Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Disney Dream: A Pirate's Life for Me

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Day 3 of the cruise found us at Castaway Cay, Disney's private island. This was our view from the ship while we ate breakfast.
As I've written before, this is the perfect beach stop. The food's still free, there's a free shuttle to take you to the beach, you're guaranteed a nice, clean bathroom, and everyone's friendly.

Oh yeah...and there's always a free hammock.

Since the last time we were there, the facilities have been expanded (in order to handle the larger ship). One very fun addition is the swim-up water slide platform.
Two slides: One leisurely, one VERY fast!

Here is a view of our beautiful ship.
What?? I can't hear you; there's a ship in my ear.

We started off our time at Castaway Cay by doing Yoga on the beach. I thought it would be relaxing, and parts of it were, but it was very challenging. I had to give up when we were on our backs, raising our legs in the air, and the teacher told us, "Now put your toes on the ground over your head." Yeah...not going to happen. After that, we hung out, we ate barbecue, we swam. Then it was time to go back to the ship and get ready for...

Pirates IN the Caribbean!

Pirates in the Caribbean is such a fun night. Most people get into the spirit and we make it our own personal Talk Like a Pirate Night, of course. Before dinner, we went to play pirate games (hearty pirate singing, swabbing the deck races, and doubloon tossing).

Afterwards, we headed to dinner at Animator's Palate, which was all "decked" out with pirate concept art for the occasion.

Our Caribbean menus...

Then it was time for a pirate party on deck!

What? Are those fireworks in the middle of the ocean?
Oh, yeah they are.

Then there was a stage show with great dancers...
Wait, wait...who's that front and center?? Is it...could it be...?? Yes, it is!
Captain Jack Sparrow. This guy really had Johnny Depp down, and seriously looked the part. Wish I'd been able to get a better picture, but there was lots of action going on!

Then, it was time for...
The DJ spun the tunes and we danced like crazy until it started to rain...and then everyone kept on dancing!! About the time the dancing was over, it started to POUR! The dancing was really fun, but unfortunately we completely missed the pirate buffet. =( I'm sad we missed it, because if it was as cool as last time, we really missed something.

Oh,'s not like we hadn't had enough to eat!!

Avast, me hearties! Thar be a fair wind blowing all the time at Castaway Cay!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Disney Dream: Nassau (or So We Were Told)

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We did not get off the ship in Nassau.

This isn't quite as bad as it sounds, because we had been in Nassau before. The only things left to see were the aquarium with the flamingos, and Atlantis. But we had a whole huge exciting ship to explore!

The day before, we had picked up an assignment with Mickey's Midship Detective Agency.
This was so fun. A lot of artwork around the ship is "interactive", so that when someone walks by or pauses in front of it, it moves or changes. It could be something as simple as the wind blowing a ship across a map, or it could be a clip from a classic cartoon that plays, changing the picture in the process. If you sign up for the detective agency, though, you run around the ship flashing your ID card at the pictures and then interacting with them to either find stolen artwork or rescue dalmatian puppies! We did both, eventually. =)

Here, Michael is popping balloons with a pin in order to reveal a frazzled Donald and a clue.

We took advantage of the low number of people on the ship to take a ride on the Aquaduck (the water coaster on deck). Then, we chilled out for a while in the spa before showering and getting ready for lunch.

Since we had missed our scheduled dinner at one of the dining rooms, Enchanted Garden, while we were at Remy, we decided to have lunch there.
I love the little "waiting area"...even though you never have to wait there. =)

This is the really looks like you're walking into a garden. It makes me think of the garden sequence in Mary Poppins.

Except for this fountain in the middle. =)

And behind those cool-looking booths are the rest of the tables.
There are apparently light effects that occur throughout dinner, but of course those weren't going during lunch.

After lunch, I had a manicure and pedicure scheduled, while Michael went on an "art of the theme" tour of the ship. The manicure I got was with a polish called "Shellac", and it promised 14-day wear. Now, on someone that types all day on a computer, that's ridiculous and unheard of. I would have been happy if it had lasted 7 days! Well, I'm here to tell you that I finally had it taken off (has to be taken off with 100% acetone) after TWENTY DAYS. And the ONLY thing wrong with it was that it had grown out. No chips, still shiny. VERY SHINY. The freakiest thing about when she put it on was that it was INSTANTLY dry. And when I say "dry", I mean that I could poke the top of one nail with the other, and there was no dent!
I also have to say that it was the best-applied manicure I've ever had. I did not get this stuff put on my toes; my pedicures last a long time anyway, and the Shellac is a little more expensive. Plus, I wanted the "Fire & Ice" pedicure, which involved all kinds of scrubs, potions, hot towels and heated river stones! It was great. And, I got to look out at the ocean the entire time!

