Wednesday, March 30, 2011

#84 Cartegena, Colombia

365 Blog Challenge: Post #84

My favorite stop on the trip was our second port, Cartagena, Colombia.  Many people associate Colombia with danger and drugs, but Cartagena is a beautiful and relatively safe place according to our taxi driver, Oswaldo.  Cartagena is like a little Metropolis.  There is an Old City and a New City.  We paid Oswaldo $50 for a round trip to a shopping center about 20 minutes from the port.  He drove us through Old City and we got a broken English tour.  Good thing I still know a little Spanish. Also, Oswaldo stayed with us while we were shopping so he could tell us the cheaper and more expensive stores.  At the shopping center was a man who charged $2 for a picture with his pet sloth, Pachito.  Pachito was super cute.  When his owner picked him up off of someone, he stayed in hanging position, ready to latch on for the next picture.  And minus his claws being a bit pokey, he was really cuddly!  We did some shopping in Colombia, and I was lucky enough to buy a pair of emerald earrings from a museum/shop in town.  We bargained for a good price and also got a tour of the museum and workshop to see how the stones are found and treated.  We also got some Colombian coffee (duh) and Mopa Mopa artwork for our family back home.

Cartagena, Colombia

Love the Spanish road signs! (Except in Panama and Costa Rica, these signs said "Alto".  Interesting.)

Prettiness in Old City

The Clock Tower in Old City

This is a guy preparing emeralds for jewelry at the emerald museum we went to.

At the museum, you got to see what emerald looks like when discovered underground.

Scott, Me and Pachito! (How many times and places can I post this picture?  It never gets old!)

Military types in Cartagena.

Cartagena, Colombia

Scott, Me, Oswaldo.  We didn't realize the $50 cash didn't include tip and it's the only cash we had on us so we ran back to the ship to get Oswaldo a tip but had to leave it with his friend.  We hope he gets it!  We brought you $15 Oswaldo! Make sure Mario gives it to you!!

Scott and some parrots near the port.

Emerald earrings (in sterling silver)!  We got them for a bargain! Sorry the pic is a bit blurry.  We were having a hard time zooming.

Next up: Panama!

#83 Labadee, Haiti

365 Blog Challenge: Post #83

The first port we visited was Labadee, Haiti.  Labadee is an island off of Haiti that Royal Caribbean owns. While it was absolutely beautiful, we felt the experience was a bit artificial, especially since we were really seeking out new cultural experiences.  We went swimming in the ocean and naturally, I managed to injure myself by stubbing my toe on a piece of wood at the bottom of the ocean.  I have slivers to prove it.  I had to go all the way back to the boat to get the tweezers and Neosporin which was kind of a buzz kill.  Also, one of the venders Scott encountered begged him for food in exchange for a free item.  I was horrified by this story because it made me feel incredibly guilty for being on the island in the first place, for being on this luxurious cruise when there are people there who don't have enough to eat.  I didn't even want to buy any knick knacks there because I thought they would just remind me of my guilt.  Needless to say, this was our least favorite port.

Labadee, Haiti
View from our ship

We saw these two small boats in the ocean near our ship while eating breakfast.

The water sure looks nice but there are hidden dangers underneath.

Like wooden planks....I'm ridiculously accident prone.

When shopping seemed to be out of the question, we tried to explore the island a little bit.  Not gonna lie, climbing rocks in flip flops is not so easy.

 More cruise pics to come!

#82 Firestarter

Rating: 3/5 stars
365 Blog Challenge: Post #82

During our cruise I finished Firestarter by Stephen King which I found not as good as "Under the Dome" but not as bad as "The Gunslinger."  The book was made into a movie starring former child actress Drew Barrymore, though considering this book was originally published in 1981, you probably already know that.

The story involves Andy McGee and his daughter Charlie, and it begins when they are on the run from "The Shop", a secret government agency who is interested in the pair due to their supernatural abilities.  Andy, who during college was involved in an experiment in which he was injected with "Lot 6", developed the power of mind domination (which he calls "Pushing") though his ability causes him physical pain when used too much.  6-year-old Charlie, daughter of Andy and Vicky (another Lot 6 participant) seems to have a gift of mass destruction- pyrokinesis, being able to start fires with her mind, sometimes purposefully, other times when her emotions get the better of her.  Since The Shop killed Andy's wife, he and Charlie have been on the run to avoid similar fates, or at least to avoid being locked up for the rest of their lives as science experiments.

