Tuesday, July 15, 2008

4th of July in Washington DC

Yeah, I know - I've fallen off the blog bandwagon again. I feel like we've even been doing interesting things lately, but I've been too tired/busy/distracted to actually post anything! But I will try...again.

We decided at the last minute to spend the 4th of July weekend in DC. Sounded like a great idea, but I woke up that Friday morning with a horribly sore throat (not to mention a vicious hangover from the wine party we hosted the night before!). We decided to still make the trip, however. It was raining in DC, but we still enjoyed the fireworks that evening.

The next day we walked down to the Smithsonian's "Folk Festival" at the Mall. One of the focuses of the festival was the country of Bhutan, which was ironic because Rob and I have just recently developed an interest in traveling there sometime. We watched all the cultural demonstrations with great interest!

We then wandered over to some of the memorials on the mall. I had not seen the World War II memorial yet, so we spent quite a bit of time there. It was a very hot and humid day, so we were pretty much spent by mid-afternoon! We went back to the hotel and rested until it was time for a delicious Italian dinner. :-)

The World War II memorial.

One of the other things we wanted to do on this trip was explore the various neighborhoods and get a feel for the good places to live. We figure that's probably where we will be transferred next, albeit a couple years from now. We're both very excited about the possibility of living there and want to make sure we pick the 'perfect' place to live! I know DC gets kind of a bad rap, but there are several exciting, vibrant neighborhoods. I'm already making plans!

If the cardboard cutouts were a barometer of public opinion, I'd say Barack has the November election tied down! People were lined up to have their picture taken with his likeness, whereas the John McCain cutout stood off all alone with no takers!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Belated Birthday Trip to NYC

I guess if you have to have a birthday, you might as well do something memorable! My birthday was actually on June 12, but Rob had to work all that weekend (gotta love the Navy), so we took a belated birthday trip to NYC the following weekend. It was a fabulous trip, of course! The weather was gorgeous on Friday and Saturday, but it rained HARD on Sunday. Guess two out of three isn't bad!

We stayed at Millennium Hilton , which was truly right across the street from the World Trade Center site. Even though I've been to NYC several times since 9/11, I had never been to Ground Zero. It's been almost seven years, but it was still a very emotional experience. These pictures were taken from our room. There was activity and construction going on 24 hours a day; in fact, the hotel provides ear plugs and noisemakers to help drown out the noise. With all that work, it makes you wonder why they haven't made more progress? Coincidentally, I just caught part of a story on MSNBC about how the entire "Freedom Tower" project has been plagued by problems from the start.

As with most of our trips lately, we didn't really do the typical tourist things - instead, we focused more on shopping, eating, and drinking wine! The first night we had our best meal of the weekend at a Vietnamese restaurant near the theater district. My best friend Susan and I had discovered it last year during a girls' weekend, and I dragged Rob all over the place trying to find it again! My poor feet were practically bleeding by the time we stumbled across it, but it was worth it!

Saturday we walked down to Battery Park and saw the HUGE line to go out to the Statue of Liberty. If you know me, you know I don't like lines! Instead, we decided to have a glass (or two) of wine and some spinach florentine ravioli at the Battery Gardens restaurant and simply admire the Statue from afar! We also walked and shopped our way through Soho, stopping for another fabulous dinner and more wine.

Enjoying some wine on a beautiful summer day in NYC.

The Statue of Liberty as seen through the purple flowers. Lilacs? Lavender? I don't know what it was, but it was pretty.

At a cute little restaurant in Soho.

Sunday was filled with more shopping before heading to the airport for our 10:00pm flight back to Norfolk. But as with any flight out of JFK, it was delayed...until 2:15 in the morning! Needless to say, we didn't get back home until after 4:00am! It made for a rough start to the week, but it was a great weekend that helped lessen the pain of turning another year older!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

More Home Improvements

Despite the horridly hot weather, Rob has gotten quite a bit of work done around the house. Yesterday he painted the nasty metal garage at the back of the property. It's still an eyesore, but it looks slightly better!

The side of the garage, BEFORE.

The side of the garage, AFTER.

The back of the garage, BEFORE.

