Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Back On Solid Ground

The month of July was SUPER crazy for this girl. I've been away from home since the morning of July 4th, traveling to Indiana, Georgia, and rounding out the month with a cruise to Grand Cayman and Cozumel!

Our cruise vacation started last Sunday with a drive down to Tampa with my dad, mom, Jake, and Colee. We got into Tampa around mid-afternoon and headed straight to the pool (since we wouldn't be getting enough of that over the next few days). For dinner, we decided to check out a Cuban restaurant in downtown Tampa, called the Columbian. After dinner we walked the strip for a little bit before calling the shuttle and heading back to our hotel to make sure we're all ready to get on the cruise ship the next morning.

The cruise ship opened its doors to us around 11:30 the next morning and left the port around 4:00. We spent the whole first day exploring the ship until our luggage appeared in our room just in time to get ready for dinner!

We ate so much over the course of the week that I really can't remember specific meals from each day but the thing that stood out most to me from our dining experiences was our awesome waiter, Gonsi! Like seriously... awesome! He even had creme brulee prepared for our table even though it wasn't ever on the menu!

Before dinner on the first menu, CLEARLY missing my husband a little bit. 

The first full day on the ship was a day at sea as we traveled to our first destination, Grand Cayman. We spent lots of time lounging around the pool and reading before getting dressed up for the one formal dinner of the trip.

After our fancy pants dinner of lobster tails and other goodies, the girls spent some time (and money) in the casino at the slot machines after arriving too late to the comedy show of the evening.

Wednesday morning, we got off the boat bright and early and tendered to the port in Grand Cayman. With no clue what we wanted to do once on land, we began walking around until we found a public bus to take us a spot on 7-mile beach. While on the bus, we met a couple on a different cruise ship that told us they heard good things about a specific beach resort, called Royal Palms. We were charged $2 per person to get into the private beach club, which contained not only a nice stretch of beach, but also a pool with a swim up bar, and restaurant, and free wifi so I could contact Ryan!! Win!

When we got to the beach, we rented some beach chairs and relaxed for a while with this view...

Within about an hour or so, some serious weather rolled in, completely covering our view of our cruise ship off in the distance. We moved our stuff up to the pool, hanging out by the pool bar for a little bit before packing things up and taxi-ing back to the port. While the weather never affected us as the beach, we ended up walking around the shops near the port in a torrential downpour. We all wanted some sort of souvenir to bring back with us so of course we didn't let a little rain get in our way!

 The boat left Grand Cayman around 3, so we spent the rest of the afternoon napping and getting ready for dinner (1 shower, 5 people...). After dinner, we went straight to the Queen Mary Lounge to wait for the comedy show since it was too crowded for us to watch the night before. The comedian was named "Cowboy Comedian" and turned out to be pretty funny. We also witnessed a proposal which was pretty sweet.

Thursday around 11, we docked the boat at Cozumel, and rushed off to make it to our pre-booked shore excursion in time. We ended up booking a trip that took us all over the island, stopping at three different places.
Pulling up to the dock. Viva Mexico! 

Our first stop brought us to San Gervasio Mayan Ruins in the middle of the island. While this was something I really wanted to do while in Mexico and I'm glad we did it, I probably wouldn't do it again. It was very hot and required some SERIOUS imagination since most of the structures were pretty ... well, ruined. It was very cool to hear how the Mayans lived and survived for so many years and the different traditions they created and followed.

After a couple of hours, we hopped back onto the bus and headed to our second destination, which was a beach on the eastern side of the island. We only had an hour and a half at this location, so the first thing we did was sit down for an authentic mexican lunch, which definitely did not disappoint. We even had authentic mexican coca cola, which is made in mexico using sugar cane.

We walked down to the ocean for a bit before getting on the bus again and heading to our third and final destination, the TEQUILA factory! Andale! Andale!

Tres Amigos? 

We tasted four of five different tequilas, a 7-year old tequila that was aged in old Jack Daniels Barrels, a silver tequila, a pina colada infused tequila, a guanabana tequila (Guava and Banana- a bottle of this one came home with me), and an amaretto infused tequila. YUM!

I don't really remember much from Thursday night (which is not a result of all of the tequilas I tasted, thank you very much), but I'm pretty sure we either went to a show or the casino after dinner before crashing fairly early.

Before dinner Thursday night!

One of the many gorgeous views off our balcony during this trip! 
The last full day on the ship was another day at sea. We finished our trip much like the way we started it, laying by the pool and reading.

 The water on Friday was absolutely beautiful and more serene than I have ever seen it. So beautiful and such a nice view to enjoy at the end of our trip!

Like Glass! 
Friday night, we said goodbye to Gonsi with one final meal and watched a show in the theater room put on by the Carnival singers and dancers. The next morning we woke up  early to debark and make the long trek back to Georgia, ending my month-long vacation. 

I'm so glad I was able to go on the cruise with my family. We had an absolute blast exploring other parts of the world and are already planning our next family vacation (Don't worry, Ryan- we'll make sure you are in attendance this time!) 

Thanks Mom and Dad for hosting me for pretty much all of July- Love ya'll!! 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Spicy spaghetti and Meat Sauce

If you don't know by now... I am a HUGE fan of pasta dishes and make them quite frequently. As a matter of fact, I don't think I've ever eaten a pasta dish I didn't like. Since I began to learn how to cook and experiment in the kitchen, I have always wanted to make my own meat sauce from scratch. While there are some decent jarred pasta sauces out there (Trader Joe's Creamy Tomato Basil, get in my belly!), I think there is something special about a homemade sauce. A few weeks ago, I finally decided to try my hand in this department and came out with a pretty tasty pasta sauce if I do say so myself. Even Ryan liked it and he HATES tomatoes! 


