Roadblocks: Unfiltered.

Since the beginning of the year, I’ve been on a path of self-discovery. Well, I guess I’m always on that path, but I’d say 2014 has been the (not very well planned) year of figuring out “Who Is Sydney” vs. “Who Everyone Expects Sydney To Be” – and it hasn’t always been pretty.

I could sit here and say that everything about 2014 so far is sunshine and rainbows, but then I’d be lying. And if you know me, you know I’m not good at lying, which is why I gave it up a long time ago.

So, who is Sydney?

That’s a good fucking question. And I think that at some point, I’d hope, we all go through this period. I had spent a couple days reading through old posts and I had this filter of “who the hell would read that?” So much for Sydney: Unfiltered. And really, that’s the thing that pisses me off the most about sometime in 2011 and now, is that I developed this filter for myself. Sydney. The girl who’s damn outlet for getting it all out, titled UNFILTERED, had a filter. It’s ridiculous.

What event, or series of events, or people, or life-happening led me down this path of cutting out one of the most important things in my whole world? It wasn’t just here. I had a sweet little column in Blue Skies Magazine that was an every-single-month occurrence from 2011-2012, then took a back seat in 2013, and picked back up at the beginning of 2014.

I don’t know who helped me develop the filter (probably just my own crazy brain), what (if anything) happened, or why the writing stopped. But I can identify the roadblocks.

“What will people think about me if they read this?” Seriously? For the better part of 2012-2014 (until last month), if I sat down to write anything, the lens was “oh my god, this is horrible, what will people think of me if I publish this? Do I sound like a typical Millennial douche? Do I sound entitled? I hope I don’t sound like I’m a know it all, because I know I’m not a know it all.” THE TORTURE GOES ON AND ON. I could never just sit down and write.

“I’m not qualified to say this.” I was faced with this hurdle for the new take on my column for Blue Skies, as we were discussing a column for newbie skydivers. I knew I knew enough to pass on to the 26-jump wonders, but even before every column, I have my husband (who has been a professional skydiver for 14 years and has 8,000+ jumps) read it and I ALWAYS say: “do I sound like a fucking idiot?” Of course he tells me no, that this is totally legit information and that I’m 100% qualified to share these thoughts with newer jumpers.

“I don’t have time.” Holy shitballs, the story of my life. I am very unimpressed when people say “oooh, I’m just soooo busy” or “I don’t have time” as if it’s a status symbol. And I pride myself on having developed the capacity to say “no” to things I don’t have time for, or that I don’t want to make time for. But here I was, not MAKING time for writing. Just like I’ve done a really shitty job of making time for working out. “I don’t have time” isn’t an excuse anymore.

So while I don’t exactly know who Sydney is or where Sydney wants to go or what Sydney wants to do, I know this much:

A) It’s okay NOT to know everything right now and NOT have a plan mapped out
2) If I start doing the hard work to let go of the self-induced expectations that come along with “Who Sydney Thinks Everyone Expects Sydney To Be” – life will start to unfold in ways I didn’t think possible, or in ways I wouldn’t have seen if I was too busy living up to who I think I’m expected to be
Blue) Figuring this out has been a very enlightening experience, and my husband is hands down the most patient man on the planet. Between him, one of my girlfriends going through a similar experience, and my family, I have one hell of a support system as I try to navigate this path

Long story short, it’s high time I get my shit together. Get back to Unfiltered. FIgure out who I am, what I want to do, and where I want to go. If there’s anything I’ve learned this year, it’s that life is far too short. Period.