The back of the garage, AFTER.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Heat Wave

Good grief, it's way too hot for the first week of June! The past couple days have been 100+, and it's supposed to continue through at least Tuesday. Making matters worse, the central air has basically stopped working upstairs. We actually had already contracted to get a new heating/cooling system installed, but that's not happening until June 18-19. Until then, I guess we'll have to get used to some very hot days and nights in the house! (Temps of 80 degrees or more in the house certainly is not conducive to good sleep!)

I think I mentioned in my last post that we went on an impressive shopping spree at Lowe's over Memorial Day weekend, including the purchase of a new washer and dryer set. Well, when they tried to deliver that washer and dryer, we discovered that the dryer wouldn't fit through the laundry room door! Ah, the importance of always measuring and planning... Anyway, we had to place a special order for a different set, and those are being delivered tomorrow. Hopefully this time we're a bit better prepared!

Despite the crazy heat this weekend, we did attempt to do a little bit on the yard. We planted three bushes that we had purchased last week, and finished laying mulch in the area around the koi pond. (Actually, it's just a pond now. The koi all died off a long time ago.) We had plans to do so much more this weekend, but it was just too damn hot. And it was too hot to do much work INSIDE the house, too! Just kind of a wasted weekend, truthfully.

The area around the pond is pretty much finished. Now it's on to the side of the house! (By the way, you can see a little bit of the freshly painted shed in this pic, too!)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Memorial Day Weekend

I guess we made the most of Memorial Day weekend, considering that Rob was working midnight shifts again! He would leave for work around 6:00pm, work all night, get home around 8:00am, sleep until 3:00, then start the cycle all over again. It was so disappointing that he had to work all weekend, as it was just glorious weather. He has four days off now, though, so hopefully he'll be able to get a lot done around the house.

Our big accomplishment over the weekend was dropping a ton of money at Lowe's! It was a military appreciation weekend with 10% discounts for all military personnel, and we definitely took advantage. Among the purchases: a new washer and dryer, a grill, a couple ceiling light fixtures, a screen door for the back entrance, several plants and bushes for the backyard, solar lights...and the list goes on and on! Rob definitely has his work cut out for him this week!
The cats are normally indoor cats, but sometimes we'll let them join us when we're working outside. Oliver in particular always enjoys the great outdoors!

One of our purchases over the weekend was string lighting for the arbor in the backyard. It almost feels like you're on vacation in Key West or something. Almost...

Rob and the new grill we bought over the weekend. We grilled steaks and corn-on-the-cob tonight. And it was delicious!

We discovered we have a frog living in the swamp that it is our koi pond. I'm not fond of frogs, but Rob seems excited. :-)

Monday, May 19, 2008

Ducks? In Da Hood?? Really?

This was too cute! I came home today to find the cutest duck couple in the front yard. I had to feed them, of course (if anything, just to provide entertainment for the cats!). It was all fun and good, and then an obnoxious group of teenagers had to come along and scare them away. Seriously...I thought that stopped being fun at about the age of five...but never underestimate the stupidity and immaturity of today's youth...

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Fun Weekend

Yes, I'm back after a rather extended break. I wasn't sure if anyone was looking at the blog since Rob returned from deployment, but several people have mentioned the lack of posts lately. So I will try to get back on the horse... :-)

It was a beautiful spring weekend here and we took full advantage of it. Saturday was the International Wine Festival at Virginia Beach, so of course we had to partake. It was set up with tasting booths for various countries (Italy, France, US, Argentina, Australia, and New Zealand, just to name a few). It was very crowded, which of course meant waiting in line for each tasting. But luckily there was live music to keep us entertained while we waited. When we'd had our fill of wine, we went over to the beach and just enjoyed the sun and the ocean.

Rob really was enjoying the Wine Festival, despite the somewhat sour look on his face!

The beautiful weather brought out a huge crowd to the wine festival.

Saturday evening we went to a VMI alumni event along the waterfront in Norfolk. There was no one else from the class of 1998 there, but we had a great time hanging out with several graduates from the classes of 1957 and 1958 and their spouses.

There were probably 100-150 people at the VMI event.

Sunday was another sunny, warm day, so we worked on the yard. We had been bad and really let the yard go since we moved in, but we have been tackling it this spring. We've pulled up tons of weeds, ivy, and bushes that we don't like. Now we've been laying down new mulch. By next weekend we might start planting some new bushes and flowers.

Some of the new mulch in the front yard.

