Saturday, 21 April 2018

Spring has sprung!

I'm saying this with some hesitation as the calendar flipped over to spring a few weeks ago, but Mother Nature's cruelty kept winter coming at us until this week.  In fact, we had snow on Tuesday, followed by above freezing temperatures on Wednesday.  Mood swing much?

Today it's a lovely 8-10C afternoon; the sun room is open, the burgers are defrosting in the fridge, and I made a potato salad yesterday.  I firmly believe that potato salad tastes better the next day.  It's probably an old wive's tale but it works for me.  

My daughter took Eli to visit a friend in a small town about 1 1/2 hours from us on Thursday evening, and won't be home until Sunday.  I took advantage of their absence to go hard on the spring cleaning in the kitchen and living room.  All the iiving room furniture was vacuumed thoroughly as were the dining room chairs (oh, the cat hair), I scrubbed floors and baseboards, spot washed the walls, and cleaned out the pantry shelves and the cupboard that holds the cleaning supplies. I washed little finger prints off the living room window (hi neighbours!) and gave the cat tree a good brush and vacuum. The end tables which tend to gather various items were cleared and scrubbed down.  The kitchen table and island in the kitchen became my depository for all the excess items...which turned out to be a lot.  There were toys, mail, various USB's and SD cards, elastics, pens, pencils, and on and on.  Most it was either put away or tossed in the garbage, but there is a still a pile that belongs to my daughter I've left for her to deal with.

Today has been less busy.  I slept in this morning - well, after I got up at 6:15 a.m. to feed the cats - getting out of bed shortly after 8. It felt good to get a full night's sleep.  I putzed around the house this morning and went to pick up a few items at Walmart before lunch.  Then it was down to the furnace room, where the cat litter boxes are kept, to give the room a good cleaning.  I suspect it wouldn't be as dusty if the litter boxes weren't in there but it is the most convenient spot, tucked away and out of sight.

Next up was my bedroom.  I'd done a fairly good clearing out just a month or so ago so it didn't take very long.  I did vacuum the window screen, OMG it was dirty, vacuum the floor and picked up a kitten in cat hair, and sorted through the bathroom items.  I have far too many creams, deoderants, lip balms, etc.  They are now sorted, like with like, so I should be able to find what I'm looking for.  I also changed out the shower curtain, the Christmas kitten for this new one I found at Walmart today.  I think it's perfect!

That is enough cleaning for today.  I can tell because my finger tips have the rough feeling that comes from using cleansers and lots of hot water.  The bedroom carpet still needs to be spot-cleaned (for remains of the cat hairball deposits), the sun room needs to be vacuumed and tidied, and then I can get to the laundry.  Phew, it's been a busy weekend.

There is a window open now in the bedroom for some fresh air.  I love spring!  Time to go fire up the bbq for dinner.

Have a great rest of the weekend everyone!

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Spending for the future

Boy, I'm good at spending money.  Or perhaps I find it easy to spend money.  Is there a difference?  I think decide.

I've been having issues with the sink in the main bathroom.  It has developed a leak and needs to be replaced.  Initially I thought I'd just replace the sink in both bathrooms (main and ensuite), but after a nearly fruitless search for replacements, grey sinks 20 1/2 inches by 17 inches, at a reasonable price I decided to bite the bullet and have the vanities refaced to match the kitchen.  The newer sinks are smaller so I would have to replace the countertops anyway. 

The kitchen renovation work was done in 2013 when our employment contract was settled and I had received my pay out. I used a third of the pay out for ther renovations, saved the other two thirds in my RSP (retirement savings plan).  The remaining cost of renovations I financed through Home Depot, with no interest for 18 months.  Home Depot is currently running the same promotion and our latest contract was just recently settled. My theory is, why use my own money when I can use someone else's.

It also makes sense to have the work completed by the same company using the same/similar products.  In fact, the guys are here doing the measurements while I type this. (They arrived just after I started this post.)  They'll also replace a couple of doors in the kitchen I damaged.  The material that covers the doors is laminate, which is basically plastic....which doesn't mix well with the steam from a boiling I learned the hard way. 

