Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Voyager is the 3rd installment in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. I started this at the end of the cruise and had to read a book in the middle of it but eventually, I made my way through all 1,000+ pages. This series is a mixture of historical fiction, romance and time travel. If you are planning on reading this series, don’t read my review. It won’t really have spoilers but, there are probably some that would spoil the first two books.

We start out with Claire Randall in present day (1968). She has brought her daughter Brianna to Scotland to try and find out if Jamie survived the battle at Culloden in 1745 and if he’s still living in 1768. Brianna is now grown and Claire plans to attempt traveling back in time to meet up with Jamie, 20 years after she left him, she thought, to perish. She finds out that he somehow managed to survive Culloden and where he is currently (then) living. Claire makes it back through the rocks at Craigh na Dun and finds Jamie.

Upon reuniting, they learn about each other’s lives for the past 20 years and Claire reacquaints herself both with Jamie and 18th century living. They end up traveling all over creation (hence the title) for various reasons. We get to revisit old characters and meet new ones and delve deeper into Claire and Jamie’s romance throughout Voyager.

Sorry for the lame review. If you’ve read it, you’ll know that doesn’t really tell you anything at all about Voyager. But, there’s too much to tell! This was my favorite one so far. I couldn’t put it down once it really got going. I had to go out and buy the fourth one so I could start on it right away after finishing Voyager. I thought I was tired of Jamie and Claire and their story after it took me so long to get through Dragonfly in Amber but I’m not! I’m just more involved than ever. I will have to interrupt the fourth one for a library book that I can’t renew but I’ll be back at it in no time. Also, these books are long and slowing down my reading pace but, that’s okay. Quality, not quantity, right?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Second Port: Cozumel

Our second of two ports was Cozumel, Mexico. Last cruise, we sailed Eastern Caribbean so I was pretty excited about the Western Caribbean itinerary. We were lucky that no hurricanes bothered us. The seas were pretty smooth the whole trip. We had the pleasure of docking next to Oasis of the Seas here. MASSIVE! The biggest ship of any cruise line currently in service. We think our next cruise will be on her. We felt like little peons with the Oasis passengers staring down from their 17 decks to our measly 11 decks. We docked facing them and man, are there a lot of cabins on that ship. It carries something like 6,000 passengers so I guess they have to sleep somewhere. I liked that the Oasis balconies are all glass. Ours were steel and just had an opening on the top half. We’ll get a balcony when we sail on her or her sister Allure, I’m sure of it.

Taken from our balcony in port. Look at all those rooms on the Oasis!

Anyway, I had booked the Segway and Snorkel Adventure excursion through Royal Caribbean in this port. We were supposed to meet an excursion representative on the dock to take the tour. This took us a long time. Well, it felt like a really long time. Dude wasn’t holding up his sign. We were early but we started to worry that we’d missed them. Finally we found someone but still had about 25 minutes to kill. It was a blazing hot Mexico kind of day. We wandered around the duty free and drug stores for a bit. Their drug stores are crazy down there! Any drug that you would certainly need a prescription for in the States, is just readily available over the counter down there. Nuts! Don’t worry. We didn’t buy any drugs, prescription or otherwise. Actually, we didn’t buy any souvenirs here either. Unheard of!

Just in case you need a sandwich with your estrogens

Finally, we met our guy, Felix. He looked like a drug lord. No joke. He had a scary beard and sunglasses. He ended up being really nice though, drugs or not….I didn’t get to ask. The tour only had 6 people on it including us, which was great! First, we took an open air bus to a stark building with a TV and DVD player where we watched a frightening safety film about how to use a Segway. People on segways make it look super easy. The truth is after 5-10 minutes or so, it IS easy. This video leads you to believe otherwise. The cartoon guy in the video was constantly falling off his Segway and hitting his head. This went on for a good 15 minutes. He needed Felix to give him lessons like we got. Felix was a good teacher.

