Saturday, June 25, 2011

{Guest Blogger} Getting settled in Korea

Something a little different for this blog- Dan's trip to Korea in his own blog post!

Hey everyone!  As Madeline told you, I arrived safely in Korea.  The trip was a huge headache.  I flew from DC to Seattle and stayed in Seattle over night. THen I flew from Seattle to Japan, and from Japan to Seoul, Korea.  I stayed in Seoul for a day checking in and sleeping in basically a janitor's closet (both me and my luggage did not fit at the same time!) and then flew to Pohang, Korea where my base is.  Traveling that much with a years worth of belongings was not fun at all.  

I finally arrived on my base, which is called Camp Mujuk, on Thursday.  This base is super tiny; in fact, it is only 3 miles in diameter.  REALLY small!  There are only a total of 5 MP's and 52 Marines.  Since there are only 5 MP's taking leave is probably out of the question since that would leave the other Marines working A LOT! But hopefully we can all figure something out.  I have already met a lot of Korean people as well.  I work with Korean security guards and also the Republic of Korea military.  They are all very polite and know enough English for me to communicate with them.  They already offered to bring me out and show me what's actually on the outside of base (a small town).  Korean people are pretty small, so seeing Americans is amusing to them.  It is a common occurrence for them to come up to me and feel my muscles.  That doesn't bother me of course :).  

On that note, the gym here on Camp Mujuk is the best in the Marine Corps, says the Commandant at least.  It seems great to me!  As soon as I get settled in I will sign up for some college classes.  Because this base is so tiny anything that has to do with our education is faxed to Okinawa, Japan.  So work, college, and the gym will basically be my life for the next year.  Like I told Madeline, my goal is to leave with a Bachelors degree and bigger arms! My rotation date is June 20, 2012.  So once that date comes, I will be sent back to the states to start my checking out process.  I decided I am 100% getting out of the Marines.  It was a great experience and I enjoyed my last four years, but I want a normal life back.  If I earn my Bachelors while I am here then I will start applying to Federal Agencies.  If I do not finish with my degree, then I will come home and go to school until it is done.  I enlisted because I did not want to go to college and thought the military would just waive the college degree when applying to jobs, but in today's society you most definitely need a degree to get a good job (or at least any job I want!)! All in all, Korea doesn't seem too bad.  I miss my fiancĂ©, friends, and family but hopefully the year flies by.  

I'll send Madeline another post once I am here for a while.  One week down, 51 to go : )

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

{M&D} Wedding Venue Search!

Getting engaged was so exciting! After the shock wore off, all I could think about was wedding details- the flowers, the ambiance, decorations! And then I talked to Dan. Turns out, just as opposite as we are in life, we are in our idea of our wedding! He wants traditional- boys in tuxes, fancy food, inside. I want casual, boys in suits (even without a jacket- gasp!), bar-be-que, outside. Miles apart, right?

So the first step was venue searching. My amazing, amazing, amazing sister researched probably every venue in the Northern Virginia area and sent all the promising links to us. There was a lot- mansions, country clubs, farms, hotels, b&bs, banquet halls, private residences. The idea of a big house where everyone could stay for the weekend was perfect for me. However, most of these places are not set up for big events. Many said that they could not accommodate weddings as large as ours and others just did not respond. 

Another obstacle was Dan leaving. My groom, and all of his opinions, will be 7,000 miles away during most of the planning process. I wanted him to see something before he left. So in between all of the other 1,000 things we had to do, we found the time to see two different places: one a country club that would take care of a lot, the other a private residence where we would be able to do everything.

Image credit
We visited Stoneleigh first. The event manager gave us a tour and let us walk around. The grounds and the golf course were beautiful; there were lots of old buildings, and the area where you get married is surrounded by an old stone wall. They are trying to become a more prominent wedding venue and were open to any ideas that we had. It it pretty close to Winchester, and had gorgeous views. It was promising, but we wanted to look at the other location, and perhaps others, before making a decision. 

