Saturday, January 31, 2009

Miscellaneous: Hawaii Part One

It will take a while before I get this holiday out of my system. We went on a cruise to the Hawaiian Islands. Okay, I'm accepting the virtual jealousy. Anyway, I love sun and winter gets me down. We'd been planning this trip for two years and had so much fun just relaxing that we're contemplating another trip in 2010. I don't like to travel especially by plane (not fear of flying, but stress). So I was excited about cruising. We visited Hilo (Hawai'i), Honolulu (Oahu), Kaua'i, Maui, and Ensenada (Mexico).

This post is mostly about the cruise ship. It was huge, the Golden Princess, with 2,600 passengers, but it was really funny how we seemed to run into the same people. I guess certain people stick out at you. I heard the big ships are best for helping with seasickness. We did get sick the first day, but were great after that. The sea was really choppy on the way in and people were pitching back and forth as they walked the halls.

There were six of us. B, A, and M, along with B's parents were with me. The ILs stayed in the room next to ours. A and M loved sleeping on the drop down beds above us. I tell you it was great having our beds made for us every day. We went with an obstructed view. It was really great being able to see outside and get natural light in the room. Although it would have been cool to say we had a balcony, I'm glad we didn't. There were some cold and windy days on the water. However, a little fresh air in the rooms would have been nice (Let's not get into that).

I was thrilled about the library. I brought my Kindle, but I did check one book out to read. If you ever take a cruise and read like me, get down there on the first day. It has a lot of recent releases which disappear and don't return until the last day of the cruise. They also had daily puzzles and a daily Sudoku. There were always events to keep you busy and plenty of movies. My ILs loved seeing the shows with dancing and singing. I liked the magician, comedians, and the hypnotist shows - they were funny. You can see the different levels of the ship here.

One thing that was great about cruising was what you could bring with you. It isn't like a plane (we drove to port) where you are restricted. If I can't drive to port on our next cruise I don't know what I'll do. Nearly all the food is free, but you have to pay for soda and bottled water. Being able to bring your own is important.

The level of cleanliness outside the rooms was incredible. You had to squirt your hands before every meal, buffet or dining, and before and after using the computers in the Internet Cafe. You had to wipe down the exercise equipment with wipes after use. It is amazing that anyone would get sick while on a cruise with all that.

I'm sure I'll think of something else to add, but that's it for now. Next post will be about the islands.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Men: Honorable Mentions 3

Sorry, they're both married. Still nice to look at :)

Josh DuhamelName: Josh Duhamel (Joshua David Duhamel)
Best Known For: Actor, TV Las Vegas, All My Children, Movies Transformers
Year of Birth: 1972
Status: Married (Stacy Ferguson, Fergie)
Height: 6'3"
Fun Fact: Played football and was going to go to dental school

I've had him on my stand by list for a while. He was very nice looking in Transformers. I find it very interesting that he's married to Fergie. They seem so different in their public lives, but they dated for 5 years before marrying so there must be something there. Anyway, he's fairly cute, his height is heavenly, and my eyes like treats.

Matthew FoxName: Matthew Fox (Matthew Chandler Fox)
Best Known For: Actor, Wings, Party of Five, Lost
Year of Birth: 1966
Status: Married(Margherita Ronchi)
Height: 6'2"
Fun Fact: Played football and was going to become a stockbroker

I like watching him in Lost, much better than my chance snippets from Party of Five. There is this whole thing in Wikipedia about a winning Columbia game over Princeton that is supposed to be really important. I'm more interested in his looks ;) There are some really good pictures of him out there and some not so good. I was disappointed to read about his chewing tobacco and smoking habits from a young age, but I guess everyone has their faults. There's info out there that he's stopped smoking - fingers crossed.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Chocolate: Randomness

The holidays are gone, but not the memories...of random chocolate, that is. While at work last month, someone brought in Trader Joe's French Truffles as an after lunch treat. I'm usually at home when I get my chocolate so I didn't hesitate to try them. I don't know why they tasted so good especially after reading this review (great pictures of the product), but I bought myself a box. I still have the box. I realize that they are perfect as a "hit" right after a meal when you're just craving something sweet. The serving size is 5 pieces for a nice hefty 250 calories. It is a sacrifice when the first ingredient is palm oil and not chocolate or cocoa.

