October Foodie PenPal Reveal

Yay!  Time for my second Foodie Penpal reveal!  I’m not sure what part of the Foodie Penpal exchange I like better…..receiving a box of mystery goodies from someone or putting a box together myself to send to my partner.  It’s a pretty close tie, but I really like putting a box of goodies together and then hearing back about how much they liked everything.  Gives you that warm fuzzy feeling! 🙂

The day I came home from work and found my Foodie Penpal package on my doorstep, I ran inside and opened it up within about 30 seconds I was so excited….yeah, it doesn’t take much!  Just send me mail and I’m thrilled! My Foodie Penpal that sent me a package was Lisa who’s blog is Lisa’s World of Books if you’d like to stop over and check it out!  Lisa lives all the way up in Michigan & sent me a bunch of goodies!

Look at all that loot!  Nom, Nom, Nom!

These fruit strips from Stretch Island Fruit Co. were my favorite!  I used to get them when I lived in the Chicago suburbs.  They are a super healthy snack and count towards your fruit servings for the day!

Next up is a bar of dark chocolate.  Dark chocolate is my favorite, but I can’t eat it once it’s over 70% cocoa…just too bitter for me, but I’ve got a co-worker that will thank you!  I also love that this particular brand of chocolate donates 10% of the price of the bar towards saving endangered species.

Now, Larabars…I was familiar with, as I get them a lot, but I have never seen the Uber Larabar & let me tell you….it was DELICIOUS!  I love everything apple flavored and this did not disappoint!  As for the Perfectly Simple bar…I had never heard of these before and I was curious since it was toasted coconut, which I love!  I was expecting a chocolate covered coconut concoction, but there was no chocolate, which was nice for a change!  Especially since I grabbed this for breakfast one morning and I just can’t do super sweet stuff in the mornings and this was perfect!

I’m a peanut butter nut!  I’ve tried both of these before & they are so yummy!  These went perfectly with my…..

delicious Michigan apple!  One thing I miss about living in the midwest is getting to go to the apple orchards in the fall.  I don’t think they have them here in Florida.  So this was a real treat!

The last two items here are both Michigan made products, so I had never had either.  When Lisa e-mailed me and asked what I liked, I told her I like to eat healthy, but I’m open to anything.  So, to go towards healthy, she found these chips with no salt.  I tried them & have come to the conclusion that chips just aren’t the same without any salt.  As for the Faygo soda….did you notice the flavor written on the bottle?  Yes…it says CHOCOLATE CREAM PIE!  I didn’t know what to think when I seen this, as I had never heard of chocolate soda.  So I popped it in the fridge to get cold and had it a few days later when i was craving chocolate & it was one of the most odd, yet delicious things I’ve ever had.  I wouldn’t be opposed to trying it again!

Well, that about wraps up my reveal for October!  I sent my package to Erica, a fellow Floridian.  You can visit her blog here.  If you think you’d like to sign-up and take part in the Foodie Penpal exchange you can hop on over to sign up at Lindsay’s blog The Lean Green Bean.  You only have until November 4th to sign up for the November exchange!  Matches are e-mailed out on the 5th and the you have until the 15th of the month to put your package in the mail.  Don’t miss out on the fun!

Happy Halloween!

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Weekend Wrap-up

Whew….that weekend went by fast!  It was a pretty mellow week this week.  It was actually kind of slow at the office….hence the below “We’re Bored & Happy it’s Friday” photos.  It was entertainment for a good 10 minutes or so…

Then on Saturday, it was just so darn gorgeous outside….I went to Disney!  It’s finally that time of year where we are getting the cooler weather…low 80’s…haha!  I went in the afternoon & then had some friends meet me there who are Disney nuts too!  We had a good time running around and doing a few rides like The Haunted Mansion, The People Mover, Pirates of the Caribbean, etc…  We snuck in a few others things here and there as well, but the parks were insanely busy for this time of year!  We saw 60 minute wait times for rides like Peter Pan….CRA-ZY!

