Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Come on down to my boat, baby...


If the title of this post doesn't ring a bell, you've missed out on one of the gems of 60's music.  It's by Every Mother's Son.  (Give it a listen on YouTube)

A couple of months ago, Don & I sailed away from Galveston for a cool trip of our own.  I was so tickled to be back on the Carnival Magic, my favorite ship.  It's been such a cold and icy winter that the idea of getting out of here for a week was awesome!





Off course, the first thing you do after embarking is EAT.  Here's a few gratuitous food pictures.  First, the Mongolian Grill. I ordered shrimp, shrimp, shrimp, ha!  It was delicious.


 


I'm not sure what was going on in this picture, but I think it had something to do with cookies.


 


It's so funny how your tastes change over the course of a week-long cruise. I started out the first couple of evenings by ordering two Shrimp Cocktail appetizers. They're tasty and all but I moved on.

 


Then one night I ordered the Fresh Fruit Cocktail as a starter and it was out of this world. I mean, how do they do that, pick the very sweetest fruit for cruise ships?  I don't know, but whatever, it was perfect every time. The Cream of Broccoli soup was so good, too.  





Another note about food. You can have the most mouthwatering spread of awesome food, but if the service is poor, it kind of spoils it. You know what I mean.

 The first couple of nights we bounced around in a couple of different spots in the dining room, but then - then, we got Glenn as a head waiter. And once we had him, we were not going to sit anywhere else.

He was efficient, warm, charming...and he could tell if I liked something instantly. No kidding.  One night I had ordered Prime Rib, but when it came, it just didn't suit me.  Before I could even ask, he whisked it away and brought me the Panko Crusted Jumbo Shrimp instead.  Crazy good service!

OK - we did do things other than just eat.  The weather was spectacular!  We left Galveston in the sunshine and it stayed sunny and bright all week, except for one cloudy afternoon in Jamaica.

The Magic is a beautiful ship and you can walk all the way around her on the Promenade deck.  Not many cruise ships have decks like that.  The Sky Deck has a Serenity area (no one under 21 allowed) and it was wonderful.  It was dicey to get a place to lay out during the afternoon, but if you look carefully, you become pretty good at finding a couple just getting up to leave and heading over to their spot.  ;)




So pretty at night.  And the sky is gorgeous.  If you wait until you're out to sea (past the drilling platforms) the stars sparkle like diamonds. We sat on our balcony a lot and watched the sea drift by.

Other things we did:
  •  Trivia games.  
  •  Line dancing.  (ok, just me)
  •  Hot tub.  
  •  Napping.
  •  Reading.
  •  Entertainment...stage shows in the Showtime Theatre, comedy acts in Punchliner, and live music all over. 
  •  People watching/ people meeting.  

This is the deal - you meet some people you absolutely love, some you can take or leave, and some you are glad to never see again (just like real life!).  Most nights at dinner we sat near the same 3 ladies and loved talking to them (they were also taken with Glenn, the waiter, so they made sure to sit in that section).  They were sisters, who once a year, meet and cruise together.  

The last night at dinner we sat at a tiny table and on either side of us were couples.  One - honeymooners (he was a tennis pro, she was a spa manager) and the other, an old couple from Australia.  They had been married more than 50 years, no children.  But they had traveled the world, spending months at a time in far away countries.  We were so torn, we wanted to talk to both couples, and so we did. That was awesome.

Our destinations on this cruise:  Jamaica, Grand Cayman, Cozumel.  At Jamaica, we just went to shop a little in the port terminal.

Grand Cayman.  Of all the excursions we've done, this one was #1.  Fantastic. Super. Fun. Amazing.  And I know this much is true...we will do this again.

After the short tender ride to GC, we met our group (Marineland Tours) and took a short bus ride to the boat.  I was specific in booking this boat and crew (they only can be booked through Carnival).






