Getting Personal #116: Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad V.!

Image may contain: 3 people, including Al Vardaro, people smiling, people standing and suit

With Al on our wedding day, November 2015.

Image may contain: 7 people, including Savy Beng Vardaro, Nick Vardaro, Laura Beth Vardaro and Al Vardaro, people smiling, people standing and indoor

I’m pretty sure this is the most recent picture of us. This was taken at Andy Boy’s, a local pizza place, for Momma V.’s birthday, March 2018.

Happy Anniversary to Al’s parents, Mom and Dad Vardaro!

It’s easy to remember how many years they’ve been married, because my parents have been married for the exact same number of years. Crazy, right? Both sets of parents got married in 1982, just in different months!

Bruce and Debbie, I hope you both had a great day today!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Advertisements

Getting Personal #114: Happy Birthday, Dad!

Father-daughter dance. Dad and I danced to "Carolina In My Mind" by James Taylor. This was a surprise for my mom as well - Dad played this song when he proposed to Mom!

Image Credit: Stellar Exposures

Today is my Dad’s birthday!

Writing this post makes me realize we need to take more pictures.

This is one of my favorite photos. This was taken during my birthday dinner last August, when Mom and Dad surprised me with “the gift I’d always wanted” – So many laughs!

I think this is the most recent photo of us, taken in October at Nick and Savy’s wedding.

Have a wonderful day today, Dad! We can’t wait to see you on Saturday for the 18th Anniversary blood drive, and take you out to dinner to truly celebrate soon.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Adventure Time: Norfolk, VA Edition (Round 3 – American Red Cross “Celebration of Heroes” Luncheon)

img_1147

This was the luncheon program. I think the “Ordinary People, Extraordinary Acts” tagline is so fitting!

I had such a unique and special adventure today!

My dad and our church have been honored several times from the local chapter of the American Red Cross, headquartered in Norfolk, Virginia.

Today, my dad, Jim, and two co-coordinators of the church blood drives, Kathy and Michael, were honored and recognized as the American Red Cross Coastal Virginia “Blood Drive Heroes” during the “Celebration of Heroes” luncheon. It was held at the Sheraton Norfolk Waterside Hotel. It was outstanding!

Shannon Revels, our blood drive Donor Recruiting Account Manager was the one who submitted the nomination. We were also introduced to Marissa Nihill, Executive Director, Coastal Virginia American Red Cross, Norfolk.

The room was full. Kathy and I had the opportunity and honor to sit with heroes Daniel “Dan” Jones and Gilbert “Smitty” Smith. Dan saved a woman from drowning in the James River in Richmond last summer, and Smitty performed the Heimlich maneuver and other lifesaving acts on a family member, thanks to his first-responder training.


Photo montage!

The tables were beautifully decorated!

The welcome slide of the PowerPoint.

Blood Drive Heroes!

The food was amazing!!

Emcee Ashley Smith, from 13 News Now, was outstanding!

Marissa Nihill, Executive Director, delivers closing remarks.

Every hero/heroes had a framed biography / back story outside the ballroom.

This is Dad’s award. Kathy and Michael’s are identical, with their names engraved.


I know I’m a little biased, focusing on Dad, Kathy, and Michael. However, every single person who was honored today has an amazing story. Everyone was so humble and appreciative!

Here’s the full list of heroes:

  • Disaster Response Hero – Keene Black
  • Coastal Chapter Humanitarian Hero – Jennifer Boykin
  • Community Impact Hero – Judy Fundak
  • First Aid Hero – Daniel Jones
  • Services to Armed Forces Hero – Jason Redman
  • Community Impact Hero – Samuel Clyde Smith
  • Emergency Responder Hero – Gilbert “Smitty” Smith
  • Lifesaving Heroes – Shane McCoy & Clifford Johnson
  • Water Rescue Heroes – Desiree Joseph, Sean Logan, Josh Turner
  • Blood Drive Heroes – Jim Stricker, Michael Strickland, Kathy Williamson
  • Corporate Humanitarian Hero – Dollar Tree

Together, these heroes provided significant relief after Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, saved people from drowning and choking, served our country bravely through the military, organized countless blood drives, and much more. It was incredible. Kevin Gaydosh, Co-Chair, Board of Directors of the Coastal Chapter, gave several statistics about the chapter’s efforts in 2017. We noted that there were more than 48,329 units of blood donated!! That’s incredible.

