Birthday Trip: The “Plan C” Compromise

One reason I was up at first light is that I was thinking about Plan B (staying at Caesar’s), instead of driving to SoCal (Plan A) after Governor Newsom “dimmed” the lights on outside dining, bars, etc. At bedtime, we were both excited about Plan B. But somewhere during the night, I came up with Plan C, which is a bit of Plan A (SoCal) and Plan B (Vegas).

I still wanted to go to SoCal – it’s been too long since we’ve been during this house building project, and I need to see, smell, and hear the ocean. I need a road trip. It’s my birthday. So we will do the big dining celebration here in Vegas (Border Grill, one of my favorites), and then drive to SoCal for my birthday for a couple of days. It looks like Downtown Disney will open as planned with outside dining restrictions. You can read about it on AllEars. And we can drive down PCH to enjoy the ocean, and maybe even find a beach.

The other mood enhancers for today have been watching some DIS videos – here and here. I totally wouldn’t mind owning a Disney vacation home. 🙂

And I’m missing cruising. If you’re missing cruising, too, enjoy a virtual cruise here.

 

 

Break it to Me Gently #Disneyland

The YouTube video I watched over coffee this morning was FreshBaked’s live show from last night. You can watch it here.

Basically, David and Liz and the people in the chat were discussing all the changes around Disney and Disneyland right now. When will Disneyland open, Splash Mountain’s redo, and other unPC rides. As I’ve said before, I don’t think we need to rewrite American history and erase the stories of the people who lived before us. When they do that, I feel like they’re also erasing me.

If you must take Disneyland away from me, please do it after I’m gone. Disneyland means more to me than a theme park. I was there when it was being built. I saw Walt. I lived 8 miles down the road. It’s home. It’s family. It’s compensation for my mother sending my father a “Dear John” letter for another man while my father was serving in Korea, preventing me from knowing my father until my late 40s. Talk about complications when you pop into your father’s life at that late date. Next month marks 2 years since he was gone from this earth. I miss him every day.

Taking Disneyland away from me is like losing my father all over again. This year I may get to celebrate my birthday at Downtown Disney, unless Governor Newsom takes that away from me, too.

I tried to substitute Walt Disney World for Disneyland when we moved to Florida 3 times, but my heart knew the difference. And if certain people have their way, that will be taken from me, too.

My heart can’t help but sing “Break it to Me Gently,” and, yes, I prefer Brenda Lee’s version over Juice Newton’s.

Oh, oh…break it, break it to me gently
Give me time, oh give me a little time to ease the pain
Love me just a little longer, cause I’ll never never love again
Cause I’ll never love again

 

Why Did We Leave Las Vegas?”

The question we’ve asked ourselves more than once during this long, arduous time has been, “Why did we leave Las Vegas?” If we hadn’t, we could have avoided much of the emotional and financial stress, although nobody has any idea what they would have to deal with had they taken a different road.

It would have been comforting to have been in familiar surroundings during all of this, like the second time around when we moved back into our home. But we sold the Vegas home before we moved to Florida last time, and that enabled us to buy the Florida home. That had been a difficult decision to make and we almost didn’t. Still, there were reasons to go. But if we’d known we would leave Las Vegas only to return to Las Vegas, I doubt we would have left. I guess that’s why you can’t see into the future.

When I started thumbing through our photos and vids, I remembered all the fun and excitement of our 18 months in Florida the last time around, including building a beautiful home in a golf course community near the beach. A dream come true! So I put together a video to be able to remember and reflect on that special time in our lives, even with all its difficulties.

This video takes you from the “Welcome to Florida” sign to landing in a local apartment, to house hunting, touring model homes, picking out options from the model home, beaches, tiki bars, Walt Disney World, and the last few gorgeous sunsets from our Florida home.

I now have the answer to the question, “Why did we leave Las Vegas?” We would have missed out on all of this:

Hope you enjoy. Don’t forget to like and subscribe. Thank you.

French Martini & Cocktail Video (Inspired by Disney, Cruising, Las Vegas, California, Florida)

With the release of French Martini on Kindle, I was inspired to create a video looking back at our life through cocktails – lol! This was so much fun to put together (PS – a link to a recipe for a French Martini is in the video description). Enjoy! Also, please subscribe, like, and/or comment on the video. Thank you!

Port Canaveral: Cruising from Central Florida

Looking back at our most recent time living in Central Florida, we feel immense gratitude for yet another Florida adventure, this time living closer to the beach than Disney World, enjoying beach bars and hanging out at Port Canaveral.

We even celebrated Rich’s birthday cruising to the Bahamas on the Carnival Liberty. So I put together a little video celebrating that time.