The boat was so fun to ride.  The Cayman Explorer is powered by Cat engines...always a good thing!  Smooth ride.  Easy steps down the back into the water. We didn't wear the life preservers because the water was only chest deep. (my kind of water)

Bert and his crew are - yes, there are such people - "Stingray Whisperers".  They were friendly, encouraging and gave us very good info.  We formed a circle in the water with the crew in the middle and they gave us some guidelines.  They told us how Steve Irwin died (Crocodile Hunter) and why that wasn't going to happen to us!  Good to know.





Some of the rays were young and little bit antsy.  But my guide found a mama who was mature and relatively calm.  Don & I both got to hold her...it was exhilarating!  We didn't have a waterproof camera so we took turns taking pics from the steps of the boat.  I missed getting a shot of Don holding one, dang it.



Holding that mama was like nothing else.  It's hard to describe, but it was almost like a gift.




The look on this little girl's face says it all.  Joy!!!




What a trip!! Another time, another day, we'll be back.

 





After we got back, it was time to find food and do some Cayman shopping.  I love Grand Cayman, it's  pretty and peaceful and fun.  Don bought me a lovely Larimar necklace.  And I was one happy girl!

All too soon we had to head back to the ship, and the next day it was on to Cozumel.  We went to Chankanaab, a wildlife park.  There was a sea lion show, and you could do the Dolphin Encounter (for extra $) or just watch.  Then we headed back to Puerta Maya for shopping (silver, Del Sol, and the Cozumel pharmacy) and our favorite place for chips, salsa and guacamole, Pancho's Backyard.



OK, if we have to go back to Galveston, at least we have our favorite ship to take us home. French toast and omlettes in the morning and Warm Chocolate Melting Cake at night.  It's a good way to go!




One more thing.  I bought a hat for the cruise, and I'm not a hat wearin' girl.  I love it!  It's by San Diego Hat Co., one of those packable ones, so you can fold it all up and then pouf, like magic, it's good again.  And it's SPF 50.

It didn't work in high winds though, so I had to take it off before it blew away.  Still, good hat.



 

Good hat.  Good trip.  Good food.  Priceless memories.  


Come on down to my boat, baby
Come on down where we can play
Come on down to my boat, baby
Come on down, we'll sail away  



Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Say yes to the glitter...

Once upon a time there were two princesses.  They were sweet and loved everyone.  They were going to see their Daddy get married. Of course they wore party dresses.


Their dresses sparkled.  Their shoes did, too.  Every time the princesses turned this way and that, sparkles of glitter would float from their dresses.  

                   Just like magic.                      

All day they spread love and laughter (and glitter) all through the land.  Of course they sprinkled most of the glitter on the happy couple.


Jason & Annie Duplantis
September 28, 2013





The princess girls spread glitter all over the groom and his friends. 
Just because.



And they sprinkled glitter on the bride and her friends...
all pretty girls 
who didn't mind some extra sparkle.



They showered their Daddy in kisses and hugs...and glitter.












They sprinkled glitter all over their Mawmaw & Pawpaw. 

(and their rental car)  

When the valet at the castle opened the door for the little princess, 
she said, "Don't worry about the sparkles in the backseat!"



Even after the bride and groom dusted off the sparkles, 
some of the magic still clung to their boots.  

And their hearts.



~ And they lived happily ever after ~ 

--------------------------------------------------------

It was a gorgeous day, filled with lots of love. 
We're so happy for Jason & Annie.  

And for grandgirls who make every day sparkle...
I love you. ♥♥


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Ribs & Rhythm Tour, 2013 ~

Labor Day weekend we headed west.  And so began our 2nd annual Ribs & Rhythm tour.  We met at Buc-ees, and it was a sweet homecoming.



Oh, how I love Buc-ees.  The land of fudge and jerky and all good things.  The one in Luling has dozens and dozens of bathrooms guarded by a Longhorn with a head of marbles.   Buc-ees: they are my people.  And my people shall be your people....go!!

Luling City Market. Can't beat it.  So far, the best in Texas.  I wrote about them last year so won't repeat, but it's heaven.  Lovely bones.  The end.



