Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The Dream Lives

“If you have a dream, don’t just sit there. Gather courage to believe that you can succeed and leave no stone unturned to make it a reality.” 
~ Roopleen

It is alive. And FREE until midnight on February 1. Exclusively on Amazon.

If you read it and like it, please leave a kind review on Amazon. Since it's a new edition the reviews from the old one don't transfer. Thanks a bunch, and enjoy!

Swimming with the Turtles in Akumal Bay, Mexico

It's Wanderlust Wednesday! Today we're talking about swimming with the turtles in Akumal Bay, Mexico.

This week's adventure is a continuation of last week's. Part I can be found here.

When we arrived at Akumal Bay there was a bit of a break in the weather. By the time we got the snorkel life jackets (different ones than the cenotes life jackets), it was getting a bit cloudy again. That should have been a sign to turn back. But we all forged ahead with our fins on to join the turtles. A few turtles were spotted.
And so were ominous storm clouds.
It wasn’t but a few minutes until the downpour started. The seas became very rough and the guide made us get out of the water. Immediately. We had already been soaked all day long so we didn’t even run for cover. We just walked in the pouring rain and howling wind to return our life jackets.
The plan was for us to make our way to a local restaurant for a buffet lunch and some beach time. Walking through the streets to get to the restaurant was like fording rivers. No beach time could be had. The ferry’s departure time had already been re-scheduled for those wanting to do some shopping. Fording more stream-filled streets for some shopping ? Not for me. I decided to stick around the restaurant until it was time to leave. My two knee-replacement and screw-filled shoulders had enough adventure for the day.

The ferry ride back to Cozumel wasn’t nearly as rough. There were a few plastic bags being handed out but not like on the ride over. Thank you again, iron stomach. And thank you to myself for learning how to snorkel. A full day of wet hair and wet shoes and wet towels and wet clothes. Soaked to the bone. Can’t wait for a sunny Cozumel port day so I can try cenotes in the sun!

Monday, January 29, 2018

Motivated Monday - I Can See the End

“Building something that matters is a marathon, not a sprint.” 
~ Dragos Bratasanu

My marathon is halfway over. After about 25 revisions I am finally on the last run-through. 51% of the final edits are complete. I can see the end.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Make Decorative Holders for Pocket Tissue Packs - Sew In Sunday

“A magician may step out without a purse, but he should never step out without a pack of playing cards.” 
~Amit Kalantri, Wealth of Words

And a woman never without tissues.

Several years ago I made a tutorial on how to make a pocket tissue holder. Here's that video:

I'm been trying to figure out how to add a pocket to the pattern. Need a place for antibacterial cleaner and lip balm! Today I finally decided to work through it. All day. Multiples pieces of fabric cut and recut and sewn and resewn with the seam ripper working overtime. I think (maybe) I have a pattern figured out.

 And a day's worth of chicken scratch. I was so hoping it would be perfect. But alas, I think there is still some work to do.


Saturday, January 27, 2018

Princess Cruises Seawalk

It's Wanderlust Wednesday! Today we're talking about the Seawalk on Princess Cruises.

“Don’t tell me you’re afraid of heights,” she said, shimmying along the edge.
“Not heights,” he murmured. “Just falling.” 
― Victoria Schwab, This Savage Song

Just a few years back I used to be afraid of heights. I was even too afraid to step onto a hotel balcony in 2012. But now I'm good. I've been on balconies and suspension bridges and platforms hanging over canyons.

It's difficult to conquer a fear of heights. Some people I know are afraid to get near cruise ship railings for fear of falling. The railings are 48" so unless you really try you won't be falling over the ship. Unfortunately the news makes it sound like falling overboard is easy. Don't worry, it's not.

For everyone who is not fearful of heights, take a look up at this part of the ship hanging over the water.
Now let's walk on that walkway and look down.  It's called a Seawalk on the Royal, Regal, and Majestic Princess. Yep, the ship is at sea and that is the ocean down below.

Friday, January 26, 2018

The Friday 15

“I really think guys only need two pairs of shoes. A nice pair of black shoes and a pair of Chuck Taylors.” 
― Mindy Kaling, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?

For a woman I have very few shoes. No heels, no wedges, no ballet flats. Just two pair of work shoes, one in brown and one black. Two pair of athletic shoes. A pair of dressy sandals and three pair of casual. Slippers.

And that's it. Because as part of today's Friday 15 I'm sending three more on their way. Add those to the two pair of sweat pants, one pair of dress pants, and one swimsuit.
 Then add the eight things I sold on eBay this week.
15 more things are outta here!

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Thrilling Thursday - The New Book Cover

“I think the hard work of writing is just how long a book is terrible before it's good.” 
~ Leigh Bardugo

As I've been working on updates to the book something has become clear. I was not on my A game when I wrote the first edition. Not even when I edited and published it. And I really thought at the time it was a great work! But nope. We won't be letting that happen this time around.

It's getting closer and it's looking pretty darn good. It's always thrilling when a project is near completion. Today I got the new cover back. I love it!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Dos Ojos Cenotes, Mexico

It's Wanderlust Wednesday! Today we're talking about snorkeling in the Dos Ojos Cenotes in Mexico.

I've been to beaches in California, Oregon, Washington. I've been to the water's edge in Alaska and Texas and Florida. Add in the beaches of South Carolina and Maine. I can't forget about all the beaches in Hawaii on the Big Island, Maui, Oahu, and Kauai. I had dipped my toes, sometimes the feet, but never past the ankle. Never ever. Swim in the ocean waters? Nope. Not even close.