Once Charlie and Andy are eventually caught, the sinister Rainbird, a government hit man who captured the pair, takes an interest in Charlie and feeds his sick morbid fantasies by imagining what it will be like to kill a child.  All of this is under the watch of the emotionally-strained Captain J. Hollister who becomes very vulnerable to Andy's capabilities.

I enjoyed the action in this book.  The chase and the fire scenes kept me coming back.  I became slightly bored once Charlie and Andy were captured because basically there was a lull in the action.  I still think that Stephen King is a hell of a story teller and has a true talent in weaving characters and themes throughout his novels.  However, you can see how much he has matured as a writer when you compare this book to Under the Dome which is so much more epic and intricate.

Next up- Firestarter- the movie!  Looking forward to pre-rehab Drew playing Ms. Charlie McGee.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

#81 Cruise blues/Ship photos

365 Blog Challenge: Post #81

Have you ever gone on vacation just to find you need another vacation to rest up from the first vacation?  Have you ever had so much to do that you don't know where to start and, therefore, nothing gets done?  That would be my day today.  After Skyping with our families for almost 2 hours last night after apx 5 hours of sleep the night before and a full day of traveling, I was exhausted.  I had to haul myself out of bed this morning to balance the checkbook (quite the task after this trip), go to physical therapy, go to the allergist, buy groceries, and to return to the apartment to take a 2 hour nap.  And I haven't even started cleaning up this sty of a place we call our apartment for Heather and Zoe's visit this weekend.  On a positive note, I did start some laundry and unpacked my bags and am now trying to get some blogging in before the trip becomes irrelevant in your minds.

For this post-cruise post, I wanna show some pictures of the actual boat we were on- Jewel of the Seas.  It's a Royal Caribbean Radiance Class ship, and it was beautiful.  We can't wait to book another cruise and try out another boat.  This boat came equipped with 1 outdoor pool w/ 2 hot tubs, 1 indoor (adults only) pool w/ 1 hot tub, a climbing wall, a 9-hole mini-golf course, a sports court, a casino, a gym/running track and lots of other stuff.  It was a pretty nice place to live for 10 days!

At Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale

Pre-cruise shot- We didn't know what we were doing.

Outdoor pool came equipped with giant man holding beach ball statue. We both thought it was real for about a minute.

Indoor pool- AKA Solarium....sooo peaceful.

Mini-golf on the ocean!

The chandelier from deck 4 in the centrum (center of ship). 

Beautiful shot of the balconies on each floor (up to floor 12!) from the 4th floor centrum.

Water fall in the centrum next to the stage where many wonderful musicians performed each night.

The stage in the Coral Theater where the nightly shows were.  We only went to one because we're snobs.

This is actually a photo of the ceiling reflecting Scott in the pool in the Solarium at night.  Pretty cool!

Our favorite spot on the last day in the Solarium overlooking the ocean.  I miss it!

A photo of our ship- Jewel of the Seas in Haiti.  It's huge!

Many more pics where those came from.  I'll post more when I find some energy! Good night!

#80 Back in the states

365 Blog Challenge: Post #80

Hello my faithful readers...
Scott and I have returned from our cruise and spent the entire day traveling.  I am exhausted and will keep this post short and sweet.  Just a quick note to let you all know that we had an AMAZING time on our cruise.  Made so many memories, saw so many new things, met new people, helped the international economy (i.e.shopped!).  I will be uploading many pictures in the days to come as well as reviewing the 2 books I finished while on the ship.  For tonight,  I will just include this one picture, my favorite from the trip.  This picture was taken in Cartagena, Colombia at a shopping center.  A man with a sloth comes every day and lets people take pictures with his pet.  Here is a picture of Scott, me, and our new favorite animal, Pachito the sloth.

Pachito tried to get fresh with me when I was giving him back to his owner when his claw hooked the neck of my shirt.  I saw him try to sneak a peak.  Such a sneaky little guy.  And so cute! More to come! Glad to be back writing to you all!

Monday, March 21, 2011

#79 Best Wisconsin news coverage yet....

