Freedom on the Lake

Obviously, the 4th of July was a few weekends back, but the further along we move into summer, the faster the time is slipping away from me. Honestly, what the hell is going on??

Bare with me while I catch you up on a super fun weekend spent laughing with friends, family, and my love at Lake Martin in Alabama. It was pretty much a perfect weekend. We flew into Atlanta Friday night and spent a few wonderful hours catching up with my parents. We then drove 2 hours to the lake the next morning, and parked our asses there until it was time to head back home. The wonderful Crosswy family welcomed us to their amazing lake house, and treated us to some boat time, amazing food, and the most relaxing time.

They are also the family that won the BOTE stand up paddleboard grand prize at our birthday party, so they also invited us to take that beauty out on the lake for a spin. That did not suck and only made my craving to have my own paddleboard increase exponentially.

We spent an amazing day with family, including Timmy’s mom and stepdad, whom we hadn’t seen in MONTHS, so that was a biiiig treat! Abigail’s stepdad made the most incredible potato salad that I kept sneaking bites of through the weekend and I don’t feel shame about that at all. When a potato salad is good, it’s the freaking best.

Let’s not forget our group’s attempt at a redneck-themed Fourth of July weekend. It’s quite clear that Timmy won the game there, but I feel like I got the best shopping experience when I was complimented by a Floridian woman who clearly didn’t realize that my purchases were a joke. Go FL.

Finally, after 100 attempts to take that lovely family photo above as the sun set and not being able to get the flash working, I decided to try a bunch of different settings in the game room on our last night. They aren’t fantastic, but god damn I love this camera!

I love little weekends like that, a quick getaway, filled with love, laughter, and delicious food. Thank you to the Crosswy family again for the hospitality, we adore y’all. And in case you were wondering, I’m keeping all my America gear. As Timmy’s life partner, I’ll probably need it again in the near future thanks to his hijinks.

♥, VB

Concrete Jungle

Three weekends ago, Timmy and I took a weekend trip up to NYC to visit my bestie, Denise, and her husband Vinnie before they bring forth their love child around August. They are amazing friends and came to visit us last year and we took them to Universal Studios for their wedding present. It was as good of a time as one can have in Lakeland. The original plan for this year was to have them visit us again, but in a way better town than Lakeland, eating way better food, and generally just being a better time than last year. But alas Denise was too preggers and her doctor wouldn’t allow any more flights until baby comes.

Not that going to NYC is such a bad thing. Obviously I love it there, it was my home for 4 years during college. But now that I live in St. Pete, my life here is just so amazing. I feel like I’m on vacation a large portion of the time, and I’m always super relaxed. NYC is just SOOOOOOOOO much, sometimes too much, so trips there generally leave me more exhausted than when I left. Last time we went, we packed so much in that weekend because Timmy had never been, jeez, it was nuts. So although I knew we were going to be more chill than our last time to the city, it’s still a lot to psych yourself up for.

It was an under-the-radar kind of trip because our main objective was to hang with Denise and Vinnie before baby comes. I didn’t get in contact with a lot of people because I knew I wouldn’t be able to see them. It is so stressful to try to make plans to see so many lovely faces in such a short amount of time, and I was NOT trying to stress out this weekend in particular.

Luckily, we hit the weather jackpot AGAIN (we went in August 2012, and the weather didn’t get above 80, which is UNHEARD of during city summers), and had an amazing time. They live now in Hastings-on-Hudson, which Timmy excitedly pointed out is where they’ve shot a few scenes of HBO’s The Leftovers (he clearly has never accidentally (or on purpose) walked on set on the way to class many many many times, as nearly all NYU students can attest to). Their town is freaking ADORABLE. We couldn’t get over how quaint it was, and just a 45 minute train ride from the city. It’s amazing how you forget all that’s close to the city yet so completely different.

