Wednesday, March 30, 2011

an article about Irene Livingston in her daughter's blog

Lenore Angela is a writer and artist whose blog, Rare Rabbit Designs, features articles, photography, recipes and reflections. Lenore wrote an article about her mom (and my friend) Irene Livingston, and her poetry and stories for children. Irene is the creator of Finklehopper Frog, who is beloved to children everywhere.

Check out the blog and the article about Irene. What a talented family!

question: what did you like to read when you were little?

mompoet - proud to have such accomplished and generous friends

Monday, March 28, 2011

blue trees

Last week an artist and a crew of volunteers painted the trees outside Port Moody City Hall bright blue. The purpose of the project is to draw attention to the trees and the importance of trees in general. The paint is environmentally safe and will wash off naturally over time.

Andrew and I walked down to see them on Saturday. I think they are beautiful the way they are, with the blossoms just budding. Andrew thinks they will look so much nicer with the blossoms on. Several of our friends think they are very ugly. I can't wait to see the newspapers and read about any controversy that ensures. It will be interesting to see if anyone stands underneath a blue tree in the rain and gets died blue from the drips.

question: what do you think of the blue trees?

mompoet - blue is my favourite colour

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

afternoon in cozumel

Our cruise itinerary included an afternoon and evening in Cozumel, Mexico. We knew that snorkeling was our priority, so in advance of the trip, I booked a snorkel tour with Eagle Ray Divers. We decided to go with a small diving company rather than a big party boat outfit, and found that there would be time in the afternoon for a two-reef adventure.

On Wednesday, we woke up still at sea, but we could see the coast of Mexico to the west. We continued south and eventually saw the island of Cozumel. We docked around 12:30. Across from us was a big European cruise ship. While our ship was tied up and shore officials came aboard, we watched people getting on and off the other ship.

Once we were cleared to leave the boat we walked out the pier and into Mexico. There was no real customs and immigration that we could see, just some security and police watching as we walked off the pier into a complex of stores and restaurants. Beyond that we found taxis, and took a short ride to the marina. The taxi driver helped us find Eagle Ray where we met Antonio. I'm pretty sure our Antonio is Antonio number 2 (not the Antonio in the website). Antonio introduced himself as our snorkel guide, then took off on his bicycle to check in with his boss. The boss was there soon (Antonio number 1, I think). He confirmed arrangements and got us set up with cold beverages for the boat. Soon "The Captain" arrived with a small boat. It turned out that we were the only ones booked for snorkeling this afternoon, so we would have a private tour.

We scooted through the crowded little marina, and were just about to enter the bay when a call came over the radio. Captain reversed the boat and sped back to the slip, where he tied up and jumped on board Eagle Ray's other boat and went down below. A couple of minutes later he emerged with an automotive battery and some bottles of water. Antonio explained that Eagle Ray's other boat was stranded in the bay with mechanical problems. We had to make a rescue run before our snorkeling. Soon we were at the other boat. Captain and the other boat's captain had it fixed up quickly. We took 2 of 3 snorkel guests on board our boat, and ferried them back to their hotel dock before continuing on our tour.

This was our first time snorkeling from a boat. I was a bit frightened to jump off the side with my fins and gear, but after that it was wonderful. Underwater we found beautiful coral reefs, including caves and tunnels, which Antonio swam through to amuse us. Captain followed along with the boat while we swam along the reef. We saw lots of colourful tropical fish, including a big parrot fish that looked just like "Rainbow Fish" in the children's book. Antonio swam to the bottom to point out fish to us. Most amazing were big schools of fish swimming together, especially when they swam right through us (it felt more like that than us swimming through them). It's illegal to feed the fish, but Antonio told us some people do. That explained why so many swam right up to us, looking for all the world like our cat, first thing in the morning, "Okay, what do you have for me?"

We ended up visiting 3 reefs, rather than the two advertised - a nice bonus! We saw a couple of other snorkel groups in and on the water, but there was lots of space for everyone. We also enjoyed a couple of beers on the boat. Antonio and the Captain were friendly and kind. The boat was small and fast and it was very cool to have our very own adventure away from the crowds of tourists getting off the boat in Cozumel.

