Monday, March 31, 2014

Vacation Recap #8: Viva la Mexico!

It's been a month since my vacation, and I can't believe that this is my last post! The whole shebang is officially over now, which means that I have to start focusing on my next vacation, which is going to be NEXT February, when I run the Disney Princess Glass Slipper Challenge with some of my friends, and my big sis!

Our second excursion, which came on our third day at sea was when we went to Cozumel. This excursion was my entire family: Mom, Dad, Grandpa, Chris and I. When we got off the boat, we had to POWERWALK (I wish I was kidding) to the bus, which was through a mall-type area. It was a really long schlep, and that was my only complaint about the entire thing.

Once we got onto our bus and met our tour guide Alex, we took the long drive to our first destination, The Ruins at San Gervaiso, which held the temple of the goddess, Ixchel (Side note: I have a friend at work named Izchel, and I was totally thinking of her during this part of the trip).

There were iguanas all over the place. So tame, and so still. Just getting some sun, and enjoying the nice breezes. 

After perusing the ruins, my mom ordered a Coco Loco inside of a ginormous coconut. We all got to try it, and got silly pictures from it. I wasn't crazy about the drink, but everyone else seemed to like it. The bartender even offered to cut the coconut open so we could eat the meat. The coconut meat was flavorless and *gags*. None of us actually liked it, and I figure the coconut wasn't actually ripe yet (I've never seen a coconut that people eat look like that). 

After we got back onto our bus, we got a bit of a tour of the island on the way to the beach. I took a few pictures, but then took a little snooze. I was really tired on this trip, which I attribute to the sun, after being cooped up all winter.

Stunning beaches

Which one would we stop at?
We kept assuming that we'd pull over to one of the many public beaches on the side of the road, but we got the biggest thrill of all when we pulled into a resort, which had a water park, shops, restaurant, pool, bar, and beach.

The restaurant was underneath this large tent, which kept the breeze coming, and the sun off. It was absolutely perfect.

We spent more time in the pool than the beach (mom, Kiri, and I went to the beach, and into the ocean. Lots of rocks and shells and uneven terrain until you got out to the deeper part, where you could wade.

I gave Serious consideration to going to the hammocks and napping in the sun, but there just wasn't time. There was swimming, and eating and drinking to be had.

We got lunch at the resort (thank God. I was STARVING!), and the menu had two sides: one side with American dollars and the other side with Mexican Pesos. While looking at the menu, my grandpa was looking at the peso side, which showed prices at 250-1500 in pesos, and he leans over to me and asks, "Who's paying for this?" I could've been cruel and told him HE was (as my dad suggested), but I love my 80-year-old grandpa, and didn't want him to have a heart attack on vacation, so I flipped the menu over, and showed him the real prices. He felt much better after that. My grandpa is so cute.

Oh, chicken tacos, so delicious. Guacamole so fresh!
Also, as part of our excursion, we got one free drink, and it could be ANYTHING. I got a Tequila Sunrise, mom got a Bloody Mary (Super Spicy!), dad got a 7 & 7, which I'd only ever heard about, but never tried. Tastes like Sprite, and I can't remember what Kiri or Grandpa got.

Tequila Sunrise: Minnie Mouse Approved
Also, it took awhile for our lunch to get to us, so they gave us a second complimentary drink. I NEVER drink, so two was making me a little buzzy. At least I wasn't driving. :-)

Once we got back to the city, mom, dad and grandpa went back to the boat while Kiri and I went to Diamonds and Tanzanite International for our charms. People in Cozumel call you to try to get into their stores, and they're a little on the pushy side, which I didn't like at all. When I shop, unless I need a new size, or need to pay, I like to be left alone. On our way to Tanzanite International, several more people were calling, one person actually asked if we wanted clothes, jewelry or pharmaceuticals. Yeah. Pharmaceuticals. Haven't been offered drugs since I was thirteen, and back then it was pot. I've really come up in the world, haven't I?