Hastings-on-Hudson, complete with hash marks

loved this little theatre

We arrived Friday morning, which was key to getting all we could out of this trip. We spent Friday afternoon wandering around the city after grabbing lunch with Alex, one of my dearest friends from college. Man I love that guy. We stayed with him in his AMAZING condo in Tribeca last time we visited, and I only get prouder and prouder of all that he’s accomplished since we graduated. Once you own your own condo where the elevator opens up into your place, you know you’ve arrived like a BOSS.

He chose a super tiny Mediterranean place in the West Village (man, my friends know me so well. Both him and Denise know how obsessed I am with Med food, and both planned equally delicious meals for me to come home to) called Moustache Pitza and it was legit. The two things I miss most about NY are the transit and the food. You always hit it out of the park with food there, and it’s always the smallest, most unfamous places.

Later, we wandered around the West Side Highway up to The High Line, east to the Chelsea Market, which remains one of my favorite places on earth where Timmy’s head almost exploded, and then back north to Denise and Vinnie’s. What an amazingly chill and super fun day.

The next day, we went back into the city while Denise and Vinnie took a parenting class and OF COURSE WE WENT TO THE MUSEUM OF SEX. I hadn’t been there since 2005, but knew we HAD to go as soon as I saw what their new exhibit contained: a boobie bounce house. SHUT YOUR FACE. The entire exhibit was set up like a sex carnival, with a “Find the G Spot” mirror maze that gave me immediate motion sickness and I had to sit it out, a galloping dick skeeball race (which I intelligently re-named SKEETball, to which the museum employee laughed and thought was the most amazing thing ever), the bounce house, and Grope Mountain — an orifice climbing wall. Needless to say, we had a freaking amazing time.

Later that night, we took Vinnie and Denise out to Harvest on Hudson, which was where they actually had their rehearsal dinner. It’s absolutely one of the best restaurants I’ve ever been to, and since it was summer, we could actually see outside and watch the sun go down over the river (we couldn’t in March, it was dark at like 5 PM). Leah and Mike joined us (which is incredible to see college friends so many times in one year. That hasn’t happened since actual college!), and we laughed our asses off while Mike and Timmy inappropriately discussed prolapses and other medical conditions.

Sunday arrived WAY too quickly, and we went to have a late brunch in Astoria with our other close friend Nikki, yoga goddess extraordinaire, and her close friend from CA. We ate at Locale where I continued to stuff myself with homemade pasta and love on my friends until our flight. We watched the Netherlands vs. Mexico World Cup game and it was all good.

This trip was crazy fun. Denise and Vinnie are going to be such amazing parents, and for us to see their new place, their new town, it was so amazing. I’m so proud of them and I can’t wait to meet the newest addition to our crazy little circle. Until next time NYC.

♥, VB

Making It Yourself: Maps on Canvas

I’m not a DIY-er. I’m impatient, not creative, nor do I want to look up 15,000 steps to create something I can easily buy on sale at TJ Maxx. Some people have the craft bug in them; I’m not one of those people.

But every so often (and by often I mean maaaaayyyyybe once every 12 years), I’ll find something that I know I can accomplish with few ingredients and steps. I’ll think to myself, “Now this is a craft someone like myself can do and not f*^k up too badly.” Bonus points for crafts that look like you were trying to slightly f*^k it up anyway.

I can paint the hell out of things, and I like to think I’m pretty handy around the house. Like my desk-turned-into-tv-stand-and-storage, I can definitely do things that don’t require much other than paint, brush, and stapler (I mean desk stapler, not a fancy schmancy one). So why not try to do a craft that involves a painting-like approach?

I bought this map probably 6 years ago with the intention to get it framed so that it looked like an antique. Little did I know at the time that having to custom order a frame for 50″ x 32″ was somewhere in the million dollar range (I exaggerate, but yes, that’s what it feels like when you’re a grad student). And so it just sat. And sat. And sat some more.

world map

We almost threw it out a bunch of times, but I held onto the idea that something could be done with it. Pinterest definitely served as an inspiration because I know I would’ve NEVER heard of Mod Podge anywhere else. So while I had the idea in my head of what I could do with it, I never quite had the motivation until a few weeks ago.