We donned our sweet helmets (I didn’t get to take any pictures.) and mounted up. There was a small paved track behind the building for us to practice on. Once we all had the hang of it, we set off. First riding down a sidewalk and then on a secondary road for probably 20 minutes or so to a nearby resort, Fiesta Americana. I think it’s all inclusive but I’m not sure. Anyway, here Felix took us snorkeling. The currents were crazy strong and while we did see fish, coral and even a stingray, it was also pretty strenuous swimming for a long time. When we were finished and I asked how long we’d been in the water, he said 40 minutes. Damn! This was the only physical activity I subjected myself to all week but boy was it ever tough! I earned my pina coladas that day.

After snorkeling, we were able to use the resort’s facilities for about 45 minutes. John and I split a delicious hot dog and margarita. Tequila and I don’t really get along but when in Mexico, get a margarita! It was fine. I only had one because we still had to Segway back to the building. No tipsy Segwaying allowed, says Felix. The resort had a massage tent but we didn’t have time for that. DRAT! Next Cruise FOR SURE. They did have these big beach beds though that were super comfortable. I could have laid there all day. After we declined to buy the 8x10 photos of us on the Segway and the one of us snorkeling where John looks terrified for some reason, we rolled on back to the building. We were all much more confident Segwayers by this point and were moving pretty quickly. Felix said this tour sometimes has up to 30 people on it. I couldn’t even imagine! We were riding in a line. I was behind him in the front but he had to keep checking back to make sure the 6 of us were still there. Thirty people must be a nightmare. He said we made his job very easy that day. You’re welcome, Felix! Back on the open air bus and to the dock after that. John and I enjoyed a couple Dos Equis at the port and headed back to the ship. Probably for more pool time and lunch (we’d only split a hot dog and done all that swimming, remember?)

That night we went to the Crown & Anchor party for returning cruisers, also recommended by our friends. The drinks were flowing here too! And they had really good appetizers as well. We went to dinner and somewhere in there we saw a comedian who was pretty funny. Oh and there was the Royal Caribbean Quest game show but I forget if that was this night or the night before. I told you, it’s tough to keep track. I think it had been the previous night. We were bummed that our buddy Jon Li had the night off from tickling the ivories. Oh and one of these nights there was a midnight buffet. We weren’t hungry but we ate a little anyway. When on a cruise ship, it’s difficult to say no to delicious Mexican buffets. It’s difficult to say no to delicious Mexican buffets on land too.

Oh yeah! Remember the jewelry I made earlier in the week? Well, the instructor had said there would be a necklace workshop too for a matching set. Wheee! Unfortunately, it was at the same time as our Segway tour. Poor planning.

Here are the Oasis and the baby Grandeur docked together

Next Up: Last day at sea and getting sadder by the minute that the trip is coming to an end.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

First port: Grand Cayman

Our first port was Grand Cayman. I did not schedule an excursion for us here because we were hoping for a beach day. This was our first experience with tendering too. Luckily, the weather was good, though overcast. Even still, the tender was rocking over the waves and I could see how, if it had been raining or windy, that short ride could become very unpleasant. Right at the dock are the typical souvenir shops and jewelry stores that are so popular in the Caribbean. Most of the shopping, I heard, was a short cab ride away. Much as I would have liked some new jewelry, I knew we had paint to buy at home. We toyed with the idea of taking an island tour with one of the guides holding up their signs on the dock. John is always worried about these people though, convinced we’ll be kidnapped and our fingers cut off to send back to our families. Ultimately, we just took a cab to the Royal Palms area on Seven Mile Beach. Here, there was the Reef Grill, where we had a delicious grilled Mahi Mahi sandwich and tried a Caybrew, the local beer of Grand Cayman.

The water was perfectly turquoise and as we walked a ways down the beach to try and find a good spot. There was no one around just steps from the beach club at the Reef Grill. It was gorgeous. John and I got in the water for a bit but then, realizing that I wouldn’t be finding my massage on the beach any further down, decided we’d head back to where the chairs and amenities were. I was bummed about the massage but for $24 we rented 2 lounge chairs and an umbrella. Life is good.

