Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Hubby's Birthday: 41 is Fun

Clint's birthday was Friday, and even though he (unlike his lovely wife) doesn't milk it for an entire month, we did manage to spend a full weekend celebrating. He kicked off his special day by getting up at the crack of early and heading to CrossFit, a maneuver I can neither fully comprehend nor condone, but he said something about being healthy, blah, blah, blah. I encouraged him to stop and eat a birthday biscuit on his way home and, as merciful proof that we are compatible for each other, he did just that.

We bought a gargantuan leather couch several weeks ago that was slated to be delivered on Clint's big day. When we purchased the Titanic couch, he was so excited about all the lounging, resting, and relaxing opportunities it presented that he eagerly agreed it could count as part of his birthday gifts. However, no matter how old one gets, no one is a responsible enough adult to be happy with a couch as their birthday present. I picked the birthday boy up a few other gifts to go along with the leather lounger and let him open them Friday afternoon. I didn't make him pose for pictures with everything, but he was happy to open a new pair of shoes for the aforementioned CrossFit workouts, a Georgia Tech button-down shirt with the Buzz mascot proudly embroidered, and a few other little tchotkes, including this mug:

The man has a fondness for monkeys--they make him laugh every time.

Our dog is so spoiled, he just assumes all gifts are for him. He's usually right.

Once the gifts were opened, we were off to dinner. In honor of the special occasion, we splurged and went to The Palm. When we were young and newly married, our apartment was in the same immediate neighborhood as The Palm. Although our budget didn't really let us become regulars, we were lucky enough to dine there two or three times and the fond memories have stuck with us forever. We hadn't been in quite a while and it was a fun trip down memory lane to go back. Plus, you know, the food--amazing.

We worked our way through approximately half the menu (birthday calories don't count), starting with a shrimp cocktail that was the biggest I have ever seen. It seriously reminded me of the scene in the movie Beetlejuice  when they turn into hands and grab all the dinner guests' faces.

Luckily, we came away unscathed and just had a really delicious meal, including but not limited to: crab cakes (for me), surf and turf (for the gentleman), and lobster macaroni and cheese for the table. We threw in some Brussels sprouts for good measure, you know, back to that whole "health" thing.

The beginning of birthday dinner.

I can honestly say that we didn't fully exhaust their menu, only because we had birthday cake waiting at home. Lest you think we are all hoity toity with our fancy steakhouse dinner, Clint chose a Dairy Queen Blizzard cake for this year's festivities (and changed into an Evel Knievel t-shirt to eat it).

Making his wish.

I did put him to work a bit Saturday, getting ready for friends to come over that evening. The Clemson/Louisville football game was at 8:00 p.m., and even though he is a Yellow Jacket at heart, I made it clear from our first meeting that to love me is to love the Clemson Tigers, and so he does (or pretends to--either way, it makes me happy). The weather here in Charlotte is just starting to feel like fall, so we had dinner and watched the game outside around the fire pit.

Much like me, Clint loves a good fiesta, and this make-your-own-taco bar did not disappoint. Turkey carnitas, barbecue corn, homemade guacamole, chips and salsa and plenty of other options got our game watching off to a nice start.

Just to sweeten the deal (pun intended), I thought a candy buffet was festive for the occasion. Plus, gummy candy is low fat, so it barely even counts. Right?

A little football viewing al fresco.

The margaritas were just salty enough, the Tigers crushed their competition, and a good time was had by all, including our birthday boy.

We slept in Sunday morning and happily spent the rest of the birthday weekend enjoying Netflix and the brand new couch, winding down with some taco bar leftovers for dinner and all the Heath Bar Blizzard cake we could manage. It was a low key weekend by design after our summer vacation adventures, and I think we welcomed Clint's 41st year in style. 

Cheers to 41 years!

Monday, September 11, 2017

Clint, Me, and Irma Makes Three

I'm sitting on the couch, nursing a cold I caught on our "rescue flight" home from Miami late Thursday night, watching the rain fall in droves outside as hurricane Irma continues her reign. She's been hot on my heels for the last week or so, and I've had more than enough. Thanks, Irma, for vacationing with us. You really shouldn't have.

Atlantis resort in the Bahamas in our happy place. We plan our vacation for the very end of summer so that we can look forward to it for months, we count down, we text each other pictures from the resort in giddy anticipation. While it's true that we were scheduled to be in the Bahamas during hurricane season, the entire summer is hurricane season in the Caribbean. We've gone plenty of times before, and have never had any real issues, except for a rainy afternoon or two. Plus, as the Bahamas tourism website proudly touts, the Bahamas enjoys over 300 days of sunshine a year.

Labor Day was our long awaited departure date. We packed our sunscreen, swimsuits, and flip flops and headed to the airport with visions of tropical grandeur dancing in our heads. Sure, we had been watching the weather closely, but our biggest worry about Irma was that she would put a damper on our suntanning. We were upgraded to first class, and toasted our good luck and the beginning of a fabulous trip.

I mean, we're obviously health nuts. 

I want to take a moment to talk about this behavior, happening in first class.
NO. Never. Ever. Under any circumstance. That is all.

As we landed in Nassau, an elderly couple wearing "We Survived Hurricane Matthew" shirts were practically on our hip walking through the airport. No amount of speed walking or diversion got rid of these people, and I started to get worried they were going to jinx us. They also boarded our shuttle, but luckily weren't staying at our resort. Ah, we dodged it, I smiled to myself. Oh, Susie, you naive idiot.

