Thursday, March 31, 2011

Book Review

I recently read _The Story of Edgar Sawtelle_ in less than a week when we went on our cruise. I had trouble putting this book down. It was a great story. It had complex characters, and had some history in it. There was a bit of sinister suspense, and then of course there were the dogs, the Sawtelle dogs. These dogs were never chosen for their breed, their size, beauty or any of the typical things. These dogs were chosen for their intelligence and personality and then bred with other exceptional dogs. The story lines in this book weave in and out around the breeding and training of these dogs with the remarkable gaze, knowledge and personalities. Early on, the grandfather in this story is attracted to tales of heroic and exceptionally smart dogs. When he meets these dogs he can tell by the way they look him in the eye that they are somehow more aware than other dogs. He believes these dogs are part of an evolutionary process occurring in the canine species, that all dogs might eventually progress like these few. He becomes interested in breeding these types of dogs to see if he can achieve a quicker result than what he believes evolution is already doing. This book covers the story of the Sawtelle family over 3 generations and their single minded focus on these dogs. Each member of the family has a very different personality from the next, and they each make very different life choices. There's a lot of dysfunctional and criminal drama in this family, and throughout, these dogs are being bred and developing into these very sentient beings. The book culminates with the dogs making very conscious, free will decisions and understanding what's going on in the world around them. That said, I had a little curiosity with where the dogs end up on the last page. I understand philosophically where they are and what their decisions mean, I'm just curious about where they physically are. So if any of you out there decide to read this book, or already have, I'd love to discuss the last page with someone to get feedback on what others think about it. So in conclusion, I would highly recommend this book as a good old fashioned "yarn." It's interesting and you can get lost in it.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


So M had been planning this trip for months, thinking about it for years, and it finally came to fruition, and not a moment too soon. Lots of stress on the jobs. We left out of NY (sorry Trish for not stopping to see you, we were literally in and out for boarding and disembarcation). We booked a one week cruise (Saturday to Saturday). It was cold when we left and when we returned, but everything in between was sunny and warm. Ahhhh.

Here are the only shots of us by the pool. This was when we first boarded and it was still very cold out. M was just so happy to be on board and beginning her vacation, that nothing could dampen her spirits.

You can see I have my jacket on because it was so cold out. That changed within 24 hours I am happy to say. So we left NY and began our cruise on the Atlantic a number of miles off the eastern seaboard of the U.S.

M decided this was likely a once in a lifetime cruise and if we were going to do this, we were going to splurge and get a stateroom with a balcony, toward the middle of the ship so we wouldn't get bounced around as much. I took shots from both directions not knowing how the lighting would be.

The room was fabulous! It had a separate bathroom with toilet, tub/shower, and sink. Plenty roomy enough. Then there was the bed area with nightstands, closet and lights. Then the lounge area with fold out futon, desk, chair, cabinets, t.v., safe and refrigerator, then the balcony with two chairs and a table.

Our first stop was Port Canaveral, Florida where we took a shore excursion to see the Kennedy Space Center. It really appealed to the history nerd in me.

The next day we docked at Stirrup Bay, Bahamas, a private island owned by the cruise line. The first day I got up and saw the water, I was amazed. It was a really clear, teal (greenish/blue) and you could see to the bottom. It looked like a jewel tone and not like any water I had seen before. I took countless pictures trying to capture the color of the water and was never able to. It was so beautiful. So was the island. On our shore excursion there, we kayaked on the other side of the island. We saw stingrays, star fish and other tropical fish. Then we came back to the other side of the island, had lunch and swam and played in the water. The funniest line for the whole vacation was when we were with our kayak guides. A voice of another worker came in over their walkie-talkies and said: "apparently there are fish in the water here." (Meaning the beach). The Kayak guide replied: "what?" The voice said, "yeah, some tourists just came and reported that there were fish in the water." How funny. What did they expect, a swimming pool?