After our tour we took a taxi back to the pier. We showered and changed on the ship, then came back out for a bit of shopping and some supper. I found some good souvenirs and gifts. I had to haggle price with the merchants, which is something I'm not used to. I have no idea if I got good deals, but I sure saw some good theatre at the jewelery store! The furrowed brow, the intense use of the calculator and fervent polishing of the silver pendant. Then the feeling I was buying the guy's first born child for far too low a price to even mention. Oh well, I got what I was looking for, and I stayed within my budget.

For supper we decided to plunge into the touristy lunacy that is Charlies and Carlos. We opted for beers, but saw most guests drinking the famous yard long cocktails. The hosts and servers at the restaurant whipped the guests into a frenzy of singing, dancing on chairs, shouting and tequila guzzling conga line silliness. It was a lot of fun. We were given balloon hats to wear. We loved them so much we wore them back onto the ship.

We returned to the ship at about 9pm, just as the ship tied up at the other side of the dock was departing. Everyone on our ship stood on deck and shouted and waved goodbye to the passengers of the departing ship, who shouted and waved back to us. We left Cozumel about 10pm for our long journey back to Miami.

Our visit to Cozumel was short. I look forward to the opportunity to visit again.

question: have you jumped off a boat into the ocean?

mompoet - I recommend it

Sunday, March 20, 2011

cruise photos

more cruise photos


Thursday night I dreamed that I stepped on a rotten banana while wearing my good old Fry Boots. I bought these boots when I was 15 years old and I still have them. I haven't worn them in years, but I love that they are mine. In the dream, instead of cleaning the squished banana off my boots, I threw them away. I was conscious of this being a wasteful decision, but somehow thought it was my only option.

Friday night I dreamed that we were on vacation again and I did not know how we planned to get home. I had my vacation binder with all of our flight and hotel confirmations and my typed out itinerary chart, but there was nothing past our last day - no flight info. I was certain I had booked a return flight but had no evidence. I discussed with my husband the idea of just going to the airport in the morning and asking at every airline desk if they had a reservation for us that day.

Last night I dreamed that I slept in on a workday and woke with just minutes to get ready before I had to walk to work. I knew that I had ample time to get ready then drive my car to work, but I really wanted to walk to work, and the walk is one hour.

These dreams have similarities of anxiety, loss of judgment and control and wanting or knowing one thing is right, but doing another. I'm not sure how they connect with my waking life. I'll wait and see.

question: have you slept well and dreamed beautifully these past few nights?

mompoet - restless dream brain

Saturday, March 19, 2011

the cruise

Last June, Andrew and I spent a nice weekend afternoon walking around Port Moody. A dozen of the stores and restaurants in "old Port Moody" had a promotion going on. We picked up passports at our first stop, then followed a map to all of the businesses. At each stop, we met the owner or manager of the business, explored the premises and picked up coupons, free samples, etc.and got our passports stamped. We frequent a number of these places already, and were pleased to get to know others. Everyone was lovely and welcoming, and most told us that not many people were participating in the passport game, so we had a good chance of winning the prize - a free cruise. A couple of days later we got a phone call from Joye of Joye's Stone Art Gallery. Joye told me that we won the prize. Hooray!

Andrew and I were not planning a vacation, mostly due to finances. Had we been planning a vacation, it surely would not have been a cruise. But here was an opportunity dropped in our laps. We decided to go for it. We chose from 3 possible itineraries, picked a date and booked it. Andrew researched flights and hotels, and the vacation was on.

We took our cruise in early March. We sailed on Carnival Imagination from Miami to Key West and Cozumel. The trip was fun and cruising was interesting, luxurious and enjoyable in many ways. I'll publish some photos in a separate post. Instead of telling the day by day story of the cruise, I'll share a few of my reflections in list form.