Port Canaveral is expanding so whether you’re a local, cruising solely, or combining your cruise with a trip to Disney World, I hope you enjoy it. If so, please like and subscribe to this blog and on youtube.

Thank you!

#Mexico #cruising #Princess #Carnival #Liberty #Bahamas #cruising #Carnival #Cruises #CentralFlorida #DisneyWorld #Florida #fiction

 

 

Father’s Day Brunch at Wine Bar George

From our Inbox:

WineBarGeorge

DadStack

Seven Layers of Awesome

Behold…The Dad Stack. Join us on Father’s Day for seven layers of French Toast, French Fries, Bacon, Sausage Gravy, Chicken Sausage, Skirt Steak and Sunny Side Up Eggs. See you June 16 for brunch?

Ah, Wine Bar George – no, we won’t be there for Father’s Day (although, we have other fun plans), but oh how we miss you! Just this time last year we were enjoying the “Rosé Tasting with Master Sommellier” event with you, George. So much fun – we hung out with you often. We were your first customers on your first full opening day. And you were the last place we went before our move back West. Thanks for the memories!

Our compensation is making reservations for special dining events for Rich’s birthday this summer at Disneyland! Woo hoo!

 

2018 Epcot Food and Wine Festival Round 4

The F&W Festival gets more and more crowded each week, and Saturday, wouldn’t you know it, seemed to be the hottest, most humid day yet. It may have been the last hot and humid day of 2018, because it’s been cooler ever since. Anyway, all I know is that I dripped sweat like I was in Thailand so many years ago. It makes it all so very tiring, and we didn’t have a lot of energy for this one.

But our list of things to do on this trip wasn’t that ambitious – mostly to revisit Taste Track and get another one of those tasty Chocolate Raspberry Croissant Donuts, the Skirt Steak with Chimichurri, and, perhaps, the Short Rib Tostada at Mexico or the Black Pepper Garlic Shrimp Noodles in China. We did all of the above (except for the noodles) and more.

We also tried the Corned Beef with Crispy Potatoes when we got the Skirt Steak. I actually preferred the Corned Beef over the Skirt Steak, although the smoke on the steak stood out nicely.

So, back to the beginning.  We debated about whether to choose the Festival Center or Taste Track for our first stop but we were so hungry, Taste Track won. But we had to wait about 7 minutes for the booth to open, but it was worth the wait.

Then, we were off to the Festival Center for our free on 4th visit Passholder Mickey cutting boards (so cute!) and a couple of Mimosas to wash down breakfast. Rich got the Blood Orange I got the Tropical – mine was a bit too sweet and his was a bit too tart so we mixed them to get it just right. Hard to tell which is which from the photos.

We stumbled around and found the Flavors from Fire both and got the Skirt Steak with Chimichurri and Polenta and the Corned Beef with Crispy Potatoes (amazing cheese sauce) and a wine pairing (Michael David Winery: 7 Deadly Zins Zinfandel, Lodi).

My apologies for the not so great photos – the sun was so bright it really was hard to see what I was snapping.

We thought we might want a refreshing Baileys Guiness Milkshake in Ireland but partway there, we decided to turn around and head for Mexico for the Short Rib Tostada and a couple of Margaritas – so hot and sweaty out!

Halfway through the margaritas, we decided to head over to Hawaii for some dessert. Rich got in line and I snagged a table.

The Passion Fruit Cheesecake with Macadamia Nuts was awesome!

We’d also heard great things about the Maple Walnut Cheesecake at the Cheese Studio so we made a final stop on our way out. It was quite tasty, too, but better suited for Thanksgiving – it had a real taste of Fall but too heavy for such a hot, humid day.

My favorite was the Passion Fruit Cheesecake in Hawaii, although the Maple Walnut may have been Rich’s favorite. Both delicious and a great way to end the 2018 Food & Wine Festival for us.

An Evening at Wilderness Lodge

We’ve been craving a martini at Territory Lounge at Wilderness Lodge for some time now. It would be a nice change from hoofing it around a hot park – air conditioning, peace, quiet, ah…

We each had a dirty Ketel One Vodka martini, the Oregon White Cheddar Chardonnay Cheese Fondue that comes with 3 pretzel breadsticks and grapes, and the Asian Sticky Wings. The Cheese Fondue is amazing and the wings are quite tasty, although tonight they were especially salty.

We noticed the famous Artist Point Mushroom Soup is on the lounge menu along with the Berry Cobbler (we’ve had the Cobbler in the lounge before), but we decided to save those two items for our final Artist Point dinner at the end of next month right before it becomes the silly Snow White Character dinner. I mean, did they have to convert it completely? How about special occasions or just until 8 pm or something like that?