It was such a special event. I got emotional several times. Several heroes received standing ovations. It was incredible to witness, and I’m glad that I was able to be a part of it.

It’s fitting this luncheon was held a week before our next blood drive. It’s also our 18th Anniversary blood drive! If you’re in the Hampton Roads area on Saturday, April 7th, we’d love to see you stop by and Give the Gift of Life.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Adventure Time: Scottsburg, VA Edition (Round 6 – The Bengdaro Wedding!)

img_0888

This was the bottom of their Polaroid photo-esque hanging photo booth!

This was the weekend we’d all been waiting for. For nearly two years, we eagerly cheered on Nick and Savy as they planned the wedding of their dreams!

Come along with me as I take you on this grand adventure!


Friday, October 13th

Al and I got up at 4:15 a.m., our normal weekday wake-up call. However, we quickly drank some coffee, and made sure we had everything important in my car. We left our driveway at 5:00 a.m. sharp!

Aside from one hasty bathroom break for me, we made it to the Beautiful Morning Farm (a.k.a., the Vardaro Farm) around 8:30 a.m. Al kept me awake with stories, water, and jelly beans!

img_0915

I think Savy took this on Thursday? I can’t remember. Regardless, this is our favorite niece, Mia. She was gathering greenery for the centerpieces. She turned 12 on Monday! Photo Credit: Savy Beng Vardaro


img_0858

This was the choose-your-own-adventure sign at the welcome table!


img_0859

Hand-painted by Savy! Isn’t she talented?


img_0867

The full photo booth, with the pond in the background.


img_0860

The pole barn, where the reception took place. The bounce house was awesome!


img_0868

Savy painted these epic cornhole boards for Mom and Dad V. several Christmases ago!


img_0862

Setting up the ceremony space!


Saturday, October 14th

I was impressed that I got eight hours of sleep. The farm was buzzing very early on Saturday morning – Savy’s family got up early for coffee and breakfast! Al’s mom was the perfect hostess and had plenty of coffee, plus egg casserole, donuts, and cereal on hand.

Around 10:00 a.m., everything got started. I was lucky enough to get my makeup done by an amazing make-up artist (MUA).

We had spouts of busy and crazy, but it was fairly relaxed, since the festivities didn’t truly start until 4:30 p.m.

Al took this awesome photo of Mia!


img_0916

This was Savy’s GORGEOUS bouquet. She designed it! So unique, so Savy.

Nick and Savy did a “First Look,” and Amanda had a field day with the two of them. So many amazing shots.

Then, the Red Army started off the wedding with a bang! The color red symbolizes good luck, and everyone made a ton of noise to scare off the bad juju and usher in celebration for the bride and groom. We had drummers. We shouted. We hollered. Flags were waved. There were bubble guns. Al flew his quadcopter above us!

 

img_0910

The Red Army processional! Photo Credit: Dan Harris.

The ceremony was beautiful and touching. The officiant, Christina, quoted The Princess Bride. Nick and Savy never stopped smiling. Nick wrote a special set of vows to Mia, and he gave her a beautiful necklace. I loved how they included her in the ceremony!

After the kiss and final music, the party began! We took family photos, and then Amanda whisked Nick and Savy away for more photos. The farm was the perfect setting – I can’t wait to see the official photos!

img_0914

I don’t know who took this particular photo, but it was requested that Nick and Savy, Al and I, and Crystal and Steven got photos together. Amanda was the photographer at all three weddings!