I enjoyed Mexico, and was excited to finally get to Cozumel. We were supposed to go to Cozumel on our first cruise back in 2009, but because of the H1N1 virus, we got switched to Key West and Nassau (which was just as awesome). It was a new experience, and an exciting one. The more I cruise, the more I want to do more of it. It's one of the best ways to see different countries without having to pay separately for food, lodging and transportation. There is a cost for excursions, souvenirs and extras, but overall, the cost is significantly lower than traveling by land. My only regret with cruising is that my family didn't discover it until my sister and I had graduated college!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Vacation Recap #7: Day 1 Excursions: Grand Cayman

I finally got my pictures from my camera onto my computer. I didn't take my phone to the different islands with me (call it paranoia), but I used a camera I got from an old roommate back in 2009. It's gone with me on all of my cruises, but only has 128MB of space (hence why I used my phone on the boat, which has 8GB of space).
The City of Georgetown, Grand Cayman

From My Breakfast Table on the Disney Wonder

I got to be on an island without my parents.

Okay. I was a bit too excited to be in another country alone.

And now, I'm on my way.

Grand Cayman was a beautiful island. We were there on a Sunday, which isn't a big business day for them, as it's a Christian nation (woot woot!), so they have an agreement with the cruise lines, where they only come every two weeks, rather than every Sunday. Unfortunately, most of the stores were closed, with the exception of a few jewelry stores (Diamonds International, Effy, Tanzanite International), and the Tortuga Rum Store, which I've also visited in Nassau. I'm not a huge fan of rum, but I bought some Salted rum-soaked turtles, which I've been sharing with my family. At Diamonds and Tanzanite International, I got charms for a charm bracelet that I'd started building back in Key West. Stop in any Diamonds International Store in several ports all over the world, and you can get a charm with the initial purchase of a bracelet.

There was more to our trip to Grand Cayman than shopping. In fact, the shopping came AFTER our excursion. I was more excited for this excursion than anything on the trip. We had to take a ferry from the Wonder to the island, as the island is surrournded by a reef, making the boat too big to make it that far into port. So, on the ferry, my sister and I had to get into Finding Nemo-esque shenanigans.

"Look at me! I'm touching the Butt!"

That's a really big butt.

It was about a 5-10 minute trip to the island, and getting on and off the boat was more fun than I could possibly admit (A moving bridge. Wahoo!).

Once we got onto dry land, we separated into our groups (My group was Ariel), and got onto our respective shuttles to the Dolphin Discovery and Cayman Turtle Farm, located right across the street from each other.

It was...cozy, to say the least.
We started out going to the turtles, which were all separated into different tanks based on age. In the mating (aka Party) tank, there was a beach, where the pregnant turtles buried their eggs. 

Teenage turtles were hanging out in other tanks. I asked one of the attendants how old turtles grow to be(I said I was pulling some Nemo-esque shenanigans!), and he told me the oldest turtle was around 80.

Waving Hello!

There were turtles everywhere. If you love them as much as I do, I would highly recommend making a visit to the Grand Cayman Turtle Farm.

I shall call him squishy, and he shall be mine.
 The baby turtles were all very adorable. The staff kept telling us to hold them like a hamburger...but DON'T Eat them! I've never had turtle, but there's something about eating reptiles that makes me go all squicky. The turtles did get a little uneasy about being held, and what you had to do to get them to calm down was rub their necks. Kiri had a talent for this. Her turtle was putty in her hands, and went all googly.

I'm holding a turtle!
My turtle was about as high strung as I've been known to be. He was getting antsy in that "Put me down! Put me down!" way, so I rubbed the underside of his neck, and he went NUTS. Even more wiggly than before, so back into the water he went. 

After turtles, we walked across the street for the big part of the excursion: Playing with Dolphins. 

Unfortunately, I don't have a lot of pictures from this part of the excursion because we couldn't find someone to take pictures for us (and we weren't really at a place to do so), and the pictures THEY took were of questionable angle, and way to rich for my blood ($35 for ONE 8x10? No thank you!).

