Saturday, November 28, 2009

Wreath Success!

Darren always makes fun of just how much Christmas decorations we have- but the one thing I was missing was a wreath for our front door. But no more. Today, we went to a craft fair in Tampa (Darren would like me to note that he was not going entirely of free will and that he was not the only guy there). Within about 5 minutes, I found this wreath. It might be hard to see, but there are Mickey ornaments all around the wreath. I was super excited about this discovery! We also found a few Florida themed ornaments, like Santa starfish and pufferfish ornaments.

Once we got home, we decorated the apartment and our tree. In our old apartment, we could only have fake trees, but here- we can have live trees! We went to Lowe's the day after Thanksgiving and found a perfect tree. We let the branches settle overnight before we put on the lights and ornaments. Between the two of us, we probably have 2 huge plastic storage containers of ornaments...mostly mine. Not all the ornaments are on this tree, however- we also put up a "pencil tree" in the bedroom with some of my ornaments.

We have most of our gifts wrapped and under the tree. Now- we're all ready for Christmas and family to visit! :)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Quick Update

Dad is here visiting while Mom has her "group" over to the house to scrapbook. While he is here, the three of us volunteered to work the Ragnar Relay- a 201 mile race across Florida (Clearwater to Daytona) last night. Dad and I went to the Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios today. He also brought his computer so we could look at the pictures we took the last of October at the beach- they turned out awesome! Megan comes tomorrow! :)

Monday, November 9, 2009

It's been a long time coming... it's been a while. I've worked at Disney for 4 weeks now, and it's been busy. Like really busy- 3 of my 4 weeks have been 45-50 hour weeks. Our location has been training a lot of new people- mainly College Program and part-time people like me- so now that there are more of us, our hours should even out a little bit.

Despite the long days, I'm enjoying my work. Some days it's hard to get up at 5:00 to drive an hour to even get to work...but I forget all that when I walk on stage and it's only me and a practically empty Epcot- complete with the sunrise over Spaceship Earth. And it doesn't hurt that when Darren and I want to hang out at's free. :)

My parents came to visit for Halloween/my mom's birthday, and it was great to see them. The first weekend they were here, we went to Halloween party at the Magic Kingdom, and Darren, my dad, and I ran in the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 13K. Then Darren went back to our apartment since he had school and did not think a 2 hour drive every morning and night would be fun. I stayed with them during the week since they were super close to the cast parking lot for Epcot and so I could see them more!

It's a really good thing they were here too because apparently I am allergic to something that bit me. All I know is that I was standing at work and my ankle itched so I leaned down to scratch it and discovered that my ankle was completely swollen. I told my manager, and he sent me to first aid the next day. The nurse there thought it was some kind of insect bite and was surprised to learn that I had never had this kind of reaction before. Since my parents were so close, I was able to get a lot of rest and kept ice on my ankle most of the night. It's all better now!

For my two days off, we all came back to Brandon with a full to-do list. We painted our bedroom, visited some scrapbook stores, and took pictures for our Christmas cards. :) Dad will be back to visit next weekend for the Ragnar Relay here in Florida. We're not running, but we're volunteers for a team.

The weather is finally cooling down- we have our windows opened tonight. Our cat is super excited by that and is running to all the open windows and sniffing the air. Also, as a note- the mall here is already decorated for Christmas, and the tree goes up tonight at Epcot.

*starts to sing* It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Look at me! I'm a flippy little dolphin!

Darren and I watched "Finding Nemo" last night and laughed over this dolphin quote. Little did we know that we'd see some dolphins today! We tried to go kayaking last weekend, but I had Traditions on Saturday and the waterfront office isn't open on Sunday. We were able to go this weekend, though!

We wanted to get one of the tandem kayaks, but there wasn't one available when we got to the dock. However, a group was just coming back in and we were able to use theirs. While they were figuring out how to get out of the kayak without flipping overboard, we talked to one of the guys about where to go. He suggested going one way (to the left, if you really want to know) because he had seen some dolphins that way.

Well, we headed out in that direction. Off in the distance, I was able to see little fins in the water. Since I LOVE dolphins, my first thought was 'dolphin' not 'shark.' We stopped the kayak and had at least 3 dolphins around us. They seemed to like swimming towards us and then ducking under the kayak to come up on the other side. About this time, the dolphins were drifting away and behind us- the dolphin sightseeing boat. Never will we pay for one of these tours. We eventually continued on our journey...but we ended up coming back to the dolphin area and hanging out. Which was super cool.

This time, there were about 6 dolphins and they started to play in the waves! Seriously- they were flipping completely out of the water! It was so cool. The whole time they were about 5 feet from the kayak! Even the Coast Guard came out for their patrol and stopped to watch the dolphins. want to see pictures? Um...see there's the problem. We didn't bring the camera. BUT! I have next Saturday off...and we're seriously considering going back and taking some pictures.