But a few years ago after the second knee replacement I did it. I swam in the ocean in Waikoloa, Hawaii. Fast forward a few months and I snorkeled for the first time. Dropped off near the Belize Barrier Reef. Terrifying. Frightening. Scary. Exhilarating. Fast forward a few more months and I added a few more snorkel adventures in a few more countries. Some stick out in my memory more than others. Snorkeling the underground cenotes in Mexico is one of them.

The cruise ship arrived in Cozumel, Mexico on a stormy day. While many of the excursions were canceled for the day, mine was a go. Head off the ship, walk to the ferry in the rain. The ferry full of cruise ship passengers was just a few miles from shore on its voyage between Cozumel and mainland Mexico when the staff started handing out little plastic bags. Rain, wind, and very choppy waters made for ill passengers. I’ve been on this particular ferry several times before but have never quite seen it this rough. Thank you, iron stomach.

The rain continued after our arrival in Playa del Carmen. I’m not sure it could be called rain. Drenching downpour maybe? Our group was loaded in a van for an hour long trip to the Dos Ojos Cenotes near Tulum. Upon arriving at the cenotes we climbed out of the van to be fitted for life jackets and snorkel gear. The heavy downpours continued, with several of the ladies’ attempts to get to the restroom being met with ankle deep water. Back in the van for the trip up to the first cenote.

The thing about these cenotes is that they are underground. Like in a cave. They are replenished with rainwater seeping through the ground. What it means for the roads is that they can't be paved. There is a place for a vehicle to travel but could this be called a road? If a sandy/gravely place with huge flooded deep potholes everywhere can be called a road, I guess that’s what we drove on. What a bumpy adventure.

We arrived at the first parking place and headed down the trail and then down steps to the first cenote. Jump right into that first cenote. Heck, why not? We were all completely drenched from the rain already anyway.
Swim around a bit, climb back out. Walk down the trail and more steps to the next cenote. Put your shoes in this basket and we will have someone take them to where you’ll be getting out. Which means we will be swimming and snorkeling. Underground.
Through the caves. With the stalagmites and stalactites.  It was unreal to see formations from above and below the waterline at the same time.
While it would have been even more amazing to see sunlight streaming through the top of the cave instead of the rain dripping on our heads, it was spectacular. Our guide had a flashlight with him and would shine it both above and below the water so we could take in the sights. He also pulled along a life ring so the not-so-strong swimmers could grab on for a ride through the caves.
 I was hoping to get a glimpse of bats along the way. Only near the exit did we see any bats. We didn’t even get buzzed once.  But there were some scuba divers heading back farther. See their lights? They are with the bats.
Back to daylight for the snorkelers.
 Climb out of the cenote into a flood.
Get prepared for the hike back up the stairs and trail. You know the rain is heavy when there is a river flowing down the steps you are planning to climb. I wish I had taken a picture. But it was work for all of us to get up the stairs with the water gushing down so I didn’t think it was appropriate to hold up the group for the sake of a picture. (Although it would have been a good great one.)

Back to the van, return the life jackets. Back down the bumpy thing called a road. Head to Akumal Bay to snorkel with sea turtles.

A story for another day.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

My Tuesday Challenge

“People who are frugal understand the value of a dollar and make informed and thoughtful decisions. People who are cheap try to spend as little money as possible.” 
~ Frank Sonnenberg

Hubby and I leave the house once a week to go out to lunch. Two weeks ago our lunch cost $5.30. Last week we paid $4.24. It was that day we made some trips with coupons and wound up with a day costing us an entire $1.67. So I challenged myself to do even better today.

I had to return some slippers we ordered that were the wrong size. They didn't have the right size so $11.91 was refunded in cash. Then off to Bath and Body Works to use my coupon for a free Wallflower plug in. Found a pocket size antibacterial hand cleaner for 44 cents on clearance. (47 cents with tax.) Then we went to Staples to use some new coupons. (I don't know why they keep emailing me coupons every week but I'm good with it!) The big can of coffee came out to $1.05. The 5 reams of paper will be $2.50 after rebate. And our shared lunch today? $3.70!

Today's totals:
We received $11.91 in cash from the slippers.
-47 cents at Bath & Body Works.
-$1.05 at Staples.
-$2.50 at Staples (after Easy Rebate)
-$3.70 on lunch

Today's total = Still $4.19 left from the refund. Woo hoo, we have money left!
Geez, I'm cheap.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Motivated Monday

“Do you want to know who you are? Don't ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.” 
~ Thomas Jefferson

Pay bills. Check.
Mail eBay packages. Check.
Find someone to design cover for 2nd edition. Check.
Fax forms to Aflac. Check.
Doctor appointment. Check.
Enjoy the sunshine outside the sewing room window. Check.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Sunday Sew-In: Heating Pad for Feet

"That feeling when you're so cold you'd give anything to be warm - I've had it before, literally huddled around a candle flame on an ice sheet." ~ Bear Grylls

Since 2005 I've been tracking our average daily kilowatt power used. Spreadsheet and all. Now that we've moved into a much smaller home our power costs have dropped dramatically. I'm also pretty sure going from six TVs to one has helped.

Each month I challenge myself to have a lower bill than the same month last year. One way I do it is by keeping the heat turned down. 66 degrees during the day when we're home and 52 degrees at night. The only thing problematic is that 66 degrees in the house during winter isn't exactly warm and toasty. We wear layers and sweatshirts but my feet still freeze. So when that $6.05 heating pad showed up this week I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it.

