Sunday, June 28, 2015

Almost Honest

Are you ready for another edition of me telling you about how absolutely boring exciting my life is?

Thank heavens because I'm going to WOW you with excitement. Ready?

Def Leppard if you can believe it. Shuffle is an evil bitch sometimes. It'll drop a song that takes you back to a time of better and with the first beat of a song your transported to those days.  Oh, and I'm also listening to thunder. Which sucks because it's 80F outside and the rain is going to make it humid!

Two things actually - well actually three but one's almost over and I plan to write about that at a later date. So for the purposes of this...two things.

The first is Dear Daughter by Elizabeth Little. I have no idea where or how this book ended up on the Nook of Goodness, but it's there. I'm determined to read through all the books on my Nook before buying any new ones. So far, with the exception of book club books, I've bought no new books at random. Ahem...anyhow, Dear Daughter is a murder mystery. It was slow to start and 100 pages in it's finally getting interesting. Which is a good thing, because 100 pages or 3 chapters is my limit before I toss the book aside if I'm not interested.

The other thing I'm "reading" is - wait for it - Foundations of Information Privacy and Data Protection: A Survey of Global Concepts, Laws and Practices. Phew. That's a mouth full. "Why am I reading that?" you ask. Well it's simple, the best job in the world and the best boss in the world offered to pay for me to be certified as a CIPP (Certified Information Privacy Professional). I've thought about being certified before, but it's expensive and I just wasn't willing to shell out $600 for the test, plus whatever for training. It's a slow going reading book and one I won't give up by page 100 if it's boring.

Well, nothing right now. I have done all my grocery shopping for the week and have a relatively healthy plan for next week. Not that it's going to matter one bit (see Contemplating).

I did think about boiling up a cat named Lucy last week when she escaped from the house and gave me a small heart attack. Yes, oh yes, she's grounded...for life.

My job. I worked probably 55 hours last week and I loved every minute of it. Its busy, sometimes chaotic, in constant flux and on the brink of change, but I love everything about it.  It's been a long, LONG time since I actually look forward to working long hard hours. They feeling of appreciation is everywhere so I don't feel like I'm working for no reason. Everyone's busy and everyone appreciates you working hard.

That being said, I'm no fan of 55 hour work weeks. Work/life balance and all.

And it's probably not a good idea to say that I'm loving these no bake cookies from QFC...but OH MY GOD they're good and way too convenient.

Things with my weight loss haven't been going great. I went three week of eating well and exercising a lot and didn't lose an ounce. A chance conversation with a friend made me realize I might have a thyroid problem. Turns out the MomUnit does too. And it turns out it's VERY common for women in their 40's to have thyroid problems. So at least I'm part of the cool kids finally.

The contemplation part comes in with whether to see a western doctor or a naturopath. The naturopath is going to win because I can get in to see her quicker. But the truth is, I don't want to take a pill for the rest of my life and worry that this the breeze the blows down my house of cards - also known as my denial that I'm getting older.

At any rate, I hate the way I feel these days and if that one little pill can make a difference, then I guess I should be happy it's something as "minor" as thyroid.

So there you have it. That exciting, thrilling ride that's called my life.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Secrets! Secrets! I won't tell.

Secrets. We all have them. We all keep them. We all share them.

Our book club this month was The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty.  At book club Princess Lori asked if we all had secrets we didn't share. Truth is we all do.

Then she asked if you would share a secret if it meant protecting a loved one.  I answered yes right away.

I do truly believe there are times when secrets can and should be shared. Sometimes the person telling you the secret doesn't really realize how bad things are, or how much help they need/want.

Though, admittedly, sharing a secret can back fire.

Let's say for example, if you knew your best friend was being cheated on by her boyfriend. Would you tell her? Or any friend for that matter? Would you tell them?

I did. In college. And it cost me a friendship. Would I do again? In a heartbeat. Would I want to know? Absolutely.

Then there are those secrets that aren't really secrets. They are, rather, something that happened and for whatever reason or other the person doesn't want people to know. If you knew and you also knew that said person is being ridiculous about sharing this "secret". And you knew that by sharing it with someone else, the said person would have more support. Would you share the secret?

Do you think not telling someone you love a secret you are keeping is lying to that person?

See, there's so many levels to "secrete". I try not to keep too many to myself - meaning I'm an open book so just about anything about me, I'll tell you. If something went wrong in my life, I wouldn't keep it in...I mean hello, I write a blog.

