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Archive for November, 2010

Thanksgiving is tomorrow. The day when we give thanks for all of the things we love and cherish and the day when we generally eat too much and spend a lot of time with families–our own or someone else’s. We usually spend Thanksgiving with my husband’s family, but this year my sister Kellie invited all of the Ford clan to her house in California. It was ostensibly so we could spend at least one holiday together as a family this year, since Sarah has to stay in California for Christmas. But I think it was really so we could go to Disneyland.

Yes, this year on Thanksgiving Day instead of eating turkey and gorging ourselves on pie, our entire family will be at the Happiest Place on Earth on the Busiest Day of the Year–lots of prepositional phrases, and probably lots and lots of waiting in line. But I think it will fun. I love my family, and we’ll have a great time no matter where we are. So I’m excited. We’re apparently going to have The Meal on Friday–after Black Friday shopping–and that will also be interesting.

I actually really like Thanksgiving. I have a great deal for which to be thankful, and I think it’s fabulous that there is a day devoted entirely to that. So in that spirit, I’ll give you my Top 20 Things I’m Thankful For. You’ll just have to live with the preposition at the end of the sentence. However, since the holidays inevitably have some cursing along with the joyful celebration noises, I’ll also present my Bottom 10 Things About the Holidays That Make Me Curse. Sorry no pictures–I’m blogging from my iPad and it’s complicated to upload them in the WordPress app.

Whether your Thanksgiving is at Disneyland, your parents’ house, your in-laws’ house, or in your own dining room, I wish you all happy, safe holiday and multiple bargains on Black Friday.

Top 20 Things I’m Thankful For

  1. My husband Jamey. He is the best part of my life, and I don’t know what I’d do without him.
  2. My family: sisters Sarah, Kellie and Jackie, parents, Rick and Shelley, neice Olivia and nephews, Jaxon and Sevrin, and my step-kids Carly and Eric. I’m so lucky to be so close to my family, and I’m so happy that I get to be with them this week.
  3. Jamey’s family. I’ve been fortunate to get along with my in-laws, and I know that many people don’t get to say that.
  4. great neighbors
  5. It’s said so often that it’s become something of a cliche, but I am thankful for my freedom, and for the men and women who serve our country on a daily basis.
  6. good health
  7. My job. Like all jobs, mine comes with its share of frustrations and heartaches, but I know there are a lot of people out there who don’t have jobs right now, so I’m very thankful that I have one.
  8. Food on the table. It’s actually kind of appalling how many people don’t have enough food to eat. If you get the urge to share, I’m sure an organization like the Houston Food Bank would be more than happy to hear from you.
  9. good friends
  10. My pets. They’re cute, kind, and amusing, and they give me unconditional love. Well, I have cats and a fish, so their love is actually kind of conditional. But I’m grateful for them anyway.
  11. the opportunities I’ve had to see some other parts of the world
  12. My education. I really had a phenomenal secondary education, which prepared me well for my college and post-graduate studies, and I consider myself fortunate to have had that firm foundation.
  13. Dawn and Shelly in the City Manager’s Office, who screen my calls, pay the bills, and generally keep me sane. I don’t think I could do my job without them.
  14. Hot coffee. While we’re at it, hot showers, warm bathrobes, and fireplaces.
  15. Ice. I’ve realized in my travels that ice is very much a luxury. I’m glad I have it.
  16. Technology. I’d be literally lost without the Internet and my iPhone. I’m still often lost even with them, but it’s much better than it would be without them.
  17. Great organizations and individuals who work hard with small budgets and large dreams to make others’ lives better. I could name so many, but I’d leave someone out. You know who you are.
  18. volunteers
  19. everyday miracles
  20. The ability to fly across the country and be with my family within hours. The TSA will get a lot of criticism today, but I always manage to get where I need to go safely and quickly, even with long lines.

Bottom 10 Things About the Holidays that Make Me Curse

  1. long lines
  2. grumpy, unreasonable people
  3. distracted drivers
  4. the insanity of trying to accomplish a full week’s work in the short week before a long holiday
  5. Packing for casual holidays. I have no casual clothes or shoes. It’s kind of ridiculous.
  6. overly zealous shoppers
  7. parking fees at the airport
  8. traffic
  9. security hysteria
  10. Terrorists and crazy people. Without them, we could just walk on the plane without body scans or pat downs.
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Last week completely kicked my butt. Then I had a fantastic weekend with Jamey–we went on a really quick road trip to Austin for the UT/Oklahoma State game–and now this week is kicking my butt. I totally live for the weekends.

It’s honestly going to be a completely insane week–tomorrow I DRIVE to Goliad, then Wednesday I’m off to Grapevine for the ICSC Conference, then we go to San Antonio as soon as I get back for a long-overdue visit with Jamey’s family. In-sane. But hey–at least I’m not bored!!

