Sunday, December 21, 2014

How is it Sunday night already?  What a whirlwind couple of days.  Maybe it just feels so busy because I've been very tired all weekend and easily sleeping in until the alarm went off at 9am (keep in mind I've been popping eyes open at 7am for quite some time now).  Friday evening I did stop at the viewing and Saturday morning was the funeral service.  I was happy to see the long lines waiting to pay their respects, it seems only right that so many would turn out.  It was also a lovely service in which the eldest daughter sang.  I can't imagine having the strength to hold you voice in that scenario.

I did a little running about after the service and then headed to the house to get on top of bottling my limoncello (a few days early) and baking cookies for my favorite Egg.  He says his favorites are peanut butter and chocolate chip, and so it is.  Two batches of peanut butter cookies complete on Saturday and two batches of chocolate chip today.

Before I got on the chocolate chip today I met up with Beff and Slips for our holiday celebration in Ebensburg where we tried the Everyday Gourmet.  The sugar plum pancake I had to try was fantastic, but the monte cristo was so so.  My honey maked a way better monte cristo.  My stomach is in a bit of a knot tonight and I'm thinking it was from a few too many warm chocolate chip cookies and hopefully not my earlier lunch.

The cookies were finished just in time to spend some quality time with the Laws for our holiday get together.  The good news is I've tricked them into a second holiday get together with the promise of meeting my honey.  That's a major win-win for me.  I settle in for tonight richer for not just the time I got to spend with folks I adore this weekend, but also with a good new book, awesome new tunes, and a game I very much so look forward to playing.

With everything on the slate for this week (the top of which is time off of work) there is just more good stuff forthcoming.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Today I received a call from a friend - and told that his wife, the mother of his three teenage children, had passed away last night in her sleep.  They're only a couple of years older than I am.  There just aren't words.  Give the ones you love an extra hug tonight, but please too, say a prayer for my friend and their kids.  They are good people and have had a rough couple of years through many circumstances, but this is just beyond.
It's time to post about my vacation before the memories fade too much to recount what I want to put down. 

Nov 30 - after a partial weekend w/ my favorite Egg I headed home in time to gather my things and head out the next day on our way to Bayonne, NJ.  The drive was longer than Google maps led us to believe and longer than I remember (although the last time we did a majority of the drive on 76 instead of 80), but the weather was good, and aside from a little backup in traffic at one point we got there without any worries. 

The hotel we stayed at was nice enough, but since it didn't offer a shuttle to and from the pier that added up.  The guestimates online were no where near right for taxi service.  I did hit the gym after we arrived and again in the morning despite the blasting horrible Christmas music and broken TVs.

Dec 1 (departure) - We're off to meet Quantum.  The upgraded pier and check in experience went pretty well, only a short wait in line and our luggage was to the room by the time we were allowed to the rooms.  THAT is fast.  We did the typical Windjammer welcome back lunch - even though they didn't have my honey stung chicken *sigh* - and wandered around on the ship a bit.

So - remember the Dumb Ways to Die song I fell in love with how long ago?  I think they created a video/song for the cruise line called Wash Your Hands.  It has to be them.  I have to find the video.

Since were anticipating having our buy one get one coupon for the first night we did specialty dining for the first time - ever.  Wonderland.  It had the appeal that made the leap worth it.  Oh boy was the whole experience and the food awesome.  The deviled eggs they show under the dome of smoke in some of their teasers *smile*.  Mental note, must buy some liquid smoke and add a dab the next time I make deviled eggs.  The beef didn't need chewed.  Oh, and we even tried the liver pate rolled in cocoa powder that was part of one plate.  We were of course dressed up for the occasion - Beff as the white rabbit and I as a variation of the red queen.

Dec 2 (at sea) - I'll note that I worked out on the ship every morning we were at sea and even two of our port days where we arrived later in the day.  Aren't you proud?  On this particular morning I also headed to the Cruise Critic Meet and Mingle and took part in the cabin crawl to get a peek at some of the other rooms.  We were suppose to have had a virtual balcony room but got an upgrade fairy visit and a real window of our own.

We went to American Icon Grill for lunch - meh, nothing remarkable there - other than meeting people who recruited us to be part of their progressive trivia team, folks who became friends as the trip progressed.  Dinner was at the Grande, which we enjoyed quite well.  We also saw Mama Mia on this particular day which was pretty good considering the minimal sets/scenes they used.