The drinks and food at the Reef Grill were kind of pricey for beach fare. Plus the exchange rate wasn’t great. A few chairs down we noticed a couple mixing their own drinks with some rum and coke they bought at the port. We were kicking ourselves and wondering why we hadn’t thought of that. Brilliant! Next time, I guess. We didn’t realize until we were leaving that there was a small store behind the Reef Grill that sold liquor. Duh.

After a few hours (it was a short day in port), we changed out of our suits in their facilities. The ladies room was nice; John said the mens’ was atrocious. Poor John. Took a cab back to port and tendered back to the ship. We didn’t buy anything in Grand Cayman at all. Not even a Tortuga Rum Cake. I used to buy souvenirs everywhere I went. I guess I’m changing my ways.

Back on board, we hung out by the pool and had second lunch. We split the lunch on the island so I guess this was actually 1 ½ lunch. I don’t remember what else we did before dinner. Probably napped. LOVE pre-dinner naps. But, this night after dinner, we discovered a great piano player in the Schooner Bar. His name was Jon Li and he could play anything! People just requested songs and he sang and played. He was great. I should have bought his CD. Maybe I’ll see him on a ship in the future. I can’t remember if we saw a show this night. I should have written these thing down. Or, if I knew where I put my Cruise Compasses, I’d just consult them. Anyway….another great day of vacation!

Was I right about that water or what?

Next stop: Cozumel

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Weekend Re-cap....last weekend that is

What a great weekend we had recently! I have so much to report and only so many days in a week to blog. We are relishing these last couple weekends in September. As soon as we finally close on the house, there will be no more free time. All time will be wholly devoted to painting, cleaning and moving for the foreseeable future. This is sort of a shame because there are lots of upcoming area events I would like to attend but I know we won’t have time, or will be too tired by the time Saturday night rolls around. So, in the meantime, we’re keeping busy!

This past weekend we went to 2 such fun events and had a great (though fatty) date night. On Saturday, my local library (Ashley’s fave hangout) was having Barktoberfest! This was an event for dogs and it was great fun. On the front lawn, many pet vendors were set up at tables and in tents. There were lots of dogs in attendance and of course, we brought Sadie. We got free samples of dog treats (for Sadie, not us) and coupons and I donated to 2 great groups, the library (YEA!) and SICSA (an animal shelter). John and I even indulged in some custard. It was delicious. Sadie thought so too!

Here is Sadie with her snout stuck in a custard cup

In the evening, we went out to dinner. I ate way too much. This reduced calorie lifestyle has shrunk my stomach. I realize that’s the point but when I want a burger and fries, like I ordered for dinner, I don’t want to feel like a heifer for the rest of the night. Let that be a lesson to me, I guess. After dinner, we saw The Town. It was good. I like a good heist movie and it had been ages since we went to the theatre together. There always seem to be movies that we think look interesting and we never quite make it to them.

On Sunday, we took a nice drive on country roads to Hidden Valley Fruit Farm’s Apple Daze. This is a great place. There are hayrides we’ve never been on and apple picking that we’ve never participated in but, you can go to just buy their apples too! That was why we were there. It was a sunny day and though not very fall-like, we sampled our first apple cider of the season. It was delicious. So cold and crisp! We bought some freshly picked apples, split a BBQ pork sandwich and ambled back home in an apple daze. Get it?

I also tried 3 new recipes which were all winners! That rarely happens. There was plenty of football to watch, of course – not the highlight of the weekend for me.

This is Hungry Girl's guacamole. I was skeptical because it uses peas and corn in addition to avocado and tomato but it was great! And low cal. Plus I made those tortilla chips. So easy!