For those of you who didn’t get a chance to see them yet, be sure to check out the pictures of our cruise that Jamey posted online. We took almost 400 pictures, and we posted our favorites online for your viewing pleasure. They’re for my viewing pleasure too–I go and look at them every once in a while to remind myself how lovely it was to not be stressed out and annoyed for a whole week of my life.

Reading over that last paragraph, I realize that I’m really cranky tonight! So I’ll just shut up now and get on with the lists. Enjoy, and have a great week!

top 20

  1. impromptu road trips with Jamey
  2. having a suntan
  3. UT football games. Even when the team isn’t so hot, the games are an experience in and of themselves.
  4. Austin, Texas. It’s a really great city, particularly late at night.
  5. going to the movies
  6. planning another cruise
  7. My sisters. They crack me up.
  8. Travel & Leisure Magazine
  9. supportive co-workers
  10. short board meetings
  11. Harrison Ford
  12. SportsCenter commercials
  13. Thanksgiving planning
  14. Moscow Mules
  15. hot tea on a chilly morning
  16. sleeping in
  17. our cat, Oliver, who adores Jamey and does his part to make every morning an obstacle course
  18. a clean car
  19. Potato chips. I know they are so incredibly awful for me, which I think is part of their charm.
  20. Bumble & Bumble hair products

bottom 10

  1. Christmas decorations up before Thanksgiving. Isn’t there a rule or something?
  2. the economy
  3. abuse of power
  4. puppy mills
  5. cruise hangovers
  6. Skinny jeans. This is probably because I’m not skinny anymore, but I never really liked them.
  7. paranoia
  8. smeared eyeliner
  9. airfare prices
  10. finishing the bottom 10 long before I finish the top 20

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We’re Back!

Jamaica, from the Lido Deck

Regular readers of this blog will no doubt be waiting with baited breath to read how we enjoyed our seven-day cruise to the Caribbean. The Reader’s Digest answer is that it was absolutely fabulous. The actual answer requires a brief description of the things we learned and a top 20 and bottom 10 list devoted exclusively to our trip. So read on, if you’re interested in that kind of thing! If you’re not, then tune in next week when I’ll have a regular old blog filled with non-Caribbean good and bad things. I’ll also have a link to all of our photos, which Jamey will no doubt have posted to a fancy online album by then.

Our trip was really wonderful in every way. We left Galveston last Sunday (Halloween). We then spent two days at sea and visited Montego Bay, Jamaica, Georgetown, Grand Caymen, and Cozumel, Mexico, respectively, on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Then we spent another day at sea on Saturday and arrived back in Galveston early this morning (I’m writing this on Sunday evening). Here’s a brief explanation of some of the things we learned, which will help you understand some of the things in the top 20 and bottom 10:

AT SEA

We learned that they sell ART on cruise ships. We had no idea, so we didn’t budget for it, but we enjoyed the art in the gallery, the art talks, and the auctions, and we’ll be sure to plan to buy some next time. Evidently it’s quite the business. Bingo is also big business, as are gambling, raffle drawings, spa treatments, and the duty-free sale of alcohol (in and out of fruity drinks) and jewelry. We also learned that you can wear your bathrobe pretty much anywhere on the ship (except maybe the formal dining room), that no one cares what you look like in a swimming suit, and that playing mini-golf in gale-force winds  on the top deck is counter-productive, that the majority of the staff have charming accents that all sound Australian for some reason, and that the coffee in the dining room is far superior to the coffee on the Lido deck.

IN JAMAICA

We took a two-and-a-half-hour bus ride over the mountain to the Appleton Rum Estate, so we had a lot of time to learn things about Jamaica from our super-solicitous and very informative guide, Raquel (who is now my friend on Facebook). The most important thing we learned was that the Jamaican people are warm and friendly and they will bend over backwards to ensure that you are comfortable and that you have a good time while you’re there. We also learned that the island of Jamaica is made up of 14 parishes and three counties, that the colors of the flag represent the people (black), the vegetation (green) and the bright sunshine (yellow), and that there are no problems in Jamaica–only small situations–and you never say Yes, but Yah, Mohn! We also learned that there are many, many different kinds of rum and they are all divine.

IN GRAND CAYMAN

Grand Cayman is spectacularly beautiful, and the most beautiful thing about it (to me) is the water, which ranges in color from super light aquamarine to super deep sapphire, and every shade of blue in between. We took a catamaran out on that beautiful, clear blue water and stopped in a shallow bay called Stingray City where we got to hang out with the stingrays for an hour or so. There we learned some really cool things about stingrays: that the females are larger and much more friendly than the males, that they love, love, love to be pet pretty much everywhere except on their spine, that they’ll eat a small squid right out of your hand, and they act almost exactly like large, kite-shaped, smooth skinned puppies. It was amazing. When we got back to the island we also learned that there are iguanas EVERYWHERE on the island, that “…left is right and right is suicide,” and the locals say it’s called Grand Cayman because you need a grand a day if you’re going to stay there. Luckily for our pocketbooks (and unluckily for us), we were only there for the afternoon. Hopefully we’ll go back again some day and explore some more.

