Friday, March 30, 2012

The Cruise Diaries--It's Grand!

Tuesday was the third day of our Western Caribbean cruise, and we woke up to the warm, sunny weather we'd been waiting for.  It was the second of our three days in ports.  The ship had left Cozumel on Monday, and Tuesday morning we woke up in George Town Grand Cayman.

Hubby Tony and I had decided not to sign up for any shore excursions in Grand Cayman.  We'd been there previously, had seen many of the attractions, and had no desire to go again.  Son Brian and DIL Nicole wanted to spend the day on the beach.  I did not, so we agreed we'd go our separate ways for the day.  Since we didn't have to be anywhere at a specific time we slept in, then had a leisurely breakfast.

There are no berthing facilities for cruise ships at George Town. Instead, they anchor offshore and use tenders to ferry passengers ashore.  In order to keep everyone from rushing off the ship at the same time they issued tickets, then called out the numbers of the tenders as it was time to board.  By time we got around to getting a ticket they were giving out number 11, which meant we wouldn't be leaving for more than an hour.  I got my book and went to the Solarium to read.  The next time I looked up, Brian was walking by!

He and Nicole had gotten four tickets for the tender before ours, and  Tony and I were happy to change our plans and go with them.  When they called the tender number we made our way down to the exit, went through the security area, and over the gangplank to the boat.  The trip took about 5 minutes, during which we were able to see ships large and small bobbing in the smooth water.  When we docked there was a bit of a traffic jam, as everyone tried to get off the tender at once.

When we'd passed the gauntlet of food and souvenir booths at the port, Nicole and Brian went one way and Tony and I went the other.  The first thing we saw outside the port area were stores.  Shopping is big in Grand Cayman.  It's a duty free port, so there are a lot of places selling things like watches, perfume, and jewelry.  Cheap souvenir shops and restaurants catering to tourists were mixed in with the upscale stores.  I knew I'd be browsing in the stores before we went back to the ship, but it was NOT the main thing I wanted to do.

Fortunately the tourist shopping area is only several square blocks. It didn't take us long to get away from it.  The "real" George Town was a very nice and clean city.  Grand Cayman is a British Overseas Territory, and cars drive on the left side of the road. I'm not used to that, and it made it a little tricky to cross the street until I got used to it.  All of the historical buildings are close together.  We stopped at the Clock Tower which included the 1919 Peace Memorial, a King George statue, the Public Library and the Post Office, and walked past Heroes Square where the Legislative Assembly met.  The Cayman Islands are a major international financial center. George Town is the nation's capital, and has over 500 banks. Every time we turned a corner we saw another one!

Before long we got hungry.  I wanted a local place, so we asked a clerk in one of the stores for a recommendation.  She suggested Corita's Copper Kettle, which was just a couple of blocks away.  Without the tip we would have walked right past the small building, but we entered and took a seat at one of the tables.  The short menu was printed on a single piece of paper.  I chose a red snapper meal, which included fish in a tasty red sauce, rice and beans, cole slaw, and fried plantain.  Tony had fish and chips.  For a minute I thought about not eating the cole slaw, since I was in a foreign country, but decided to chance it.  No problems.

After lunch it was time to shop.

I stopped into one of the jewelry stores that was advertising a free gemstone necklace, which turned out to be a small but nice-looking garnet on a silver chain.  They tried to interest me in the matching earrings,  but I explained that garnet is my birthstone and I already have a lot of garnet earrings.  However, at another store I did take advantage of the promotional earrings.  I got a nice-looking pair of smoky topaz for only ten dollars.  This time the sales pitch went in reverse-did I want to buy the matching necklace?  The clerk didn't look like his heart was in it, though, and didn't argue with my "no".  We stopped in a couple of souvenir shops but didn't see anything that interested us and decided to go back to the ship.

As we were waiting for the tender the skies got dark and the wind picked up.  We'd just docked at the ship when it started raining.  Fortunately we were able to stay dry.  Brian and Nicole, who we found out were on the tender just behind us, weren't.  They'd been sitting on the top of the boat and got drenched.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Just Dandy!

On Wednesday I don't have to be at work until 12:30. It's my day to move slowly; I enjoy puttering around the house in the morning, then eating a nice lunch at home before it's time to leave.  Usually I go to the gym, but since it was so nice out today (a forecast of 80 degrees, 15 degrees above average) I decided to walk through the neighborhood instead.

