not to mention I was having a hard enough time not giggling over his poofy hair and over the top tan. I don't think I could cut it in L.A.
Last, and probably least to everyone else, but it made my day:
That very last and SLOW flight to Shanghai, I sat next to a kid returning from studying abroad in Wisconsin. we got into a brief discussion and he asked me how long I had lived in Tokyo. When I told him I haven't, and that I was moving to china for the first time, he was surprised. " Oh, you just used chop sticks like you've been using them for a long time, usually Americans struggle and use silverware." I guess if nothing else, I can eat like an Asian without sticking out too badly. Now if I could just get language and everything else down, I'll be a pro at this in no time!

Alright. That's all I have for right now. I need to go knock myself out so that I can get  up early tomorrow and start this crazy adventure off right!
Love and hugs from far away,
***Just as a reminder, I can't access facebook right now, so if you leave comments there I won't be able to see them. So if you have something to say please comment here on this blog, and click the follow button so I know who to keep up with !***

Sunday, December 11, 2011

{One of Life's Treasured Moments...}

My heart is full today. I have spent the better part of this past week fretting, stressing, and starting many fires that my husband dutifully puts out behind me as I struggle to prepare myself for this tremendous change. Today was unlike any other day this week, and any other week up to this point, for that matter.
Today Jeff and I had the great pleasure and honor of going through the temple for the first time together and were sealed for time and eternity. I was overcome with emotion having my family peaceably assembled alongside some dear and treasured friends that we have been blessed to have in our lives this past year. My heart and mind wandered to thoughts of my brother, so far away and isolated from us in his diligent work, and my grandmother who just recently passed on. I'm truly grateful that she was able to attend our wedding in February, but I deeply missed her today. Still, I couldn't help but feel her love and presence envelop me like the quilts of hers I keep on my bed.

I can't stress enough how truly deeply grateful I am for the edifying, supportive, and overall phenomenal friends we have that were both with us today and were not. I am humble enough to know that I [and Jeff] have only gotten this far in our lives because of the help that we've received along the way from some tremendous people. Thank you.

After a long drive home from Columbus, Jeff and I were treated to a wonderful dinner with my parents, where I may or may have not tried to kill jeff with a tasty bite of scallop ( no worries, he's currently in a benadryl coma, safe and sound).  When we got home, he surprised me with a sweet, and thoughtful surprise.
You see, I love traditions. I love the idea of carrying through an act in respect of those who have come before, and paying homage to memories and events past. That being said, we had a decision to make about cake - wedding cake. Our anniversary is not until February. We will be long gone by then.. and I don't think packing a cake in my carry-on will go over well. My solution? Well, to celebrate our second wedding date... so to speak. While Jeff was less than thrilled to eat frost bitten 10 month old cake, he knew it was important to me, so I pulled it out the night before so it would be ready when we got home this evening from our eventful day.
As we settled in, unpacked, and I went to fetch the cake, Jeff interrupted me with a beautiful surprise. He had taken the time to have another cake made that looked  and tasted pretty darn like ( if not better than) the original cake that we had saved. I still insisted in one tortured bite of the original, but then we delved into the fresh, DELICIOUS [early] anniversary cake.
The Original

The Replica

I have such a sweet, thoughtful, and generous husband. Sometimes I don't quite deserve him, but I intend to spend the rest of my life and more trying my best to fix that.
Love to all,
- Ashley

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

{Gingerbread Oranaments}

As my time draws to a close at work, Nancy and I have been trying to get as much done as possible together. Over the Thanksgiving weekend we made some gingerbread ornaments. I remember doing these as a kid. They are easy, fun, and smell amazing!
(simplified from a recipe from Martha Stewart. She has great recipes, she just gets so carried away with details!)
1 cup ground cinnamon
1/4 cup applesauce
Craft glue
Rolling pin
Utility knife, or cookie cutters
Baking sheet
Length of thin ribbon for each ornament
Prepare Dough
Step 1
In a medium bowl, mix together 1 cup ground cinnamon and 1/4 cup applesauce using a rubber spatula.
Step 2
Stir in 1/2 cup craft glue. Stir the dough until consistency is smooth and dry. Let stand 1 hour. Applesauce gives the dough pliability, glue makes it firm, and cinnamon imparts a lovely fragrance and a gingerbread color.
Step 3
Turn out one-quarter of dough onto a cool, flat surface; flatten with your hands.
Step 4
Flatten with a rolling pin to 1/4 inch thick. If dough becomes too dry, spritz with water. If it sticks to rolling pin or work surface, sprinkle with additional cinnamon.
Step 5
Cut out shapes with cookie cutters and set aside.
Step 6
With a straw, poke a hole in dough. Air-dry ornaments on a wire rack lined with paper towels for 24 hours, turning them over every 6 hours or so to keep them flat. Alternatively, preheat oven to 200 degrees. Transfer ornaments to a baking sheet; bake, flipping once, until dry, about 2 hours. Once dry, decorate using beads, glitter, or paint.
-Ashley Photo(1)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