I've shared secrets I probably shouldn't have. And I've kept secrets for years...decades. To this day I have secrets I've never shared.

What about you? Do you think sharing secrets is sometimes ok? Or do you think they should never be shared? Do you have secrets?

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Measuring it all

Last Sunday I talked about my constant attempt to eat healthy and lose a few pounds.  And last Sunday I set myself up for success.  I wasn't 100% successful, I still made not such great choices, but I made them knowing that it was OK. In fact, I stuck to my plan in the face of being asked to go get something for lunch that I LOVE...I still stuck to my plan. So that felt good.

I only got 1 work out in last week even though I had plenty of time and opportunity. The lazy won last week. In fact, the ONE work out I got was a 30 minute walk that I almost cancelled because I didn't bring my shoes with me. The gal I was walking with said, let's just walk in our flip flops and see how far we get. So we did. Knowing my feet hurt on a good day I thought for sure they'd hurt after that...turns out they did not.

So why was last week so easy for me? Because I planned. I swear the best way to make myself even remotely close to being successful is to plan.

Last Sunday I went grocery shopping with a very specific list. I had a very specific meal plan for the week and I took the time to do all the prep work.  Instead of letting myself when hungry determining the serving size, I pre-packaged all my meals into serving sizes. For example, hummus. I love hummus. I'm sure I assume I only eat 2 T in a sitting but can bet I eat more. So I put 2 T of hummus in containers and had that with my carrots. I also measured out all my ham for my sandwiches - 2 oz of ham is quite a bit it turns out.

By the end of the week I was happy with my decisions. Found areas to improve and felt motivated enough to move forward. I lost no weight last week, but at the end of the day, that's a number. And I think that the real success comes from sticking "mostly" to a plan AND even having the plan.

I did a lot of thinking about failure last week to. Failure on all levels, not just weight loss. And wondered how we can set up future generations of girls to not feel failure around every corner. I think there's a future blog in my thoughts so I'll just leave it there.

This week is going to be much of the same. I've got my grocery list ready, my work out clothes on, my menu printed, my recipes printed...and I'm good to go. It's a sunny, beautiful (and hot) day today and there's promise in the air.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Lather, Rinse, Repeat

You know that saying, right?

Lather - Rinse - Repeat?

It's used to express doing something over and over again and ultimately ends up in a vicious circle.

That my friends is my life in a nutshell when it comes to weight loss.

I used dreamed of what it would be like to be one of those "skinny girls" who seem to have the world in their hands and everything together. Then I realized that "skinny" isn't what I really wanted for myself.

It's a by product of what I want for myself.

To be healthy.

As I age I've realized I can't keep putting things off. Sooner or later that closed closet that I've stuffed all my "must get to's" in is going to burst open and I'm going to be wondering what happened to all the time.

So, are you with me? Cuz here we go again.

I've noticed of late that I've just not been feeling myself. Something has wrapped it's arms around me and has made me feel - well - less than me. I wouldn't say it's depression, cuz that's not it. But more of a, "meh" feeling.

I started thinking about all the aspect of my life and ranking them from 1-10 how well I felt about them. Turns out everything seems fine with the exception of a healthy mind and body. That my first thought, albeit jokingly, (at least I thought so) was, "How about a negative 2?"

I put the pen down for a second, sat back, crossed my legs - uncomfortably - because that's what happens when you're fat and thought about my "joking" comment to myself.

Was I joking? Or was that my subconscious rearing it's ugly head and smacking me upside mine?

I had a boss once tell me that self-deprecating jokes are really a view into a person's soul and now I'm thinking that might be true.

I hate eating healthy. Hate it. All the other crunchy, fried, smothered in cheese or sauce stuff is what makes me happy. Or does it? Is it really just a quick fix for short term happiness? I wonder if I've been fooling myself this whole time? That's a rhetorical question...I know the answer to that.

This last week I met with a couple of girlfriends to discuss this book we're reading called The Willpower Instinct. Honestly I've got almost nothing out of the book and really have been afraid to take it very seriously. I mean, what if it fixes something? Then what? But that's besides the point - the point is we inevitably get into talking about weight loss and what it means to have a healthy lifestyle. Both these friends have, themselves, been walking a healthy lifestyle path. Both have had wins and losses. Both have had great days and bad days. Both have had a moment of when they just say, "F*ck it!" Interesting. Me too.

