Wednesday, May 28, 2008

It's Been a Lovely Cruise - Carnival Pride May 2008

Oh to be on a cruise again....

I think I missed my calling. I should have worked on a cruise ship for a few years - I understand working on a ship is quite different than being on vacation, but I could totally see myself running bingo games and coming up with questions for super trivia.

We set sail from Long Beach - half of the group were VIPs and they were able to board about an hour before us non-VIPs. Of course that hour in line gave us time to not only finish a Propel Plus but we came up with the idea for this totally awesome boarding picture.

We sailed on the Carnival ("the Fun Ship") pride from Long Beach to Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, and Cabo San Lucas. All of our cabins were along the back corner of the ship - while we were never to come up with a good cruise t-shirt we did have lots of fun making 'aft' jokes.

We had a balcony room with an extended deck.

The room had a long couch, small table, lots of storage space with 3 full length closets, 4 drawers, and a small 2-shelf cabinet. The bedding was very comfortable but there was just a sheet and a comforter, no blanket - so some nights temperature was an issue. It was too cool for just the sheet but then too warm for the comforter.

Our balcony was on the back of the boat, and the decorative glass railing angled out giving us more, but basically unusable balcony space. We didn't pay any extra for the extending balcony, and you shouldn't.

We had major problem with our balcony, it was right below the Lido deck - it was fine having people look down in to our balcony, it was not fine having smokers ash down in to our balcony. Michael and I both ended up with shorts that have ash stains on the bum. Once we realized the problem, we just took out towels to cover the chairs before we sat down, but it was annoying.

The balcony was great for the views, relaxing while at sea, and breakfast.

Most mornings we had breakfast delivered by room service and then enjoyed our meal on the balcony. A lovely way to start the day. (The robes were provided by Carnival, they were really plush and luxurious.)

We sailed away from Long Beach with our own deck party. Gordy and Linda had a suite with a huge wrap around balcony. It went along the back of the ship and then turned the corner and down the side. It was great having so much room - I think we all made great use of their space.

Their cabin was even more awesome than the wrap around balcony. It had two separate rooms, the bedroom and the living room with a couch and chairs. In between the two rooms was a vanity area (which was taken over as our own private beauty salon) and a walk in closet! Their bathroom had two sinks and a full bath tub - total luxury.

Our first two days were at sea - this meant we had plenty of time to eat, drink, and explore the ship.

Monday night was formal night. We did our best to dress to impress.

The ladies used the McGuire salon featuring the services of Miss Karen for hair and make-up, with Linda's closet available for accessorizing. For whatever reason Rebecca decided we all needed to wear wigs one night. Well it turned in to each of us taking a turn wearing the black bob wig Linda is wearing in the formal picture above. I think our waiters thought we were one wacky group. When I wore the wig I looked like the mom from 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding', needless to say I don't have room here to post that photo! (Michael was a good sport and even wore the wig long enough for us to snap photos. He pulled it off really well, he looked like he should have been performing in Spamalot.)

After hours formal night we did some drinking and dancing. In one of the ship's nightclubs. The ship also had a casino that was really nice to Miss Karen.

The shows on board were hit and miss. Unfortunately for me the show I went to was more of a miss, so I didn't go back later in the week.

The ship does have a fun miniature golf course. The course was pretty tricky and the ship is moving, making it even more difficult to sink a putt.

I had a few favorite on-board activities. For some reason I decided we needed to compete in a 3-day super trivia contest. Day 1 was great, Michael, Mel and I teamed up with Doug and Elizabeth. They were young, cute, and competitive. We ended the day in first place. Day 2 of the competition we all enlisted the help of others, our team size grew to unmanageable size and we were subject of many stolen questions. Our competitors were playing tough. Due to the unfortunate events and missed opportunities on Day 2, our team size was considerably smaller on Day 3. Day 3 was looking pretty grim until the Wades answered our first question and rolled the scoring dice for a top score of 6 points. We held strong in Day 3 and ended the competition in a respectable second place.

Gordy, Mel, and I also participated in a ship scavenger hunt (it was billed as an 'Amazing Race' type game - so Mel and I were suckered in and brought Gordy with us on this fool's errand). Our second stop on the hunt was in an on-board restaurant that just happened to be starting a wine tasting. Goodbye scavenger hunt, hello wine tasting. The three of us had a great time learning how to taste wine and trying wines with different food pairings. We decided we were the real winners of the scavenger hunt!

And finally one of my all time favorite ship classes - towel and napkin folding. Who doesn't want to know how to make those great towel animals the steward leaves for you every night?

As fun as it was on the ship, we managed to have a great time in the various ports as well.

Our first stop was Puerto Vallarta.

Mel, Michael, and I went in to port a little behind everyone else but Linda. It was pretty warm, after walking the boardwalk we found a restaurant with an open patio and an ocean view. We had some cold beer and good shrimp and guac. It was a great way to spend an afternoon.

Next stop, Mazatlan.

Here I got off the ship with Gordy and Linda. Mel and Michael enjoyed some quiet time on the ship and everyone else went to a really cool private beach where they rode ATV's and found coconuts. Gordy, Linda, and I took a cab to the shopping district.

