Saturday, February 28, 2009

Costa Maya, Mexico - Part 3

After snorkeling, we went back on the the ship for lunch. We were parked next to another ship, the Independence of the Seas, which towered above our ship.

In the afternoon we returned to shore. There was a pretty pool surrounded by shops and a pretty beach area where you could relax. My brother found a spot under a palm tree to check his Blackberry while I did a bit of shopping. I thought these little turtles with wagging heads were cute, but overpriced:

Quite the view from under the palm umbrella!

A nice way to relax for the afternoon.......

Friday, February 27, 2009

Costa Maya, Mexico - Part 2, Snorkeling

I *love* to snorkel! This is the fourth time I've gone snorkeling. The first time, in Barbados, was boring - only a boat that had been sunk on purpose and a few bland fish. The second time, at the Great Barrier Reef in Cairns, Australia, was beautiful and exhilarating! The next time, in Hawaii, was like swimming in a warm aqua aquarium filled with yellow and orange fish.

So this trip was nice, but not as wonderful as trips 2 and 3. The water was quite choppy, so I had to keep checking that I hadn't floated off! Some of the reef had been damaged by the hurricane, so there weren't many fish or pretty coral at first. However the last 20 minutes or so of swimming took us into a beautiful area with lots of coral and fish. Of course, I had used up most of the film in my underwater camera by then!

Look closely above to see some pretty blue striped fish!
And a few more fish are hidden in the picture below.

I wish I had pictures of some of the fish that I saw later in the trip - they were so close! Oh well. Anyway, hopefully these pictures will give you a sample of what our snorkeling experience was like!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Costa Maya, Mexico - Part 1

For our second day on the cruise, we arrived at Costa Maya, Mexico. This was my first trip to Mexico. The port is simply an area for tourists with shops, a pool, restaurant, and tours.

Most of the surrounding area was severely damaged by Hurricane Dean a few years ago. Little foliage is left - only trees that were killed by the storm surge. Few houses. The dock that we traveled to for our snorkel trip was marked by this sunken sailing ship. Obviously the economy hinged on the cruise ship business.

We boarded the catamaran "Mayan Wind" for our morning snorkeling excursion. We had a fun, windy, bouncy ride along the shoreline as we sailed to the reef. The crew was funny and friendly.

Tomorrow I'll let you dive into the deep with me!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Grandeur of the Seas - Day 2

This is how I spent our first day at sea:

Relaxing, Reading, Enjoying the Ocean View......

Exploring the many levels of the ship - this is the atrium.....

Eating - lunch in the Windjammer Cafe.....

Eating again - dinner in the Great Gatsby Dining Room

The day was low key, relaxing, and wondertful!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Grandeur of the Seas - Our Cabin

Now, the whole goal of this trip was to put together a bargain cruise. So we booked an inside cabin. Even though small, I thought it made good use of space, and was comfortable. The bathroom was tiny and the beds were a bit stiff, but it had lots of storage and mirrors everywhere to give the illusion that it was bigger than it actually was. And the best part - twice a day someone came in and cleaned the room for you! Can't beat that!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Grandeur of the Seas - Cruising Away

January was a long cold snowy month. One Saturday afternoon, while 8 inches of snow were falling outside my window, my brother and I went online and found a bargain last minute cruise. So last week we flew down to Tampa and boarded the Royal Caribbean Grandeur of the Seas for 5 days of warmth, pampering, and relaxation.

I did think of you all back in the snow and cold. I really did!

Here are a few shots from the ship before we left Tampa.

Sunset over Tampa as we leave port.

Over the next few days I'll share some more pictures of our cruise. We all could use a little bit of virtual sunshine, I think!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Vintage Valentines

For the first five years of my life, my mom pasted all the cards that I received into this scrapbook. It is filled with cards sent at my birth, Christmas cards, cute little birthday cards for a little girl, and Valentines. Even a "We Missed You Week at Sunday School" card.