 

We noticed Artist Point was quite busy last night so maybe it hasn’t been hurting or maybe everybody is just booking it now because they know time is running out but it seemed like there were many families with the stroller brigade crowding the restroom area. Obviously, Disney World is going after the family dollars above all else.

After our lovely little meal and drink, we walked the grounds and while it’s as beautiful and mostly peaceful as ever. We stopped with another couple to get some photos of a rabbit hiding in the flowerbed and took turns taking photos of each other.

Later on our way to what was once the Trout Pass Bar, we were almost run over by two New Yorkers when I paused for two seconds to take a photo. People seem to be storming over to Geyser Point – that place is always a madhouse these days – and the smores area is making it even more crowded.

Note: Rich is standing in front of where we last sat on stools and enjoyed a glass of wine before our last meal at Artist Point over Thanksgiving 2017. Sigh…

We did enjoy another lovely walk over to the cabins – wouldn’t we like to live there? Wow! Of course, we love Wilderness Lodge and in some ways really hate to see these changes impacting that peaceful experience it used to be. It’s sad that the Trout Pass Bar is now a nail salon – I mean, a nail salon by the pool? Seriously? Oh well, I may have to give it a try for old times’ sake.

It was such a beautiful night and we were wishing we were staying over, but, alas, it was soon time to go home. But first we had a quick look around the gift shop and then out to the parking lot to retrieve our car to begin the drive home via the Windermere townhome for old times’ sake. After all, when we lived there, Skipper, Lovey, and Buddy were still with us. It wasn’t such a bad life, now was it? 🙂

Back when the townhome community was new. The trees in front of the townhomes are so huge now, it makes the neighborhood seem much more crowded.

2018 Epcot Food and Wine Festival Round Two (For Dad)

I received a copy of my father’s death certificate this week and the reality hit me hard. So Rich took yesterday (Friday) off and we went to the Epcot Food and Wine Festival. We had no intention of returning a week later so we made it six days later – lol!

It must have been the hottest day of the year, but pixie dust sprinkled on our tram experience both arriving and departing, which cut down on our miles walked (only 3 this time), but, still the heat really wore me out, not to mention give me a lovely glisten. Ha! In honor of my dad, I wore my Dodger Blue hat. He and his father used to go see the Dodgers play and Dodger Stadium was where I saw my first professional baseball game (Dodgers vs Giants – Dodgers won). He once told me, “The Dodgers will break your heart.” 🙂

Here’s my selfie wearing my Dodgers hat while snagging a table while Rich was picking up some food at one of the food booths. We had a great system going and I was so thankful he was up to doing all of that because I just wasn’t. You can catch a glimpse of Rich in some of the photos getting our snacks. Like a “Hidden Mickey.” 🙂

People often say I look like my mother but mostly because they don’t know my father and we do have a similar shape of the face. But the rest (coloring, nose, eyes, hair, etc.) is all dad and his side of the family. My ear for music and taste for food and wine adventures, I also get from my father. So, here’s to you, dad!

We started off with Taste Track this time. I’d had my eye on the Cinnamon Sugar Donut and Rich got the Chocolate Hazelnut with Raspberry – both were delicious!!

Then we swung by the food booths that are on the East side of Future World and while we spotted many items we’d like to try when it’s not so hot (that area is so exposed and still, being out in the open without the lagoon to provide a breeze), we did get the Scallops and paired it with Petite Sirah at the Wine & Dine, I think. Really clever dish and quite tasty. I could definitely go back for more of that.

Btw, many booths were open at this time, which was about 10:30. So then we headed back to Ireland but on the way stopped at New Zealand to get one of our favorites from last year: Mussels paired with Pinot Noir. Just as good as last year!

Soon we were back in Ireland and I have to say, we arrived at all of these booths earlier than I’d expected and were getting full eating our lunch calories for breakfast – lol! We skipped the chocolate cake in Ireland this time but did get the Guinness/Bailey’s shake with chocolate shavings this time and the Irish Sausage with Colcannon again. Yum!! But I do think we’ve had our fill, well, at least until Brother Bob comes down.

So what’s next? Several booths we decided to save for Brother Bob’s trip – we were getting quite full at this point – but we wanted to get back to Mexico to try the Short Rib Tostada. Last week we’d been too full by the time we got to Mexico.