Things I liked about the cruise

  • the dining room - we sat at a table with 3 other couples which was fun and friendly, our waiter and assistant waiter were charming, and the food was delicious, varied, well-presented and in small portions (that's good in my book)
  • you can have whatever you want to eat - I had 3 appetizers and a dessert for supper on my first night in the dining room. You can have pizza in the middle of the night. At any time of day there are at least 3 different places to eat, including room service, and it's fresh and good, with lots of treats and lots of healthy food - more fruit and vegetables than I could conquer, that's for sure!
  • friendly people - the staff are all lovely and friendly and obliging. Other passengers are just like us, ordinary people out for some fun and eager to share impressions and stories, always someone to chat with if you are in the mood
  • clean and comfy - our second-cheapest-room-in-the-boat was spacious and clean with lovely linens and everything shiny new looking. A cabin steward was on duty at all hours to freshen things up, bring us ice or wine glasses, and greet us as we went out and came back in
  • no internet - well, there is slow expensive internet so we opted out. This was a nice break from being online all the time
  • excuse to dress up - we wore nice clothes to the dining room and nightclubs/shows every evening. I wore a different dressy dress every evening. This is a rare occurrence and it was fun.
  • lounging - you don't have to do anything. You can sit and enjoy the see breeze and sunshine (or shade) all day if you like.
  • people-watching - with 2000 passengers and 900 staff on board, there was no shortage of people on parade. It was fun to see couples, singles, families, kids, older folks, etc. What they ate, what they wore, who they hung out with. If you like this, you can do it all day and all night
  • entertainment and activities - There were musical shows and comedy shows and musicians, and dance lessons and tournaments and jigsaw puzzle time, and health presentations and art auctions and ice sculpture demos and high tea on the high seas. It was all a bit on the corny side, but loveably so. The comedians were the best. They had late night shows that were very funny and lots of fun.
  • the gym - there was a walking/running track on top of the ship. I went round and round that thing every morning in the fresh air and sunshine, then I visited the gym. It was well-equipped and maintained, with a mixture of people working out in a friendly and respectful way. No grunters or posers. Nice.
  • sushi bar - 'nuff said
  • the sea - it really is beautiful being out on the ocean. The water is an astonishing deep blue, like in Van Gogh's Starry Night. I have not seen that blue ever before anywhere else.
  • Outdoors - lots of deck space. We took breakfast and lunch on the deck every day. We lounged and walked and sat and visited and had a drink and stood and watched the arrival in port and the departure from port, and other ships. I really loved the outdoor spaces and being out on deck.
  • organization - checking in and getting on the boat was quick and easy. Getting off and back on at ports was quick and easy. Getting in and out of shows and restaurants was smooth silk. Getting off the ship and finding our luggage and passing customs inspection was speedy and uneventful. They know how to take care of lots of people who all want to do the same thing at the same time. I admired that tremendously.
  • lots of stairs - we slept on level 4 (deep in the ship) and hung out on levels 9, 10 and 11. We left the elevators for families and older people and went up and down and up and down and up and down the stairs - good exercise to compensate for cruise eating
  • time with my sweetheart - honestly, we could have been anywhere and it would have been good just to have this time away and any kind of new experience together. Yup, I love my husband and I love to do things with him. It's been a busy winter for both of us. This vacation came at the right time.

Things I did not like about the cruise

  • paying for drinks - We don't drink that much anyway, but drinks were expensive, and add up easily when you are presenting your "sail and sign" card to pay the bill. We bought a wine package for supper (3 bottles at a discount) and carried on the allowable 2 bottles of wine to open in our cabin. We ended up carrying one of those bottles back off, so you can see, we didn't drink much! Two beer cost $15 with automatic tip and tax included. With lots of time to sit around and drink it would have been easy to rack up a huge bar bill. (we did not)
  • smoking areas - most areas of the boat, including the cabin areas, were no-smoking, but a few deck areas were smokey, and the casino is a smoking area with no bypass hallway - to avoid the smokey place you have to go up one level, past the casino and back down
  • photographers - Everywhere you go, everything you do, someone wants to take your photograph. Lots of people seemed to like it, and lots bought photos for lots of money at the photo sales area. There were even mini-studios set up all around the interior of the ship. You could stand by and watch a family or couple posing with a fake ship's steering wheel or bale of hay. We were asked several times each day to pose for a photo, but never pressured when we said no thanks. That was good. And it was pretty much fun to see some of the people posing for cheesey shipboard shots.
  • interior decor - glass, brass, mirrors, neon, patterns on every piece of carpet, fabric and upholstery. The decor was definitely "more is better." I felt overstimulated almost immediately. This must be somebody's idea of beautiful but it was not mine! Our room decor was more simple, thank goodness! Best of all, the outside areas were decorated more simply and tastefully.
  • the ceiling at the gym - metal mirror tiles that produced a funhouse image of me exercising. I had not contemplated this before, but now I know for sure. I don't want to look at myself in the ceiling when I am lying on the floor doing crunches!
  • stuck on a boat - as nice as it was, and as many things as there were to do, we were stuck on a boat whenever we were at sea, which was a good part of the time. I know it's nice to have a hotel room that travels with you from one place to another, but I'd rather have my hotel in one place, and travel a bit farther on my own time, by my own schedule to see other places.
  • short time in port - We got the tourist's eye view of our two ports because we were there for a short time. Cozumel was better than Key West, because I had arranged to do something ahead of time (I'll post about that later). I still had the feeling of being one of the American cows, off the boat with money hanging out of my pockets, coming to gorge on the local commerce before being herded back into the boat.

