Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Vacation the second part: Still cruisin'!

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First, answers to a couple questions from part 1: StitchinKat, Disney may go to Alaska in 2010! And aimeewrites, not to worry...Disney sailed their ships over to the West Coast in Summer 2008, and now that they're building two new ships, chances are good for this year or next!

Now, on with the show!

When we left you last, we were on board the Disney Wonder, about to set sail from Nassau. ship The crew got a rare night ashore, and had to be back on board by 2am! We were insensible the whole time, and awoke to find ourselves docked at Disney's private island, Castaway Cay!

This was the view from the deck... flying dutchman ...note that, as our cruise director delighted in telling us, there was only one other ship in port: The Flying Dutchman.

At 9, there was an intriguing item listed on the schedule: Pirate Treasure Hunt. We weren't sure whether we'd be doing some sort of competitive scavenger hunt immediately or not, but since we had not had breakfast yet, we were happy to hear it was a go-at-your-own-pace thing. We were handed envelopes filled with goodies: treasure map Clutching our envelopes, we dashed off to the breakfast buffet in the sit-down restaurant (where we ate the first night), Parrot Cay. parrot cay
I have to say that I wasn't initially that excited about the private island. I mean, I like seeing and exploring new places, but this was a "manufactured" island, in my mind. No culture to explore, and I figured it'd be so generic and kind of boring. How wrong I was! It was the best; normally, when you're on a cruise and get to a port of call, you have to take a 20-minute cab or bus ride just to get to a beach, then you have to schlep back to the ship, wet and sandy. Here, we stepped off the ship and were a 5-minute walk (or open-air shuttle ride) away from the sand. There were copious clean bathrooms and foot showers. There were all manner of games and gaming equipment available. AND, all the food was still free! Plus, the island was very beautiful, with lots of natural vegetation. There was an adults-only beach (too windy and cold the day we were there), although the family beach was so large that you were never tripping over other people.

We had fun exploring the island while hunting for clues. I won't ruin the pirate treasure hunt for anyone by giving away any of them. I was hoping the prize would be a pin, but no such luck (not that my thirst for pins was not already satiated by the daily "free pin with purchase" at the gift shop on board). Instead, we each got a "piece o' silver" stamped with the Castaway Cay logo--only available on the island.

It still seemed a little chilly to snorkel, so we hung out on the beach and enjoyed the barbeque (at the adult beach, you could even get grilled rib-eye steak!) until it warmed up a bit. Heather relaxing
Then, we were ready to snorkel! This is the view of the snorkeling area. No waterproof camera rig, unfortunately. There's no natural reef within the guest area, although they have put in a bunch of "fish condos" and seeded coral. Instead, they have sunk some ships and other stuff, and helpfully marked them with buoys so you don't have to search that hard. =) The two highlights were seeing a fish literally change color in front of my eyes (nope, it wasn't a cuttlefish OR a flounder, nor was it lying on the bottom) from gray-green-reddish to white-sandy-colored. At first, I thought I was losing it, but Michael saw it, too! It looked kind of like a large snapper. If you have any ideas on what it might have been, please comment! The second highlight was seeing a black-spotted white eel with a yellow tummy. He was wrapped around an old ship's anchor, and I remember thinking as I dove down to get a closer look, "WOW! I wonder what food he likes that Disney puts around here so he will stay for us to see him!" Later, I picked a cup out of the water and swam it over to a lifeguard stand, and he asked if we'd seen anything good. I told him about the eel, and he replied, "REALLY? You're sure it was black and white with a yellow tummy? You didn't get too close did you?" "Welll, I did dive down to it...." He flinched. "Those things are really aggressive; we'll have to fish him out of there tomorrow." Yikes. Ignorance really is bliss.

We snorkeled for about an hour and a half, and I was ready to quit; the water was COLD! I shivered horribly for a while after we got out. Only one way to warm up after that... Hammock + fruity drink...works every time.

