Monday, April 30, 2012

I Have A Lot Of Friends At Work. I Just Don't Know Their Names

I've worked at the mall Customer Service desk for almost 10 months.  During that time I've become friendly with quite a few guards, housekeepers, and fellow mall employees as well as frequent shoppers and mall walkers.

Some of them wave or say hello as they walk by, and a few stop to chat.  If they work in the mall, chances are they wear a name tag and I've been able to figure out who's who.  The rest are just nameless friendly people.

There's one pair of mall walkers who I've figured out are avid sports fans.  Their shirts change with the seasons (Cardinals in the spring and summer, Rams during football season, Mizzou for basketball), and some other college teams that I assume have special meaning.  We've had several short discussions, mainly about sports, but it's more like a walk and talk as they're passing by.

Today one of group members came up carrying a large nylon bag.  They'd received it at a baseball game and thought I might like it.  Inside were a few promotional trinkets and a souvenir soda cup.  Even though the things were only worth a couple of dollars, I was touched they'd think of me.

We talked for about five minutes, then they continued on their walk.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

New Computer Virus

This IS a bad one! If you receive an e-mail entitled "Badtimes," DELETE IT IMMEDIATELY. Do not open it. This one is pretty nasty. It will not only erase everything on your hard drive, but it will also delete anything on disks within 20 feet of your computer. It demagnetizes the stripes on all of your credit cards.

If the message is opened in a Windows environment, it will rewrite your backup files, changing all your active verbs to passive tense and incorporating undetectable misspellings that grossly change the interpretations of key sentences. It reprograms your ATM access code, screws up the tracking on your DVD, and uses subspace field harmonics to scratch any CD you attempt to play!

It will re-calibrate your refrigerator's temperature settings so that all your ice cream melts and your milk curdles, and it programs your phone autodial to only call your mother-in-law.

It will leave the toilet seat up and your hair dryer plugged in dangerously close to a full bathtub. This virus will mix antifreeze into your fish tank. It will drink all your beer and soda. It will leave dirty socks on the coffee table when you are expecting company. Its radioactive emissions will cause toe jam and bellybutton fuzz to migrate to your armpits. It will replace your shampoo with Nair and your Nair with Rogaine, all while dating your current boyfriend/girlfriend behind your back and billing their hotel rendezvous to your credit card.

It will not only remove the forbidden tags from your mattresses and pillows, but it will replace your luncheon meat with Spam. It will molecularly rearrange your cologne or perfume, causing it to smell like dill pickles. It will give you Dutch Elm Disease, Tinea, and cause you to run with scissors and throw things.

This virus is both insidious and subtle. It is dangerous and terrifying to experience. It is also a rather interesting shade of mauve.

PLEASE FORWARD THIS MESSAGE TO EVERYONE!!! The survival of human life on earth as we know it is at stake!

Friday, April 27, 2012


This year I decided to try growing tomato plants from seed.

The process started last year, when I saved some of the seeds from an heirloom purple tomato a neighbor gave us.  I found out that seed saving is a long, drawn out process.  First you squeeze the seeds into a container and cover them with water, then let them sit for a couple of days until they ferment and the top of the water gets moldy (which means the "goo" around the seeds has broken down). Next you rinse them and let them dry for several more days. After all that, they go in a plastic bag and get stored in a cool, dry place

I usually put tomato plants in the garden around Mother's Day. The Websites I consulted told me I should start the seeds 6-8 weeks before then, so at the beginning of April I began the process. I filled small pots with planting mix, added several seeds to each, and watered them well. Then I put the pots on a meat tray and slid everything into a plastic produce bag to keep the humidity in. The mini-greenhouse went on the east-facing window seat in the kitchen, where I overwinter my plants.

The pampered seeds germinated right on schedule, but haven't exactly thrived. I water them when they get dry, and turn the pots so all the seedlings have equal access to the sun. Four weeks later, they're barely getting their first set of real leaves. At this rate, it will be July before they're ready to go outside.