Thanks to the free on-board "Wave phones" Disney provides, Michael and I were able to meet up during the tour. Afterwards, Michael had signed us up for a "Mixology" class, held in the Skyline lounge.
The cityscape in the virtual windows (and the soundtrack!) changes about every 20 minutes...from NYC to Rio to Hong Kong....

The class taught us how to mix five drinks. Michael and I got to mix the mojitos for everyone. Now, I do not normally drink and I would not have signed up for this class if left to my own devices! But it was fun and we definitely had some wild and very funny classmates. We learned how to make a martini, mojito, margarita, Sunken Treasure and B-52.
This is the only shot a classmate got before the camera battery died! The B-52 was basically a shot (Kahlua, Baileys and Grand Marnier). I was feeling a little tipsy after that (YES I HAVE MADE IT TO THIS OLD AGE WITHOUT EVER DOING A SHOT BEFORE)!

We went back to the room to change for dinner and dashed off to that night's show, "Villains Tonight!" Though a little cheesy, it was a good show. And the cast members who played Yzma and Kronk made the entire night for me. They were so perfect and hilarious.

Dinner was at...


Royal Palace is themed with princess art on all the walls.


We did see Cinderella dash by during dinner. Perhaps she was looking for her bread basket.

Royal Palace is supposedly "French cuisine", although of course it did not compare to Remy. My salmon in breadcrumbs was yummy, though!

And here is what was probably the most brilliant move the chefs made. I remember last time we cruised (well, really, every time we cruise), there is always a dilemma at dessert time. WHICH ONE TO CHOOSE? And then, because we are on a cruise ship and our waitstaff is trained to make us happy and we can get whatever we want, anyway, they bring us BOTH. Or, more commonly, ALL desserts we're considering. Kind of like, here's your dessert, and your dessert, one for the table, AND ONE TO GROW ON. Literally.

Anyway. This time, all the menus featured a "dessert sampler" with three tiny portions of what I am assuming are the most popular desserts (well, they were always the ones I wanted, anyway).

We rounded out the night by deciding that midnight would be a GREAT time to try out the miniature golf course out on deck. In 20 mile-per-hour winds, with 40 mile-per-hour gusts. It was very EXHILARATING! I have no pictures of this, sadly, so you'll just have to take my word for it (and that I won). Even more sadly, I don't even have pictures of the course, because we always thought we would go back and do it again in daylight.

But there was too much else to do!

This was still only the FIRST FULL DAY of the cruise!!!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Spring Giveaway!

Head on over to see the great giveaway the Rhode Island Stitchers are having!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Disney Dream: Remy

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I'm going to devote an entire post to Remy, the French restaurant on the Disney Dream, because it was such an epic meal. If you're going to go yourself, you might want to skip this post as it may ruin some surprises!  Of course, if you hate to be surprised or want more intel on the restaurant, read on...

First of all, let me say that I think the better half was more excited about this than I was...$75 is a LOT to pay for a meal. However, I think that in the end, it was worth it!

Since we ran all over the ship as soon as we boarded, we were able to get some decent interior pictures of Remy.  The decor is art-nouveau inspired.

We were given a table right by the window, which was great for the first 30 minutes or so, when we got to watch a beautiful sunset over the water. After that, however, we were looking at the reflection of the rest of the restaurant in the window. I think the ideal spot would be in one of those "elevated booths". The Pixar character Remy makes a few appearances in the decor...he and Emile can be seen in the center mirror on the back wall...(you can only see Emile in my picture)

...the upholstery on the booths (no picture), and the backs of the chairs.