After breakfast I put on my shoes, grabbed my MP3 player and phone, and headed outside. Part of my route went by the local elementary school, where I saw one of the maintenance people cutting the grass with a large tractor. As I walked by the freshly-cut grass a strong onion-y smell came my way, and I realized there must have been some wild onions plants mixed in with the grass.

I'd already been mulling over what I was going to have for lunch.  The only vegetables we had in the house were broccoli and carrots, which I'd had every day this week.  I had no desire to repeat them again today.  The smell of the wild onions got me thinking about all the "weed" plants that I've heard are edible, and all of a sudden a light bulb went on. Why couldn't I tap into my yard for something to eat?

We haven't treated our yard chemically for several years (and it shows).  Along with the grass, right now there's a motley mixture of clover and broad leaf weeds.  I've seen several yellow dandelion flowers, so there had to be plants too.  By "harvesting" the dandelion leaves I could kill two birds with one stone; the plants couldn't go to seed and reproduce, and I'd get a nice green leafy side dish.

When I got home I gathered my supplies: a trowel, a measuring cup to hold dandelion leaves, and a  plastic flowerpot for everything else that would be going in the compost pile.  I started in the back, then moved around the yard looking for the distinctive deeply toothed lance-shaped leaves. Some of the plants had flowers and were easy to see. The ones without blooms weren't, but when I was done I had a cup and a half of packed greens. I also had a flowerpot full of dandelion roots and other weeds I'd removed.

My original plan was to treat the leaves like greens and saute them with some garlic and onion. However, when I saw the tiny leaves I changed my plan.  If I were buying them in the store, they'd be called "baby greens" and I'd probably pay a premium price for them.  I nibbled on one.  It was slightly bitter, like endive, so I decided to have salad for lunch

I "hard boiled" an egg in the microwave and threw it into the refrigerator to chill. Right before lunch I gave the dandelions a coarse chop, along with the egg and some strawberries, then tossed everything with balsamic dressing

The salad was ok, but the bitterness was a bit overwhelming.  The strawberries really helped add sweetness.  However, after I was done I decided that if the dandelion leaves had been part of a mixture of greens they would work well.  I'll have to experiment with this...I certainly have enough dandelions in the yard!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Cruise Diaries--Mexican Monday

Our Western Caribbean cruise lasted seven days.  The ship, the Voyager of the Seas, left New Orleans on Saturday night. Sunday we were at sea, had three consecutive days in ports, then two more sailing days before we arrived back in New Orleans on Saturday morning.

On Monday we were scheduled to arrive in Cozumel, Mexico at 7:00 in the morning.  Our group (me, Hubby Tony, Son Brian, and DIL Nicole) had signed up for a shore excursion that would take us to the Mayan ruins at Tulum, followed by lunch and a "beach break" at another location.  Cozumel is on an island off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. Once you're there you have to get to Playa del Carmen on the mainland by passenger ferry. That trip takes 45 minutes.  From there we'd take a bus, and repeat everything in reverse at the end of the day.

The tour left at 7, so we got up early and had breakfast in the Windjammer Café before going to the La Scala theater where the group was gathering.  I brought a bag with our swim suits, towels, and sunscreen, and stuck a bottle of water in my purse, along with some oranges from the cafeteria for a mid-morning snack.

When we arrived at the theater, we walked down to the front and stood in line to get a sticker that indicated which excursion we were on (There were several that started at the same place, then diverged once we got to the mainland), and took a seat.  Seven o'clock came and went.  One of the shore excursion staff, who was in radio contact with the deck, indicated we'd be leaving later than planned. The ship was having trouble docking at Cozumel due to rough water.

We ended up waiting an additional twenty minutes.  While we were waiting, the shore staff mentioned several times they had seasickness pills available for anyone who wanted them. I didn't need one of theirs because Tony had brought some of his own.  After taking a tablet he offered one to me.  I was pretty sure I wouldn't need it, but took it just to be on the safe side.

Finally the ship docked and we were cleared to leave.  Our group was one of the first off, going through the security area and onto the pier.  The weather was just warm enough for t-shirts, but it was cloudy, and a stiff breeze was blowing.  We walked to the ferry area, then waited at that pier for a few minutes.  We could see the smaller boat, which looked like it would hold a couple of hundred people. I could see the boat bouncing up and down at the dock, thanks to the rough seas. 