Unfortunately there is a fair amount of work that needs to be done, pre and post.  I have to remove the tile back splash in both bathrooms, something I've never done and which I know can cause damage to the drywall if done improperly.  To do so, I also need to remove the mirrors which are very large.  I suspect my younger brother is going to get a call for help!  The installer will reface the cabinets, replace the doors and hinges, build the counter top, cut the sink hole (according the template I provide) and finish the countertop laminate.  Once their work is done there will be some painting necessary but that isn't necessarily a bad thing.  We've lived here for 7 years, so the bathrooms could use a refresh.

What have I got myself into?  It all seems a bit overwhelming when I think about it, but taken in increments I know I'll get through it. They told me today, they'll schedule the work in late May, early June so that gives me some time to do some research on tile removal (and get it done), as well as purchase new sinks and paint.  I had purchased the door handles when I did the kitchen so that is one small purchase I won't have to make.  Oh, and I have to find a plumber to unhook the plumbing before the work is started and install the sinks and do the hook up when complete.

While I suppose I could have purchased new vanities and had the old ones replaced for a similar cost, however doing the refacing will match the kitchen. I think that will help when the time comes to sell the house in a year or so.  Yes, I'm definitely still planning a move to Vancouver Island when I retire.  

The timing has been pushed back by about a year, with the arrival of Eli, and the circumstances of my daughter's life....currently not working and would be homeless if not for me.  While my son C still lives here as well, he's been saving for a place of his own but won't purchase until he knows where he'll be working.  He did have an interview (for his current job) yesterday.  I know that sounds odd, but it has to do with applicant pools that expire after a certain period of time.  I'm sure he aced it so will be back in the pool for another extended period of time.  With any luck, the incumbents who are currently working in other areas in term positions will be permanently appointed soon - then he can be pulled from the pool permanently as well.  

Anyway, back to me. :)  That isn't all the spending I've done this week.  Yes, I have a cruise booked in January 2019 but one is never enough.  Just before I went on my cruise in February, I found another Norwegian cruise that looked interesting and so I was keeping an eye on it for a price drop.  Well, this week NCL offered certain cruises with Canada at par and this was one of them.  That's at a 30% reduction in price!  

I called my friend K, as the cruise sails from New Orleans and both she and J have wanted to do one from there for some time.  However, neither had been keen on sailing on NCL because of the "freestyle dining".  On other cruise lines, you have an option of traditional dining, which is a set time - usually 6 or 8 p.m. at the same table with the same guests and wait staff throughout the cruise.  With freestyle dining, you either make a reservation or show up at the various dining rooms and wait for an available table.  The guests can ask to share a table, but that works only if someone else is there who wishes to share a table as well.  This doesn't appeal to the two of them.

My fellow cruiser, Sandra gave me the name of the cruise consultant at NCL she's used several times, so we gave Melanie a call to discuss.  We determined that if I booked a solo cabin, J and K can join me and other solos, but if we booked a mini-suite for the three of us, I wouldn't be able to join the solos.  Done deal, I'm booked in a solo and they have a balcony cabin about 30 feet away on the same deck.  It's a win-win, as we'll be able to meet other folks through the solos, plus we'll have space to ourselves as well.  

We're also staying in New Orleans for a few extra days after the cruise.  We all want to wander the French Quarter by day...I don't think we'll do so at night, I want to visit the Cafe du Monde for the beignets, and K wants to visit a couple of the old plantations.  There is also the old St. Louis cemetery and the French market and shopping much more.  I booked my flights today and a hotel for pre-cruise using Expedia and got a decent price, better than had I booked the airfare through Air Canada and the hotel separately.  

I still need to book our post cruise hotel; K just called and we've decided on the general area we want to be in.  They are leaving it up to me because they're packing for their next cruise - a TransPacific from Tokyo to Vancouver - they fly to Tokyo on Tuesday morning.  They also have a Baltic cruise booked for September.  Oh, and after the cruise with me, they are flying to Fort Lauderdale for two back to back cruises.  J's comment to me when we were talking about the New Orleans cruise and I mentioned how long they will be away (Dec 5-Jan 12), it will be winter here in Saskatchewan and it won't be cold in the Caribbean.  Boy, retirement life sounds good to me.

