Dreaming of paradise...

Monday, October 28, 2013

Even though I live in paradise year round, when I plan a vacation (or daydream about one), I tend to head out to sea.  This week my favorite blogger  Empress Bee is blogging from the middle of the ocean. She got me thinking and dreaming about cruising.

A new ship is heading to Miami this winter called The Norwegian Getaway.  I'm thinking that this might be the next family vacation for us as this new ship (it arrives here in February) sails from here to the Caribbean year round.

I haven't sailed on NCL in awhile but the new ship looks like it could offer the  perfect family vacation. If you have kids or teens and haven't cruised, you might be missing out on the perfect family vacation. It has been said that traveling with children is usually just a change of scenery rather than a vacation. I think that cruising might be the exception. I've cruised with my boys several times starting when my youngest was 7 and these trips have always been a blast.

These are my top five reasons why a cruise could possibly be the best way to travel with kids and teens:

1. Everyone goes on the same vacation but everyone can do what is fun for them.  Ships today have kids and teen camps, game rooms and tons of activities for kids and teens to partake in.  The Norwegian Getawy is going to have a waterpark onboard. This would definitely keep my guys busy for quite a while.  When my son was younger, he wanted to go to the kids camp every single night. 

The Getaway is also going to have a huge sports complex complete with a  ropes course! 

2. You might see something besides the top of their heads during the trip. Today's modern ships have wifi and celluar-at-sea available but they are not cheap. Therefore, the "unplugging" of the kids (and the parents) is one of the best parts of this type of trip. I always make everyone turn off the phones and stick them in the room safe when the ship sails away from the dock.  (those roaming fees are steep on cell phones) 

On my last three cruises, we used the "post-it note" method. The kids had to leave a post it note with the time and their destination on the mirror in the cabin so we knew where to find them.  This worked like a charm. When they were younger, we used walkie-talkies.  This gave them a little bit of freedom and we did not worry. Even with the huge ships we were on, we could always find them.  We had rules about not going into other people's cabins, etc.  We usually found them at the free pizza parlor!

3.  For the most part, a cruise is paid for ahead of time. Unlike checking out of a regular  resort after a week and having a giant bill, you pay for the cruise before you step onboard.  Most meals are paid for so just your spending money is on the bill at the end. If you don't go crazy, it is usually not too painful to look at your bill at the end of the week. I have two teenaged boys. I think that cruising definitely is less expensive than feeding a la carte.

4. There are less decisions to be made than on a regular vacation.  For the most part, you can plan out your dinners and shows ahead of time on most cruises.  I always do this.  This means that I tell everyone in my family, "Dinner is at 7 tonight in the main dining room. You need to wear a collared shirt and long pants" There is no arguing involved. There is no whining It makes it easy on everyone.  If you have ever spent a day sightseeing and have tried to  get a whole car full of hungry tired people to agree on a type or cuisine or restaurant, you know what I'm talking about. Those type of discussions have led to having dinner at "Golden Coral" or "apple bees" in vacation destinations which is a wasted vacation meal opportunity in my book.

5.  Mom and Dad get a vacation too. You only have to unpack everyone once.  No one is bored.  Dad can sunbathe or gamble or scuba dive. Mom can sit somewhere in silence and read a book while watching the waves roll by or get a salt scrub in the spa. 

 The Getaway not only has a full spa but in it is a Salt room which is supposed to mimic the natural, highly therapeutic salt caves in Eastern Europe.  Sign me up!

As for cost, cruise prices vary with cruise lines and times of the year.  I think that a week on cruise is probably less than a week in Orlando  ( a day ticket to see Mickey is now $100 per person!). While I love theme parks just as much as the next mom, when I get off of a cruise I feel energized, relaxed and that everyone got away from it all. 

Now I just need to convince my husband to let me plan it! 


Monday, October 21, 2013

My blog friend Parsnip mentioned Sushi in her post today. This made me remember a great sushi roll that I had last week.  My husband works in Downtown Miami which is about 20 miles from my house. I try to drive him to work once a week and then I go down to pick him up and we try a new restaurant down there before we drive home.

