re·solve

September 1, 2015

10 Lessons Learned from My First Cruise Vacation

I'm back from a much-needed vacation...on my first-ever cruise! Sean and I embarked on the Carnival Pride here in Baltimore for a week of days at sea as well as in Florida and the Bahamas. I'd definitely do it again, and gained some great takeaways for when that happens:

Credit: Carnival Dreams Studio
1. The adults-only deck is more enjoyable later in the day. I have to say, the pools were way smaller than I expected. We tried to stick to the adults-only Serenity deck since we aren't big on crowds...but when there are over 1,000 passengers and the pool capacity is 22....yikes! We skipped the daytime madness and enjoyed the area after 5 pm when most adults were getting ready for dinner.
First day on board...and the only day we snagged one of the four hammocks.
2. Try the ridiculous foods...because you can. I did it guys, I broke my vegetarian streak of 2.5+ years. Since you can order whatever the heck you want and then some, I took advantage of trying some crazier things I normally wouldn't, just to see what they were like: a tiny bite each of alligator fritter, escargot, and frog legs. It's safe to say I won't eat any of them again, but a cruise is the perfect time to try with no risk.
Trying a piece of an Alligator fritter
3. Don't be afraid to ask. I'd read reviews complaining that the beds on board were hard. I didn't stress out since it's a matter of preference...until we slept the first night. Yep, the beds were hard. But, one request to the cabin steward got us memory foam on our mattress the very next evening. It never hurts to ask.

4. If they say you don't need to pack it, you really don't. I'm paranoid and this overpack in preparation of everything. This is my second trip where I was told I didn't need to pack beach towels, which were provided. Both times, I packed one anyway, "just in case." Both times, I totally didn't need to. Lighten up on the luggage. Nobody's lying to you.

5. Paying to skip the lines is probably worth it. The only bummer worse than ending your vacation is waiting to end it. We all sat around in a room waiting to be called to leave the ship (I won't even mention the embarkation line). Carnival has a $50 "faster to the fun" option that gets you express embarkation and debarkation, and I'll happily pay for that next time.

6. Book your own excursions. We booked two excursions ourselves and one through Carnival. Guess which one had us waiting on the ship thinking "we could be on the beach right now?" Yep. On Freeport day, the ship docked at 7 and our excursion didn't leave until 8:30. Bummer. Next time, we'll do it all ourselves (plus, it's so much cheaper! We saved at least $100 by renting a car to go to Disney on Florida day instead of booking the excursion).

7. It will rain, but stick around. It rains every day in Florida. It rains every day in the Islands. It's a fact. Freeport was interrupted pretty quickly by a storm. We were bummed, but we stayed when most passengers opted to leave early...and that's when the fun actually started.
After the storm in Freeport...a much less crowded beach!
8. The best souvenirs are free. We played a ton of trivia games and other activities on the ship (and excursions) throughout the week. Nothing beats the items you won, in our case, three trophies and hat. Not bad.
Cornhole champs!

9. Bring snorkel gear if you're headed to a beach. We stopped at Atlantis one day and the fish swim right along with you...I so badly wished I had a snorkel at that moment. The resort, of course, is happy to price-gouge you to do so, but I passed. Lesson learned for next time.

10. Rum runners totally work. I was given a set of Bibber Buddy Plastic Concealable Flasks to review on Amazon a month or so pre-cruise. We were conservative and just used the two small ones, but Sean was able to get both on board with no problems.
*Bonus lesson: Bahamian drivers are the same (if not worse) than U.S. drivers. Our cab driver both answered his cell phone and read the newspaper while driving us back to the cruise terminal.

 What do you wish you'd known on your first cruise? Never cruised? What's your question?

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August 24, 2015

Follow Your Purpose + Giveaway

Sponsored Content

On March 12, 2005, I'd been dating Sean for just a few weeks. I was taking college courses. I was working as a manager at ULTA.

And I was completely unaware that just a few states south of me, a woman was being held hostage in her home by an escaped murderer.

I'll admit that I hate bad news and don't always keep up with current events, but it makes me sad that only now, ten years later, have I heard the story of Ashley Smith spending 7 hours captive in her apartment.

Captive Ashley Smith

I read the whole account in 2 hours, refreshed by Smith's honesty (her personal life was a hot mess which she openly admits), and stunned at how the whole account plays out. At one point, she reads out loud from Rick Warren's bestseller, The Purpose Driven Life, only to be interrupted by her captor, Brian Nichols, upon reading the line "Listen: God put you where you are for a purpose.":

"Read that again."

She did,  and a conversation better suited to a Bible study group ensued. What was Ashley's purpose? What was Brian's? If you opened the book at this page, you might mistake this for a conversation between close friends.

The moment comes as quickly as it passes, but is one of the book's biggest highlights. Don't we all wonder about our purpose from time to time? Or perhaps we know, but something is holding us back...keeping us captive.