I decided to just say screw it, and let’s make this project a reality. The plan was to split the map into three sections, Mod Podge them onto the canvases, and make interesting yet super easy art. So off I went to Michael’s, armed with a 20% digital coupon, and bought 3 15″x 30″ canvases. Since I’m lazy as hell, I eyeballed the sections and cut, hoping for the best. Don’t do this if you really want perfection.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI took one section at a time because, duh, and Mod Podged the canvases first.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I’m sure there’s a WAY more precise method of doing this, but I’ve already established that this isn’t the perfect way to DIY a canvas map. I used foam brushes to distribute the glue all over the canvas and down the sides since the map was overhanging (which is what I wanted).

I laid the map down on the canvas and did my best to get out the air. You can see that I sucked at this step. In my defense, this map had been rolled in its container for YEARS, so getting it to lie flat at all was a huge success.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI repeated this process for the other two canvases, sucking equally at getting the air out of each. You can also see that I accidentally tore the Hawaiian Islands, but hey, they’re islands. At least I didn’t tear an entire country in half.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Once all 3 canvases were done, I waited the required time as directed on the Mod Podge bottle (I think it was 2 hours). Then I Mod Podged the top of each canvas with two coats, waiting 20 minutes in between each coat. I took down the entire bottle of Mod Podge with this project (and I’ve used the words Mod Podge more times in this post than I’ve ever said in my whole life).

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI let them cure for two days on my dining room table. Warning: be ready with a wet paper towel in case anything drips on the surface of whatever you’re using. Since I’m also not super precise, I kept brushing Mod Podge onto my table when trying to brush the canvas sides, and luckily was able to wipe it up immediately.

After curing, I hung them and was surprisingly impressed at my ability to not destroy the map. They kinda look vintage, look kinda artsy, and definitely look better than just framing the original map. I also eyeballed hanging them with spaces in between each canvas because I can’t be bothered with a ruler and level.

With the coupon, I spent around $65 on 3 canvases, the brushes, and the Mod Podge. Not bad for a non-DIY-er. Not bad.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

♥, VB

 

 

3.5 Weeks, So Many Stories

So yes, that was a long blogging break. Although, I can’t say that it was a break from anything because since summer kicked into swing here at school, life has progressively gotten busier and crazier. And these are the months that are supposed to be slow, so that’s not saying good things for fall semester.

Life has been pretty freaking fantastic though, so don’t take me staying busy as a complaint. It’s been wonderful. I think of all those years I spent languishing at the CDC, sitting in front of a computer, hour after hour, with little face time with people I liked, and how every second I spent there, I wished for the life I have now. I appreciate everything I have here because I worked hard for it: my job, my friends, my relationships, and my partner. It has been 100% worth it to be able to say my life is busy all the time and I’m hardly ever bored anymore.

That last paragraph felt like the biggest victory ever.

I didn’t quite mean to stop blogging the last few weeks because things have been happening (I say that in the 70s, groovy, kind of way) but honestly, I just put this on the backburner to share. But now I’m back and I’ll fill you in on my life lately, because damn, it’s been good.

I’ve now had my new Mini for over 1 month and I’m totally in love. It’s fantastically fun to drive (like my last one) and I didn’t know this at the time, but it’s the perfect beach vehicle. We have packing for the beach down to an art. And since we know I love beautifully organized things, staring at my trunk filled with beach goodies is just such a joy. (I’m a dork.)

I’ve met a new friend, Jackie, and we’ve hung out a few times here and there, so that’s been refreshing. It’s so hard to meet new people, but if you don’t work with them, how on earth do you ever establish a relationship? She’s a super cool, chill woman, and her boyfriend and Timmy get along super well (like it’s hard to get along with Timmy), so hopefully we’ll be doing more things together this summer. Memorial Day weekend, we hit the Movies in the Park to see “The Jerk”, we took a dolphin sail tour and had a drinking day at the beach, and just in general had a great time! Yay to new friends!