Today I was putting some scraps into the compost pile, and looked over at the garden area. There are some impressive-sized weeds that I need to pull and a layer of small rocks that have worked their way to the surface. And two volunteer tomatoes:

Despite the lack of attention, they seem to be doing just fine. Maybe I'll bring the coddled ones outside and let them get some advice from their wild brethren.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Savory Smoothie

According to a smoothie is "a thick beverage of fruit pureed in a blender with ice and milk, yogurt, or juice".  Fruits tend to be sweeter than vegetables, so that would assume smoothies should be sweet.  But why couldn't a smoothie be savory?  Today I performed an experiment and made a vegetable smoothie.

It all started with a head of cauliflower.  One of my projects this morning was to cut off the florets and blanch them for crudités (because I think they taste better that way).  I usually just toss the core in the stock bag, but today I took a good look at it.  It didn't seem any different than the stems of the florets, which I eat all the time.  I decided to try cooking it and see what happened, then eat the results of my test for lunch.

I chopped up the cauliflower, but there wasn't quite enough for a whole meal, so I dug around in the vegetable drawer to see what else I could find...a small carrot, a quarter of a red onion and a couple of stalks of celery.  I threw everything in a pan, added water to cover and a beef bouillon cube for flavor, and put the pan on the stove.

When the vegetables were done, I whizzed them into a puree with my immersion blender and added a cup of yogurt.  If I'd put the mixture into a bowl I probably could have called it soup, but instead I poured it into a cup and drank it.  Not bad at all!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

100 Foods To Eat Before You Die

There's a cute Facebook quiz making the rounds called 100 Foods To Eat Before You Die. According to the author, most people have tried about 20 of the 100 items.  I find that amazing; I've eaten almost three fourths of them.

I've struck through the ones that I can cross off my culinary bucket list.   How about you?  Where do you stand?

Baba Ghanoush
Bagel and lox
Barbecue ribs
Bird’s Nest Soup
Biscuits and gravy
Black Pudding (made from cooked blood)
Black Truffle
Borscht (Ukrainian soup made from beetroot)
Cheese fondue
Chicken and waffles
Chicken Tikka Masala
Chile Relleno
Clam Chowder
Dandelion wine
Dulce de leche
Durian (southeast Asian fruit notorious for its ordor)
Eggs benedict
Fish Tacos
Foie Gras
Fresh Spring Rolls
Fried Catfish
Fried Green Tomatoes
Fried Plaintain
Frito Pie
Frog’s Legs
Fugu (pufferfish)
Funnel Cake
Goat’s milk
Head Cheese
Heirloom Tomatoes
Hostess Fruit Pie
Huevos Rancheros
Jerk Chicken
Key Lime Pie
Kobe Beef
Lassi (Indian yogurt drink)
Moon Pie
Morel Mushrooms
Nettle Tea
Oxtail Soup
Paneer (a cheese)
Pastrami on Rye
Pavlova (meringue cake)
Phaal (curry dish)
Philly Cheesesteak
Pineapple and cottage cheese
Pistachio Ice Cream
Po’ boy
Prickly Pear
Rabbit Stew
Raw Oysters
Root Beer Float
Sea Urchin
Soft Shell Crab
Som Tam (spicy salad made from shredded unripened papaya)
Spaetzle (German dumpling or noodle)
Steak Tartare
Sweet Potato Fries
Tom Yum
Umeboshi (pickled ume fruits common in Japan, similar to a plum)
Wasabi Peas
Zucchini Flowers

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Who's The Parent?

I've had a smartphone for more than a year. In that time I've downloaded quite a few apps, but the only one I've paid for is the full version of Words With Friends, because it went on sale and the price was right.

Last week I got a text message telling me I was subscribed to a Fun Facts service for $9.99 a month. That night I called our carrier to find out what was going on. After navigating through the automated phone maze I was connected with a real person, and found out I'd actually been charged!