Another chocolate item I've indulged in arrived with the Christmas gifts, a box of mint chocolate cookies. They were by no means quality, but I couldn't keep my hands off the box. Each was a chocolate cookie center with a thin layer of mint and covered with chocolate. I have no idea who makes them. The box was one of those fancy wrapped gift boxes you could pick up anywhere. Anyway it brought in memories of Keebler's Grasshoppers or Girl Scout Thin Mints. Since I'm not in the cookie aisle of a grocery store at the moment, I had to do a search for cookies and found several interesting tidbits. I've got Girl Scout moms out there who will appreciate the business considering this bit. But I was also intrigued with this bit about making your own healthier version (FYI, the author wasn't so nice about Girl Scouts).

I don't know if any of you noticed the profile pic change for a couple of weeks. A giant hint to where I spent my holidays:) While there we picked up the requisite Moana Loa Macadamia Nut chocolates. I saved the pretty wrapped boxes for coworkers and bought a bag of the "flops" for us. They were the chocolates that weren't good enough for the box. I found the chocolate very sweet and not enough nut. I'm not sure if that is why they were flops, but I think I would have enjoyed the chocolate more if there was more macadamia in them. For once my family got to eat more chocolate than I did.

Lastly, I found a milk chocolate lover who couldn't understand why I was eating a dark chocolate. So I bought her a bar of my favorite dark. She loved it and is hooked. The calories aren't much better than TJ's French Truffles, but at least the first ingredient is chocolate.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Books: J.D. Robb

I'm off on another race to read as much from a series as possible. I'm on the third in the "in Death" series by J.D. Robb (pseudonym for Nora Roberts.) It starts with Naked in Death and focuses on a homicide detective named Eve the year 2057. There are 35 books, two of which are coming this year.

This series, very simply, is great entertainment. I'm not overloaded with comprehensive character history because we learn about the characters more as the series moves on. There was just enough mystery for me to be guessing who the killer was until about 75% of the way through the book. There's just enough high tech jargon to remind me this was futuristic without overdoing it.

I can't wait to read them all!

BTW - If you intend to give her books a try DO NOT read the Wiki for the series...all of the killers (among other info) are listed.

Monday, January 19, 2009

TV: Inauguration

President Elect, Barack Obama, becomes the 44th president of the United States tomorrow.

10:00 AM
Preliminary festivities begin, including music by The United States Marine Band, The San Francisco Boys Chorus, and the San Francisco Girls Chorus.

11:30 AM
Call to Order and Welcoming Remarks: Senator Dianne Feinstein
Invocation: Dr. Rick Warren
Aretha Franklin will sing
Vice President-elect Joe Biden will be sworn into office
Music composed by John Williams and performed by Itzhak Perlman, Yo-Yo Ma, Gabriela Montero, and Anthony McGill.

12:00 Noon
As specified by the U.S. Constitution (20th Amendment), presidential terms of office begin and end at 12:00 noon on January 20.

Barack Obama will take the oath of office, which is this simple, 36-word, statement:
I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

12:05 PM (approx)
President Barack Obama will give his inaugural address, speaking to the nation and world, for the first time, as President of the United States, followed by:
Poem: Elizabeth Alexander
Benediction: The Reverend Dr. Joseph E. Lowery
The National Anthem: The United States Navy Band "Sea Chanters"

I'll be watching.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Miscellaneous: School House Rock

Conjunction Junction, what's your function?

If you answered, "Hooking up words, and phrases, and clauses," then you're so with it. I loved these when I was younger and swear I wouldn't have learned anything about history if they hadn't aired between cartoons on Saturday mornings. I own four videos and the CD's. A & M steal them often. I hope they can share those memories.

As your body grows bigger
Your mind grows flowered
It's great to learn
Cause knowledge is power!

It's Schoolhouse Rocky
That chip off the block
Of your favorite schoolhouse
Schoolhouse Rock!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Men: "Chuck Bartowski"

Geek/Nerd: Chuck Bartowski
Show/Movie: Chuck
Actor Name: Zachary Levi (Zachary Levi Pugh)
Year of Birth: 1980
Status: Single
Height: 6'4"
Fun Fact: Wish I had I could come up with is his skateboarding and snowboarding in his spare time.