Timmy and I finished the weekend in St. Pete with a fun date night and a stop at The Canopy, a beautiful downtown rooftop bar with amazing views of the waterfront. Since it was a holiday weekend, it was pretty empty, so we ordered some amazing drinks (my new favorite: Winter Sunset with a splash of agave), and loved on each other some more.

The following weekend, my favorite NYU ladies came down to visit. This is the first time they’ve all been down to visit me since I moved away after college, and we could not have had a better weekend if we tried. The weather was amazing, we laughed, shelled, relaxed, and I made them all jealous of the beautiful town I live in.

Saturday, I took them stand up paddleboarding with a few friends from work, and we accidentally on purpose ended up paddling for two hours. If any of us had known ahead of time how long we’d be out there, I don’t think they would’ve signed up. But before we knew it, we were too far out to go back and too nice to complain, so ahead we forged. It ended up being one of my favorite days in St. Pete yet. :)

I also took them to the Canopy, and promptly forgot that the weekend before had been a holiday weekend, so therefore not representative of the normal crowd that goes there on Saturday nights. It was kind of gross. Like the tunnel crowd in Manhattan. It was very club-ratty, and my precious Winter Sunset didn’t have any agave at all. Whatever, we still had a blast because what else can you do?

The next weekend (June has been and will continue to be PACKED on the weekends) we traveled over to Palm Coast to visit with Jake’s parents and his son. We previously had planned on the entire weekend, but due to a mistake in the planning, we only got one night with them. We wanted more, but hey, at least we got to visit at all! It was totally worth it too.

Jake’s son Aiden has such an immense love for his uncle Timmy, and I’m sad that I couldn’t get the one picture I wanted from that weekend. Those two together are like little devils, so I had to act fast to get candid shots like the one I wanted but ultimately got a blurred version. At dinner that night, Timmy was telling stories, and Aiden was staring at him with such a look of admiration, I got a little choked up watching it. It’s such an honor to be a part of that little guy’s life, and we definitely shared some age-appropriate stories about his father with him as promised.

Of course it was so difficult to leave them the next day as they packed up to head back to Atlanta. Cheryl cried, and it took everything I had in me to be strong and smile and wave. Love that family so much.

The rest of the weekend we spent napping and loving on Floyd. Because he’s a rescue, we only know the history that was told to the organization that rescued him, and who knows if that was the truth. We don’t have an actual birth date for him and I so desperately wanted to celebrate one, so we made it up! We’re assuming he’s around 5 years old, so that’s what we celebrated on June 8.

As you can tell from the photos, Floyd has some warming up to do with his birthday hat, and Timmy thought I was a complete moron, but you know what. I. don’t. care. That little dog has lit up our lives, and he deserves to know that we love every year he’s with us!

The past weekend, my entire family came down to visit and oh what fun we had. My sister, Jared, and Charlotte came last year to stay with us in Lakeland while they visited Disneyworld, but this is the first time all the adults have been down, sans children. I didn’t particularly sell Lakeland well, so once I moved to St. Pete, I sold the hell out of it. I secretly wanted to talk my parents into buying a condo downtown near the waterfront and I could potentially move into a bedroom, pay part of the mortgage and serve as property manager at the same time, and hey, everyone wins! I may have gotten closer to that goal, I’ll let you know how it goes. :)

Friday night, we had dinner at 400 Beach Seafood & Tap House, right next to the historic Vinoy Hotel where they stayed. Holy cow, that’s beautiful place. I absolutely recommend it. As for food, I have now been to 400 Beach three times and I highly recommend it. The oysters are to die for, and the food is generally delicious and well priced. You can’t lose.

I then took them back to the Canopy and we had the greatest time. A few of us were a little happy, happy, but who cares when all you have to do is walk one block back to the hotel!? Also, after we returned to the hotel, we made a bathroom trip before driving back to my apartment, and when I exited the restroom, there’s Timmy, playing the name game with four people at the hotel for a wedding (we seriously can’t get away from them), one of whom was originally from McDonough, GA. Shocked I tell you. I was shocked.