To finish off the weekend, I joined my boss and her family for her son's 21st birthday. We went to a Mexican restaurant for margaritas, then went back to their house to have some fun with the Nintendo Wii. Rob and I just might have to invest in a Wii...it's very addicting!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Break-in at the house

As you've probably heard, our house was broken into on March 31. It happened in the middle of the day while we were both at work. I had even come home at lunch, so it happened some time between about 1:00 and 5:00. We're not sure how they got in, but appears that maybe they were able to jimmy open the backdoor. The anoying thing is that we DO have an alarm system, but didn't have it turned on that day. You can believe that we use it ALL the time now!

Anyway, the burglars took pretty much all our electronics and jewelry, plus some other random smaller things. They also completely trashed the house as they pulled out everything from drawers and cabinets as they looked for hidden goodies. It was pretty shocking and upsetting to come home to. Most of the things taken can be replaced, but some things had strong sentimental value - like Rob's VMI class ring and my engagement and wedding rings!

The police were here for several hours investigating, but since then we haven't heard from them at all. We even had a witness (someone who had been working on a neighbor's house) who was able to give a pretty good description of the suspects and the vehicle used, but I don't think the police followed up on it all. It's pretty frustrating, but I guess burglaries just are not the top priority of the Portsmouth police department.

Part of the mess the thieves created while ransacking the bedroom. You can see where the TV used to be...

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Rob's Promotion to Lieutenant Commander

On April 1, 2008, Rob was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Commander (O-4).  This was very welcome, after six years as a Lieutenant!  I had planned on going to the ship for the ceremony, but after the break-in at the house the day before (more on that later), I stayed at home to try to get things cleaned up.  Rob has transferred off the USS Carr and is now officially part of PCU Bush (the newest aircraft carrier, due to be commissioned in January 2009).  He will be the REA (Reactor Electrical Assistant) on the Bush.  He spent the last week in Pittsburgh doing casualty control training.  Below are pictures of the promotion ceremony.

Taking the oath from CO Mark Metzger.

The USS Carr CO pins Rob's new rank on his uniform.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Welcome Home to Rob!

We are both home now, and it is fabulous to be together again! Rob's ship pulled in Friday morning, and he was at the airport Friday night to greet me. We didn't do anything TOO exciting that night, as we were both pretty exhausted. We came home and ordered pizza for dinner, opened our Christmas presents for each other, drank a lot of wine, and watched a few episodes of Entourage. We also stayed up until almost 2:00AM talking about various things that have happened over the last six months. That's pretty much been the status quo for the weekend...lots of talking and catching up! I can't believe that the weekend is almost over and it's back to work tomorrow! It seems like we should have more time together!

My conference was great, by the way. I attended many valuable sessions and learned a lot. The highlight had to be Thursday night, though. First we went to a networking reception at the Canadian Embassy (which is right across the street from the US Capitol Building), where we got to meet the Premier of the province of Manitoba, Gary Doer. (That's their equivalent of a governor, in case you were wondering.) After the reception we went to dinner with a small group of people from the reception, including the Premier. It was a fascinating evening, as I sat close to the Premier and was able to pick his brain on many topics. He's a very intelligent and down-to-earth man, and even does a great impression of Jesse Ventura! I really enjoyed the evening and was glad that I had not gone back to the hotel to go to bed as I had originally planned!

Rob heads back to work tomorrow as well, but hopefully will have relatively short work days. Unfortunately he has duty next Saturday, and then I'm leaving for California on Sunday for another business trip, so not as much 'together' time as I would hope for! However, we're taking a 10-day vacation to Hungary and Poland starting on Feb. 14, so we have that to look forward to! :-)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Homecoming on Friday!

Since it was in the newspaper, I guess I can finally talk about it on here...Rob is coming home on Friday! Yes, only a couple more days! The ship is pulling in Friday morning. Ironically enough, I won't be there to greet him as I am leaving Wednesday morning for a conference in Washington DC. I'll be coming back home Friday evening, so in a funny twist of fate, Rob will be picking ME up at the airport that night. Now before you go wagging your finger at me and telling me what a terrible Navy wife I am for not being on the pier to greet him (believe me, I've gotten that speech a few times already), just know that Rob is perfectly OK with it. He agrees with me...why should I have to sacrifice important commitments in MY career just to go greet him when he comes back from HIS work? His job caused us to be apart for 6 months; heaven forbid that my job delay our reunion by another 6 hours. I figure Rob might even enjoy having a little time to come home, take a nap, take a shower, and get reacquainted with the kitties before picking me up. I guess Rob and I just are not overly sentimental about these things. When he left six months ago, I had to just drop him off and say goodbye. I couldn't stick around to see the ship off because I was leaving on a business trip that day, too. Of course, it helped that I was going to see him in two weeks in Italy!