Here's a peak at some of the pages of Valentines:

A couple of years ago I scanned 6 of the Valentines and posted them on Flickr. They are my most popular images on Flickr and around this time of year the number of people viewing them goes way up! Yesterday 138 people checked out this Valentine which I blogged about last year. (It currently has had 5, 027 views.)

And this cute little card is in second place with 2,664 views.

Here's hoping you have a sweet Valentine's Day!!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Trader Joe Cranberry OrangeBread

I love this Cranberry Orange Bread mix - especially when I have to make something last minute to bring to an event. It tastes like it was made from scratch and no one knows the difference unless you tell them!

I doctored this up a little by adding some nuts and a glaze made of powdered sugar, a tablespoon of softened cream cheese, fresh orange peel, and orange juice (but it really doesn't need it). And this bread was even enjoyed by a little one year old boy - who would have thought it would be a kid pleaser?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Balsamic Swiss Chard

I think the first time I ever had Swiss Chard was at Pete's Place a few weeks ago. I really liked tangy dressing that they used to cook it in. When I saw this bag of "Chard of Many Colors" at Trader Joe's a few days ago, I knew I had to experiment!

First of all - look at the rainbow of colors in the package - so pretty!

This is how I cooked it. First I heated a large pan with a little olive oil. I added a bit of chopped onion into it and cooked it for a minute until slightly softened and golden. Then I added in a handful the chard into the pan for a couple minutes, stirring it frequently. Next I sprinkled it generously with balsamic vinegar and a bit of brown sugar - enough to give it a nice tangy slightly sweet glaze. I stirred for a minute or more, until the chard was wilted and then removed from the pan. Finally, I topped it with some toasted pine nuts.

I'm not a big fan of vegetables but I really liked this recipe!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Top 10 Signs that You're Not Sitting in the Cheap Seats (Caesars Windsor Club)

1. You arrive at the Piston's basketball game and have a reserved parking spot. The first spot. Right next to the door. With your name on the sign saying it's YOUR spot. (Well, actually it is Ernie and Walt's spot, but they were kindly letting us use it for the night.)

2. You walk about 10 steps from YOUR parking spot to the private entrance to the Caesar's Windsor Club. Someone opens the door and greets you.

3. There is a private elevator to the club level. You don't have to walk up the stairs. Or even push the elevator buttons. Stan the Elevator Man pushes the buttons for you.

4. You are greeted (again) as you walk off the elevator. Someone hands you a Piston's Yearbook and THEY DON'T ASK YOU FOR MONEY TO PAY FOR IT. They also put this classy little wristband on your wrist to show you belong in the "Club." (Well, at least for a few hours.)

5. The club has food. Lots of food. All kinds of stations. Fruit, salads, cheese, meats and veggies, all cooked up nice and fancy. My favorite was the Buffalo Chicken Pasta.

6. They also have a wood fired stove cranking out nice crispy pizzas.

7. They have cookies for dessert. (hmmm, that actually is disappointing, just some crummy little cookies.....)

8. Oh, we get to watch a basketball game, too. Our seats are only half way through the alphabet - row N. We can actually read the numbers and names on the player's uniforms without binoculars! If we were a little bit closer we might even be able to read the words on their tatoos!

9. Re: crummy cookies - They saved all the desserts until HALFTIME!!! Of course! Ice Cream and plates of fancy cookies and cakes and key lime pie. And chocolate covered strawberries!

10. Back to the game. The Pistons lose, but we are so well fed we barely notice! It's a good thing that Stan the Elevator Man pushes the buttons for us to go back down and we only have to walk 10 steps in the cold to get back to our car.

Thank you "Ernie" for the tickets - it was quite the treat!!!!!!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Vintage Flower Dangle Necklace

I still had some pieces left from my "vintage necklace remix" to make another necklace for my friend's birthday. I used one of the "flowers" to hang an assortment of items on a dangling fringe.

And here is how I wrapped it - in a little organza bag with tissue.


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