Monday, October 30, 2006

Caribbean Carousing, Day 1

After a thoroughly exhausting Sunday--getting up at 4:15 am to catch a 6:00 am flight and then running nonstop until about 5PM--we finally found ourselves aboard the Mariner of the Seas. It is awe-inspiring when you catch your first glimpse. It's the second largest passenger ship in the world and it's the size of a small country.

Our first stop had to be cancelled because the seas were too rough for the transfer boats to get us to the island. So we've spent the day exploring our new residence. We've had our first spa experience and are nice and relaxed from a wonderful massage. Tonight we play dress up and tomorrow we start our first day with the genealogy folks.

So, all is well in Royal Caribbean land. It is amazing just how quickly you can completely lose track of time and of the day of the week. (Of course, changing time zones about 3 times over the course of two days helps in that regard.) To help us stay in touch with reality, the RC folks place a new rug in the elevators with the day of the week emblazoned thereon. Sort of like the day of the week panties that were so popular back when.

Gotta run for now. We have a conference reception, followed by the Captain's Gala, followed by the Captain's Reception to prepare for. Catch you tomorrow. Tuesday, I think...


Friday, October 27, 2006


Tomorrow is the start of my fall vacation. And yes, it involves genealogy. But there will be no libraries or dusty archives or damp courthouses this time around. Probably no cemeteries, but I'm not guaranteeing that one.

About 200 of the genealogical persuasion are embarking on a 7-day Eastern Caribbean cruise. We are congregating in Florida and will set sail about 5PM on Sunday afternoon. We will visit Cococay in the Bahamas, Charlotte Amalie on Saint Thomas, and Phillipsburg on Saint Maartens. When we are not exploring tropical islands, we will be discussing various aspects of genealogical research while at sea on board the Mariner of the Seas.

Up to now I've not really had the desire to visit tropical islands. Given the choice between Hawaii and Banff National Park in Canada, I would head to the mountains. However, I must admit that 3 seasons of Lost have me curious about lush, isolated islands. Hopefully we won't encounter any buried hatches or misplaced polar bears, but I do hope to walk sandy shores and wade in clear blue pools and get to know some new people.

I'm traveling without the laptop this time. We will have some Internet access on board and I will try to post an entry here and there to let you know that we're not really lost. But for the most part we plan to disconnect for a week and just enjoy our surroundings.

Sure hope there's a Jack or Sawyer on board. Life would be so much more interesting if there were.


Monday, October 23, 2006

Just Call Me a Flapper

The diet is working. I'm down 14 pounds to date. While I don't feel much different, it is hard to miss the fact that my slacks are all beginning to bag and flap in the breeze. These are slacks that just two months ago were beginning to feel a bit snug for comfort. I've moved down one size and teetering at the small edge of that one. It won't be long before I have to go shopping again. (Woe is me!)

I'm preparing for a weeklong cruise in the very near future and it's been a challenge to put together the trip wardrobe. Clothes I bought last month expressly for the cruise are almost too big now. I'm wearing them anyway. People will just have to wonder.

About 200 genealogists are gathering together in Orlando for a week's cruise on the high seas, with stops in the Bahamas and the Virgin Islands, interspersed with presentations by some very prominent professional genealogists during the days at sea between ports. Yes, it's another genealogy trip, but no dusty archives this time. Probably not even one cemetery stop, though we are taking a tour of Blackbeard's castle so we might get to see a ghost or two.

Tonight I did the cooking for a week's worth of dog meals to fill the freezer. Little brother refuses to cook for the little people, and they won't eat canned food. So I made a mountain of boiled chicken tonight and then shredded it and bagged it. I'm a good mommy and I feel guilty already.

Boo Cat was enthralled with the smells. He wound around my feet until I gave up and gave him a small piece. A monster was created. He loved the stuff and he wanted MORE. To emphasize his desire, he took a flying leap up my leg and buried his claws in my upper thigh. It definitely got my attention. I explained to the little toot that his approach needed work, while trying to stanch the flow of blood down my leg.

