Saturday, April 30, 2011

Radiant Cruise on Radiance: The End

We had a grand time in Cozumel! I was really impressed with the excursion we took; first time we've ever done this. Kudos to Royal Caribbean for this one!

Our morning started with waking up early (even before the room service attendant called) and going out onto our balcony to find us pulled up next to another RCI ship, Liberty of the Seas. A monster! Seriously, if this is the 2nd largest category of their ships, I shudder to think what their new mega-ships look like.
Front end of Liberty of the Seas seen from our balcony

Room service arrived and the attendant was a real comedian. He was totally perplexed by the device they'd put into our room for Mr. B's "deafness". He thought it was a joke we were playing on him. He kept pushing the button on the door that set off the device; it'd flash and vibrate. I think his mind may have been in the gutter somewhat! Anyway, a fun start to our morning.

We were off the ship and signed in for our excursion well before departure time. We were caught by the ship's photographer for one of the cheesy shots (later, we decided liked it well enough to buy it).
Not bad...

We wandered around the dock area a bit; typical shops, bars, restaurants, hawkers, etc. Lots of folks from both ships were milling about, waiting for their excursion. I took several pictures of the two ships side by side to again illustrate the difference in their sizes.
Mr. B in front of ships

Liberty (left) Radiance (right)

Tunnel view!

They loaded us onto buses around 10 and off we went. The cooking class we signed up for was held roughly 15 minutes away at a beach-resort type place. Many of the other excursions were held there, too. Or, one could opt to pay a fixed price and hang out on the beach or in the pool area all day with all you can eat and drink included. Anyway, it was a pretty enough place and the bathrooms were kept sparkling clean by a very friendly attendant. There were also many creatures wandering about, including a resident iguana (who later was carted about for photo ops).

There were about 20 of us who'd signed up for the class. I think we were the only ones from Radiance, the rest were from Liberty. We went into a classroom set up like a kitchen with multiple stations, each holding four people. We joined a couple from West Virginia who turned out to be highly amusing (and even more so after the booze started flowing).
Armed and dangerous with a Mexican spatula!

Chef B and his Sou Chef

Our instructor was an entertaining young man called Chef Luis. He, along with two or three side kicks, kept the class both instructive (we did learn a few things, well, ok, I did, anyway) and a lot of fun.
Paying attention in class

The B's with Chef Luis

Although all of the food was tasty, our Grouper Vera Cruz was by far the best. After the class, we all retired to an upstairs room with a delightful view of the ocean to eat our homework.
Dining room

Grouper Vera Cruz. Yum-o

Mr. B's artistic dessert

After several more drinks were served, Chef Luis passed the hat for tips, and then made the sales pitch for a framed picture of each couple with him (taken during the height of cooking frenzy when all were in high spirits) as well as a small cookbook of regional recipes. The B's being suckers for all things food-related, we purchased both.

After we ate, we had about an hour to laze around the pool before it was time to head back to the ship. We had a few more drinks (why not, they were included in the price of the excursion, which, by the way, was pretty reasonable) and then back to the dock we went.

Having had such an exhausting day, we decided we'd best go chill out in the Solarium for awhile before sail-away. Interestingly enough, when we went back up to the top deck to say "Adios!" to Cozumel, there was absolutely no one else up there, which was somewhat eerie.
Where IS everyone?

No one here either except my DH!

And me!

Since we'd heard so much about The Seaview Cafe (people on the message board are all up in arms because it's going to be turned into a Johnny Rocket's when Radiance goes into dry dock this spring), we decided to try it. We thought it was ok plus. I guess the primary beef is that it'll no longer be free. As an aside, it does seem as though more and more things on cruises are NOT included in the price of the cruise itself.

After dinner in the main dining room (still trying to not be irritated about our crapola table), we went to watch The Quest, which is a funny, adult-game show type variety show which brave passengers elect to make fools of themselves for the entertainment of everyone else. We'd seen this on Enchantment and thought it was worth going to again and it was. Afterwards, I actually got Mr. B up to the disco AND out onto the dance floor where he did his very best Robot Man impression (it's so cute) while I danced around him like a happy glad-fly.

Our last day on board, Friday, was rainy and icky. Boo.

We got our departure luggage tags and they had us slated for the LAST time slot. I think not! We went and changed them at the hospitality desk with zero problems. Good to know for next time. We ate lunch in the MDR and had an interesting conversation with several other passengers. For some reason, it doesn't bother us sharing a table with people we don't know for lunch or breakfast; maybe we should try it for dinner, or, better yet, convince other people to travel with us!