I'm admitting now that even though the big, hunky types make me drool, it's the nerdy/geeky types I tend to fall in love with. Chuck is one of those types. He has this endearing quality about him even with all of his quirks, stuttering, and cross-eyed visions. The shaggy hair, ties, pocket protector, and Converse put him well within the geek category. I love that he is smart, but down to earth and caring.

Levi is another story. I had never heard of him before the show, not realizing that he had been in other parts, like See Jane Run, a movie with Charisma Carpenter. In my quest to add some cute nerdy types to my blog, I did some searching on Levi and found that without the geek-wear he was very, very cute. Then I felt guilty about adding him here thinking he should just plain be in with the hunks.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Chocolate: Lindt Classic Recipes Milk Chocolate

I'm ruined! I tried the Lindt Milk Chocolate bar recently and was stunned, no, devasted, when I tasted it.

Wait, let me go back. I love milk chocolate. I could dive into a (quality) milk chocolate bar any time, any place and love it. I would immediately hand any dark chocolate over to B knowing I wouldn't enjoy it as much. Anyone who knows us is aware of a little inside joke involving our chocolate preferences. Lately though I've been getting into dark chocolate so I could eat it and get some of those wonderful benefits so widely touted on the news. This is evidenced by my last several chocolate posts.

So when I purchased my Lindt Milk, I was just waiting to jump in with every taste bud. Just like old times. Imagine my shock when I found it too sweet! The world should be coming to a complete, grinding halt. Chocolate is never too sweet. Yes, the bar had a good snap, was creamy and melty, and had a good chocolate taste, but...[sob]

Never fear! Once I overcome my shock, I'll be on a mission to regain my milk chocolate love. Please send milk chocolate my way!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Books: Lisa Jackson

There's this acquaintance I know who loves to read as much as I do, but she's got a small place and can't keep all the books she's collected. So what does she do? She gives them to me! Can you hear the glee?

Anyway, she's given me a few books by Lisa Jackson. Two books feature some serial/crazed killer and a romance - the kind of stuff I like to read. The first was Hot Blooded, which is listed as her first book in the New Orleans series. I enjoyed it, but it didn't hit me with an "Oooh, that was awesome!" feel. The second I finished right before Christmas called Absolute Fear. I really liked this one because of all the red herrings and twists, but end of the book killed me. Oh yes, the mystery was solved and the lovers were saved. Then Jackson threw in a twist with some ominous premonition about a somewhat secondary character at the very end - literally the last sentence.

I decided to look into her books and she's rather prolific, however the reviews haven't been great on all the books in the series. Shiver, the book before Fear, was the original. Fear was a duller copy, and the book after Fear was slammed as being too formulaic, long, and boring. Lost Souls features one of the secondary characters from the other books. Jackson apparently puts a heroine in love with the hero who might also be the killer in all of these books along with a sexually depraved serial killer, and there's no variation.

I know she isn't quite like that with all of her books. The third read (which was my first Lisa Jackson) was a rewrite of Treasures (1994) called See How She Dies. It does contain the romance and killer, but there is some weirdness in the relationship and the killer isn't trying so hard to bed the heroine. No matter how bland and repetitive the books may be I like the challenge of figuring out who did it. If Jackson can keep me guessing then I'm in.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

TV: Cliffhangers


Just in case you just skipped over it...SPOILERS!
If you're one of those people who save up all the seasons or live somewhere that airs shows later...SPOILERS!

January is the time when we find out what happens after the midseason cliffhangers. Let's review the status of my favorite shows.

Chuck - Chuck watched Agent Walker kill an enemy Fulcrum agent in cold blood. Granted the enemy was bragging about how his fellow bad guys would stop at nothing to get out and how he would tell everyone that Chuck was the Intersect. But Chuck didn't see that. Even if he did, can he ever trust Sarah again?

Heroes - We have to groan loudly at what will be coming as Nathan has all the people with powers locked up. He will have to hide his own power to do so. I thought it was interesting that flashbacks from a previous season had him hiding his powers as president. So doesn't that mean what we saw before will still happen? That everything we've been watching for the last year was leading us toward the horror instead of away?

Ugly Betty - Wilhelmina is up to no good again, but so is Daniel. Who does he think he is going after Connor's fiancee? Not that said fiancee isn't contributing. I've heard that Connor's got a few things up his sleeve for the season which are sure to come sliding out when he finds out what's going on. Unless, he does the same with Wilhelmina. Either way she's going to have way too much fun torturing everyone. Does it feel like Christina's been pregnant forever? So this is why they speed these things up.