Combine it with the other one I have and add in some nice flannel fabric.
Sew myself a foot warmer with a heating pad layer on top and a heating pad layer on the bottom.
Warm and toasty. Now if I could figure out how to keep my ears warm at night.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Your Cruise Questions Answered

It's Cruise Ship Saturday! Today we're answering your questions.

"I keep sailing on in this middle passage. I am sailing into the wind and the dark. But I am doing my best to keep my boat steady and my sails full." ~ Arthur Ashe

When I don't feel great I do one of several things. I organize something. I sew something. I write something. I'm sewing tomorrow so that has left organizing and writing. Both of which I've been doing this week.

Today's sailing topic is a question and answer chapter I'm working on. Since the first book's publication there have been lots of questions coming up. This new "Your Questions Answered" chapter is still a work in progress but here's where I am so far:

Must I have a passport?
It depends on your sailing. If you are a US citizen on a closed loop cruise (one that begins and ends in the same US port) that is traveling to Canada or Mexico or to the Caribbean, Bahamas, or Bermuda you are able to use two forms of ID instead of a passport. People without passports on these cruises mostly use a government-issued ID and original or certified copy of their birth certificate. Sailing without a passport could potentially be problematic. If for some reason you wind up having to stay in one of the ports (like because of an illness/injury or missing the ship) you’ll need a passport to fly out. If you are on an open loop cruise like from Miami to Los Angeles you will need a passport. And of course, if you are flying overseas to or from a departure port a passport is required. Check with your cruise line before departure to verify current requirements as security measures are fluid. But personally I think everyone should have a valid passport.

Do I take my passport in port with me?
But unless your cruise line recommends it, don’t take your passport off the ship with you. Unless you are traveling to one of the countries around the world that require a passport in port, your government-issued ID is enough.

What are port fees?
Fees are charged by local port authorities to go towards costs such as terminal and dock maintenance, security screening and parking. Port fees are charges in addition to your cruise fare and are paid in full with your final payment. These fees vary from port to port so the total cost charged is different, depending on the itinerary. If your ship has to miss a port for any reason you typically receive a reimbursement for the fee.

You really take only one suitcase?
Not only that but hubby and I share that one suitcase. We use one backpack for our carry-on and the one suitcase no matter how long our trip is. We no longer eat in the dining room on formal nights so we save a lot of space without having those clothes. We also roll our clothes and use packing cubes. You’d be surprised how much you can fit in those things.

We are taking three big suitcases. I need my shoes! We want to take it on and off the ship and don’t want the porters to handle it. Are we crazy?
Think of it this way - what if the airline allowed you to put all those suitcases into the overhead bin? You would take those suitcases (and carry-ons) from the car or curb at the airport to the ticket counter. Take them to security and put them on the screening belt. Take them through the terminal to your specific gate. Down the ramp to the plane and then back up the ramp when you arrive. Back through the airport to your awaiting transportation. Now do all of that without anyone helping you with your bags, no luggage cart, and no an escalator. (Personnel at the cruise terminal won’t let you go down the escalator unless you have a hand free. You’ll have to use the elevator - and there is usually only one - and it’s busy with people in wheelchairs.) Then what will you do with your bags if your cabin isn’t accessible yet? You’ll have to take those three big suitcases everywhere with you on the ship. So ask yourself the question – are you crazy?

I’d like to take a clothes steamer. Do I carry it on or do I put it in the bag that I’m giving to the porter?
More than likely neither, as it may be on the no-no list. Check with your cruise line about prohibited items. If you think you might try and sneak something in your checked luggage, think again. Bags are scanned before they are brought on the ship and prohibited items are confiscated. In some cases your items will be discarded and in other cases items could be returned at the end of the cruise. With one cruise line we’ve seen a table at disembarkation full of irons and blenders just waiting for pickup.

My friend said I should take a highlighter to mark my activities and duct tape just in case. Do you bring those items?
I used a highlighter for my first couple cruises until I realized it was one more thing being packed that wasn’t really needed. If I really want to mark an activity I just use a pen. As for duct tape, there is only one time I wished I had some. My sandal broke on a sea day and I wanted to tape it together until I could get to a store in port. Our steward suggested trying the Passenger Services desk. When my hubby explained why we need duct tape they had an even better solution. They took my sandal gave it to the upholstery department where it was glued it back together - for free. It looked like new and held better than duct tape ever could.

My neighbors came back from their cruise and told me I can’t wear my camouflage clothes on my cruise. Are they pulling my leg?
It depends on where you are traveling to. It is illegal to wear camouflage clothing and accessories, no matter the color, on several islands in the Caribbean. Camo is the official military uniform and officials take this one seriously, even for visitors. Your items could be confiscated and you could face a fine and/or arrest. While it’s okay to wear them on the ship it might be best to leave the camo clothes at home.

My cruise documents show the ship leaves at 4:00 p.m. What time do I have to check-in?
Cruises lines are required to submit their final passenger manifest at least 60 minutes before departure so you must be there before then. But don’t be one of those last passengers showing up. Be at the terminal at least a couple hours before departure.

