Thursday, December 30, 2010

Top 10 of 2010

I went back through our 2010 calendar and selected my 10 favorite memories from 2010.

Number 10:
Wrapping up my accounting education at Towson University I took Tax II and Cost I this year. I loved Tax II and I especially loved Cost! My experience with Towson's accounting department (3 years ago) started off with disappointment with the qualtity of the instructors, but finished successfully. 2011 will bring the challenge of the CPA Exam.

Number 9:
Jimmy Buffett Concert #7 - Labor Day Weekend
This year I compiled the largest tailgate for a Buffett concert that we've ever had. I went to my first Buffett show in 2007 with just 3 other friends. In 2010, we took two van-loads - 16 people altogether! There was lots of food & drink, fins & fun!

Number 8:
Football success - the Ravens & Camo Pirates
Despite not making it to the SuperBowl in 2010, some of my fondest memories are a result of the Ravens success. The dominating playoff victory over the Patriots comes to mind - along with the large gathering we had at our house for the Divisional loss to the Colts, which included a "front-yard tailgate", bon fire and all! My fantasy football team, the Camo Pirates entered the year as 2009 Champions and have recently finished as repeat Champions in 2010.

Number 7:
Saturday with my brother
Back in October I spent a fun afternoon with my brother Will. We started the day by seeing Jackass 3D at the White Marsh Theaters. Later that afternoon we participated in the brewery tour at Heavy Seas (formerly Clipper City). We learned a lot about the beer-making process and enjoyed lots of free samples. What better way is there to spend the day with your brother?

Number 6:
Magic Kingdom 2010
We made our annual trip to Walt Disney World this summer. Our visit to the Magic Kingdom was especially fun this year because we were joined by Uncle Matt and cousin Artie. It was also Delaney's first visit - at least for half of the day. It was probably the hottest day of the summer, as you can tell from the sweat on my shirt, but also one of the most fun days!

Number 5:
Pirate Cruises
How many different pirate cruises can you go on in one year? Well, if you're me, then two! While in Florida we took an evening cruise, hosted by Captain Hook and Mister Smee, complete with food and drink, sea chanties, and fireworks. In September, Laura and I were invited aboard the Fearless - the Urban Pirates' ship for our friend Kara's birthday. It was a really fun evening of bar-hopping, topped by a BYOB cruise through the Inner Harbor at night. We might have had too much fun!

Number 4:
Cousin Weekend and Turning 30
For weeks leading up to my 30th birthday I tried to come up with the best way to celebrate. The result was perfect! Two of my cousins already lived in Florida, so it was just a matter of gathering up Will and Beth and heading south. In late January, Will, Casey, myself, Beth & Amber (along with our significant others) spent a long weekend at Casey's house playing games, grilling out, drinking beer and enjoying the transition from my 20's to my 30's.

Number 3:
Birthday Parties
We celebrated Delaney Mae's first birthday on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon in April at my parents house on the waterfront. Many of our closest family and friends participated in the celebration. Mackinzie Joy turned five in typical fashion - at "the bouncy-place"! Ultimate Play Zone featured so many moonbounces, slides and games. It was especially fun for Kinzie to invite her new friends from Kindergarten!

Number 2:
New York City!!
Number two on the countdown is the most recent, but also one of the best. Laura and I got out of town for the weekend to experience New York. We spent time with our friends Chris & Lauren, did lots of sight-seeing and also had a nice dinner with my old roommate Jeff. The highlight of the trip came on the last day when we caught a taping of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. If you haven't seen our short appearance on TV check this out. It was a weekend I won't soon forget!

Number 1:
Ocracoke Island, North Carolina
We spent a week in July in the Outer Banks with the Sroka family. At the end of the week, we piled into the Highlander and headed south on Route 12 until it came to an end in Hatteras. I drove onto a ferry and we cruised to Ocracoke Island. It was just one night, less than 24 hours, but this is by far my most favorite thing we did all year! There was lots of pirate history. There was a simplicity about the place. The isolation of being on a small island, along with the company of just my wife and daughters gave me a really good feeling. The Rode family will definitely be visiting Ocracoke again in the future - but probably when the girls are a little bit older.

We are just a little over 36 hours away from 2011. I hope the new year brings many more memories!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Breakfast with Mickey and the Gang

On our first Friday morning in Florida (July 23) we headed into Orlando to have breakfast at Chef Mickey's. We did this last year with Mimi. This year's special guest was Uncle Matt! Both he and Kinzie were super excited to meet Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, & Pluto! When we arrived at the Contemporary Resort, we were seated and started making our plates full of sausage, bacon, eggs, pancakes and "Mickey" waffles. Our anxiety heightened when the fanfare music began to play and the announcement was made that the characters would be greeting us soon! We could hardly contain ourselves!
First to arrive at our table was Goofy. He happily signed the first page in Mackinzie's new autograph book and took this picture with our family.
Next came Minnie Mouse. She was very sweet and posed with the ladies of the Rode family
Delaney loves dogs and Pluto was no exception! She was a little hesitant at first, but she quickly became playful with the characters....
... except that she was in no mood to have her picture taken with Donald and the guys.
The "leader of the club that was made for you and me" was the final visitor to our table. Mickey is always fun! He gladly posed with the Rode family.....
... and with Uncle Matt!
Mackinzie's autograph book is off to a good start - we'll hit the Magic Kingdom the next day...