Supernatural - The Dean tears had me in shock...more than what he said that caused them. Anyway, getting the angels to face off against the demons was a good idea, but too reasonable. Do the angels really still need Dean? How is he supposed to stop the other seals from breaking? Will that be the next season ender? Lucifer rising from the depths?

House - Just about upped my dinner when I saw Foreman and Thirteen making out. What the heck? The two of them together so don't mesh. I could see Foreman with Cameron before Thirteen. Did I miss an episode where Foreman and Thirteen bonded? I mean, besides this one? Tell me I was too distracted by House and Cuddy, which is another ick. [shiver] Moving on, I'm glad Cuddy got her baby and satisfied that not all of House's patients live. I have to say that the scene with the inhaler was belly rolling.

Looking forward...the last time we had:
Lost - Jack is desperate to get back to the island that moved. Everyone who was rescued is hiding secrets (But isn't that normal?). We have no idea what happened to everyone else on the island. I really didn't like that Jin had to die. Just watching the flash forwards of Sun having the baby without him were heartbreaking. We've been prepared to understand that the survivors need to go back to the island, but I don't even know how to explain Ben and dead Locke.

Medium - The show now has a February premiere date (grrr). Joe gains the upper hand on his cryptic business partner. I love the job offer he got and the weird Joe premonitions. Having Devalos back in the right seat made the episode seem very safe. I really can't wait to see it return.

Though no cliffhangers, I can't wait to see American Idol and Biggest Loser, the only two reality shows I watch. I'm so glad Michelle won!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Miscellaneous: Apples to Apples

I bought Apples to Apples one year after trying to find a game for my ILs for Christmas. We found this reviewer who makes videos of his reviews, taking out the game and showing how it is played. You can check it out for yourself here at Board Games with Scott. I bought it, we played it, and I loved it.

Up to ten people can play this game (more if you play in teams like I did at the work Christmas party last month.) The object of the game is to collect green cards, the number of green cards needed to win the game is dependent upon how many people are playing (tells in the directions). The other cards are red. The green cards have adjectives on them and the red cards have nouns or noun phrases.

Each person starts with 7 red cards. The judge of the round pulls a green card and reads it to the rest of the players. Each player, except the judge, has to find in their hand a red card with a noun that fits the adjective. The players put the card they've chosen face down on the table for the judge. The judge mixes them up (so he/she doesn't know who put down what card) and then choses the best red card. The green card the judge pulled goes to the person who put in the winning red card. Each player except the judge gets a new red card (to stay at 7), there's a new judge, and the next round starts. Of course if you are the judge you don't get to play a red card that round.

What makes the game so fun is how to win. If possible, you are trying to pick a card the judge will like. For example, the judge was M in one round and the green card was 'scary.' A decent red card to put down would be 'school' because most people say they hated school or it was scary. But M loves school so that wouldn't be a wise choice of cards. She would more likely go for a red card that said 'spiders' or 'spit."

Again, I love this game. My ILs would say this is because I win a lot, but that isn't true. They prefer the games that don't rely on wit or knowledge, like Uno (Uno Attack and Uno Spin) which are more like games of chance. I like playing Mexican Train Dominoes and Rummikub which involve a little more thought. In Apples to Apples, like any card game, you can get stuck with a yucky hand, but you can use a little strategy to help you out. The only caveat is who you play the game with. Strangers don't play this game well because they don't know each other well enough. All the negative reviews I saw were because they played with people they didn't know.

*The cards have changed slightly in appearance since Mattel took over.


I am totally loving today! I can't think of a better way to start the new year than to be where I am now with my family.

Today marks one full year of blogging - woo hoo! I have to take this time to thank my friends, one in particular who makes comments on my blog regularly. She is a supremely busy woman who considers me enough of a friend to take time out to read my blog and comment. Huge hugs to her!

Next month is my check up to see if my health is back on track. I'm excited because I've lost 15 pounds (most back when I first started this in September.) I don't hate what I'm eating, which usually makes those on a diet revert back to their old eating habits, and even though the weather is less than desirable I'm still exercising. Yea me!

My ILs eat black eyed peas to bring good luck in the new year. I hope all of you eat your share - including my sis T. She deserves good luck in truckloads.

Happy New Year!