Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving Comes and Goes

Thanksgiving Day was great; the food and company superb. Time passes so quickly that the buildup and aftermath seem long compared to the meal we shared together. The fourth Thursday of November is still my most favorite holiday. I feel blessed for family, friends and the bounty of life.

These handmade pilgrims are decades old but always grace our buffet on Thanksgiving. My mother-in-law, Virginia made them from a pattern in a magazine many, many years back. Denny remembers them from his childhood. They've held up well, considering. The bobble head turkey is a purchase from a trip to Mexico but he looks good next to Mr. and Mrs.
The meal was great. We were a group of ten around the table. My Dad made the trek up the cold, windy and wet driveway into our house with some help and enjoyed his few hours with us. He was the only guy with a tie, we teased.

The table and buffet were full and we stuffed ourselves. Someone, who will remain UN-named gets the prize for the heaviest plate.

And now?  The feast is behind us until next year. The table that once lay ready is now quiet, waiting to be disassembled for another day and time.

The last of the holiday visitors take leave today.


** photo of my Dad, turkey and holiday table courtesy of Tina M. Thanks!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving Eve

One of the best days and nights of the year is Thanksgiving Eve. All the anticipation of the next day's meal and the gathering of loved ones under one roof makes me very, very happy.  I love to enjoy this holiday, the best of year in my opinion.

I'm trying to ignore the pull of the (way too early) Christmas carols on the radio and the advertisements on television and in the newspaper. Let's enjoy the now. Now is the time to be grateful for all the bounty of our lives and share in the feast of life.

On a lighter note; here's a laugh to underscore the sentiment.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Grand Cats

The young couple who just celebrated their second Wedding Anniversary (can it be????) adopted two kittens this fall. Gus is the lanky, part Siamese pencil thin dude with the long tail and Oliver is the precious little orange fur ball. Heather calls the three of them in this photo her "boys". Tina and I call the kitties the "grand-cats". Chris is still Chris.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

8 Hours in in Aruba

Looking into turquoise from a stony ledge near Malmok, Aruba

The ship docked in Aruba at 8 AM and set sail at just after 5 PM. All passengers were told to be on board no later than 4:30 PM but we headed back earlier; cranky and exhausted, more mentally than physically.  Visiting my beloved island after a 10 year hiatus was predicted to be the highlight of the recent Caribbean cruise. I suppose it was although the day was intense; wonderful but annoyingly frenetic. As we set sail from the harbor in Aruba, I cried from the upper deck and watched as the island became a shimmer of barely perceptible glow on the dark horizon.

I love this picture taken with my Iphone; somehow it pulls together all that was Aruba on that hot and breezy November 9th. Sometimes random pictures like these surprise me.  I stood on an old concrete ledge overlooking a coral embankment into the shallow waters a few miles short of the California Lighthouse; somewhere near Malmok. The textures and colors speak to the type of day we had on that
"one happy island".

Renting a car was harder than it should have been and bit into precious time, even with arrangements in advance. Navigating downtown Oranjestad and the "strip" took some patience. The drivers, aside from one who almost rear-ended me going 30 mph, were pushy but compromising; they actually let you in to a packed stream of traffic if you just put yourself out there into the pack with confidence. I had to re-wire my brain for this after Seattle. The rental had a decent A/C and brakes; the two critical features for a day trip in Aruba.

Dutch cookies
The first stop of the day, after an obligatory drive out to the California Lighthouse (the furthest northwestern tip of the island) was a grocery store. We found the perfect spot; two side by side enormous stores (don't ask why; this is ARUBA; things often make no sense to the outsider). What were we after?  Dutch treats. I grew up on Verkade chocolate and cookies and oh yes, Droste chocolate sprinkles. What's better than a chocolate sandwich? Then there were the Dutch cheeses: if we'd had room in our suitcases for these giant wheels of gouda cheese at such an awesome price, we'd have lugged them back as well'. We did manage a decent sized Edam cheese, some Indonesian spices, and a Nesbitt's red soda in the bags of treats we hauled out from the Kong Hing Grocery.

Verkade Dutch chocolate bars; all flavors
 After storing the good eats in a shady part of the vehicle, we drove to the opposite tip of the island; "home", aka Lago Colony. By this time we were getting hungry and longed for an authentic island pastechi. We found a stand between Savaneta and San Nicholas. The only pastechis left were cheese but oh man, were they delicious. Since the pastechi is typically a breakfast food, they are harder to find as the hours pass. Finding a vendor with much of a selection can be a challenge towards mid-day.

Lago Colony; what can I say?  This little community in the shadow of the oil refinery will always be home no matter how run down, decrepit and changed from those glory days of yore. Two of the houses we lived in are still there but neither looked great.  What doesn't change is the natural beauty of the lagoon, the ocean, and Colorado Point. My heart focused on these eternally treasured gems, especially my favorite place of all; the Point

Unbelievably calm at Colorado Point

Still no courage to step out on the bridge

Recent rain coaxed green from the rock of Colorado Point
Time slipped by way too fast and I found myself checking the watch and figuring out how much more we could do and make it back to the ship on time. This was the major detraction to an absolutely wonderful day. Later, back on deck, I told D that spending a day in Aruba wasn't exactly my idea of visiting my former home. Our hours on the island were precious but next time, I'll need a bigger bite to satisfy my taste.