Soon, we headed back to the ship to get dressed for the night's festivities. That's right...it was PIRATE NIGHT!! The menus were even pirate-themed! Our server was very entertained by Michael and I speaking in nothing but pirate. "Avast, ye lubber! Bring me a flagon of yer finest water, I be full parched!" I got a very nice compliment from a ten-year-old kid, who, when we walked past, looked at me and said, "Now that's a good pirate costume!" =)

Later, on deck, there was a pirate show. I tried to get pictures of Mickey zipping in on a flywire to defeat Captain Hook, or the fireworks (!) that went off afterwards, but they didn't turn out so well. It was so chilly on deck that Maria and I started just jumping up and down to keep warm. Well, it's not too far of a journey from there to full-out dancing. No pictures of us, but here's Michael's nod to piratical garb: We had plenty of space on the dance floor, since most everyone else was in line for the buffet: But, since we'd just eaten (late seating)...we didn't even get in line! I know, I know...passing up a buffet on a cruise ship just seems so wrong!

When we got back to the room, we were greeted by probably my favorite towel animal... Instead of the typical square mints, the monkey held gold coins in his mouth. Arrrrr!!!

The next day started off unfortunately...Michael came down with a sinus infection. The shipboard doctor was quick but expensive, and Michael spent the rest of the day wandering in a fog and slurping free Sprite. I tried doing a few things on my own while he napped, but they just weren't very fun. I was all excited about pin collector bingo, until I found out the minimum cost was $40!! Yikes! I just wanted to put some markers on a board, you know? "Adult Pool Games" were a little too adult...hold a banana between my legs and pass it to some random stranger? Don't think so!!

The show that night was another revue, but we were still amazed by the costumes and set pieces. I think these turned out pretty well for low-light, no LCD screen...
Dinner that night was highly anticipated... I'd been excited about this restaurant concept since I heard about its predecessor on the Disney Magic, The Ink and Paint Club. It starts out all black and white "rough animation" and ends up completely colored. And here's my biggest fail: During dinner I didn't take One. Single. Picture. I was apparently so enthralled with the "show" (even though it didn't flow like I had imagined) that I couldn't be bothered to snap any pictures. So, you're just going to have to go yourself!!

So, with a kiss goodnight from the cute towel bunny, it was all over but the disembarkation (that word is hilarious!!)

Arrrr...thar be Disney cruises on the West Coast sometimes, ye scurvy scamps!

Tune in next time for KSC...not KFC...and Disney World proper!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Shipping at the speed of light

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So. I'm in major love with Jeanie. You might even say I dream of Jeanie. You might, but I'm not going to. It not only has cables...they're reversible. They're not only reversible, they're floating. It's knit in Dream in Color Smooshy. I found the perfect color: Deep Sea Flower. I had it all picked out an on my Loopy Ewe wishlist. How could it have been any more perfect??

Then...THEN! Then Dream in Color came out with STARRY. Smooshy with sparklie silver threads in it!! Even mo' perfect.

I have been waiting since I got my Christmas money from my mom to purchase some Starry yarn. I've been checking The Loopy Ewe nearly every day. Finally, last week, it was IN STOCK! Clik, CLICK, CLICK, darn it!!! Ah. I got it. That was on a Thursday morning.

By Thursday evening, I got an email that it had been shipped!

Saturday at NOON, I got this: OoooOOoooo...shiny!

Sheri at The Loopy Ewe does not mess around!

In other birthday money expenditure news, I bring you Just Nan's Floral Fifteen (courtesy of Drema at Needlecraft Corner...also a very speedy shipper)... ...with the silks. They are sooo pretty, and I never would have gotten them if it wasn't a present. I'm going to just love stitching with them. You should see the "buttons" in person. They are this semi-transparent opalescent glass...not plain ol' mother of pearl like they looked in the picture. And the beads are beautiful...very sparkly hex cuts and rocailles that have wee green stripes on them.

And, of course, when I saw these squirrels, they had to jump in the package as well:

Happy Birthday to me...or, Merry Christmas to me...whatever. Stash is accepted for any occasion. =)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Ears to You

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A while ago, I promised that I'd post instructions for how I did the ears on Jill's koala when I found them. Well, I didn't find them. But Michael did. Somehow he knew that random piece of paper with my scribblings on it was important (or it could be the 12 years of abuse whenever he throws away anything that I even remotely wanted that has him trained to confirm all discards...poor guy). So here you go!