To save myself from further damage, I tossed a few scraps in the floor. A few minutes later you would have thought that a tiger was protecting its kill. Scout had made a move to sample one of the chicken pieces and Boo let out a growl worthy of inhabitants of the Serengeti. So I had to toss a few more scraps in the floor for her. I think I am seeing the writing on the wall with those two. It's only a matter of time before I'm cooking for the cats, too.

So the countdown is on. The suitcases are out and the dogs are giving me the cold shoulder. I'm in the pre-vacation mode where everything at the office is making me completely nuts. (I would much rather be at home packing my baggy clothes than dealing with the day to day aggravations.) Lord, give me strength to get through this week.


Sunday, October 22, 2006

My Staff

Meet my staff, without whom I would not be able to run a functioning household. At front center, is Mr. Mojo, first lieutentant. Directly behind him is first assistant secretary Coco, who apparently is on vacation today (nothing could persuade her to look into the camera). Proceeding clockwise, we next see Xana, managing secretary. On the uppermost level is Miss Scout, intern. Finally we meet Mr. Boo, the rising young upstart, who has his eye on the first lieutenant position.

They had an exhausting morning, helping Mom move the remaining plants into the "greenhouse". Time for siesta.


Thursday, October 19, 2006

Impressed, Confused, Addicted

One of my tiny little weaknesses is a fondness for electronic games. Some nights I spend the last thirty minutes before going to bed playing various free games at (I'm fond of Rocket Mania and Word Mojo, in particular.)

I also have a stack of handheld games that I've impulsively picked up on Wal-Mart stops. Until yesterday my favorite of that genre was Yahtzee. But there's a new favorite in the house.

20Q. A little plastic ball with a scrolling text line that asks you a series of questions about some object, any object of your choice, and attempts to guess what you are thinking within 20 questions. You press the "yes", "no", "unknown", or "sometimes" buttons in answer to its inquiries. The thing is spooky in its ability to zero in on the answer.

Being a stubborn cuss, I have been coming up with the most bizarre things I can think of to test its powers. I decided to think of an oak tree. I figured it would guess tree easily enough and I would have to accept that it had won. I never figured out what it had asked me that allowed it to correctly guess oak tree. But it did. I was astounded.

Ok, next test was a zebra. It hit it easily within 20 questions, though I never figured out why it said zebra and not just a plain horse.

Aha, I thought. Got you now... I pictured a tombstone, a common object to this cemetery hopping genealogist, but not such a common thing for other people to be thinking about. I'll be damned if it didn't guess that as well. It took it 25 questions, but it got it.

The little gizmo gives itself an extra 5 questions if it doesn't get it right the first time, but if you stump it in 25, it concedes defeat. So far I'm managing to stump it about 1 time in 10. Believe me, I am throwing it some pretty weird challenges. "Tombstone" and "frying pan" it guesses. I stumped it with "walnut". Bizarre and unpredictable.

And completely addictive. Who needs TV?


Sunday, October 15, 2006


Okay, before we start on the real topic, here is an update on the resident hooligans. They are no longer cautious around their kitty tree; they zoom to the top and bounce to the bottom as quickly as it took to type this sentence. They race through the house, tackling each other, the dogs, and me. They can hear me open the pantry door from the far corner of the upper floor. They steal laundry about to be folded and create their own kitty toys from a rolled up sock.

In other words, they are generally a blur and impossible to photograph. Until nap time. See how they've grown...

I must mention here just how fabulously the kittens and the dogs are getting along. I've caught every one of the dogs nuzzling a kitten from time to time and even tolerating friendly pats from kitty paws. It's a miracle.

Now, on to the real topic. It occurred to me that bringing the plants indoors this year was going to be a problem, what with the two little monsters on the prowl. I had visions of broken branches, leaves littered all around, and smelly vapors coming from the potting soil. On the other hand, I knew it wasn't going to be long until the weather guessers came up with the first freeze warning. What to do?