Dec 3 (at sea) - It was a little gray and rainy looking out.  I started my habit of getting cappuccino each morning in the concierge lounge on this particular day.  Oh to press a button and bam.  Anyhow - this morning also included my bridge tour.  You'd think I'd get sick of these by now, but how do you decline the invitation to see the bridge on the newest ship in the fleet?  I'm glad I went because they even allowed us to go out on the wings for that view!

We went to Two70's area for lunch which pleasantly surprised me.  I'm not a sammies type of girl, but the paninis were quite good.  As we ate we checked out some of their robo shows in the Two70 lounge too.  More adventure to find we headed to the bumper cars!  On this day we had our welcome back party for Crown and Anchor.  I would point out that this includes free drinks, but there was a lot of those this sailing.  We did bring our two bottles of wine to crack and got my bottle of champagne (although it wasn't the one they usually give you, which was disappointing because the austi is way better).

We headed to dinner at Silk which we found to be surprisingly good before the comedian show.  My expectations were low as the whole Asian fusion idea sounded spicy and a bit beyond my palette, but it was probably one of our favorite evenings.  Maybe it is because this was the one time we said we'd gladly sit at a bigger table that we were placed with others - including people we had met through progressive trivia - allowing us to meet a couple other nice folks that we saw repeatedly for the rest of the trip.  At a big table it was also easy to get to try everything, so we knew what we wanted when we returned later in the trip.

Day 4 (San Juan, Puerto Rico) - I tried an abs class onboard and the instructor was a little bitchy and not really doing much that held my interest, so I moved on w/ my own workout.  I did manage to rouse Beff early on this day and we tried breakfast in Devinly Decadence (it's pay for lunch and dinner, but free for breakfast).  Everything there is suppose to be low calorie and way healthier.  Yeah, I could tell.  The only thing there I really enjoyed was a parfait.

We also had our ride on the North Star which gives you tremendous views from above the decks, especially as it moves out to the side of the ship.  Later in the day we made it to iFly for the first time and learned that we need to go at separate times as to ensure that we could photograph and videotape one another.  It was so fun, but really hard to do what they're telling you to do the first time.  You also leave with hella knotted hair if you don't tether it back well.

Our arrival in San Juan was at 4pm, thus the busy day before we even got to port.  Our show was booked through RC excursions since it was just the two of us and I have no desire to wander around San Juan at night.  We went to the Latin Traditions show and saw Juan Carlos - an AMAZING guitarist and his two dancers.  He did numerous styles including flamenco (which I never did get to go see in Barcelona etc).  Thank goodness it was a ship tour as it was 15 minutes past all aboard getting back.

Since San Juan is US I was able to use my phone and get a little bit of talking in w/ my favorite Egg.  It really was sad that he wasn't with us.

Day 5 (St Maarten) - We kept this day low key on purpose.  A quick water ferry to the shops/man-made beach area and some shopping topped off with a guavaberry cocktail.  Yes!  I snagged some chocolate and guavaberry liquor and we headed back a little early.

Color me surprised to find a crystal block waiting in the room for me.  Yes, I rolled over to 200 nights on the last night of this cruise, but I shouldn't get another block until 210.  I was so excited I admit I teared up a little.  I am not telling anyone.  You can pry it from my cold fingers.

We had dinner at American Icon Grill and I'm sad to report that the dinner menu is 90% the same as the lunch menu.  Boo.  Our show on this evening was a Elton John cover guy.  Elton is not my favorite, but this guy did a good job.

Day 6 (Martinique) - This was my first visit here, but it sounded like a safe place, only worry was that everything said most shops only took euros.  Good thing I still had some here, but it turns out that US dollars are VASTLY more accepted than the internet will lead you to believe, at least around the port.  We wandered around the general area taking in the sights like the fort, library, and church, and of course shopped.  As we headed back we decided to stop in a little place for a crepe (when on a French island after all) and locally made fruit drink.  Then we caught a street side show of local dances with some rather interesting moves:  1, 2, 3, smash crotches together.  *makes face*

As we prepared to sail away I enjoyed the dancers once again, who marked out the pier to bid us farewell, but in a much more tame manner.  No show on this evening, but we had dinner at Chic, which was pretty good.

