August 28, 2011

Myers Briggs Personality Types

What Is It?
One of my favorite things to do is analyze personality types. It's so interesting to me that there are different aspects of personality and that each person fits into a basic description of those categories. It's even more intriguing how accurate the descriptions are! The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a test that analyzes which type you are. Myers and Briggs came up with four basic categories containing two options within each, yielding sixteen total personality types. 

Each type consists of four aspects, represented by a letter. You should be able to relate to each of these individually. For example, you are extraverted (E).  Knowing which category a person fits into for each is quite insightful. However, the amazing thing is the personality type that results from the combination of the four letters. There are sixteen separate personality types that describe the overall characteristics of a person with that type. For example, an ESTP is thrill-seeking, lives in the moment, and adventurous.

Whit and I often like to guess what we think people's personality types are. Knowing about each type really helps you know yourself better and understand people who are unlike you. Although every person does not fit their type perfectly, it certainly gives insight into the particular ways a person functions. It's nice to know that while someone does life differently than you, you are both still normal. Knowing the personality types of each member of my team in Venezuela helped us to all understand each other, and thus work better together. It is also an excellent resource to understand your spouse or significant other, as well as family members and friends.

One caveat is that although you were made to be a certain way, that doesn't warrant you permission to be stubborn in your ways. All of us have weaknesses in our personality (sin!) that we need to be aware of and work on to get along with others and glorify God. The MBTI is a great tool to help you find what areas you need to work on, and since there is a lot of research about each type, there are plenty of resources that can help others help you!

How Do I Know What I Am?
Now, here's how you do it! There are many free tests online that come close to finding your type but often fail at being completely accurate, especially if you only take it once. You can buy an official test, but that is expensive. The best way I've come up with is to learn about each type, guess what you are, and then take the test. Compare your results, and look up your answer to learn about that type (or both, if you got a different answer).  

This website is a great resource, but since not everyone wants to read a whole separate article, I will try to briefly help you understand each type (information below is based on that article and personal experience). However, I fully recommend spending some time on that page to really learn about each one and figure out what you are. After going through each letter, you'll have a guess of what your type might be, and at the bottom I'll include a link to a pretty good test you can take. If you already know your type and want to learn what it means, or learn about the other types, skip down to the bottom and check out the website listed there.

Where Do You Get Your Energy? Extraverts (E) vs. Introverts (I)
This category is often mis-interpreted; people think that they have to be super outgoing to be extraverted, or that introverts are boring wallflowers. While that may be true for some people, it's not the defining characteristic of this category. The question you want to answer is where you get your energy from. Are you energized by the outer world of people, activities, and things around you? Or is your mind the primary energy source, your inner world filled with thoughts, imagination, and ideas. 
Real life example: The extravert who is stuck in an office crunching numbers during the day comes home excited to work on a project outdoors or go out with his friends to talk and do more things. The introvert who is around people all day comes home and sits on the couch or closes the door to be alone before sharing the details about his day with his family.

A brief note on preferences:
This may be an easy one for you or you may feel split between the two worlds. For each category, including this first one, you have a dominant side. That's why each of these aspects are called preferences. You probably don't always function this way, but you do generally choose one side over the other. Which one do you do first? Maybe you can be extraverted, but only after many hours of quiet work alone. 
Everyone is born with a set of preferences. You may not have known what you were growing up because you were still under the impression that everyone is supposed to act a certain way (the same!). Take a look back at your life and see what the trends were. If you were mostly one way when you were 12, or when you entered college, that's your preference. 
It is possible to change your behavior, but you can't change your preferences. Even if you forced yourself out of your shell when you started 9th grade, you're still introverted, you are just a more wide-ranged person, and that's a good thing! If you're trying to guess your parents' type, it will probably be more difficult because they've learned how to act in society through their job, parenting, and living life. Or maybe you don't know which one you are because your job or friends have influenced you into being a certain way. Everyone has room to mature and expand their personality, but we still all have basic preferences. Okay, back to the test!

Which fits you better?
Extravert - act-er, big groups, want to be out in the world doing things and being with people
Introvert - thinker, one-on-one or small groups, need time alone

Here's a test you can give yourself (answers below - don't peek until you've done the exercise!! I'm serious!):
(Read first and then do it) Close your eyes for some period of time (less than a minute). Yep, that's the only instruction! Just do it and then check below. It may be fun to check the second hand on your watch and then see how long you had your eyes closed for. Okay, now you can check the answers below!

How Do You Perceive the World? Sensing (S) vs. Intuition (N)
This is how information enters your brain. Do you process all the details and see what's actually there? Or do you look past what's physically there and look beyond at the patterns and possibilities surrounding? Sensing is categorized by the five senses, details what is real, and what is based on information you know from the past. The intuitive brain interprets what's there in terms of overall patterns it fits into, is imaginative, thinks about possibilities beyond the actual facts, and looks into the future.
Real world example: The intuitive spouse excitedly shares an idea for a vacation with her spouse. They will go to Hawaii and experience the real island lifestyle, like on the TV show Lost. Or they could go to Africa and do a safari or take a helicopter ride. The sensing spouse is bogged down by the ideas. "They're never gonna happen!" he thinks. "Do we have enough money? How many vacation days do we have left? Let's look at the facts."