  • 1 box spaghetti
    (I used vermicelli) 
  • 1 large sweet onion, chopped
  • 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. minced garlic
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 tbsp. ground cumin
  • 2 tbsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tbsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp. rosemary
  • 2 (14.5 oz.) cans of diced tomatoes
  • 1 (14.5 oz.) can tomato sauce
  • 2 tbsp. tomato paste
  • ½ cup reduced-sodium beef broth
  • Parmesan Cheese for topping

  1. Cook pasta according to package instructions, reserving 1/2 cup of cooking water before draining. 
  2. Saute the onion in a large skillet (I used the cast iron) over medium-high heat in olive oil. Add garlic to the pan and continue to saute for about 4-5 minutes, or until the onions become translucent. 
  3. Add ground beef to the pot and cook until the meat browns. 
  4. Add all of the spices and stir to combine. Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, and beef broth and simmer for 10 minutes. 
  5. Add the cooked pasta and cooking water, tossing to combine. Let simmer on the stove for a few minutes to thicken the sauce. 
  6. Enjoy! 

So good! Next time I make this sauce, I might try my hand at canning to store some for a later date since this recipe makes a decent amount of sauce! 

I can officially cross #31 off of my 101 in 1001 list!

Happy Bachelorette Monday Night, y'all! 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

America's Weekend-Long Birthday Celebration Schoeff Style

The July 4, 2014 weekend was one of my favorites weekends of the year by far. But then again, any weekend where I'm surrounded by my amazing family from all over the country is bound to be a memorable time. 

Our vacation started at 2:30 on Friday morning since we needed to leave for the airport pretty early! After a full morning of travel, Ryan and I finally touched down in Cincinnati where we were greeted by my parents! We dropped our stuff off at the hotel and headed straight for my favorite restaurant in the whole world (sorry, La Parilla) to meet up with the rest of my big ole family!

Heaven on a plate

Once everyone had sufficiently stuffed their faces with skyline, we all headed back to the house to hang out for the rest of the afternoon before driving into Greendale for the fireworks show later in the evening! Of course we had to play a few card games and some corn hole during this time because let's face it, no Schoeff family reunion would be complete without those two things! Right before the sun set, we all piled into cars and drove down to Greendale Park to claim our spot and watch some celebratory fireworks!

The fireworks show was amazing but our early morning wake-up call was getting to me by this point so we headed back to the hotel shortly after.

Saturday, my parents, Ryan, and I started the day off by getting a workout in at the gym, showering, eating a quick breakfast, and heading straight to Dayton, OH for a family BBQ at my Uncle's house. My cousin, Olivia, and I were one of the first to arrive and went straight for the Margaritas! Clearly, we're not related or anything....

While the whole afternoon was fun, the highlight of the day for me was seeing all nine of the Schoeff brothers and sisters all under one roof, which doesn't happen very often. The family is super spread out (California, Washington, Ohio, Indiana, Minnesota, Michigan, Florida, North Carolina, Georgia, DC, and Boston) so to see everyone come together is always such a blessing.

My dad with all of his brothers and sisters
We also all sat in for a family photo that turned out awesome! If you learn anything about my family from this blog post, I'm sure it is that the Schoeff's love a good photo opportunity. It's not the first and it definitely will not be the last group photo you see from this little trip!

Once pictures were done for a while, we competed in the putting competition on the putting green in their backyard. Par for the entire competition was 18, my dad won with 16, and I fell somewhere in the middle (lower middle...but still) surprisingly with a score of 25!
Around midafternoon, everyone started to get lazy like sweet Ernie here...
So we decided to perk up by walking down the street to a local coffee shop called Saxby's for some coffee! Just like we do at any other place, we took the whole coffee shop by storm.

 Saturday night, since most people were still stuffed from lunch, a small group of us decided to grab some pizza and beer at La Rosa's. I had a blast getting to spend some time in a small group with Evan, Jake, Colee, Ryan, and my dad!

On our last full day in town, the Schoeff family had BIG plans. Around noon, we all showed up at a church in Dover, Indiana for an Andres family reunion. If you thought the Schoeff family was big, we're really just one group from my Grandmother's side of the family. Grandma Evelyn was the youngest of nine brothers and sisters, just like my dad and on Sunday, the descendants from those siblings all gathered for mass and a feast.

The literal family tree
It was SO fun getting to spend some time with family that I had never met before and learn a little bit about my Grandma's history.

Girl Schoeff cousins in attendance with a photo-bombing Evan!
We rounded out the whole vacation with a little trip to my favorite German restaurant, Hofbrauhaus. We were missing a few family members at this point who had to leave to get to work Monday morning (WAH) but this was definitely another highlight of the trip! While there was no chicken-dancing on the tables this time, some liters were consumed and some memories were made.

My youngest cousin, Sam, with his Pepsi-weizen.

This family vacation was definitely one of my favorites. I swear they get better and better each year! I'm so glad Ryan and I could make it work to get out to Indiana this year!
I can officially cross this off family reunion off my 101 in 1001 list! If you want to check my progress, the updated list can be found in the 101 in 1001 tab at the top of this page!
Happy Thursday!