Deep Sea Fishing in St. Petersburg

When we were planning our trip to St. Petersburg, the one thing I knew we wanted to do was go deep sea fishing. But trying to find a place was tricky. It's hard to tell from websites which are overpriced, which are touristy, which are good for first timers, etc.

Hubbard's was recommended to us by our airbnb host and what a great recommendation! Reservations were easy (did it quickly over the phone) and they were happy to answer any questions we had. They do all kinds of tours - sunset cruises, dolphin sighting tours, 1/2 day fishing (5 hours), full day fishing (12 hours), even 39hr weekend trips.

We did a half day trip (5 hours). We had to be at Johns Pass at 7am, though we didn't board til after 8am. There were thirty or so on the boat with us. Some beginners, some that looked like pro's, some kids. a good variety. Once we boarded, they did a QUICK rundown of how to use the reels, but as a shy beginner, I was terrified to pick up that pole. We went an hour out, fished for three and then an hour back. We ended up catching ten or so I think. One of the guys came over and helped me catch a few fish, actually (kind of embarrassing). He would cast out and hand me the pole, and tell me when to reel and when to pause and EVERY time, I'd catch something. Like magic.

 The first fish I reeled in was a puffer fish! Everyone was catching these white/grey fish and I reel in this brown spotted one. I was like 'What is that?' and the guy grabs it, holds it up to his mouth and blows it up, 'It's a puffer fish!'.

When I threw it back in the water, it sort of blew in the wind before hitting the water and deflating and swimming back down. So funny!

 I reeled in a couple porgies and eventually caught one entirely on my own (ha!). We ended up with a good amount of fish. They filet them for you (cost us like $6) and you can take them next door to the Friendly Fisherman Restaurant, to have them cooked up right then and there for $6/person. Awesome.

 I would 100% do this again and recommend Hubbard's to others. We had a blast! The staff was awesome - you could tell they were having fun too.


Travel Tip: Use airbnb.com!

Joanna Goddard is in the midst of Travel Week on her blog, and you could probably say the same for me. This week, I've posted about my trip to DC in December and Colorado earlier this month, and am leaving for New Orleans this weekend! (Plus have some long overdue posts on my November trip to St. Petersburg, FL in the que.)

Anyway, today Joanna posted about renting houses on vacations (as opposed to hotels, timeshares, etc) and I felt compelled to get on my soapbox and preach about how much love I have for this concept (and airbnb in particular)!

airbnb is a vacation rental site with homes, apartments, individual rooms, even boats! The cool thing about it is that you're renting from a local. You're living like a local. You're not shut up in a Hampton somewhere. Booking is more personal, the trip is more authentic (in my opinion at least).

I first found out about airbnb from Joanna's blog actually. I had just bought an impromptu plane ticket to Tampa only to find out my parents had cancelled their timeshare in the area. I grew up going on timeshare vacations (through RCI mostly) staying in condos, cabins and townhomes. So when I found out our Florida timeshare had been cancelled, I was not about to book a cramped hotel room! [Call me high maintenence.]

I had remembered Joanna blogging about home sharing websites, found the post, and was immediately browsing VBRO and airbnb.com for places to stay.

We settled on a stay on the 'Full Moon' in St. Petersburg. Why stay in a hotel when you can stay on a sailboat?!
At 44 ft, the space wasn't huge, but... it's a boat. If you've ever stayed in an RV or camper, this is pretty much the same. Perfect for a couple or 2-6 friends. We were across the street from the Vinoy Hotel for pool, spa, larger bathrooms, restaurants + walking distance to restaurants, bars and shops in downtown St. Pete's.

Besides the convenience, we had amazing service from the renters. They answered tons of questions from me beforehand, showed us around when we got there and even left us a phone number if we needed anything. Would definitely do it again and recommend it to others. See the listing on airbnb.com.

I used airbnb again to help Atomicdust find a place to stay in Colorado, and we ended up in this gorgeous house up in the mountains (for way less than if we had tried to book hotels rooms probably).
It easily fit all 17 of us with beds, couches and a couple air mattresses. It had a big kitchen, two living rooms, lots of deck space and a hut tub. Plus, the views. Sigh.

And side note, I just used VBRO to book a trip to New Orleans, and while I have no problems with the site, I just don't think it's as easy to use / pretty to look at as airbnb. I'll let you know how to house in NOLA turned out next week when I get back!


Winter Park, Colorado 2013 with Atomicdust

Just got back from a five-day trip to Winter Park, Colorado with Atomicdust. It wasn't exactly a 'work trip' - although we did our fair share of talking about Apple products, Facebook, Instagram and what's 'next' in digital. We spent the time hanging out, playing in the snow, drinking adult beverages and taking many, many naps. It was a great way to reconnect as a team and get ready for the busy months ahead. 
We stayed at Skytop, a house in the mountains near Winter Park, that we booked via airbnb. It was awesome!
On Monday, a group of us went on a 2-hour guided snowmobile tour to the Continental Divide. It was seriously gorgeous. I felt like I was in an episode of Planet Earth or something. 
Nothing like a beautiful mountain sunset, a fire and a glass of wine! Perfect getaway. 

For more pictures from our trip, visit Atomicdust's Facebook Page
And check out pictures from my last trip to Colorado in March 2011


Oscars 2013: Best Dressed

I'll be honest. I was underwhelmed with the Red Carpet last night. Sure, Jessica Chastain looked great, but I expect her to. A gold dress is safe. J.Law's was like a princess... but just too poufy for my taste and I hate the back necklace. Reese was boring. Helen was boring. Kerry Washington could do without the bow, and Zoe Saldana could go without the belt. Anne. Oh, Anne. Just pitiful.