Love it. Wash your hands before eating! =)

If you arrive before your reservation, you hang out in the Meridian lounge (shared with Palo, which is just on the other side of the ship from Remy). Perfect time for "prom pictures". =)
I knew I wouldn't want to be "flashing" once we got into the restaurant proper; I don't like my dining disturbed in that manner, so I would never do it to others. As a result, I must apologize for the sub-standard food pictures to come. As much as I love my point and shoot camera, it isn't a star performer in romantic mood lighting. =)

Our waiter (fabulous French accent standard equipment, as with all the staff) started us off by seating us and explaining the menu (why didn't I take a picture of the menu??) We were to choose an appetizer, seafood course, meat course and dessert. However, there were many surprises to come! First off, another staff member came by to prepare us the house cocktail, using the special Tattinger champagne prepared for the Dream:
Wait until you see the PINK champagne in a later post! I'm not a fan of champagne. But this was really good, with a small piece of candied pineapple in the bottom of the (martini) glass which caused it to sparkle prettily throughout the meal (yes, I'm a very slow drinker unless there's a copious amount of fruit juice to soften the blow). I believe the other addition was pear vodka (also not a vodka fan!)

Next came a couple surprise courses (no pictures). First, an amuse bouche that was a little fried cube of tomato soup. Very clever; and I love my haute cuisine of the Texas state fair variety. ;)

After that, a little chef's surprise: ratatouille! But it was ratatouille like you've never seen before: The vegetables were in a very small dice: a few millimeters at most! And it was topped with olive oil ice cream, which was not brain-freeze-inducing cold, but very pleasant against the just-warm ratatouille.

Bread service...and another Remy appearance.
And now the advice you will thank me for later if you go...ignore the wheat bread, wait until the cheese course (OH YES THERE WAS A CHEESE COURSE) for the "Remy roll" (a lovely tender mini-baguette), and get double truffle brioche. I'm not a mushroom fan (it's a texture thing), but OH. MY. GOODNESS!

Now the expected appetizer came. I had gone with the waiter's recommendations on all my courses; after all, he knows the food a lot better than I do. His choice for the appetizer was declinasion tomate. I was a little apprehensive; I like tomatoes and all, but there were other things that looked good, and what if this was "bleah"? It was not.... To the left, there was a frozen cube of tomato concentrate, garnished with pesto, which the waiter poured a tomato broth over. To the right, there was a Parmesan foam topped with chopped black tomatoes in balsamic vinegar. In the center:
Tomato "pizza"...a layer of eggplant puree, then a layer of whipped ricotta puree, topped with tiny heirloom tomatoes and THE MOST DELICIOUS BASIL EVER. I'm a huge basil fan, mind you. When I asked the waiter about it...he told me it came from the chef's personal garden! swoon I must tell you, also, that I do not like eggplant, but I believe it's really a texture thing, because this was DELICIOUS. The fourth part of the appetizer was "essence of tomato", which turned out to be a champagne glass with a liquid in it. The waiter told me to "close your eyes, imagine yourself in a garden, and feel the sunshine on your face". So I did. Rule Follower, I am. ;)

The hubby had a smoked bison, fennel and blood oranges concoction which seemed delicious (I had a small bite, but it was lost amidst my tomato-y bliss). But...pretty.
There's a MUCH better picture of this dish here.

Next came the fish course. For me (in the background), lobster...with a most life-changing sauce whose ingredients I unfortunately cannot remember, on top of fresh greens (chard, I think?). The hubby's fish was Turdot, with gnocchi on the side, both in a phenomenal white wine sauce.
Now, when you read "white wine sauce," you probably have some idea what that tastes like. Let me assure you that this was light years better than and completely different from whatever you're thinking of (no offense if it's your own white wine sauce you're thinking of ;). Michael was hesitant about ordering fish at all (he's still trying to come to terms with the fact that he's not allergic to it...long story), so the waiter recommended this one, but also told him that he could just order another meat course if he wanted.

Speaking of the meat Waygu beef, with life-changing whipped potatoes.
Life changing. And whatever the reduction was that it was served with was unbelievable. Of course, these teensy root vegetables were also from the chef's garden. The hubby had a pigeon pastry. I didn't even try it, because I was so absorbed in my steak.

Next, our waiter wheeled over an entire glass-domed cart of cheeses. We had the first cuts of the night, so they were all in beautiful whole wheels and wedges. We told him we weren't fans of blue cheeses, so he only gave us one to try. He arranged them from milder to stronger. We probably tried less than half of what was on the cart! I sadly cannot remember them all, but I can point out the standouts.
At about 10:00, next to the "R", goat cheese topped with honeycomb. Clockwise from that, two hard cheese that were fantastic. The second was Gruyère. Next were three soft cheeses related to Brie. I actually don't care too much for Brie; the first was good, the second (true Brie) was good for Brie...the third, I swear, had an aftertaste of Pine Sol! But, you have to try different things. =) And the next one (at 7:00) more than made up for it...a light cheddar-like cheese with Calvados. NOM. The final cheese, a blue, was OK. The only one I couldn't finish was the Pine Sol cheese! I did not get a picture of the wonderful freshly made crackers we had with our cheeses. Oh, and in the middle of the plate are chopped dried apricots!

