The Cruise: Days 3 and 4 – Cozumel and Belize

Okay, I’ve been jacking around long enough.  We’ve been home for almost a month and I still don’t have this post series complete!  The details are starting to get fuzzy, so I’ve got a feeling the posts will be more photos and less words from here on out!

On Day 3, we reached our first port of call–Cozumel.  As soon as we debarked, we met at the assigned rendezvous point, boarded a large catamaran and set sail for a private beach on Passion Island.  It was magnificent.

We did a lot of this:

and drank several of these:

and all too soon it was time to go get back on the catamaran

to head back to this:

We didn’t have any lunch, so we were pretty hungry by the time we got back on the ship.  After a rather competitive game of mini-golf (Hey, we’re competitive at EVERYTHING, but mini-golf brings out the most smack talk.  And darts.  And ladderball.  Oh, and Skip-Bo.), and after I put in a few treadmill miles, we just decided to clean up and grab something at one of the other quicker, more convenient and casual deck-side restaurants rather than waiting until our 8:15 dining time.  This was by far the most laid back, relaxing day of the whole trip.

Day 4 was spent in Belize.  It was our longest day in port, but rather than spending it doing lots of stuff, we chose to do one thing that we had both always wanted to do.  See some Mayan ruins!  In order to do this, we had to take a two-hour bus ride inland.  Yes, there were ruins in Mexico that we could have gone to that were closer and would have taken less time, but by doing my homework in advance I knew that there was much more to see at the ones in Belize.  The site we visited was called Xunantunich, and it did not disappoint.

It was miserably hot that day, so as awesome as it was we were definitely more than ready to get back on the air conditioned bus!  Our driver managed to make up some time on the road, but the boat still ended up having to wait for nearly an hour for our bus to return.  Had we been off on our own, we would have been S.O.L., stranded in Belize, but since we were on a Carnival-booked excursion, they had to wait for us and the 34 other guests on the bus.  The reason for the delay?  When we got to Xunantunich, we weren’t allowed to go in. The Belizean Tourism Police (Yes, they’re real.  They were wearing uniforms and everything.  Belize must have a low crime rate if they have nothing better to do.) stopped us at the entrance to the state park.  We exceeded the guide-to-guest ratio.  No, I’m not joking.  There was supposed to be one tour guide for every 20 guests.  There were 36 of us.  We weren’t allowed to go into the park until the tour company got another guide there, which took nearly an hour.  This made NO sense whatsoever because you didn’t even HAVE to be part of a tour to go into the park.  It was just that–a state park.  Anyone could pay their admission and walk up in there.  Why they felt like we had to have our hands held was beyond me.  Everyone was a little miffed about that, but overall it was still a great day.

As soon as we got back on the ship, I had just enough time to go back to the stateroom to change clothes and get to the gym.  I had an appointment with a personal trainer for a body composition consultation.  But that will be a post of its own!

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CSA Adventures – Week 2

A couple of months ago, I signed a commitment form and laid down $475 to become a member of a CSA for the very first time.  (If you’re not familiar with community supported agriculture, this link describes it very well.)

Two Thursdays ago was my first pickup of the season, but I was so sick then that I just wasn’t up to documenting the occasion.  This week I’ve been able to enjoy and fully appreciate all the farm-fresh goodness, and I’m loving it!

Last Thursday’s haul: sweet potatoes, zucchini, butternut squash, yellow squash, pattypan squash, radishes, beets, spring mix lettuce, romaine lettuce, napa cabbage, head of cabbage, turnip greens, kale, collard greens, and swiss chard.

Since I’ll be trying tons of new things in the kitchen, I’ve decided that this might actually make for good blogging fodder.  I’ll be sharing those successes and failures (which there are sure to be plenty of!) with you here.

Thursday – Pickup was Thursday night.  It was late when I got home (Yes, I consider 7:00 too late to start cooking.), so I just used the spring mix and radishes with some other produce hiding in my refrigerator for a quick salad.

This spring mix had a bite to it!  