The handsome groom, Nick, and the stunningly beautiful bride, Savy!

 

My dad took this awesome photo of Al and I. It’s my new favorite.


We ate off of cafeteria trays, and head lamps were our favors. “It’s dangerous to go alone! Take this.”


The gorgeous centerpieces. Everything was either handmade or found.


My parents!


Mia is showing the beautiful sea turtle necklace that Nick gave to her during the ceremony. All of us ugly cried.


img_0911

Photo Credit: Dan Harris.


Cornhole!


The paper cranes were beautiful!


The bounce house, with slides!


The cake table.


The cards collection was an old guitar case!


The memory table.


Two of the amazing bellydancers, Ginger and Rachel!

There was SO MUCH FOOD. The estimate was roughly three pounds of meat per person – Basically 300 pounds in all!

During the reception, we had lively music, three incredible bellydancers, Paolo the juggler and fire performer, and more food! Nick and Savy danced to “Fools Rush In,” and Nick and his mom danced to “Simple Man.”

Uncle Dan captured this incredible shot of Paolo!! Photo Credit: Dan Harris.

And then, we danced!


Sunday, October 15th

After an amazing Saturday, we wound down the weekend on Sunday. Breakfast was simple, and Al and I hung around until 2:30 p.m. We took home tons of leftovers – Pot roast, pork butt, and BBQ chicken! I won’t have to cook at all this week – Thanks, Chuck and Angie!

Al and I got home safely around 6:00 p.m., and vegged out!

Everyone came together to make this weekend absolutely spectacular for Nick and Savy. For me, personally, I gained a sister and a niece, so I’m beside myself with happiness.

Al and I were thrilled to be a small part of it!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Adventure Time: Roanoke, VA Edition (“Mimosas in the Mountains” – Savy’s Bachelorette Weekend!)

img_0754

This was one of our gifts! Savy got them on Etsy!

I was waiting for this past weekend for what felt like FOREVER!

This weekend was definitely full of many “firsts” for me:

  • First time visiting the Roanoke area in several years.
  • First time ever staying in an Airbnb.
  • First time going on a significant hike.
  • First time ever getting an Uber.
  • First time, since college, going out and dancing.

There were six of us sharing the Airbnb – Savy, Crystal, Vong, Anna, Brittany, and myself. We all got along great, and had a fabulous weekend!


Friday

Anna and I both were able to take the day off from work. Since I offered to make breakfast for everyone on Saturday morning, I went to Aldi and got all the fixings for French toast and bacon, plus OJ, milk, and coffee. I took my time, since I was picking up Anna at her house in Virginia Beach at 11:00 a.m. My parents offered to let me borrow one of their coolers, plus ice packs and frozen water bottles, so I stopped by their house for about 45 minutes and caught up with my mom.

I got to Virginia Beach early enough to figure out where Anna lived, then topped off my gas tank at BJ’s in Norfolk. I got back to Anna’s around 10:45. We got her stuff in the car, and then headed out!

Traffic was blissfully light – It was just a long-haul drive. We stopped for lunch at a McDonald’s just outside of Richmond. This restaurant had the traditional line, but also two new ordering kiosks. That was certainly interesting.

We got back on the road, and made it all the way to the Waynesboro area before I stopped at a Wendy’s for the bathroom, and the biggest root beer they offered. We still had about two hours left at that point!

All told, it took about five hours to reach the Airbnb in Roanoke, and we got there around 4:45 p.m. Anna and I explored the house, claimed our bedrooms, and then unloaded the car. We hung out for a while. Savy, Crystal, and Vong rode together, and arrived around 6:15 p.m.

I didn’t take a lot of photos of the Airbnb, but it was a really nice house. In addition to the six beds (Three on the second floor, and the other three in the finished basement), there was a spacious living room, sweet kitchen, and an awesome deck right off the first floor!