And then on to Fredericksburg, one of the meccas of Hill Country and a lot of fun to boot.  A few of our adventures, no particular order:

OK, who knew Circle E Candles had a showroom in Fredericksburg??  They are the best candles ever...they smell divine.   I chose Creme Brulee.



"Let's go to Luckenbach, Texas
With Waylon and Willie and the boys
This successful life we're livin'
Got us feuding like the Hatfields and McCoys"







Let me tell you about Luckenbach.  It's hot.  It's primitive.  And the visitors come from far and wide.  That's a small stage but there is a bigger dancehall.  God bless Waylon Jennings.

 After Luckenbach we headed for Alamo Springs Cafe, which has the #3 hamburger in the state of Texas.  In all it's glory:
Yes, that's it.  Charles was the only one of us who had THE prize winning burger, but everything we ate was delicious.  The drive to Alamo Springs was crazy...we saw dozens and dozens of deer.  Here, there, everywhere - they were jumping fences and crossing roads and Don loved it!


Huge homemade onion rings.  





Alamo Springs made us happy, happy, happy! (note, the fridge is red)




One day we set off for the LBJ Ranch.  Democrats! What the heck, we were in the neighborhood, we figured we might as well see the Texas White House.  It's a National Historical Park and you can drive through for free, just had to stop and get a pass.




The cattle are beautiful.  They're living the good life.






You can only imagine how many world leaders made the trip to the Ranch. I snapped a shot of a photo of these two.  Body language tells all, doesn't it?  There is LBJ in casual clothes, leaning forward, trying to make his point while Nixon, shirt and tie, sits back, listening.  Noncommittal.  Body language. 




We toured the first floor of the Ranch, it was only $3 per person.  The tours are limited to 12 people each so we got to ask lots of questions.  You feel a real connection to history.  

When we were in the kitchen, the Ranger told us that on the day JFK was killed, he and Jackie were expected at the Ranch later that afternoon.  He had requested pecan pie, and the cooks had baked 18 of them in preparation for the group.  I could just imagine those pies sitting on the counter, waiting for the group that would not arrive.  A somber day.  




Fredericksburg is just charming.  It's small but there's lots of fun around.  We hit these:
  • WWII Pacific Rim war reenactment (the brothers-in-law)
  • Shopping (the sisters)
  • Rustling Rob's
  • Cranky Frank's 
  • Enchanted Rock State Park
And Clear River Ice Cream & Bakery.  This place is darling!!





Decorated in red retro malt shop style.  Elvis is alive and well there. 




So many kinds of ice cream, all homemade.  



Frozen hot chocolate...enough said.  



You can even have lunch/dinner there too.  No wonder Elvis sticks around.  




After we stayed in Fredericksburg for a couple of days, we moved on to San Marcos.  Had to check in to see the Drugstore Cowboys (a band) at John T. Floores and eat some tamales.  

Before long, it was time to hit the road and go home.  



Adios, Hill Country.   Until next time...

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Homemade Spaghetti in a Green Bowl ~

I'm not much of a sentimental person when it comes to things.  If I don't love it, I really don't want to hold on to it.  I love my old green bowl.

My bowl belonged to my maternal grandmother, who died in 1974.  She didn't have nice things.   She was poor, having been a sharecropper's wife and then a widow for so many years.  She lived in a small, fairly primitive house...but that's a story itself.

When her children cleared out her things, my mom asked me if there was something I wanted - you bet I did...her green serving bowl.  All kinds of good things to eat were served in that bowl.  Spaghetti and Chicken Fricassee mostly.

Yesterday I used my green bowl.  I made Spaghetti.  I could write a book...I've made all kinds - Sausage Spaghetti, Shrimp Spaghetti, Pork Rib Spaghetti.  My favorite is Chicken Spaghetti.  Yesterday I made my kids' favorite kind - with ground chuck.  (Too bad none of them were here to eat it!)