Day 7 (Barbados) - Another first time for me at this port!  We had booked with Glory Tours and had a great day.  We visited Huntes Garden which was just a lovely lush spot with a super sweet/kind man who owned it, Bathsheba, Morgan Lewis/Cherry Tree Hill, and a Wildlife Reserve (where a monkey bonked Beff with his discarded fruit seed *haha*).

A bit of shopping wrapped up our day here and we headed back to our dinner.  It was to be at American Icon Grill, but we changed it to the Grande.  The show was a comedian/magician that was on Saved By the Bell *laugh*  I then headed up to chat with my sweetheart and use up some of my free internet time.

Day 8 (St Kitts) - We decided to do another tour with Thenford Grey's Tours, this time to the Rainforest.  Turns out only the two of us signed up for that tour.  We we loaded with others on a city tour and dropped off.  Our guide moved pretty swiftly, so it was quite the workout even before we got to the steep hillside that had ropes strung from tree to tree to assist you.  Yes, he proclaimed we were going to climb this.  With my fear of heights this was a challenge for me, but I did it.  I won't lie, I did have some uncontrollable tears streaming at points and my heart was in my throat, but I did it.

Our tour wasn't suppose to get to go to the beach, but our driver was quite kind and was glad to take us to that stop as well, so we relaxed and put our toes in the water after our hard work.  Dinner was back at Chic and we went to the Starwater show in Two70.  If we had gotten there earlier perhaps I would have enjoyed the show more.  There seems to be a lot of seats in there that are blocked from really seeing everything.

Day 9 (at sea) - I gave American Icon Grill another chance - for breakfast, since I heard it was good.  It had the many of the traditional breakfast options from the main dining room on other ships, so I was pleased.  After a quick nap, the only one I really allowed myself in nearly two weeks, we headed to lunch and back for our second run at the iFly.  I did WAY better this time and even freaked out a little at one point when I was above the instructor's head flying away.

We missed the flying trapeze (circus school) by a few minutes due to filming/photographing a few new friends on their iFly run, and unfortunately didn't get to do it the next time due to rough seas.  Of course, the ladder alone there may have been too much for me, much less leaning out from the platform to grab the trapeze.

Day 10 (at sea) - Since it was a bit rough many of the things we would have liked to do this day were out (trapeze, rock wall, iFly, North Star), but a slow/mellow day was okay too.  We decided to do one more pay eatery - Jamie's Italian - for lunch.  The food was good, I'm glad we tried it, once.  I'm also happy we ate well because by the time we got out of our show Coastal Kitchen was closed and we had missed our time slot.  :(

The show, Sonic Odyssey was pretty neat.  The guy who invented the earth harp that was strung across the auditorium was still onboard and did a portion of the performance.  Great stuff - love being able to say that were the 4th audience ever to see this onboard.

Day 11 (at sea) - I really slacked off and didn't take much in the way of notes.  Again it was mostly trivia going on onboard and too rough for things to be open.  By this point in a cruise you need to just relax a wee bit anyhow.  I'll take it, but BOY was it cold running across deck.  Welcome home, right?

Quantum, or at least our room, was kind of creaky.  It didn't keep me awake, but she made her share of noise.  I also realize I'm spoiled and use to being on higher up decks anymore as seeing the high sea levels from our windows that would easily be above our windows had they been against the ship instead of pushed out from the forward thrust made me a bit antsy.

Many of our evenings were spent in Boleros grabbing our free drinks since the Diamond lounge was JAMMED.  Beff recognized one of the waiters in the diamond lounge from Vision, that girl has a crazy memory.

We did get our milkshakes one afternoon at Johnny Rocket's, but I didn't note what port we were in when we did it.  The burgers there were WAY better than the ones in American Icon Grill.  That's all I'm going to say about that.

Monday, December 15, 2014

I am alive and well... so much to post about, but it will need to wait for another evening, when I'm caught up on, well, everything else.  I will say this much since my last post:  the weather has been kind for ALL of my travels through Thanksgiving and to date.  Fingers crossed that Christmas will be the same.

For Thanksgiving I did get down to Mom's the night before to spend a little quality time and to allow us to get out to my aunts early Thanksgiving morning to start cooking.  This represents the first time I think I've ever working side by side in the kitchen with my mother that she didn't want to kill me and then threw me out of the kitchen.  It was kind of nice to say we made a meal together (along with help from a cousin).  After our early in the day meal I was on the road to the burgh where I caught up my favorite Egg at his Aunt and Uncle's for one meal.  The next day we were back on the road for a second family meal.  It was nice to spend a little more time with the family members I've previously met and great to meet a few others, like his sister.