We had a nice final dinner; handed out gratuities, etc.
Obligatory outside stateroom door picture

The process getting off the ship our last morning was very smooth however not everyone (including my DH) likes to follow instructions!

It was highly amusing to walk past The Naughty Table on our way off the ship. This is where "illegal" items that passengers attempted to smuggle on board were on display; tagged and waiting for their owners to reclaim them (all except booze, that is; apparently, that is dumped out (or passed around the crew!)) There were TONS of clothes irons, for God's sake! Who in their right mind wants to iron clothes while on vacay! Not to mention, how dangerous one of these could be (fire hazard). Really, people, it's not as if Royal Caribbean doesn't make it ABUNDANTLY clear what is prohibited and that they WILL search luggage. Stupid.

Anyway, our short cruise was delightful with the exception of a few things. Here are the pros and cons!

Embarkation was a snap
RCI's frozen mojitos ARE TO DIE FOR
Draft beer this time (although only Heineken products)
Large aft balcony with nice view
Weather...was this January?
Dinner at Portofino. The tiramisu was WOWIE!
The Solarium...relaxing and loved the bird sounds
$50 OBC from
Glass elevators over the
Cozumel/Mexican cuisine excursion with Chef Luis
The Quest
Disembarkation painless

Stateroom attendant not so great
Crappy MDR table
Service in general not as personal
Room was nice but cramped; dinky shower
Pool area a lot smaller than EOS
Didn't like layout of the ship quite as much as EOS's
Showtimes seemed WAY early (hard to eat a leisurely dinner and get to a show)

All in all, though, we had a fine time and can't wait to book another cruise!

Mrs. B

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Cartoon Pictures

I found this web site that turns your pictures into cartoons. As I sat around this morning tracking the bad weather we've been having so that I'd know if I needed to go run hide in the bathroom, I uploaded a bunch of my pictures and converted them. Some of them were dreadful, I looked absolutely skeletal in the face or my eyes were huge and empty (as if I were either possessed or extremely stupid). Many turned out sorta cool, though. Here are a few that I particularly like in no particular order!
Mrs. B

Lucy 2010
Mr. and Mrs. B with Lucy 2010
Mr. B on Radiance of the Seas in Costa Maya 2011
Mrs. B with Good Friend Peri 2009
Mrs. B and Her Mom 2010
Mrs. Sr. B and Mrs. B 2009
Father and Margot 1969
Mrs. B as Red Lady 2010
Mrs. B at Sweet Sixteen

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Itchin' and Scratchin'

It's started again! Each Spring, I start to itch like mad. It kept me awake all night Sunday; it felt like creepy crawlies were all over my body. Slap! Scratch! Repeat! And it goes on and on. I'm surprised that I don't have welts all over my body. I should probably buy some of that Aveeno Oatmeal Bath stuff; I've heard that it supposed to really work on calming itchy skin.

On top of it, my eyelids are also extremely itchy. So, forget wearing my contact lenses right now.

So, yeah, me and the pets; we're all scratching away. Lucky Mr. B remains itch-free.

If it's anything like last year, though, the itching phase foretells the end of allergy season.

Thank God! It's been a tough one this year!

Mrs. B

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!

Hope everyone out there has an enjoyable Easter. We don't necessarily celebrate in any traditional way here in the house of B, but, we do take advantage of the occasion to spend time together cooking and savoring a nice meal. Since the weather here in Durham is absolutely lovely today (if a bit humid), we plan on getting chores done early and then hang out on our patio with cocktails and cigars while Mr. B mans the ham that will be smoking on the spit of his beloved Weber Grill.

Ham with a mustard-glaze, I should say. To accompany this will be a blue cheese, cranberry and spinach salad, lemon-chive roasted potatoes and carrots, green beans with shallots and onions and a light dessert of lemon mouse with blueberries and ginger snaps.

I think a sparkling Prosecco is in order to start with and perhaps a Pinot Noir to go with the ham. Assuming we have one left in the cellar, that is. We've been systematically sucking down our red wines so that we don't have to haul them with us when we move. In honor of my dear Margot (those in the know will get this!) If we don't have a bottle of this, we'll likely savor one of Mr. B's cherished Ridge Zinfandels.

Hope all of you have a pleasant day!

Mrs. B

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Looking Forward

Busy Season is FINALLY over! Woot! Yey! Thank God! It was a bad one, too; even more disorganized and panicked than usual. It was also longer by three days due to Emancipation Day. What's that, you ask? Well, unless you happen to live in DC, you've probably NOT heard of it as it is a holiday only celebrated in DC. It commemorates the day Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, which was actually April 16th. But, since April 16th fell on a Saturday this year (can't have that!), it was bumped up to the 15th. This meant on the normal tax deadline date, all DC government offices, including the IRS, were closed. So, the tax deadline date was moved to the 18th, which meant Mr. B ended up working all weekend. Boo.