Which fits you better?
Sensing - live in the here and now, common sense, comfortable with familiarity, practical solutions, remember lots of facts (probably a good story-teller), like concrete information
Intuition - dream about the future, create new possibilities and come up with new ideas, like change, memory is made of connections and summaries (it felt this way, it was like this other thing we did), theoretical, okay with ambiguous information

Test yourself - 
Choose a random object in the room (doesn't matter - choose fast!). Now, write down what you see. Okay, check below!

How Do You Make Choices? Thinking (T) vs. Feeling (F)
If the second letter governs how information comes into your brain, the third letter governs what you do with that information when it goes out. For each letter there is a huge difference between how your brain works depending on which preference you have, but this might have the biggest dichotomy between the two letters. Basically, the two options here are if you think about facts or people when you make decisions. That's about it.

Which Fits You Better?
Thinker - objective, logical, look at the facts when making decisions, naturally spot tasks to be accomplished, accept conflict
Feeler - subjective, values, weigh the effects on people when making decisions, sensitive to people, seek consensus, uncomfortable with conflict

Test Yourself -
Answer this question. Imagine you are the coach of a sports team (you choose what sport. if you can't think of any, go with basketball). You find out your team has made it to state championships! Congratulations! You may choose 5 people from your team to go. However, you have 10 people on your team. How do you decide which 5 people to bring?

Which Process Governs Your Relationship with the World Around You? Judging (J) vs. Perceiving (P)
This shows whether your relationship with the outer world is governed by the second letter (sensing/intuition) or third (thinking/feeling). One will be more dominant. The other will govern your inner world. Basically, this shows you whether you generally make decisions (thinking/feeling) or take in information (sensing/intuition). 

Which Fits You Better?
Judging - have a plan, make decisions, follow through to completion, prepared, plan before taking action, work ahead of deadlines, use of routines and schedules to manage and organize life, work first then play
Perceiving - take life as it comes, adaptive, flexible, open-ended, able to change the plan, plan not necessary, spontaneous, multi-task, work well close to deadlines, avoid commitments that get in the way of your spontaneity and that lack variation, work and play throughout the day

Test Yourself - 
You are going on vacation. What does this look like?

What's Your Personality Type?
Now that you have a better understanding of each letter, what are your four preferences? (eg. ENFJ, ISTP)
To be certain of your type, visit the website I previously referenced or take a free online test. Since you already know what they're testing for, keep the eight preferences in mind while answering the questions. I believe this will help you get more accurate results because you will understand what the questions are trying to ask you instead of answering them with no context (I am an N ;)). 
The next step is to read about your type. The description should be extremely accurate. If it isn't, you might want to re-check your type. The description won't be completely accurate, and it might be more extreme than you actually are, but it should give you a very close description of yourself. Everyone fits into one of the sixteen types! If you don't agree with your type, you might have chosen answers wrong because you didn't understand the questions quite well enough. 
Finally, once you are sure of your type, re-read the description and find other resources that will help you understand your strengths and weaknesses so you can work on those, and so that others (spouse, co-workers, friends) can understand you better.

What is your type???
Leave a comment letting me know what you are! I'm an INTP.

Test Answers!
First Test (E/I): How did you feel? What did you think about? How long were your eyes closed?
Extraverts - felt pressured/constrained, mind racing, could only think about the challenge, wanted to talk or do something, you probably couldn't keep your eyes closed for long! (maybe 5-15 seconds)
Introverts - felt relaxed, like a pressure was taken off you so you could enter into your inner world and just think, thought about other things or ideas, maybe you kept your eyes closed longer (30 seconds)

Second Test (S/N): What did you write down? 
Sensing - you wrote down facts about the object using your five senses (big, blue, covered in fabric, has a quilt on it, two arms, old, 4 feet tall)
Intuition - you wrote down what it reminded you of or connected it to other things (comfy, grandpa, love, soft, cozy, make phone calls from there)
Two totally different descriptions of the same chair! Crazy how different we perceive things! This is the biggest killer for communication, in my opinion. It is also the most common area of difference between married couples, or so I have observed. How unfortunate! We're already starting out perceiving the world completely differently! What effect will that have on communication?? It helps tremendously if you learn how the other person interprets the words you're saying.

Third Test (T/F): How did you decide?
Thinker - you picked the best 5 people, duh. maybe you came up with a test to determine who the best 5 were, and you picked the 5 people with the best scores
Feeler - you thought about how it would affect the players. it was probably tough for you to decide because you wanted to be able to bring all 5 players. you didn't want to hurt any feelings. maybe you came up with some system to figure out who wanted to go the most, and you would take those 5 people. you may not have even come up with an answer!