As it turns out, Captive has been on the bookshelves for some time now. Formerly titled Unlikely Angel, the book has been adapted to film (check it out September 18) and re-titled Captive, providing a perfect metaphor for Smith's story: not only was she literally captive in her home by Nichols, she was personally captive to poor decisions she'd made throughout her life.



Though nowhere near as dramatic as being held hostage, I think of captivity in my own life—of how I let my thoughts hold me captive instead of living freely. Thoughts like "it's too hard, don't even try," or "keep it to yourself, nobody will understand you"  are common lies of Satan working to keep us in captivity when there is absolutely no need.

I encourage you to read Captive for yourself and consider your own purpose...or what keeps you captive from it. If you enjoy it as much as I did, be sure to check out the film next month!

One reader will win a copy of Captive the book. Just enter below!



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August 19, 2015

a "let's be real" cruise packing list

Very soon, I'll be embarking on my very first cruise. Naturally, I've been scouring the internet for what to expect and must-haves to pack. From travel sites to message boards to blog posts, I've found a wealth of information...and a menagerie of sponsored content that left me rolling my eyes.

Clearly I'm not bashing sponsored content. Bloggers work hard and deserve compensation. But, not all sponsored content is created equal, and quite frankly, I couldn't care less what you're wearing on your cruise. Of course I'm packing clothes. I don't need outfit collages to help me with my packing.

So, in sponsor-free, "let's get real" fashion, here's what I've determined, without any compensation, are my cruise packing must-haves:


  • Clorox Wipes because I've heard too many stories of viruses spreading on board.
  • Bubbly because alcohol markups are highway robbery. 
  • Corkscrew because corkage fees are crap, too. I'll drink in my cabin, thanks.
  • Sunscreen/Aloe/Floppy Hat because when you're German/Irish, you burn.
  • Power Strip because rumor has it, cabins only have one outlet and multiple devices need charging.
  • Highlighter because we like to mark the fun things we'd like to do.
  • Gift for cabin steward because a little kindness goes a long way.
  • Waterproof mascara because duh.
  • Diffuser because I want to sleep as well as I do at home.

Have you cruised before? What are your essentials?
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August 18, 2015

Let's Be Friends Blog Hop

Welcome to the Let's Be Friends Blog Hop!
A blog hop is a set time frame for current or aspiring bloggers to find new blogs and quality content. It is a great way to make new friends and find inspiration! It is also a fabulous way to promote your own blog and posts.

This is the 131st week of the Let's Be Friends blog hop! Thanks for joining us on this special day. Chelsee and Tiffany are extremely delighted to see the way this hop has grown and love to see your faces each week! **IMPORTANT HOUSEKEEPING NOTE! We are looking for co-hosts for our blog hop for September/ October! This is a great way to gain new followers and network with other bloggers! If you are interested please email thedwellingtree@gmail.com! Thank you!

Join us every Tuesday at 7am (MST). This blog hop focuses on content. LINK UP YOUR FAVORITE POST from last week in this fun content-sharing blog hop! I love the idea of blog hopping, but I love the idea of reading posts and quality content on new blogs I've never been to even more. Instead of simply linking up your blog button, you are now able to link up your favorite post you recently wrote. Have a delicious recipe to share, DIY tutorial, or heartfelt post? Share it with us! All hosts and co-hosts put up some unique and fun content from the past week. Make sure to check them out. P.S.- you may still link up your blog button and blog name, but it is encouraged to link up your favorite post instead. You will get more page views and interest if you do so! Some of the most successful blog hops I have participate in focus on content rather than just exchanging follows. You never know who will become a loyal follower or pin that delicious new recipe you posted!
 
The BEST part of this blog hop? Each week there will be a WINNER! That's right, each week we will choose one lucky blog to feature from the previous week's hop. This hop receives thousands of page views every week, so your blog will have the chance to be center stage for free. You must follow all the hosts and co-hosts in order to win. Only those who link up a specific post are eligible to be featured! *You must follow all the hosts and co-hosts in order to win.
The last exciting change is that the co-host spots will now be available to all sponsors of The Dwelling Tree or Southern Beauty Guide. If you are interested in co-hosting the blog hop, email Tiffany or Chelsee about sponsorship opportunities and how to co-host the weekly hop!
Let's Be Friend's Blog Hop Guidelines
 
1. Link up your favorite post from your week.
2. Follow your hosts and co-hosts.
3. Grab the button and post it on your blog so we can share the love.
4. Visit 3 other blogs, comment, and follow them along!
5. Tweet about this blog hop, using #letsbefriends
6. Pin the button on pinterest so we can spread the news!
 Let’s Be Friends
 
***Once a week, one blog will be chosen to be the featured blogger from the previous blog hop.
Meet your hosts:

The Dwelling Tree: Blog, Bloglovin'
Southern Beauty Guide: Blog, Bloglovin'
Meet this week's co-host:
picmonkey collage
Rachel @ Life as Rachel
PicMonkey Collage2
Bekah @ Resolve
Aleshea @ Glitz & Grits
***This weeks featured post from last week's hop:

Thank you all once again for continually linking up at our blog hop. It is such a fun time and I am so impressed each week with all the amazing posts. Please continue to link up an actual post instead of your blog. We want to keep reading your content and it makes it more fun to pick a winner!
Is there anything we can do differently or better? Please share in the comments!