365 Blog Challenge: Post #79

This episode aired weeks ago, but I found this story from the Daily Show about the "luxurious" lives teachers lead so funny, I had to share it with you all.  Enjoy:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Crisis in Dairyland - Apocalypse Cow
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

Sunday, March 20, 2011

#78 Cruise Reading Material

365 Blog Challenge: Post #78

As we plan to spend a lot of time lounging by the pool during our cruise, we figured we'd do a lot of reading.  Therefore, Scott and I each packed 4 books, and just in case, there is a library on board.  Chances are we'll each finish one, if even, because I find myself dozing easily in the sun.  But we made an effort to stay on top of our reading material.  Here's what we brought:

Four books on the left are mine: Firestarter-Stephen King, Firefly Lane- Kristin Hannah, Discomfort Zone- Jonathan Franzen, The Glass Castle- Jeannette Walls.  Four books on the right are Scott's: American God's- Neil Gaiman, The Eyre Affair- Jasper Fforde, Eating the Dinosaur- Chuck Klosterman,  Stardust- Neil Gaiman

Saturday, March 19, 2011

#77 Mommy's nose is scary...

365 Blog Challenge: Post #77

A little something to entertain you while I'm away.  I laughed so hard I cried when I watched this video.  If you want to see pure fear in someone's eyes, watch this.  Enjoy!

Friday, March 18, 2011

#76 A visit from the man your man could smell like

365 Blog Challenge: Post #76

Today is the day! Our cruise is departing from Fort Lauderdale, and we are ready to sail the seven seas! (Or at least the Atlantic Ocean).  In honor of this special day, I decided to post a little treat for all of you in the form of the Old Spice guy because he's right, I am on a boat!  (Though not on a horse).  Bon Voyage!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

#75 Pre-Cruise Jitters

365 Blog Challenge: Post #75

Tonight I sit in the Channel Room at Grandma Judy's condo, a game room of sorts which is the only room with free WiFi in the condominium.  My blogging is being rudely interrupted by three adolescent males watching rap videos on a lap top a few tables away, drinking Arizona iced tea from a 2 gallon jug.  Annoying, but it will have to suffice.

Today, Scott and I ran some pre-cruise errands which included picking up some things we forgot (gym shorts) and things that we packed that no longer fit (stretched out swimsuit in my case).  Then we lay by the pool, swam a bit and walked on the beach before dinner at Outback.  Tomorrow we will leave the condo at 11am and board the ship early to explore and have lunch before we depart at 5pm.

I saw a cruise ship leaving port today, the Navigator of the Seas, another Royal Caribbean ship, and I got a sick wave of nausea in my stomach.  It's not that I'm scared of drowning or sharks or that kind of thing.  I just find the idea of being in the middle of the ocean without having any land in sight a bit unsettling.  Also don't love the idea of having no communication with my family for 10 days.  Scott reassures me he will take care of me.  Tonight, we will take our first dose of Bonine (anti-seasickness medication) and sleep our last night on land for 10 nights!

Here are some pics of the day.

Navigator of the Seas heading out to sea. *Gulp*

Staying hydrated by the pool in my new swim suit. (Kenneth Cole, originally $94, got it for $26 at TJ Maxx. Woot!)

Scott looks even thinner than usual in this pic.  I promise you he's eating.

Yet another trip to Walgreens for last minute husband is so fashionable.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

#74 Happiest baby ever

365 Blog Challenge: Post #74

My favorite baby gives us another reason to love her:

That laugh could make anyone smile! Keep up the good work Erin and Steve!

#73 A rough start to a great day in Florida!

365 Blog Challenge: Post #73

The day started out a little rough.  After about 30 minutes of sleep, Scott and I bickered our way to Broadway.  After that 10 minute walk it took us about 10 minutes to hail a cab in the rain.  However, once we landed in Florida, things started looking up.  The weather is lovely.  The air smells of sun tan lotion! We got lunch at Einstein's Bagels, took a nice nap and an hour long walk on the beach (we even saw a manatee near shore!  Hopefully it didn't get washed to shore...).  For dinner, Scott's Grandma Judy's friend, Joan, took us out to dinner.  So nice!  Here are some pics of the day:

Traditional pre-trip airport shot!  Somehow Scott looks bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, and I just look tired.

The LGA jetBlue terminal was a little old school, as you can see...

Trying on hats at Walgreens!  This is for our nature walk in the rain forest in Panama! (No, we didn't buy it.)