Recently, he went to lunch at a Sushi place called Obba Sushi. He said that his lunch was great so that was last week's dinner date spot.  I ordered a Don Akil roll.  I don't know who Don Akil is but the description  sounded interesting . It is Yellowtail marinated in ginger yuzu sauce, with caviar, cilantro, asparagus, sesame seed with salmon and obba leaf.  The ginger taste was strong, and the roll was so flavorful. Sometimes it pays to try new things.

My favorite sushi roll of all time is a Kani Su. It is just cucumber wraped around crab and avocado and is served with rice wine vinegar. It is fresh and light.
It does not have rice so it is pretty low-cal.

I did have Sushi during my weekend B'nai Mitzvah event. I'm truly exhausted from the whole thing. It was a blast and will try to get up the energy to write about it this week. 

Do you like sushi? What is your favorite kind?  My mom is kind of scared of sushi. She still thinks of it as raw fish.  I think that she is missing out.

Sometimes you've just got go on an adventure...

Sunday, October 13, 2013

On Saturday morning,  fall hit South Florida.  This means highs of 85 degrees, a touch lower in humidity and no rain!  It was one of those few weekends that there was nothing on the agenda (except for homework and a mountain of laundry).  We decided to drive down to the Keys for lunch. The start of the Florida Keys is about 1.5 hours from my house and the further down you drive, the more interesting it becomes. 

We piled into the Prius with no real agenda. I had nothing other than a camera, phone and sunglasses. We wanted to pull into John Pennekamp State Park to check out the snorkeling options for future reference, eat some fish sandwiches and go feed giant tarpon fish.  We'd be home by five p.m.  It was a very un-ambitious itinerary. 

We piled into my new little car and started driving.   The sky was blue and as soon as we hit paradise, the water was even bluer.  I instantly remembered why I love these little islands so much.

First stop was John Pennekamp State Park.  There is nothing to see there above the water. There is great snorkeling but if you are not planning to snorkel or scuba dive, don't waste your time. 

We then headed south towards the middle keys. Sometime soon after, one of the boys asked "how far is Key West?"  We stated that it was about two hours down the road.  My husband asked if the three of us wanted to go all the way down. "We have to drive back tonight and it is a long ride home. We won't be home until late", he said. "Let's go!", the three other crazies (including me)stated. They boys wanted to see the Southern Most point of the US and the 7 mile bridge. Before we knew it we were in the...
The GPS advised that we would  get there at about 4 p.m. Once we were getting close, I started to do the math and thought that if we stayed to watch the sunset, we would not be home until midnight. It is a long, dark drive home. I started to google. I started to call hotels. Eveyone was booked (it was the Columbus Holiday weekend and Saturday night in Key West). It seemed hopeless.  I'm also a picky hotel person. The keys has really gross hotels. I refuse to stay in one that would skeeve me out. The odds were against us that we could find a non-gross room that would hold four people that was not $500 or more that night. 

Luck was on our side. We were stuck in a traffic jam right in front of this cute place. I told my husband to pull in. They had one room left. It had enough space for all of us.  "We'll take it, I screamed!".
This hotel is called the Parrot Key Resort.  It had the Old Key West style that is adorable but the rooms were nice. We had our own little porch with adirondack chairs.  It was perfect. We checked in. We had no luggage so we headed downtown to Key West.
Don't you love this cute red wall unit and turquoise chair combo?

We walked around, ate chocolate covered key lime pie on a stick, drank a beer at sloppy joes, ate conch fritters, looked at a lot of silly t-shirts, looked at a lot of amazing art and made it to the famous Mallory Square for sunset.

They celebrate sunset every day in Key West. If you've never done it before, you should add it to your bucket list.  You will want to have a sunset celebration every day when you get home.

Here are some people getting ready

 There it is!

We then ate dinner at a crazy good BBQ place and started to look around for some toothbrushes and sleepy clothes. We found a little outlet store where I got clean underwear and some PJs and we found a 24 hour drug store for toothbrushes.

This morning when we woke up we headed to this hunk of cement. It is not in a park or anything. Just on the end of the street. Morning was a great time to hit this tourist spot (my kids would have never forgiven me if we did not go). We were the only ones there.

We were hungry so we found a French Bakery

Those are nutella filled donuts. OMG! Worth every calorie.

We then started to drive home. We stopped at this cool place called Robbies. You can feed wild tarpon there. For $1 you can look at them. For $3 you can feed them. I just looked. The boys fed them.  They were huge!
This guy was about four feet long!
 This egret was just walking around the gift shop at the Tarpon place.  