IN COZUMEL

In Cozumel we forewent the planned shore excursions and went in search of a nice quiet beach. It was good that we did, because the wind was pretty heavy that day and the waters were quite choppy, and we found out later that many of the water excursions were cancelled. So while we were following our noses, we learned a few things all on our own. We (and by we I mean Jamey) had read on Lonely Planet that the west side of the island was the “wild side.” We thought that was because it was a big party scene, but we learned that it’s literally wild–it has almost no development, very few tourists and quiet, calm, shallow waters lapping up onto pristine white sandy beaches. After haggling with the cab drivers, we learned that it’s about twenty minutes from the east side (where the ships are docked) to the west side, and if you find a good cab driver like our friend Miguel you can be taken there, dropped off for as long as you like, and picked up and returned for $20 each way. We learned that the island is very long and narrow, that it’s only 18 miles from the Mainland, and that at least one alligator lives in the swampy still water on the other side of the road from the beach. We also reconfirmed what we had learned may years ago: that the vendors, cab drivers, waiters,  and shop owners in Mexico adore haggling–if we had accepted their first offers and hadn’t tried to talk them down I believe they would have talked themselves down before letting us pay that price. NOTE: I speak fluent Spanish, which I think helped tremendously with the haggling and got us some fairly good deals and a lot of great information from Miguel.

So now that you know some of the things we learned, we’ll go on to the lists that I know you’ve all been waiting for. Enjoy, and have a fantastic week!

top 20

  1. The captain, cruise director, entertainment staff, and crew of the Carnival Conquest. They all did an unbelievable job of making us feel comfortable, safe, happy and completely entertained for seven days.
  2. swimming with stingrays
  3. the new underwater Olympus digital camera that we got specifically for the stingray excursion. It paid for itself quickly
  4. Having a steward to clean our room, keep our ice bucket filled, turn down our bed, and make us cute little towel structures each evening. I totally want one full-time now.
  5. the chatter, insane driving, multiple languages and general chaos that is the Jamaican cruise terminal
  6. watching movies and television on the giant screen on the Lido deck
  7. fruity drinks
  8. The view of Jamaica from the ship, both coming and going. Absolutely breathtaking.
  9. our Jamaican tour guide, Raquel, and our No Problem driver Mr. Jackson
  10. Bill and Linda, our wonderful neighbors who dropped us off and picked us up in Galveston, and our friend Shelly, who watched our cats, our fish, and our house in our absence
  11. the Caribbean sea
  12. Donkey, a fantastic Australian who hosted most of the on-board game shows–I loved all of the staff, but I think he was my favorite. Jamey referred to him as “the Ubiquitous Donkey,” which I think would be a great name for a rock band…or a game show.
  13. being blissfully unconnected to work and all cares and worries for seven full days
  14. hanging out at the piano bar
  15. being addressed by our first names throughout the course of our dinner each evening
  16. ice cream machines everywhere
  17. catamaran sailing
  18. celebrating Halloween at sea
  19. Your Time Dining. We weren’t tied to a specific dinner time, and were free to go whenever we wanted between 5:30 and 9:30 p.m.
  20. knowing, despite all expectations to the contrary, that I am perfectly capable of sitting still and doing absolutely nothing for more than 15 minutes at a time

bottom 10

  1. the $8 – $13 price tag on the fruity drinks
  2. not having enough time to spend in the ports of call
  3. Being unprepared to take advantage of some neat art sales. We especially liked the artwork of Fabian Perez, and we particularly liked this painting.
  4. losing at Bingo, slot machines, and just about every raffle drawing (although Jamey did win a bottle of rum at the Grand Cayman Shopping Raffle)
  5. trying (unsuccessfully) to gracefully manage a full skirt on a windy deck
  6. wasted time worrying about things that ultimately don’t matter to anyone (like cellulite and varicose veins)
  7. Seasickness. I only felt queasy one night, and it was a very mild queasiness, but it was not fun.
  8. The Rangers losing the World Series. Almost the entire ship was from somewhere in Texas, and we mourned together after seeing it on the big giant tv on the Lido deck.
  9. Substandard popcorn for the Lido Deck Late Night Movie. Picky, I know, but there were very few things about our vacation that I can put in the bottom 10. The popcorn was disappointing.
  10. the speed at which seven days fly right by when you’re having a wonderful vacation

    Jamey and Me, in Cozumel

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