I tried to find out how someone could do that without my permission.  The representative gave me a sketchy answer, then told me I could put a purchase blocker on my number that would keep it from happening again.  Sounded good to me, but I had to giggle when I realized that I'd signed up for "Parental Controls".

So if I do decide to purchase anything from a third-party site, do I have to ask my own permission?

Friday, April 20, 2012

Thinking Positively

This afternoon I was swapping out the decorations in my bedroom, because I have too much to display at one time.  Some of it is "official" art--things I've bought at home decor stores or art shows. Others are mementos from places we've been, or items the kids made that I've hung on to.

 Today as I was taking a picture off the wall, I stopped and took a good look at a small card, entitled The Optimist Creed, that's been stuck in the bottom of the frame for years. The words of the creed were inspiring:
Promise Yourself-

To be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind. 
To talk health, happiness and prosperity to every person you meet. 
To make all your friends feel that there is something in them. 
To look at the sunny side of everything and make your optimism come true. 
To think only of the best, to work only for the best, and to expect only the best. 
To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own. 
To forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future. 
To wear a cheerful countenance at all times and give every living creature you meet a smile. 
To give so much time to the improvement of yourself that you have no time to criticize others. 
To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.
There was no author listed on the card. I like to attribute things correctly, but usually don't have luck finding the information online.  This time, though, I hit the jackpot. A Google search led me to the Website of Optimist International, an international service club organization which is "dedicated to 'Bringing Out the Best in Kids'".  The tenets of their Creed help develop optimism as a way of life.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Cleanin' Out The Closet

When I got to work today I learned that the mall office had decided to clean out a closet close to the Customer Service desk.  Our desk uses part of the closet, but the majority of the stuff in there belongs to other departments. It doesn't look like it's been straightened up for years.

I watched my boss move our things to another area, and then the maintenance department loaded up a flatbed and filled a large tilt truck with things they wanted to keep. When they were done there was still a lot of stuff left.  I asked what was going to happen to it (because I HATE to see things go to the landfill!). Nobody could give me a straight answer.

I knew there was a rack on the wall of the closet that held old Security shirts, and volunteered to take them to a thrift store so they wouldn’t get thrown away.  My boss filled four trash bags with the shirts, along with a couple of windbreakers and some holiday ties. It was time for my break, but I thought I'd take the bags to my car first, making two trips with two bags each trip.

One problem---the Customer Service desk isn’t close to where I'd parked my car.

The bags weren’t heavy (maybe about 20 pounds each), but by time I walked up a flight of stairs, past a half-dozen stores, down a hall to get to the parking garage, then up another flight-and-a-half to get to the level where my car was I was breathing heavily and my shoulders were on fire.

I was a wide load on the stairs. At one point I had to turn sideways to let a man pass in the other direction. Walking down the mall corridor wasn't a problem, nor was the parking garage steps.  The second trip I knew what I was in for. This time I didn’t have a problem getting upstairs, but got stuck behind some slow-walking women on the way out.  I tried holding the bags in different ways, so both my biceps and triceps got a workout.

After I put the bags in the car I didn't bother locking the doors; if someone needed a large quantity of shirts that badly they were welcome to them. By time I got home and ate dinner it was too late to take the bags to the store tonight, so they'll get to ride back to work with me and I'll drop them off tomorrow on the way home.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Don't Bug Me

This afternoon when I opened the mailbox to retrieve the mail I had an unpleasant surprise.  Ants. Thousands of them. They were on top, under, and in between the things the letter carrier had delivered.

When I grabbed the mail from the box, the ants on top of the stack dashed for cover.  A few started up my arm; I gave an involuntary 'eek' and whacked the stack on the ground to dislodge any ants that might still be on it.  Some ran off and made it to safety.  The rest?  Squashed.