Next we drove to Woodstock, where the river house was located. The website said that it had a mile and a half of river front for the property and could sleep 12-15 comfortably. We were both excited to see the house and the grounds. Then we came to the "private bridge." Dan was afraid to go over it. His whole family is from the city- some of them may have turned around when they saw it! Plus, after a party, not so good. However, we made it over the bridge and the house was really nice. The inside was great and the back patio was beautiful as well. However, there were no river views and the flat land that the tent would have to be on was not near the patio. After hearing everything that the other venue included, the fact that we WOULD BE able to do everything ourselves turned in to HAVING to do everything ourselves. Tent rental. Port-a-potty rental. Caterers. Linens. Flatware. China. Getting everyone over the bridge. While a beautiful, beautiful place, it was not the place for our wedding. 

After looking at many, many other options online and conversing more with the people at Stoneleigh, we decided it would be the place for our wedding! It was kind of scary to make the decision, but now the biggest parts are done! We have a location for the ceremony and reception! They have a tent, all china, flatware, barware, linens, and they cater as well! So while many decisions lay ahead, I am happy to have somewhere to think about my ideas. The event planner is awesome- she is definitely open to any ideas that we have, so I think we will be able to have an amazing wedding that is totally us! Compromise is the name of the game- I got my outdoor venue, Dan got tuxes and no bar-be-que. We will try to make the wedding feel whimsical & warm, casual but sophisticated. More on my wedding inspiration in another post...

And one of the coolest things about our venue? My bridesmaid/roommate/friend since kindergarten's Dad's family (did you follow that?) used to live on the property! The land was in his family for a very long time, so he is going to dig up information that he still has on it- so cool! Daddy Ford has been in my life a long long time, so it is almost like getting married on family land :) The people that lived there were all given one square mile for a garden; the courtyard that we will be having our celebrations in is one of the gardens. Very, very cool!

Venue- check! Everything else... still to come!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Good byes & paradise

Justin, Chris, Dan & Billy at the end of the night
Getting engaged requires lots of toasting, celebrating, and smiling! Last Friday, we headed to DC to celebrate the engagement with college friends and Marines. We all went out dancing in Arlington and had a great time! The next day, we were up bright and early to get back to Philadelphia! (I swear we traveled about 2,000 miles while Dan was on leave!) Once we got there we headed straight to Donna's Dance Works recital! All of Dan's nieces were so so so cute dancing and his sister choreographed amazing dances for the older girls. Dan and I even had special recognition for our engagement :)

After a Phillies game and a quick trip to the Jersey shore, we were back in Philly for our engagement pictures and hanging out with Dan's friends. All during this time, my amazing sister had been sending me tons and tons of venues (more on the venue search later!) so on our way back to Fredericksburg we visited two. Then it was more packing and time to say good bye to Dan.

The morning I left for the beach Mom, Dan, and I went to Cracker Barrel for breakfast. When we were sitting outside talking, an older lady looked at us and said, "There is nothing like young love." It was so sweet- she was there with her husband and friends just enjoying their day. One day that will be us : )

The view from the porch
After our good byes, I was off to my favorite place on earth- DeBordieu. While I wish that Dan was here, it makes it is definitely not an easy place to be sad. My cousins, who graciously let me stay with them, rented a new house this year and it is right on the beach. The first thing you see when you walk through the door is the ocean! It has a beautiful front porch with rockers and is steps from the ocean- paradise. I have two weeks in this amazing place and then I must start planning for the real world! And just when I thought the beach house couldn't get any better, my fiance sends me flowers : )

Thursday, June 9, 2011

From Graduation to Engagement Pt. 2

Dan + Mad
After returning from Molly's wedding, we took a day to repack and then headed back to Philadelphia. The weather was gorgeous and while hanging out with his friends, Dan decided that we should go on a picnic the next morning. I love picnics, so I was all for it! The next day, Dan fixed me a cheese sandwich (my favorite) and we packed up our basket. We went to Pennypack park and walked around for a while. We carved our names on the same tree that Dan and his brother did before he left for boot camp, and then proceeded to a nice half shade (for Dan) half sun (for me) spot to eat our lunch. We ate and we talked and I was oblivious. Dan said he wanted to look at the clouds. Then, he kept taking my sunglasses off. However, I wanted them on, I was staring at the sky! I told him so and he said something to the effect of, "Well, I want to see your face when I ask you to be my wife." He pulled out a ring box and said lots of other nice things and I stared at him stunned. All I remember thinking is that this only happens once so I should try to remember everything- it didn't work too well! I just kept staring so he put the ring on my finger telling me that he "knew I wouldn't say no." I kept staring. He then said "But you still haven't said yes..." Finally, I said the magic words: "Yes, but--"
"BUT WHAT!?!" replied Dan. There was no but, of course I wanted to marry him, I was just so stunned that he had asked!
Then, I had no idea what to do. Do I call people? Do we sit and enjoy the moment together? I eventually decided on calling people- my sister definitely had the best reaction! It was so fun to share the news with everyone!