But, I did get a couple of our dolphin, Newton. He was adorable, and extremely soft. Did you know dolphins shed their skin twice a day?

Thanks for stopping by! 
Also, when dolphins "speak," the sound doesn't come from their mouths, but their blow holes! I had no idea! Seriously! I want to be a dolphin trainer for the day!

*Squeak* is Dolphin for "I Love You!"
There were also chickens walking all over the place. It was nutty how many chickens ran around like Council Bluffs has squirrels. One of our guides told us that the chickens really like to hang out around KFC (I believe it. Chickens are carnivores!).

I'd love to live on this island, but I would probably walk/bike everywhere, because gas prices were roundabouts $4.59. Eeps!

When we got back to shore, we stopped over at the Tortuga Rum Store, as my sis is a huge fan of their rum cakes. They had little samples, and I should've gotten a chocolate. It was so yummy! But, alas, I just got turtles (it was kind of a theme day).

She always has to pose with a pirate.

The ride back to the boat was uneventuful, and the first thing we did once we got back was change and look for lunch. We ended up at Beach Blanket Buffet, as all of the restaurants were closed by then.

While waiting for the ferry, we had to get another selfie.
I absolutely loved Grand Cayman, and would love to go back when the city's in full swing.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Vacation Recap #6: Triton's, Grad Marnier Souffle, and The Best Creme Brulee on the Sea

Yes! I'm back with the food! I'm a total foodie at heart, so it's not that surprising. I've got a few more recaps, but the food is always a big hit on cruises for me, because I get to try things I've ever had before.

Back at Triton's for dinner, I was excited, because we only got to eat there once for dinner (twice for breakfast). This was most definitely my favorite place for dinner. I loved everything I ate, and just enjoyed how attentive our servers, Omar and Andrew, were that night. Their other two tables opted to dine elsewhere (because they were insane! The food was phenomenal!)

Picture time!

This was actually my aunt's drink, I believe it was the Imagination? I honestly can't recall, but it was very vivid and tasty. Wish I'd gotten one!

My appetizer that night was decided on the first day, when I was outside of Triton's looking at their menu next to the door. Pure curiosity, but after looking it over, I decided on the Deep Fried Brie. It was drippy and delicious, and just what I wanted. It was so delectable that when some of it dripped onto my plate, I grabbed my knife and slathered it onto a slice of bread to keep enjoying. I was in a good place that night. It also had a cranberry relish, which was different, but not bad.

My grandpa and mom both had escargot. I'm culinarily adventurous on cruises, but not THAT adventurous!

My next course, I was going for the green. Salad. I got mixed greens with a goat cheese crouton. I love goat cheese, but it was a LOT of goat cheese. And I ate it all. Tasty, but a lot.

For my entree, once again, I knew exactly what I wanted to get. I'd planned it for a long time, considering that Triton's has a menu online. I've never had duck before, and I wanted to give it a whirl. I got the crispy roasted duck breast. I'm not sure what I was expecting. I was good, but not what I thought it would be. I liked the slices, but not the bone-in. I'm not a fan of eating things with bones still in tact.

Now, the piece de resistance. Dessert. I did get Sweet Temptations, which included Praline Petit Choux, Tahitian Vanilla Creme Brulee, and Chocolate Mousse.

On the last cruise, my mom tried the Tahitian Vanilla Creme Brulee, which she said was the best dessert she'd ever had. She's searched high and low for the recipe, and even bought a Tahitian Vanilla Bean from a spice shop in Omaha  to try to make it herself. We've been told that you can ask for specific recipes on Disney, and they'll give them to you. Unfortunately, we didn't get the recipe for the Creme Brulee, but as soon as the move is finished, and we get things back in order, I imagine that we'll buy a kitchen torch and do it at the new place.

My dad, grandpa, and I also split the Grand Marnier Souffle, because I've never had souffle from a restaurant before, and really wanted to try it. It came with creme anglaise to pour into it, and it was the funniest thing, because I was about to stick my fork into it (sans creme anglaise), when Andrew grabs a fork, and starts digging a hole in the middle of it! He then proceeded to pour the sauce into the hole.