We’ve got another busy but fun weekend coming up before the hectic life of new homeowners begins for us. I’ll relax while I can!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Day 1 at Sea

We woke up at the crack of 8:30 am on our first day at sea. That is when we chose to have our room service breakfast delivered. You may not know that room service on a cruise is free! (unless you’re ordering late at night, then there’s a surcharge) Nothing I love more than breakfast in bed. Well, in this case, breakfast in our seating area. We had planned to have breakfast on the balcony but there was about an inch of water out there. Having never had a balcony before, we thought this was due to the rain we sailed through overnight. A day or so later, our room steward informed us that a pipe had burst and since ours was the last balcony in the line, all the water ran to our drain, which wasn’t doing its job. He people come and pump out the water but we lost probably a day and a half of balcony time. Again, if I had paid for it, I might have inquired sooner had I known this wasn’t normal.

Anyway, breakfast was small and the coffee was atrocious. We lazed around a bit until I announced I was taking part in the Jewelry Making Workshop. John, not wanting to come with me (surprise!) hung out in the room some more, I think. Maybe he went to the casino. I can’t remember. The Ancient Treasures jewelry making was actually quite fun. We were given ziplocs filled with beads (“silver” and “turquoise”) to make a bracelet and earrings. This was a free workshop. Even better! We got to work and then an 80+ year old woman sat down next to me after the workshop had already been going for about 15 minutes. She complimented my bracelet a number of times and really struggled with her own. I tried to help her but I was having my own problems. The guy running it ended up making her jewelry for her really. This was also the first of two times inside a week that I was told I have nice teeth. She looked up at me and said, “You’re a very nice girl. You have lovely teeth.” I always like hearing that because I suffered through braces as a teenager. Also, one time my orthodontist told me I had “chunky teeth like big Chiclets.” Not a compliment. Somehow I managed to screw up both my bracelet and one earring but eventually I got it together. John retrieved me after about an hour when the workshop was done. On our last cruise, I didn’t really take part in any of these enrichment programs but I enjoyed it and plan to do so more often in the future.

At this point I can’t remember if we had second breakfast in the Windjammer, the first having not been sufficient enough. Or, if we used a coupon to buy the most delicious Caribbean Coconut blended latte in the Centrum coffee shop Latte-tudes. Either way, we were eating again. John and I took to having double breakfast and sometimes double lunch on a few occasions. Okay, full disclosure. We had either double breakfast or double lunch every day. Sometimes both!

After we ate again, I think we just went to the pool. This was 2 weeks ago and on vacation, your days run together, folks. Especially on a cruise. It was overcast this whole day which was pretty disappointing. I had worked hard all summer on my tan. But, I was also determined not to burn on this cruise. We both burned pretty badly on the honeymoon cruise. Never fall asleep on the beach in Curacao, not even for 20 minutes. We reapplied our suntan lotion with strict vigilance and I even went so far as to use 30 SPF and 50 on my face. FIFTY! They were free samples from Drug Mart but they came in handy. We didn’t get much color this cruise but, at least we didn’t burn!

After pool time, complete with pool drinks, it was probably time for second lunch or napping. What a life we lead! I think we skipped the pre-dinner show that night. Oh, I know! That night was the Captain’s Welcome Aboard Party. We were advised by friends who recently cruised to attend this event because there would be free champagne. It did not disappoint! Unfortunately, John had a wicked headache throughout and didn’t really enjoy himself. We did find out that the ship engineer lives in Dayton though. Small world! And Captain Rob is American, something you don’t find very often. American captains, that is. Not Americans in general. Duh. In fact, I think I read somewhere he’s the only American captain in Royal Caribbean’s fleet. John felt a little better after we had dinner (with just our Chilean friends this night) but ended up turning in quite early hoping to feel right as rain in the morning. This was our one formal night on the cruise too. We looked pretty snazzy. As a whole though, the varying levels of dress in the dining room were all across the board. I don’t mind dressing up for dinner. It makes me feel fancy!

Here's me and our towel dog, just chillin'.