So, yes I'm spending money.  However, I believe it will be money well-spent, both in the return on investment in my home and in the memories to be made.  Plus, I've run the calculator on my back pay and will have a nice sum to tuck away in my retirement savings plan....for future spending.  It's been a long wait for a new contract, but looking at it from my perspective today, it's been worth it.

I'll close this post with a recent photo of Eli.  Here he is "fishing" for cats in the sun room.  He has as much fun as Sheldon does with this game.

Friday, 6 April 2018

O happy Day!

Why so, you ask?  So many reasons, I say.  It's been a very short work week, since Monday was a statuatory holiday for me.  Those three days flew by with various meetings and discussions.  Being as it is Friday, I'm off for my weekend, hooray!

I was up early this morning, as Sasha would not allow me to sleep...he was hungry and was letting me know in no uncertain terms that he could not wait any longer.  Funny, I don't mind getting up early on my day days not so much.  Mind you, I did get an extra hour of sleep.

I woke up for the first time in a long time without any jaw pain.  I've been clenching my jaw in my sleep and grinding my teeth.  I picked up my night guard yesterday from the dentist's office.  That pricey little piece of plastic made all the difference.  I thought it might take a bit of getting used to, and while it did feel a bit odd it certainly didn't disrupt my sleep.  

Speaking of disupted sleep, little Eli had a good night last night.  He went to bed about 7 p.m., was up with his mom at 9 p.m. for a bit watching gymnastics.  I heard nothing until 4 a.m. and that was only a brief few minutes while his mom filled the bottle for him. He got up while I was feeding the cats, in a very happy mood.  At the moment he's been napping since just before 10 (so nearly two hours!) while his mom is at her doctor's appointment.  I expect he'll be awake shortly and wanting his lunch. 

But the best news of all, and what has me practically dancing in glee (at least when D isn't around) is that J has decided to move back to B.C.  Apparently his mom bought him a voucher for a flight for Christmas.  According to D, he's planning on leaving today or tomorrow.  Neither of us is holding our breath as chances are it won't happen that quickly. But soon!

What precipitated this decision isn't entirely known. To be honest, I don't care...all that matters to me is he is leaving town!!!  D has already assured him that she will FaceTime with Eli every day, will talk about Daddy and keep photos out.  Whether out of sight will become out of mind at some point is yet to be seen.  In the meantime, I'm hopeful that there will be less drama and more stability in little Eli's life.

Yes, it's a very happy day!

Monday, 2 April 2018

Who's the fool?

Mother Nature has pulled a cruel joke on us this first week of April.  It has been cold, like February cold, with high temps of -9C (15F) and lows of -18C (0F).  When we factor in the windchill it feels even colder.  I am so ready for spring, but the forecast isn't looking good either.  At this point, it looks like we'll be in the deepfreeze for the rest of the week.  Yuck!

The snow we got 10 days ago or so is now a hardened pack of ice after the warmer temps we had.  It all looks dirty and gritty and I will be so happy to be rid of a few weeks I expect.

On the other hand, with the sun shining brightly, the cats and I have been able to spend some time out in the sunroom.  By early afternoon, it has warmed up sufficiently to let them out. Sasha heads straight for the bed that is in a sun-puddle, Saku flakes out on a rug, and Sheldon zooms around like the crazy kitten he still is before snuggling in under the towel that covers the chair.  

It's a little too cool this morning out there so there are no cats in the photo.  But I'm sure later this afternoon the door will be open. Little Eli loves to spend time out there too, so I'm sure he'll be happy to see the door open.  He loves to look out the windows, chase the cats, and play in the sun with his toys.  

I spent a good part of the afternoon yesterday, reading a book - Mississippi Blood by Greg Iles. What a writer he is - this is the fourth book I've read of his, but the entire series (thus far) is seven with this the last book.  Set in Natchez, Mississipi the books tell the stories of Penn Cage, a former lawyer, turned writer and his family.  The books take us back to the 50's and 60's to a time when it was dangerous to be black in the South, to the Korean war, the JFK assassination through to the present.  There is a lot of death in these books, some natural but most intentional.  In the current book, Penn's father (a doctor) is on trial for the murder of his former nurse (and lover).  All the while the remaining Double Eagles (best described as a gang of former KKK) seek retribution for the death of one of the founding members at the hands of Penn Cage.  While all of this is happening, there are tender moments too of family and friends coming together to support one another.  Unlike many mystery stories these books leave me guessing and hoping for a sequel.  