The email I got from the cruise line said I can’t check in until 1:30 p.m. Can I get on the ship earlier? 
Most of the time. Cruise ship terminals open doors for passengers in the morning but you won’t be able to board until all the passengers from the previous cruise are off. If everything goes smoothly the first of the new passengers begin boarding before noon. In many cases your cabin might not ready until after 1:30-2:00p.m. Sometimes you can drop your carry-on in the cabin and sometimes the hallways are blocked off until the designated time. If that’s the case you’ll need to have your carry-on tag along with you until you can get there. Sometimes boarding doesn’t commence before noon..  And a significant delay in boarding occurs when the ship is scheduled for a Coast Guard inspection.

I’m trying to decide what time to have the shuttle pick me up when we are done with our cruise. What is the latest time I can get off the ship? 
Probably around 10:30 a.m. You will be assigned a disembarkation time but if it doesn’t work for you check with the Passenger Services Desk about adjusting it. A ship isn’t like a hotel with a check-out time of noon. Every cruise there are a few passengers who don’t leave when scheduled. Don’t be a straggler. Get yourself off the ship so the other passengers can get on with their trip!

When we were leaving Ft. Lauderdale there was a small boat with a big gun on the front of it circling our ship. Is that normal? It was kind of scary! 
Completely normal. It was a US Coast Guard Port Security boat. These boats are fast and can turn on a dime. While we’ve never seen them fire the gun we have seen them “go after” other boats that have gotten to close to our ship. Nothing to be worried about.

Right before we got to our first port there was a boat pulling alongside our ship and someone used a ladder to climb up the side of the ship. Who was that?
That was a local pilot climbing from the pilot boat to your ship. Ship captains are advised by local pilots when arriving and departing ports. These local pilots have knowledge about the conditions of the specific port and channel. In ports where another language is spoken the pilot can assist with communication with harbor masters and tug boat captains. After leaving port the pilot boat pulls up alongside your ship again and the pilot goes back onto his boat.

I’m planning on taking my 14 month old with me into the pool. Are swim diapers required?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have strict requirements for swimming pools regarding children who are not toilet trained. The majority of cruise ships prohibit children who are not toilet trained from using swimming pools and hot tubs. Swim diaper or no swim diaper, they are not allowed. Some ships have a baby-only splash pool specifically designed for non-toilet trained children. Check with your ship beforehand to know what facilities are available.

I want to take sandwiches and fruit to the beach for our lunch. Can I really not take food off the ship? 
It depends on the food. Fresh fruit and vegetables, meats, cheese, nuts and seeds, and even muffins are no-nos. Some ports won’t even allow a cup of coffee! In certain ports dogs check every single backpack, bag, and purse coming off the ship. Never fails that we see a pile of confiscated apples and bananas in a certain Mexican port. If you want to take snacks they have to be prepackaged and sealed by the manufacturer. Granola and protein bars, prepackaged cheese and crackers, and small boxes of cereal are okay. If you are diabetic plan accordingly.

If norovirus is a virus and antibacterial hand cleaner doesn’t work why do I need to take some with me?
Because the Norwalk virus isn’t the only germ out there. Antibacterial hand cleaner can help preventing some of the other bugs that cruise ship passengers are sharing. Even cruise ship personnel can spread the germs from cabin to cabin. We use disinfectant spray on things like door handles, light switches, and the TV remote. The steward cleans these surfaces but sometimes the stewards themselves are coming down with something. And when in port think about those hand railings and restaurant menus and the souvenirs you picked up to look at that four other people just touched.

I like to drink when I’m on vacation. Is it worth it to buy the beverage package?
That’s difficult to answer. A cruise line can have a number of different drink packages. You might have the option of a soda-only package, a coffee package, a wine package, or an all-inclusive beverage package. The all-inclusive package includes alcohol but may also include bottled water, sodas, and juices. Some packages have a limit on the number of alcohol beverages allowed per day. For example, a cruise line that we frequent has a 15 drink limit on alcoholic beverages. That’s a lot of drinks for 24 hours. But the price reflects it – currently it is almost $69 a day. And with those packages you can’t just buy the package for the sea days when you might be drinking more. The cost is charged every day of the cruise, even those days when you are spending the day in port. Will you be drinking five or more drinks every single day? Only you know if you will get your money’s worth. While we’ve never used the package, we know some people like the convenience of being able to pay for all your drinks upfront and drink whenever they want without worrying about the cost later.

Do I have to make show reservations before my trip? I see I have the option?
It depends on the ship. Some ships allow passengers to reserve seats to shows for free. Some ships have paid entertainment that can be reserved ahead of time. And some ships have first-come, first-served seating for the entertainment. If your ship has the option to book ahead, go ahead. Otherwise getting a ticket may be more difficult once onboard.

What does it mean when a ship is in dry dock?
When ships go to dry dock they are taken out of service – and out of the water – for a period of time. Ships are required to be in dry dock every few years. No longer being underwater, inspections and repairs can occur on the underside of the ship. Other routine maintenance and improvements may be made, too. A ship may get new paint job on the hull, new mattresses, redesigned public spaces, and additional restaurants. While dry dock itself doesn’t affect a passenger, being a passenger on the first cruise after dry dock cruise can. Contractors may still be working in areas so you may see materials/tools and hear construction noise. One time we did notice our cabin a bit dirtier on the first cruise out of dry dock. The contractor staying in our cabin didn’t leave until the last minute and the steward didn’t have the chance to clean it up completely before our arrival. The first cruise post-dry dock hasn’t been terrible for us but we avoid it when we can.