Jill's koala

RLnc = right-leaning increase...I used Cat Bordhi's "RaLink" from New Pathways for Sock Knitters
kbf = knit in the BACK, then the front

CO4 sts in cream
Row 1: P all sts
Row 2: K, RLnc to last st, K (6 sts total)
Row 3: P all sts
Row 4: K, RLnc to last st, K (10 sts total)
switch to gray
Row 5: P all sts
Row 6: k, kbf to last st, k (18 sts total)
Row 7: P all sts
Row 8: BO all sts, but DO NOT break yarn
Row 9: Now, pick up & knit in back of each st of BO edge (so that you have a "ridge" on the RS).
Row 10: k all sts
Row 11: p, p2tog to last st, p
Row 12: k all sts
Row 13: p, p2tog to last st, p
Row 14: k all sts
Row 15: p, p2tog to last st, p
BO all sts

They're also on my Ravlery project page, along with the link to the entire pattern, which is not mine...I just redid the ears because the originals didn't make sense to me and seemed to be "one-sided."

If you're not a knitter, ignore me! Nevermind...you probably already did.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

One of my favorite things about Spring...

Cherry Street on Tech campus...

...and one picture from Midtown, post-Ansley Park walking tour.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Vacation the first part: Cruisin!

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This is the ship we spent four days on before my birthday...the Disney Wonder...
ship view ...as in, "I wonder why we haven't done this before!!!" We've been on two cruises before (both on Norwegian), but this was by far and away the nicest boat we've been on. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

We drove down on Saturday with our friends the Dunlaps. The only two things I have to note are
1) I could finally tell the economy is bad because there was room to walk around the merchandise in Cracker Barrel. (For those not in the US, Cracker Barrel is a wonderful place to eat--inexpensive, good food--BUT in front of the restaurant is a store filled with all manner of junk.)

2) Michael got a suh-weet deal on a hotel through priceline. We stayed in Daytona for 35 bucks, in a suite with full kitchen, and free breakfast in the morning (eggs, bacon and Belgian waffles...not just continental fare!) It even came with...
popcorn FREE POPCORN! (Michael's favorite thing...besides, perhaps, milkshakes.)

After going to church (where I was SERIOUSLY underdressed...I usually wear jeans to my church, and there was NO ONE there in jeans...I've never seen so many sensible women's shoes in one place at the same time!) we headed over to Port Canaveral to board our floating buffet ship! Here's a shot of the adult pool: smoke stack I gotta say that I was a teensy bit in trepidation that there would be kids running amok the whole cruise. My fears were completely unfounded. Most of the time, the kids were participating in their own programs, but those we did see were very well-behaved. And I've never seen a cleaner ship. Nary a stray ice-cream drip anywhere!

After scoring our first free meal touring the deck, we decided to take the spa tour. Every cruise I've been on, they have the free spa tour on embarkation day. It's fun if for nothing else than to see what it looks like. Check out the dolphin mosaics: spa This is in the "Rainforest Room," where there is a sauna, a steam room, an aroma steam room, three showers that shoot different good-smelling stuff on you, and these chairs that Michael is sitting in which are heated, tile recliners. When we found out you could get a cruise-long pass for two for about the same price as one, Michael decided we should go for it. We missed the departure party on deck, but...it was really relaxing!

Each night, our wonderful hostess Shemma made us a cute towel animal. The best part: It always held (at least) two pieces of chocolate! The first night, a swan: towel swan Check out our gigantic room! To the left of the curtains that partitioned off the bed, that's a sofa!! If you've ever been on a cruise, you know that that's crazy big. Usually, the shower in the room is so small, if you drop the soap, you have to get out to bend down and grab it! This bathroom was so big, it had a TUB! Now, it was a weensy tub, but a tub nonetheless!!

Our second day started with a nutritious breakfast: waffle OK, so that's pushing it, but I had the wonderful epiphany that since we were on the cruise, they had to bring me a kids' meal if I asked for one!! I couldn't resist the Mickey waffle! I also had this wonderful granola/fresh mango/yogurt concoction called "Mango Mountain Hike". Yummmm.....