Next Stop: Grand Cayman!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Cruise Day 1: Embarkation

On Labor Day, we were up pretty early. Our bodies are accustomed to waking at 5:45am so while we slept in a little, it wasn't anywhere near as late as we had time for. The hotel had a restaurant but the breakfast was pretty pricey. We walked to a nearby European bakery/deli. Then we left because we didn't know how or where to order. Lame, right? Luckily, Starbucks came to our rescue!! If you're looking for breakfast and you find yourself wondering what might be a healthier option than their deliciously fatty pastries, you're in luck! John and I shared the Dark Cherry Yogurt Parfait. I think it has 300 cals which is a lot but, we were splitting it so, not so bad. We also at the Turkey Sausage and Egg White English Muffin Sandwich. I don't know how many calories were in that but they had less healthy options and for this 'lite' fare, it was really tasty. Typically on vacation I try not to eat anywhere I can eat at home but, we made this Starbucks exception. My vacation, my rules. We walked back over to the hotel and got a cab to the port!!!

This was our second cruise and second with Royal Caribbean. There are other lines that sail out of Port Everglades as well though. We drove through the gate and up to our terminal where we found our ship, the Grandeur of the Seas. Grandeur is in RCI's Vision Class, which is one level up from their smallest ships. We had previously sailed on a Voyager Class ship and were slightly apprehensive about the size of this one. Grandeur is older, smaller and doesn't have as many amenities but she's a fine ship....more on her in a bit. We gave our bags to a porter and headed to the line to check in. There were cookies and lemonade that we bypassed, plenty of food for the next week. It's a marathon of eating, not a sprint. The line wasn't long at all in the terminal. Our Set Sail Pass said boarding was at 2:00 pm. Not so little known secret, you can board as early as 11:00 am, though you can't get into your room until after 1:00 pm. Thank you, Cruise Critic.
In less than 20 minutes, we were all checked in and stepping foot on board. YEA!

First things first, explore the ship. Because we were on board so early, there were very few passengers around. Many areas of the ship were totally deserted. It was neat, and a little strange. But, it allowed us to take pictures and really explore.

Here are the Centrum shops. We didn't buy anything, not a single thing. That's unusual for me. But, they were fun to walk through. Jewelry, watches, perfume, liquor, RCI gear, etc.

Looking down from the balcony in the Palladium Theatre.

We never made it to either RC Singers & Dancers production but we really enjoyed a few comedians, welcome and farewell shows, game shows, etc. We also had the good sense to show up early to most shows. I'm not sure how many seats there are but the ship carries 2,200 passengers (give or take). For some of the more popular events, it was standing room only.

Casino! We only made a small donation here. It was pretty smoky.

This is the South Pacific Lounge. We came to a few things in here. It's a nice space and seats about 500 people, I heard. However, it's not the best spot to have your room above, which is where ours was located. Music played late here most nights. Although one night, we knew there was no music there and we could still hear bass thumping. Not sure where it was coming from.

And here's me Vanna White-ing it for you by a model of Grandeur.

We had lunch at the Windjammer Cafe, which is buffet style. By then, our room was open so we went to check it out. We had originally booked an Oceanview room on the 3rd deck because it was cheap. Our last cruise we had an oceanview on a low deck as well and it worked out fine for us. As luck would have it, about 10 days before the cruise, a friendly RC worker called and asked if we'd like a free upgrade. Would we?! We were moved to stateroom #7144, a D1 (or D2?), aft cabin, with a balcony!! We were slightly concerned that the higher deck and position of the stateroom might have more motion. We were right but it wasn't bothersome to either of us. The seas were calm and we've got good sea legs, I guess.

This is our balcony while we were still docked in port. I meant to post a picture of the whole room but, who'd a thunk, we didn't take one! Actually, we did a lousy job on the pictures this whole trip. I thought we'd take way more than we did. In our defense, with 2 days at sea, you can only take so many pictures of the ocean around you.

Anyway, I really enjoyed the balcony. I used it more than John did because I often sat out there to read. We had a couple breakfasts and one night a cheese plate and cocktails during an overcast sunset. I think a balcony is definitely worth it on a 7+ day cruise. On this 5 day jaunt, I'm glad we got it for free. You don't have as much time to enjoy it and it's probably not worth the extra money on a shorter cruise.