If you are ever in the keys, I would recommend this stop. It was awesome.

We then made a pit stop at Holiday Isle resort. This place used to be a dive of the best kind. I spent many a spring break there having too much fun in my younger days.  They fixed it up and it looks great. I even saw a wedding going on.  Can you see the bride in front of the golf cart?
 Here is the groom...

Here is another view of the resort...

 We made it home by 1:00 Sunday. Just in time for homework, food shopping and laundry :( Back to reality. Our spontaneous mini-break was amazing. I hope that my kids will look back on it one and remember our fun little adventure!

No wonder they keep raising the rates...

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The US post office made a set of stamps called "just move". The stamps were aimed at getting children to be more active. As I typed that, I realized how ridiculous it is to think that a postage stamp would motivate anyone to do anything but I guess that it is better than promoting eating sugar

I would have certainly purchased a set of these to put on my cute letters that I send to my boys at sleep away camp but I doubt that a letter with a stamp saying "toss" would pull them away from the poker games that are played on the floor of the cabin during their downtime.

As you might know, the post office keeps saying that they are losing money. I don't know how this can be true as my little eBay business alone probably keeps someone in a job over there. However, they keep complaining and are going to raise postage rates again in January.

To make matters worse, they are going to destroy the entire press run of the "just move" stamp series. It seems that the President's Council of Fitness, Sports & Nutrition (those same guys who used to make you try to do pull ups in elementary school) were worried that three of the stamps were promoting unsafe activities.

These unsafe stamps were "Cannonball", "Skateboarding (without pads)"and Balance (doing a  headstand without a helmet)


Here are my thoughts: 

  •  These are drawings of faceless kids.

  • Who is going to claim that they skateboarded without pads after viewing it on a stamp?

  • Other than kids at camp, actually gets any mail with stamps on it?

  • What is wrong with a good old fashioned cannonball?

  • Last, but not least,  who the hell wears a helmet when doing a handstand?

This is government bureaucracy at its worse.  Just when I thought I could not be any more angry at Washington, this stupid report came out.  What will happen next? 

Only in Miami...

    I took this photo myself yesterday at an intersection near the mall. (I was not driving and photographing!)  It cracked me up. I guess dogs need to get to the mall too.

Teens and Drugs?

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

     Last night I attended an information seminar at my son's high school.  They talked about a lot of important stuff but the thing that stuck with me the most is when a family therapist stood up and mentioned that there are a lot of drugs in schools today. All schools, not just the "bad" ones. Way more craziness that when I was in high school in the 80's.  

     She stated that parents are naive about it.  She mentioned that the latest craze at high school parties is that all attendees raid their parent's medicine cabinets and steal a few pills. All of the attendees place the pills in a bowl in the middle of the room so it looks like a big bowl of colorful candy and they each kid takes a few. Talk about dangerous!

     I try to scare my kids about drugs all of the time. I have a cousin that ruined her bright life with drugs.  We have a close family friend whose father is a deadbeat crackhead. I don't edit the stories when talking about these two stories.  I try to remind them that they can't experiment. When someone famous dies of drugs, I remind them.  I hope that they listen.

    Then today I read that the producers of GLEE have decided NOT to have Cory Monteith's character, Finn,  die of drug use.  If you remember Cory died recently of a heroin overdose.(they have not announced what kills the character but have announced that it won't be drugs)   Its a wasted opportunity if you ask me.   

    I used to love GLEE but when the main characters graduated, I lost interest in the show BUT a lot of young children and teens still watch.  They will be crying tonight watching everyone pretty much glamorize the death of a young man by singing songs about him.  Wouldn't it be better to try to save a life or two by making him die from trying drugs just once. Something to scare kids. Like how about Finn went to a music festival and tried Molly (a  form of ectasy) and died. In my opinion, its a travesty that they are not using his death from drugs as part of the story line.

Time to squish the girls...

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

I got my annual mammogram today.  I always get mine in October because with all of the pink ribbon stuff going on everywhere, I can't forget.  If you are due for one, get it this month, then it will be easy to remember when your next one is.

One of my good friends skipped hers one year because her mother was dying.  It was the wrong year to skip. By the time she went the following year, she had a tumor that was big and had spread to the lymph nodes.  No one knows if it would have shown up the year before, but bets are that it would have, as by the time it was discovered it was a big and mean tumor.  She is fine now but she had a pretty crappy time kicking cancer's butt.