But it was what one of the two friends said that got me thinking. See I've failed a hundred and one ways in weight loss and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. My inner fat chick always wins.  And once she wins and I eat something "off the plan" then I stop. Why bother? That's my theory. I'm just going to plan again, eat well again - but for how long. And this friend said to me that she too is in the loop ... even now after having lost significant weight. And what she's found is that if she just thinks about and plans for one day at a time, everything seems easier. She's not overwhelmed with the "big picture".

This isn't new to me. I use this theory when I talk to people who need to organize their houses or something and I tell them the same thing. Don't think of the entire house. Think of the one closet. Funny...sure wish I was good at my own advice.

So here we are...again...I've planned my week. I've grocery shopped. I've prepped my food so all I have to do is grab and go. I've written in ink when I'm working out and I've given myself ONE free lunch next week and ONE free dinner.

I am sure to fail at some point during the week. But I'm hoping that my new thought, my new plan, my new conversation with myself will get me back on the wagon. After all I have a hundred dollars worth of food to eat so I'd better stay on it.

Don't wish me luck. Send me a text of FB post of support.
Don't tell me "you can do it"...I know I can...but tell me to hang in for just today.
Don't ask me what I've eaten today...but don't tempt me with something delicious either.

I'm a complex much as I don't want to admit it...I am. And I'm not unique in that way. We all are. We all have our demons and no one's life is as great as we on the outside assume. So to all those skinny girls I used to be envious apologies cuz you might have been struggling with something worse than weight loss...

And here we go...please don't hold it against me, or think worse of me when I stumble and fall.

Saturday, May 30, 2015


I can always tell when I've been super busy at blogging decreases as my work increases. I'm still getting used this working full time with enough work to keep you busy today, tomorrow, and well into the future. Oh don't get me wrong, I still love my job and everything about the company I work's just been busy.

And I like busy.

In fact, this past week I got to do something I hadn't realized I even wanted to do.

Who knew I wanted to drink beer and do a VERY LARGE shot of whiskey? I blame my friend RB who was the reason for this drinking...

Truth is it was going to a Sounders game that was the thing I didn't realize I wanted to do. Friend RB had some tickets and asked if I wanted to go. After saying yes, I spent the next several days talking myself out of going. I seem to do that more and more. But alas, I just felt I had to go and do it. And I'm glad I did.

I knew three things about soccer before I went.  1) there's a ball, 2) there are players who can't use their hands and 3) there are two goals. I think I still know just as much, and yet it was pretty easy to follow and understand. A few calls three me, but it sounded like it threw the fans too.

The fans stand the entire time. I had been "warned" about that and yet I found standing for 90 minutes (two 45 minute halves) wasn't bad at all...if you had a beer with you.

I suspect I'll go again some day...I mean it has beer and hot guys running around the field. Who wouldn't want to go? Granted those "guys" are like half my age...well, maybe not...

In other there other news? I think I've been too busy to have other news.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Put me In Coach...I'm Ready to Play

Back when I was a junior in high school I picked up volleyball and managed to get myself on the junior varsity team. I spent the summer before my junior year at a volleyball camp learning the sport and was surprised how easily it came to me. I was a natural. Or so I thought.

Our team wasn’t great, but we didn’t suck either. We won some and we lost some.

Our last game of the season is the ONLY game that really sticks out for me. I was one of our starters and, at the time, had a pretty decent serve, so generally started in that position. We sided out and then rotated so that I was in the back left of the court for our team. Receiving serves from the other team.

The first serve was wicked and I totally shanked it.

The second serve was much like the first.

The third serve…shocker was like the first two.

The coach took a time out and I BEGGED him to substitute someone in for me.

He wouldn’t. Instead he said, “You’ve got this.”

Back on the court the next serve, thankfully did not go to me. But the one after that was. Somehow I managed to focus myself and return it enough for us to get a side out.

The point to this story is that I was ready to give up and my coach had more faith in me than I did. He stood behind me and gave me the encouragement he thought I needed.

Meanwhile, I had zero confidence and was only concerned that everyone would blame me if we lost. Forgetting, of course, that volleyball is a team sport. But when you’re in high school that doesn’t matter.

And I suppose a subpoint would be, sometimes things just suck.

I tell you this story because this week at work I had an encounter with a client that threw me under the bus. In true Best Company in the World fashion, my boss asked me what went on instead of believing the client’s rant immediately. In addition, my colleague, Queen Bee, was right by my side reiterating all the stuff I was telling the boss.

The boss, much like the coach, kept me in the game. And for that I’m pretty grateful. He trusts that I know what I’m doing and that, perhaps, the client might be a bit nuts.