The room had a queen bed and a pull out couch. The TV was small and there was a shower curtain (gross) in the tiny bathroom instead of the tube-like door. It was nice, as far as staterooms go, but we had some loud neighbors who thought it perfectly acceptable to host gatherings in their room until late at night and also hang out in the hall drinking. Luckily, this didn't happen every night. They were probably in their late teens and had clearly smuggled alcohol on board. As a whole though, there were very few kids on this cruise which was great. One of the reasons we chose this week was because most kids would have just started school.

We put on our swimsuits then and headed up to the pool where hardly anyone was yet. I even got in the hot tub! It was really hot.

Solarium -- the adults only pool where we spent most of our time. Much quieter, padded lounge chairs and, duh, NO KIDS (most of the time).

After a couple hours at the pool, I really can't remember the exact order of things. We set sail, we showered and took naps, we probably explored a little more. By the time dinner rolled around, we were STARVING! This was the first time trying second seating. Eating at 8:30 has merits and drawbacks. It's good because you don't feel rushed in the afternoon to get to dinner especially on port days. It's bad because it's VERY late and causes you to eat double breakfast and usually double lunch so you can make it until then. Next time, we're trying My Time Dining. I would like to eat around 7:00 - 7:30. That would be ideal. Our tablemates were kind of duds. We had requested a table for 2 and were seated at a table for 8. Figures. One couple never showed the whole week, another couple that seemed normal came the first night and then never again. So for the next 4 nights we were left with a couple from Chile, whose English wasn't great. They were nice people but we had nothing in common and the language barrier was annoying. Our waiters were great though and the food was decent so at least that made up for it.

Later on we tried to see the late night comedian but there were no seats left by the time we got there. Instead, because we were tired, we just went to bed. Well, we tried, but this is where the location of our room competed with the noise below. In the upgrade, we didn't really have a cabin choice. Typically I'd spend a long time selecting location and looking at the deck plans above and below, as I did with our original room.

All in all, a good first day....... (boy this took a long time to write). The other days will not be as detailed, I promise you that.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Uncharted Territori

Remember my book fiasco? Too many books, too little time. I knew that I could knock out Uncharted TerriTORI, Tori Spelling's third memoir, pretty quickly. I was right. I think this took me all of 2 hours to read. Have you read and liked her other two, Stori Telling or Mommywood? If so, then you'll probably be slightly disappointed in this one. I felt like it never really went anywhere. Also, if you watch her Oxygen show Home Sweet Hollywood, a lot of it was just a regurgitation of events you saw on there. I liked first 2 books so I had high hopes for this one. It was okay, at best. There were some cute, quirky moments and you do see her growth throughout but that wasn't really enough for me. I'm a fan of Tori's but you can probably skip this one.

Saturday, September 18, 2010


We'll see how detailed these reports get. John and I booked this cruise back in May. The last time we cruised, we booked our airfare through Royal Caribbean. When I priced that option this time, I realized that we would save somewhere around $600 booking it on our own. SIX HUNDRED DOLLARS! Knowing that I didn't want to miss the ship, we flew in early and spent the day and night in Ft. Lauderdale which was still a huge savings.

I booked our one night at the Gallery One Doubletree Hotel through Orbitz. Just under $100. It was a tad far from the airport; the cab ride ended up being around $25-$30. But, I chose this specific hotel after weeks of research due to its proximity to a large mall and it's a stop on the water taxi route. Sold! I booked a Queen Cityview because it was cheaper but when we checked in, they upgraded us! I don't know if I posted before but our room on the ship also got upgraded (more on that another day) Anyway, our upgrade moved us up to the 12th floor, waterway view in a 2 room suite. WHEEEE!!!!

We had some time to kill after an uneventful flight and before check in so we dropped our bags and walked to the nearby Galleria mall to grab some lunch. There were some very nice looking restaurants, none of which seemed to be open for lunch. Instead, we ate at a very swanky food court. It was delicious and reasonably priced. After lunch, neither of us cared that much about the shopping. The stores were all the same as at home. We walked back to the hotel and luckily, it was time to check in.