That evening we went out for Mexican to celebrate and then out with Dan's friends. Everyone was so excited- they even brought champagne! The next day, we were off to Hoboken, New Jersey to visit Carlo's Bakery with Dan's sister's family. It was so cool to see the bakery, all of the really neat cakes, and all of the cakes! Jamie even surprised Dan and me with our very own cake from the bakery! It was all very exciting!

Love at first bite!
The next night was even more celebrating at Ally's 21st birthday party. On Sunday, we went on a train tour called "Love Letters" in Philadelphia. An artist was commissioned to paint 50 murals on walls and rooftops. They are all sayings of love and were really cool! Some you could only see for a minute and others we got off the train to look at, but they were all really neat!

On Monday, we headed back to Virginia to celebrate even more! We went out to dinner with my family and then went to Winchester to celebrate with friends. 

Dan only has a few more days before he leaves : ( but we still have lots of fun stuff going on! This weekend is more celebrating in DC, the dance recital, a Philly's game, maybe back to the shore, and engagement photos! The wedding planning is all in the theoretical stages, but I will write a post on that when I get another chance to sit down!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

From Graduation to Engagement: Pt. 1

Woah, it has been a crazy two weeks!

First up: Graduation
The family at graduation
The days leading up to graduation were filled with packing and moving with Dan. We tried to have everything in the car before Mom, Dad, & Holly got there. We succeeded for the most part and headed off to a Japanese restaurant to celebrate before the ceremony. It was delicious! The ceremony was very nice as well- luckily it did not rain and we were able to have it in the School of Education courtyard. After the ceremony we drove home and tried to find a place for all of the stuff in the house- not easy!

Next: Cruise!
To celebrate my graduation and spend some quality time together before Korea, Dan and I booked a cruise! The first day was a day at sea. We relaxed and watched the water and just enjoyed doing nothing! At dinner, the cruise had sat us with 5 other couples that were about our age so it was a lot of fun. Day 2 was in the Grand Caymens. We scheduled to go kayaking. It was a little overcast and windy so the guide was not sure if we were going to go or not, but we decided to try it. It ended up being wonderful- the clouds made it not as hot, the guide was wonderful, and it was only us and one other couple. After kayaking around the coast, we got to snorkel and swim- we saw fish, eel, lobster, and lots of coral- very cool! After, we were tired and ready for a good dinner on the ship!
The beautiful beach in Cozumel
Day 3 was Cozumel, Mexico. Our excursion for the day was dune buggying. It was definitely not overcast on this day! We drove from the port to a resort to snorkel and then to a nature reserve called Punta Sur- it was so so so beautiful! They fed us lunch and we swam and relaxed! Then back to the buggys to look at crocodiles and Mayan ruins- very very cool!
The next day was another relaxing day at sea and suddenly we were back in Tampa heading back to Philadelphia. It was a wonderful trip and so nice to spend time with just Dan! 

The fun didn't stop there, however! The day after getting home, we were off to the Jersey Shore for Memorial Day weekend! It was my first time at the shore, and while a bit different from my normal beach experience, it was wonderful! We rode bikes on the boardwalk and ate all sorts of yummy food, hung out on the beach, and got to see Ben for his first time on the beach! Lots of fun! Danny even won me a big stuffed animal! :)

Sisters and boyfriends and the wedding
After a few days at the beach, we were off again- back to Virginia for Molly and Rob's wedding! It was so beautiful and fun! It was great to see Holly and Molly together again, eat great food, dance, and see Molly marry the love of her life!  After all of this craziness, we were finally able to head home for a few days! The craziness didnt stop there, but I'll tell you more about that in Part 2- stay tuned!