Bye Bye Aruba; from the deck of the Crown Princess

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Cruisin' with Vera Bradley

We are just back from a one week cruise in the southern Caribbean. My mind swirls with memories, observations, emotions, and to top it off: a stuffed gut.  I thought a series of short posts about our week at sea might capture the flavor of what we experienced.

Let's start with Vera Bradley bags.

Although this company was founded in 1982, I was totally obvious to these great looking brightly printed bags until I saw a few back pack and messenger bag VB styles in the U.T. Austin Bookstore last year. I thought they were cute but price-y for the purpose (practical me). When Laura and Scott introduced me to Quibids penny auction site last month, I mesmerized myself for hours online whilst demonstrating beginner's luck by winning two Vera Bradley products; a make-up bag and a tote purse (see pattern above).

My VB purse arrived just prior to the cruise and I decided to take it along. Turns out I was right in style.  As we waited in line to check in for the cruise I was amazed to see so many women sporting the VB purses, totes, and larger luggage-size pieces in a wonderful array of patterns. I tried to take as many pictures as I could with my I Phone.

I also learned that taking photos on the sly is more challenging than it looks. There were many more great looking bags that I missed capturing. Clearly, VB rocks on cruises. Too bad some of the labels say "made in China". That really disappoints. Why can't we manufacture in America?


Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Dis-Comfort Inn

This hotel, if you can call it that; (roach motel might be a better descriptor) so disappointed the two of us weary travelers that we decided to laugh it off. Sort of.

D an I traveled all day yesterday; flew to Houston and then on to Ft. Lauderdale, arriving around 10:30 PM. The weather was lovely, breezy and 60ish and we enjoyed the feeling we'd finally arrived, had one night to spend and on week long cruise.  Although we were hungry (no food on airlines these days), that was the only vaguely uncomfortable feeling. We figured we'd find someplace to catch a quick bite before turning in for the night.

Ahh,  The "Dis-Comfort Inn" looks nothing like this quaint exterior view, even in the light of day. The driver who picked us up from the airport was 30 minutes late, the check in staff surly and distant, and the icing on the cake of displeasure was the room. OMG. I'm drenched in memories of motel rooms from my younger days (think 1970's style) and images from movies (think Psycho, Thelma and Louise, maybe even Little Miss Sunshine).

Nothing in this room of ours worked properly; from the lock on the door to the bathroom sink. A funky musty smelling cramped space with an air conditioner that required a stiff kick periodically to quit making a grinding sound, a bag of a prior guest's food in the microwave, and burned out light bulbs were but some of the wonders of room 127. If this was an inexpensive room for the night, I'd (maybe) understand but this was not the super cheap deal of the season by any means. We've staying in Comfort Inns in Washington that were no four star resorts but were at least well maintained and functional.

Loose hardware on the locking mechanism

5 minutes after the water ran in the sink
Top the stay off with watered down coffee and orange juice this morning and we're off to the cruise terminal where vacation begins.  We're laughing about our overnight adventure but will be glad to archive this one away in the "remember that awful hotel?" file.

This is our third stay in a Ft. Lauderdale hotel; next time we'll finally get it: no more overnights in places adjacent to the cruise terminal.

Bon Voyage!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


Me: Hi, Dad (he's seated in his chair in the living room of the family home).

He: Hi, sweetheart!  So good to see you.

Me: I came to say goodbye before our trip; brought a written itinerary for you so you can see where we'll be on which day and all.

Have you had a good day today?  (I  always ask and hold my breath because ofttimes it's just an "OK day", or "Not too good" day.

He: Hey, it's been a great day, honey.

Me: How so?

He: There was nobody here today that made us do....(brief pause) stupid things.

Me: Ha! I get it Dad.

The stupid things are activities supervised by the activity coordinator for the home. Sometimes they throw a huge red balloon around the living room, or sing songs, or (the worst) roll out cookie dough and make cut out shapes. He, being the only one at the home without dementia, finds them tedious and well, dumb but he puts up with it because that's who he is and always has been. But he'll let you know about it later.

I stayed to sit with him at dinner.  Poor guy, he's getting used to blenderized food.

He: See this?  (pointing to his tall glass of something resembling a caramel milkshake (but savory, I'm sure....)  They take what's on the plate and grrrrrrrrr, they blend it all up in the blender. Sometimes they
add milk to make it smoother. I drink that for my meal.

Dad's meal in a glass

What everyone else at the table ate
Me: Does it taste OK, Dad?

He: Pretty good most of the time.

Me: Do you want any salt on it?  (laughing)

He: No thanks, honey. I'm used to it. (such a stoic guy, especially considering eating was a serious passion for him back in the day).

Meanwhile the staff offered me a plate of food; "We have lots left", they said invitingly. But me? Well, after seeing what it looked like all pulverized in a glass, I just couldn't do it. Just couldn't.

Me: Bye Bye, Dad. Love you much. I'll see you again soon.

He: Love you too.