Disney is all decked out in Halloween decor & was super cute.  You can see in the photo above of a Minnie Mouse holding a pumpkin statue and then of course the adorable pumpkin Mickey wreath.  I was a little hungry since I ate brunch and by 3:30 I was wishing I would have just waited and had lunch.  Since there is a bit of a Biggest Loser weight loss competition going on at work that I’m in on, I tried my best to be good.  I ended up opting for a delicious fruit tart….yes it was as good as it looks!  It was hard opting for that vs. the hot cinnamon roll the size of a plate that smelled out of this world, but I was totally satisfied with my fruit tart as it was very yummy!

Well, that pretty much sums up my weekend in a short and sweet way.  I was pretty much a bum today, other than for some light cleaning & laundry & of course the Sunday grocery run at Target, where I always find other things to buy besides groceries!  Perhaps, I should limit my Target run to once a month! 🙂

The Painted Palette

If you haven’t noticed yet that I’ve added a new page to the blog, let me point you to it now. 🙂  That page at the top that says “My Etsy”!  I finally took some time and opened up an Etsy shop & it’s called The Painted Palette.  It you’re looking for some cute hand painted magnets for your fridge or some art work for you walls….go on over and take a peek!

I’ve been painting & drawing since I was a wee little girl.  I remember going to the chiropractor with my mom growing up and the receptionist would give me the end rolls of the white paper that went across the chiropractor table & there was always quite a bit left in my opinion, so I’d sit and paint murals for the kitchen wall with my watercolors and would sign them “Sissy”, as that is what I was called growing up due to having a little brother that insisted that was my name.

To this day, I still love to paint and draw!  A blank canvas to me is like a kid in a candy store…pure love!  I don’t always know what I’m going to paint, so I’ll start on a background and then usually something just comes to me or a happy little mistake will turn into something pretty cool.

I also do custom paintings, so feel free to message me if you would like something particular.  I’d be happy to paint you something for your baby nursery or something personalize with a name…you name it–I’m game!  If you’d like to shoot me an e-mail, you can send it to me at thelittleblackraincloud[at]yahoo.com

You can find me on Etsy as the shop “The Painted Palette“.  Stop on over and take a look!

Disney, Food & Wine….Oh My!

Well, I don’t know about y’all, but I had a rather FABULOUS weekend!  On Saturday, I woke up late for a change.  While I was trying to wake up a little, I crossed my fingers and checked my bank account and payday came early for me instead of having to wait until Monday….YAY!  So, I paid bills & determined I was going to treat myself, after a super busy couple of weeks at work.  So, I jumped in the shower & got ready for the day & headed out on a mission.  Guess what?  Mission Accomplished!  I’m the proud new owner of a Disney annual pass!  YES, YES, YES!!!  So excited!

After I bought it…I immediately sent a text to a friend and they were there within the hour with friends & we spent the rest of the day until a little after 9:00 eating & drinking our way around the world at the Epcot Food & Wine Festival.  While I was waiting for their arrival, I took a shortcut and jumped a ferry straight to Germany, as I was starving since I hadn’t ate all day & I was craving the brat on a pretzel roll, so I scarfed one of those & stood in line for some good ‘ol German beer.  I opted for a flight of four different beers & they were all pretty tasty!

My partners in crime showed up while I was enjoying my beers, so I finished them up and then started walking towards China and ran into them shortly around Korea.  Then it was onward ho the rest of the day.  Had some awesome Key Lime Wine at the Florida booth, then a Belgium Waffle with berries and whipped topping in Belgium, Creme Brûlée in France, “Le Cellier” Wild Mushroom Beef Filet Mignon with Truffle Butter Sauce and Apple Ice Wine in Canada. Oh yeah…I also had some of the apple strudel before leaving Germany. It was a pretty kick ass day of just chill in’ out, eating, drinking,  people watching & having some good laughs.

Pure Chocolate Sculpture of Finding Nemo….total waste of chocolate, I say!

Then on Sunday morning, I got up and browsed the Target ad, while trying to wake up.  I got super excited because there was a piece of furniture I had taken a picture of on my phone about a month ago that I wanted to get eventually & it was in the ad on sale for about $30 off….SCORE!  So, I got ready real quick & drove straight to Target and snagged the last one on the shelf…YAY!  It took me a while to put together, as all the screw holes weren’t exact, but after walking away for a bit and coming back to it later with some good advice from my brother, I got it put together.  I think it looks pretty darn good!