But at the end of the date, Queen Bee and I decided that to keep the distraction out of the project, that maybe I should just be the PM on the back end and not have any contact with the client. Hoping that by removing me the client can focus on the work at hand and not worry about what we’re doing. We shall see.

In other news, Memorial day is quickly approaching. For two years in a row we spent it in Odessalet saying good bye to first Dad and the BigBro. I can’t tell you how THRILLED I am to not be going to Odessalet this weekend. Though I have this thought that if the weather is nice, Sparky and I might spend the 6 hours driving over and back to just say hi to BigBro and Dad. We’ll see. 

And last Sunday was Sunday dinner. We had a small group this month, which meant only one thing...RIBS.  This rib recipe is quickly becoming a favorite for everyone...and there's a good reason why. It's delicious. 

I also bought some props for the photo since I feel like I need to spice it up some.  Turned out everyone liked them...mostly. The cats are still no fan of the "being held by humans for a photo" thing.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Happy Mother's Day, Mom!

I know I'm lucky. I know that my relationship with my mom is not always how it is with mother's and daughters. I know that now. I didn't always know that. I assumed that every mother and daughter were as close as I was with my mom. Turns out that's not the case.  For those daughters and mothers, I am sad.

This woman I am proud and honored to call my friend and my mother. We haven't always been friends, I was a teen ager at one time after all. Though the way I remember it I was an angel of a teenager...

This woman worked her whole life. I don't remember a single time in our lives where she was a "stay home mom". I was a latch key kid, because she worked. She worked so we had a pretty decent life.

This woman was a teacher. Not by trade, but by the fact that she was a mom. She taught me so many things that I can barely even think where to begin the list. I can clean my house because of her. I can do my own laundry because of her. I can cook because of her (and dad but mostly her). I can carry on a conversation with people and not be disrespectful because of her (if you know my mom you know how she reacts to disrespectful children...). She taught me manners. She taught me how to have a strong work ethic. And the list goes on.

This woman was a nurse. I'm a horrible sick person. I whine and am not fun to be around. This woman though hopped on a plane and flew immediately to Seattle when I was hospitalized in the early 2000's for blood clots. There was nothing that was going to stop her from being by my side and taking care of me. She did the same thing again in 2009.

This woman is a care giver. She not only took care of dad as he lived his last years. He wasn't a pleasant person as the Alzheimer's took hold, but she stood by his side and took care of him until his dying day.

This woman is a therapist. I can't count the number of times I've bounced things off her. Or cried on her shoulder because some uncaring boy didn't love me. Or cried because I lost a cat. Or needed a sounding board to help me make decisions - not that I always followed her advice.

Suffice it to say, she's been a bit of everything. She's retired now and while she lives in Tucson and I love in Seattle, we talk several times a week. I can't ever imagine not hearing her voice on the other side of a phone.

So thanks mom for all you've done and for helping shape me into the woman I am today.

Friday, May 08, 2015

Meanwhile... in Redmond

Since I've not written a lot lately, and apparently I'm boring...I'm going to give you an episode of "Currently"...

Cousin K posted a song on FB today from Nickelback called Burn it to the Ground...and well needless to say it's stuck in my noggin. I must put this song on my "Top's Down Sunny Day" playlist.

Also listening to Linus wig out. He's got a bit of the crazies tonight and is flying around the house yeowling...

I just finished the world's longest book...ok, maybe not. But The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. Was it a good book? Absolutely. Would I recommend it? You bet. Is it my favorite I've read recently? Nope.

That honor goes to Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty.  This was our book club book this month. I've ready two other books by this author (What Alice Forgot and The Husband's Secret) and loved them both. THIS book put me over the edge with her. This book has a great story line, touching on domestic violence and bullying, all the while throwing in the resilience of female relationships and WHAM a twist that I did not see coming. It's a quick read and I highly recommend it.

Poorly. That's what I'm eating. I've gotten into this horrible habit of participating in the subsidized lunch program at work. So I lazy out in planning lunches. It's not about the money more so about the choices I make. The places on the list, while delicious, don't really - well let's put it this way...I don't make good choices at these places because they have some delicious food.

Also...I found a row of thin mints in the pantry and have now, in two nights, ate the entire row.

So I got the demons this new cat tent so they can play outside. I think they'll really love it once they get used to it. Right now they look at me like I've put them in prison or something. What I love even more is the hours of entertainment I'm getting by watching dingledork (aka Linus) figure out how to get in and out of it. It's not hard. There's a big door. But he can't seem to figure it out and tries to "escape" by running in any direction and consequently running into the mesh wall at full speed. I laugh my ass off every time he does it and have YET to get it on video.