This and my vacation leave me in a state that I am NOT ready to weigh in for month 2 of my bet in just 5 days. I am thinking I need to try a short cleanse diet to try and kick start things again.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

I really need to just not look at weather.com. It's like a rollercoaster when you keep your eye on the 10 day forecast. At one point one of my would-be on the road days for Tgiving said 5-8" of snow. That disappeared and two other days popped up saying 1-3" of snow. Gah. How about we just keep this 50-60 degree stuff, please?

I guess if it does get extra crappy the bonus is I won't be blowing my diet, because I won't be going anywhere or eating anything major.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

I am so grateful for holidays making this upcoming week so short.  Sunday evening facing the week feels a lot less daunting.  I've been trying to get ahead on a few things for the season so my hair is recolored, my cards are ready to go, and 95% of my gifts are bought and wrapped.  Just the main gift for my favorite egg and something else small for Beff remain on the shopping list.  I should have spent a little more time focused on cleaning this weekend than I did, but I can get a couple of things accomplished each evening this week.

I did at least get a good workout in both days this weekend, a major necessity as I start month two of my Diet Bet with the holidays and all of their delightful foods.  I did succeed on month one, which took me back where I was before two months of slacking off.

For now I have a puppy that requires some cuddling and an episode of Walking Dead calling my name.  These are good things to be thankful for.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

I did head to the burgh on Saturday for an abbreviated visit and had no other issues with Autumn. She was happy to bring me to work this morning as well, despite the extreme cold and another dusting of blah. If you don't like the cold... just wait, now they're calling for even up into the 50s on Monday.

I made sure to have a moment of stupid with the car on Monday then too. The passenger window had stopped functioning. YES I tried clicking on and off the window locks... or so I thought. At least that was another cheap (free) trip to the dealership. I'm going to go make myself a note to remember to breathe because apparently I'm pretty slow and may need the reminder.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Three posts in one day - do you think this was stressing me out?

So, Schmou did come to help.  We pop the hood and - uh - the terminal on the negative side is popped up off of the post.  For realz.  *sigh* so, snug it back on and charge that puppy up.  Since the battery is 5 years old I'm not taking chances, so I went and replaced it.  Of course, the saga doesn't end there.  The metal post on the side of the battery that attaches to a piece across the top to strap the battery down in place is rusted through.  Their initial recommendation:  a bungee cord.  Um no.  After some brainstorming they figured out how to get posts they had to work appropriately.

Battery tightly in place w/ new goo and felt pads.  I think Autumn is healthy once again and I, of course, was completely batshit crazy today for no reason.  Also, if I had just repopped the hood I would have sen that the terminal loosened up.  How I didn't notice it moving when I was jumping it I'll never know.

Sure Schmou gets to make fun of me for this from here until eternity but..
- since I jumped it and it ran for a couple of minutes I kind of have proof that it wasn't off the whole time
- it is still cheaper than replacing an alternator
When I saw through the windows that it looked like the roads had further cleared on their own around 10:30 I decided to get re-dressed and make a second attempt to at least get to work and get my time in.  I was there by 11 and didn't have trouble then.
 
Of course, there remains the apprehension of taking the Tib anywhere with conflicting stories and predictions with temps dancing close to the freezing point on weather.com.  Just a little while ago I decided that I need to just stay home this weekend, that is what is meant to be.  I'm really not happy and it was hard as hell to push send on an email saying that.
 
In the mean time, Schmou has been kind enough to offer help and equipment.  We'll be using his battery charger to filler'up and make an attempt to drive it to the shop tomorrow morning.  Since the thought of it dying midway there and leaving me w/o power brakes scares the crap out of me, when I say we, I mean he is going to drive it.
 
I'm reminded of another time friends were needed to help in a slightly less complex, but similar situation.  Back when I first taught at the community college a sensor went out on the Avenger and it didn't ding to tell me that I left my lights on.  At the end of class I came out to a dead battery.  I called the ex and expected to be rescued.  I was, but not by him... he called someone else to come tend to me while he stayed at his computer's side.  That should have been a warning sign.  (Love you Laws - and I'll never forget this.)
 