 

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Catching Up

Holy guacamole, it’s been awhile since I’ve written here. Since my last post, here’s a quick rundown of life stuff:

  • I trained and competed with Elsinore Horizon in 2013 to score a 16th Place (out of 42 teams) finish at our first trip to the USPA National Skydiving Championships.
  • Our friend Chris took his own life in January of this year.
  • Barry got promoted to School Manager at Skydive Elsinore.
  • We adopted Herbie, another Puggle.
  • My uncle Mike passed away.
  • Horizon got a new lineup, and things were going swimmingly.
  • One of my teammates had an injury that threatened to put her out through September (AKA no Nationals).
  • We didn’t try to find a replacement.
  • Barry’s debit card number got stolen somehow, draining his account of all of his money. This took three weeks to fix.
  • Our friend Adam passed away, and we made an emergency trip to Chicago for his memorial services.
  • After the perfect financial storm and life events, I told the team that I was unable to commit to Nationals this year. This decision did not come lightly, obviously.

But, despite all of it’s challenges, 2014 isn’t a total waste. Barry and I have some big news coming up (that does not involve babies) and we can’t wait to share it. In the mean time, I look forward to reconnecting with all of you here. It’s been awhile!

What’s new in your world? What are you up to? What is the most awesome thing that’s happened in 2014?

Skydiving at Sea: Ripcord by iFly on Quantum of the Seas

You guys. YOU GUYS. Royal Caribbean just announced that there will be a wind tunnel, Ripcord by iFly, on their new ships, Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas.

YOU GUYS.

The tunnel will overlook the Flowrider surf simulator and offer views of the wide open seas. Tunnel time. At sea. It doesn’t get much better than this.

Check it out:

As you all know, Barry and I got married at SkyVenture Colorado, followed by a cruise for our honeymoon. It seems only fitting that we renew our vows at sea. I’m on a mission to make that happen.

My dad was in NYC live for the reveal event of all the new features, and I gotta say, this ship has it all. And, the best part?

WAIT FOR IT.

There is no extra charge for Ripcord. Sure, the cost of the cruise will probably increase a bit, and I’m not sure how it works with booking time, but hopefully I’ll get that information soon and be able to share it with all of you. I know that you can rent Ripcord for special events, so maybe that’s where the money will come into play.

But seriously.

Skydiving. Food. Drinks. Tropical ports of call. I’m not even kidding when I say this is the ultimate skydiver dream vacation.

Who’s in?

We’ll be Four Seasons guests for life.

This is a story all about how (… not Fresh Prince-style, but kinda) the Four Seasons is excellent at what they do, offline and online.

I’m a sucker for a consistent brand experience. Think, Chipotle for food, and Southwest Airlines, JetBlue, and Norwegian Cruise lines to name a few excellent travel experiences as of late. When you find a brand who does the in-person experience as well as they do the online brand experience, it’s a magical thing.

I’ve already shared the story of how the Four Seasons in Denver won our hearts for our pre-wedding and wedding-night stay. To recap: I put the word out on Twitter that we wanted a sweet hotel for this special occasion while we were getting married in Denver. My friend Jen recommended Four Seasons, and within minutes, actual minutes, the brand had already responded, looking to accomodate us. We were stoked.

Here’s the deal. There is no way we could afford Four Seasons on the regular. We don’t travel a lot, and when we do, we’re usually visiting friends or family, so a hotel is the least of our worries. But I will tell you this: on every vacation, moving forward, whenever we can afford it, we will be staying at the Four Seasons.

There are a bunch of reasons why:

  • We never felt like we weren’t good enough to stay there – as is not always the case with luxury brands if you aren’t, yourself, luxurious.
  • The staff is incredible, from the PR manager (at the Denver hotel), to the concierge, to the valet, everyone we encountered made us feel like royalty.
  • The rooms. Oh the rooms. The Four Seasons Denver is a newer addition to the chain, so it’s to be expected that the rooms are incredible, but yeah. The beds are incredible (I could stay there all day), the rooms are well-decorated and spacious, and the bathrooms are something to write home about. The shower, in particular, is worth writing home about. In fact, I did.
  • The little things. A welcome gift from the PR Manager when we arrived. Personalized turn down service, with a tree of lollipops and a tweet from @FSDenver transposed on white chocolate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I woke up on November 11th, all nerdy like, and shouted an excited “Happy One Month of Being Married Anniversary” to Barry. We laughed, because for the past month we’ve been on the road and entertaining one of his students from Chicago, so we haven’t really had any us-time since our honeymoon. And then I saw this tweet. And I was wowed.