Lincoln Park in the Dark in the ocean!!

My cutie is also video documenting our trip which isn't going so well since I'm his only subject, and I hate talking on camera.  We'll see how this goes.

Beach nature!

More fun tomorrow as we prepare for our departure!

#72 While I'm away...

365 Blog Challenge: Post #72

Well All,
By the time you're reading this, I will be in Fort Lauderdale, FL either soaking up some rays or sleeping because the preparation for this trip has been exhausting (and expensive and we can barely afford to do anything until I get paid Friday, but that's just a side note)!  I just wanted to give you a little update on how things will roll after we depart.

Internet on the cruise is very expensive ($0.65/minute) so we will most likely not be signing on except once or twice for a couple minutes at a time.  Therefore, until I return to the States on March 28th, the posts you see will be prescheduled.  (Meaning I'm writing them before Friday, and I hope they don't suck.)  We won't have access to our phones either, so don't worry about texting me about how much you enjoyed my post.  I won't be able to get it after we leave port on Friday, so you can just post a comment instead.

I hope you enjoy the next two weeks, and I can't wait to blog about all our adventures at sea!  Take care my faithful readers! Love,


#71 A note on Stephen King

365 Blog Challenge: Post #71

I'm currently reading "Firestarter" by Stephen King, one of his books from the early '80s which was later turned into a film staring Drew Barrymore (pre-rehab).  Reading this book reminds me why writing is so multi-faceted, and that a writer's individual strengths are what make them so incredible.  The first book I read by Stephen King was "Under the Dome", his recent best-seller that totals over 1,100 pages, and while reading "Firestarter", I can see how much King has matured in his story telling.  In his early work, he still has a knack for creating likeable, endearing characters, as well as characters who make your stomach turn.  He knows how to keep you reading, how much to tell you without ruining anything but also keeping you interested.  It's as if he honed his talents throughout the years so that as a veteran author, he can hold together an incredibly complicated book with numerous important characters and plot lines.  He matured enough as a writer to create an epic.  King is described as a master story-teller, and although his writing isn't elegant or beautiful or lyrical, his stories are so great that those things don't matter.  Why clutter a good tale with pretty language when a plainer language allows one to appreciate that tautness of the story?  King seems to know his strengths and weaknesses as a writer, and he doesn't try to be something he's not.  Perhaps this is a key to his success.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

#70 Pre-Cruise Pampering!

365 Blog Challenge: Post #70
Well, thank you!
Today was a busy day!  Scott and I leave tomorrow for our 12-day vacation including a 10-day cruise.  I decided to treat myself to a day of pampering to prepare.  I found a cute little nail salon called Victoria Nails next to my allergist on 27th and Park which was reasonably priced, and a cute little woman named Lee took care of me.  Brow wax, manicure, pedicure, and complementary shoulder rub all for $40 including tip?  Such a deal.  Scott encouraged me to go for a "dark plum" color.  I didn't think that was very cruisey but though I'd do it to please him.  However, apparently OPI's "Lincoln Park After Dark" is closer to black than purple.  No matter.  Lee did a great job, and I shall return to Victoria Nails for another occasion (and once my funds are repleated.)

OPI's Lincoln Park After Dark...don't mind my giant feet.

#69 Weigh in...

365 Blog Challenge: Post #69

I'm taking part in my work's "Healthy Lifestyle Incentive Challenge" which rewards me for meeting my activity and weight loss goals.  The program started in November and as mentioned before, I've lost over ten pounds (my goal was 6.)  The problem is I haven't been able to work out for 5-6 weeks due to my knee injury.  The only thing I can comfortably do at this point is walk, which I'm starting to do again.  Thankfully, the program is allowing me to just note my injury on my activity log, and I have moved up from the bronze level to the silver level of the program due to an 11 pound weight loss according to my weigh in from Monday!  I even won a very nice cooler from work for meeting my goal.  The next challenge?  5 more pounds by June 24th.  This is going to mean better portion control for me, at least while I'm not able to work out especially hard. (Walking is good, but usually not sufficient for me for significant loss. Man I wanna get on that ellipitical again!)  Scott and I are going to try to walk almost every day on our cruise.  And I better stop eating these Girl Scout Cookies...

I'll keep you all updated!

Monday, March 14, 2011

#68 The Lactose Problem...