This morning was Easter for Eli, as he had spent the night with Dad on Saturday.  I really don't see why D felt the need to wait, since Eli will have no memories of this Easter...and likely the next two or three as well.  

D put out a trail of plastic eggs that led to his basket in the living room.  He picked up the first one, shook it and banged it on the floor.  Out popped (initially I wrote pooped...that describes it too) an unwrapped chocolate.  He immediately put it in his mouth as you can tell from his face.  That was it, he was done.  

So she picked the eggs up and he followed her to the living room to the basket.  (At least she didn't wrap the gifts and expect him to open them).  Eli is holding one of the two books that I gave him.  In the basket were a ball, a bottle of bubbles, a bunny on a stick, a stuffed bunny, egg shaped crayons, and two pairs of socks.  In addition she gave him a large coloring books.  He hugged the stuffed bunny, shook the bunny on the stick, picked up one of the crayons and promptly put it in his mouth.  I hope she wasn't too disappointed in his reaction. 

We'll have our Easter dinner this evening; ham, scalloped potatoes and veg of some sort. I don't think I'll do dessert as I'm sure we'll fill up on the rest of the meal. 
It has been a good, long weekend.  I've got a fair amount done around the house including cleaning up the laundry and storage rooms in the basement, two tasks I've been planning to tackle for awhile.  This morning I got another needed task done when I pulled out the fridge to clean out behind it.  I found enough cat hair to make a kitten!  I pull it out twice a year, around April 1 and November 1 and I'm always shocked.  I'm not sure what attracts the cat hair, the fan perhaps?  I haven't done the same with the stove as it is such a tight fit that it is difficult to move out and back into place.  I'll probably ask my son to help later today.  

Tomorrow, it's back to work for another short work week.  Yes, I have Friday off as well.  Plus I get to take another marble out of the jar.  Eight more to go!
Then I can start planning to move to where April will truly be spring.  

Have a wonderful week everyone!

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Catching up

Now that I've caught up on my vacation posts, you might (or not) be wondering what I've been up to in the past month.  Well, not much yet it has been busy.  Work, of course, takes up most of my daily routine.  The last two weeks were particularly busy because one of my staff have been on holidays and I've filling in for her.  It has been an interesting exercise...and that is all I will say about that.

The weekend after I returned home, the Canadian men's curling championship (the Brier) was held here in Regina.  I had purchased the championship weekend tickets as my Christmas gift to myself.  There was really incredible shot-making and I love the strategy of the game.  As one of the other spectators seated nearby said, "I haven't missed a shot all day".  

The photo isn't the greatest, it was taken with my cellphone as I didn't feel like lugging the camera bag with me.  The two teams in the final were Team Gushue (Team Canada - they won the event last year) and Team Bottcher (Team Alberta).  Gushue's name would be the most recognized, the team won the 2006 Olympic gold medal in curling.  Bottcher, however is a team to be reckoned with - they are a young team and I predict they will win a Brier in the not to distant future.  The game was decided on the last shot of the last end - in my mind that is the ultimate way for a game to end.  Both teams gave as good as they got and the spectators saw a thoroughly enjoyable game.


The following weekend we celebrated Eli's first birthday.  While his birthday is actually March 2nd, the party was held on the 17th to allow for out of town guests.  It was those out of town guests who caused the most grief...they had booked an Airbnb, but before they arrived on Friday, they received an e-mail advising that the property wouldn't be available until Sunday.  My daughter D had picked them up off the bus, and without consulting me, brought them to my house.  Initially they, mom, dad and 7 month old daughter were going to sleep on the basement floor.  I felt that would be more disruptive, so gave up my bedroom (and bathroom) for the weekend.  Though I did tell them, they had to find a place by Sunday.  My generousity does have a limit.

D asked me to bring my camera; I took nearly 300 photos, but narrowed those down to about 180 after getting rid of the fuzzy shots of moving babies and children.  The afternoon turned out just as D had planned - the young ones had a great time, the adults too, and little Eli was spoiled rotten.  Here are just a few photos from the happy day.