I’ve always wanted to snorkel but I wear glasses and my prescription is really strong. How would that work?
I’m the same way. Even though I have issues with dry eyes and can’t wear contacts, I do wear them during snorkeling. The eye doctor gave me a disposable contacts sample pack (maybe of 10?) to use on snorkel days. I put them in before I leave the ship and once my snorkeling is over I take the contacts out and put my glasses on. There are prescription masks you can purchase but they are a bit expensive. Some snorkeling excursions have prescription masks and full face masks, ones where you keep your glasses on, available.

I know you said everyone has to go to muster. But do you really have to?
Yes! The International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) requires all passengers attend a muster drill within 24 hours of sailing. Muster drills are something to be taken seriously. What would you do if the captain came on the loudspeaker and told passengers there was a fire in the galley and ordered all muster crew personnel to the muster stations? Would you know to get back to your cabin and dress warmly and pack a small bag with your medications like we did? Would you then know where to go to evacuate the ship? Would you know how to put on your life vest?  Every cruise we see people talking to others, texting, taking pictures, and even sleeping during muster. Don’t be one of them. We’ve sailed enough and had enough emergency situations happen on the ship to know how important the drills are.

Do I need my purse on the ship?
Nope. Since the ship operates on a cashless system there is no need to carry the purse that holds everything but the kitchen sink. If you want to have a small bag with medication, tissues, lip gloss, ship card, and book go for it but leave those big purses at home. Because of safety in port, instead of carrying a purse consider using some type of cross body bag to keep belongings close to you.

My sister wants me to go on a cruise with her but I don’t do well in crowds. Help!
I’m not a big crowd person, either. The biggest tip I can give is to do things either early or at off times.
•When checking in for the cruise, don’t go around the noon hour. For a 4:00 p.m. departure, show up around 10:30 a.m. or around 2:00 p.m. And have a big breakfast before leaving for the ship. That way when you get on the ship you won’t be starving and needing to head to the over-crowded buffet.
•To avoid people rushing through hallways, go to Muster Drill early. You don’t have to wait until the alarm sounds.
•On sea days if you want to hang by the pool get there early to get the spot you want. I typically find a spot where chairs aren’t on both sides of me.
•On the ship eat either early or late. Stay away from dining establishments when they first open. If you eat at the buffet, find a seat first. Then one of you stays at the table and the other goes to grab food. Otherwise you might be wandering looking for a seat while your food gets cold.
•Spend some time during the day searching out the venues that are only used at night - like nightclubs. Also look for those spots outside where you can watch the sea go by. On one of the ships we’ve sailed there is a somewhat-secret spot we found that is usually empty.
•Go to the shows early. When the show lets out, let the crowd head to the elevators while you hang back until things clear out.

I took a four day cruise to the Bahamas and hated it. It was so noisy and crowded and people were drunk everywhere. I can’t imagine ever wanting to go on a cruise again.
Maybe try a longer cruise. Because of the shorter length and lower price you might find groups of younger people on the 3/4/5 day sailings. In our experience, people on a getaway cruise with friends frequently behave differently than if someone were sailing with a spouse on a 7-day cruise. There definitely is a different vibe between the shorter and longer cruises.

I’m reading about travel advisories in Mexico. Is it safe to go off the ship?
Only you can make that decision. Some passengers refuse to get off the ship and other passengers know the area and aren’t worried about it. Just like in some big cities in the US, foreign countries have places it would be unwise to travel to. If you do decide to get off the ship, stay in the tourist areas, keep your jewelry to a minimum, don’t flash cash, and don’t wear anything with the cruise line logo on it (including the lanyard). Don’t draw attention to yourself! Years ago every time the ship stopped in Ensenada we never left the ship. But once we finally ventured out we found our fears were unwarranted. We know where we want to go to eat and how to get there. Cruise lines don’t want to put you in harm’s way. If they determine a port is too dangerous they will change the itinerary.

I saw on the news about a ship going through a hurricane force winds. Will the ship ever tip over?
Could it? Yes. But the likelihood is slim. Cruise ships have stabilizers shaped like airplane wings underwater on each side of the ship. When the stabilizer sensors detect a wave pushing the ship on one side, the system automatically pivots the stabilizer to adjust the ship to keep it from listing. Since the stabilizers don’t help when the ship is going up and down front to back (called pitching), sometimes the captain will change course so the waves hit the side instead so as to take advantage of the stabilizer. Either way, hurricane force winds are no fun to sail through.

Does the casino on the ship give out free drinks?
Your local casino may have self-serve soda station or a server roaming around taking orders. It doesn’t work that way in the ship casinos. If a server asks you if you want a drink in the ship casino you will most likely have to pay for it. If you play quite a bit and introduce yourself to the casino host you might get some drinks. But they certainly don’t flow freely like they do on land-based casinos.

We are cruising during the college bowl season. Can I watch all the games on the ship?
No. You may be able to see some of the games but there is no guarantee that your favorite team will be shown. Cruise lines have contracts regarding what can be carried on the ship. Not with one of the network like at home, but a satellite at sea network. Not all games can be contracted through that network. If the ship personnel are aware of the importance of a game, they might be able to help. But being the majority of staff is not from the US they may not understand a college football game is more important to you than a cricket match. Generally the ESPN feed is ESPN International or ESPN Caribbean. Your best bet to see any of the games would be watching to see if it is carried one of these channels.

What is your favorite part of cruising? What is the thing you dislike the most?
We love the crew! We’ve sailed enough that we run into some of the same crew members more than once. We keep in touch with our favorites and now only cruise on ships where we know they are working. I’m not sure who is more excited when we show up – us or them. They treat us extremely well and we tip them well in return. Our biggest dislike would be the behavior of some passengers. We’ve seen families arguing with each other and parents yelling at their children. We’ve seen passengers snapping at other passengers over stupid stuff and others yelling at the staff working at the Passenger Services desk over stuff just as stupid.