Somehow the four of us ended up close to the front of the line to get on the boat, and we snagged window seats right by the exit. Once we got on we had to wait for 15 minutes while an a group from a different ship also boarded.  Before the boat left the ushers walked around passing out little green barf bags, then cast off the ropes and headed towards the mainland.

The first time the boat jumped over a sea swell it was like being on a roller coaster and quite a few people cheered.  The second, third, and fourth times each had fewer cheers.  Soon the constant up and down movement was nauseating.  About ten minutes into the trip I heard someone get sick. My stomach was rolling, and I tried to concentrate on the TV at the front of the boat.  Unfortunately, it didn't do any good.  In our group, Tony was the only one who didn't get sick.

After what seemed like an eternity we saw land. I couldn't wait to get off!   Fortunately we were right by the doors so it didn't take long.  At  Playa del Carmen there were multiple tour guides waiting.  Each guide held a sign indicating where they were going.  It didn't take long for our group to form and head towards a large tour bus.

The drive to Tulum took an hour. Shortly before we arrived, he handed out headphones and wireless transmitters on straps that we could put around our necks. During the tour he used a microphone, and his voice was transmitted to us.

The parking area and visitor center were about a half mile away from the actual ruins. The guide offered us the opportunity to hop on a tram, but no one took him up on it.We walked past a gauntlet of shops that sold various crafts and souvenirs, then down the side of a road towards our destination.  Thanks to the wireless system, our guide was able to continue his commentary the entire time.

Tulum is set on a cliff top high over the Caribbean Sea. After the guided tour we had time to wander around.  The sun slipped in and out of the clouds, and the wind was really blowing, especially at the top of the cliff.

We returned to the bus, and the trip to the restaurant took about 20 minutes.  When we arrived, we found a buffet laid out in a large thatched roof porch that was part of a resort.  There was salad, pork chunks in a spicy sauce, some type of baked fish, black beans and rice, tortillas, chips, and salsa. Dessert was a wonderfully sticky-sweet rice pudding.

After lunch it was "beach break" time.  However, it was too chilly and windy to be fun.  I took my shoes off and ran into the ocean to say I did, but after the first wave covered my lower legs I ran out.  We sat in some beach chairs and watched the ocean before it was time to board the bus again.

The trip back to the ship was less eventful.  I took a second seasick pill, and even though we had another rocky ride, I didn't get sick.  We were late returning to the dock, but because we were on a ship's tour, we didn't have to worry about being left in port.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Polished Piggies Redux

I know I just posted this picture a few weeks ago, but when Betsy of My Five Men announced she was having a virtual Pedicure Party today I couldn't help but joining in!

Do you have polished piggies?  Would you like to see how other people have decorated their toes?  Head over to Betsy's and join in.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

French Onion Soup

I was driving home from work the other day and trying to figure out what I'd make for dinner. The pantry was pretty bare, but there was a bag of onions that needed to be used up, and several containers of homemade stock in the freezer downstairs.  Those two ingredients made me think of soup.  More specifically, Famous-Barr French Onion Soup.

Famous-Barr was a chain of department stores in St Louis (which, sadly, were all converted to Macy's in 2006).  The stores had cafeterias with a wide-ranging menu, but French Onion soup was the only thing I ever ordered; thick and rich, it was covered with a layer of melted cheese atop slices of French baguette and served in a brown pottery soup bowl with a handle.  Another slice of baguette came on the side, along with packets of real butter.

I hadn't had it for years, but decided that French Onion soup would be great for dinner. When I got home I Googled the recipe.  As I read through it, though, I realized I had a problem...the recipe called for 3 1/2 hours of cooking time, and overnight refrigeration to meld the flavors together.  I wanted to eat it in 90 minutes.  However, with some creative thinking I was able to put dinner on the table right on time.  If the soup suffered for it, I didn't notice.