Their last night, I made us a reservation at the Maritana Grille in the historic Loews Don Cesar Hotel on St. Pete Beach, mainly because I’ve been wanting to check out the hotel every time I drive past it to get to the beach. It’s GORGEOUS. And the restaurant knocked it out of the park. I didn’t have one thing I didn’t like, and my family for the most part agreed. All of the fish was cooked perfectly and the desserts, holy crap. We also celebrated Father’s Day, and because my dad is a dork, his favorite gift was the book of Godfather quotes my sister and I got him because he desperately needs a new line other than, “Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.”

That’s it for now. I think I’ve caught you all up. Do you feel caught up? Please tell me you do. I don’t have time to take that nap that I desperately want after writing this post.

♥, VB

Not Enough MINI Dreams

My dream car has been a MINI Cooper since I have no idea, but it seems like forever. After seeing The Italian Job (the remake), I became even more obsessed with owning the sportiest little car this side of the Atlantic.

In 2007, after wrestling with what used to be my dream car, the first Ford Focus, it quickly became a piece of crap as domestics tend to do, but this was unexpected. It only had 42000 miles on it since 2000. That’s right, 7 years and only 42000 miles, but the noise it made upon starting, you would’ve thought it was a 1978 Buick boat-car. It ran like shit, and it was super clear that I had to get a new car before grad school or else I would inevitably end up stranded on the side of 400 (which is never a good place to be during rush hour in Atlanta).

So upon weighing all my options, costs, benefits, etc., the MINI Cooper came out on top. I designed it on their website, and within days, my very own, custom built MINI arrived in Atlanta. It was mine, ALL MINE. And it was loyal, and beautiful, and kept me company through tons of good times, sad times, and moving on up.

Then the extended warranty expired last year and all the expensive shit started breaking. OF COURSE IT DID. And after the 3rd item that would’ve cost almost $2000 to fix , I decided enough was enough. My relationship with my bright yellow MINI Cooper was coming to an end at 99, 400 miles. Here are some of the things we did together over 7 years:

  • Got me through grad school in style. This included every social event, drive to the lake, and vacation I took that didn’t require someone else and their luggage to be in the car with me.
  • Transported me from Sandy Springs to Decatur to Smyrna and back my 2nd year of graduate school, which was quite a lot of driving each day.
  • Helped me get through my last relationship and make it to Timmy, the ultimate achievement.
  • Comforted me through 3.5 years at CDC, where I hated my life and was bored to tears every day.
  • Moved me to FL (where I had to leave half of my stuff in Atlanta because you can’t actually move anything in a MINI), where great things have followed.
  • Drove me through hour+commutes from Lakeland to St. Pete and back, where most Friday evening drives resulted in nervous breakdowns and tears.
  • Moved me to St. Pete, where life is now calm and beautiful.
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    MINI Cooper, you shine like the sun

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    Small enough to hug, big enough to love

I’m still grieving the loss of my companion. She was beautiful and fun and a joy to drive. But in anticipation of getting older and perhaps starting a family one day (I said PERHAPS), it’s obvious that a MINI Cooper just won’t be practical with children and all their mountains of crap (literal and figurative).

I nannied in grad school, and getting the youngest in and out of the car seat was a pain in the ass then, but now is a literal pain in the back, and I wouldn’t ever be able to do that with my own children. So two doors were out. Four doors are in.

And now we come to the newest member of the Beltran family. My newest ride, my newest companion who will see me through more good times and bad…

The MINI Cooper Countryman

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4 doors of beauty

the NYU Sticker is the only thing remaining from my last MINI

the NYU Sticker is the only thing remaining from my last MINI

hello beautiful

hello beautiful

I fought the 4 door as long as I could. I am a MINI purist, which means that I believe that the only true MINI is the original hatchback version. But I sucked it up because I’m more of a planner than an optimist, so here it is. The car of my dreams, expanded.

♥, VB