365 Blog Challenge: Post #68

Ever hear women complaining how they can't get their husbands to go to the doctor? Yeah, me too. And it's true. I told Scott over a year ago to go see my GI doctor because of some abdominal discomfort he's been having...mmm...since I've known him. Finally last week, Scott decided to start listening to me, only to find out that he is pretty lactose intolerant, and he has been ordered not to eat dairy for 6 weeks. That is a tall order in general, but when we have our cruise coming up, Scott is pretty bummed. We had to send a "special needs" request to the cruise line in the hope that we can get him a lactose free diet. And since I had more time earlier this week, I went to Whole Foods to find some stuff that Scott can eat. We're talking about a guy here who loves CHEESE pizza and ice CREAM. This does not seem an easy task, but the MD told Scott it takes about 6 weeks to get the lactose out of your system to see if you're feeling better. He's being a trooper. Let's hope that Royal Caribbean can provide some good soy cheese!

Friday, March 11, 2011

#67 A Gate at the Stairs

365 Blog Challenge: Post #67

Rating 3.5/5 stars
This book was a gift from good ol' Jamie Lyn (thanks Jame!), and I have very mixed feelings about it.  Lorrie Moore is an award winning writer who often writes short stories but also has a few novels out there.  In my creative writing class, we read an essay by her entitled "How to Become a Writer", which I loved.  She is so good at observing seemingly non-important things and making them funny, the awkward, the absurd, the subtle.  While Moore carries this writing style into A Gate at the Stairs and for the development of the main character Tassie, it works, her excessive attention to detail at times overwhelmed me and drowned the story a little.

The story revolves around Tassie, a 20-year-old college student who is from a small farm town in Illinois.  Tassie is hired as a "child care provider" for a couple in her college town and accompanies them on a trip to Green Bay, WI to pick up Mary (later Mary-Emma), a biracial child they plan to adopt.  Tassie, an intelligent, funny, yet lonely girl, learns to care deeply for Mary-Emma, and becomes a part of the (dysfunctional) family.  I found Tassie extremely likeable and felt Moore's voice as Tassie was one of the best parts of this book.

Other plot points include Tassie's first romance with a "Brazilian" named Reynaldo, and her brother, Robert's enrollment in the military shortly after 9/11.  I felt that the focus of these other events seemed uneven.  The most compelling and fluid parts of the story revolved around Mary-Emma, racism and the imperfections of Mary-Emma's adoptive parents.  I felt Moore pulled you out of the story for unnecessary amounts of time when she detailed Reynaldo and Robert.

But what do I know?  This book was a finalist for the PEN/Falkner award and named best book of the year in multiple highly regarded publications including the New York Times.  Moore is definitely a quality writer, but I felt this book could have been refined a bit more.  Perhaps her short stories are a bit more taut.

Moore is a professor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and she writes quite a bit about the Midwest.

#66 The Secret Life of Trolls

365 Blog Challenge: Post #66

This week the hot mess also known as Charlie Sheen called his former Two and a Half Men co-star, Jon Cryer, a troll.  Sheen is apparently super mature.  I took offense to this attack on Cryer because #1 I loved him as Duckie in Pretty In Pink and #2 I think that he has a small resemblance to my handsome hubby.  Oh yeah, and #3 I think I saw him at the Columbus Circle Border's once.  He was very short and we looked him up on IMDB and it said he was 5'9 which either is a blatant lie or it wasn't actually Jon Cryer that I saw in the literature section.

Anyways, I was very proud of Cryer for not letting the crazy train, also known as Charlie Sheen, get the best of him.  Here is his response from Conan:

#65 Back in the saddle again...

365 Blog Challenge: Post #65

Today is the day ladies and gentlemen.  I have been okayed by my physical therapist to try riding the exercise bike.  After 3 weeks of stretching, balancing and strengthening exercises (apparently I have very weak hip flexors) I am hoping to get back into the world of exercise to maintain my weight loss.  Thus far, I have maintained my weight.  As for my muscle and tone, those things peaced out a few weeks ago.  So after a good days sleep, I will attempt to bike this evening.  Wish me luck!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

#64 An Open Letter to H&M

365 Blog Challenge: Post #64

Dear H&M

Dressing ALL your mannequins in long blond wigs is creepy.  Suggest you refrain from this in the future.  Very sincerely,