Sometimes I amaze myself. I decided to turn one of the gazebos into a green house this winter, allowing me to keep the plants outside. At first, I figured that I would need a lot of plastic sheeting. And then the brainstorm hit. Shower curtains. I bought 8 of the cheapest clear shower curtains I could find (about $20 worth), and 8 sets of the cheapest shower curtain rings I could find (about $12) and this morning created a very passable greenhouse.
During the coldest nights this winter, I can run an extension cord from Mother's bedroom and put a light in with the plants for a little heat. On the warm days, I will just push back the shower curtains. The plants will still have light and fresh air and my house will be plant-litter free. Win, win, win solution.


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Boom, Boom, Ain't it Great to be Crazy?

I'm beginning to wonder about my sanity.

For one thing, I was rechecking the details of my upcoming vacation and realized that I must have been drunk when I made the flight reservations. For some reason I booked a flight that leaves at 6:00 AM. What was I thinking? We've decided we will have to spend the previous night at a hotel close to the airport or there's no bloody way we're going to get there in time.

And then there's the issue of the kittens. The little toots are turning the house upside down. This morning as I was attempting to work on my laptop upstairs, I spent the better part of two hours removing one or the other from either the laptop keyboard, the phone, the tv remote or my leg. As fast as I would get one untangled and removed, the other one would be latching on. As soon as I would convince one of them to stop chewing the power cord, the other would be attacking Mojo and starting a big dog-cat fight all around the bedroom. Anything moveable is repeatedly nudged off into the floor. They are alert to anything I am eating or drinking and do their best to sneak into my glass or plate to check on whether it might be a kitty treat. They are a yellow and black and white blur of activity.

And then, just as you think you can't stand another minute of their devilment, they fall over into a dead sleep, purring and snuggling against me. Who can resist sleeping babies?

No doubt about it, I've completely lost my mind.


Friday, October 06, 2006


Ok, the good news is that I've lost 10 pounds on the diet I started the day after Labor Day. It takes about 10 pounds before you really feel the effects of weight loss. My jeans that I bought last fall were beginning to slide down my hips.

So I went to the local Beall's store this past Wednesday and tried on a couple of pair a size smaller. I bought one pair, thinking that I'm going to be losing more weight and will probably have to buy another pair soon. I kid you not, they were snug but comfortable and looked just right.

So today - two days later - I wore my new jeans to work. By the end of the day, the dratted things were sliding off my hips.

I'm not complaining or bragging. Just mark it down as further evidence of the impossibility of acquiring a pair of jeans that really fit. Can't be done.


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Literary Corner

My reading lately usually takes one of several directions:

1) Something light but entertaining. For instance, I am currently reading my way through the 28 books in a mystery series by Lilian Jackson Braun, The Cat Who... books. (Sorry, I can't seem to get away from the cat theme these days.) The central character is a middle-aged newspaper columnist who lives with two Siamese cats. One of the cats, Koko, has a knack for sniffing out clues and/or bringing his owner's attention to suspicious people. I avoided the series for years because it sounded entirely hokey, but it turns out that the books are full of likeable characters and the stories are a pleasant diversion when you don't want to have to concentrate too hard on plot.

2) Something slightly more complicated in the plot department. I am also currently reading my way through another mystery series by Elizabeth Peters, the non de plume of Barbara Mertz, a lady with a solid background in Egyptian archeaology. She created a character named Amelia Peabody, an independent lady of means in Victorian England who travels to Egypt, marries an archaeologist, bears him a precocious son and invariably gets caught up in an intriguing mystery while on their periodic digs. I've learned a lot about ancient Egypt reading these books and the mysteries are always well plotted and engaging.

3) The latest book from several authors who never fail to provide an entertaining read: Anne Tyler (hard to describe, but her characters are unforgettable), J. K. Rowling (yes, Harry Potter is for adults as well as kids), Lemony Snicket (ditto his Series of Unfortunate Events books), Ann B. Ross (her Miss Julia books are a riot), and Janet Evanovich (her mysteries or her romance novels can make me laugh out loud).