Friday – For lunch I had a Tofurky wrap and used up the rest of the spring mix with that.  For dinner I was planning to make a recipe that I found in Color Me Vegan (I love this cook book and highly recommend it!) called Lemony Pan-Fried Chickpeas with Chard.  Fail #1!  I didn’t realize until I already had the chard and onion sauteeing that I didn’t have any chickpeas.  Woops!  Seriously that never happens in my house.  Chickpeas directly follows toilet paper on my list of things not ever to run out of. The lemony chard with onion was still delicious (Forgive me for the lack of photo.  I’m new to this whole “taking pictures of your food” thing.  When I see food, my first instinct is still to chow down, not grab the camera!  You’ll just have to take my word for it this time that it was beautiful.), but it obviously wasn’t enough for a meal on its own.  Enter Beet Burgers!  Another recipe from the same cook book.  I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I had never tried beets before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.  Turns out I really like ’em!  Except they’re messy.  I had to shred the beets for this recipe, and by the time I was done it looked like someone had been murdered in my kitchen.  Lesson learned.  Next time use food processor, not mandolin.  Anywho, when you throw those shredded beets together with some quinoa (I used red quinoa because that’s what I had here.), sunflower seeds, flour, tamari, parsley, onion, bread crumbs, garlic, and a little oil, you end up with these:

Only one fell completely apart on me when I tried to flip it, but that’s okay.  That’s the one I ate with a fork with my chard/onion concoction.  The recipe said it should make 12 patties.  Ummm… the author must make beet MEDALIONS.  I make beet BURGERS.  I got 5.  And they were… okay.  Edible but not my favorite.  Oh, and I washed the beet greens and threw them in the freezer for later.

Saturday – Unremarkable other than using some kale in a smoothie for lunch.

Sunday – For lunch, a beet and berry smoothie using this recipe.  Not bad at all, but next time I will add dates for sweetness.

Dinner was entirely CSA soul food.  Seasoned turnip greens, yellow squash, and baked sweet potato with Earth Balance and cinnamon.  Ooooooh yeah.  Southern comfort food at its finest!

Monday – Beet burger again for lunch.  For dinner I made another new-to-me recipe – spring rolls!  I used about half of the napa cabbage on these babies.

I used this recipe (except I omitted the tofu) and paired it with jasmine rice.  Complete success.  They were great, although I’m sure they would have been better if I had fried them like you’re actually supposed to.  Instead I baked them.  Much healthier that way, but you sacrifice the pretty brown color and crispiness.

Tuesday – For lunch I had a fruit smoothie and threw in some kale.  Dinner was a salad using the Romaine lettuce and other non-CSA stuff.  Nothing photo worthy on Tuesday.

Wednesday – For lunch I had a fruit smoothie again and threw in the last of the kale.  For dinner I made these:

I really don’t even know what to call them.  Seasoned and sauteed zucchini, squash, onion, bell pepper, mushrooms (read:  everything in the fridge that needed to be used), and some black beans.  Whatever it was, it was delicious wrapped in a whole wheat wrap and topped with salsa and Tofutti.

And I froze the unused collard greens because I knew I wouldn’t get to them this week.

Thursday – Lunch was leftovers from Wednesday night, only this time I made them lettuce wraps with the Romaine.

And there you go!  That’s what I did with my week 2 haul!  I managed to use everything except half a head of napa cabbage (which I will take care of tonight when I make a stir fry), a head of cabbage (which will become cole slaw tomorrow), and the patty pan and butternut squashes.  And I have no idea what to do with either of those.  I’m sure I can roast or kebob the patty pan, but I’ve got to figure out something to do with the butternut.  I’ll let Google be my guide!

  • Have you ever been a member of a CSA?
  • Do you enjoy trying new foods, or do you pretty well stick to the same meal rotation?
  • What’s your favorite way to use some of the stuff I mentioned above?   Any suggestions for the butternut squash?

The Cruise: Day 2 – Day at Sea

After a bumpy first day, we woke up to much smoother sailing for Day 2.  It was a full day at sea, so we were in no hurry to do anything.  True to form, I woke up way before D did, so I did what I always do on vacation.  I left him to sleep while I entertained myself.  I got up, put on some running clothes and headed to the gym.  Now I absolutely hate a treadmill, but when you’re in the middle of the ocean, it’s kind of a girl’s only option.  The couple of days before we left home were pretty hectic and I didn’t get a long run in, so I just got on the mill with the intentions of going as long as my head would let me.  I was hoping for about eight.  My sanity cracked at five.  I didn’t fight it.  Instead I went back to the room, changed into a swimsuit, and hit the main deck.  I had looked outside on my way up to the gym and found a gloriously sunny, beautiful day, but by the time I made it out to enjoy it, it had come up a good cloud.  “It’s okay,” I told myself, “it’ll blow over.”  So I laid my towel out on my chair, pulled out my magazine, and … drip.  Drip drip drip.

DRIP DRIP DRIP DROP DROP SPLATTER SPLATTER SPLATTER

Damnit.