Once Savy, Crystal, and Vong arrived and got settled, we headed out to find dinner. The good news was we were just a few minutes from downtown Roanoke, and we had a TON of food options. Savy recommended eating as much starch and protein as we could, in preparation for the hike.

We ended up at a really cool place called Bushi. They offer sushi burritos and poke bowls. They’ve only been open for three months, but it was a nice set-up. The vegetables were incredibly fresh (The head chef / manager was slicing avocados while we were there), and the staff made everything in front of you, to your liking. I got the “Don’t Tuna Around” sushi burrito – I loved it! The only wrinkle was it fell apart really quickly, and it was pretty messy, but it didn’t matter. I ate every bite.

After dinner, we drove to the local Kroger. Vong got all the stuff for sandwiches for the hike, plus fresh apples, trail mix, a case of water, and a few other things. Savy wanted to pay for some of it, and we said absolutely not! Between Crystal, Vong, and I, we made it work.

For the rest of Friday night, we just enjoyed the amazing cool air on the deck with the patio furniture, sharing stories, popcorn, Cheez-Its, and iced animal crackers. I stayed up until 11:00 p.m. or so, but I knew I needed to get up around 5:30 a.m. to start breakfast!


Saturday

I’m glad I got up around 5:30 a.m., because I needed the prep time for breakfast! I made the French toast first, and then started on the bacon. I saved the scrambled eggs for last. I used 11 eggs total!

Vong was the first one up, and we waited for everyone else to get up to eat. It took some brain power to figure out the Ninja coffee maker, but it worked like a charm.

We ate together at the dining room table and drank mimosa with our mugs, along with coffee. After breakfast, everyone scattered to take showers and get dressed. We also slathered ourselves in sunscreen and heavy-duty bug spray.

img_0753

Scrambled eggs, bacon, and French toast with syrup.

I drove Vong and Brittany in my car, and then Savy took Crystal and Anna in hers. It was about a 20-minute drive to McAfee Knob. It’s part of the Appalachian Trail!

img_0755

The parking lot was already pretty full when we arrived, which was around 9:15 a.m. We set off to start at 9:20 a.m. There were several people coming DOWN the trail as we started!

This hike was HARD. I’m talking steep elevation, billions of rocks and boulders, thinning air, and navigating tree roots. But, it was completely worth it. I was definitely the slowest of the group, but we took several breaks for water and KIND bars to keep our energy up.

There were gigantic boulders throughout the hike!

img_0763

This was one of the places where we stopped for a break. The clearing was full of thousands of plants and wildflowers!

This was a series of photos from the top. It was absolutely breathtaking. I almost cried! It felt like a huge accomplishment. It took us 3 1/2 hours to get to the top, but it was absolutely worth it. We spent about 45 minutes at the top, where we ate lunch, people-watched, dog-watched (So many dogs!), and taking photos. According to my FitBit, it was 11,000 steps!!

img_0786

Obligatory group photo, or it didn’t happen! L to R: Brittany, Laura Beth, Savy, Anna, Vong, and Crystal.

img_0793

Most everyone had their photo taken like this. I was a little nervous, but it was awesome!

In total, it was basically a six-hour hike, round trip. I counted 22,000 steps total!

After the hike, we headed back to the Airbnb. I’m so glad Savy took me through a series of stretches, because otherwise, I definitely would not be walking so easily today! Everything from the waist down hurts, but it’s an awesome feeling.

We took showers and vegged out for several hours on Saturday. Savy and Vong made a freaking fantastic spaghetti dinner, with three pounds of meat in the sauce, plus garlic bread, and salad. I don’t know what Vong did, but she added orange juice to the leftover honey mustard for salad dressing, and it was amazing!!

After dinner, most of us took power naps, since we were going out dancing later. We had a blast!

img_0788

This was the selfie that I sent to Al before going out!


Sunday

We were able to extend the Airbnb check-out time to 12:00 p.m., which was great, since many slept in, Brittany made an amazing bread pudding for breakfast, and we had to clean up!