The happy birthday boy!  
He's started smiling at me when I bring out the camera - and you can see a couple of his bottom teeth.  He's already got 9 teeth, six on top, including two molar and the third one on the bottom popped through the morning of the party.  Since then, his bottom molars are coming through as well....I know because I was dumb enough to stick my fingers in his mouth.  :p

I got such a kick out of this shot.  Eli and R are watching A take a bite out of the foam.  R looks a bit shocked!

The boys are close in age, R turned one in January, and little A is the 7 month old.  I was surprised that the three of them enjoyed the foam pit so much.  I suspect it is deeper than they are tall but they loved crawling around in it.  

The moms were keeping an eye on them here but I often spotted a baby who had crawled into the pit on their own.  Happy babies!

This is J, R's older brother. He is just over two years old, and a little shy.  He and Eli get along very well, as he walks and Eli's crawls and the two of them can get where they want to go very quickly.

Little R isn't crawling yet, though can scoot around on his bum.  He can move, but not as quickly as the other two and tends to get frustrated when they take off on him.

My daughter has coached gymnastics since she was a teenager, and had competed in trampoline as well.  She took Eli over to the large trampoline and jumped with him.  It may not appear that way, but he really enjoyed himself.  

She did too - after she passed Eli back to his dad, she did part of a routine...I assume the less difficult portion but watching her flip and turn brought back a lot of memories.  Good ones!

After 90 minutes on the gym floor, we moved upstairs to the party room, where the presents and birthday cupcakes were waiting.

After his mother lit the candle, Eli immediately grabbed the flame.  So there were a few tears but he quickly made a dive into his cupcake and all was forgiven.

There are a stack of presents behind him.  There was a set of blocks (which went to Dad's house), a small rocking horse (which went to Dad's house), clothing, books, and a teddy bear.  Remember how I said he was spoiled...and note how all the large toys went to Dad's house?  My house is overflowing with Eli's stuff already!

There were a few minutes of animosity between D and J but the two held it together for the afternoon.  She was unhappy as he had arrived over a half hour late - because his back hurt.   To ensure I didn't say anything untoward, I hid behind my camera, hence the reason for 300 photos.  While I know that Eli won't remember his birthday, I can share these photos and tell him all about when he gets older.

Our house guests left mid-afternoon on Sunday, thankfully so I had a few hours of housework and laundry done. It made for one very busy and tiring weekend!  This past weekend, on the other hand, was quiet.  I did watch the women's World Curling championship - Team Canada (Team Jones) did us proud and came home with the gold medal.  Eli watched some of it with me; when I tell him, "hurry hard, great shot!" he claps his hands. What a character!


Last Friday, we got another dump of snow, about 10 cms. along with wind to blow it around.  I was out mid-afternoon shovelling as the driveway had blown in.  C got home shortly after 5 p.m. after a 45 minute commute that would normally take no more than 15-20 minutes.  By 6 p.m. the snow had stopped falling, and the wind wasn't blowing so I headed off to dinner with friends.  D was running out to a children's clothing pre-sale so left Eli with his uncle.  I got a text just before I left the restaurant, "this kid could use a diaper change and his mom is in no hurry to come home".  I arrived home to this little stinker (literally) who was undressed, wiped off, and popped in the tub immediately.  OMG I'd forgotten how bad a toddler's poop can smell!  He sure looks pretty proud of himself, doesn't he?  

On that note, I suspect that's TMI and I'll end this post.  Have a great week everyone!

Saturday, 24 March 2018

SeaWorld - Vacation Day 11

This is going to be a photo heavy post – I think the photos speak for themselves.  On my second day I decided to go to SeaWorld – the I-Ride trolley had a stop right outside the main gate.  I had already decided that Universal Studios and the Disney park was not high on my list of things to do.  But spending time at, what is basically a zoo, sounded like a good plan.

Being that it was Sunday, the park was filled with families, and yet it never seemed crowded.  There are annual passes available that were definitely reasonable, so I can understand why it would be an attractive option.  The day passes weren’t so reasonable; I paid $100USD but all in all it was a great day and I’m so glad I spent my time there.