Right now I'm contemplating my lack of motivation to get to my killer gym. It started the week before vacation...and by "started" I mean not going. Here we are 2 almost 3 weeks since I've been back and I've not gone once. I keep promising myself I will and I don't. I come up with any number of reasons to not. So my contemplation is what's stopping me. Where's that motivation I need hidden? Why can't I just go? It's not like I hate it. In fact, I actually love it. And I know....I KNOW I'll feel great after.  So here I sit, typing out a blog instead of working out...

Overall is pretty awesome currently and I just can't complain about anything. Well, I could. But I won't.

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Hola....Como estan?

Hi! Yah it's me. The "owner" of this blog.  Apparently I've been busy or something since it's been since April 19th that I actually posted anything here. I kept thinking about writing and kept thinking, "But you just did." Clearly my thoughts are distorted.

A big thing happened since I last wrote...

That's right! This girl won the Quarterly Star award at work. And THIS girl was shocked and stunned and still is having a hard time believing I won.

But let me explain a bit first.

You know I love my job and the company. It's generally a love fest when we have our monthly meetings. We do this ThanksUnlimited thing, of which I've won a couple of times. And then once a quarter we vote on who we believe should win this Quarterly Star award. my cynical mind I figured people who touch ALL aspects of the company are more likely to win because - well they touch all parts of the company. I never, EVER, in my wildest dreams have imagined I'd win.

It's crazy, but I feel so honored.

See the people I work with are smart. I mean SMART...and everyone holds themselves and everyone else to a ridiculously high standard. We're all stars really. So to be chosen and singled out is...well...overwhelming.

For one quarter I get my own parking spot with this sign!

But here's the fun part. So tradition at this company is that we all sing to the winner. The HR gal picks a song and re-writes the lyrics to announce the winner. This month's song was California Girls from the Beach Boys. 

We do a trial run and sing the song with the real lyrics. Then she hands out the new lyrics.

We start singing...these lyrics.

Q1 kept us busy and our numbers really soared
When your votes came in boy the race was tight
Let’s look at what our winner scored
In addition to a paid day off is that awesome parking space
Time to pack it up Mini and get outta there
Because the Mustang’s takin’ your place
This is how we honor our winning
This is how we honor our winning
This is how we honor our winning star
She brought compliance knowledge and she quickly learned the ropes
Like how to manage all those client demands 
And still fulfill their high high hopes
Jennifer we thank you for all the hard work that you've done
And in addition to all that booty you get
There's one more honor that you've won
Now here's the funnier thing. As we're singing the song I see the word Mustang and I'm thinking, "Oh. Don has a Mustang. Cool. He won."
And as I'm thinking this I glance up and notice everyone's staring at me. Odd.
I still have not seen my name. Then it hits me as we hit that verse. I almost cried. No lie. I almost broke down and cried. Thank GOD I didn't cuz in this crowd I might not ever live it down.
So ya. I still love my job. I still love this company and I feel so honored and blessed to get up every morning and be a part of such a fantastic group of people And apparently they like me. They really, really like me!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Barcelona / Canary Islands Photo Scavenger Hunt

About a thousand years ago I read a photography article about asking friends/family for a list of photos you should take on your vacation. The author was surprised at the variety of options presented to him.  He had ridiculous options, mundane options, obvious options etc.

What he ultimately found is by having this list he was constantly scanning his surroundings. He found he was more aware of things on his vacation and found that trying to find these photos made him a better photographer in many ways. The first, and biggest in my opinion, is taking photos that you might have normally missed.

This vacation I had a list of 20 items that my friends and family had given me. Facebook is a wonderful thing for this type of game too. I had done this last year for the trip to Rome but wasn't prepared enough to remember to actually write the photos down. This year I had them written down and shared them with the SIL to help keep me focused on taking them.

Here's the scavenger hunt list and photos.

1. Pickpocket

You'd think it'd be easy to get this photo in a place like Barcelona considering we had been warned and warned about the gypsies and their pickpocketing career. Still I found it was super hard to do. Instead, I took a picture of this crazy woman sitting in the square. She was talking to the birds and yelling at the seagulls when they came around. The more interesting, and frightening, part is she was literally falling out of her shirt. I put on my telephoto lens to check her out when I noticed her girls were out as well. That is not an image you want burned into your brain.