We stopped at Sea Shell City and eventually found ourselves at a nice restaurant with an open patio and an ocean view. Again we enjoyed cold beer and margaritas and good food.

And our final port - Cabo San Lucas. This time Michael and I were behind everyone else leaving the ship, but we all managed to meet up. Because of the port size you had to take a tender from the ship to the port, coming back they even let me steer the tender.

Once again we finished our time in port at a restaurant with an open patio and cold beer. The weather in Cabo was perfect, unfortunately we had to leave early - we could have stayed there for hours.

Leaving Cabo I took one of my favorite photos of the trip. I went to the Lido deck and snapped a picture looking down at Gordy and Linda's deck.

It really was a lovely cruise.

Sing us out Jimmy....

These moments we're left with

May you always remember

These moments are shared by few

There's wind in our hair and there's water in our shoes

Honey, it's been a lovely cruise

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Beckham, Up Close and Personal

Using natural light, a tripod, and the zoom on his dad's fab camera Michael was able to get these photographs of Beckham.

I love how you can even see his eyelashes.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Mom's Day Tea 2008

Every year we participate in the Soroptomist Mother's Day Tea.

Not only do we enjoy a lovely afternoon tea we get to set up and decorate tables.

This was our year of whimsy - the main table featured Leo the Lion and 6 other carousel animals.

Once again we were able to cut fresh beautiful roses from Jason's house. They looked and smelled amazing - most people didn't think they were real!

We added small bouquets of fresh rosemary, star jasmine, and lavender to the chair backs.

We called our second table 'Jamaica Me Crazy'. We used Jason's tropical plates to set the mood. It was kind of busy - but it seemed to come together. The ladies who sat there loved it, especially the fun plates.

This year everyone had short hair and Mom and I were both in hats.

We have yet to win a prize for our tables, but there is always next year!

The Other Tea Tables

Here are photos of some of the other tables at the tea.

I saw the slideshow on the Wade blog - thanks for the new trick Bex!

Cheesesteak Anyone?

We spent one day of the Waldron visit in Philadelphia. Just a two hour train ride to get to this historic city. Compared to my last visit, in 1993, the downtown historic area was really clean and visitor friendly. While the crown jewels of a traditional visit include Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell.

We arrived too late in the day to get tickets to see Independence Hall. Walking through the huge new Visitor Center we pretty much walked right in to the National Constitution Center.

Not only did they have a great special display of baseball memorabilia, they have a fabulous permanent exhibit all about (yes, you guessed it) the Constitution. We spent all afternoon here - there was so much to see and do.

Lot of interactive displays give you a real sense of how the Constitution was developed and how it shapes our nation today.

Hey look - it's the new Waldron $5 bill!

The last exhibit was the 'Hall of Signers' - life size bronze statues of the signers of the Constitution. Did you know only two presidents signed the Constitution? (Madison and Washington). Where was Thomas Jefferson - he was in France doing diplomatic work. Also the average height of a man was just 5'8". Madison was really petite and Washington really stood tall - easy to see why he would be a commanding leader.

Michael speaking to a packed house.

(His dad was just being silly - I didn't get what he was doing at first, but it's pretty funny.)

Invasion of the Waldrons

All the craziness started mid-April. We were so happy to have Michael's parents visiting lovely NYC!

We packed in as much as possible while they were here.

The started off with a trip to the famous Carnegie Deli for mile high pastrami sandwiches.
Below is a picture of Michael's mom and dad at the deli.

Once they had a nice big lunch it was off to the Panorama of New York City and the surrounding park.

The weather could not have been better - during their entire visit I think we only had rain on the day they were leaving town.

After taking some fabulous close up photos of the panorama (Michael's dad has a great digital camera - wait until you see Beckham's latest photo using the zoom) -

they headed outside. Michael and his mom pose in front of the Unisphere.

The next day both Michael and I had to work - left to their own devices his parent took the Circle Line boat tour around the island.

Later in the visit the guys would hit golf balls at the Chelsea Piers driving range (while the girls enjoyed the very entertaining Broadway show Spamalot).

They were visiting the same time the Pope was in town. When their boat went up the East River they were escorted the entire way by an armed Coast Guard boat. The Pope was speaking at the UN the same time they were on the tour, the tour boat goes up the East River right behind the UN building.

They snapped this great show of the new Yankee stadium, scheduled to open next season. You can see a little bit of old Yankee stadium in the right side of the photo - the new stadium is being built right next door to the old stadium. I'm not sure what will happen to the old stadium...

And this cute little red light house is way up at the north end of Manhattan, even though it isn't used any more it was never torn down because a book was written about it. The Little Red Lighthouse and the Big Grey Bridge by Hildegarde Swift - it teaches a lesson about being significant in this world even if you are small.

Michael and I met up with his parents in the evening and we had drinks and appetizers at Oyster Bar and then we had a fabulous dinner at craftbar.