So THAT'S how you serve sauce with a souffle! I never knew that before. When my bestie, Lauren, comes to visit me, I told her I'd teach her how to make souffle, and now I'll know the correct way to eat it. Score!

This was definitely my favorite night. Omar and Andrew were hilarious, doing napkin origami (I think they were really bored), the food was amazing, and we were all in pretty good moods from visiting Cozumel that day. All in all, a fun time was had by all.

Note the folded napkin hat, tie, shirt, jacket, pants and shoes.

Andrew being a Goofball
Photo by Ed Martin

Monday, March 17, 2014

A Long Time Ago We Used to Be Friends: A Veronica Mars Movie Review

I have a confession to make. It's not really anything that I've been hiding, but it's something that hasn't come up in probably seven years. Occasionally, I'd let it slip, but overall, something no one really knows about me is that I'm a Marshmallow.

No, not that kind of Marshmallow.


I am a die hard Veronica Mars fan. I've tried to hide my obsession. Keep the snarky witticisms to a minimum, don't talk about how much I've missed watching her uncover the murderers and rapists in her idyllic beachside town, but when Rob Thomas started his Kickstarter campaign to bring a movie to the fans, I was really excited. I was told it would never happen, but they were wrong.

I was waiting and counting down to the premier and opening last Friday. I wasn't sure if I could afford to go, but thankfully, $5 morning movies and one day off a week gave me the perfect opportunity to see it opening week.

And I was NOT disappointed.

I was all alone in the theatre (Monday morning at 9:30? Didn't really surprise me), and this gave me the perfect opportunity to scream, talk to myself and not have to worry about annoying other movie-goers.

To catch people up who aren't as die hard of fans as I am, here is the plot of the TV Show, which ran from 2004-2007.

After her best friend is murdered and her father is removed as county sheriff, Veronica Mars dedicates her life to cracking the toughest mysteries in the affluent town of Neptune.

Season one was about her finding out who murdered her best friend. Season two was about her finding out who blew up a bus that killed all but one of the people on it. Season 3 (the final season, which moved to the CW from UPN, after UPN and the WB joined forces) wasn't as good. It had several smaller arcs that discussed finding a rapist, and finding out who murdered the president of Veronica's college.

The premise of the movie is Veronica is interviewing for several lawyer jobs in New York, ten years after her high school graduation, and her high school boyfriend, wealthy bad boy, Logan Echolls, whose parents were big movie stars. He's been arrested in the murder of his girlfriend, pop star Bonnie Deville, formerly known to Neptune High as Carrie Bishop (Played on the show by Leighton Meester, but the movie by Twin Sister lead singer Andrea Estrella), who'd been electrocuted in her bath tub. Veronica leaves New York and her boyfriend (from season 3, Piz) to help Logan find a lawyer, but in reality, she gets sucked back into the Private Eye lifestyle to find out what really happened to Carrie/Bonnie.

The film started with an accoustic version of the show's theme song, "We Used to be Friends" by the Dandy Warhols, and framed it in with the Dandy Warhols' version, which was a great touch, and sense memory had me leaving the theater with a huge grin on my face.

There were many touches about the movie that I absolutely adored. Veronica getting recognized when trying to be incognito while searching someone's apartment, one of the Deputies knew exactly who she was. Which happened on the show. While escorting Logan and a crazed fan of the late Bonnie DeVille's on a "date," Kristen Bell's (Veronica) real life husband played a guy trying to hit on her. Veronica used her two best friends, Wallace and Mac (Percy Daggs III and Tina Majorino) to get information, despite them being a high school teacher and computer programmer, respectively, and being at work. Just like the show. Veronica showed she was smarter than the town sheriff, who was the younger brother of the sheriff that was around during the show (played by Jerry O'Connell in a frightening display of fierce uncaring).