Also, while I was at Target….I finally found the suckers I’ve been searching for, around this time of year, for the past couple years….Double Score!

And that was pretty much my weekend!  How was yours?

Caribbean Adventure: Mayan Ruins of Tulum

Our final port on the cruise before heading back home was Cozumel, Mexico.  We didn’t stick around to see or do anything in Cozumel, as we had an excursion booked to see the ancient Mayan ruins of Tulum.  So, since this was a 7 hour tour, as soon as we got off the ship, we hopped aboard a ferry.  It was a bit of a rough ride, but we got to see a pod of dolphins jumping along side of the ferry, which was awesome!  After 45 minutes or so, we reached Playa del Carmen.  Boy was it gorgeous!  Definitely on my list of places to go back to!  The water was just breathtaking it was so blue!

 After getting off the ferry, we had to get on a bus for another 45 minute ride or so.  Right before getting to the ruins though, the bus stopped off at a big shopping area, so everyone could use the restrooms, change into swim gear if they wanted & pick up some souvenirs.  I opted for my typical magnet and a bar of Mexican white chocolate, which was mighty tasty & disappeared in about 30 seconds!  We were lucky & had an awesome tour guide, Pamela & she talked the entire bus ride and loaded us full of information on the area.

When we arrived, we walked through a little market area and then it was a good mile hike to the Mayan Ruins.  It wouldn’t have been bad, but man was it HOT!  I have never sweat so much….it was just so humid and no breeze.  Luckily it was a bit overcast or it would have been even hotter.  Once we reached the ruins, Pamela stopped and filled us in on the whole history of the Mayans and then let us go and explore.  I was a bit disappointed that everything was roped off, so you could only look….no going inside any of them.  It was pretty cool to get to see everything though, so I can say I’ve seen it.  If you’d like to read more of the history aspect of the ruins, check out Simply Stephanie’s post on the trip.

We had the most fun just running around getting quick pictures so we could head back & get some grub, since it was past our normal lunch time.  See how gorgeous the water in Mexico is?  There were some truly magnificent views since the ruins are right on the coast.  I can never get enough of ocean views like these!

Once we make the trek back to civilization, we spotted an air conditioned restaurant and that’s where we headed.  We had to eat some authentic Mexican food while in Mexico.  So we ordered some Coke, which Stephanie tried to spill…actually, she was successful & they had to bring out the mop.  Next time I’ll bring her a sippy cup!  Anyways, we ordered our food…I didn’t get what I ordered since I confused him by trying to get cheese on my chicken enchiladas instead of green sauce, so I ended up with cheese enchiladas with no sauce….basically a quesadilla, but it hit the spot.

When we were all done, we headed back for the bus ride back to the ferry.  This time I believe the ferry ride back was a lot rougher than in the morning.  We sat on the lower deck in the a/c on the trip back, so we sat up front which is enclosed and has windows all around it you would have thought we were going through a car wash the way the water was hitting the windows.  We were rocking so much, we had to keep ourselves entertained so keep from getting motion sick.  I think Stephanie had a death grip on my arm as she sang, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” as I laughed hysterically.  One of those memories I’ll think back on in a few years and literally laugh out loud.

Once we hit shore, we jumped on board the ship & got cleaned up super quick, so we could make it to dinner with our table.  And then we ended the night by posing for more silly pics.  The End.

Caribbean Adventures: Grand Cayman – Dolphin Encounter

The second part of of our excursion in Grand Cayman was a dolphin encounter!  Remember how I said there were 6 people in our group, well four of them had gotten a few extras added to their excursion, so Stephanie & I got a dolphin all to ourselves!  It was AWESOME!

Meet Copernicus….isn’t he adorbs!