2. Selfies
I'm horrible at selfies. I have short arms and a fat face, which leaves very little room for anything in the background. My friend H is constantly posting selfies and I noticed she rarely has her entire head in the photo.  So SIL and I decided to try that in this photo. We had just scattered Dad's ashes and were walking along the water front. These sand castles had been built for Easter and some of them were pretty darn amazing. I took two photos. The second photo was so bad of both of us that it's been deleted so it never EVER falls into the wrong hands.

3. Cafes and Desserts
Lunch at Cafe Zuricj
Did someone say tapas?

Breakfast at the hotel

This was a no brainer. Although I may have misinterpreted this one. When I was thinking "cafes" I was thinking what we were eating, not the actual café. I only took one photo of a café we ate at, but have several photos of our ham and cheese sandwiches and tapas. We didn't really eat desserts, so that part I didn't even consider.

4. Nature within the city
I wasn't sure how easy or hard this one would be. Some cities don't have "nature" that's worthy.  Barcelona, and many of the places we stopped, thankfully, had some great nature (trees, flowers, mountains etc.) I couldn't originally decide which photo to use for this. But this photo is one of my favorites. SIL and I were doing the walking tour of the Gothic Quarter and this little church was on the list. Alongside the church was this little garden with beautiful orange flowers.

5. Travel companion in a compromising position
No photo for this. Though I tried. SIL made it hard. She knew about this one and I think was hyper aware of what she was doing so I wouldn't take a photo of her in a compromising position.

6. Jamon

Probably the easiest of the list and yet the one I couldn't take enough photos of. We visited La Boqueria open market in Barcelona (and ultimately found a fantastic bar inside that had the BEST ham and cheese sandwiches). The thing about the open market is everything is out in the open. We marveled at how unsanitary we American's considered it. No refrigeration for some things where we would have and all the ham, seafood, etc just sitting out in the open.  There must have been 30 stores that were selling Iberian jamon.  In all the cases, these legs were hung up and when they were slicing it, the leg of pig was attached to this crazy cuff thing.

7. Someone in a hat sipping a coca cola
I love the specific-ness of this one. And I was sure I wouldn't get a picture of this.  I chose to take some artistic liberties with this one, and took this photo on the last day we spent in Barcelona before we came home. I wouldn't have even seen it had a friend we met on the cruise hadn't pointed out another guy in a hat drinking a coke.  The other guy wasn't nearly as interesting as this character. And whether he has coke in his cup we'll never know. My "artistic liberty" is that he's drinking coke.

8. An interesting doorway
This was one I knew wouldn't be a problem either. I love taking pictures of doors. I also figured Europe and Spain in particular would have a ton of interesting doors.  While in Casablanca I tried to get some interesting door shots with the Moorish arches.  That proved harder than I expected. Then when we were in the Kasbah and we were walking out of the fortress we passed this door. I knew it would be the door for this request.

9. Picture of myself in a disco, dancing
So yah, no photo for this one either. SIL and I aren't night owl type of people and were in bed well before the discos opened.  I did have a thought of perhaps using the disco on the boat during the day, but then completely forgot about this one.

10. Picture of someone named Heather
I knew that Heather wasn't a very popular name in Spain and figured this one wouldn't happen. Then when we were in Teneriffe many of the trees up on this mountain were Heather Trees.  So I again, decided to take artistic liberties and take a photo of a Heather tree instead. Then I couldn't get any photos of these trees without them being blurry. SIL and I decided that a blurry picture of a heather tree actually fit the personality of the Heather who gave me this photograph request.

11. Starbucks sign
Barcelona, turns out, has several Starbucks.  I think I counted about 6 different ones as we walked through the city.  Taking a photo of Starbucks wherever I travel is actually something I normally do anyhow.  So this one was a breeze.

12. A Spanish version of Linus and Lucy
This one sent me in an entirely different direction. It started in Casablanca when I saw the first cat. I took a photo thinking I may not get a photo of a black/white cat.  Then as I walked a bit further into the Kasbah, this beauty was sitting there. Ahhh...a Linus/Lucy cat...granted it wasn't in Spain. But I figured that at one time this cat's family had lived in Spain and she was just visiting relatives in Casablanca. So I counted it.