While I was standing in line-up there was a little girl and her mom ahead of me.  She was clearly excited about being there, so I asked her if she’d been there before.  She said “yes”, and when I said I hadn’t and asked what I needed to see, she responded, “the animal show”…and “the dolphins”….and “the sea lions”.  It was pretty clear that I was in for a good day.

The park is quite large, and comprises a number of exhibit areas, as well as the theatres where the dolphins, sea lions, and killer whales perform.  In addition, there are rides including Atlantis and a huge roller coaster that winds its way above the park.  Of course, there is shopping as well and several restaurants and concessions.
I started my visit to the park at the enclosure with the flamingos.  I’ve never seen them up close before.  What odd looking birds they are, and they truly do sleep on one leg.  Later, I saw them being moved (to where I don’t know). 

I planned my day around the shows and had a bit of time before the dolphin show, so after a few false starts and turns I made my way to the Antarctic Penguin exhibit.  The temperature inside the exhibit is about 0C (32F).  I’ve shown my photos to my friend K, who has an affinity for penguins – she tells me there are two or three different species.  I couldn’t tell the difference.

There was an area below the exhibit where visitors could watch the penguins swimming.  I took a number of photos but most weren't clear.  Definitely the best of the lot.

I stopped by Atlantis, no ride for me!

Next up was the dolphin show.  Simply amazing!  These mammals are obviously intelligent creatures and these were definitely well trained. Would they be happier in the wild? Perhaps but there are certainly fewer dangers to their lives in the park.

A glimpse of the roller coaster, another ride I didn't go on.

My next stop was the "Wild Artic" exhibit.  I took very few photos as it was disappointing.  Meant to reprsent the north along with the Franklin Expedition, it could have been much more.  There was one beluga whale, one walrus, and one seal.  When I asked one of the attendants why they didn't have a polar bear, she told me "Because it's Seaworld".  When I replied, why do you have flamingos then? - she had no response.

The next show that I attended were the killer whales.  Another amazing show!
I sat beside a mom and her little boy who is a week younger than Eli.  The little one was so excited and clapped with the audience and danced to the music.  I enjoyed watching him as well - I'll definitely have to bring Eli to SeaWorld one day.

 While not a particular good photo of the killer whales, I've included this one to give you a sense of the size of the theatre.  

This would reprsent less than half the entire theatre.  It wasn't entirely full as you can see, but there are lots of people.

Yet, leaving the venue and moving to another was never an issue.  They obviously have built the park in such a way to keep the crowds moving.

In this last photo, the whales are waving good-bye.  They circled the pool, got close to the edge and used their tales to spray the water into the crowd.  I was in the final row of the "splash zone" but didn't get wet.  

My next stop was lunch!  They have a number of restaurants and kiosks around the park but I wanted to sit down.  I went the Spice Mill, which offered sandwiches, burgers, hotdogs, fries, salads and desserts.  I grabbed a chicken club sandwich and coleslaw, along with a soft drink.  There is a wrap around porch style deck so I went outside to enjoy the sunshine and the view.  I think I must have been hunger as I have no photos.  Though I did take a few on my way to lunch, including this one, another view of the roller coaster (and the flamingo paddle boats)

I presume this is a local inhabitant who has made its way to the park for the ponds (and food source?).  

After lunch, I headed for the animal show recommended by my young acquaintance earlier in the day.  

It was fun show - I can definitely see why little ones would enjoy it.  There was loose story line, but the best was watching the animals race about the stage...chasing well placed treats.  Most moved so quickly it was difficult to get any photos, especially the cats.  

I was impressed with the number and variety of animals.  In addition to the four pictured, there were several more dogs and cats, a hamster and a gaggle of ducks.  The shrieks of the small children in the audience was fun to hear.  (Another reason to bring Eli someday).

I had some time before the next show, so headed over to the open exhibit for the seals and sea lions.  The sea lions are loud, noisy, and incredibly rude especially when a visitor had fish to feed them.

The birds hang around waiting to scoop up the fish the visitors throw.  The guide warned people to avoid the birds as apparently they are quite aggressive.

This guy used his flippers to climb from the water.  Impressive core strength!