Fourth Test (J/P): What was your plan? What would happen if it didn't work out?
Judging - you came up with a plan with details. you might have specified a date and length of time you'd be gone, determined where you'd be going and who would go with you, figured out what you would do while you're there. maybe you didn't come up with a plan because you don't want to have a plan because your normal life is too structured. if your plans got changed on vacation you would be thrown off and wouldn't be able to relax
Perceiving - you might not have come up with a plan. you would be open to changing the variables (what you're doing, when you're going, where you're going). maybe you came up with a plan, but on the actual vacation you wouldn't be upset if you didn't get to do everything you had planned; if you saw something better while you were there or something didn't work out you'd be willing to do that instead

August 26, 2011

Movie Review: The Adjustment Bureau

A few nights ago Whit and I rented the Adjustment Bureau. I have not been thrilled with the selection at Redbox recently, and was so pleased to discover that the Blockbuster machine had many more (and better) options than I'd been seeing lately (I'm SO over crappy chick flicks - Just Go With It, Life As We Know It, Love & Other Drugs). I remembered that there was an interesting Matt Damon movie out, but every time I go to rent a movie the only one available is Hereafter, which looks incredibly creepy. (Which brings me to my hate of movie rental strategies these days. If the only place you can rent movies is a machine, you need to offer more than 5 good recent movies, 30 terrible movies, and 5 good old movies. I miss movie rental stores!!!) As soon as we saw the Adjustment Bureau we decided to rent it. It was especially exciting because neither of us remembered the plot, but we did know we wanted to see it. 
 Here are my thoughts about the movie, which I thoroughly enjoyed and thought was great.
-The characters are relate-able and draw you in. I liked the main character and wanted to see him succeed.
-The movie has an excellent balance of sci-fi and love story. I absolutely love sci-fi movies but I just can't let myself watch them, because I freak myself out thinking that they're real afterwards. It's quite unfortunate because they're honestly my favorite movies to watch. Anyways, the Adjustment Bureau is intriguing but not scary; it makes your mind think but doesn't cause your imagination to run wild after its over. I constantly wanted to know what was happening and why and how everything would fit together.

-I loved watching the movie, but there wasn't anything so great about it that I'd want to watch it again in the near future. It might be boring to watch again unless it's been so long that you've forgotten what it's about. The intriguing thing about the movie is that you don't know what's coming up or what's happening, not interesting characters or dialogue that would drive you to watch the movie again and again.

The ending was completely satisfying. I thought at first that they were trying to make a point about pantheism, but after I thought about it I did really like the ending. 

Overall, it was an excellent rental. Not the next classic, but absolutely worth setting aside a Wednesday night for.

Various Interesting Things

Today was quite an eventful day. Several strange things have happened that I would like to share.

1. Almost Passing Out
First, I was weeding the garden, being put to work like a true Jackson family member. I've never been one to do many chores, much like yard work, so it already a bit of a stretch out my comfort zone (before knowing where I'd be weeding, I asked Whit to show me what I would need to pull because I didn't know if there would be many small green plants that I didn't know if they were weeds or not. It ended up just being bushes, so Whit took me outside and pointed to them saying " NOT a weed, a weed." Haha very funny). I did take a break in the middle after seeing an inch-long brown spider - yuck. I came inside after finding what I thought were a couple of buried eggs. After poking them around, Whit decided they were a fungus and said not to worry about them. Umm, why do I not worry about them?? It's a FUNGUS! It was extremely humid today and I got pretty light-headed every time I would stand up to toss the weeds aside. I didn't think too much of it because I black out not too infrequently. However, I stood up and felt like I might pass out so I reached my hand out to a tree and then my whole body went tingly. After that I recovered inside by eating lunch, watching the office, and drinking 4 or 5 glasses of water to re-hydrate.

2. Sandy Clothes
Next, I went to get my laundry out of the washer. The Jacksons have well water and every so often they have to add neutralizer to it to balance the pH. This produces a grainy sand in the water for the first 24 hours. They did this last week; they ran the laundry a few times to get rid of the sand and we didn't drink water out of the tap all day. Well, the past couple of days I've thought the water out of the sink tasted strange in our bathroom. Today, the sand substance came out again a couple of times while I was washing my hands! It should have been gone since last Sunday. Well, when I went to get my laundry out of the wash, I picked up one thing, a pair of shorts, and it was covered in sand! I described it to Whit as being "10% covered in sand." The rest of my clothes were just as bad. It was about as bad as if you had taken all my stuff into the ocean and then dropped it in the sand. I didn't know what to do so I put my clothes in the dryer hoping it would get rid of the sand. We'll see what happens.  

3. Stafford & Kerry's Rehearsal
This isn't very strange, but it was another eventful part of the day! Their rehearsal dinner was great, they had a ton of friends and family there and tons of people gave toasts. It was really neat to see the impact that Stafford and Kerry have had on other people's lives. They have some really great friends and it's really cool to see how God has blessed them in that way since they are also very loyal to their friends. One thing that was interesting though, was that all of their sisters (4; 2 on each side) put on kind of a show for them. They made up a song and sang it, had a game for them and their dads, and then said something sweet at the end. It was awesome. 

4. Weird Throat Thing
My throat hurts, which I think is kind of weird, but I'm not going to go into detail about that, though it has been a strange part of my day.

