Cruising the Caribbean Ocean

Cruising the Caribbean- Love it? Hate it?

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Even though I’ve only cruised the big big ships once I’m have to say I loved it. And I have the next cruise booked. I’ve done lots more small yacht sailing – mostly in Lake Michigan and the Florida Keys.

My first big ship cruise was with Carnival, out of Galveston. It was even better than I expected and I was ready to go again even before we braved icy winter to get back home. The next reservation is for January of next year with Royal Caribbean and one of their huge new ships – Harmony of the Seas.

As I start making my lists and checking them twice, I’ll share what I’ve learned and what other more experienced cruisers share with me. I’m also in need of new luggage. I can’t decide whether to go overboard with the budget to get something that will last forever, or accept that the airlines and other porters are hell on bags and nothing is going to last very long. It’s a tough decision. My first “good” set of luggage regularly went through hell and back and lasted for a decade of hard use.

So I’ve left you with nothing helpful here at all, but I’ll get there. Promise.

How To Make Perfect Hard Boiled Eggs

Perfect Hard Boiled Eggs Are Easy!

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My grandson showed me how to get perfect hard boiled eggs every time! He’s going to be a chef and he practices his art daily at the restaurant where he works while finishing high school.

Perfect hard boiled eggs
Perfect hard boiled eggs every time using this method.

Over the holidays, he came to help me prep the food for the big gathering. Two dozen eggs were needed for deviled eggs. Here’s what he taught me and the proof is in the picture.

1- Spin each egg on the counter until it stops wobbling. This centers the yolk so you have an attractive slice for salads and a stable white for deviled eggs.

2- Cold eggs, cold water – 17 minutes on high from start to finish

3- Have an ice bath ready when the timer goes off after 17 minutes

4- When eggs have cooled, remove them from the ice bath, shell them immediately, and store in a gallon storage bag in the fridge.

That’s it. Perfect every time I’ve done it since.

The Candidate, by Lis W. Wiehl

Review: The Candidate, by Lis W. Wiehl

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I just finished The Candidate, by Lis W. Wiehl and had a couple of very distinct reactions while reading it.

The author has penned a compelling plot line that keeps you on the edge of your seat right up to the end. The characters are well drawn, even if a few of the descriptions are more in the tradition of a formula read. The story moves quickly and the predictable parts are not overly predictable. Overall I want to say “Well done”.

The Candidate, by Lis W. Wiehl
The Candidate, by Lis W. Wiehl

But twice while I was reading, there was a jarring stop in the action where the author inserted themselves as though it were a conversation and they were interrupting a story. It was weird enough for me to remember for days.

First, there was a scene where a character displayed some kind of common courtesy; I think maybe they stood and pulled out a chair for someone joining the group. No biggie. But the very next sentence was “…more manners than ever displayed by Trump.” To this point in the story, Trump had never been mentioned. Not once, even though this is a story about a Presidential campaign taking place in the current time with made-up characters.

There was absolutely no reference to Trump before that statement or anywhere in the book after. I had to stop and go read the jacket bio of the author. That’s when I found out that she is involved with Fox News, which made it even more of a puzzle and took me out of the story for a few days. Very strange.

And Then it Happened Again

The second time was less intrusive, but still weird. The main character, a news anchor, is hopping a plane to Detroit. The explanation includes the comment that this was her first time flying to Detroit (which added nothing to the story) but the next sentence I swear was just missed by whoever edited the first draft. It said: “Right? Who goes to Detroit?” I had a hard time thinking of any reason for that comment and it didn’t add or subtract from the plot other than to stop me again and make me wonder about author bias.

Now, I loved the story. It was chilling and suspenseful and because it was written earlier in 2016, there was not as much reason to think about a foreign power infiltrating our election, which later proved to be a huge concern. I thought that was a little odd as well, considering the position of the author at a major network.