4) There are the audiobooks that I buy at Half-Price books because they sound interesting and the price is right. Sometimes they are a disappointment, but sometimes you find a jewel. Over the past few weeks I have been pleasantly surprised and grateful to have happened across a few that I can recommend to you in audio or print.

America's Women, by Gail Collins. This history of the American woman takes you on a journey from Virginia Dare in the Jamestown Colony, to the modern woman and gives you a real sense of pride to be an American woman. Also, if you've ever wondered how women managed on wagon trains or in pioneer homes on the frontier, it's a real eye-opener.

The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger. It's a flat out hoot. Particularly enjoyable if you've ever spent time as a personal assistant or secretary. Which I have.

Three Weeks With My Brother by Nicholas and Micah Sparks. I had this on my shelf for quite awhile before I decided to give it a try. I've plodded through several novels by Nicholas Sparks via audiobook and I'm of mixed feelings about him. His novels are not something I would heartily recommend since they manipulate your emotions and he seems to delight in catching you off guard and punching you in the gut. However, this book is enthralling. It is a non-fictional account of a 3-week trip around the world that he took with his brother, interspersed with memories of their childhood. It keeps me sitting in the car for several minutes after I arrive at my destination, just to hear the end of a chapter because I'm so caught up in the narrative.

On Writing by Stephen King. King is another writer whose novels I would just as soon never open. But this memoir about how he became a writer and advice to would-be writers is fascinating. And I do appreciate someone who appreciates the proper use of grammar.

The Mitford Books by Jan Karon. Like Anne Tyler, her writing is hard to describe. She writes a series of novels set in the small town of Mitford and whose central character is an Episcopal priest who marries for the first time at the age of 60. The plots are simple slices of life, but the characters are irresistible.

All of these last few books were happy accidental discoveries because the price was right. I will keep haunting Half-Price Books and taking chances on the unknown so long as these kinds of discoveries keep coming along.

5) Finally, there is an interesting website that I discovered through someone else's blog. It's called Daily Lit . These folks have taken many well-known books and broken them down into daily doses which they will email to you on weekdays. Each portion takes about 5 minutes to read. Among their available books was Pride & Prejudice, a book that I've never been able to force myself to read. So I'm taking it a small dose at a time (currently I've completed 12 of 149 segments). It's an interesting concept and I'm reading each segment, but still wondering why so many seem to feel this is such an outstanding book. I find it incredibly dull and hoping I don't feel compelled to relegate it to the junk email bucket before I finish. (True Confession: The only time I ever resorted to using Cliff Notes for a book report was in a college English literature course. The assigned book was Emma, another Jane Austen novel. I just could not make myself finish the thing. It was horribly dull. So, that one time I took a short cut. I would do it again, without a twinge of guilt. The book was god-awful.)

But enough about me. Read any good books lately?


Monday, October 02, 2006

Conquering Everest

I really am going to get off the kitten posts in the near future. It's just so darned hard not to think that everything they do is exceptionally cute.

I've lost two cats in the last two years to what was probably coyote snackfests. When I committed to take on these two little guys, I decided that they would be henceforth and forever inside cats. With that in mind, I got online and roamed around until I discovered what looked to be like the perfect kitty tree. It was a bit pricey, but I wanted them to be happy as indoor cats. I first set it up in Mother's room, thinking it would be some entertainment for her. The kittens were not interested. They wanted to be in the living area where the more active members of the family were congregating. David and I decided that if I were to get my money out of the thing, we would have to acquiesce and move it to the living room.

One day is all it took for them to conquer their timidity. When I came in today, they were well in residence.

Xana is not at all convinced that the babies are safe on their lofty perches. She frets and grunts until they decide to come back to earth.

But the babies are indifferent to her concerns. They have come to the mountain and mastered its uppermost height. Their world has expanded and they are in charge.