The movie was more of the same as the show, which was perfect. The show was awesome, and the movie gave me a taste for what I remembered and missed so much. The show used to be on Netflix, and I really wish that it still was. I hope when the movie comes to DVD that Netflix will take up both so I can enjoy them again, and continue to introduce people to the wonder of Veronica, Logan, Wallace, Mac, Keith, Dick and Piz.

Thank you, Rob Thomas, for continuing to believe in the power of the people to get things done, and starting the Kickstarter campaign to bring a beloved show back to the audience, who are the only ones who matter.


Friday, March 14, 2014

Vacation Post #5: Character Greetings

You knew it was coming. You knew that I couldn't talk about food forever (Okay, it was only two days, and the last two restaurants are coming), so today, I'm going to talk about something fun. It is Friday, after all.

Disney is known for its character greetings. I'm not one for lines, so I typically just smile, wave, and if I'm in the vicinity when they're walking past, I get a high five (Happened with Pluto, Stitch, Mickey, and I believe Minnie).
Captain Mickey on Pirate Night
There was always a character greeting somewhere, and the Personal Navigator (Schedule of Events) was good to let you know who'd be around, and when. There were some that were more popular than others, and the less popular (though, still beloved) could walk around and meet people, instead of having long lines. That's how I met Daisy on the last Disney Cruise: I was watching Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, and I stay until the end of the credits for movies like that, when who should walk in, but Daisy Duck, decked out in her own Pirate Gear for the party.

September 2011
I didn't get my picture with Daisy this time around, but I think I did a bit better. I got FIVE Disney Princesses. 

They had two days of Princess meet & greets, since they're so popular. I didn't think much of it on the first day, since I despite lines (like I said). However, when I found out they'd be doing it again, I decided, 28 years old or not, if the line wasn't too bad, I would stand in line.

I think my inner child was super antsy, because I finished my breakfast in time to get the last good spot in line. I was just around the corner from the atrium, and only had to wait in line (once it was moving) for about fifteen minutes. My sister and my aunt joined me, also to get their pictures. My aunt wanted to get her pictures for my cousin's daughter, Serenity, who is all about the princesses. I asked her if she was excited about her grandmother meeting the princesses, and she was. Hope she gets to meet the princesses she loves so much one day.

To keep the line moving, Kiri and I opted for dual pictures. 

I really wanted to ask Rapunzel who life outside the tower was, but we didn't really have time. If we were kids, they probably would've talked more.

Photo by Patrice Lippert
 Tiana was the most fun. She was just amazing and sassy. Definitely the Tiana we met in The Princess and the Frog.
Photo by Patrice Lippert
 Belle was very sweet. Not as spunky as her movie, though, but very sweet (and SHORT!).

Photo by Patrice Lippert
 Ariel was cute. She looked at Kiri's hair and said, "We have the same hair color!" To which, I said I felt left out, and she replied, "Well your hair is pretty, too."

Thanks, Ariel.
Photo by Patrice Lippert
 And, of course, Cinderella. Gracious and kind, as she was in her movie. Plus, she really does look like Bernadette from The Big Bang Theory.
Photo by Patrice Lippert
I'm glad I got the Princesses. It was fun, didn't take as long as it could've (the line by the time it started was all the way down to Parrot Cay. Check out the website to see just how long of a line that was.

Rewinding a bit, after Kiri and I went to the Vacation Club session, we decided to get some food on the pool deck, and got separated while she had a cigarette, and I went in search of food. I actually came across my mom, standing in a character line at the Goofy Pool to meet...Mickey Mouse!

I didn't cut to join her. She was at the end of the line, so I told her to hold my spot while I went to grab my sister, who ran with me back to the line. As we were standing in line, we heard one of the handler say to the people behind us that Mickey was going away, and Minnie would be coming. Mom, Kiri and I about had a heart attack. Mom was determined to get a picture with Mickey this trip (she's been to Disney World 4 times, and now two Disney Cruises, but no Mickey). Luckily, the handler said that we were still in the Mickey line. Whew!