Then what happened is everywhere I saw a cat, I took a photo. In fact, at one point this little brat of a boy (he really wasn't a brat he was surprisingly well behaved) called me out for taking another photo of another cat.
Cat in the Kasbah
Another cat in the Kasbah
Mr. Cat in Tenerife
This little guy was mooching food in Casablanca
Also at the Kasbah
This sweet cat was at a roadside stop we made in Malaga
13. Chains

I stumbled onto these chains on the island of Lanzarote. We had stopped for lunch and across the street was this cut little church.  Wanting to go inside the church we walked over only to find a wedding of christening was taking place and we couldn't go inside. So walking along the outside I found this old chain fence. I couldn't decide which one of these I liked best.

14. Picture of a purple flower

These beauties were in the Alhambra.  Not only are they purple flowers, but they're the MomUnit's favorite flower.  And we had been at the Alhambra in 1986 and I had been flooded with memories from that trip. It seemed like a win-win to me.

15. A noteworthy mustache
Are you kidding me? I hate taking photos of people, let alone people I don't know.  I did see a few mustaches, but none of real "noteworthy-ness".  Then SIL went into this little store in Teneriffe that had this little doll. I think a yarn mustache is noteworthy...don't you?

16. An old padlock and key

I wasn't sure about this one. Finding an old padlock AND key might prove to be challenging.  So again, I took some liberties.  Finding old locks would be easier for sure. I took a couple of photos of old locks, but liked this one the best...even though the actual lock isn't old, the hatch is.

17. A crab
Since we were bringing the crab hats with us, this one wouldn't be too hard. But beyond that, La Boqueria made taking a photo of a crab easy. There were lots of live crabs in that market.  When we visited this underground lava tube that had a lagoon in it, the lagoon has these white, blind crabs only found there. I really wanted to get a photo of those, but in a dark room with crystal clear water, there was no way without a tripod.

18. A pretty, or interesting, bug on a bridge rail

THIS one was one I also put in the "not gonna happen" file.  I did find this interesting worm thing in Teneriffe. Granted it wasn't on a rail of a bridge, but at least it's a bug.

19. An obvious American tourist
My original plan for this one was to have SIL take a photo of me with two cameras around my neck, and a map in my hand...then we found/saw this.  SIL actually saw him first and on our last day.  I had my camera in my bag and couldn't get it out quick enough. Thankfully the American tourist had to stop before crossing the tree...and since I had a telephoto lens I could capture the photo. It isn't a great photo and really was only taken to check this off my list.

20. A picture of a pregnant woman on a Vespa
When I read this one I decided my friends must hate me. What was going to be the actual possibility of this? Almost none.  When we were in Casablanca I was watching the crazy traffic for something interesting to shoot. After having been in Saudi I knew that the chances of something crazy happening in this city with regards to traffic would be a possibility.  SIL saw a cow in the back of a truck, but didn't get a photo.  As we sat at a stop light, I saw this and had to take the photo.  It's not a Vespa. And it's not a pregnant woman.  But it's close.

And so there they are. I wanted to thank everyone who gave me a photo idea. It was fun doing this and practicing my "awareness" of my surroundings.  I am trying to think of a way to do this in my everyday life. Any ideas?

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Norwegian Spirit

This is my second time on the Norwegian Spirit. The first was my first cruise in 2010 - the big family cruise out of New Orleans and cruising to the "exotic Caribbean". The ship had undergone an overhaul the year before so it was new and fresh. This trip? Not so new and not so fresh. 

First let me tell you about what I didn't like on this ship. 

The food in the cafeteria was tired and boring. While there were decent selections available each day, it's as if they rotated those selections. Monday / lunch - fried pork rice. Tuesday / lunch - fried chicken rice and so on. The flavors overall were just ok. 

The dining rooms have changed a bit too. In all previous cruises the two main dining rooms (a big one and a smaller one) had offered different "Chef Specials".  Traditionally one side of the menu stayed the same the entire cruise ( say the left side) while the right side changed every day and each dining room had something different. That was not the case this time. They still had the left side remaining the same throughout the cruise, the appetizers and salads changing up some, but the right side now stayed the same for both dining rooms. Which I guess makes sense from a business perspective, but from an variety for your guest perspective, not so much. 

Still the food in the dining rooms has been delicious. There's enough variety that I don't find I'm bored with the options available. And the service is always exceptional. The wait staff is very attentive and present when you need them. 

We tried two specialty restaurants; Cagney's Steak House and Teppanyaki.  The service on Norwegian has always been, in my opinion, outstanding. And this trip has been no different. Our experience at Cagney's was top notch. Fantastic steaks and an excellent experience. We walked away stuffed - as one would expect. The price was a bit more than I remembered, but it was worth it. 

The Teppanyaki was an entirely different experience. Let me be clear here, though, the food was outstanding. It was everything leading up to the food that was off. 