I really do appreciate my friends.  There is nothing I can do to repay the kindness they show me.  I so do not like asking for help.  Heck, I can barely accept help when it is offered to me.  I'm gonna go home from work now and be sad... hopefully that doesn't result in me eating too many of the pumpkin bars I made last night with the plans on Pittsburgh delivery.
I'm at a moody point, so I'll admit this ridiculousness actually has me on the verge of tears.  This morning I swear the world is against me.  The snow started yesterday and continued very lightly through the night.  We don't even have an inch... but it has completely crippled my household.

I was to take the girls to the kennel this morning, so I jumped the Durango and loaded them up.  Needing to jump it was not a huge surprise since it turned so cold, but still a pain in my ass.  As I was putting Vixen in I saw the one light flickering a little, it caught my eye, but I didn't think much of it until it died again,  It was nice enough to wait until I finished cleaning it off completely though, so thanks for that.  Great, alternator, right?  The electrical bullshit w/ the car infuriates me to no end.  This started when the automatic starter went in and didn't go away even after I had them take that module out, but the module removal did at least stop it from needing jumped if not run every other day.  I knew that was a gift I shouldn't have accepted, but I felt obligated.  Isn't that the story of my life - doing things to try and make other people happy and still failing to do so.

Ok.  Must march forward, right?  So, with apprehension because it is not made for winter weather, I load the dogs into the Tib (note this means that now there is fur all through that car too).  I made it as far as the Long John Silvers and turned around.  Yeah, that thing simply cannot go anywhere in even the smallest amount of snow and slop.  I was sliding and spinning trying to get onto Scalp.

Now I'm back at the house.  Carmens can look at the Durango on Monday, so in the mean time I guess I need to get it towed there.  The Tib has an appointment on Monday as well for the window that stopped working, but at the evil dealership.

I guess I'm not going to work.  I'm definitely not taking the dogs to the kennel or going about my planned weekend w/ my favorite Egg (that's the part that makes me the saddest). I've been fretting about the winter coming and worrying about safe travels, turns out I can't even try to travel.  I hate Johnstown.  I hate the winter.  I hate snow.  I am not ready for 4 months of not being able to plan to do anything.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

It's been attack of the killer sinuses week. That's okay, I'll take it if it means we keep the warm weather, but I know that will be changing today (again). For those that see me, no I am not contagious, it is not a cold, I keep telling you I REFUSE to get sick. The sore throat from my head draining and waking me the night before last to tend to a runny nose is the worst of this. Last night I planned on getting a good night's sleep one way or the other and pulled out all of the stops.

I popped in for my allergy shot a day early, may as well get all of the help I can. As bed time neared I had two mugs of hot tea w/ honey, used the neti pot to get myself breathing a little clearer, took a hot and steamy shower, and popped two Tylenol PMs. Success. After my coma all that was left this morning was a bit of a sore throat which a ricola remedied quickly. Don't worry, I still feel snotty, but I'm hoping we're on the other side at this point.

I took advantage of my day off yesterday to enjoy the sun as it was in the mid 60s. I drove around and did some shopping, but nothing else remarkable. I should have done some reading and brainstorming for work but yeah, that totally didn't happen.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

So, maybe a week or so ago I had a dream about being in my stateroom on a cruise and a wave came crashing in, listing the ship, and flooding our room.  Well today I see that last week Explorer (a gal I've traveled with 3 times), on her repositioning cruise away from Bayonne, was in fact hit by a rogue wave that knocked down two life boats (note that these are kept around floor #5/6) and broke out some glass.

Now I'm not saying my dreams are prophetic or anything...  I always have crazy dreams leading up to cruise vacations, usually they involve arriving and forgetting to pack and other craziness, but I do think it's CRAZY.

In the mean time Quantum is on her way here (to Bayonne) from Europe.  I can't wait to meet her.  Hopefully they get the little quirks worked out that were reported.  I'd have to think there are always some tech issues with a new, innovative ship.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

I was a good girl and worked out after I finally got out of bed today.  I was exhausted last night and ready for bed by 9 and I made the attempt to stay in bed for a solid 11 hours, despite repeatedly being woken by the beasts.

When I came home from a Big Lots and Ollie's run the sun was shining and the weather decent, so I got to work out front.  6 HUGE 55 gallon bags of leaves are at the curb and it still looks like I barely touched it.  *sigh*  But I'm tired again.  I was suppose to get wrapping on Christmas gifts today, so maybe I need to haul those goodies down here and make space on the coffee table to get a little accomplished on that task.  At least I have leftovers so I don't need to cook dinner.