Let's go for a swim, Mickey!
Mission: Accomplished. 

Mom and her Dream Mouse

Later on, Mickey blew me a kiss. Mom thinks he blew her the kiss, but it was me. Totally me. 

I also got blown kisses from Stitch and Pluto. Take that, mom. ;-)

Disney is so great with everything, every schedule. The lines aren't as long as they could, be, and while your time with a character might be quick, they're so good that you do have good memories of them. Right on, Disney.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Vacation Recap #4: Two Nights in Parrot Cay

For Days 2 and 3 of our cruise, our restaurant was Parrot Cay, a Caribbean Island Grill House. It was bright, colorful, and once again, we were seated in the middle of the room, which gave us access to all of the happenings around the room.

It was also here where we celebrated Pirate Night, and I don't think we could've been at a better restaurant for it! Pirate Night has an exciting and fun themed menu, followed by an awesome show on the Pool Deck, where Captain Mickey saves the ship from Captain Hook and the rest of the Pirates. 

Official Pirate Night Picture, Complete with Ears
Dinner that night was fun, but the food left something wanting. My Appetizer, the Pirates Pot Stickers, was wonderful, plus I got the Drink of the Night, which was the Captain's Treasure: Absolut Mandarin, Peach Schnapps and Orange Juice. Nice and fruity. I'd drink it for breakfast on vacation.Complete with Collectible Light Up Glass, and Jolly Roger DCL Design.

Truthfully, I haven't taken it out of my bag yet.
For my soup, I opted for the Conch Chowder, which tasted just like Clam Chowder. Not too shabby, really.

Now, I will be totally honest, but I didn't care much for the seafood in my Entree. I got the Treasure of the Seas Grill Shrimp and Seared Scallops with Pasta. The pasta and sauce were good, but the shrimp were split in two in their shells and grilled, which made them difficult to remove from the shells. Also, not sure what was up with the scallops, since I don't normally eat seafood, but there were bits of grit in with them, which grated against my teeth, and made eating a little unpleasant. But the pasta and sauce were wonderful. 

For dessert on Pirate Night, once again, I got the Sweet Temptations (I'm nothing if not consistent). This time, they consisted of Floating Island (Meringue, Vanilla Anglaise, and Marinated Fruit), Fruit Cobbler, and Rum Soaked Chocolate Cake. All delicious, and all eaten up.

The Cobbler was my favorite. I love Streusel!
The second night of Parrot Cay, I don't have food pictures for (I think I used dad's camera that night, though I don't know why). For my Appetizer, I had the Baked Crab Martinique, which was a cheesy crab dip served with tortilla chips and plantains. I absolutely adore plantain chips, and they were fantastic.

For my next course, I believe I had the Asparagus soup, which had lump crab meat in it. I don't normally eat crab, or almost any seafood, but when I'm on vacation, I like to have fun with food and try new things, although this soup wasn't new to me. I had it on the Disney Dream at the Enchanted Garden (Still my favorite DCL restaurant).

My Entree was a lot of food, but it was delicious and worth it. I had the Mixed Grill, which consisted of Grilled Beef Tenderloin, Lamb Chop, Bacon Wrapped Sausage, and Jumbo Shrimp with Mashed Potatoes, Asparagus, Tomato and a Mushroom Sauce. Delicious, but I was wary of eating dessert after that.

I barely had room for dessert, but I definitely rose to the occasion. The Parrot Cay Sweet Temptations was probably my favorite. All favorites. We had Creme Brulee Cheesecake, Lemon Meringue Pie, and Chocolate S'more Vanilla Cake. So, so declicious!

Wish I had some of those pictures to share, but my stomach just couldn't wait for it. 

I think I only had one faux pas, food-wise. Next time, I'll listen to myself and get the Macadamia Crusted Mahi Mahi, which I had at the Enchanted Garden on the Dream. Still the best fish I've ever had. 

More to come soon! We still have Triton's and Beach Blanket Buffet, as well as the Fast Food shops on the Pool Deck to review!