5. Driving Without Headlights
I drove the entire way on 295 from Short Pump to the 95 exit with no headlights. A couple of people flashed their lights at me but I thought it was for other reasons (like merging or just being creepy). Then I got on the exit where not as many cars were and thought, hey it's pretty dark - oh my gosh! Apparently Whit did the same thing the other night. Sneaky Lexus!! 

Hopefully tomorrow is more normal. Though it will probably still be eventful due to the hurricane and the Craymer wedding!

August 24, 2011

The Islands of the Caribbean: Part II

To continue on with my Caribbean island overview, here are a few more highlights for you to swoon over.

British Virgin Islands
Like the US Virgin Islands, the British counterpart is a tropical dream. Small islands, the mountains juxtaposed against the beaches, with shops and restaurants interwoven. The difference is pretty much only found in the price tag. To experience the luxury of the BVI, you will pay what paradise is worth. There are definitely some villas and hotels with comparable prices to the USVI, but most are a bit pricier. This is obviously due to the strength of the euro compared to the dollar. Keep in mind that this price increase is not only reflected in accommodations, but dining as well. If you do decide that BVI is where it's at, you should take advantage of a trademark luxury: sailing. Hire a boat or a yacht to experience the best island-hopping around. Best for: travelers with a larger budget (or groups can go in on a villa together), sailing. Not for: people who haven't been dreaming of a tropical paradise. Typical accommodations: resorts, villas, inns.
Tortola Harbor

Speaking of sailing, you've come to the right place; a yacht might be the perfect symbol for Anguilla. Another more luxurious island, on Anguilla you will find high-end beaches and slow-paced activities. Antigua isn't as much of a party town as it is a place to get away from the fast-paced western world, nor will you be bothered by kids running around everywhere. Melt away in the breeze off-shore, try your luck on a fishing escapade, or simply let everything go amidst the white sand and turquoise waters. If you're looking for quiet luxury without burdening your wallet, Anguilla is calling your name (I found one hotel with rates that start at $80 per night!). Best for: those in need of a get-away-from-it-all vacation. Not so much for: families or partiers. Typical accommodations: hotels (villas are very expensive)
Dominica is the capital of nature travel in the Caribbean. Full of adventure and eco friendly, Dominica is for those who love the earth. Dreaming of lush forests with waterfalls tucked in? Pack your hiking shoes. Maybe what's below the surface is more your style? Jump in for great snorkeling and diving. Or maybe you don't care what you do, you just want to explore! While exploring the mountainous terrain, you might run into some of the only indigenous people groups left in the Caribbean. A trip to Dominica is for more low key travelers. The island is not very commercialized, and the rates are cheap. However, if your main goal is to find a good beach with a good price, you should probably choose a different island. Leave this unspoiled land to those who want to truly discover it. Best for: nature-lovers, adventure-seekers. Not for: those afraid of bugs, those wanting a lie-on-the-beach-all-day vacation. Typical accommodations: hotels, inns, eco-friendly

St. Lucia
If all that thought of lush forests perked your attention, but you were hoping for a more romantic getaway or just a more traveled-to destination, you might have just found your winner. St. Lucia is famous for its beautiful mountain peaks, the Pitons. A rustic yet refined island, St. Lucia is unlike many of its Caribbean neighbors. It looks like it belongs more in the Pacific ocean than the Caribbean Sea. You can take advantage of the beautiful hiking and adventure tourism (such as jeep tours and zip line rides) or you can enjoy the foliage by escaping to your private retreat up in the mountains. The beaches are beautiful and quiet, but you'll find yellow sand and blue water, rather than the typical bright turquoise waters and white sand characteristic of other Caribbean islands. Best for: romantic retreats, upscale adventures. Not for: those seeking typical Caribbean beaches. Typical accommodations: Resorts, luxury villas

I wasn't originally planning on including Grenada in this Caribbean island synopsis, but once I looked it up and saw how wonderfully affordable it is, I decided I'd let you in on this little secret of an island. If you hadn't noticed, we've been moving around the sea clockwise, starting from the north. Grenada is at the southeast corner of the Caribbean, 100 miles off the coast of Venezuela. Much like Dominica, this island is mountainous, eco-friendly and not very developed. A vacation in Grenada isn't going to be overly luxurious, but it is a great find for a trip with a low budget. With scenes reminiscent of St. John and waterfalls plentiful as Dominica, you could have a great Caribbean vacation for about one-fourth the price of most other popular islands. Best for: low budget travel, culture seekers. Not for: ideals of perfect beaches or modern infrastructure. Typical accommodations: hotels, inns, eco-friendly

Hope you enjoy these islands as much as I do! Part 3 coming sometime in the near future!

August 22, 2011


I'm halfway through writing a post about Myers Briggs personality types. I'm pretty psyched about it, but I'm too P (can't get through stuff!'ll see). I figured I would refresh myself by writing a post about something that's been on my mind this weekend - finances! Yes, that is a positive exclamation point. There are many reasons to be excited about finances if you manage your money wisely.