Coming Soon: Halloween decorations and painting pictures!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A Dream Come True...

Job searching can be frustrating- especially now that most applications are online. There is basically no way to check the status of your application besides logging in daily to see if anything has changed. I had been searching for any type of job (administrative assistant, chiropractic offices, general retail, etc.) since we moved here and hadn't heard back from anywhere. At the same time, I had been applying to Disney for different corporate and hourly jobs. Finally, last week, I finally received an e-mail (!!) to schedule an appointment for an interview.

My interview was yesterday at 9 am. I went to the Casting Center, which is across the street from Downtown Disney. The building itself is actually pretty cool.

(I didn't actually take this picture- it's not currently under construction or anything) The doorknobs on the front door are designed like the doorknob from Alice in Wonderland.

And once you are inside, there is a ramp up to the check-in area that has painted murals of Disney movies and rides. On the actual website for casting, there were only 3 positions open (Housekeeping, Custodial, and Quick Service Food and Beverage), but when I went to check-in, I was asked what areas I was interested in and was able to add Merchandise and Attractions to my list for consideration. About 9:10, five or six of us were brought into another room and watched a movie on employment at Walt Disney World. Then, we were brought to the computer lab and took an online interview. After a series of events, I met with my recruiter Beth. She asked me basic questions- verifying information and asking why I wanted to work at Disney and asking about my major. Then suddenly, she asked me where I wanted to work! My previous experience with Disney was being randomly assigned to a I was a little shocked just to be asked what I wanted to do.

I asked first for Merchandise, since my emphasis at Belmont was in marketing, but the only location available was at the cast center of merchandise- no guest interaction. Then, she looked at the Food and Beverage locations. They were all resort restaurants, and I decided I wanted to do something different, so finally, we went over the Attractions locations. I will be working at Epcot in Future World West- the Land and Living Seas pavilion, home of one of my favorite rides- Soarin'!

Since we live about an hour away from Orlando, my recruiter got me an appointment that afternoon to do all my paperwork- instead of making an additional trip! I had about 2 hours until that appointment so I went across the street to Downtown Disney and ate lunch while I called Darren, Megan, my parents, my aunt, Jill, and the TCA office to tell them the news!

That afternoon, I went to do all the paperwork and get fingerprinted. I also signed up for my Traditions class- new cast member orientation based on the history of the Disney company. It's an 8 hour class, and I'll be going on Saturday. It starts at 7:30 in the morning, and it will be at Disney University- which is located behind the Magic Kingdom and happens to be practically the farthest thing from I-4. So it will be an early morning. I'll find out about the rest of my schedule after that.

It's only part time work for now, but it's my foot in the door!

Edited to add:

I forgot to mention (or rather, I forgot to upload the picture until JUST NOW) that Darren surprised me with a celebratory ice cream dessert when I got home from Disney. Mmm...chocolate chip cookie dough- my favorite!

Monday, September 14, 2009

My Start in Marine Biology

Mary and I have been in Florida for over a month, and it's about time that I talked about why we came down in the first place. I started graduate school for biological oceanography at the University of South Florida. In other words, marine biology, sans dolphins.

This is the main building of the marine science campus in St. Petersburg. It houses mostly labs, consisting of biological, chemical, physical, and geological focuses. One of the things that make the USF marine science school so successful is its cooperation between subjects and other research institutes in the area, like the Florida Institute of Oceanography (FIO) and Fish and Wildlife Services.

Side Note: An airport is right next to this building, and it's unnerving to be walking down the sidewalk when a plane flies by 10 meters above your head.

Before I get into the nerdy science stuff, first, I have a quick slide show.


Here's a shot of my drive to work. Notice the ocean on both sides. This is a strange experience to see this everyday, especially coming from living in Tennessee all my life. As strange as it is, I can't express how good it feels to be finally be studying my dream. Grad school is worth it just to be able to study exactly what you're passionate about, and its reinvigorates me every time I see this view every morning.


This is the building where my lab is.


Here's a shot from the top floor of the research building. Our school is nestled in a harbor in St. Pete, right next to the US Coast Guard, US Geological Survey, US Wildlife and Fisheries, and a few other oceanography insitutions. Like I said earlier, there's a lot of collaboration between research groups around here. And the coast guard is useful when we fall in the water.


Did I mention there's sailboats? I recently got certified to take these babies out. By the time anyone visits, I'll be certified to take out the larger keel-boats in the background of that picture.
And don't worry, the Coast Guard is close by, so you'll probably be safe.

And now, for the nerdy science stuff. Dont' say I didn't warn you.