The conference I'm going to is the DMA (Direct Marketing Association) Non-Profit Conference. Not only are there many valuable sessions to attend and networking to be done, my boss is actually speaking in one of the sessions! She'll be talking about engaging and retaining donors. I don't know if she'll let me attend that session, though; I might make her nervous! :-)

In addition to the all the conference stuff during the day, we have a couple of fabulous dinners to attend at night. Wednesday we'll be going to a very fancy dinner hosted by one of our vendors, and Thursday night we're going to be attending a networking reception at the Canadian embassy followed by another fine dinner. I should have been fasting this week to counteract the horrendous amount of calories that are going to be consumed over the next couple days!

I just want to thank everyone for all their support and consideration over the last six months. Both Rob and I are very appreciative of everything our family and friends have done for us during his deployment. Hopefully the next blog post will be a picture of us together again!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

A Wee Little Bit of Snow

The weather forecasters teased us and said that we might get four inches of snow overnight, but that certainly didn't happen! What a major disappointment. We hardly ever get snow here in coastal Virginia, so I was really looking forward to this "major snow event!" Last night I went to a wine tasting party at a coworker's house in Virginia Beach, and it was snowing most of the evening, but not sticking to the ground. I ended up spending the night there (let's just say that the "wine tasting" party turned into more of a "wine drinking" party!), and this morning when I got up they had just a light dusting of snow on everything. When I got back to Portsmouth, however, there was no snow on the ground at all!

This afternoon I ventured up to Williamsburg to get Rob's Christmas present (yes, I know...I'm pathetic...waiting until the week before he comes home to finish shopping for him!), and they had a decent amount of snow on the ground and gracing the branches of all the trees. It was quite pretty...and very appropriate for my Christmas shopping!

The snow in Williamsburg today.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Last Port Visit

As I mentioned in my last post, Rob is in Malaga, Spain for his LAST port visit of the deployment! When they leave there, there's nothing but an ocean and a couple weeks separating us! Unfortunately, they didn't have much time there at all. The ordeal with the Algerian refugees cost them 10 hours, then Rob had duty yesterday. Today he was able to get off the ship, but he said the weather wasn't good so he wasn't even going to take the camera with him. His one goal: buy some wine! Interestingly enough, I was in Malaga many, many years ago, but I barely remember anything of the town. It's on the southern coast of Spain and is the birthplace of Pablo Picasso. I haven't heard anything yet about how his venture into town went, but I'll keep you posted!

Malaga is on the southern coast, just to the east of the Strait of Gibraltar.

Excitement in the Med

The ship had some excitement Friday night as they steamed along from Italy to their next port visit in Malaga, Spain. Rob had just gotten off watch that night around 10:00 when the Man Overboard alert sounded. As Rob said, that will get your attention quickly. Apparently one of the lookouts had heard yelling and saw a light in the water. Everyone started running around to make sure all their people are accounted for and they turned the ship around to head back toward the light. The weather was horrible that night, very windy with 7-9 foot seas, so it was hard to see anything. It took a few minutes for them to locate the light again, but when they did they started moving toward it and got their small boat ready to launch. As they got closer, they could see with their night vision devices that it is a small rubber raft with 8 people in it.

They could tell right away of course that they were in trouble and that this raft was not seaworthy. They sent their small boat over and loaded the eight people into it, then sank the raft. They brought the refugees back to the ship, gave them some dry clothes and food, then Rob was responsible for interviewing them with the help of one of the French speakers on board. The men were from Algeria, trying to get to Spain to find work. Unfortunately, Spain wouldn't accept them, so they had to meet up with an Algerian Coast Guard ship and return the refugees to them. It definitely provided some excitement, but it also delayed their arrival in Malaga by 10 hours!