 


I make this like my Mom did. And she made it the way her mom did, on the farm in Bell City, Louisiana. Here's how I do it: 

As with many dishes, the secret to good spaghetti is good meat. You want to use high quality ground chuck. I use the 90% lean/10% fat mix from Sam's Club.  Don't use bargain meat.  It's not worth doing.  Have a ham sandwich instead. (No, they didn't have Sam's Club for ground beef back in The Great Depression, but they had cows in the pasture, and I assume the meat was good.  So there.) 

Season the meat with salt and pepper, brown in a heavy pot over medium heat, breaking up the meat as you go. When the meat is browned, watch it closely. You'll have some liquid in the bottom of the pot but let it cook for a few more minutes and the water will cook out. This is important...if you drain the meat as soon as the pink is gone you're pouring all the flavor out. A little fat is OK, even good.  

Add some chopped garlic (must be fresh, don't use chopped garlic from a jar) and onions and saute for a couple of minutes. I like a generous amount of garlic.  If you don't, we can't be friends.  

Then add tomato sauce (a can or 2) and tomato paste (1) and stir in well. Add water - how much depends on how much meat you have. I fill my tomato sauce can with about 5 cans of water. Add 1 teaspoon sugar (just trust me, that's enough).  

Lower the heat to medium low and simmer for awhile until done...at least 40 minutes for a normal pot.  Stir often, don't let your sauce burn. Add more water if it gets too thick.  You cannot rush good spaghetti.





The first meal I made for Don after we got married was Sausage Spaghetti. He loved it. Little did he know how much spaghetti-eating was in his future. 

I don't make it nearly as much as I used to when our children were young. In nearly 39 years of marriage I've never made spaghetti with sauce from a jar. And I don't expect I ever will. 

Spaghetti is delicious, especially served from an old green bowl. 

The end.
By Stephanie Lynn            

Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Great Galveston Family Vacation ~

June 2013!  

We hadn't planned it.  Maybe that's a good thing.  But flight times and work schedules and the stars and the moon and the planets all aligned so we could ALL be in the same place at the same time for a family vacation. 

Destination:  Galveston Island.

This post is long on pictures, short on story, but here you go:




We stayed at a pretty awesome condo at Pointe West, which is on the far west end of the island.  I can't say enough good things about this place...3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, a large family room, 2 eating areas, and a spacious well-furnished balcony.  



Such a pretty place comes with a price but I talked Papa Bear into it before he knew what hit him.  And he loved it!  We want to go again.



We had access to the beach and the Beach Club, which was fantastic. Infinity pool, hot tub, baby pool, places to eat, grill and just relax.  The wonderful bathrooms sealed the deal!  Can we stay forever?   





Our grandgirls swim like fish, so you know they loved it! Speaking of grandgirls...we were so excited to see them!  They're adorable.  And funny.  And smart.



So much fun!  (I want that sofa, it was super comfortable.)




When I see that beach I hear Glen Campbell singing, 


"Galveston oh Galveston, I still hear your sea winds blowing..."




Kirra is 7.  This little girl is a ball of fire.  She is such a doll.


Alahna is 9, nearly 10.  She is sweet and inquisitive, and loves everyone. 



Papa Bear and me.







Family pictures were done. Oh happy day!


I nominate Kirra to be the poster-girl for Galveston tourism.  Who can resist that face?







Breezes were blowing in from the Gulf.  




The Duplantis girls. How I love this!  Jeans, white tops and bare feet.




Justin had to set up the shots and jump in the picture.  Here's one family pic...an out-take.  It won't make the yearly Christmas card but that's because we were all waiting for the camera (on a tripod) to go.  And when it did, we weren't ready. Some of us were cracking up.





My children, they are my heart.  They're good and smart and some kind of wonderful.


Jason, Jennifer, Justin






Don and the boys. I adore this picture. I do. 

 



 I don't know when we'll all be together again, but those days we spent together were the best.



Galveston.

Love.

Family.