By the time I stuffed my towel, magazine, camera, etc., into my bag and shoved it under my chair so it wouldn’t get wet, it was really coming down.  But I refused to get up.  Everyone else was scrambling to get their things and leave, but not me!  Nope, I am stubborn like that.  It would rain hard for a few minutes, then let up, then pick back up again, then almost stop… I and a few other hard-heads laid right there in the rain.  After about 30 minutes, D finally dragged himself out of bed and made his way to the deck to find me.  He suggested just getting some lunch while we waited out the rain.  So we did.  (Side note:  While we were at lunch, we saw a kid, probably about 13 or 14 years old with his parents, wearing a shirt that said “SINGLE & DTF.”  Either the parents are REALLY lax on what they’ll let their kid wear, or the kid told a really good lie when he came up with something to tell his parents that DTF stands for.)  A little while later we came back out to find this:

Ahhhhhh, sweet, glorious sunshine!!!!

And that is pretty much how we spent Day 2.  Soaking up the rays.  After we had had our fill of that, we headed in and got cleaned up, but it was still early evening and our assigned dining room time wasn’t until 8:15.  Now you don’t HAVE to go to the dining room, but I had had such a great time the night before with our tablemates, and besides it was “elegant dining” night and I was looking forward to getting all gussied up with D for that.  He even bought a tie!  (GASP!  I had never seen D in a tie. Not even when we got married.)  So in the name of killing time, we headed to the casino.  I put $20 into a quarter slot machine and had only been played that down a few bucks when I hit for $250.  I considered that a win and called it a day.

Fast forward a little while to that night.  We got all dressed up and I insisted on marking the occasion with photos.  They are ALL ABOUT THE PHOTOS on cruise ships.  In the evenings, one whole side of the casino was lined with photographers with various portrait backdrops.  That first elegant night, the lines were crazy long, so we only had time to get one done before we had to be at dinner.

It’s really too bad our scanner sucks.  This is really a good photo, but this is the best scan I could get.

To prove we’re really not vampires, here is the one our new friends took of us with my camera at dinner.

After dinner we headed back to the room to figure out what we wanted to do the next day.  We looked through the information on Cozumel, our first port of call, and decided on an excursion that would take us to Passion Island by catamaran.  When we logged into our account on the interactive TV in our room to book the excursion, we also saw a menu where you could check your account balance.  (It was a cashless cruise.)  I reviewed our charges and noticed a $34.50 charge made at the pool bar that day.  I knew that wasn’t right.  Yeah, we had a couple of drinks, but those were on there as well.  This $34.50 was wrong.  I called guest services and told them of the error, and she said she would forward the issue to the bar manager.  Kudos for excellent customer service because the charge was reversed by the next afternoon.  So a word of caution to any future cruisers out there.  Check your account balance frequently!  It was much easier to correct a problem as soon as it happened than it would have been to have tried to get it corrected at the end of the week when 4,000 other people are trying to get their accounts settled.

We got our excursion booked and were all set for Cozumel the next day!

The Cruise: Day 1 – Embarkation

Last Monday, D and I celebrated our five-year anniversary, and to mark the occasion we did something we’ve never done together before.  We went on a cruise.  I went on one right after I graduated high school (14 years ago!), and he went on one for his first honeymoon a lifetime ago, but we had never done one together.  While we did have a great time, saw some beautiful sights, and ate some way too much delicious food, I can honestly say a cruise just really ain’t my thang.  I always felt like I was on too much of a schedule.  You had to be here at a certain time, there by this time, be back on the boat at that time, eat at this time… when we go on vacation, we stay in a condo and do things at our leisure.  We stay in one place for an entire week and we see and do and experience everything that one place has to offer.  I felt like with the cruise we were only allowed enough time for a quick snapshot of the four ports.

We flew to Miami on Saturday even though we weren’t to leave until the next day at 4:00 pm.  We didn’t want to run any risk of anything crazy happening with delayed flights or anything and missing embarkation.  I was super glad not to have that stressor, even though everything turned out okay.  I got up and went to work for a couple hours Saturday morning, we left for the Nashville airport shortly after, landed in Miami that evening, checked into the hotel, ate a pizza, and went to bed stress free and excited to wake up and really start our vacation that next morning.

What we woke up to the next morning was the sound of thunder.  But it was all good.  It could rain, but it couldn’t rain on my parade.  I was going on a cruise!  We took advantage of the free shuttle from our hotel to the port.

First glimpse of the boat.  It was raining just a smidge.