Anyway, it's over so no sense dwelling on spoiled milk or spilled milk or any milk.

Time to look forward to what we are looking forward to!

Tonight, dinner at our favorite Durham restaurant, Magnolia Grill. I'd made the RSVP a month ago because I knew we'd want to celebrate the end of BS (tongue in cheek) and the beginning of the beginning of our new lives. Well, almost the beginning; Mr. B's last day with his current firm is slated for May 6th.

Mr. B's off this week so we're spending time pulling together our various lists to arrive at the master list of "What we have to do to implement our plan." It's gonna be a long list! Usually I don't necessarily look forward to checking things off a Honey Do list, but, in this case, everything on the list will be important means to an end.

We're enjoying each other's company, of course, even while working. We have taken time each afternoon to sit outside on our patio with cocktails and cigars. Yesterday, we realized that the baby bluebirds had hatched and were chirping away in the two bluebird houses we have on our fence. What a happy sound!
Not one of our houses but ours look exactly like this!

We decided we would go to the firm's After Busy Season party April 28th. We'd been on the fence about it given Mr. B's general unhappiness with his boss, but, as with some marriages that are nearing divorce, this relationship's been on a somewhat upward trend of late, so, we figured why not. Free drinks and food, anyway, at McCormick and Schmick's.

Then May 6th will arrive, as already noted.

We're celebrating our anniversary in Charleston this year. As always, we'll stay at our favorite place the Vendue Inn

and have our anniversary dinner at Slightly North of Broad (S.N.O.B).

We're planning on trying at least one new restaurant out this go-around, maybe two. It's a great dilemma to have; deciding what restaurant to eat at each night.

Not too long after we return from Charleston, our dear friends Don and Kathleen from California will arrive. We're taking a road trip to Indianapolis

for the Indianapolis 500.

We've been planning this for months now and really can't wait for this fun adventure, which will include some new and different experiences for us as well.

May's gonna pass in a blur. Come June, it will be time to buckle down and make things happen to facilitate our relocation to Florida. This may mean a trip or two down there.

July will be more of the same. We are also thinking of driving to NY towards the end of July for Mr. B's brother's 50th birthday. This will depend on how things are progressing with/where we are in the Florida move.

In August there is the potential for me (and maybe both of us) to fly to San Diego for my 30th high school reunion but this is a long shot and I'm not really counting on it happening. It would be fun, of course, but we may be in the midst of a move.

Obviously there will be some tough things to get through during all of the fun. And, if not exactly tough, then certainly challenging. Yet, having all of the good stuff going on will cool any stings. I, for, one, am going to continue to focus the majority of my energy and thought on only those things that move us forward in our plan and/or are entertaining.

No crisis before its time.

Have a good time, all of the time.

Enjoy yourself, it is later than you think.

Mrs. B

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Radiant Cruise on Radiance: Three

Here I am almost three months after we sailed attempting to wrap this up so I can move on to other topics!

Today we'll be in Costa Maya, a port that I know very little about and one that it appears isn't terribly interesting, at least judging from the reviews I read on Trip Advisor. As such, we elected to NOT do any of Royal Caribbean's excursions but will likely get off the ship, wander around the little fake town and then get back onto the ship and hang out in the Solarium.

I'm sitting here eating breakfast out on our balcony. Once again, it's a lovely, warm, sunny morning. Breakfast is the same as yesterday's except I did order some fresh fruit of which I ate most of it since it contained melon and strawberries.

We're supposed to get cell phone signal but we're not, which means we really should get off the ship, if only to check to see if Uncle Chuck calls to let us know how Lucy is doing. She's probably in surgery as I write this. We're sending lots of positive vibes and love back home to our Goose. Damn MCTs! Today's a good a day as any for her procedure, though, as it's Nigel's 20th birthday. "Hey, Nige, keep an eye over our Goose, ok? And, say hi to Clyde for me".


Today turned out to be QUITE warm, maybe 85 or so. We got off the ship for a little bit. No cell phone signal! Boo! We were able to get in touch with the vet right before dinner, though, and Lucy "sailed" through her procedure with flying colors. Yey!

Back to Costa Maya. They had an area set up right off the dock just for the cruise ships. Another liner, Oceania, I believe, was docked right next to us. Although Oceania cruises are supposed to be the height of luxury, the ship was a little pee pee compared to ours.