They tell you when you sign up for this restaurant that it's imperative you be on time. They have tight schedules to get guests in and out and need to make sure if your reservations are at 5pm that you're there at 5pm.  Janet and I, naturally were there on time. There was a couple sitting across from us and we nodded to them. The next couple came in and the lady (we'll call her Ethel because she reminded me of an Ethel) put her wine slip on the corner of the table, as did the gentleman. Then I asked if we could move to another seat because our seats were off to the side and we'd not get to see the action clearly. The head waiter said he needed to check to see if there was a party of 4 that would fit better in the front seats. Odd, since when did that take precedence? I figured first come first serve really. 

So finally he checked and sure enough we could move. So Janet and I moved to be front and center. Then the head waiter came in and asked the first couple (whom we nodded to) if they were sure they had reservations for 5pm because another couple had showed up with those reservations. He had a piece of paper, the waiter did, that showed their reservations for 8pm. The couple were sure they made them for 5, but didn't have their reservation slip because they had made it online. So the head waiter asked them to leave because his sheet showed they were to come back at 8. Needless to say, they weren't happy. 

Side note: turns out they came back with their reservation slip and sure enough they had it right, they should have been there at 5pm. More on this later. 

So by this time, Ethel still hasn't found her wine slip. None of the waiters seemed concerned when she said, "Can you check with the other guy to see if they picked it up?" And this, I tell you, went on and on. 

By now it's about 20 after 5. The remaining party of 4 still hasn't showed up. 

By 5:30 ish a mom and a son show up and announce that actually it's a party of 5 and they need to make the adjustment somehow. So they stuffed one more place setting and scooched all of us over so we were essentially on top of each other. Janet introduced herself to Ethel's companion and said she  might as well give him her name since she'd be sitting on his lap. 

Then the chaos really begins…

Dad and two teenage girls come in and plop down with the mom and son. They're from Israel we later found out. Finally the wait staff start to take our orders. We'd been sitting there forever and this girl needed a drink. 

The dad of the Israeli family said he'd order for everyone…and since they weren't there when they explained how the menu worked, the waiter had to go over it again. Then came the, "Well, what's in that because we can't have x, y and z." Finally the dad ordered for everyone and the waiter got to the rest of us. 

10minutes later the chef came in and started the show. The Israeli dad all the while I was barking orders to the wait staff. His soup was too cold and needed more spice. Snap of the fingers.  I need more water. Snap the fingers…and so on. I had the son to my right and by then had been poked in the arm with a chopstick and bumped a dozen times with his pointy elbows. 

The chef show went on without many problems. The chef was paying a LOT of attention to the Israeli family and barely looked or spoke to the rest of us. 

Then as the 7pm hour got there, we were barely finished with our desserts and the head waiter leaned down between Janet and I and said that he needed us to leave so they could start the next dinner. 

Um, what?

YOU started late because YOU allowed guests to be late and now YOU want me to leave …oh I was miffed. 

Ethel was none too happy we later found out either.  The second couple that got sat, the woman had just ordered a new drink when they asked us to leave, so she basically had to slam it. 

Janet and I pondered over this and finally decided we needed to tell someone we were unhappy. 

On the main floor there's a "Dear Armando" box which you either put comments or complaints in. Janet and I picked up two slips and off we went. Our complaint about the teppanyaki was very factual and to the point. I also did a different slip to cover the good customer service we had received up to that point. We had a toilet that wouldn't flush. In fact, one night Janet and I were sitting reading and suddenly the toilet flushed with neither of us having been in there for about an hour. We just looked at each other and broke out laughing. The second issue was I had an enormous lump in my mattress and asked for a new mattress. Instead they put egg foam on it. In both cases, they called and followed up with us.

So we put our slips in the Dear Armando box about 3pm and we forgot all about it. 

At dinner that night, it was about 8pm when we finally got sat. And this guy in uniform came into the dining room and bee lined it right to our table. His name was Martin and he managed all the restaurants. He heard from his friend Armando that we had had an issue with the teppanyaki restaurant. He proceeded to apologies profusely to us and was going to be taking the charge off our bill.

I was blown away with how quickly they responded to it - frankly I didn't expect to hear from them at all. And the fact that he knew right where we'd be and made a point to come talk to us. Impressed to say the least. 

So at the end of it all, while we didn't have the best experience there, Norwegian, again, showed they had excellent customer service. The ship could use an overhaul again, but otherwise, everything was great.