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Our Night in Ocracoke

We said 'Goodbye' to the Lady of the Lake house in Corolla bright and early on Saturday morning (July 17) and headed south along Route 12, cruising the coastline towards Hatteras - where the road ends. There we drove the Highlander onto a ferry, destination: Ocracoke Island. There are no bridges to Ocracoke. The only ways to reach the island are by ferry, boat or plane. It was a really cool experience to be in the car, yet on a boat for the 40 minute ferry ride.We were allowed to get out of the vehicle to walk around the ferry, but because it was such a short ride, there wasn't much to do, other than sight-see and take some pictures.
When we arrived on the island, we headed straight for our hotel, the Ocracoke Harbor Inn, where we were fortunate enough to get into our room early. After settling in for a bit, we headed out to explore the island.
Ocracoke is a really neat place because it is very secluded. There are no Days Inn or Best Westerns, no McDonalds or Applebees, no Exxons or Shell stations. Many of the locals travel by bicycle or golf cart. The speed limit is 20-25 mph throughout the village.
Ocracoke is historically known for pirates - specifically, Blackbeard. (which, as you have probably guessed, was my main intention for wanting to visit there). It was there that Blackbeard lived for a while and eventually died in a battle just off the harbor. After enduring several slashes and stabbings, and multiple gun shots, his head was cut off and hung from the bow of the ship... see Wikipedia for more...
Our first stop in exploring Ocracoke Island was Teach's Hole - a museum and shop dedicated to the notorious pirate.
Surprisingly enough, Mackinzie was very excited to learn more about Blackbeard.
There wasn't a whole lot to the exhibits, just a few models and documents, but it was very cool in my opinion.
Laura described this photo on Facebook as "Bert wishes he was tiny enough to fit on Blackbeards ship" .... very true!
... and this historical marker was proof to Laura that Blackbeard actually existed - although I still can't convince her that there are still pirates around today - in the Somolian-form .
We ate lunch outdoors on the porch at the Jolly Roger, located right on Silver Lake Harbor and enjoyed some shopping at sight-seeing, specifically the Ocracoke Lighthouse - which has been in operation since 1823.
We arrived at the lighthouse just as the storm clouds were gathering.
We woke up early again to catch the 7:00am ferry departing Ocracoke for Cedar Island. This ferry ride would last two and half hours. The time went by pretty quickly, thanks to the laptop computer and the car dvd-player. This ferry was also much larger than the one we rode on the day before. There was a large lounge with tables and chairs and booths - vending machines, restrooms, etc...
Here are all three of my girls enjoying some time "out-of-the-car" on the ferry.
Ocracoke Island was a really cool place. I would definitely like to visit there again and spend more than one night - but we'll probably wait until our girls are a little bit older.
I bought this little antenna flag from the Teach's Hole gift shop. On the morning of July 18, 2010, the Jolly Roger flew again out of Ocracoke Harbor... albeit from our Toyota Highlander on a ferry...

Thursday, July 22, 2010

OBX: Wrap up

It has been almost a week since we left Corolla - Outer Banks, North Carolina. I guess its about time that we wrapped up that portion of our summer on the blog.
Survivor: OBX proved to be a bit of a bust this year. After Josh was voted out on Day 1, the Trymynuts Tribe lost the immunity challenge again. This time, Matt was voted out... ... he looks pretty sad with his bags packed in this picture, but it was his own vote for himself that sealed his fate. This trend continued when the Trymynuts Tribe lost a third consecutive immunity challenge on Day 3. The last three tribe members, Gigi, Mandy, & Emily all voted out Gigi... yes, that means Gigi voted for herself. On Day 4, the Lake Kick-A-Butt Tribe finally lost their first immunity challenge. All five tribal votes were cast for Pop-pop, resulting in another case of ousted player voting for themselves. It was obvious that nobody wanted to hurt any feelings - which is a good thing, but not the best scenario for a no-holds-barred family Survivor battle. Jeff Probst would be disappointed. In hindsight, we should have stipulated from the beginning that you could not vote for yourself, but nonetheless the excitment of Survivor: OBX had been lost and the final days of the trip were filled with more wholesome activities.
On Wednesday, Laura and I took our girls and cousin, Emma, to the North Carolina Aquarium in Manteo - about an hour from our house in Corolla. Because we are annual members at the Maryland Zoo, we get free admission to many other zoos and aquariums throughout the country, this being one of them. It was much smaller and not nearly as great as the National Aquarium in Baltimore, but for free admission, we weren't complaining. It was a great way to spend a rainy day.
Here are Maeby, Emma, & Kinzie posing in front of one of the tanks.
Maeby really enjoyed seeing the fish! She pointed and talked to everything in sight.
There was a nice little park on the aquarium property (right on the water), so we took a few pictures after the clouds parted.
Laura poses with the girls by the fountain.
Our last few days at the Lady of the Lake house in Corolla were relaxing and lot of fun.
Kinzie and Maeby really enjoyed the trip!
And Gigi & Pop-pop spent lots of quality time with each of their granddaughters.
Kinzie helped Gigi work on some of her homemade jewelry...
... and Pop-pop tickled Maeby silly!
Many of you have already heard details from our post-Corolla trip to Ocracoke Island, but for those who haven't, you'll have to wait for the next blog post....