Brittany’s bread pudding consisted of day-old croissants, ham, cheese, eggs, green peppers, onions, and probably a few other ingredients. It was SO GOOD!

After checking out, we headed toward Charlottesville to visit the Michael Shaps Wineworks. It was on the way home, and highly recommended.

We visited the Tasting Room, and dined on amazing Brie cheese and toasted bread. Michael Shaps offers various French and Virginia wines, and it’s a family-owned business. It was really cool learning about the history of the winery, and how they grow their grapes in France, as well as Virginia. Anna got a bottle, and I bought Savy a bottle of her favorite red for the wedding!

After the tasting, we headed toward home. It was a long drive, but it was a great end to a fabulous weekend. Anna was so sweet and paid for my gas on the way home, and I dropped her off around 6:30 p.m. My car got basically 40 miles to the gallon between Friday and Sunday!!

I got home just after 7:00 p.m. Al helped me unload the car. We started a load of laundry, and then we compared notes about our weekends. Al celebrated Nick’s bachelor weekend in Virginia Beach and Richmond. Everyone was thoroughly entertained, to say the least. By 8:30 p.m., we headed to bed!


Savy – I had an AMAZING weekend. Thank you so much for including me in the festivities! I had so much fun.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Getting Personal #56: Happy 35th Anniversary, Mom and Dad!

View More: http://stellarexposures.pass.us/vwedding

Mom and Dad!

I wanted to take a few minutes today to wish my Mom and Dad a very happy 35th wedding anniversary!

They were married on this date in 1982, in Florida. The last time I checked, the building was still standing, but it was no longer pink!

They celebrated this past weekend with a mini-getaway, and Mom surprised Dad with flowers on the altar at church yesterday. The arrangement had daisies in it, and that’s what Mom had in her original bouquet.

I hope you two had a great day today!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Getting Personal #47: Giving Thanks

730dfd2e5ad61203ce512018f5853a0e

Image Credit: pinterest.com

Since today is Thanksgiving Eve, I wanted to take a few minutes to write about giving thanks and reflecting on so many blessings that I have.

I’ve been pretty busy these last few weeks, which is why you haven’t seen many posts from me recently. Since last year, November has become a whirlwind month. We just celebrated a year of marriage. We went on a super relaxing vacation. Since we got home, we’ve dived back into reality – Home improvement projects, making sure parts of our house don’t flood, getting excited for the holidays.

I’m in the home stretch with my Trial Prep class. I’ve been trying to finish my two big projects that make up 45 percent of my grade – They’re due next week. After that, all that’s left is my final exam.

I’m blessed to be a part of several wonderful families – By blood, by marriage, by church. I’m looking forward to creating our family-favorite, absolutely delicious Chocolate Mousse Cake tonight, to share with Al, my parents, family friends, and church family tomorrow afternoon.


Reflecting on 2016, overall, it’s been a pretty good year.

No doubt, I’ve dealt with challenges, nightmares, anxiety attacks, friendship difficulties, and information overload.

There are still people in shock over the election results. There are families dealing with insurmountable tragedies – House fires, hospitalizations, difficult pregnancies, refugees trying to migrate, the horror of war, losing children / family members in school bus crashes. It happens every single day.

But, I thank God for a wonderful marriage, loving families, amazing health, stable jobs, a beautiful house, food in the fridge, and the ability to help others.

As we enter the 2016 holiday season, I’m motivated to help others as much as possible. It’s about giving, not receiving. I hope to give a pint of blood in two weeks. I hope to help at least one child have an amazing Christmas morning. I hope to spend quality time with my family and friends.

I’m very blessed. Writing everything down here, in this amazing space and platform, has only increased my gratitude.

I’m also incredibly grateful for you, my readers. Thank you so much for helping this little blog blossom into something amazing, especially this past year. All of you are amazing!

Readers, I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving tomorrow!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