This was our view of the Intercoastal Waterway from the balcony that was less than 12 inches deep and you couldn't actually stand on, though the door did open. I didn't get a picture of it but further down, you could see another ship (I think Oasis of the Seas) setting sail. That was neat.

This is the sitting area. There is also a dining table and kitchenette, complete with dishwasher! Had we been in town more than 24 hours, we may have made better use of the extra space. I think that couch pulls out too.

Here is the bedroom, in its separate room. The bed was pretty cozy and the bathroom was attached and pretty modern.

All travel websites and forums said the Water Taxi was the best way to see Ft. Lauderdale. For $15/person, we had unlimited rides for the whole day. There are, I think, 14 stops on the Water Taxi which winds its way through the Intercoastal Waterway, passing giant summer homes, restaurants, bars, marinas, and MONEY everywhere. Each taxi has a guide that narrates the surroundings. The two we rode with were entertaining and informative. We took the boat for about an hour down to dinner. Dinner was at Mango's where we both had great local seafood dishes. We walked up and down Las Olas Blvd. for a bit but, it being Sunday night, the many shops and boutiques were all closed. That was okay, it was still fun to window shop.

It was getting sort of late so we hopped on a taxi back up to the hotel. It really is a great way to tour the city and is probably much cheaper than hailing regular cabs to go everywhere.

This is where they filmed the movie, Where the Boys Are. Yeah, I've never seen it either.

This is not the best shot but this guy's mansion is worth something like over $100 Mill. On the left is just part of it, it continues WAY beyond that. He owns Blockbuster and other companies you would know but I can't remember right now. There are 7 other properties next to his that his family members live in. Do you think he would adopt me?

We had a couple drinks at the hotel bar. There were some semi-obnoxious people there and as luck would have it, they were on our ship and we kept seeing them....everywhere. After that, we headed upstairs to get some rest. NEXT UP......EMBARKATION!

Thursday, September 16, 2010


WARNING: If you haven’t read Hunger Games or Catching Fire and plan to (why wouldn’t you?!), you should skip this review. I’m not really going to give a detailed synopsis because I don’t want to ruin anything inadvertently. Mockingjay was awesome. That’s all you need to know at this point. When you’ve read the whole series, you can come back to this post.

Mockingjay is the long-awaited final installment of the Hunger Game series by Suzanne Collins. At the end of Catching Fire, Katniss and some of the other tributes have been saved from their return into the arena by Haymitch, Head Gamemaker Plutarch and others trying to thwart the Capitol’s cruel plans at keeping the Districts in line through the Hunger Games. Mockingjay begins with Katniss being nursed back to health and taken, along with her family, Gale and other survivors of District 12’s meltdown, to District 13. Here, President Coin has been orchestrating the rebellion against President Snow and the Capitol. Katniss is persuaded into becoming the face of the rebellion as the mockingjay, something that began during the Hunger Games and has grown ever since. Throughout Mockingjay, she, Gale, Haymitch and an army of others aid the other Districts in rising up against the Capitol, attempt to save Peeta after having been intercepted by the Capitol, and strive for a better life for all the citizens of Panem.

I’m going to stop there. I’m not sure how I was expecting this series to end but I’m happy with the closure Collins provided. Certain characters died that I wasn’t expecting but I was pleased with who Katniss ended up with. Even though I loved this book, it was probably my least favorite of the series. I had put a lot of pressure on it to deliver but again, I wasn’t sure what I was looking for. As a whole, these 3 books are out of the ordinary, well written and can be enjoyed by all, not just young adults.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Je suis retourne.....

I haven't taken French since college but according to Google Translator, "I returned." The cruise was great!! I do plan to give a detailed trip report but there's a ton going on Chez G these days. This vacation was really the calm before the storm. We close on the house in less than 2 weeks. AHHH! In one month, we move in permanently. In between we'll be packing, painting, cleaning, sweating. I hope my blogging won't be too terribly sporadic. If nothing else, I'll still be bringing you my awesome book reviews.