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Sroka Survivor: OBX episode 1

Due to internet difficulties, we are a few days behind.... This is from Sunday....

Sunday was a SPECIAL day because it was Brooke's 3rd birthday! :) So Mandy made a beautiful cake...

and here's the birthday girl...
It was Matt and Emily's night to make dinner. They make yummmmmy shishcabobs!
Once the girls were in bed, it was time to let the games begin! .... We started by making teams. We had papers in a bag with either the number 1 or 2. Whichever number you picked, thats what team you were on. We then took a few minutes to come up with our team names and a little strategy if need be.... Here's what it came to be.... (***note: I cannot be held accountable for the other teams name...***)

After teams were chosen we then started our first individual immunity. If a player wins individual immunity they may give it to another player if they choose. If their team is not up for trbal council, then they may give immunity to someone on the other team....Our Individual Immunity game for tonight was wering a pedometer on your head for thirty seconds and however got the most "steps" won. Here is a little taste of the fun haha....

Bert's turn:

PopPop's turn:

After all was said and done, Emily won with 128 "steps" in 30 seconds (shew!). Here is proud Emily with the immunity tiara.
But don't worry my friends, the night is still young. We still have tribe immunity up for grabs. To decide which tribe had to go to tribal council, we played a cornhole tournament.

After three tense games, Lake Kick-A-Butt Tribe won! Watch the videos below to see how Tribal Council turns out:

The votes are in:

So after our first day of Survivor, TryMyNuts Tribe choked and kicked off a strong player. See you next time on Sroka Survivor: OBX

OBX Day 1

So we packed up the car the night before and when our 3am alarm went off, we put the girls in the car and headed to outer banks hoping the girls would sleep most of the way.... They definitely were awake most of the time, but thanks to Sleeping Beauty, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, and Little Einsteins, they were quiet and content. We didn't hit any traffic at all and were in our Corrolla destination by 10am. Unfortunately for us, they wouldn't give us the key until 4pm. So for the next 6 hours we went to some fun shops, had subway, drove around, and went to the wildlife preserve museam/big grassy area to run around. Around 2 we were joined by pop-pop, gigi, sissy and chris (Chrissy??) ....went grocery shopping then GOT THE KEY!!! yayyyyy!!!
We start off with a lovely game of Chutes and Ladders (PopPop made Kinzie cry because he didn't let her win!)

Then PopPop almost burned down the Lady of the Lake.....

I love this pic of Kinzie and Bert swimming....

Matt and Emily finally got here around 8ish and we played a crazy game of spoons...

Josh, Mandy, Emma, and Brooke got in around 10 but by then everyone was beat from a long day of driving...

Stay tuned for the Survivor intro later today! :)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Red, White, & Blue

We had a really great Fourth of July weekend! My parents held a cookout on the waterfront for family and friends. The weather was nice, the food was good and the fireworks were excellent!
For the occasion, Laura broke out her red, white and blue dress... ... baby Mackinzie wore the outfit back in July of 2006 when she was just a chubby little nine-month old. Now, in 2010, Delaney is wearing the same outfit at almost 15 months old - not quite the "fat-baby" that her big sister was. ("fat-baby" being Kinzie's term for her younger self :)
My wonderful wife, although having shorter hair - still just as beautiful four years later!
Speaking of which, Laura and I also celebrated our second wedding anniversary this weekend on July 5th. Loyal blog readers will remember that we actually started this blog as a countdown to the wedding back in 2008 - since that time I have experienced the most amazing two years of my life and I look forward to each day, week, month and year I get to spend with this wonderful woman and the two beautiful girls she gave us!

(photo courtesy of Mandy Sroka Photography)

Monday, June 28, 2010

"Workin' at the Car Wash, Girl"

This past Saturday we volunteered to help raise some funds for a good cause. A car wash was held at Broadneck Evangelical Presbyterian Church to support Matt & Emily Sroka's upcoming trip to Tanzania. They will be working for Village School International, teaching English and sharing the gospel.
While I worked the drying and window washing station, and Laura scrubbed and rinsed, Mackinzie split her time between hosing off cars and bringing in the business with her cousin, Emma.
(photo provided by Gale Peck c/o Emily Sroka)
We had a fun afternoon altogether.
Matt and Emily have set up their own blog and we encourage you to follow them and keep them in your prayers. They depart in September and will be in Africa for almost an entire year!