I want to say something about this because I know a majority of you readers are around my age. I read Dave Ramsey's book Financial Peace Revisited this weekend. The most attention-grabbing thing I learned is how few people manage their money wisely, or start managing their money at all while they're still young. You might wonder why it's important to start thinking about your budget, savings, retirement now. You're young, you just got a job, you just got married. Well, since that's where you are, let me introduce you to your new best friend - compound interest! 

Because you're young, now is the perfect time to start saving. For example, Johnny invests $2000 per year for 8 years starting when he is 19 years old. Susie waits until she is 27 and invests the same $2000 per year, but for 32 years. Both have a 12% interest rate, and both save until they are 65. Who do you think has more money? Susie comes out with $1,532,166 - pretty good, huh? Well, little Johnny is sitting on $2,288,996. Susie has nowhere near as much as Johnny! 

Now, this isn't to depress you if you haven't started saving, it's just to encourage you to start now, however old you are! Particularly, if you have a retirement account, FUND IT!! Only one-fourth of people do. Good luck having retirement savings if you're not putting any money towards it! Again, you might think, hey I'm only 23, it's too early to think about retirement. Look back at that compound interest example my friend, now is the time to start.

Another key important factor that any financial adviser would give is to get out of debt. The sooner you pay off those student loans, the more you can start saving. The Dave Ramsey book was pretty good, but very opinionated and a little more secular. An excellent book on budgeting is the Crown Financial Ministries book, Your Money Counts. It is soaked with Biblical principles and overflowing with scripture. It's incredibly simple and easy to understand, especially if you know nothing about finances! Both books have excellent debt reduction plans.

Just wanted to be an encouragement and share what I learned since most of us recent college grads are kind of oblivious to this big world around us. Before you do anything, read one of those books (I am not a professional! Don't take my advice...figure it out for yourself). If anyone older and wiser out there has any wisdom to share, feel free! :)

August 19, 2011


Tonight I made this glow jar:

I had seen the idea on pinterest, and since Whit is out of town I figured it would be a fun photography experiment.

I also tried photographing fireflies, but that one didn't work out so much. I caught about 8 flies and they never lit up once I had them in the jar ready to photograph! Dang bugs.

Here are some more shots of the glow stick jar. I can never decide on just one favorite.
Hope you are having a great summer!

August 17, 2011

Furry Little Friend

Whit came in from mowing the lawn and yelled up at me, "Sydni, you need to come downstairs immediately." I was hoping that he hadn't accidentally chopped off his foot in the lawnmower. I arrived at the back door and informed me, "I have the cutest thing you've probably ever seen." Then he reaches in his pocket and fumbles around while I'm thinking he's getting out a piece of paper or flashlight or something and is then going to lead me over to find this cute thing. Nope - he pulls a little creature out of his pocket and sets it on the ground! Is it a mouse? A baby squirrel? No - a baby BUNNY!! AAAAH!!! 
 I asked him how he found it (by the bushes trying to escape the lawnmower) and how he caught it (it was hopping very slowly!) and asked him to get a dishtowel so I could pick it up. He brought me one, told me to have fun playing with it, and instructed me to not let the cat get it (who was already fairly interested). Wanting to play with it but not let it escape from the porch, I put it in the dishtowel (it burrowed in quickly) and put it in a larger plastic bowl and took it upstairs with me while I got an empty box to put it in. 
snuggling up
hello! (he was so scared)
Add caption
He then became so snuggled in and finally calm that he just rested from all the chaos. I took him outside to put him back where Whit found him, and he was so calm! He just sat there forever while I took picture after picture of him. It was great practice for using manual focus! 
Sleepy little guy
So cute I could die!!
Don't you just want to eat him up??
I finally decided it was time to leave him in his natural habitat, though I feared he would get eaten up by a predator because of how slow he was! I set him down and he didn't try to move at all. Eventually Whit's mom drove up and we put him in some nearby bushes. I took him out of the towel and set him down and he sat there for a minute and then started walking back towards me!! Ohhhh I wanted to keep him soooo badly!! He eventually turned the other direction and we figured he would be safe and hopefully find his momma soon!

August 16, 2011

Sweet Surprise

A sneak peek of what's coming later tonight! :)

August 10, 2011

The Islands of the Caribbean: Part I

"Aruba, Jamaica, ooh I wanna take ya. Bermuda, Bahama, come on pretty mama." Have you ever wondered what the difference between all those islands is?? Aren't they all the same? If you're planning a trip to the Caribbean, you're probably trying to decide which island to go to. Which island you choose will determine the tone of your vacation - will it be tropical? hot? rainy? adventurous? low-maintenance? expensive? The 30+ countries of the Caribbean are each fit with their own unique style and attributes. There's two ways to plan your vacation - based on the island or the criteria of where you want to stay. If you don't know much about the islands, you will probably base your decision on the latter. The hospitable Caribbean can put you up in a variety of locations that range from eco-tents to inns and hotels to resorts and all-inclusives to private villas. Knowing where you want to stay, what you want to do on your vacation, and your price range will help you narrow it down to the island you'll make your journey to.

Here's a highlight of some of the Caribbean islands. Read the descriptions and decide which one you want to visit based on what you want your experience to be like. If you're planning to travel in the future, use this as a guide to narrow down your choices to an island or two, and from there research the best hotels or villas on that island.