My recommendation: If you like politics at all, if you enjoy a suspenseful thriller with the typical chase scene that wraps it all up in the end, if you enjoy having a defined bad guy and a flawed good guy who saves the day – read it! I really liked it.

Make it easy to match up containers to lids

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Here’s a quick and easy way to keep containers and lids matched without trying every lid to find a match.

Use 2 matching address labels to pair up your plastics. This works best on containers you take out of the house and want back.

For containers that never leave the house, you don’t need the address; just use any two matching stickers.

Charge It!

My Jawbone UP 2 charging
My Jawbone UP 2 charging
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I’m getting a little better about checking the charge on my fit tracker (It’s a Jawbone UP2).

It’s not THE big name brand one, so I have to learn things one-at-a-time. Today I took it off, set up the little charger thing and then turned on the device that has the easiest access USB port. And wandered off.

Every step I took reminded me that I should check to see if it was ready to put back on – I was missing steps! All the way out to the dumpster. Back and forth to the fridge. Even clear over to the recycling bins.

So I remembered to bop over to that side of the room and check. I. Never. Plugged. It. In. Must be Friday the 13th.

 

Beer Burger North Liberty With Friends

Beer Burger Now Open in North Liberty!

Beer Burger in North Liberty, Iowa
Beer Burger in North Liberty, Iowa
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Our group has been waiting impatiently for Beer Burger to open and now it is! We met for a dinner meeting last night to check it out.

We had a group of 7 and between us we had:

Kale Artichoke dip with garlic naan and veggies – generous portion – three of us worked on it and half the dip remained. The naan was gobbled up though – irresistable!

Various burger renditions with fries. All were yummy – the regular fries are addictive; I can only imagine how good the upgraded fries could be. One friend ordered the appetizer sliders instead of a burger because she wasn’t hungry enough for a whole burger – her three sliders combined were as big, if not bigger than our regular burgers – and the presentation was adorable (little pickle bits on picks – so sweet).

Two in our group ordered salads – they were large and looked very nice. The word was “delicious”. One only ordered a shake – watching the diet, you know. It was a regular size glass, but decorated with chocolate and sprinkles on the sides, whipped cream and a cherry on top. She said that made it a little too sweet, but it was OK. We thought the perfect dinner of the future might be a chocolate shake with no fancy trim and an order of regular fries. Could be heaven.

How’s the Beer at Beer Burger?

Beer: You’re probably wondering about the Beer, right? After all, it’s in the name and all. Beer Burger is known for their “keg room” – a glass enclosed area that can hold over 200 kegs. They have a big list of tap beers at the bar, also. Mixed drinks and cocktails are available too.

It was Happy Hour when we were there, but only certain things were included and that turned out to be none of what we ordered. The first request was for a Millstream Pale Ale and they were out. 🙁   So let’s have a Stella instead. “Out of that too, sorry” 🙁   OK, so what do we have that’s similar? Turns out the beer list is sorted by the various attributes, so if you feel like studying, you can find a sub for what you really wanted.

There are “tasting” opportunities at $ per ounce – that was the biggest thing we heard mentioned as we chatted with friends around the room. “I got this much and it was $5.40! So… lesson learned. But if you were actually on a beer adventure – this would definitely be the place!

Beer Burger is Popular!

The place is huge – their theme is a very industrial look, and within 30 minutes of opening it was full. They open at 4 and we were waiting. When we left after dinner, it was still full with a short line. That was on a Wednesday night at 7.

Two people in our group had tried to come earlier in the week. On Friday or Saturday the parking was clear out to the road and the line was too long so they left. That speaks well for support from our small town. The word is that other popular and similar establishments in town aren’t hurting, so I think we had room for more places like this.

All in all, it was a great time. A little noisy for great conversation, but perfectly fine for casual friendly chat. There were some TVs, but not a huge saturation like your typical sports bar. Service was more than excellent and the food was tasty and fun. Our food arrived pretty quickly also; but we were settled in a little ahead of the huge crowd.

I can highly recommend and I know for sure I will be back!