I brought the mail in and checked to make sure it didn't have any ant survivors before I laid the pile on the countertop.  It was dinner time for the cats, but they could wait. I grabbed a rag and a pitcher of water, then went outside to clean the mailbox.  This is what it looked like:

All that black in the corners?  Ants.

Why were they in there?  I don't know.  The last time I retrieved things from the mailbox was Friday.  There were no bugs then, and I'm sure Hubby Tony would have said something if there had been any problems on Saturday.  In the end, it didn't matter why they were there; they could NOT stay!  It felt cruel, but I poured water onto the floor of the mailbox, then used a wet rag to wash the stragglers off the sides and top.

Several hours later I went out to check on the box.  Although there weren't any ants inside, there was a steady ant line up the wooden post from the grass, which disappeared into a crevice halfway up.  I wanted to discourage them from taking up residence in the mailbox again, so I threw some red pepper flakes in the back of the box.

I hope the natural deterrent is enough, but you can bet I'll check before I stick my hand in there the next few days.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

God's Paint Brush

This was the view from my deck just after sunrise the other morning (photo taken with low-quality cell phone camera):

Friday, April 13, 2012

It's Got A Good Beat And You Can Dance To It.

The mall I work at pipes in background music for the people who shop there.  Thanks to the set of speakers behind the Customer Service desk, I get to listen, too.  Fortunately, the mall doesn't subscribe to a muzak service, but broadcasts the original tunes--mainly hits from the 70s and 80s (with an occasional smooth jazz tune, Motown hit, or song from the last few years that's so ubiquitous that even people like me know it).  If I'm not busy I pay attention to the songs, and the other day I heard one that really brought back memories.

It was the summer of 1984.  Son Tony was a VERY colicky newborn who didn't nap well. During the day, Hubby Tony was at work and it was up to me to find a way to keep the baby happy.  I quickly figured out that little Tony liked to be held and bounced, preferably while I stood and rocked or walked. Watching TV while I bounced him didn't work, because it was hard to keep up with anything that had a plot. However, TV did offer a solution in MTV, which back then played music videos 24/7.

We spent hours dancing and swaying to the top artists of the day--Madonna, ZZ Top, George Michael, Duran Duran, and Cyndi Lauper. However, the Stray Cats were one of our favorite bands.  When I heard the Stray Cat Strut over the mall speakers, I almost broke into the little jig I did to the song more than a quarter of a century ago.  Then I remembered where I was, and just sang along to myself.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Cruise Diaries--Dressing For Dinner

When I'm at home, "dressing" for dinner means checking to make sure my shirt doesn't have any cooking residue on it.  However, the dress code for our cruise had higher standards. If you wanted to eat in the dining room, there was a recommended attire for each of the seven nights. Four of them were casual (sundress or pants for women, sport shirt and slacks for men), one was "smart casual" (dress or pantsuit/jacket and tie), and two were formal (cocktail dress/ suit and tie or tuxedo).

Coming up with two formal outfits turned out to be one of the hardest parts of my packing, because I'm not a very fancy person.  I started out by shopping in my closet.  The "elegant" section contained:
  • Three black crepe dresses of various sizes and styles, all knee-length
  • One navy crepe dress, also knee-length
  • A variety of tops, mainly long-sleeved, heavier material (worn at several years worth of company Christmas parties, when it's cold outside)
  • Several pairs of "evening" earrings (rhinestone, crystal, or pearl)
  • Several "evening" necklaces
After surveying the slim pickings I realized I had a problem that went beyond clothes; shoes would be the real issue.  I have a problem finding shoes that fit.  My closet contains quite a few pairs of black footwear, but nothing right for a cruise.  The three pairs of dress shoes shoved in the back of the closet were fine for show, but I knew they wouldn't be good for walking, and there's a lot of walking on a very large cruise ship.  My work shoes are black Mary Janes with stretch uppers, polyurethane soles, and Velcro straps. Very comfortable and easy to walk in, but anything but stylish.