Our stateroom is right below where the people are standing
The B's in front of Radiance. Well, actually we're standing in front of the BACK of Radiance!
The B's in Costa Maya with Radiance and Pee Pee Oceania in the background

Anyway, this area had shops, restaurants bars (of course) and a pool. We each had a Dos Equis and watched the people playing/swimming with the dolphins. We were back on board in less than an hour as we didn't find this overly titillating! We hung out in the Solarium for 4 1/2 hours and then, later, sat out on our balcony playing cards and smoking cigars. I took one of my absolute favorite pictures of Mark from the cruise during this time. Doesn't he just look like "Da man"?

We were out there when the ship sailed and for the sunset. Roughly 10 minutes after we pulled away, the ship stopped. The Captain came on and said not to worry, they were just making some adjustments. Good thing he did as before we pulled away, we'd noted some scary looking dudes armed with assault weapons down below on the dock (although I think they were there hoping to earn some money posing for photos with dumb-ass tourists).
Scary Commando looking dudes. Tourist walking by looks as though he's doing a double take!

As it turned out, we discovered later that what had really happened was a few of those dumb-ass tourists missed the ship when she sailed so the Captain (nicely) stopped so they could be motored out. This despite the fact they'd told us over and over we were on ship's time (an hour ahead of local time). Duh.
Pretty sunset. That's Oceania out there, back there, whatever!

We had dinner tonight in one of the specialty restaurants; Portofino. Northern Italian. It was GREAT. It is definitely worth it, we think, to pay the extra money for these places at least one night during the cruise. The food and service is certainly a notch (or two) up from that in the main dining room (which isn't bad to begin with).

We had a fantastic bottle of wine but Mr. B's attempt to take a picture of it so we'd remember what it was didn't work out all that great. Oh well!

I don't like this picture but Mr. B says I never post pictures of me so here is one

We discovered a nice surprise when we returned to our stateroom; gave us a complimentary $50 OBC (on board credit)! Also, our pre-paid gratuity vouchers turned up (which seems a bit early since we still have two more days). I think this is our stateroom attendant's doing. In general, we've not been as pleased with him as we were with Esther on Enchantment. He's ok, but, MEB says, and I agree, that he'll not be getting any extra gratuity, and neither will our waiters. And we've definitely not found a special go-to bar person like we did with Placid. Oh well, maybe being in a Junior Suite DOES count for something. Next time, we'll spend the extra money and book another of those.

Best hit it. We're taking an excursion tomorrow in Cozumel and will have room service wake us up at 7:30 am.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Goosie Lucy

Goosie Lucy
by Jim H
(sung to the tune of "Woolly Bully")

Tails a waggin
Tongue hanging out
When she's happy
Makes you wanna shout

Goosie Lucy, Goosie Lucy
Goosie Lucy, Goosie Lucy,
Goosie Lucy

She's just a lover
Such a sweetie pie
She's my baby
She's the apple of my eye

Goosie Lucy, Goosie Lucy
Goosie Lucy, Goosie Lucy,
Goosie Lucy

When we're together
My life is just so fine
Just kissin and lickin
She always will be mine

Goosie Lucy, Goosie Lucy
Goosie Lucy, Goosie Lucy,
Goosie Lucy

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Mrs. B's 2010 Book Reviews: December

I know some of you find these entries boring, but, hey, whatever! With this one, I'm finally done, anyway! BTW, I've been told by some that my reviews are funny

The Murder of King Tut: The Plot to Kill the Child King - A Nonfiction Thriller by James Patterson (CD): Hated It/1 Star

Oh,where do I begin to chronicle how stupid this book was? I'd give it a big fat GOOSE EGG, if it were allowed!

Seriously, had it been an actual book instead of a (borrowed from the library) CD, I would have thrown this piece of trash across the room.

"So", my husband said to me, "If you dislike James Patterson so much" (which I do, I truly do) "why did you even check this out?"

Well, let's see.

Momentary lapse of reason, perhaps?


1st. I'll never forget studying ancient Egypt in 6th grade. I even made a pyramid with a little mummy inside as a class project. So, I've been entranced with it ever since. I also saw the traveling Tut show in Chicago many, many moons ago.

2nd. This book was advertised as NONFICTION, so, I thought, it would be NONFICTION. Meaning, FACTUAL.

3rd. It was short.

This "nonfiction" book is laid out in three periods of time. Ancient Egypt (1300s BC), early 20th (1900s-1930s) and present day.

So, Tut's time (and a bit before and a bit after), Howard Carter (the dude who eventually discovered Tut's tomb) and Patterson's.