Sunday, January 13, 2008


I apologize that it took a little while to post again! Life just gets out of control sometimes. Anyway, it sounds like Rob made the best of his short trip to Rome. They started out in the morning with a tour of the Colosseum, which he said was completely amazing. When I was in Rome, I went into the Colosseum but didn't take a tour; now I wish I had! After the Colosseum they walked through the Forum, then went to the Trevi Fountain. They also stopped at the Pantheon before then going to the Vatican. I didn't go to the Vatican at all when I was there, but luckily Rob only saw a small part of it. Hopefully some day we'll go back together and see all of it! They had to be back to the train station by about 7:30 that evening for their 4 hour train ride back to La Spezia.

Rob had duty the next day, but he did get to spend a little bit of time in La Spezia on their last day in port. Sounds like he and Bo made quite the tour of all the coffee shops in the town (which apparently also double as wine shops!). He said they started off the day with espresso and cappuccino, and finished it with several glasses of wine! He loved the town, saying that it was very walkable and quaint with incredibly friendly people.

The Trevi Fountain. Rob tossed a coin in, which according to legend means that he will return to Rome again in the future. I couldn't get close enough to toss a coin when I was there, so hopefully Rob will take me with when he returns!!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Port Visit in Italy

The ship pulled into La Spezia, Italy today. Rob said it would be absolutely beautiful in the summer...your quintessential northern Italian coastal town. However, today it was raining and the visibility was terrible! He mentioned in his first email that he might go on an overnight visit to either Florence or Rome with a couple of the other officers. Since Florence is only 2.5 hours by train, he figured that was where they would end up. Later in the day, though, I got an email saying they were going to go to Rome instead. It's about 4 hours by train. They should have arrived there this evening, then they'll spend tomorrow touring. They'll have to be back to La Spezia and the ship by Monday evening as Rob has duty on Tuesday. I'm not sure how long they'll be there (they might leave on Wednesday), then they'll make one more port visit in the Med, then they're heading home!

La Spezia is on the western coast, to the north just as the coast starts to turn toward France.

Nope, Rob didn't take this pic! I googled for pictures of La Spezia so you could see where they pulled in. It does look lovely, doesn't it?

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Rob's Visit to Jerusalem

Rob was lucky enough to go on an all-day tour of Jerusalem yesterday. Although he had been there before when he visited Israel with a previous ship (probably at least 9 years ago…egads!), he said he really appreciated seeing it with the new perspective that comes with maturity and different views.

I’ll post the pictures from his tour along with his own commentary, as that is probably the best way to convey his experiences. By the way, you can view a bigger version of any of the pics by clicking on it.

This is a picture of me at the place where we stopped for lunch. It was definitely a designed tourist stop because it had a big cafeteria-style lunch which was included in the tour and tasted pretty darn good. The beauty of the place is that it had a fantastic panoramic view of Jerusalem. In the picture behind me you can see the gold dome. That is the Dome of the Rock which is at the center of Jerusalem's holy area. It is near the Church of the Holy Sepulchre which is built where it is believed that Jesus was crucified.

The first place we went after lunch was to King David's tomb. It is a very holy Jewish site because it is built over the area believed to be the family's burial grounds. It is also believed to be in the general vicinity of where the Last Supper took place. I say believed because there is no archeological evidence and the building was built around the time of the crusades as opposed to 2000 years ago.

This is a picture of one of the streets of shops in the Old City. They had a large market area but they forced us to do most of the shopping at one store that was approved by the embassy. It was a nice shop that they closed off to the public while we were looking at its goods. It must be the place the embassy sends all officials for merchandise because the owner had pictures of himself with Bill Clinton, Rudy Giuliani, the Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and others.

This picture is at the entrance to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The interesting part of this pictures is the punky kids with machine guns. As I am sure you know, Israeli youth are forced to spend 3 years in the armed services. While they are serving they carry their guns every where. They take them home with them and any time they go out. So it is not like these kids were guarding the entrance of the church. They were just being typical punks lounging around with their M-16s.

This is picture of the Dome of the Rock. It is actually a Mosque that is over the rock where the prophet Mohammad rose to heaven. It is also a place that is important to Christians and Jews, but only Muslims are allowed in. Below the Dome in the picture is the Western Wall, or Wailing Wall. It is the closest point Jews can get to the rock and considered one of the most holy places. There were lots of Jews chanting prayers in font of it.

Rob with the Dome in the background.

This a is picture of all the people praying at the Western Wall. It was very interesting. You can see all the notes with prayers placed in the crevices of the wall.