I'm debating whether to include anything about sports being
 on the big screen since not all cruise lines have the venue.
Are there any questions you have about cruising or Princess Cruises? Just ask! You just may see it featured in the next FAQ! 

Friday, January 19, 2018

The Friday 15

“We weren’t downsizing, we were uprising.” ~ Joshua Fields Millburn, Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life

It was about 3:30 this morning (I hate pain meds that make you puke!) when I decided what today's blog was going to be about. More downsizing.

I challenged myself to find 15 things to get rid of. We've been downsizing for a couple years now and when I think I can't find anything else I always do. 15 things, all found in the sewing room. Boxes and plastic containers and children's books. A clipboard, camera and bag, flash drive, hook, and a Winnie the Pooh salt and pepper shaker.


Thursday, January 18, 2018

Thursday is for Trying

"You gotta get up and try, and try, and try” ~ P!nk

8 a.m. came and went. 9 a.m. came and went. It wasn't until 10 a.m came along did I think I could try. Try to get out of bed. The back is still icky but I knew if I wanted to change my day into a Thrifty Thursday I had to get out of bed. And even try to get dressed.

I had an eBay package to mail.
I received $12.27 in my Paypal account.
I spent $3.12 on shipping.
I figure I'll own $1.30 in fees.
Earned $7.85

The heating pad I ordered online came today. It was only $6.05 and I had a gift card to use on it.
Spent $0

I had $15 in coupons for Staples that were getting ready to expire. Finally by noon I was able to pull on the sweats and head out the door. Took hubby with me, which means lunch has to be included.

A coupon had us sharing a super-cheap lunch. Even beat last Friday's lunch price.
Spent $4.24
Then one package of paper towels on sale for $8.
Bubble wrap on sale for buy two get one free. $11.98 for three rolls.
$15 in coupons
$.30 in tax
Spent $5.28.

Earned $7.85 on eBay
Spent $0 on heating pad
Spent $4.24 on lunch
Spent $5.28 on paper towels and bubble wrap.

At the end of the day I had only spent $1.67 for all this and lunch to boot. Thank goodness I made it out of bed and made today a thrifty one.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Woeful Wednesday

“That's the thing about pain. It demands to be felt” ~ John Green, The Fault in Our Stars

Wouldn't you know it, the day after I face my truths is the day the pain is excruciating. A take-my-breath-away kind of pain. Is it from thinking about (and writing about) things yesterday, facing who I really am and what I believe about myself? Is it from my late-night grocery shopping trip? Is it my body's way of telling me to knock it off when I have thoughts of maybe going to work?

I have no flipping idea. I just know that my day is spent in the recliner with the heating pad on my back. Headphones on while hubby watches TV. Maybe some pain meds thrown in.

Woe is me. Today only, I hope.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Truthful Tuesday

“Telling an introvert to go to a party is like telling a saint to go to Hell.” ~ Criss Jami, Killosophy

Society values people who are energetic and outgoing and exciting and fun. For years I tried to be that person. I really, really tried.  Every morning gave myself a pep talk to help get introvert-self into teacher mode. Socially I committed to Christmas parties and birthday celebrations, baby showers, and weddings. Yet when the day came I would cancel. Then once my health deteriorated (has it really been 15 years?) it became downright impossible to be "on" anywhere. It was absolutely exhausting.

I even wrote about it on my blog six years ago:
It makes me sick to think about how hard it used to be. How hard it was just to get myself to work every single day. I remember the torture it was getting up, showered and dressed. I remember all too clearly the severe pain that filled my mornings. The pain so severe that I cried day after day on my way to work. The pain that stayed with me all through my work day. 
Now that I haven't been working for two full years (and haven't had to be fake), I have some clarity.
  • Mornings are not for me. I remember the days of needing to take three hours to get showered, dressed, and out the door. Now I can wake up, put on some sweats, and shower once my body is ready. It still may take three hours but I decide what time I want to wake up.
  • I need sunshine. Dreary, raining days are depressing. I'm slower, not motivated, and feel grumpy without sunshine. If our daughter didn't live nearby we would up and move to a warmer climate. If money was no object we would live on a cruise ship.
  • I like not talking to anyone. Hubby had wanted me to take him to the movies today but changed his mind. Honestly, I was happy I didn't have to interact with anyone at the box office or concession stand today. 
  • I am fearful of running into people I know when I go out. I usually go to the grocery store late at night. If I need to go to a department or discount store I go on days I know school is in session. You'll never find me out of the house on a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday.
  • I like being alone and need personal space. With hubby home all the time I've found the best way for me to have some space is to go into the sewing room and shut the door. I put on my headphones and then do my thing. Some times I write. Some times I organize fabric. Some times I go on the internet. Some times I just sit.
  • I like animals as companions. We had to put our kitty down a couple years back. Kiddo let me babysit her new puppy last year but now he's grown and doesn't need me around. In the summer I get to foster baby kitties but in the winter there are no babies around. I miss that.
  • Calling attention to myself would be pretty close to the worst thing in the world. As a fat person I was invisible. When I started losing weight I was getting more attention. I hated that and think that is one reason I started eating again.  
  • I have an addictive personality. I keep trading one addiction for another. Food. Work. Gambling. Alcohol. And sometimes more than one at the same time.
  • I will never work in public education again. It's not for me. Enough said.
  • I struggle with the disconnect between the person who I am at home and the one I am when traveling. Hubby and I have spent all of our vacation time from work - Spring Break, summertime, Thanksgiving, Christmas Break, long weekends - traveling. Now we have all the time in the world since neither of us is working, yet have not one vacation planned.  Which is unfortunate because I feel like a normal person when traveling. Not like an abhorrent introvert.
  • I have a great fear of not being perfect enough. I have plenty of memories and stories and pictures from all of those years of travels. Enough to write a dozen books I'm sure, but fear of not doing it right holds me back.