{Do you Skype?}

I do! So will Jeff, he's just still working on getting his set up (slacker). If you don't know much about Skype, it's a nifty messaging system that will allow us video an voice chat for free from our electronic devices( ipad, iphone, laptop, etc). If I choose to pay, I can also make calls to cell phones from it ( I'm looking into it, that sure would be nifty! )

Anyway, if you have one, you should most definitely add me ( and Jeff when he gets around to it) to your list! If you don't have one, you should think about it!

skypename: ashley.a.mclemore

{Strike a Pose}

Well, I tried out an experiment by attempting to post this through my email. So far nothing has shown up, but I'll be keeping my eye out just in case there is some ridiculous delay. This would be pretty handy and crucial if it works out because of the unpredictability of the internet in China. While I'm not overly concerned about the censorship, I do like to be prepared for things and I want to be as ready as possible for the change in culture as it applies to technology before I go because let's face it, I'm definitely a product of our era. I'm going to deeply miss social media, and it's versatility.

That being said, I got an early Christmas gift today!

That's what I'm calling it at any rate. I really wanted a new camera to help document this upcoming year. Jeff wasn't exactly as enthused as I was but he was supportive none the less ( Thank you dear!). Nancy spent the afternoon with me striking poses and giggling as I played around with the different features. She's an awfully good sport.


One month tomorrow before I head out, and I'm more excited, terrified, and overwhelmed than ever! Thank goodness for Jeff and his knack for task-managing. :)

Stay tuned!
P.S. Make sure to follow this blog to keep up with the latest updates! It's easy as pie - all you have to do is sign in through your facebook!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

We've Moved...

Hello fellow bloggers!

As my previous post mentioned, I've been struggling to find compatible sites to blog from ( That DON'T cost an arm and a leg) while I'm in China. Unfortunately Blogspot is not one of them. So, I've set up shop over at typepad instead.

The McLemores go to China <--- click it, bookmark it, enjoy!

I've honestly loved the blogging experience here of sharing my thoughts, following yours, and the interraction that comes from this community. I don't want to give it up, especially with such an exciting year of adventure up ahead!

I hope that you choose to take the extra little effort to check in on me over at type pad every so often. I promise I'll do my best to make it worth your while.

Happy blogging!

P.S. It should be easy as pie to comment and keep up with this new blog of mine, as I believe all you have to do is have a FB account to comment!

P.P.S I'll hopefully be able to post it straight to facebook even though I won't have access to facebook itself.

P.P.P.S I'm still sending emails and addresses just in case, so if you are looking forward to the handwritten communication, make sure I have your address(es). :)

Ashley :)

Monday, November 7, 2011

{Busy Bees and Packing Fiends}

You know, I feel absolutely blessed to not only have such amazing friends to support Jeff and I, but also to have so many connections to people who have been in our shoes already with wisdom to spare! Thanks to Mrs. Katie Harper I got the inside to this blog which *cross our fingers* will work without too many issues whilst in China. I'll still be sending out emails, so one way or another I'll be able to keep in touch.
There have been so many hurdles in getting prepared for this move, and slowly we've been jumping each one. We officially start the visa process this week, and if all goes well, I'll be leaving around the 15th of December, and Jeff will be following me on the 24th.  We'll be living in the city of Suzhou located just a couple hours north of Shanghai in central China. It's darn near the same climate as Kentucky, so hopefully acclimating to the weather won't be too much of a challenge.
Jeff is honestly more hyped up and excited than I am... I catch him researching all the time, and he's already making plans for all the things he wants to do while we're there. He's ambitious. He's already moved the majority of our things in storage... a month and a half early. Apparently someone is ready to go!
I really have appreciated all of the support from our friends so far. I look forward to this journey, and hope you keep up with this little blog so that I can take you along for the ride with me too. :)

(Originally posted 11/7/2011)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Brand New Adventure

For those few of you who have NOT heard, Jeff and I are moving to China at the end of the year!

I got a job through Disney English teaching English to young Chinese kids for a year. Exciting!

We will be living in the city of Suzhou. It's a beautiful city well known as a tourist destination because of it's plentiful gardens and canals. The climate is actually very similar to Kentucky, so we'll feel right home with the weather, if nothing else.

We have been frantically trying to get everything into order before we go, jumping through hoops to get Jeff a passport, get visa paperwork together, and ceritification complete. Packing, repacking, purging, packing some more, and researching has been a very large chunk of our life the past few weeks.

Unfortunately, I will not be able to keep up this blog while we are over there ( unless I invest in a VPN... I'm doing research on that) beacause of the heavy censorship over there, but I will be sending out periodic emails with updates and anecdotes. If I haven't already gotten ahold of you for your email address, send it to me and I'll add it to the list.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


First of all, my husband has an aversion to recognizing and celebrating his own birthday. Second of all, I have an aversion that he has this aversion. What's a girl to do? Why, forcibly throw him a surprise birthday party where all of his friends can appropriately show him how much he's loved, appreciated, and cared for, of course!

This look right here is " I'm smiling because I'm being told to, but I'm a little peeved over the situation."