It’s one thing to make a guest feel like a rockstar before they get there (not a lot of brands do), it’s one thing to make them feel like a rockstar while they’re staying with you (or dining, or flying, or otherwise interacting with your brand however that works with your brand), but it’s quite another to remember, one month after you’ve already paid the bill, that it is a guest’s anniversary. And a measly anniversary at that.

And this, my friends, is why no matter what the circumstances, if we can swing a stay at the Four Seasons, we will. It’s a big spend for us on our skydiving-generated income, but when it comes to special occasions, and being taken care of: Four Seasons is tops. Period. The end.

On our honeymoon, we did a spa treatment on board the Norwegian Pearl, an hour massage, focusing on neck, back, and scalp. Afterwards, we decided that this is something we want to try to do monthly – to reset, to take care of ourselves, and, more importantly, to have some quality us-time to look forward to every month.

If there is some way for me to swing the spa treatments happening at a Four Seasons hotel/spa, you can bet your bottom dollar I will. Because at the end of the day, people like buying things from their friends. And while I don’t know the staff at every Four Seasons hotel, I can totally get behind the brand experience, and I feel valued there. So they get my money, even if it’s on an infrequent basis.

So, Dana and the rest of the staff at Four Seasons Denver: thank you. Thank you for an incredible stay for our wedding, thank you for this experience, and thank you for allowing me to experience what it’s like to be on the opposite side of a well-balanced brand interaction.

DISCLAIMER: I was not paid or compensated in any way to write this review. I just really freaking love Four Seasons Denver and can’t wait to check out other locations as time/money allows. Word.

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Specialty dining = thebombdotcom on Norwegian Pearl

Pretty stoked about the Teppanyaki dinner B and I just booked for our first day at sea on the Norwegian Pearl. Deemed the “Benihana at Sea” – I’m a sucker for the show when they’re flinging rice and shrimp everywhere. I haven’t been to a Benihana-type restaurant with B yet, but I’m pretty sure he’ll be wowed by my shrimp-catching skills.

But there are a bunch of different specialty dining options on board the Blake Shelton Cruise. Check out this great write up by Nancy Schretter.

Dining Choices Sizzle on the Blake Shelton Cruise

By Nancy Schretter

While next week’s Blake Shelton Cruise will feature exciting performances by Blake Shelton plus shows by Trace Adkins and over 20 other country music entertainers, the cruise experience itself is also a huge draw. The cruise is being held on Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Pearl, a gem of a ship that features a wide range of dining and entertainment options. While it might be hard for country music fans to break away from the all-star entertainment to go bowling at sea, try rock climbing or play on the Wii interactive gaming system in the atrium, the Pearl’s dining line-up will likely hit the top of the charts with Blake Shelton Cruise guests.

Dining on the Norwegian Pearl is freestyle, which means that you don’t have to eat in the same place at a set time every day. You are free to dine … wherever! The Pearl has large flatscreen TV displays in high traffic areas around the ship showing the current waiting times for each dining area, so you can easily head to the venues without a wait. If you would prefer to wait for a specific dining option, the restaurant’s hostess will quote you an expected wait time and give you a pager that works around the ship.

Sure, there are standard main dining rooms on the Norwegian Pearl. The large Summer Palace dining room features aft windows, perfect for those who fancy a water view. Indigo, a smaller standard dining room, is located mid-ships. Dining here is included as part of your cruise. Guests can dine freestyle as they wish or at the same time. If you’d like to keep things predictable every night, talk with the maitre d’ on the first day of the cruise to set up.

While the food in the main dining room is delicious, Norwegian Cruise Line is also known for its extensive choice of specialty restaurants. It would be hard to cruise on the Norwegian Pearl for seven nights and not try at least one. Reservations for alternative restaurant dining can be made in advance of your cruise or once you’re on the ship. If you have your heart set on a specific dates, times and dining experiences – make your reservations early.