When we got to the port, checking in our luggage and getting cleared through customs was an absolute breeze, then we were left to entertain ourselves in the waiting area for a couple of hours before we were allowed to get on board.  Thank God for Fruit Ninja.  And I can always entertain myself with a camera.

Once we were finally allowed on the boat, we still kind of felt like we were just waiting around for something to happen.  We didn’t have our luggage and we couldn’t go into our rooms yet.  The shops and the casino weren’t going to open until we were at sea.  We couldn’t go out on the deck or to the pool because it was coming a monsoon.  So we just sat in the main lobby for a little bit and had a couple drinks and listened to the chick singing/the guy playing the piano.

Then we spent some time just exploring the inside of the boat, finding where the different restaurants and lounges were, where the gym was (I actually sucked it up and ran on the treadmill 5 of the 7 days we were on the boat.  You do what you have to do!), and when we finally made it around to finding our room, it was clean and our luggage was there, so we went on in and unpacked.

I was so excited to walk in and find a king bed.  The description of the state room said it had two twin beds.  Technically it WAS two twin beds, but at least they were smooshed together!

At one point while we were unpacking, I was like, “Did you feel that?  Are we moving?”  We only had an interior room with no window, so we went up to see, and sure enough we had pulled out of port and were sailing.

I was kind of disappointed that it was so anticlimactic.  When I cruised with Royal Caribbean several years ago, there was a big bon voyage party on the deck.  I mean I know we obviously couldn’t be out on the deck in that weather, but I just guess I expected SOMETHING.

When we got out of port and into the deeper water, that’s when the boat really got to rockin’.  In both the figurative and literal senses.  You couldn’t tell which people were wasted and which ones were sober because NOBODY could walk in a straight line.  I don’t get motion sick at all, so I was rather entertained by the challenge of remaining upright, but there were LOTS of people that didn’t find it fun at all.  D was one of them.  He went to the gift shop and got some Dramamine, but it just didn’t cut it.  We had just taken our seats in the dining room that night when I would swear that our boat rolled over.  It was then that he broke out in a cold sweat and told me he had to lie down.  I sent him on his way and ate THE MOST FABULOUS vegetarian Indian dish in the company of my equally fabulous tablemates.  (How crazy is it that they assigned us to a table with a couple that lives about an hour from here?  I made quick friends with the wife as we had plenty to talk about.  She’s a raw vegan chef!)

After stuffing myself full of more food than I even thought possible, we pretty well closed the dining room down.  I stayed and chatted forever with my new local friends as well as our new friends from California and Ohio that were also seated with us.  We finally called it a night and I headed back to the room to find D completely stoned on Dramamine.  I tried to wake him up to see if he still wanted to go to the 11:45 comedy show that was about to start, and all I got in response was some kind of undiscernible primal grunt.  I took it as a no, joined him in bed, and turned the lights out on Day 1.

Tuesday Tidbits

  • April and May have been positively crazy!  I’ve had to prioritize where my time went, and blogging/reading blogs was the first thing to go.  I logged in yesterday and saw that I had 366 unread items, so I’ve obviously missed a lot in your worlds!  Obviously there’s no way I’m catching up on that, so what’s a girl to do?  “Mark All As Read.”  Sorry if I missed any earth-shattering announcements!
  • Yesterday was my 5-year wedding anniversary.
  • We celebrated said anniversary by taking a cruise week before last.  (Post and pictures to follow soon!)
  • Cruises are not my cup of tea.  However, I have never eaten more delicious food than I ate that week.
  • For the second year in a row, I came back from vacation to bad news at work.  And this time, D did too.  It’s been an emotional week around here.
  • I didn’t get to run either the half marathon or the 5K that I was trying to decide between on 4/21.  I had to work.  I can’t bring myself to complain about that though.  My fill-in had a family emergency.  I’m sure he would have much rather been at work than planning his mother’s funeral.
  • I didn’t get to run the 10K last weekend either.  I’ve had the flu or some other equally unfun ailment since last Tuesday.  So has D.  It’s been an emotional AND snotty week around here.
  • For the last couple of days, my cat has been licking her nipples incessantly.  Poor little things are red and raw!  I see a trip to the vet in our very near future if whatever it is doesn’t clear up STAT.  Anyone else ever had anything like that happen with their feline?
  • I picked up my first CSA haul last Thursday night.  I’ve never seen so many greens in my life!  Turnip greens, mustard greens, kale, swiss chard, bok choy, a couple of lettuces, napa cabbage… And there were a couple of other things I had never seen.  I was introduced for the first time to kohlrabi and garlic scapes.  This will be an interesting summer in my kitchen!