Thankfully, our first night, we headed to Poseidon's Table, the newly renovated buffet restaurant, and enjoyed shrimp, conch salad, plenty of great food, and dipped everything we could think of into the chocolate fountain for dessert. To leave the Bahamas without having conch salad would have been a crime, and I pride myself on being a law abiding citizen.

We woke up Tuesday morning to clear, sunny skies (thank goodness) and after grabbing a light breakfast, we spent the day by the pool, the way the Lord intended vacations to be, with gossip magazines, a good book, and a round or two of tropical drinks.

There's a reason they call it Paradise Island, and I'm pretty sure this it.

After soaking up the sun (and some rum), we got cleaned up for dinner. Clint loves Carmine's, a family-style Italian restaurant in the Atlantis Marina Village. To be fair, I like it, too, except for the fact that "family-style" means you will be served enough food to gorge the entire Duggar family. Heaven help the carb-loving two of us; we did our absolute best to put a dent in the barges platters of food that came our way. It was a delicious challenge.

The next morning, just after 7:00 a.m., an emergency alarm sounded and woke us out of a deep sleep. With all the hurricane hubbub we had already been hearing, a still groggy Clint threw open the curtains and was relieved to say, "It's not the hurricane! It's gorgeous out there!" Ever the sensible one under pressure (that is a total joke), I felt the hotel room door to see if it was hot, and then reported back, "The door's not hot--there's no fire!" We checked the empty hallway and decided this was obviously a false alarm. And so were the alarms that went off again at 7:30 and 7:45. Ah, nothing like getting an early start to the day, right?

We spent another beautiful day riding water slides, swimming in the pool, and napping in the warm sun, blissfully unaware that this was the last day of our short-lived vacation. We kept our dinner casual, grabbing pizza out at the marina.

The marina was the fullest we've ever seen it--apparently, everyone had chosen Atlantis
as the spot to wait out the storm.

Hey, there's a salad in there, too.

Every place we went after dinner, the conversation was the impending storm. I checked my phone to see that I had an email from the airline that our flight home on Saturday had already been cancelled. Still, there were worse places to be marooned by Irma than the Bahamas, so in typical Stancil fashion, we made light of the situation.

This was the closest I thought I would get to being affected by the hurricane.

In retrospect, we probably should have bought these hats. You know, for church.

An after dinner cocktail: the Dark and Stormy seemed appropriate.

We woke up Thursday morning feeling ambitious enough to venture off our lounge chairs--just briefly--to grab breakfast and see downtown Nassau. We had heard about the Graycliff Hotel but had never been, so we started there, reading their impossibly long of celebrity visitors and venturing over to check out their quaint Drawbridge Cafe.

There's not much drawbridge, and even less cafe, but it's the Bahamas. 

As we strolled through the downtown area, we began to notice storm preparations taking place. It's hard to maintain your carefree, vacation happy attitude when trucks are unloading sandbags on all the side streets and the majority of the windows are boarded shut.

Please note the street name--reeks of class. The plywood over the windows was an ominous sign.

Being in the center of the hurricane preparations felt eerie, so we headed back to Atlantis. As we entered the hotel, we also noticed all of the glass light fixtures had been removed. At this point, we had been on the phone with American Airlines a minimum of twice of a day since we arrived, and were still being told there were no flights going anywhere that we could take should we want to leave. A new sign in the hotel lobby informed us that Lynden Pindling airport in Nassau was scheduled to close Thursday afternoon with no reopening date given. Gulp.

The weather in the Bahamas was still gorgeous; I suppose it was literally the calm before the storm. As tempted as we were to head back down by the pool and worry about Irma later, we also remembered last fall during Hurricane Matthew when we read about Atlantis guests forced to relocate to cots in the hotel ballroom for several days, and that is not our idea of a vacation. We threw everything we had in our suitcases and raced to the airport to see what we could do. As luck would have it (I say begrudgingly), American Airlines had added several "rescue flights" from Miami to Nassau to help get people out of the path of the storm. We were booked on a rescue flight--not something you ever want to boast--and made our way to Miami.

I cannot begin to describe the chaos of Miami International Airport. News crews were everywhere, and the entire place was a cacophony of angry travelers, crying babies, and small, yapping dogs (homeowners were encouraged to also evacuate their pets).

One of many tired travelers we saw in Miami.

We entered a seemingly endless queue line in an attempt to get to the ticket counter. Since our flight home had officially been canceled, we were angling to get on any flight, anywhere, just to get away from Irma, who had been nipping at our heels for the last several days. After three full hours in line, we were put on three different stand-by flights to Charlotte Thursday night. We had to send our luggage ahead, so we bid our suitcases a nervous goodbye and said plenty of prayers. Miraculously, and thanks to my frequent flyer hubby's airline miles, we made it onto a flight! In all the crowd and chaos, the flight was delayed twice and we spent an hour and 45 minutes on the tarmac waiting to take off. We were told at one point that all takeoffs had been suspended indefinitely, and on Friday morning, we read a news article that explained why: apparently a man wielding a knife had run onto the tarmac at Miami International airport (during the exact time we were trying to make our departure) and was finally shot by police. Just one more dash of crazy to add to our very colorful trip.

We made it home around 1:30 a.m. on what was now technically Friday. And although the dog was ecstatic and we were grateful to be out of harm's way, I can't help but be bitter that Irma had to get in on our vacation. We've debated getting t-shirts--but I can't decide if we should be able to brag that we survived Irma if she sent us running?

What do you think? Did we earn t-shirts, or no?

Regardless of whether or not we get the t-shirt, believe me when I saw we've been there and done that. And no offense to my friend Kelley's grandma, who I understand is a lovely woman by the same name, but no one named Irma is welcome on any more of our trips! 'Bye, Irma. It's been real.