I browsed in a couple of shoe stores, but since it was the end of February most didn't have a good selection of spring styles yet, or what they had didn't fit.  In the end I decided that if my feet weren't happy I wouldn't have a good time, and decided to wear my comfortable shoes.  I figured that if I bought a long black skirt I could bring two evening tops, and hopefully no one would notice I was wearing the same bottom twice.

It turned out to be surprisingly easy  to find a long black skirt.  At my first stop I found a nice polyester one with micro-pleats and an elastic waistline, which I suspected might come in handy after a few rich meals.

I didn't want to spend a lot of money for tops I probably wouldn't wear again.  The clearance racks didn't yield anything, so I started looking at used clothes stores. I struck out at two Goodwills, but I did find a small satin evening purse (big enough to hold my camera, lip gloss, and room key card) at the second so it wasn't a complete loss.  At an upscale resale shop close to work at I found the first top--a jewel-toned paisley model with 3/4 sleeves and mock-wrap styling. (You can see a picture of it here.)  Not particularly fancy, but with the right jewelry it would work.

One top down, one to go.

After several more days of shopping, I realized that not too long ago I'd had a perfect top hanging in my closet. It was hot pink satin, with cap sleeves, and a low "U" cut neckline. I wore it to Hubby Tony's company Christmas party several years ago. It looked good on me, but since I don't go to a lot of events that call for evening tops I never used it again. At the beginning of the year I did some closet cleaning and decided the shirt had to go. I'd added it to the donation box, and dropped it at  our local St. Vincent de Paul store a week before. What were the chances that the top would still be in the store?

"Vinnie's" was on my way home. The parking lot is usually packed, but I was able to find a spot right next to the door.  The women's department is on the left, and the shirt racks are close to the back.  The store divides their clothes by size.  I knew what I was looking for, so I scanned through the Medium area for the bright and shiny garment I was looking for.


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Thank You, Kind Sir

I love it when people do the right thing!

The other day, two 20-something men walked up to the mall Customer Service desk and told me they'd witnessed a hit-and-run accident in the parking garage. A vehicle backed into another vehicle that was parked behind it. The driver got out, looked at the damage, then got back in and drove off.

One of the men had a pad of paper, and took down both license numbers, along with as much detail as they could get.  They knew the offending vehicle was a red SUV, the other a silver sedan (but they couldn't agree about what brand either vehicle was).   The men's goal was to make sure the information got to the right place, but they didn't have time to stay around and talk to an officer. I wrote everything down, and watched them walk away as I called the Security office.

When I asked them why they'd gone to all the trouble. they said if the shoe had been on the other foot, they hoped someone would do the same for them.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Lamb And The Ham

We had a quiet, but nice Easter. Son Donald came over, as he does most Sundays, and helped prepare dinner.

Instead of serving a traditional ham, Donald suggested barbecuing.  (Hubby Tony's always up for cooking outside, so it didn't take much to convince him.) Yesterday Tony and I went to the store to buy meat.  Our plan was to serve hamburgers and lamb skewers, but when the first store we stopped at didn't have any boneless lamb we went to the Whole Foods across the street.

Our dinner plans changed when we discovered Whole Foods had ground lamb on sale; our main dish turned into lamb burgers and hamburgers.  The butcher weighed out and wrapped a pound of the lamb, and we selected a family-sized package of ground beef from the cooler. We also got whole wheat hamburger buns and good Swiss cheese to add to the burgers.

 I volunteered to make the lamb burgers, and the men put together the beef patties. Everything came out great!  I don't often cook with lamb, but the simple recipe I used was quite tasty.  We accompanied the burgers with grilled onions, peppers, and pineapple, green salad, and potato salad. Tony made all three pounds of hamburger into patties and cooked them.  We'll have leftovers for dinner tomorrow.  I'll freeze the rest of them, and have several quick meals waiting ready to go.