Patterson talks about his "great idea" to solve the mystery of who murdered King Tut. He gets his publisher to agree and then sends the guy who co-authored the book off to Egypt to do research (it seems Patterson never gets off his butt from behind his desk in his office in his lovely FL home where he is, as he constantly reminds us, surrounded by manuscripts of all his other multitude of projects).

From what I can tell, there really wasn't much new discovered. All of the stuff regarding Carter is well documented. The speculations about what happened to Tut are as well.

Somehow, though, Patterson weaves this decidedly NOT nonfiction tale about Tut, his wife (also his half-sister), his royal scribe and his general; in addition to Tut's mistress and various other characters who I'd like to know how the hell Patterson knew, in a factual way, what they did or didn't do. Based on some drawings on the walls of Tut's tomb?

Patterson lost all credibility in my opinion when he told, in great detail, about Tut and his wife's first sexual encounter. Ok, please, great Patterson, how did you know how many orgasms Tut had?

Give me a freaking break.

At the end of this (blessedly short) book, Patterson smugly announces "Case CLOSED!" I was, like, huh? Did I miss something?

The "best" part of the book was the Carter sections, but, again, his life was well documented; Patterson didn't have to make up stuff about him and call it nonfiction.

I'm not a Patterson fan (obviously), but he should probably keep to pumping out his thousands of books per year about this or that detective, police person,serial killer, whatever, and leave nonfiction to those who understand the meaning of the word.

One final note. He should have labeled this "historical fiction". Then, I wouldn't have been so pissed off.

The Tower, the Zoo, and the Tortoise by Julia Stuart: Really Liked/4 Stars

A charming book about the Beef Eaters who guard, and live in, The Tower of London.

And, yes, the Beef Eaters (and their families) actually DO live there!

I've been to the Tower several times while in London, so, I found this especially interesting. It is FICTIONAL, but, you can see the stories playing out in the way they do. After all, it IS the Tower of London!

Nice side plots as well regarding ladies who work in the lost property office for the Tube (Underground Trains), a priest who writes erotic fiction on the side, and the chaos that ensues when the Queen sends her Royal Menagerie to the Tower to live (and bring in some tourist income!)

The main story itself (a woman leaves her husband of many years because she feels he's not fully experienced the death of their only child and they've grown apart because of it) could take place anywhere, of course. Somehow, it's just more interesting in the Tower of London!

And, I found it fascinating reading about all the places within the Tower Complex that us tourists are not allowed to visit.

Four stars mostly for ingenuity!

Anne Frank Remembered: The Story of the Woman Who Helped to Hide the Frank Family by Miep Gies and Alison Lesley Gold: Totally Awesome/5 Stars

Although maybe not the best writing style I've ever read (and some of this is likely due to translation from Dutch to English), this was an interesting parallel to the events chronicled by Anne in her diary.

In addition to revealing what was going on outside the secret annex during those months of hiding, the book provides background on Miep Gies, her husband, and the others who helped the Frank (and other) families during this awful time.

I struggled with how, exactly, to rate this. Is it the best thing I've ever read? No. Is it as important as Anne's diary? No (although diary readers will be fascinated by some of the "behind the scenes" tidbits provided in this book). But, for Miep's courage and loyalty to her friends (and others), I give it a 5.

Apparently, this is a companion book to a documentary about Miep; which now, of course, I'd like to see.

Noah's Compass by Anne Tyler (CD): Didn't Much Care For/2 Stars

This is the story of Liam, a sixty year old grouch with three daughters, a grandson, an ex wife, an odd ball girlfriend, and a memory problem.

Liam's trying to recall a period of roughly 24 hours and he cannot. It's driving him crazy because he feels he shouldn't have lost this time (he was knocked out by a would be home intruder who didn't steal anything because he didn't have anything worth stealing). The doctors wonder why he wants to remember, his family is tired of hearing him rant about it.

While he tries to remember, he realizes that, although he won't remember that incident, he's remembering other things that he'd long since forgotten.

This is pretty much the story. As for the title, I kept wondering when he was going to meet someone named Noah. As it turned out, the title comes from one quick scene where he is reading a bible story to his grandson.

Anyway, this was definitely not up to Tyler's standards. I'm wondering if her publisher was after he to write something so she threw this together. It does seem thrown together.

I'm sort of sorry this is the last book I'll finish in 2010. I like to end on a high note!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Heading Home

Lucy and Mrs. B out on the lanai yesterday. What a wonderful, sunny day spent with my delightful in-laws!

On our way home to Durham now!

Mrs. B