This quaint island is historic and quiet. Known for its pink sand beaches, it also has lovely cliffs overlooking some of the sandy beaches. You can quickly jet from beach to town to beach on this small island. English-speaking, not too expensive, and close to home make this a winner for a quick, easy island vacation (warning - it may be closer to home, but the weather might not be as warm in the winter as these other options). Best for: romantic trips or for those who want to explore the town and experience the history and culture there. Not for: those who want high temperatures in the winter. Typical accommodations: hotels

President Obama recently okay-ed trips to Cuba. The only problem is, you can't just go to Cuba just for fun. However, depending on your reasons, like if you're traveling with a tour group, you might get to experience this country that few Americans have stepped foot on in the past few decades. Cuba is rich in Hispanic culture. If you're into economics or the environment, look into visiting here. When Cuba lost a lot of its trade partners, the people had to rely on themselves, and a lot of residents started their own tiny gardens within the city in order to get by. Best for: those studying culture, history, and Spanish-speakers. Not for: people without a legitimate reason to be there.

Beaches, beaches, and more beaches. The Bahamas are an archipelago of never-ending blue seas to explore. This country is perfect if you have a wet appetite for adventure. Make friends with some locals and you'll find yourself on a fishing boat on one island one day and jumping off a cliff on another island the next day. On the other hand, the Bahamas are also an excellent place for families or couples. If you have one chance to get the all-around Caribbean experience, the Bahamas would be a good choice with its many large white sand beaches and pool-temperature water. Beware - the beaches are not always the quietest; you may frequently get pestered to give into a jet ski ride, a mixed drink, or getting your hair braided. Best for: beach lovers and snorkelers. Typical accommodations: hotels and resorts (in a price range that pleases everyone)
Exuma Cays

Mountains, meet the beach. Jamaica's largest export is coffee (grown in the mountains), and as soon as you get there you are immersed in a wonderful mixture of tropical foliage. But don't forget the reason you came: the beach (perhaps the 7 Mile Beach). If you have money to spare and energy to spend, Jamaica is well-equipped to meet your needs with a waterfall hike, zip-line ride, or snorkel trip. You could easily spend a morning in the jungle and the afternoon at one of the large beaches. But don't expend too much energy; the locals will expect you to come to Jamaica with a laid-back, "no problem, mon" attitude. Best for: honeymoons and those seeking a chill, but fun-filled trip. Not for: type-A personalities (you might freak out when your bus driver doesn't get you to the airport on time). Typical accommodations: all-inclusives, hotels, and villas (all very affordable)

Dominican Republic
Also mountainous, the Dominican Republic feels very Caribbean. However, this island is less developed, and most people speak Spanish, not English. Unlike Jamaica, the areas that Americans typically visit are concentrated (Punta Cana and Puerto Plata). The type of vacation that reigns in the Dominican Republic are all-inclusive stays. All-inclusives here are probably the cheapest you'll find in the Caribbean. However, you probably won't be out exploring local towns because they're a bit shadier and more run down than on other islands, and the beaches here are among the more crowded. Best for: all-inclusive stays (honeymoons) or more adventurous Spanish-speakers. Not for: those seeking a quieter country where they can explore local shops and restaurants. Typical accommodations: all-inclusives
Punta Cana

US Virgin Islands
The epitome of tropical paradise. The islands are small, and so are the accommodations. Because of that, you won't see big resorts or all-inclusives, but you will have the opportunity to snuggle into one of the island's hidden gems. You might stay on a hilltop overlooking the islands, or you could spend your week on a private oceanfront hideaway. If you don't limit yourself to the most populated beaches and harbors, you can find unspoiled private beaches hidden away around every corner, with white sand and bright water teeming with colorful varieties of fish. Wherever you stay, you will probably want to rent a car so you can see and taste as much of the island as possible. Jump right in and experience the local island life - there's no worry of a language barrier since this is US territory! Best for: snorkelers, shoppers, and natural explorers. Not for: those who want to go to a big resort and lay on the same spot on the same beach all week. Typical accommodations: villas and inns
St. John
That's enough for now, I'll post a follow-up with some more islands for you to dig into!

(Note: I haven't visited all of these islands personally, so feel free to leave feedback if you think I've wrongly categorized an island you've visited!)

August 9, 2011


To celebrate my 23rd, the Goulds ate lunch at the Cheesecake Factory in Inner Harbor (though we didn't realize it was my birthday lunch until we got there and decided we wouldn't get to go out again for my actual birthday). As it so happened, it was National Cheesecake Day (silly holiday, but works for me), so everyone got their cheesecake for half price. My birthday cheesecake didn't end up being free (the guy working was new so I don't think he really understood the system yet), but I tried something different - chocolate coconut creme - and I'm so glad I did because it was delicious!