Lamb Burgers (yield 4 burgers) 
1 pound ground lamb
1 clove garlic, pressed or minced
½ Tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
Pinch of parsley, chopped
2/3 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper 
Gently mix together all ingredients.  Divide meat into four portions, and form each portion into a patty about 1/2 inch thick and 4 inches in diameter. 
Cook on the grill over medium heat until the internal temperature reaches 160° (10-16 minutes).

Happy Easter

Hope you have a wonderful day

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Cruise Diaries--Fun And Fitness

Last month I went on a cruise and didn't gain a single pound! Part of that was due to the food choices I made, but if you've ever tried to manage your weight you know there are two parts to the equation: the food you eat and the exercise you do.  For a week I ate more than I'm used to, but I also upped my physical activity, and that made all the difference.

I think the most significant thing Hubby Tony and I did was take the stairs (instead of the elevator) whenever possible. Our ship, the Voyager of the Seas, was huge.  It had 15 decks.  Some of the important locations:

  • Our room, which was on Deck 9.  
  • The Promenade area, which was on Deck 5 
  • The pool/solarium area and Windjammer Cafe, which were on Deck 11 
  • Our dining room, which was on Deck 4.   

We were always on the move!  Occasionally if we had several flights to climb and there wasn't a line for the elevator we'd jump in, but even with banks of elevators at the front and back of the ship, there was usually a long wait to board.  It was faster to walk.  Going down several flights of steps is easy to do, but going UP is a pretty good aerobic workout.

In addition to walking, we tried to mix up our activity over the course of the week. The ship had a full fitness center.  When we went on our last cruise in 2000, that ship may have had a place to exercise.  I didn't check; I wan't in the habit of going to the gym back then.  Now I try to make time for exercise, so on the first day of the cruise Tony and I took a tour of the center.  It had all the things I was used to seeing at my regular gym-treadmills, elliptical machines, weight machines, and free weights.  There were also classes you could sign up for, but they weren't free.

Even though I didn't get to the gym itself as much as I'd originally planned,  I enjoyed my sessions on the treadmill.  They were lined up facing the ocean against floor-to-ceiling windows.  Walking on the treadmill isn't so bad when you have a wonderful view of the sea. However, when the ship's in rough water the treadmill became quite interesting. When it rocked in a port/starboard (left/right) movement, it felt like you were going uphill or downhill despite what the treadmill's readout said.

The ship also had other ways to keep active.  We never made it to the sports court, inline skating track, or miniature golf course, but I tried climbing the rock wall (where sadly, I  only got halfway up before my gimpy shoulder started complaining and I had to come down).  I ice skated, and was pleasantly surprised that after a few shaky laps on the small rink I got the hang of it.  Tony and I took a line dancing class in one of the clubs, and one night, after we indulged in the late night poolside buffet, we went up one level to the walking track and did a few laps in the moonlight before bed.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Cruise Diaries--Eating My Way Through The Caribbean

For good reason, cruises have a reputation as a giant floating buffet. On our ship, the Voyager of the Seas, we had these food options included in our fare:
  • Three meals a day in the Dining Room.  
  • And three meals a day in the Windjammer Café
  • Nonstop snacks and coffee at the Café Promenade
  • 24/7 room service
  • Soft-serve ice cream machines with boxes of cones just waiting to be filled
In addition to the standing options, there was also one poolside Late Night Buffet, and poolside lunches on some days at sea. And options you could pay extra for, like a fancy dining room, Ben and Jerry's ice cream, and hamburgers and fries at Johnny Rockets.

There was alcohol available.  Lots of it.  Anytime you walked into a bar or sat on the pool deck it didn't take long before a waiter came by and asked you if you wanted a drink.  No worries if you declined the first time; it seemed like they came by every ten minutes or so.