We were also quite hot and thirsty and exhausted. We sat down in the shade a couple of times just to keep from collapsing. By the time we got to the Cantina, I found a table, Rich got us a couple of regular Margaritas from the Cantina – we’d tried the specialty F&W Margaritas last week and once was enough. He then ran over to the Mexico booth and brought back a Tostada, which was so delicious, he ran back for a second one. Yum, yum, yum!! Certainly makes a California girl proud!

At the booth last week, they’d balked a bit about serving him two margaritas, but he convinced them one was for me sitting down. At the Cantina, they had no qualms about serving him two.

We had a great time, the crowds were low on a Friday but it was just so darn hot!! At least the tram system was working efficiently and they even used the shady area for the pick-up. I’d complained about having to wait in the sun a few months back and it was the same last week so maybe they use the covered area on week days but not on week-ends due to needing more space for security? That’s our guess.

At this rate, we’ll be back four times to get the cutting board, although it’s rather small. Somebody on Instagram said they thought it wasn’t as small as they’d heard but I think some of us saw the Food & Wine cutting board you can buy, which is a really nice size that it makes the “free” (on the 4th visit) one for AP holders seem small. More of a cheese board size, if you know what I mean.

Rich’s Birthday Cruise to the Bahamas, Day One, Part Two

Who: Rich and Kathy
Where: Port Canaveral/Nassau 3-night cruise
What: Carnival Liberty
When: August 9-12, 2018
Why: Rich’s Birthday Celebration

It was too hot to do our usual sailaway from our balcony so we headed to the Alchemy Bar for martini tasting. We really enjoyed the Alchemy Bar on the Miracle, although we skipped it on our last cruise on the Imagination. It was still the Rotterdam Bar when we sailed on the Paradise and the Inspiration, sister ships to the Imagination.

The Alchemy Bar on the Liberty was positioned much more like it was on the Miracle, which we really enjoyed.

Rich was torn between two different drinks but our server’s input convinced him to go with the “Perfect Storm” and I had the “Fiery Tropical Passion Martini.”

The Alchemy Bar

Sailing away from the Alchemy Bar

“The Perfect Storm”

“Fiery Tropical Passion Martini”

We popped into the piano bar, which was next door, but didn’t make it back for the entire cruise – lol!

We were getting hungry so we tracked down the Sushi Bar,  which was in the buffet area.

I grabbed a booth and Rich ordered the Sushi.

Sushi platter – “Spicy Tuna ” for Rich and “Bang Bang Bonsai Roll” for me.

Rich’s comments: The Spicy Tuna roll was absolutely incredible. It was very spicy, but the flavors came through too, including the asparagus. This is some of the best sushi I’ve ever had, and I had to return to the sushi bar to let Fakim know how much we enjoyed it.

Rich’s Birthday Cruise to the Bahamas, Day One, Part One

Who: Rich and Kathy
Where: Port Canaveral/Nassau 3-night cruise
What: Carnival Liberty
When: August 9-12, 2018
Why: Rich’s Birthday Celebration

This was Rich’s first cruise from Port Canaveral – I’d done the “Big Red Boat” cruise with WDW package back in 1987 when Disney was affiliated with Premier Cruise Lines before they launched their own cruise line. This was also our first cruise living this close to a cruise port. So one hour from home, we parked in the parking garage and were onboard by 11:15 a.m. – pretty awesome!

We dropped off our bags in our cabin and started to unpack but then realized we should make our way to Guy’s before it got too busy. I claimed a table and Rich placed our order – 2 burgers (came with 1 order of fries). This time we knew better than to share – we each had our own – lol! I skipped the fries this time – they’re delicious but I was saving room for the burger! Ha!

Back in the room we continued unpacking and Rich’s birthday cake arrived from Cherry on Top – I’d preordered it. The bottle of Prosecco was there, too.

We each had a slice while the Prosecco was in the fridge chilling. It was tasty but we aren’t big fans of  fondant.

We hadn’t seen our room steward so we didn’t have ice yet. We were in a junior suite on our last cruise and we were spoiled by the service. It really helps to book a suite or special cabin of some kind to get good service.

Our balcony faced the sun and it was too hot and sunny to sit outside so we rested on the bed until our muster drill at 4 p.m. We sailed away promptly afterwards – always seems to be on time from Florida – sailaway is always running late in California. Gorgeous view!

 

Birthday Cruise to the Bahamas: The Oddest Things about an East Coast Short Summer Cruise

As I mentioned before, after my birthday trip to California with a short cruise to Ensenada, we decided 3 days was not enough. So then we booked another 3 day cruise to the Bahamas on the Carnival Liberty from Port Canaveral for Rich’s birthday about 3 weeks before the cruise. We got the last balcony cabin on Deck 7 (the Empress deck?), which is a desirable sandwiched deck, meaning, there are cabins above and below instead of being under or above a public room.