I'm clearly not living up to my potential. Maybe even wasting my skills. The ultimate Tuesday truth.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Early Monday Morning

“There's a sunrise and a sunset every single day, and they're absolutely free. Don't miss so many of them.” ~ Jo Walton

I'm not usually up early enough to see the sunrise but I made it today.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Saving Money on a Sunday

Every Sunday I get a bit giddy from my savings. What do I do every Sunday?

Hang up laundry to dry. In my bathroom. Cha-ching!

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Is a Cruise Right for You?

It's Cruise Ship Saturday! Today we have some questions to help you decide if a cruise is right for you.

"You can find tranquility, you can find party, you can find new friends. I'm a cruise convert." ~ Guy Fieri

Still working on the revisions for the new edition of Cruising with Confidence.
An excerpt from Chapter 1:
Several words may come to mind when thinking about a cruise: 
Fun...Adventurous...Confining...Formal...Exhilarating...Scary...Complicated...Fancy... Relaxing...Busy...Confusing...Rich...Expensive...Crowded...Intimidating...Titanic 
When discussing whether or not to take my first cruise the words with negative connotations dominated conversations. After years of cruising I now lean toward the positive sounding words. I can even say “Titanic” out loud, while on a ship, and not be afraid of jinxing things! I’ve moved from a nervous to an excited to a confident cruiser.
In deciding if a cruise is right for you, the elementary teacher in me would like to ask some questions: 
Does your dream day consist of hanging out by a pool and working on a tan?
Are you a dancer, a reader, a trivia lover, or a movie buff?
Do you enjoy trying new foods? Prefer eating the same thing every day?
Do you like conversing with other folks from different places? Long for alone time?
Are you the type who likes being on the go?
Would never having to make a bed, cook a meal, or wash a dish work for you?
Do you like dressing up in fancy clothes or rather wear shorts and t-shirts all day?
Are you looking to reconnect with family or friends?
Does the idea of traveling to a foreign country excite you?
Do you like the idea of getting a good value for your money? 
Answering yes to just one question could mean a cruise vacation is right for you.
Saying yes to cruising is also saying yes to beautiful sunsets at sea.

Friday, January 12, 2018

The Friday Fives

I thought I was going to be able to report on five things that I did today having to do with the number five. Didn't happen.

1. It was 50 degrees today! It felt downright warm in the sun.
2. Thanks to a coupon hubby and I had a $5 lunch today.
3. I thought I was going to be able to report I revised five chapters in the Cruising with Confidence book. Nope, but after a full week I've finished revising the 12th chapter today. Woo hoo! I have a few more edits and one more chapter to write and maybe, just maybe, the new edition to be ready before the end of the month. Again, woo hoo!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Throwback Thursday

"Take care of all your memories...For you cannot relive them." ~ Bob Dylan

The blog from five years ago today made me a bit sad. Kitty is no longer alive, the Disaster Auction quilt didn't garner as much money as I expected, and we no longer live in that house.

From January 11, 2013:
When I walked in the sewing room today my only thought was, "Seriously?"

Is it really necessary for you to be sleeping on top of the Disaster Auction quilt?! 

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Cruise Ship Crew

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.” ~ Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad/Roughing It

It occurred to me this week that the best connections hubby and I have are to people outside our everyday life. People who don't live in our city or state or country.

Hubby and I have spent more than half our lives in a small rural community in Idaho. Going from a town with a population of around 800 to a city with a population of over 200,000 would seem to be a huge adjustment. We've settled in nicely but have become hermit-ish. Hubby goes next door some mornings to have coffee with the neighbor and daughter calls me on her way home from work in the evenings. That's the extent of our conversations during the day/week/month.

But on a cruise ship we are different people. We talk all day long to the crew members. Cruise ship crew come from around the world. Working for very low wages by American standards, these kids (most are under 30) have become our connections. We have close relationships with people from Nicaragua, India, Mexico, Serbia, Honduras, and Peru. I've learned more from them about other countries and nationalities and politics and religions than from any history book or TV program. We truly care about their personal and work lives. They've also let us into a cruise ship world few people outside the company know about.

It's a symbiotic relationship for all of us. For hubby, it reminds him of teaching high school and the rapport with teenagers that kept him young. For me, I can be a mom. And for the crew members they get a little break from the monotony of long days spent dealing with demanding passengers. We bring them chocolates and take them to lunch in port and give out hugs. And they treat us very well in return.

We cherish every day spent with them so when we aren't traveling we keep in close contact. Just yesterday I was chatting with a crew member from Honduras. I could hear his Spanish TV in the background and we were exchanging pictures of snow (me) and no snow (him). Only a few hours later they had an earthquake hit. I heard from him today and he had no earthquake damage at his home.

The earthquake reminded me of one of the days we spent in port with this particular crew member in Mexico. A place in Mexico that is no longer accessible because of the Mexico City earthquake in September. Now the earthquake in Honduras.