Before left, I'd read on the Internet that the average weight gain on a cruise was 5 pounds. I was NOT going to be that person!  The morning we left I stepped on the scale and noted the result.  The morning after we got home I repeated the process, and was overjoyed to find out I hadn't gained a pound.  I can't believe I didn't, because I ate WAY more than I usually do.

Most mornings we ate breakfast at the Windjammer buffet.  It had every breakfast food you could think of: several types of eggs, potatoes hashed and fried, multiple types of breakfast meat, waffles, pancakes, bagels, and pastries. There was also cold cereal and a nice selection of fresh fruit (cut up strawberries, pineapple, watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew melon, bananas, oranges, and apples).  The first day I had a hot breakfast, but on the second day I discovered there was an urn of oatmeal in the middle of the line.  For the rest of the week my go-to breakfast was a bowl of oats with raisins and brown sugar along with a bowl of fruit. Sometimes I added a small pastry, or grabbed a piece of bacon as I passed that part of the line.

Three of the seven days we were in port for lunch.  I ate what was offered, including dessert.  On the at-sea days, we moved around for the mid-day meal--a couple of times in the dining room, once in the Windjammer, and once for BBQ on the pool deck.  I tried to include a large salad or a lot of vegetables with each meal, sometimes choosing a vegetarian option.

Most days I had at least one between-meal snack in the promenade, but tried to make it a cup of fruit.  However, I have to confess that the small sandwiches they offered were pretty darn good, and the pizza wasn't too bad either.  Once when I got hungry in the late afternoon (we didn't have dinner until 8:00), I was at the Windjammer for a salad when the dinner buffet opened at 5:00.

We ate dinner in the dining room every night. The menu was divided into appetizers (cold and hot), salads, and entrees. The dessert menu came separately, after the main course. Each night I'd order an appetizer, a salad, and a main dish. I NEVER passed on dessert!

I discovered the Vitality food choices at dinner the first night. Several of the menu items were starred, indicating they were low-calorie and healthy. I didn't go out of my way to order these choices, but if I'd narrowed a course down to one of two items, and one was from the Vitality menu that's the one I'd get. I also limited the bread I ate. For meals in the dining room, a waiter came by several times with basket containing an assortment of breads. I'd choose something whole grain, and not have seconds.

(For the most part I drank coffee, tea, or water, with an occasional lemonade thrown in, which also had the nice side effect of keeping our shipboard charge account low.)

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

I Never Thought I'd Accumulate Such Wealth

I have...
Silver in the Hair
Gold in the Teeth
Crystals in the Kidneys
Sugar in the Blood
Lead in the Ass
Iron in the Arteries
An inexhaustible supply of Natural Gas.

Gosh, I'm rich!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Cruise Diaries--Ya Mon

Wednesday, March 7.  Day 4 of our cruise on the Voyager of the Seas, and exploits in Jamaica, the last of our three ports.

After much discussion Hubby Tony, Son Brian, DIL Nicole, and I had decided on our excursion and purchased the tickets.  I'd been in Jamaica once before, and wanted to go something new.  We chose a tour that took us to see a working plantation and the natural beauty of Dunn's River Falls, with lunch in between the two stops.

In the morning the ship docked at Falmouth, which is an old city (founded in 1769), but a new cruise port that just opened last year. It's so new that my travel agent hasn't been there yet!   The town is in between Montego Bay (30 minutes to the west) and Ocho Rios (an hour to the east).

While we were eating breakfast, the captain came on and announced that Prince Henry was in Falmouth today as part of his Jamaica trip on behalf of the Queen. (We never saw him, but talked to some people the next day who did.)  As soon as they gave the all clear to exit the ship, we walked down the deck and out to the port complex.  Everything around us looked shiny and new.  The buildings, which mimicked the city's Georgian architecture, were arranged in a U shape with a large covered pavilion in the center.  Some of the buildings weren't occupied yet, but the ones that were open were a mixture of retail shops and craft vendors.