The original recipe (which I halved):
Famous-Barr's French Onion Soup
Yield: About 4 quarts
5 pounds unpeeled onions
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons paprika
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 bay leaf
3 quarts beef broth (regular or low-sodium)
1 cup white wine, optional
Caramel coloring or Kitchen Bouquet, optional
2 teaspoons salt or to taste
Sourdough or French baguettes, thinly sliced, optional
Swiss or Gruyere cheese, optional
    Peel onions and slice 1/8 inch thick. Melt butter in a 6-quart (or larger) stockpot. Add onions; cook, uncovered, over low heat for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.
    Sprinkle with pepper, paprika and flour and add bay leaf; sauté over low heat 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
    Slowly pour in broth and wine, stirring constantly. Increase heat and bring to a boil.
    As soon as the soup boils, reduce heat to low and simmer very slowly for 2 hours.
    If desired, adjust color to a rich brown with caramel coloring. Season with salt. Refrigerate overnight so flavors can blend.
    To serve, reheat soup. If desired, pour into ovenproof crocks or bowls. Top with a slice of bread and a sprinkling of grated cheese. Heat under the broiler until cheese melts and bubbles, about 5 minutes.
To save time, I prepared the onions partway in the microwave.  I put the raw onions in a Pyrex bowl and covered it with a plate. I cooked the onions for eight minutes, stirred them, then repeated the process. The onions came out perfectly soft and translucent. I melted the butter in the pan, then dumped the sweated onions in and cooked them until they caramelized, about 20 minutes. No need for artificial coloring!  While the onions were on the stove, I thawed the broth in the microwave, then added it and the other ingredients to the pot.  I didn't have crusty baguette bread in the house, but there was some homemade "snake" bread from our St. Patrick's feast which I put in a low oven to toast while the soup simmered (for about 45 minutes).

To serve, I put the bread in two bowls, poured hot soup on top, then added a slice of Swiss to each.  It was really good!

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Cruise Diaries--Sunday At Sea

Every day they change the inset in the elevator.  Pretty smart!
Sunday was Day 2 of our cruise on the Voyager of the Seas. As I fell asleep Saturday night, I could feel the ship's gentle turns as it moved down the Mississippi River towards the Gulf of Mexico, but when I woke up several hours later, things had changed; we must have made it to open water, because the ship was rolling quite a bit. I went back to sleep feeling like I was on a swinging hammock.

The next time I woke up I had no idea what time it was, because our interior cabin had no natural light coming in. The phone was on my side of the bed, but I couldn't read the display in the dark.  (I like to know what time it is, so for the rest of the week I put my phone on airplane mode and used it as my timepiece.  It worked really well.)  Fortunately Hubby Tony was also awake; he was able to tell me it was really morning. We decided to get up and eat breakfast in the Windjammer Café.

When we walked out on the deck, I was pleasantly surprised to see the weather had turned warm and sunny.  The sea was rough, though and the boat was still rocking, which made it a little hard to walk.  After a great breakfast Tony and I caught up with Son Brian and DIL Nicole to get tickets to the afternoon ice show. Yes, The Voyager of the Seas has an ice skating rink, the first cruise ship to build one.  We got our tickets, then everyone went their separate ways, agreeing that we'd meet at the dining room for lunch.

Tony headed towards the casino, where he took a gaming class to brush up on his table game skills, then met me for shuffleboard on the Promenade deck.  It was a very interesting game.  The boat's rolling made it hard to figure out where the disks were going. Shots that I aimed towards the left side of the court sometimes went true, and sometimes ended up on the right.  After our match was over,  I went to one of the ship's lounges where a walking art tour of some of the artwork on the ship was gathering.  While I was waiting for the tour to start, a woman from my gym walked in!

We were eating lunch when the captain came on the intercom and said that even though the ship's stabilizers had been activated to keep the boat from listing, the afternoon's ice show was cancelled because of the rough water.  He also cautioned women against wearing high heels at tonight's formal dress night.

After lunch Tony and I changed into swim suits and played cards by the pool.  While we played, we watched waves of water pour out of the pool every time the ship rolled.  (They finally closed the pool.) When the card game was over, we moved to the hot tub in the spa.  The ship's rolling created some significant waves here, too. One minute the water was at chest height; the next it was up to my chin!

I'm only good for about ten minutes in a hot tub.  I moved to the sauna for another ten minutes, then went back to the room to change.  We met Brian and Nicole again for a trivia contest in one of the lounges, then went to the shore excursion desk and signed up for a tour in Cozumel.  I don't remember what they did afterwards, but I decided it was time for a nap.

Formal night.  We clean up nicely, don't we?
When I woke up I dressed for dinner, then joined Tony in the pub for a drink.  We passed on the Captain's Welcome Aboard Reception, but listened to some music until it was time to go to the dining room for dinner.