I have really done it to myself in the book department. I finished Mockingjay (!) on the cruise. Read about that here tomorrow. And I started the next book in the Outlander series which I'm way into. But, when I logged into my library account, I realized there was another book waiting for me AND I still have 2 at home to read in one week. These are un-renewable so I'm left with 2 options: 1) Return them without reading them, or 2) Pay the fine. Even though they don't, I always feel like the librarians are giving me the stinkeye when they tell me I have a fine. Or a third secret option: put down my current read for the next 7 days and read the other two like a fiend. I think I pick door #3 but with everything else, it will be quite a challenge. I'm always up for a challenge though, right? Especially a challenge of a reading nature. Love.To.Read!

I can only blog to you all tonight because I've packed my 3 requisite boxes. John and I have packed for 2 evenings now, just random stuff. We already have 10 paper boxes stacked in the dining room and it doesn't even feel like we packed anything. Just cookbooks, table linens and other things John took care of. I think I'll be very glad we're hiring movers.......

Monday, September 6, 2010

Bon Voyage

Ladies and gents, a fond farewell to you all today. We are embarking on the Grandeur of the Seas (barring any hurricane that might have otherwise to say about it). We shall set sail this evening to our destination, the Western Caribbean! We'll be visiting Cozumel and Grand Cayman. Snorkeling, sunning, sipping. The works! I'll fill you in when I return. Don't miss me too much. :)

This is Aruba but I figure one Caribbean location is as good as another, right?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

HUGE news

I have been biting my tongue for weeks. I didn't want to jinx the process but I feel relatively safe now (knock on wood) in telling you that John and I are on our way to being homeowners. That's right. After 5 long years of renting, we are buying a house and bidding adieu to shared walls and communal living. We're pleased as punch! We are supposed to close on October 1st and we are looking very forward to that date. No, we don't have enough furniture to fill the house. No, we don't agree on all paint colors. No, we have no clue how to do anything home improvement related. But, we'll buy, we'll paint and we'll learn. We really feel like we're heading to adulthood now. A piece of something that will be ours and hopefully (knock on wood again) eventually it'll be worth more than we paid for it. In the weeks to come, I'll share more details and pictures. But again, I'm trying not to jinx anything. The negotiations went well (I think -- I have nothing to compare it to.) The inspections came back clean. So now we just wait for all the financing to be processed. Wait and pack, that is.

In our house hunting process, John and I looked at nearly 20 houses. I feel this makes me a medium expert to give tips about having potential buyers come through your home.

1) Leaving a litter box full of poo in the front entry is a BAD idea. Likewise, is warning the realtor not to touch the "angry cat".

2) You should notify all members of the household that your home is being shown. Most notably, your teenage son who is asleep on the couch and cannot find his shoes.

3) Vacuum and pick up your trash, folks. See #2 above. Same house, not surprising.

4) If your house has an acrid odor to it, open a window and light some candles. No one wants to be bowled over by unpleasant aromas when walking in the door. If the odor is unrecognizable, that's even worse.

5) This one is for you buyers. Take along sustenance. House hunting is draining.

Wish us luck as we embark on this exciting endeavor!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

I Was Told There'd Be Cake

I Was Told There'd Be Cake is Sloane Crosley's first book of essays. If you'll remembered, I just read her sophomore effort How Did You Get This Number? I'm not sure which one I liked more but I just love this title. I think I mentioned before that this is an utterance John often hears from my mouth. It's usually in reference to some sort of family function where I was told there'd be cake thus being the sole reason for my attendance. I digress.

I don't have much of a review to write about this one. It was funny. I laughed out loud a few times. She has these quirky one liners that are hysterical. I really find Crosley a relatable story teller. She's around my age, maybe that helps. But, this reads like you're talking to a good friend with great tales to tell. If you're looking for a laugh. Check this one out!