Evan and Courtney had been married for a month, and Whit and I had just gotten back from Colorado, so it was the first time all of us got to hang out as a family. It was so fun! It's different having another girl around but I like it and I'm glad Evan gets to be with her. :)
all the Goulds :)
For my actual birthday, Whit took me to Kings Dominion, one of my favorite places!
I know a lot of people don't like KD, but I love it because of all the memories it holds. My family used to get season passes, and when I was older I got to spend a lot of time there with friends. One summer my brother worked there and my cousin Jef came up to visit for 2 weeks, so we both got season passes and hung out there like every day. I am getting better, but I used to randomly think about Kings Dominion in like March and then not be able to stop day dreaming about going until the summer. It's so fun! It also makes the smell of hot asphalt and smoking more appealing, hahah.
us at the Dominator
Kings Dominion has new ownership now and besides the two new roller coasters, it's pretty lame now. They had to change a lot of the names of rides that were copyrighted by Paramount (like the Tomb Raider and the Italian Job), and the park overall just doesn't really have a theme. (Seriously, one cardboard cutout of Charlie Brown and Snoopy cups is not a theme.) The new coasters are really good though - I can definitely tell a difference between them and the other ones. Whit loves them (he is a theme park connoisseur) so now he enjoys going to Kings Dominion a little more than he used to.
waiting in line for the Volcano
One of my favorite rides is the Volcano. Unfortunately it breaks down a lot, and we waited for about half an hour before having to leave. My absolute fave is the Anaconda. It's so perfectly succinct - hill, picture, loop, another loop, hill, corkscrew, another corkscrew. I always wait until the very end of the night to ride it because no one is ever in line then. We jumped in one of the back rows and never got up for four straight rides. I wanted to see how long we could stay without getting up, but all the jerking from sitting in the back was getting to Whit's head.
The other new ride is the Intimidator. Its name accomplishes its purpose, don't you think? It's significantly higher than any other coaster in the park at 305 feet, and rivals the height of the Drop Zone (where you fall 272 feet straight down). It's the tallest roller coaster Whit had ever ridden, and he's been to a lot of theme parks. The lift hill is that 45 degree angle you see going from left to right, leading into the 85 degree angle drop. The lift hill is SO fast. You hit the top faster than you do going up the lift hill on that wooden roller coaster you see below that's one-third the height (the Rebel Yell). Whit and I played a lot of Roller Coaster Tycoon this summer, and the ratings on this thing would be off the charts. It's so intense. It's made to be a tribute to Dale Earnhardt which is very fitting. There's a picture showing the ride and it only consists of high speed turns and hills where you're getting air time. I don't think it's good for your body; like, I wouldn't ride it more than two or three times a month because it whips you around so much. Most people black out around the first turn (it's immediately after the 305 foot drop and it curves upwards). I normally black out on rides, but I did a lot better this trip because Whit taught me to tense my muscles instead of relaxing on loops and helixes. However, the first time I rode the Intimidator I was not thinking about tensing up. I pretty much started crying on the lift hill when I felt how steep it was and then looked around and we were way above the tops of the trees when we were only about halfway up, so I blacked out for like 5 seconds going around the hill, and the rest of the ride was so intense I was just trying to keep it together. When we got off I said I wouldn't ride it again until next year, but after we walked around a little I was just so pumped up I had to ride it again! It created so much energy and intensity like when you just need to go for a run. After that ride though we had to recover so we rode the ferris wheel.
I also had a little party for my birthday so I could make cupcakes, go to Casa Grande with people, and play games. We played Pit (always a winner) and Boxers & Briefs. Thanks so much for wishing me a great day and/or hanging out with me! I had a great birthday this year! :)

August 3, 2011


Let's be real. Planning the honeymoon is just as exciting as planning your wedding. There are about 324123513 less details that go into planning it, but it's way more fun to dream about. At least for me it was, maybe I'm the only one! If you're like I was, you've been dreaming about your honeymoon. And it's dreamy. Your first vacation alone with your love, a chance to relax, a beautiful location, travel, and you probably get to splurge more than you would on a typical vacation. So if you're planning your honeymoon, here are some things to consider, as well as some ideas. If you've already been on your honeymoon or it's a long way off, hopefully you can glean a bit from these tips as well. I'm not an expert since honeymoons only happen once, but I love researching so I had been planning mine for awhile! Another thing - don't plan this without your man!! He's gonna be there too, so make sure he wants to go on this trip as well!

Our Honeymoon at Sandals Grande Ocho Rios
 First Thing To Think About: What Kind of Honeymoon Do We Want? 
Are you beach lovers? I think this is obvious - look for something at the beach!
Adventurers? Stay at a dive resort, in the mountains, or somewhere that includes discounts or trips to the places you'll be going.
Travelers? You might get restless staying in one place for a whole week! Set up a backpacking tour around Europe or go island-hopping in the Caribbean.
Romantics? You are the ones who are okay with not going somewhere fancy, and just hole-ing up in a cabin somewhere far away from everything. 
Big eaters? Your number one priority here is all-inclusive, friend.
Lazy bums? Maybe a trip to the local beach or just staying at home is more your style.
A little mix of all of the above? Go on a cruise!