Finally, dessert! DARK chocolate-covered praline, with edible gold foil.
Holy cow.

And Michael's; a poached pear with raspberry mousse inside, with macaron and candied pistachios.
And because the raspberry mousse inside was so perfect...bonus picture...

I had to get a shot of the signature plate. And in the background, you can see the white chocolate placard with my birthday message and some of the 5 pink roses they gave me.
They did not sing, LOL! Would have totally ruined the mood of the restaurant. =)

We were silently congratulating ourselves that we had managed to make it through dessert, and believe me---I felt like I had just been able to eat everything. Even though each course was small, there were a LOT. And I maybe had one truffle brioche too many. Then, the waiter came out with a small silver dish, which he opened to reveal squares of dark and milk chocolate with ganache filling. THEN, he brought out this:
I like to call this course "Second Dessert" (hey, I figure if Hobbits have Second Breakfast, then fancy French restaurants have "Second Dessert"). There were tiny lemon tarts, nougats, caramels, handmade marshmallows--which, if you've never had homemade marshmallows, are a TOTALLY DIFFERENT ANIMAL than those packaged atrocities we buy at the store--some kind of fried cinnamon-sugar bread (kind of like fancy churros), and handmade lollipops!! I was so amused by the fact that I was sitting in a fancy restaurant sucking on a lollipop!

After we made it back to the room, there was a card from Remy on our door...and inside...
TRUFFLES! For once in our lives, we had no desire to eat truffles. We were too full! We did enjoy them very much later.

My roses bloomed beautifully over the rest of the cruise. Here they are on our last day:
Usually, the more beautiful the rose, the less of a fragrance it has. But these smelled WONDERFUL. Of course, I had to leave them on bringing any vegetable material back into the States. =)

Remy was totally worth the expense!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Weekend Report

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I touched a couple of my 11 WIPs this's a picture of Sapphire Star BEFORE:
and AFTER:
I'd have had a full half of the "lead lines" done if I hadn't miscounted the bottom border (too low) by ONE STINKING THREAD. You can see where I frogged. I hope that the canvas "heals" a little there, or at least that it won't be so noticeable once I restitch all the border. It's very soothing to stitch this, except for one little thing: I have to exert so much force pulling the needle through the canvas! I suppose it's good that it has a difficulty, or I'd never move on to other projects.

I took advantage of the daylight hours to finish that darn dove. I thought I'd be able to work more easily on the eyelets surrounding it at night, but no real luck there. I think the problem is the fabric. I really should have changed it for something else (I have a notorious dislike of Wichelt linen), but I had to have the exact color for some reason. I think because of the multitude of fiber colors, I was feeling fairly nervous about changing it, even though it is a very neutral color. And speaking of neutral colors and photography in low light and the worst picture ever:

The weather was SO gorgeous here on Saturday that we went and renewed our membership to the Botanical Gardens. Of course, I forgot my camera, which I bemoaned once I saw the veritable CARPET of yellow and pink tulips that covered entire beds. I hope we can go back this weekend and I can give you some eye candy. The Bradford pears and Japanese magnolias are long gone now, and the cherries are fading fast, but the dogwoods are just starting. Oh, how I love Spring!! Even if the pollen count is 2200 today.

We also saw The King's Speech Sunday. What a fantastic movie. The performances were simply outstanding and the story is so compelling it made us go home and research some British history. I surmise that the experience of watching it with full awareness of what came next must be much different than my viewing with only a vague idea of where things were going. It's rated R for language (which is limited to two scenes; one with excessive--20 times or so?--use of the F-word, one much less so).

I also got a manicure (nearly unheard of for me), mainly because the Georgia Marathon was running right by our house and I was unsure of when I'd be able to get home after church. I'll talk more about the manicure during the coming Disney cruise posts (OH YES, there are more'll all be sick of it, I'm sure). I'll leave you to wonder. ;)

I live for weekends.

Old Geek-outs