Friends were asked to sign cards with silly pictures of Jeff captured throughout this past year. Jeff is well known for his terrific sense of humor, one of his best qualities.

Now. Here's the story of the cake:
Early in the inception of this ( as Jeff would so eloquently put it) "conniving" scheme of mine I had found a post on's website that I simply fell in love with. The original picture that I wanted to use for the cake was this:
Amazing, no? You should really read the whole post here, for the story about how it came about. I contacted the store and proceeded to give the description of what I wanted on this cake to a kid probably no more than 17 years old. To say that I caught him off guard would be an understatement. When I finally got to sit down with the cake decorator we hashed out some ideas, discussed ways around copyright laws, and in the end, created the final product that would be Jeff's epic birthday cake.

Personally, I think we eclipsed the original idea. What do you think?

Thank you to those of you involved with the successful execution of a thoroughly enjoyable birthday party. Jeff truly appreciates the love and support of his friends, as do I. You all are amazing, compassionate and fun people to be around. Thank you for being our friends, and for making this birthday a memorable one.

Who's up for planning next year? ;)

A "Joyous" Occasion

One of my dear friends, Joy, got married this past month. I love her so, as well as her and her mother's creativity. Their thriftiness, fabulous ideas, and organized personalities made for a sweet, quirky, and fabulous wedding that I thoroughly enjoyed being a small part of! Here are the few snapshots I got when I wasn't too busy cooing over Joy and the decorations.

P.S. Here mom made almost EVERYTHING.

24... and a year older

I had a quiet birthday this year. I had to work, and the weekend was booked with other obligations, so Jeff helped me celebrate when I got home.

I have amazing friends. My good friend, Ashley, lives in another city but had her mother deliver this scrumptious cupcake from my favorite bakery to my door! She's the best ( and so is her mother).

Summer Trip to Tampa

I really am terrible at blogging promptly when things happen. It's been way over a month ( closer to two) since we went to Florida, and I still haven't gotten around to putting anything up here... So, I'm kicking myself into gear and getting it done today!

Originally I was going to present this in two separate posts... But I think I'll be able to combine everything into one good abbreviated post instead.

Our trip down to Florida in august stemmed from a couple of things, the main reason being Jeff's desire to visit his grandparents and spend quality time tying up loose ends with them. After my grandmother passed away he became very preoccupied with this. Other minor though no less important reasons included seeing other family members, friends, and a last opportunity to rest before this busy season of school, work, and endless tasks began.

While we were there we got to accomplish a lot. We got to see everyone on our list without feeling rushed, we got to soak up sun, visit old friends, and experience some of the nostalgia of Jeffs childhood. Enjoy the pictures and captions to follow:

Jeff goes on... and on... and on about his love for authentic cuban food. He was on a mission to find the real deal for me to try while we were there, and this place was the bomb!

I was skeptical at first,  but this deviled crab dish they make is pretty darn tasty. 
This is the much hyped potato ball that he's been talking about since I've met him. It's DELICIOUS, huge, and something that you simply can't find around here.

Ah, the Cuban sandwich. Every time we try to order one in Lexington, he gets very pouty and disappointed that it just doesn't live up to his standards. This sandwich here on the other hand, was phenomenal... and huge. One sandwich fed the both of us with leftovers to spare.

I made Jeff promise me that one day would be dedicated to the beach. So, the ONE day that was free of tropical storms, gloom, and wind was spent soaking in the rays and enjoying the ginormous waves.

The last day in Tampa we spent at the neatest zoo I've ever been to, Lowry Park, with some of Jeff's friends. He knows I'm a zoo nut to begin with, and this made the entire trip for me. This zoo was really interactive, with rides, petting zoos, train rides through exhibits, and much more.

I have a soft spot for a lot of animals, and penguins are just fun loving and great to watch. The two above with snuggling and kissing each other, while the one below was showing off for spectators flipping, jumping and all sorts of stunts in the water.

These meercats had to be the most hilarious bunch I'd ever seen. They were very curious, brave little boogers, and had a lot of fun trying to get our attention.

I adore giraffes... a lot. If you don't believe me, see earlier posts such as this one where Jeff and I found a petting zoo with a baby giraffe. This zoo also let you feed giraffes, although they weren't babies, and we also got to go on a train ride that went right into their exhibit!

This baby rhino was too much! Full of energy, playfulness, and awkward movements, he was only born two weeks prior to us getting there!

I really found it neat how they organized their animal environments. Most zoos I've been to segregate each species into their own area. This zoo chose to put animals that would normally interact in the wild safely together into one environment.
I love open markets. One of Jeff and My favorite things to do on the weekends in Lexington is to wander through the farmers market. The great thing about Florida is they are all over the place and are up all year round every day. Fresh, local produce ripe and ready to eat, and so much tastier that way too! Of course, Jeff had ulterior motives for stopping on this particular trip... Boiled peanuts. Another local novelty, and not something I've seen before I met him... I'm still getting used to them, and their smell.

Can you say banana split with mango cut that day, chocolate syrup and fresh strawberries? I can ! YUM