Saturday, March 13, 2010

Caribbean Cruising with Holland America Lines

Last year we made the decision to go on a cruise with a group largely made up from our area. We thought it was a great way to meet people on our new community. We mentioned our trip to Dave and Ginny, friends of ours from Mullett Lake. They had never cruised before and they were so interested, they decided to go on the cruise with us. We welcomed the company.

After driving down to Fort Lauderdale, we chose to stay at The Hyatt Place, a higher priced hotel than we normally stay at BUT they had free parking for up to 2 weeks. The next morning as we waited for the shuttle bus to take us to Port Everglades, we met Ann and Paul, another couple staying at the same hotel going on the same cruise as us. We became fast friends and even more so once we found that Ann and I shared the same birthday!

Once we were on board The Noordam (A Holland America Line) we immediately went to the Lido deck for the buffet lunch. You didn't really think that there was going to be a meal that we would miss? After we had our stomach filled, we found our room. We were on the 5th deck, about midship which is exactly where I like to be - close to elevators, and I don't have to walk from one end of the ship to the other end.

We made our reservations for the specialty restaurant - The Pinnacle Grill - which charged $20 per person as well as the Italian restaurant which needed a reservation but there was no extra charge. These restaurants fill up quickly and we were anxious to get our reservations in as soon as possible.

We toured the ship and one of the surprises that I found was that they had a Culinary Arts Center which offered cooking lessons as well as cooking demonstrations. I signed up for one of 12 slots for the chicken stuffed with banana and prosciutto class. The spa salon was really nice and they had many services to offer BUT they were very expensive - I didn't book any spa sessions.

After dinner, we went to the Vista Lounge for our first show. While sitting in the audience prior to the show, we were asked, as well as our new friends Ann and Paul, if we would go on stage in participate in a game. We said sounded like fun. Our game was called "Make the Bed". On stage were two twin beds on platforms. Our challenge was to compete against Ann and Paul and see which couple could make the bed in one minute. You are probably thinking that it sounds easy but wait......we also had to make a towel animal. We were doomed. We made the bed (barely) and I quickly scrunched up the towel in a pile, grabbed my husband's glasses and put them on our towel creature. When I was asked for the inspiration of my creature, I mean animal, I proudly stated "My husband". Next I was asked what was my animal's name and all I could think of was Big Bird's friend Snuggleupagus. The other team had no inspiration, so name. By a round of applause, we won the game. Our prize, a book of instructions for making towel creatures and a picture frame. We quickly gained some notoriety among our fellow cruisers as the couple who put glasses on their towel animal.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Escape from the Snow

Boy, were we lucky to have a 10 day Caribbean trip planned so that we could escape the cold and snow of Virginia. To make it more of a vacation, we decided to drive down to Fort Lauderdale. With the car loaded, we were "on the road again".

We made it to the Georgia/Florida border, an ideal place for us to spend the night since we wanted to see the Okefenokee Swamp the next day. We use the Room Saver coupon books that are in rest areas to get our rooms. You wouldn't believe how much more people pay for the same room that we do when we use the coupon books.
We woke up and drove over to the Swamp where we went on a boat ride through the swamp with Joey, a 6th generation swamper. Birds, gators and much more were in the swamp. A very interesting place to visit if you haven't been there.

Our next stop was Amelia Island and Fernardina Beach. What a unique and quaint city it was. We drove along to check out the island before returning to our next motel room (Best Western in Yulee City) where once again we used our Room Saver coupons and saved $20 more than the person that was checking in behind me (boy, was he upset when he heard how much we were paying).

The next morning we went for another boat ride - this one around part of Amelia Island, Cumberland Island (where John F. Kennedy, Jr. was married) and other barrier islands. We saw gators (again), wild horses, birds and so much more. The evening was capped off with a delicious meal with a smocking friend of mine. Great food, great wine and great friendship. Thank you Suzanne for a wonderful evening.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Too Much Snow!!!!!!!

I do like snow particularly when it is snowing or the day after it has snowed when the snow crystals are sparkling on the trees and the sun has come out and the sky is an azure blue. The next day, the snow, slush, grime, salt can all go away.

It started in December when we received 2 feet of snow. What is a little unusual is that I am in central Virginia where we usually don't get this much snow. Nevertheless, we had it and had to deal with it even though it meant that we had to cancel our family's Christmas (no one was going to be here on Christmas day).

We went to Michigan for a month and had little snow or at least a little for northern Michigan. We even delayed our return to avoid yet another snowstorm in central Virginia, one which dumped 8 inches on our area. Two days after we got home, and four days after the previous storm, we received another 6 inches of snow.