So here are my (rather unconventional) faves:
Octavia Spencer
 Amanda Seyfried
Sally Field
 Charlize was my #1 Best Dressed favorite
And Naomi Watts was #2 Best Dressed for me
I preferred Samantha Barks' performance dress to the one she wore on the Red Carpet (looked like she had to keep her shoulders back or it would fall down. Awkward.)
Adele always looks the same.... pretty much. But I liked that she let her hair down for the performance and kept it that way. Way more bombshell!
Wasn't a fan of the dress or necklace, but Jennifer Lawrence's hair and makeup were flawless. 

Founding Farmers, Washington DC

When we were in DC, we went out to dinner one night at Founding Farmers - and it was just my style. A lot of local fare, great meat and pasta dishes and pickled veggies. (Just an observation - if a place has pickled veggies, I tend to like it. Weird but true.)
Skillet Corn Bread with Honey Butter and Sea Salt - more like a dessert!
Macaroni and Cheese with Gouda, Gruyere, Ham, Peas, Apples - I want to try this combo at home! So good!

We also had bacon-wrapped dates with blue cheese and balsamic glaze as an appetizer. Delish! Others had the plank salmon, fried chicken and chicken pot pie and got rave reviews!

If you find yourself near DC, check out Founding Farmers


OCS Graduation in DC

In going through my pictures of my trip to Colorado, it occurred to me that I never shared any pictures from my trip to DC in December (or to St. Pete's in November, for that matter).

In December, my brother graduated from OCS (Officer Candidate School) for the Marine Corps. My uneducated explanation of OCS is that it's an elite version of boot camp, designed to test your leadership. Officer candidates come from all over - enlisted Marines, ROTC programs, normal college grads with no past military experience (like my brother). He had to go through tests/screenings just to make it in to OCS, and then OCS itself is a screening (he always referred to it like a job interview) that last 10 weeks and tests you physically and mentally. They are out through physical tests, tested on Marine Corps history, tactics, policies, and evaluated on their leadership skills. I can't remember the numbers now, but I'm pretty sure something like half the candidates don't make it to graduation.

My brother is now a Second Lieutenant of the Marine Corps - he outranks 90% of the Corps. Ninety percent. That's like... almost everyone. Other guys salute him now, even some of his drill instructors and the Marine who recruited him. It is crazy.
He's at The Basic School now, learning more about weapons and tactics and after that, he'll get the equivalent to a job placement... somewhere. What's next for him has me nervous/scared/confused. I find myself being very in the moment and trying not to think about what happens after he graduates from Basic this summer. But no matter what - I'm so proud of him. The man I saw in December was my brother, but he was stronger. Not just physically, but his presence. He was smarter. He was more adult. He said that the Marines make you the best version of you, and I think he's right. It is strange to me how, over the course of a few months, my little brother would become so adult.

Side note, if you ever find yourself in the DC / Quantico area, make sure you check out the Marine Corp Museum. It is really, really cool what they've done with interactive exhibits, organizing the history  of both the Marine Corps and of the U.S.

St. Louis Fish Fry Season 2013: St. James the Greater and St. Agatha

Ash Wednesday: St. James the Greater
Went straight to St. James after getting home from Colorado Wednesday night and ended up getting there right before close. I can't really judge ambiance, service, or crowded it was because by that time, we were the only ones there. 

The slaw was great, the cod was crispy but obviously just frozen squares (I don't mind, I like that kind!). The white pasta was amazing. I don't usually pick pasta/spaghetti at fish fries because I generally find it dry, but this was awesome. I'd go back just for that. Other sides I think they had were fries and green beans. The desserts were limited when we got there, but all looked homemade. I had some banana cake and it was awesome. No idea how much it costs (didn't see any signs and the boy paid) but I think it may have been more expensive than most. I think he said $20+ dollars for our two dinners. AB beers in cans were $2. 

St. Agatha in Soulard 
No pictures on this one because it was (a) so good, as always and (b) because I was so flustered.... they weren't serving any beer. 

St. Agatha was just as good as always. Amazing food prepared by the sweet Polish parish tucked away between the brewery and 55 in Soulard. We had real fried fish (no squares!), amazing slaw, sauerkraut and fries. But there were no desserts this year - just bread and bagels. Odd choice if you ask me. Water, tea or a (warm) soda were included with the meal. $7 I believe. 

But the beer.... ugh. One of the reasons I loved St. Agatha was their selection of Polish beers. It made it a real cultural event instead of just a fish fry. It really made it special. It was one of the fish fries I enjoyed the most and loved to share with my friends. They aren't serving any beer this year though. And it is such a shame. I know that many stricter parishes (and pastors) are against serving beer at church events.... but the reality is that brings in a lot of money. You have to know your audience - St. Louis is a beer drinking town. A Catholic beer drinking town. 

See past reviews:
St. Stephen and St. GabrielCecilia'sPiusAgatha, etc.


Greetings from Winter Park

Having an amazing, relaxing, nap-filled vacay in Winter Park with Atomicdust. It's gorgeous here. Can't wait to share more pictures.


Surprise Snow!

Last weekend (right in the middle of my girls' night!) it started snowing unexpectedly in St. Louis. It sort of ruined my weekend plans.... but boy, it was pretty.

Girls' Night In

Saturday night, I hosted a little girls' night in gathering at my house. There were flowers, cupcakes, glittered nail polish, pop music from our middle school days and of course, a viewing of Magic Mike. (There was also unexpected snow that made us cut the evening short, which sucked.) 
the bar cart, all decked out for the occassion
nail polish + magazine station! the glittered files were party favors :)
cupcakes an oatmeal pies from Pint Size Bakery! Yum!
girly snacks + girly wine + flowers + glitter
my first use of glitter nail polish since middle school. total Barbie.

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