...on to the Winner!
Collecting Moments Why Parents should take a break from Technology I needed to read this post by Maria from Collecting Moments. I am often guilty of having my phone out too much... taking too many pictures, or simply being distracted by social media. I absolutely love her perspective on using technology wisely and in moderation. I LOVE her blog, and am super happy I had the opportunity to read it this week. Please make sure to go check her out and follow her blog! I do not have her photo to share, so please go check out her post and read it- it is well worth 5-10 minutes to read!
Go check out Maria's blog and post! :)

Keep posting awesome content! You make it so fun for us to read all your posts! If you can, please link up a specific post. It makes it easier for us to come and visit!

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August 11, 2015

Let's Be Friends Blog Hop

Welcome to the Let's Be Friends Blog Hop!
A blog hop is a set time frame for current or aspiring bloggers to find new blogs and quality content. It is a great way to make new friends and find inspiration! It is also a fabulous way to promote your own blog and posts.

This is the 130th week of the Let's Be Friends blog hop! Thanks for joining us on this special day. Chelsee and Tiffany are extremely delighted to see the way this hop has grown and love to see your faces each week! **IMPORTANT HOUSEKEEPING NOTE! We are looking for co-hosts for our blog hop for September! This is a great way to gain new followers and network with other bloggers! If you are interested please email thedwellingtree@gmail.com! Thank you!
Join us every Tuesday at 7am (MST). This blog hop focuses on content. LINK UP YOUR FAVORITE POST from last week in this fun content-sharing blog hop! I love the idea of blog hopping, but I love the idea of reading posts and quality content on new blogs I've never been to even more. Instead of simply linking up your blog button, you are now able to link up your favorite post you recently wrote. Have a delicious recipe to share, DIY tutorial, or heartfelt post? Share it with us! All hosts and co-hosts put up some unique and fun content from the past week. Make sure to check them out. P.S.- you may still link up your blog button and blog name, but it is encouraged to link up your favorite post instead. You will get more page views and interest if you do so! Some of the most successful blog hops I have participate in focus on content rather than just exchanging follows. You never know who will become a loyal follower or pin that delicious new recipe you posted!
 
The BEST part of this blog hop? Each week there will be a WINNER! That's right, each week we will choose one lucky blog to feature from the previous week's hop. This hop receives thousands of page views every week, so your blog will have the chance to be center stage for free. You must follow all the hosts and co-hosts in order to win. Only those who link up a specific post are eligible to be featured! *You must follow all the hosts and co-hosts in order to win.
The last exciting change is that the co-host spots will now be available to all sponsors of The Dwelling Tree or Southern Beauty Guide. If you are interested in co-hosting the blog hop, email Tiffany or Chelsee about sponsorship opportunities and how to co-host the weekly hop!
Let's Be Friend's Blog Hop Guidelines
 
1. Link up your favorite post from your week.
2. Follow your hosts and co-hosts.
3. Grab the button and post it on your blog so we can share the love.
4. Visit 3 other blogs, comment, and follow them along!
5. Tweet about this blog hop, using #letsbefriends
6. Pin the button on pinterest so we can spread the news!

 Let’s Be Friends
 
***Once a week, one blog will be chosen to be the featured blogger from the previous blog hop.
Meet your hosts:

The Dwelling Tree: Blog, Bloglovin'
Southern Beauty Guide: Blog, Bloglovin'
Meet this week's co-hosts:
PicMonkey-Collage
Lindsay @ The Flynnigans
Rachel @ Life as Rachel
PicMonkey Collage2
Bekah @ re•solve
Aleshea @ Glitz & Grits

***This weeks featured post from last week's hop:
Thank you all once again for continually linking up at our blog hop. It is such a fun time and I am so impressed each week with all the amazing posts. Please continue to link up an actual post instead of your blog. We want to keep reading your content and it makes it more fun to pick a winner!
Is there anything we can do differently or better? Please share in the comments!

...on to the Winner!
Endofmonth

Hi friends, It's Chelsee this week! Two weeks in a row, yes indeed! I am going to be on vacation for some of next week and Tiffany switched off with me. Last week I was reading through all the blog posts that were linked up when one truly resonated with me. You see Bloggers all face the struggle of scheduling and writing posts in our very hectic lives. No I am not a mom, but I do work two jobs and go to school. This is the main reason why something I don't blog 5 times a week and face the basic struggle of finding time to write posts. I truly believe that Editorial Calendars can work for all of us and feel it is crucial to write down post details and ideas to keep from forgetting them. What I love about Nikki's post is that she explains why Editorial Calendars can work and how they work for her. I knew time I read this post that I had to share it with all of you.
Go check out Nikki 's blog and post! :)
Keep posting awesome content! You make it so fun for us to read all your posts! If you can, please link up a specific post. It makes it easier for us to come and visit!



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