We just returned home today and we had a blast but before I get into the report, I’ve gotta say, out of 18 cruises, it was the oddest cruise I’ve ever been on. I’m going to have to clear my mind of this before I can even think about getting to sleep tonight.

It’s like all the stuff you hear about on social media coming alive on the cruise. It’s an honest observation and I hope nobody takes offense.

In the Minority

Was it summer or was it Orlando or was it the 3-day itinerary? I’ve done 3-day cruises before – even from Port Canaveral –  but this is the first time we were so obviously in the minority. Were we, perhaps, onboard a Black Baptist Church convention or something? On our Ensenada cruise, there was a group of 300 that was part of a Mobile-app company cruise. So it could be we were onboard with some sort of special interest group.

What makes these groups odd or even a short cruise odd is the most people are first-timers and first-timers can seem odd to experienced cruisers. For the first time ever, during the lifeboat drill, one man complained about not seeing the demonstration well enough. “Hey, can we get a demonstration of how to wear that?” as if he were being deprived of life-giving information, as if it were being deliberately withheld. I tell you, I’ve never seen anyone complain of that. “Just get it over with and let me get on with my cruise” is the usual attitude.

And the two groups of white and black were quite segregated throughout the cruise. I tried to be friendly and get them to open up whenever I got the chance, because in my world, we mix. But this is another thing I’m noticing about cruising these days – people are cruising with large groups or families and they’re remaining closed within the group. This isn’t what cruising has been about since I start cruising in 1982. But I’m noticing it more and more. At least on Carnival… in the summer…

Black Women Shaking Their Booty

What’s with this thing with crowds of people shouting and egging on Black women bending over shaking their booty? Must be a cultural thing. On our L.A. cruise, it was all about Hip Hop. I don’t even know what to call what I saw here – “Baby’s Got Back?” Belongs in the category of “Things I Wish I’d Never Seen.” Probably not part of a church group – there goes that theory.

Good Old Boys, Pink Dinner Jackets, Shots at Dinner, Border Crossings

Oh my! That was one of the more entertaining things about the cruise. The young southerner in his Pink sport coat downing shots next to us at dinner wished Rich a happy birthday when we ran into him again the next day. Too bad I didn’t get a photo of him. Belongs in the “Things You Usually Only See in the Movies” category.

The women from afternoon tea who when the sever asked where she was from said, “The United States.” “Duh,” he said. “It’s a big place – where exactly?” Turns out “North Carolina.” She talked about “crossing the border” driving down to Florida for the cruise. Has she never left the state before? Apparently so because she talked about traveling for her job. And when California was mentioned, as in where I’m originally from, she said she was supposed to travel to either San Diego or San Francisco and asked which one was north? Really? I’m from the West Coast but I think I’ve got East Coast geography down pretty well – even before I ever moved East.

Face Tattoos

I’ve also gotta say this tattoo things is getting way out-of-hand. A discreet tattoo is one thing, but I’m not a fan of sleeves or body tattoos or now face tattoos. It’s not a good look for the long term. Besides, I’d seen it all back in San Francisco in the 1980s – I thought we were done with all of that back then.

Culture Shock, My Faith in Humanity Restored, and a Life-Saving Moment

I’m reeling a bit from the culture shock, as I usually do living in Florida and cruising brought it all up close and personal in a tight space. But my faith in humanity was restored when a man we’d seen at the Alchemy Bar over the course of the cruise was  celebrating his 17th wedding anniversary with his wife in the Steakhouse (amazing food, by the way) as we were celebrating Rich’s birthday.

We were sipping our martinis and heard some really loud noises, not understanding what was happening. But then we realized the man named Steve was choking. It was quite frightening and a couple of men got up to help him, with other people offering suggestions on what to do.  Finally, one man lifted him up out of his chair and executed the Heimlich and released the lodged meat and we all applauded.

Steve and the man who saved his life hugged and became best friends for life with Steve buying the man rounds of drinks. It was an incredible moment!! And my heart soared at such generosity among us sometimes crazy, whacked out humans in this scary screwed up world we all live in. So often we’re the problem but sometimes we’re also the solution. It’s a beautiful thing!

Steve (right) and his life-saving hero (left) sharing a celebratory drink

As our crowd cleared out of the Steakhouse, the new group coming in were all Black. What’s up with that? Is it a culture thing – do they prefer to eat later? Were they cruise newbies and hadn’t discovered it until there were only later reservation times available? I don’t know but it seemed odd to me.