The next day was going to be an early one, so after dinner we went back to the room, requested a wake-up call, and turned in.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Cruise Diaries--Embarkation

Saturday March 3 was the day we'd been waiting for for weeks.  It was embarkation day for our cruise!  After a standard free hotel breakfast, we checked out.  The chain inn we stayed at was by the airport, with absolutely no character; we headed into New Orleans to soak up some ambiance before we headed to the port.

Since we'd been in the French Quarter the night before, Son Brian remembered what exit to take off the interstate, and which streets to turn on.  Strangely, we had more trouble finding a place to park Saturday morning than we had on Friday night.  When we found an empty spot, we didn't have enough change to feed the meter, but there was a bar across the street that was nice enough to break  a dollar for me.

The French Market, which had been closed the night before, was hopping on Saturday morning.  The farmer's market section didn't have much in the way of fresh produce, but the eateries were open, as were every one of the flea market booths.  Tony and I bought a photo of the  back lit "touchdown Jesus" statue in the courtyard of the St. Louis Cathedral.  The shadow is projected onto the back wall of the cathedral. It's quite impressive.

Soon it was time to get back to the car and head towards the ship.  With all the one way streets, it was confusing to find the entrance to the cruise ship terminal.  After an officer directed us, we ended up right front in of the building, where porters took Tony's and my luggage.   (We had requested luggage tags in advance, and attached them to our bags before we left; Brian and Nicole didn't have tags yet, so they couldn't turn their bags in.) While the trunk was open, Tony and I grabbed our carry on bags.  I though we'd wait at the entrance for Brian to park the car, but he indicated we should go ahead and we'd see them on the ship.

The lines to check in were short, although the credit card number we'd registered in advance for the shipboard charge system wouldn't swipe correctly and we had to fill out paperwork to use an alternate card.  After that was done, we received our SeaPass boarding card (which also acted as our ID, room key, and charge card) and we followed the stream of people who were getting ready to board. We had our first photo for our SeaPass...while still in the terminal, but right after getting on deck, they had photographers taking "Welcome Aboard" photos.

By this time it was about 12:45.  Breakfast had been a very long time ago, and I was looking forward to our first meal on board-a lunch buffet at the Windjammer Café.  We wanted to get rid of our carry-on bags before eating, but the rooms weren't ready until 1:00, so we had to bring them with us.  As we were entering the Windjammer, we ran into Brian and Nicole.  However, we couldn't find a table for four anywhere in the room, so we separated again to eat.  Tony and I grabbed a table outside by the pool (which sounds nice,  but less than ideal.  It was cloudy and chilly.  There was also a brisk breeze blowing.)  We ate quickly, then gathered our things and left.

The room, before it got too cluttered
After lunch we found our room, an interior cabin with no view of the water. That's ok; we weren't planning on spending much time there!  We unpacked our suitcases and stowed everything away, then left the room and explored.

The ship left the dock at 4:30.  At departure time the four of us were sitting on deck chairs in the Solarium. All the other cruises I've been on have been in the summer, and it was comfortable to be outside. This time it was cold. I was wearing jeans and a jacket zipped up tight. We watched the shoreline for about 10 minutes, then went inside. New Orleans is approximately 100 miles upriver from the Gulf of Mexico. It takes 7-8 hours to get to the open water, with a lot of turns.

The evening went by quickly.  We entered a trivia contest, then changed for dinner. (The second sitting, at 8:00).   When the dining room doors opened, we were waiting outside, ready to eat again.  After dinner, we took in a "Welcome Aboard" show in the La Scala theater, watched a parade on the Promenade, then decided it was time to turn in.   It had been a busy day!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

In Like A Lion, Out Like A Lamb--Hardly!

Today is the first day of spring. I hardly noticed.

That's because instead of the blustery, chilly weather we usually have, we're experiencing lovely conditions.  According to the National Weather Service, the average high temperature for our area on March 20th is 64 degrees, and the average low is 45 degrees.  Today, however, tied the record high temperature (83 degrees) for this date. We've also tied the record for the number of days in March (8) with a temperature at or above 80 degrees.

I haven't worn a jacket for more than a week, and instead of jeans and long sleeved shirts I've been sporting shorts and t-shirts.  The windows in the house are open, and we had to use the ceiling fan in the bedroom last night.  I've talked to a couple of people who even turned on their air conditioner!