After breakfast and walking around on deck, I wandered over (late) to have a pedicure with Maria. I think the two boys were flummoxed at all the spa parenphrenalia, but they couldn't resist taking pictures. pedi So relaxing, and I was happy to make our pedicuristas giggle as I tried to keep my ticklish feet from jumping all over. Even my toes were ticklish!!

Once our toes were pretty, we sashayed off the ship into Nassau. It's very touristy near the docks, as usual...this is my favorite sign...jewelry ...but, you can find wonderful historic sites nearly everywhere. We saw their equivalent of City Hall, a very cool tropical-looking building (why didn't I take a picture?) which turned out to be the library, and some memorials to soldiers in the World Wars. I saw a man walk past with a can of ginger beer (non-alcoholic but potent stuff!) and wondered why we had been on land for an hour and didn't have any! We hiked towards the Queen's Staircase, which was carved out of solid rock: Queen's staircase Once we climbed the stairs, we stopped at a small store to purchase ginger beer, some yummy fresh homemade coconut clusters (no picture; they were gone too soon), and some fruity sweet soda (there's nothing better than local snacks!!) on our way to a historic fort. punch Yeah, you can see a cannon and our ship in the background, but, more importantly, the soda! =)

On our way back down, we passed the "typical" Bahamian architecture: a house with a second-floor porch, suspended above the sidewalk. This home had a free tour through it. Pictures weren't allowed inside, but I wish I could show you the cool staircase made from a ship's stairway! porch Here we are with our very gracious tour guide, who I am sure was a bit taken aback at our complete lack of knowledge of British history as he quizzed us during his spiel!

We decided to pass on the pirate museum due to budget considerations (though it did look pretty good...but you have to save something for the next cruise!!). We were planning on going to the junkaroo exhibit, but, sadly, it was not open. Michael had to console himself with a couple costumes they had displayed in the dock terminal. junkanoo Speaking of bazaars, I wish I'd gotten a picture of the huge craft market. But we were so overwhelmed, it didn't even occur to me. I'm pretty sure I've never seen that many straw purses in one place before!!

It's kind of sad how special this sign made me feel: welcome But, you know, that's Disney! The poor Carnival cruise minions did not get a sign at all as they boarded their "floating shoebox".

Since we were signed up for the late seating for dinner, we went to the "early" shows. The first night, the show was "The Golden Mickeys," a mock awards show framework for a revue of various shows. We were a little amazed at the number of costume changes and some of the sets. But it didn't prepare us for the second night's show, "Toy Story the Musical"! I must insert here that I generally derisively snicker whenever a show claims to be "Broadway style." I think the only people who are fooled are those who have never really seen a show on Broadway. So, I was must amused that this show was announced as being "Broadway like" rather than "Broadway style." =) But really...what do you expect on a ship? Well, not this: toy story Do you notice the giant Rex? Hamm?? Mr. Potato Head??? Slink???? Did I mention that all of their eyes and mouths moved? It was an awesome combination of puppetry and acting. The cast members who played Woody and Buzz had all their inflections and physicality down pat! And the sets!! We figured they had about two decks of fly space above the stage, and at least one below. I've never seen a show on a ship with trap doors before!

I'd love to have the soundtrack just for this number: The Claw!! the claw! "All Hail The Claw!!"

Check out Buzz's costume: rocket Buzz I realize these aren't the greatest pictures, but since I was taking them without the benefit of the screen, I'm pretty happy with how they turned out. (I was looking through the viewfinder! Old Skool!!)

After another fabulous dinner, we were off to bed, ready to get up and enjoy our day on Disney's private island. Tonight's towel animal bids you good-bye until I can continue the recap! dog

We went, we cruised, we ate. And ate....

Thursday, March 12, 2009


I've joined Twitter! (It's Erin's fault; I wanted to follow her vacation exploits.) I've been thinking for a while that this might help me bridge the gap between my infrequent posts. We'll see how it goes. If you're interested, it's on my sidebar. Not much there yet, though! I promise vacation pictures tomorrow!!

Monday, March 2, 2009

I Left the Caribbean...

...for this?!??

I'll give the full report later, when I'm not recovering from the worst day ever.

Old Geek-outs