Honestly, we were really surprised at the amount of things we got to do with Copernicus.  When we first got in the water, we got introduced to Copernicus by the trainer and then the trainer told us to start swimming out quite a ways into the tank.  So we did & I was thrilled!  I got out there and the trainer told me I was going to get to dance with a dolphin.  So he instructed me to fist pump in the air and start spinning around in the water & no sooner that I started I was being accompanied by my buddy & laughing hysterically the whole time!  Totally my favorite part of the trip!

When we were all done dancing the day away, the trainer gave us a few other signals to try with Copernicus.  It’s basically Dolphin sign language & they speak it beautifully!  If we’d hold our hands a little bit over the water, he’d swim right under our hands.  Dolphins are so soft….I loved getting to give him a belly rub.  Did you know they have belly buttons?  They do!  He loved getting his massage…he’d just lay there like a dog.  Then I gave him the sign for a kiss & he planted a salty one on me…LOL!

The smack on the cheek was better….a lot less salty! 🙂

Then we got to see just how fast Copernicus was & man was he speedy!  I mean you’d see him jump way out and then before you even had the chance to look down he was right in front of you.  He reminded me of the butler off of “Mr. Deeds” *Very, Very, Sneaky”! (You just said that in your best latin accent and pronounced it “Berry, Berry, Sneaky”, didn’t you?) 🙂

Really, this experience was so much fun, it’s hard to even put into words!  If you ever get the chance to do a dolphin encounter….DO IT!  They are the most friendly, smart & fun creatures.  So, if you’re headed to Grand Cayman on a cruise anytime soon….bypass the beach…do the dolphin encounter!  So worth the money for the awesome memories and photos!  The only other thing I’d like to do someday is to do the swim with the stingrays excursion.

Stay tuned for the next big adventure….The Mayan Ruins!

Caribbean Adventures: Grand Cayman – The Turtle Farm

The morning that we dropped anchor in Grand Cayman was a bit gloomy with a little rain storm rolling around the harbor, but we kept our fingers crossed that it would blow over.  So we went ahead and grabbed some breakfast and chilled out on the deck while we ate and kept our eye on the rain.  Luckily,  the rain didn’t stick around long & left us with a nice little rainbow as we tendered to shore.

We actually made it inland about an hour or so before our excursion, so we took the opportunity to browse thru a couple of the stores real quick.  Then after we had our quick peek around, we headed for the tent for our excursion & sat & waited for take-off.  Since we had gotten their early, we actually seen the first group for our same excursion take off and it was huge.  Luckily, since we were smart and picked the 2nd tour that was an hour later we lucked out and there were only 6 people for ours.  SCORE!  Around 10:00, we all climbed into a van and headed towards the first part of our excursion…The Turtle Farm!  I’ve been there once before & loved it because I absolutely adore turtles.

We only had 30 minutes to look around the turtle farm, which made it seem kind of rushed, but it was plenty of time to get the photo ops that we wanted.  Plus, it left more time for part two of the excursion…more on that in another post.  Now the first body of water we came too had a lot of these huge turtles floundering about.  They were probably a good 400 lbs. a piece….they were no joke and you’d definitely not want to get your fingers very close to their face as these guys had some wicked looking chompers on them!

After we were done looking at these big cuties, we headed around to the tanks with the smaller turtles that we could hold.  They actually said we could get in one of the holding tanks with them, but I was content staying dry at the moment and just catching them for pictures.  They were fast little guys, so you had to be quick!  Once you’d actually get a good hold on a turtle and pull them out of the water they would have there little freak out session and they would flap their little flippers like crazy, but the trick to calming them down was to just rub them under there neck like you would with a dog and they mellowed out and made picture taking a little easier.

They were so fun!  After posing for pics and playing with them it made me want to take one home.  Plus, I wanted to save them all from being made into turtle burgers & turtle soup, since they are one of the main things they eat on the island.  Poor little guys!

Aren’t they just adorable??

Okay, now after posting all of these pics for your viewing pleasure….I’m ready to go back!  It was really a lot of fun getting all of these pictures.  It was definitely an awesome way to make some good memories!

After we were done, they had outdoor sinks and soap for us to wash up and be on our way.  We took a few minutes to wander around the gift shop & get our souvenir magnets they we like to collect every time we travel someplace new.  Then it was onto our next big adventure!

To be continued…