I had a spicy seafood stew that was out of this world. The broth was tomato based and was almost like a thinned out bisque with a little bit of heat. The assortment of seafood included fish, shrimp, and lobster. Michael's dad had a good basic pasta in red sauce and if I remember correctly he and his mom ordered a fish dish. The best part of the meal was dessert. I ordered two scoops of the ice cream - malted milk and coffee crunch. The coffee crunch was good, but the malted milk was outstanding. I think MomO needs to work on that recipe for the ice cream maker this summer!

Saturday I started the day with the Pope and then met up with them for lunch. We ate a relatively new place called Stout. A fun beer bar/restaurant. Good burgers and salads and a huge been selection. From there we headed to the Transit Museum in Brooklyn. After our fill of learning about the NYC transit system we took a short break and spent a few hours at the Met. Finally with the Met closing for the night we had a nice Italian dinner.

Sunday we spent the day in Philadelphia. Michael's parents stayed a few more days in the Philly area with some long time family friends. They did antiquing and visited the QVC store. Did you know they have a store where they sell all of the stuff you see on t.v.? And even better they have an outlet store that sells everything that has been returned, at a big discount.

When they were back in NYC we took them to another one of our favorite BBQ joints - Blue Smoke (although it is a little classy to be referred to as a BBQ joint - this is more of a BBQ restaurant). We thought we would get the meat eating out of the way before the veges (Michael's sister and her boyfriend) came in to town. Dinner was a hit and there were enough leftovers for me to have lunch later in the week.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

And then there were more...Waldrons that is

Michael's sister, Jenn,

and her boyfriend Chris flew out for a few days to join in the fun.

They were troopers, even though they flew the red eye they were ready to explore the city. First stop: Starbuck's.
Second stop: Central Park

The first night Jenn and Chris were in town, the girls went to the Broadway show and the guys hit golf balls at Chelsea Piers. Before we left Jenn was buying the cats love by giving them cat treats. It was a complete feeding frenzy in the kitchen! Just a swarm of black fur and feet. The cats were so spoiled, I know they miss the constant treat train.

After the show we all met at Junior's in Times Square for dessert. Juniors has amazing cheesecake. Jenn and Chris split a piece of the devil's food cheesecake which is pretty much a slice of cheesecake stuck in between a super rich, heavily frosted, piece of devil's food cake. I think Michael's dad was ready to go back to Junior's for cheesecake any time.

The next day, I had to work but Michael

took them through Brooklyn Heights

and to our favorite pizza place - Grimaldi's. It's a bit of a tourist spot now, there is always a line - but the pizza has a thin crust, not too much sauce, and big slices of fresh mozzarella cheese.

The inside is always cramped- but the pizza is always delicious.

After pizza they walked across the Brooklyn Bridge and enjoyed the great views of downtown Manhattan.

From the Brooklyn Bridge they headed to the Staten Island Ferry for a quick trip to Staten Island and back. After all of that walking the subway ride home was a nice break for the feet.

That night we had the best dinner at Candle 79. It is a vegetarian restaurant that I think most non-vegetarians would really enjoy. It was great because we were all sharing bites, we were able to sample lots of different dishes. I started off with a seasonal appetizer of fried artichokes. They were so delicious - young and tender, delicately fried, sitting on a bed of greens and drizzled with some kind of green sauce. Jenn had the avocado and tomato tar tar which was pretty much a rough cut guacamole with plantain chips. The portion was very generous and the taste was spot-on. Michael had a platter with roasted garlic, house made hummus, olives, and a pita like bread. The hummus was a little more chunky than store bought hummus, the taste was very good. Michael's parents both had a very nice salad and I don't remember what Chris had as a starter (I need to write things down in the restaurant).

For dinner I had the appetizer manicotti - again absolutely amazing. A big thick homemade pasta shell filled with cooked, but still crisp veges and cashew cheese topped with a slightly spicy red sauce. Jenn had the seitan (meat substitute with a consistency similar to portabello mushrooms) prepared picatta style. It was a generous portion in a nice lemony sauce. Michael and Chris both had seitan that had been marinated in a chipototle sauce so it was a little spicy. Their dish also had avocado, asparagus, and potatoes. Michael's mom had the vegetable paella - it was my favorite dish. The veges were cooked to perfection and plated in a perfect ring with rice and an excellent saffron sauce. Michael's dad had the house pasta of the day - fresh noodles with lots of veges. After a delicious dessert we all left stuffed. Candle 79 has a companion cafe that is lower in price but doesn't accept reservations - it on the list of places for us to try. I can't wait to go back to Candle 79, definitely the next time Mel (our self-professed aquatarian) comes to town. Maybe Candle 79 participates in Restaurant Week - we could only be so lucky!

We spent most of Saturday on the West Side. First at the Natural History museum and then a good late lunch/early dinner at Artie's Deli. Artie's is a classic. My favorite menu item that I've never ordered- the catered party platter titled 'My Son Is Becoming a Doctor'.

Once we had food and some down time we headed to the "Top of the Rock". The weather cooperated and we had great views of Jersey, Manhattan, and out across Long Island.

Back home we continued the food fest and Michael set up the tri-pod so we could have a group photo.