We spent all our time on board sitting on the balcony and watching sunsets, reading, or going all over the boat to enjoy the spa, eat all we wanted, or enjoy some of the shows and activities they had on board. We both worried we were going to gain a ton of weight, but I actually lost 5 pounds on the cruise. I think it was because I caught up on my sleep and didn't have any stress. I told M we need to schedule another cruise so I could lose more weight, she told me, "that was a very expensive 5 pounds." So I guess that's out as an option for losing weight. Oh well.

Our next stop was at Nassau, Bahamas. We did a snorkeling excursion which was M's favorite. There were so many beautiful colored coral and so many multi-colored tropical fish. It was like floating in a fish tank. We bought an underwater disposable camera to take pictures. We're waiting on that to be developed. Hopefully we got some good shots and didn't double-expose everything. I can't remember the last time I had to wait to get pictures developed. How antiquated! Anyway, there was a lot of shopping in Nassau. There were all sorts of really high-end, expensive stores and galleries for the uber-rich. We of course shopped in the open air markets where you could haggle for items and get a reasonable price. I got a really cute backpack and tee shirt.

My favorite part of the cruise were these babies, individual hot tub jacquizzies that faced a bank of windows at the front of the ship. You could lie there in warm, bubbling bliss and gaze out at miles and miles of ocean. It felt like I'd died and gone to heaven. We made it a point to get to the spa every day to take advantage of this luxury. Okay, so overall, I'd say the cruise experience was a huge success. We went on the Norwegian Cruise Line which was spotlessly clean and being cleaning non-stop, 24/7 where ever you looked. I took Dramamine while on the ship and only had a mild, underlying nausea while sailing some of the time. I get motion sickness very easily, so I had been worried about that. This cruise allowed us to do what we wanted, when we wanted and we didn't have to dress up or socialize with anyone if we didn't want to. I managed to read an entire book in less than a week. I don't believe that's happened in at least 15 years. The only downside was having to come home and back to the reality of working. *sigh* I will have a book review soon. The book I read was great!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Time . . .

So a week ago Saturday I took off my watch and didn't put it back on until the following Saturday. I had no cell phone signal so I turned the phone off for a week. I had no Internet access (by choice) and the only satellite t.v. I had access to was repeats of old shows, MSNBC business coverage, the BBC and Fox News (hell no), so I didn't really watch t.v. for a week. There were clocks all around. Since they were all different, I don't think any of them had the correct time. They each had signs underneath. Click on the pictures to see them.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Mindy's birthday cake

My daughter recently celebrated her 22nd birthday with us. She made her own cake and brought it home with her.

She's been practicing making cakes and covering them with fondant and making sculptures out of fondant to go on top of the cake.

On this cake she decided to try making a horse jumping out of a cake. Okay, so he's more likely climbing out of it, but I thought it was cute anyway.

Here's the lovely, Min.

This shot is posted specifically for Marilyn. Hard to believe I was ever Min's size, but you know we both have the pictures to prove it. So I took all the previous shots with my new camera, nice but nothing special. So Min takes my camera to the horse farm to take pictures, and voila, you have a clear demonstration of the difference between amateur shots and great shots when you actually know what you're doing. Oh well, I guess I just keep trying.

I love the snippets of daily life she caught.

I love the richness of colors, see that Granny Smith apple and how the background looks purple?

How many of us could just stick the camera in front of us, click it and have a shot as awesome as she took with her blue shirt and the reflection in her sunglasses? I think I might have to hire her to give me lessons.

Okay, going on Spring Break for a week, I'll visit with you all when I return.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

We had our Corned Beef dinner last night, I mashed up my own version of Colcannon. I hope the Swedish Chef, Animal and Beeker singing Danny Boy will put you in the right mood and may the luck of the Irish be with you. I wonder where that luck went when the potato famine happened?

Of course I have to throw this one in too, even though it's about a Scotsman:

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

NPR Cartoons

I'm trying to get to another post, I have pictures I took of Spring, but life is too busy right now. So in the mean time, here's some NPR cartoon humor while it lasts, since funding may be cut soon.

Last full day in Europe

Ahh, all good things must come to an end.  Our European vacation is drawing to a close.  We leave Nice this morning to drive back to Barcelo...