Our lab focuses on identifying viruses from different sources, from sea turtles and seawater, to more urban sources. A big problem with identifying microbes (bacteria, viruses, etc) is that to fully identify one, you have to be able to grow it in the lab. Unfortunately, only about 1-10% of the microbial population is able to be grown in the lab.

Let's look at the numbers. It is estimated that there are five million trillion trillion (5x10^30) prokaryotes on earth today. More than 85% of this population is currently ungrowable in the lab, and therefore we know NOTHING about them, and how many there could be. And this is only once branch of the microbial population.

You can see the problem here. Our lab focuses on methods that will be able to indentify viruses without ever having to grow them - to use the actual term, metagenomics. In simple terms, we look at the fingerprints left behind by viruses. While we can't really use this data to figure out EVERYTHING about the little guys, it's a necessary, big step in the right direction.

If you're bored, here's our lab's website. If it's any consolation, I think there's some pictures of sea turtles on there, WHICH WE ARE SAVING. Awesome.

Alright, that's all for now. Thanks for keeping up with us down here, and know that we miss all you guys! Call us sometime! Come visit!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

I think she's trying to tell us something...

I went to find the cat today...and I found her in the second bedroom.
Do you think she's trying to tell us she's cold?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

And now for something completely different!

I couldn't really think of a title for this post since it's going to be completely random! My aunt came and stayed with us last week to help with organizing and the all important scrapbook store search. We went to IKEA (again!) as it was my aunt's first IKEA experience and we wanted to get the glass to protect Darren's desk. After about 3 days in our apartment, it had a fair number of scratches. However. The glass didn't exactly fit in my car...and there were 3 of us. We ended up taking the glass out of the cardboard packaging because it added a couple of inches to the glass that wasn't helping anything. Determined not to make another trip, Darren squeezed into the backseat with the glass. We got several looks as we drove out of the parking lot. My aunt could hardly take the picture from laughing so hard.
We had also purchased some storage for our bathroom the week before. (Thank goodness- can you imagine what the car would have looked like with the glass AND this storage unit?) My aunt helped to put it together while Darren was at USF completing some paperwork.

We decided randomly one night that we would like to paint the bathroom. Right now- it's completely white. White walls, white tile on the floor, white countertops, etc. We thought we would like a brown or a tan since it matches our towels. Ok, so I wanted to match the towels. We went to Lowe's and bought those 8 oz. cans that let you test colors so we could decide what color we liked. And everyone has joked that my cat matches the colors we chose for our bathroom/bedroom, etc, so we had to get a picture of her next to the two choices!
The day before Aunt Carol got here, Darren and I went to get our Florida Drivers License. A process that took 2 and a half hours. While my aunt was here, we went to register my car in Florida only to find out that Florida doesn't know how to read Tennessee forms. Ok, that might be a bit harsh, but seriously- it should not be this hard to change states. The tax collector's office made me fill out a form, fax it to my parents and have them MAIL it back to me to say that they gifted the car to me. In TN, the form says that a parent gave the car to their child. But it's on a yellow piece of paper- maybe that's what confused Florida (their form is white). Either way, I got the form in the MAIL yesterday and went to register my car. 2 hours later (because the fees DOUBLE after September 1st, every one and their brother was there yesterday), I have new car tags. Woo. I opted for the sea turtle license plate.

And last on the update list, Darren started graduate school yesterday at USF. Every year that I can remember, Mom would take my picture on the front porch with my new backpack, new dress, and new lunchbox. So of course, I had to continue on the tradition. Only....we don't have a front porch and it was too early to take the picture outside anyways. So we improvised and took it inside with a bunch of lights on. Then Darren prepared to brave the rumored horrible Tampa traffic. He doesn't know if yesterday (and today) were just unusually light days or what, but traffic was in no way worse than Nashville. Putting that up here...I've probably just jinxed him.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Beach Bums

After a week of organizing and unpacking, we decided to drop everything and head to the beach. We chose to visit Fort DeSoto beach, which is about an hour away. To get there, we had to travel on the 'Sunshine Skyway.'

After hiking to the beach and reserving chairs and an umbrella, we sat and read for hours.

While we read, we heard this rustling sound and couldn't figure out where it was coming from. Then, we noticed the people in front of us had left their lunch in a plastic bag and had gone out to the ocean. While they were gone, a seagull had found the bag, poked a hole through the plastic and was now eating Cheetos. I took a picture before Darren went to chase the bird away...only the bird kept coming back! We finally had to hide the bag under their towels and he still poked around for 5-1o minutes looking for the food!
Around 1, the wind started to pick up and we saw some clouds rolling in.
We packed up and made it to the car before the first drop of rain hit! Perfect timing!