Now, we are in the midst of another BIG snowstorm and again it has screwed up our weekend plans. We were going to DC and meet with our son and his fiancee to look at wedding rehearsal dinner venues and to celebrate Christmas but oh no - Mother Nature had to screw it up. So we sit home, shoveling every two hours a wet and heavy snow.

We have decided to try to go to DC next Tuesday, trying to work around our son's evening school classes. But of course, Mother Nature is stepping in again to squash that idea by having yet another snowstorm on Tuesday/Wednesday. What about the weekend following, you ask? He'll be away in New Orleans for a Bachelor Party but also, another snowstorm is in the horizon.

Mother Nature, haven't we had enough snow?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Snakes, Deer and Frogs

My husband has met some new people while volunteering in various organizations while up North. One of the couples invited us, and another older couple, to their home for dinner last night. I had heard that this older couple were retired science teachers and very much naturalists as they have camped near the Arctic Circle for nearly two months.

I am very much a city girl having grown up in the Boston area and lived the past 28 years in a suburb of Washington DC. I believe that you go to the grocery store to buy your meat for dinner. This is just what I am familiar with. I learned that we were to eat venison that had just been shot by a neighbor the day before. Nothing against venison but I have never had it and of course, Bambi runs through my mind. All day I am dreading Bambi on my plate for dinner. Can I cut it up into small pieces and hid it under other things; can I even eat it?

We arrive at their house to find that in their living room resides their 20 foot long python snake. You heard me - 20 FEET LONG!!!!!! They bring here out, I had to pet it and then hold it as it is hissing at me. Then it poops on their carpeting and they give us a science lesson on snake poop.

I'm just not a snake girl, sad to say.

We got to their house early so we could watch their favorite movie, one that our son Jeff, who is a middle school science teacher, would love to show his students (or so they told us). I was rather doubtful but went along. The movie was called "Frog" and starred Shelley Duvall and Elliot Gould. It was okay but so dated as it was filmed in the mid 1980's and the girls had the big hair, station wagons for the family car (no mini-vans at that time), big aviator glasses (think Peter Marshall on the old Hollywood Squares).

Dinner followed with canned corn from last summer (very good), soggy Brussels Sprouts, couscous with Swiss Chard and .......BAMBI. I tried it and ate it. Not as bad as I thought it would be and my husband said that the host cooked it perfectly. I just needed to get over that I was eating a deer.

Conversation after dinner which was fine. We spoke about favorite movies and the hosts thought that the best movies were the East German movies (last time I remember East Germany was 1990) and those form China. I mentioned that I loved Sand Lot and Goonies, neither of which he had heard. Strange. Almost un-American. Unfortunately, I think we later bored the husband. He fell asleep at the dinner table. His wife said and did nothing and I can't believe that I am sitting there with a snake in the room, husband asleep, the bathroom in their bedroom is frigid because they don't heat the bedroom (the other guest guessed that it was 40 degrees). We were home by 9:00 PM.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Ribbon Blankets

I love to feel creative and that is a little difficult when I don't draw, sing or act. Instead I sew and cook. I love the feel of fabric and all the thoughts that enter my mind when I see and feel fine fabric. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by all my ideas and don't get anything done. While I am up here in Michigan, my goal to to work on some of the projects that I have the supplies for.

I decided to make ribbon blankets for babies. I brought up north with me some incredibly soft and cuddly minkee fabric as well as some washed and oh so soft flannel to coordinate with it. I thought I had all my ribbons up here but instead only had a few. Off to WalMart I went to see what they. With my purchases in hand, it was time to cut out the fabrics, pin on the ribbons and see what I could come up with. Here is the end result. I hope to have many made for the summer craft shows up here. Let me know if you like them.

Friday, January 15, 2010

New Year's Resolution - a little late

What's the rush? Can't New Year's resolutions be made anytime in the first month of the New Year? Mine, and I am hanging my head down low, is to write more frequently on this blog. So many things have happened that I haven't written about or documented and they would have made such great blogs. I am going to mix it up a little - some from earlier this past year and some current.

Current - Our son Chris is finishing up his three weeks in Europe. He left Dec. 26th to join a study abroad program. He is working toward his MBA (graduation is May from George Washington University in Washington DC) and these three weeks are credits for him. He arrived in Barcelona and then traveled to Paris, Interlaken, Zurich, Venice and Milan. To read some of his adventures here is his blog: The photos are all his. Once you have read this one, please click on next entry to read about his free weekend in Brugge, Belgium. Feel free to wander around his blog for all of his adventures around the world. The photo above is his taken on New Year's Eve in Paris.