 

Good Soup Created Accidentally With Leftover Chicken

Good Soup Can Just Happen Sometimes

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There are times when I create good soup that I think I should go the route of food blogs with the overhead camera and the nifty ingredient tricks (Snap! Chopped!) but I always decide that it’s not worth it for the actual amount I cook.

Good Soup: Leftover Chicken with mixed veggies, tomatoes, and black beans.
Good Soup: Leftover Chicken with mixed veggies, tomatoes, and black beans.

Yesterday, against all prior planning, I accidentally created some really good soup. Let’s start at the beginning with just a little bit of background. I love those deli chickens because they’re easy and tasty when compared to messing around with raw chicken and roasting to savory goodness. My intention is always to use the best white meat atop a lunch salad and then find frugal and efficient ways to use the rest.

What usually happens instead is that I fail at matching up available fresh greens with the chicken and never get my delicious salad. I have even (gasp) ended up wasting the chicken. 🙁   But this weekend I bought greens and chicken, and in a burst of Monday inspired efficiency, carved it up and made a delicious salad on my lunch break.

I don’t know exactly what possessed me (probably the chilly rain outside), but I grabbed a 2 qt pot and started tossing the dark meat and tiny scraps of chicken in.

Ingredient: Good Soup Needs Roasted Chicken Bits

My pantry is full of canned goods, so I added a can of mixed vegetables and pondered spices for a minute, but turned the burner on to get a feel for what I had created with these two ingredients so far. (It’s how I roll.)

As you can guess, the combination left something to be desired and would surely leave me wanting pizza for dinner if I didn’t look around for flavor. I threw in a can of diced tomatoes for color and additional veggie goodness. Still lacking something. Oh, right – it lacks flavor.

Ingredient: Good Soup Needs Garlic and Onion

I have some garlic paste in a tube that I’m trying to use up – so I added about an inch and a half as a start (equiv of 1-2 cloves). Then I grabbed a fistful of frozen onions and turned up the heat. Started mixing salt and pepper in a small ingredient bowl and threw them in as the mixture started boiling. After a few minutes, I turned the heat back and cleaned up my chicken chopping mess and went back to work.

Garlic inspires me. The aroma drifted into my home office and pulled me back to the stove for tasting. I also had a timer I carried back to work with me so I wouldn’t forget to check. At this point, the chicken and vegetables were coming together into a very suitable 1st course for dinner. I could have stopped at this point with just the addition of a little more salt.

Ingredient: Good Soup Needs 1 More Something

I was so close to perfect I actually stood there and stared into the pan for a few minutes thinking through what else I had in the freezer or pantry that would take this over the top for me. Noodles? Some other pasta? Beans? That’s it! One of my favorites is White Bean Chicken Chili and I always keep canned beans around in the winter. But when I opened the pantry door, the first thing in view was a stack of black beans I had carried home with no plan other than a healthy addition to something. Bingo!

Ingredients: Here’s The Whole List

Scraps of deli roasted chicken – I probably had about 3/4 cup of dark meat and tiny bits of leftover white meat.

Cans – 1 Mixed Vegetables, 1 Diced Tomatoes, 1 Black Beans – liquid and all – just open and dump them in

Flavor – 1 handful of frozen chopped onions – probably 3/4 cup if you feel the need to measure. It could have used more, but I didn’t want to play with the temperature up and downs again. 1 and 1/2 inches of garlic paste from the tube in the fridge – equivalent to 1-2 cloves. Salt and pepper to taste – probably 1/2 – 1 teaspoon each. I added more salt a couple of times during the simmer.

That’s it. I ended up eating 2 bowls with crackers for dinner and skipping the meal I had planned. It was so good and I have enough for 2-3 bowls left over for lunch today.