Second Thing To Think About: How Much Can We Spend & How Long Will We Be Gone?
Should be an easier question to answer. You need to determine your budget before you start looking at options. Now that you know what type of trip you want to take and after you decide how much you can spend, you can decide where to go, what to do, and where to stay. When thinking about a budget, one option could be to budget it into your wedding costs. If you go under in other categories that you're less concerned about (like programs or favors), you could move some funds into the honeymoon category. Just make sure to spend the right amount on everything else (cutting back where necessary) once you budget it in. One other thing to keep in mind as you plan is where you will spend your first night after the wedding. Make sure you include that in your budget! In regards to the length of the trip, look at your vacation days. If you're going far off, staying two weeks is probably a better idea to get your money's worth and be able to feel relaxed. If you will be moving into your new place and your job allows move-in days, you could potentially use those to stay an extra day or two; on the other hand, it might force you to come back a day early so you can move in if you don't get any extra days off.

Third Thing To Think About: How Far Do We Want To Go?
No, I'm not talking about what will be going on in your honeymoon suite. I'm talking about the distance you're willing to travel to get to your destination. Basically no matter what you're looking for, you can find it at various levels:
Close by - Not willing to travel? Don't have a lot of time? Not too much cash? Find something in your hometown! Every town has its attractions - theme parks, hiking, restaurant-surfing, cute old inns, historical sites. Look a little closer at your hometown (or your wedding location) - it might have something interesting you never knew about before!
Within driving distance - You want to get there quickly, would rather spend your money on the trip than the travel, and maybe you're afraid of flying. Check out interest sites within 3-4 hours. You probably don't want to be trapped in a car for the whole first day of your marriage, but there's nothing cool within 2 hours. Go somewhere you've never been before, or if you go someplace familiar, stay in a different section of town. You may want to double check with your hotel to see what time you can check-in. It's nice to put your bags down early if you get there faster than expected.
Road trip - You love being together, you're not a type-A (okay with detours and spontaneity), and you care more about the experience than the product. Get a few ideas, look at a map, and figure out what you can squeeze in. Keep in mind - more isn't always better. You WILL want some time to rest, and having a schedule with more than one thing to do every day might stress you out, especially if there's construction on the roads.
Flight - You like traveling, the easier the better, and your dream location is further than a few hours. Don't rule this one out if you're going by price. Some airlines don't charge for luggage (especially if you can pack light) and if you're not set on one particular destination, just go with the cheapest option out of the ones you're looking at. Keep in mind that weddings are exhausting. Try to get a flight as late as possible while still arriving to your destination in a timely manner. It could be worth it to pay for a non-stop flight so there's nothing to worry about. If you've never flown before, or aren't familiar with your airport, make sure you get there about 2 hours early. Check-in and security lines can be long. You need to be checked-in an hour before your flight and at your gate 30 minutes before your boarding time. Pack light, and make sure your liquids are 3 ounces or less if they're going in your carry-on!
Out of the country - You've flown out of the country before, you have money and patience, and the US just doesn't cut it for you. Now, the sky's the limit! Be prepared to be at the airport at least 2 hours before your departure, take extra money for unforeseen country taxes, make sure you'll have the right currency (bring cash and a credit card), check into the country's visa/travel policy, and remember your passport! If you don't have a current passport, start the process six months in advance or more. It's ridiculous, but you don't want to chance it. If your travel is going to take more than a few hours, consider spending the night at the place of layover and make that a trip in itself, that way you can sleep in the morning after your wedding and not be so rushed to get to the airport.

Fourth Thing to Think About: What Do We Value?
By now you should have a good idea of what you're looking for - the theme of your trip (beach, hiking, touring), your price range, your travel dates, and the range you're willing to travel. To start narrowing down your options you need to have a good idea of what is important to you on your trip. Decide what you must have, what you would like to have, and what is less important. Look through your options and see what fits best for your price range. Don't forget to make sure they're available on the dates you're going - you can't really change that! What to look for:
Location - Are you willing to fork out big bucks to be right on the beach or in the middle of the city? Would you rather stay further away? Will you need a rental car?
Amenities - Do they offer a free shuttle from the airport? Will you have to pay $5 per megabyte if you want to check the internet on your smart phone? Continental breakfast? Free rental bikes?
All-inclusive or not - Some hotels claim to be all-inclusive, but you end up paying for drinks, etc. Or worse - there's only one restaurant you can eat at!
Quality of the hotel/villa - Do you want a room that looks like it belongs to a princess or are you just looking for a comfortable place to lay your head at night? Since it is your honeymoon, you might want this to be a higher priority than just any ol' vacation.
Pool/Hot Tub - Necessary or nay? If you're looking for a villa with a private pool all to yourself, double check on this. A lot of listings say they have a private pool, but when you read further you find out that it's actually shared with another property. 
Ratings - Check out what other people have to say. Sometimes reviews are helpful, but don't let them sway you too much - a lot of times people only write reviews when they're angry.

This hopefully provided some background to your research. It can be overwhelming to think of tons of options and try to narrow it down. Make sure you get something you want but have fun in the process. And don't forget to plan with hubby-to-be!

Coming up: all about the Caribbean - differences between the islands and how to decide where & what kind of place to stay