Sorry for the scary story but it serves a point. If you are due, don't put it off. Mine today hurt like hell but it was over very quickly. I know far too many women, young and old, that are BC survivors. 


Sunday, October 6, 2013

Something really good happened to my son this week.  I'm really proud of his accomplishment.  I wanted to brag so I called his grandparents.  I also told my best friend who happened to call me as I was reading the letter that brought the good news.  I wanted to shout the great news from the rooftops and tell anyone else who would listen but I didn't. Why? Because I'm not a bragger.

I'm not a big fan of braggers. (Especially social network braggers)

I think that they brag because:
1. They are truly happy or excited about the thing.
2. They want others to be happy for them.
3. They want others to be jealous of them.

What happens when someone far removed brags (especially on social networking?)
1. People are truly happy or excited for them
2. People are jealous of them
3. People think negative thoughts about them

 I'm at the age where many of my friends have kids in the high school/college stage.  This seems to be the height of bragging age. My real friends tell me the highs and lows of their parenting lives. I feel true joy for their triumphs and real empathy for the-not-so great news with regards to their children.  I've never felt a negative or jealous feeling when someone that I really care about has something great happen to them.

That being said, when Facebook friends start bragging about their straight A student or their child's acceptance to the Junior honor society, I'm not that happy for them.  Sometimes, I even have negative thoughts like "I can't believe the jughead who used to call his Dad "A-hole" at the playground is now making the Princiapal's honor roll" or worse.   I'm not a jealous person. I truly believe that I would not want to trade lives with anyone on the planet but there is something about bragging that really rubs me the wrong way.

Bruce Feiler in an article in the New York Times titled A Truce in the Bragging Wars discussed the fact that Mommy bloggers only agree on one thing, that parents should stop bragging about their kids. He even set out guidelines for acceptable bragging (i.e. brag about effort, brag in context, brag to granny)

Feiler goes on to say that Parents want to brag because parenting is such a scary road and they want reassurance that they are doing well. I'm not sure that this is the case. I think it is because it really, really sucks when things are not going well with your kids.  Whether the problems with your kids are tiny (when my two year old bit a kid at pre-school almost every day, I thought I was a complete disaster as a mother) or the problems are bigger and more dangerous (as problems with older children often are), it is very hard to be happy. When you see a bad report card, it makes you feel worse than the subject of the report.  When your child screws up, it makes you feel like you failed.  So when your child accomplishes something whether it be peeing in the potty or getting into college, it is hard not to feel like it is your accomplishment too.

How do you feel about bragging? 

I'm a bad cook but I came up with something good...

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

I'm a horrible cook. It is crazy because my sister graduated from culinary school and my Mom is a great cook. I don't know what happened to me.  

When I fell in love with my husband a million (23) years ago, I immediately instituted what I like to call "The Chinese Rule".  If I cook something and it sucks, he is free to order Chinese Take out without any hurt feelings.  This rule has been put to use many times over the years and it has now evolved to the "Cereal for Dinner Rule" by my sons.

So it is quite shocking to me that the following recipe is a HUGE hit with all three of the giant men who live in my home.  

I've been trying for years to get my boys to eat eggs in the morning before school.  I feel that the protein helps them focus.  It has been an uphill battle. They will eat eggs for a few days and then ask for cereal or waffles.

I started making a variation of this recipe for myself a few months ago and tweeked it to where my  husband and sons are begging for it.  My husband even brought some into work one morning and everyone was raving.

I never use these Pilsbury cresent rolls in anything else
 but here, they are really yummy and they take no time to make...

I used the low fat version of the rolls but I bought the regular ones at Costco this week. They taste the same

I use a muffin pan that makes 6 jumbo muffins. Spray with Pam
Pre-heat oven to 350

Put one uncooked crescent roll in each muffin cup. 
Take one small carton of egg beaters and pour evenly across the 6 muffin tins until carton in empty
Sometimes I put a half a piece of crumbled bacon in each cup. I'm not a bacon eater but the men love it and a half of a piece is not really terrible.
Sprinkle with shredded cheese

Cook in oven for 30 minutes

Thats it. They are best served right out of the oven but can be reheated.

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