Trees and other plants are responding to the warm weather and blooming early. The red bud tree in the backyard was beautiful, but the flowers have already withered and a few tiny leaves are starting to appear. The Bradford pear trees in the subdivisions around here look like puffballs from a distance, their white flowers are so profuse.  I've even seen carpets of creeping phlox flowers, which I always associate with April, because Son Brian was born April 2, and the phlox were in bloom when we brought him home from the hospital.

Will the nice weather last?   The Farmer's Almanac says the average last frost date in this area is April 7, so we could still have some cold waiting for us.  I wouldn't mind things getting back to normal (it would be a shame if I couldn't wear my cute spring sweaters), but I do NOT want it to get below freezing.  Things are too far along for that.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Cruise Diaries--Get Me To The Pier On Time

Before we could board The Voyager of the Seas for our cruise on March 3rd, we had to get to the Port of New Orleans.

As far as driving trips from St. Louis go, New Orleans is about as straightforward as you can get.  After breakfast we loaded DIL Nicole's car, made sure the house was locked up, and started our adventure.  We left our neighborhood, drove 15 miles (and made two turns) to get to Interstate 55, then headed south. Waaay south.

Our plan was to stop in Memphis for a BBQ lunch at Rendezvous Restaurant.  However, the restaurant opened at 11:00 and we got into town fifteen minutes before that, so we popped into the Peabody Hotel to look around.  There were quite a few people waiting around, cameras in hand, and when we realized that it was almost time for the ducks to march to the lobby fountain we stayed to watch.  I've seen them before, but it's always fun to watch.

It was about ten minutes after the hour when we got to the restaurant.  We ordered a Greek salad, and plates of meat, which came with beans and cole slaw.  Even though the place wasn't busy yet, we had to wait quite some time for our food to come. While we were waiting the waiter came by with small bowls of beans and rice (a nice gesture).  When we were finished eating, there was no room for dessert!

After lunch we got back on the road, and except for gas and bathroom breaks we didn't stop until we reached the New Orleans metropolitan area. Our hotel was in Kenner, by the airport. We checked in, freshened up, and started thinking about dinner.  There wasn't anything interesting around the hotel, so we decided to drive into the city proper. After much discussion, we decided on Stanley Restaurant, right on Jackson Square in the French Quarter.  Traffic was a bit heavy on the way in, but we were able to find a prime parking spot on the street a couple of blocks from our destination.

Stanley Restaurant serves a wide variety of food. Some of us chose breakfast, others ordered dinner items, but everything was excellent.  After dinner we walked around Jackson Square, down Bourbon Street and back towards the riverfront, popping into several shops along the way.  Even though we had just eaten dinner, we HAD to stop at Café du Monde for beignets and café au lait:

After dessert, we realized how tired we were.  It was time to get back to the hotel and go to sleep.  Tomorrow was going to be a busy day!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Lucky Me!

Yesterday was St. Patrick's Day,when many people eat  the traditional corned beef and cabbage dinner.  We didn't.

The plan was to have that meal for dinner tonight, when Son Donald came to hang out (as he does most Sundays).  I bought the necessary ingredients when  I went to the store on Thursday...a shrink-wrapped hunk of brisket big enough for three servings plus leftovers for the next day, a head of cabbage, and bags of red potatoes and carrots. Those dishes, and a loaf of homemade "snake" bread (the dough colored green and shaped appropriately before baking) would make for a great meal.

Son Brian and DIL Nicole were coming into town on Friday for a sporting event on Saturday, but I figured they'd be on the road before tonight.  However, everything changed when Son Tony called me Friday morning.  He was passing through town on business; would we be able to pick him up so he could hang out at the house, then take him to the airport?  Of COURSE the answer was yes!

Because Brian and Nicole had a long drive to get back home to Columbia, dinner turned into a late lunch, and at 1:30 the kitchen island was full of wonderful food. There wasn't enough corned beef for six people, but I had a bag of chicken breasts in the freezer that I threw in the oven.  In addition to the cabbage, potatoes, and carrots cooked in corned beef broth (which not everyone likes), there was a spinach salad.  Hubby Tony went to the store and brought home strawberries and grapes.  Brian took charge of the bread.  We ate until we were stuffed, then cleaned the kitchen and went back for dessert--apple pie with ice cream and more strawberries.

All too soon it was time for Brian and Nicole to leave.  The rest of us played a game of Rummikub (our Sunday night tradition).  Before I knew it Tony had to get to the airport. His dad and I drove him, said our goodbyes, then watched while he disappeared into the terminal.