Things that surpised me about the cruise

  • other people new to cruising - Our dinner table companions were all first time cruisers. None of us had actually chosen to book a cruise. One couple bought a car and got a cruise as incentive. Another won it in a golf tournament. The third couple bought it at a fundraiser silent auction. It was fun to trade discoveries at supper time.
  • not seasick - I was really worried I might turn green but I did not. Even when the dining room started swaying noticeably on our last night. Even when the comedy club lurched from side to side later that same night. I was okay, without a sea band or meds or anything. This was remarkable and a big relief. I get carsick reading the name of the next stop on the bus.
  • the big musical show - it was actually much better than I had anticipated. The "Welcome Aboard Show" was pretty cheesey, so I didn't expect much when we went to see "Shout!" on the final night of the cruise. Well, it knocked my socks off. The dancing, singing, sets, costume and production quality were great! I admired the small cast of young performers who must have been exhausted after their high-energy technically challenging show. I really admired that they did it on a stage that was lurching on choppy waters, but they didn't let on that anything was out of the ordinary. I admired even more that they did two performances back to back. It has to be hard work, but they brought true talent and commitment to their performances. The show was well put-together and a pleasure to watch.
  • mal de debarquement - I got vertigo after leaving the ship. I'll post about that separately. Nobdoy warned me abou this one. Luckily, it lasted for just a few days.

I am glad we went on the cruise. I won't go on another one on purpose. It was nice enough, but not really our style. If we want another lazy vacation, we'll book into an all-inclusive resort and make it our home base.

I'm grateful that we won this prize and had this adventure together.

question - do you cruise? do you like it?

mompoet - now I know

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

towel art

I promise I'll tell you more about the big old cruise and Miami Beach vacation. For tonight I want to show you towel art. At the resort in Mexico a couple of years ago, we got towel art one night out of 7, on our wedding anniversary. On the cruise, we had a different towel creation (plus chocolates and turned-down blankets) every night. This is surely because of our wonderful cabin steward Rodney, who fixed up our room every time we stepped out even for a few minutes. I found out that there was one worker for every 2 guests on the cruise ship. We were grateful for Rodney's attentive care, although I must admit I left the cruise with mixed feelings about towel animals.

Towel animals are an important feature of the cruise ship experience. You can watch a channel on your cabin TV, totally devoted to ice sculpture and towel animal-making. I wonder if anyone goes home determined to make an ice sculpture every Saturday, and take turns with the hubby/wifey to make each other towel animals for bedtime every night? I am both amused and repulsed by the towel animal aesthetic. I'm not sure how to put it delicately, and perhaps you'll draw the same conclusion from the photos alone, but here it is: I think towel animals look something like croissants, and something like male genitals.

Needless to say, I did not buy the towel animal DVD or booklet. I'll leave the memories of the towel animals on the boat and accept them as a sign of Rodney the cabin steward's kindness and attention to detail. I hope that I will not encounter too many of these towel animals in my lifetime because I also think I am a little bit afraid of them.

question: do you like towel animals?
mompoet - I like towels that are flat, or occasionally folded into fans - no definitely flat!

Friday, March 11, 2011

kimmy wasabi laver

My friend Diane gave me a packet of Kimmy wasabi flavoured laver (seaweed) at work on Thursday. "You'll like this," she said, then warned me that it has a very intense flavour. Diane knows that I like wasabi peas, and said I would like this too. I took it home and enjoyed it with a beer after supper. It is wasabi-hot in a way your wouldn't expect nori seaweed to be. It is good though!

After I ate it I read the package and found the description of suggested uses as delicious as the snack itself. You can check this out on the product web page.

I hope I will get some more laver to snack on soon. Or perhaps for a fun beard or whiskers.

question: tried any new treats lately?

mompoet - the world is full of delicious adventures and fun whiskers