A covered transportation hub was at the far end of the complex, and that's where the tour groups were gathering.  We got at the end of the line for our tour and waited for a bus.  Eventually there were about three dozen people. It seemed to be a bit confusing, but eventually our guide pointed us towards a minibus.  We filed on and found seats, and the tour guide stood so she could see us.  There was a bus blocking our exit, but as soon as it moved we were on our way.

Our destination was Brimmer Hall, a working plantation another 20 miles to the east of Ocho Rios.  It was a LONG trip, which the excursion desk didn't do a good job of explaining.  We drove through three parishes, and the tour guide entertained us with information about the area.  She taught us some Jamaican phrases, and answered questions.

When we got to the plantation we were treated to a small cup of punch, then boarded a jitney (tractor pulled wagon) for our tour.  Every couple of minutes the driver stopped and told us about the plants we saw.  He was assisted by two other men, who jumped on the jitney when it was moving.  I happened to be sitting in the middle of the wagon right next to one of the assistants, who pointed out things to me as we drove by.  This working plantation grew a wide variety of plants: bananas, coconut, plantains, sugar cane, pineapple, cocoa beans, guava, limes, and allspice.

We ended our tour back where we started, and got to taste samples of coconut, sugar cane, and Jamaican apple, then had the opportunity to walk through the Great House.  From the outside the single-story building looked rundown, but the inside was a different story. The house had high ceilings, polished wooden floors, and a wide veranda in the rear.

Then it was back on the bus for drive to lunch.  I'm not sure if the driver followed the "official" route, because he took us through a local neighborhood that didn't look like it saw a lot of traffic.  When we got to the restaurant, we got another small glass of punch, then there was a man taking snapshots of each party before before they were seated.  The buffet lunch included salad, jerk chicken, pork, mutton with potatoes, rice pasties, and several kinds of cookies and pastries for dessert.

While we were eating the photographer circulated around the room dropping off the photos he'd taken.  The one of our group was pretty good, but pricy.  However, a couple of rounds of negotiation brought the price down to a third of the original cost, so I handed over the money and purchased the picture.

Instead of driving straight  Dunn's River Falls after lunch, the bus driver swung into a shopping area (that I don't think that was on the tour itinerary) and gave us 15 minutes to shop.  It took closer to 20 minutes for everyone to return to the bus.  Ten minutes later we pulled into the parking lot at Dunn's River Falls. The tour guide gave us a time to be back at the bus, then let everyone wander on their own.  Originally Tony and thought we were going to climb up the falls (and wore water shoes), but we chickened out at the last minute.  Instead, we took pictures of Brian and Nicole as they climbed from the stairs next to the falls.

The trip back to the ship was subdued. The guide didn't have much to say, and played some reggae music over the sound system.  The driver needed to make up some time to get us back to the cruise port; he was driving pretty aggressively and I was glad I didn't have a good view out the front window.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Totally Borrowed

From tattytiara at AAA1 Quality Blog, Ltd.:
I view my titles as a means of expressing my love for you, (insert reader's name here). 
May all the bugs in your food turn out to be poppy seeds. 
May you always pick the fastest cashier. 
May your analogies always make sense and your anecdotes never ramble. 
May your dog always make it to the yard in time. 
May your cell phone miss the toilet bowl completely, and land in the laundry hamper. 
May you manage to suck that thing out from between your teeth before it's your turn to talk. 
May nobody have seen you trip, nor your lame attempt to make it look like it was on purpose. 
May you get distracted before you find the dance floor when you're really really drunk. 
May they accidentally delete those photos of you just before you really piss them off. 
May you have new batteries on hand when the smoke alarm starts beeping. 
May your kid ask the other parent where babies come from, and may that stain on their pants turn out to be chocolate. 
May your bathroom scale be broken and reading five pounds too high. 
May they credit your account, honor your expired coupons, and give you free upgrades.
And may there always be a cold beer in your fridge. 
Namaste, my babies.