It was the best St. Patrick's Day ever, even if it was late getting here.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Cruise Diaries--Introduction

I'm back!  (And you didn't even know I was gone.)

Remember when I told you Hubby Tony and I had been invited on a cruise by Son Brian and DIL Nicole?  After we paid for our reservation, we had about a month to organize everything before it was time to go.  On March 2nd we drove south on Interstate 55 to New Orleans, and on March 3rd we boarded our floating hotel for the next week, Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Seas. Seven jam-packed days later we disembarked, full of memories.  We backtracked north on 55, and made it home by dinnertime on the 10th.

After a wonderful week, sadly I woke up on the last day of the cruise with a scratchy throat and stuffy nose.  My sinuses and ears were clogged up, and I was still feeling the movement of the boat even though I was on dry land.  That lasted for several days.  Monday night I started coughing, and spent the night on the couch because I couldn't sleep lying down. The symptoms have subsided, though, (for the most part--I still randomly feel like I'm at sea when I walk), helped along by some advice and supplements from the chiropractor.

Transitioning back to reality was hard.  Almost a week later, I still feel like I'm playing catch-up.  It didn't help that my boss asked me to work a couple of extra shifts this week.  However, the mound of laundry has been tamed, and the emails and blog reader conquered.  Soon I'll be able to share some of my adventures with you.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Amazing Simple Home Remedies

THESE REALLY WORK!!  I checked this out on Snopes and it's for real!

  • Avoid cutting yourself when slicing vegetables by getting someone else to hold the vegetables while you chop.
  • Avoid arguments with the females about lifting the toilet seat by using the sink.
  • For high blood pressure sufferers ~ simply cut yourself and bleed for a few minutes, thus reducing the pressure on your veins. *Remember to use a timer.
  • A mouse trap placed on top of your alarm clock will prevent you from rolling over and going back to sleep after you hit the snooze button.
  • If you have a bad cough, take a large dose of laxatives. Then you'll be afraid to cough.
  • You only need two tools in life - WD-40 and duct tape. If it doesn't move and should, use the WD-40. If it shouldn't move and does, use the duct tape.
  • If you can't fix it with a hammer, you've got an electrical problem.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

It's All About Us

Mom said to tell you that things are backing up around here, and she needs to step away from the keyboard for a couple of days.

We don't care what she does or doesn't do, as long as we get our food on time!

Sunday, March 4, 2012


Time Tested Beauty Tips by Sam Levenson 
(A favorite of Audrey Hepburn)

For attractive lips,
Speak words of kindness.

For lovely eyes,
Seek out the good in people.

For a slim figure,
Share your food with the hungry.

For beautiful hair,
Let a child run his or her
fingers through it once a day.

For poise,
Walk with the knowledge
you'll never walk alone.

People, even more than things,
have to be restored, renewed,
revived, reclaimed, and redeemed;
Never throw out anybody.

If you ever need a helping hand,
you'll find one at the end of your arm.

As you grow older,
you will discover
that you have two hands,
one for helping yourself,
the other for helping others.

The beauty of a woman
is not in the clothes she wears,
The figure that she carries,
or the way she combs her hair.

The beauty of a woman
must be seen from in her eyes,
because that is the doorway to her heart,
the place where love resides.

The beauty of a woman
is not in a facial mole,
but true beauty in a woman
is reflected in her soul.

It is the caring that she lovingly gives,
the passion that she shows,
And the beauty of a woman
with passing years-only grows!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Never A Dull Moment

It may not always be busy, but there’s always something going on at the mall Customer Service desk I work at.

The other day a man came in to buy some gift cards. His office had just completed their busy season, and he was treating his staff to a shopping spree.  (Which he does every year.  I wish I worked at that place!)

He had actually been in the day before and purchased some cards, but hadn’t been able to get enough, and was waiting for me when the desk opened to get the rest.  His staff was outside in the limo (!) he’d hired for them.  Once they all got their gift cards, they’d have two hours to shop before they had to go back to the office.

I sold him his cards, and he left.

Ten minutes later, a crazed-looking group of women hurried by.  They saw my desk had mall maps, and trotted over to get some.  They looked like contestants on the old Supermarket Sweep TV game show, where the challenge was to get as many things into a cart as possible before the clock ran out.

They got their maps and then they were off.  I never saw them again, but I bet they had a good time.