Mail Client Challenges Equal Frustration

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Mail Client Challenge

  1. I do not like Outlook. Maybe I never learned it well enough to be in charge, but no matter how many times I try it, the same thing happens. It seems to think that I don’t need to see all the items in my inbox. I swear it gives me a glimpse and then stashes it somewhere I can’ find.
  2. I upgraded computers and since the mail client I was using on the old pc was discontinued several years ago, that’s not an option. So much for the advantages of mastering that learning curve.
  3. I have 4 mail accounts that matter – my own Gmail, my throwaway Yahoo, my work email (!!!) and my MSN, which apparently controls my entire digital existence.

So What’s UP?

I want to set up my work email on the new pc. Windows 10 seems to have a mail client included, which is somehow related to Office 365, which I love. So I added the work account. Easy Peasey. Except it’s empty and when I attempt to sync it says “Problem”. Grrrr.  I seriously have too much to do today to mess with this.

 

Can’t someone make email easy? Pleasey?

Day Off? What is That Exactly?

Today is our New Year’s Day Off

For someone who is supposedly has a day off today, I sure have a long list of stuff I need to do first. We have a very generous boss and he gave us two long weekends in a row. The problem is, with our line of work, there’s always something I have to do anyway.

I plan to knock several critical things off my list this morning, take the afternoon to play “taxi” for the visiting grandson, and then spend a little quality time tonight working ahead for the chaos that is tomorrow.

Have a great day!

Don’t Wanna (clean that)

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Update September 27, 2017:  I have to admit that almost a year has gone by and not much of what I promised myself has come true. I did get the pile of clothes sorted between the consignment shop and Goodwill – so the guest room would be cleared. That is true if I get my ironing done now. sigh. Today I am very thankful for the woman who comes by a couple of times a month and cleans my surfaces and floors. I clear clutter the day before and that combo keeps the health department at bay.

I don’t wanna deal with that…

It’s January 1 and if you’re like me, organizing is top-of-the-mind right now. But I look around and most of the stuff that really needs organizing is stuff I don’t wanna. So I thought about it and I think I’ve hit on a solution I can pick away at, which should make it seem less like punishment.

I just decided to list one room per week in my planner – and sometime during that week I must deal with one “I don’t wanna” chore in that room and write it down. I pushed and pulled my brain matter to come up with a list of 13 so each quarter of the calendar year, one room gets something taken care of that I have dreaded long enough. I ended up with just a couple of repeats – maybe only 1 – my bedroom, which is the biggest disaster in the house.

My “don’t wanna” list for Q1

So…

Kitchen – rearrange the pantry (this is a natural, since all the serving dishes are spread out on the counters now because of Christmas)

Bedroom – Pick a pile, any pile. All LOLing aside, I need to clean my stuff out of my old computer so I don’t lose precious pictures and so I can pass it on.

Master Bath – the shower is begging me to find the steam cleaner attachments and get to work.

Guest Bedroom – Seriously – organize the crap that’s just sitting there mocking me.

Guest Bath – easiest spot in the house – I keep it pretty clean – check that cabinet under the sink – it must need something.

Laundry or utility room – Find something skinny enough to dust between the washer and dryer.

Hall closet – hmmm floor or shelf? They both need some love

Garage – Not a disaster, but there’s always something that needs to be somewhere else – recycle the cans? Sweep the floor? Cut down the Amazon boxes?

Bedroom – still a pile or two to disperse – are you kidding me? I live in this room – clear the clutter! Strip out one bookcase that’s just holding stuff I don’t know what to do with. It’s been there for 30 months – I’m not going to do anything with it – say Bye-bye!

Livingroom – is that media case still sitting there with things that are too full of memories to give away but too useless to display? Decide!

Car – find every empty water bottle and get it out of the car.

Computer – yep – it’s the biggest room in the house if I’m admitting to I don’t wanna tasks. Clean up one whole drive and organize the files that remain.

Roll-top – this desk might as well be a room – it takes up as much space and holds just as much junk. It’s just about tax deadline – clear the main desk area and make sure you didn’t miss filing any receipts.

This list has been noted in my planner – wish me well!