I'll just focus on the good times we've had with our crew. It's what keeps us going when we're stuck at home. We can't get these kind of conversations in Boise.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Sun Over Snow

"I'm definitely much more of a beach bunny. I prefer the sun over the snow." ~ Gillian Zinser

I'm with her. Last year at this time I took a picture of us being snowed in. It looked like this:

And today I took a picture out my sewing room window and it looked like this:
Better, but not good enough.
Even better? If I could be on the beach like this:
 But I'm not. So I'll have to take a little snow over a lot of snow. Dang.

Monday, January 8, 2018

3 - 1/8 = 2 7/8

"When I'm on a break from writing, I'll log on to Amazon and eBay. The doorbell is constantly being rung by deliverymen." ~ Sophie Kinsella

Not so much for me anymore. I did go through a spell where I was buying boxes of fabric off eBay like crazy. I used to have stacks of boxes coming in and then when I got motivated to make some money had stacks of boxes going out. Thanks to my woodworking skills, I finally made myself an eBay shelf in the closet to hold those listed items.

Although I might be exaggerating my woodworking capabilities just a bit. I took one of our remaining three bookshelves and cut a section off the bottom. Now it fits nicely in the closet. And I get to brag I am down from those large 15 bookshelves to 2 7/8 bookshelves.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Sew-In Sunday: Sewing Room Organization

“Organization is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it’s not all mixed up.” ~ A.A. Milne

I thought today would be a sew-in day but I got bogged down getting the rest of the salt and pepper shakers listed on eBay. I started with over 100 and now they are just about gone. Yay me and hooray for downsizing!

So instead I went with an easier and less time consuming organizing project. The fabric stash is about the only non-downsized area I have left. While I have sold some of it, I still (probably) have more than I need. I keep moving it from one place to another, from one shelf to another, one box to another.

It still isn't perfect but it looks so pretty.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Introduction to Cruising with Confidence

"We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch - we are going back from whence we came."  ~John F. Kennedy

Despite hearing the passengers' first-hand accounts of how bad things were when sailing through the east coast storm this weekend, it won't deter me from cruising. For us it all started in 2004. The following excerpt is from Cruising with Confidence. (It is available on Amazon here.)

Nothing could prepare us for the pitter patter in our hearts upon seeing the enormous vessel we were about to board. 20 years of marriage had led us to this once-in-a-lifetime trip. A cruise to celebrate our wedding anniversary. Seven days roundtrip from Seattle to Alaska on the Diamond Princess. 

While we liked to travel, we weren’t cruisers. We took short road trips from our home in Southern Idaho to Central Idaho. We ventured to the Oregon Coast for Spring Break. Occasionally we would get on an airplane. But a cruise? Until this celebratory trip we hadn’t even entertained the idea. Cruises were for the rich – which we weren’t. Cruises were for those who liked to dress up and go to fancy dinners and cocktail parties – which we didn’t. Cruises were for people who liked the finer things in life - things we didn’t care a bit about.

If we had only known. We’ve had to rethink our beliefs about cruising.

Here’s what we’ve come to know.
Cruising isn’t only for the rich. On one of our most recent cruises we paid a total of $549 (not per person) for seven nights – and received $250 in credit to use onboard. What vacation can you take for that kind of price? Wake up a few mornings on a ship in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico. Then wake up one morning in Costa Maya, Mexico and another morning in Belize City, Belize and another in Cozumel, Mexico, all in the same week.  Gotta love a floating hotel!

Cruising isn’t just for those who like to dress up and go to fancy dinners and cocktail parties. On a 15-night holiday cruise from San Francisco to Hawaii our luggage was lost by a shuttle company. We made a mad dash to a discount clothing store on the way to port and picked up a few things. No fancy clothing, only some basics. We spent the next two weeks wearing and re-wearing the same items and still enjoying good food, shows, and the beautiful Hawaiian Islands. (If the thought of wearing the same clothes more than once grosses you out, apologies. We did do laundry, if that helps.)

Cruising isn’t only for those who like the finer things in life. The only jewelry we wear is our wedding rings. We drink tap water. We live in a two bedroom manufactured home. We no longer need to impress anyone with anything. We like adventure and have found cruising to be a cost-effective way to visit places we never imagined we’d ever get to see. 

Discount clothes and all.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Cleaning up Photos on the Phone

"Refuse to keep photographs that serve no purpose. You wouldn’t put bad photos in a physical photo album. Likewise, you don’t need to keep them just because there is space on your hard drive." ~ Joshua Becker.

So here we go. Time to clean up the photos on the phone.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Passport to Your National Parks Program

"Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach some of us more than we can ever learn from books." ~Sir John Lubbock
I can't recall the first time I visited a national park as a youngster. Pinpointing the first visit with hubby and kiddo is just as difficult. I think (?) we started around 1996. Back then we didn't know about the Passport to Your National Parks Program. When we found out about it we purchased a big huge book of maps and descriptions and checklists and plenty of space to stamp the pages at each park visit. As we downsized we moved to a much smaller version of the huge passport book. Which required chopping up the pages of the big book and gluing the passport stamps into the new book. But we still had years of visits we hadn't documented with stamps.

So how to get stamps for the national park visits from way back?

Make your own. Microsoft Word + searching old pictures to pinpoint dates + hours of WordArt insertions - many deletions - jammed printer = sheets of individual, dated passport stamps.
More cutting and glue stick action and our National Parks passport book is downright pretty with stamps that look darn close to being official.