Just as a note, there are two tropical storms in the Atlantic right now- Tropical Storm Ana and Tropical Storm Bill. According to the "Spaghetti String Theory", Bill is supposed to go up the East coast and Ana is going over the Caribbean. Bill might become a hurricane, but Ana is not expected to. Either way, all the Tampa weather forecasters are expecting is a bit more rain. Which, it has stormed every day we've been here. Neither storm is supposed to be anywhere near Florida until next Friday- imagine if the forecasters in Middle TN had a week to discuss the possibility of a tornado.

My aunt comes on Tuesday to help us organize some more. We also need to get Florida licenses and all that other fun legal stuff. :) Miss you guys!

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Grand Tour

*knock knock*

Hello? Oh, it's you! We've been waiting for you all day! Come in, come in. *holds out tray* Hungry? I've baked gingersnaps, just for you.

Here's the living room. Notice the pillows made from our high school marching uniforms. Fortunately, they have been washed before being made into pillows. I have informed Mary that the love seat next to the window is never to be given away - that is my official napping spot.

Did I mention that that Mary and I, as of last February, have been taking care of our baby?

We keep her in the living room, tucked in comfortably against the wall. She is my pride and joy, and I make sure to spend time with her every day.

Here's the dining room. It's really just a corner in our living room, but we are calling it the dining room to sound fancy. We recently discovered that one of the decorative cups on the table was full of salt from the move. And whoever installed that chandelier must be really skilled and good looking (hint: it's me).

This will be the only time in the next 9 months that you will see this desk unattended. I am savoring as much no-school time as I can before I begin at USF on the 24th. We got this desk at Ikea, which, if you've never been, is an amazing and dangerous experience. I would own a full house of Swedish-named furniture if left there unattended.

You have to admit, this kitchen is pretty rad. Mary has kept Disney in business with the kitchen gadgetry. But I saved the best part for last:

I hate a kitchen where you have to pull everything out of the cabinet to get what you need. Our solution: put in a gigantic shelving unit in the storage space next to the kitchen, and - VOILA - easy access to all the stuff you only use occasionally. I know all of these tidbits are immensely exciting to everyone (cough), but a well organized kitchen is the bee's knees.

And this is where you will be staying, in our guest bedroom. It looked really small before we added anything to it, but it ended up being a pretty good size. Just don't open the closet, or else everything will fall out of it like in cartoons.

The final room of our tour is just down the hall, so...... uh oh. I forgot. We need to ask permission first.

This is the cat's room. Access is normally restricted, but since I have a special pass, a.k.a. feeding her every day, I can get us in.

The bedroom is pretty sweet too. Who installed that sweet ceiling fan, did I hear you ask? didn't ask? Well let me tell you anyways. My Dad and I installed that sweet ceiling fan, and I gotta say, it really BLOWS.

...sorry, I had to do it.

Well, that just about wraps up our little tour. The apartment couldn't have turned out any better for us. If any of you need a little beach vacation, know that you're always welcome here. Also, thanks to all the family for helping us get this place set up!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

First Things First...

Darren and I decided we wanted to start a blog to keep everyone informed of our exciting life here in the Tampa area. After trying to come up with a catchy name the entire drive down here, we finally settled on one the first night in the new place. We wanted something that would reflect both of us- Sails refers to Darren's desire to own a sailboat and fairy tales refers to my love for Disney!

My parents and I arrived in Brandon on Monday about 1:00 and unloaded our two cars. Most of our stuff was in the U-Haul with Darren and Steve, who were about an hour behind us. I'm not going to lie- I was disappointed. I was exhausted from traveling for two days with my cat drugged in the backseat and from saying goodbye to all my family and friends. I really wasn't looking forward to unpacking all those boxes, and so when I opened the front door and it wasn't our old apartment in TN- I wanted to cry.

Now- 3 days later when we have all our stuff organized and clean...I'm much happier. The apartment doesn't smell funny to me anymore- it smells like our air freshener. We have cable and internet and phone- so I don't feel disconnected anymore. My cat is waltzing around the place like she owns it already- when at our old apartment, she hid under the bed for the first two weeks!

Steve flew home yesterday and my parents just left to drive back today. Darren is at orientation for his school today- which he isn't that excited for. See, his orientation is at the main Tampa campus, and he will spend most of his time at the St. Petersburg campus. So basically, he is getting to know his way around a campus he will never be on! I am hoping to have a pretty easy day unpacking the few boxes we have left and taking pictures to show everyone what our place looks like! This weekend, Darren and I are dropping everything and taking a trip to the beach- which is like 30-45 minutes away. :-) Next week...I'll be heading to Disney to see if they have any jobs available...fingers crossed!