Here are a few of the dining experiences that guests on the Blake Shelton Cruise can enjoy while sailing on the Norwegian Pearl:

* Cagney’s Steakhouse: This restaurant serves up mouthwatering steaks such as a 16-ounce T-Bone, 12-ounce Rib Eye or a 10-ounce New York Strip or Filet Mignon along with all your favorite sides. Don’t miss Cagney’s Fries made with white truffle oil and parmesan cheese. Salmon Oscar, Double Cut Lamb Chops and Vegetarian Saffron Casserole are also on the menu, as are yummy appetizers and desserts. A $25 per person cover charge applies.

* Le Bistro French Restaurant: From the decor to the menu, Le Bistro is all French through and through. Start your meal off with French Onion Soup or Escargot and then move on to such classics as Coq au Vin, Bouillabaisse, and Filet de Porc. Naturally, the profiteroles, chocolate napoleon and vanilla creme brulee are delectable. A $20 per person cover charge applies.

* Moderno Churrascaria: Barbecued meats are the specialty at this Brazilian-style meat-fest restaurant. Diners control how much they’re served with green and red chips. Green means “keep bringing it on” while red tells servers “stop – I’ve had enough!” There’s a huge salad bar here to accompany the ten different cuts of beef, lamb, pork and chicken served. A $20 per person cover charge applies.

* Teppanyaki: This Japanese grill-style restaurant is sort of like “Benihana at Sea.” Each evening, chefs put on a show while cooking meats, fish, poultry and vegetables on an iron “Teppan” grill. This is one of the most popular restaurants on the ship and seating is very limited, so it sells out quickly. A $25 per person cover charge applies.

* Lotus Garden Asian Restaurant: Step into a world of Pan Asian delights in this restaurant, serving Japanese, Chinese and Thai dishes including Peking Duck Crepes, Kung Pao Chicken, Cantonese Scallops, Orange Peel Beef and more. A $15 per person cover charge applies.

* La Cucina Italian Restaurant: Traditional Italian dishes take center stage here, including pastas with seven sauce choices, specialty pizzas, and entrees such as Chicken Parmesan, Seared Salmon, Ribeye Steak Florentina, Ossobuco, and Vegetable Lasagna. The tiramisu, ricotta cheesecake and flourless chocolate torte offer a perfect Italian ending for your meal. A $10 per person cover charge applies.

* 24/7 Pizza: Want pizza delivered fresh to your table, your favorite bar or even to your stateroom – any time of day or night? This Norwegian Pearl restaurant has it covered. Just ask your server or call room service for delivery. A $5 per guest charge applies.

* Sushi and Sashimi Bar: Located in the Lotus Garden Asian Restaurant, this little restaurant serves up a variety of sushi and sashimi including yellow fin tuna, big eye tuna, salmon, yellowtail and octopus. Prices are a la carte.

* Blue Lagoon 24-Hour Food Court: This is the place to go if you want a quick bite, any time of the day or night. The Blue Lagoon serves up burgers, stir-fry items and light fare – all free of charge.

Norwegian Cruise Line recently rolled out a new dining package called the Signature Trio, offering savings at three of the Norwegian Pearl’s alternative dining restaurants. The package includes dinner at Cagney’s Steakhouse, Le Bistro French Restaurant and La Cucina Italian Restaurant for $47 per person, a savings of $8 per person. Reservations are made in advance, making dining at these specialty restaurants even more convenient. Blake Shelton Cruise guests take note: the Signature Trio must be purchased before sailing and will not be available once onboard the ship.

For casual dining, including breakfast and lunch, there’s the Garden Cafe and the Great Outdoors Cafe on the aft deck. Those lounging by the pool will want to check out the nearby grill serving hamburgers, hot dogs, salads and desserts. And, of course, every guest needs to try the free room service at some time during their cruise.

For more information on the Blake Shelton & Friends Cruise, visit http://www.blakesheltoncruise.com.