The last show I visited was the sea lion show.  I didn't get there early enough to get a good seat, and the venue was quite shaded  so my photos are less than I would hope.  But here are a few.

 The premise of the story are the two sea lions are a few credits short to graduate from high school.  The show revolves around the various classes they need to pass and the misadventures that follow. (Cute but cheesy)

Of course, by the end they both manage to do what is needed and graduate.  If I remember correctly the walrus was the valedictorian.  

At some point during the show one of the humans "bought" a can of pop from the machine, drank it, crushed the can and tossed it into the pool.  From the bag of the stage came this little otter. It dived into the pool, brought the can up from the bottom and ran across the stage to toss it into the recyling bin.  (Missed on the first toss, got it on the second).  That brought the loudest applause during the show.After I left the show, I wandered towards the exit.  This is another shot of the roller coaster - it could be seen from almost every area of the park.

I stopped in at the shops on the way out and picked out some souvenirs, pens for my staff, a glass dolphin for my daughter and a bottle opener for my son.  Eli got nothing from SeaWorld because everything for little ones was ridiculously priced...besides I had t-shirts for him from Jamaica and Carters already.

By this time it was nearly 4:30 p.m. and I was ready to head back to the resort (and the pool!).  The sight of the trees in bloom reminded me, it is least in Florida.

That evening I spent my time by the pool.  They have a cabana grill, so I bought my dinner and a beer and ate outdoors.  

The next day was a travel day - another adventure but a fortuitous one as I arrived home an hour earlier than planned.  I took the following day as vacation and spent the day doing laundry and housework.  (My daughter's idea of cleaniless does not match mine).  

So at this point, I'll end my vacation posts - it's about time, as I've been home for 3 1/2 weeks.  Just one more photo from the animal show.

Sunday, 18 March 2018

One sea day, return to land - Vacation days 9 & 10

Well, that took a while to get back here.  Partly because I had a busy couple of days at work and wasn't feeling up to posting and mostly because I woke up Friday morning to a houseful of company.  There's a story behind it, but suffice to say it's been a crazy weekend and I'm grateful for the few hours of quiet since they finally left about 10 minutes ago.  While the bedding is being washed I thought I'd get back to the blog.

For our final breakfast on the Epic, nine of the solos met to go for breakfast in the Taste main dining room.  In an earlier post, I mentioned I had a bottle of sparkling wine in my did every other solo.  Three of the nine brought their bottles to breakfast so we could have mimosas to toast our cruise.

I wandered off after breakfast to take my final photos around the ship.  In particular, I wanted to get that final wake shot.

To get there I headed into Spice H20, another adult only area.  This one had a bar, pool, and two hot tubs.  Had we not gotten our Posh passes, this is likely where we would have spent our time.  I did head over there one afternoon for a splash in the pool.  After a cool down, I went back to Posh because the area was packed.  That is generally an issue with adult only areas, the chair hogs show up early in the morning and claim the chairs.  The staff generally don't pick up the towels and other items, even after a few hours, so one has to be there early in the morning.  The price we paid for Posh was well worth it despite the lack of a pool.

I think I have  similar wake shot from every cruise.  It reminds me are heading back to the port.  This time, though I wasn't nearly as sad as I knew I had a couple more days to relax before it would be time to head home.

Speaking of Posh, I met Sandra and Amy there after my walk-about, then we met Sandy at the Garden Cafe (buffet) for lunch.  After our meal, we went to the Atrium where Sandra and Amy played Deal or no Deal (similar to the television show except in addition to the two contestants, the audience plays along on cards (similar to bingo cards).  Sandra won a free photo!  

It was a sunny, hot day so it was back to Posh until late afternoon.  Last day, time to pack!  After a shower, I dressed and met the group in the lounge.  

Our solo cruise director Lester took this selfie with most of the group.  I think there were close to 20 of us.  The lady in the stripes is Helene, I'm next to her, Sandra is behind me.  Amy is to the left of Sandra, Sandy is to Amy's left, and Che is behind the two of them. I've already forgotten who most of the others are, though I have their e-mail addresses so if I took a bit of time I could probably figure them out.  

After a drink, the group headed back down to the Taste main dining room for our last dinner.  We were a group of 20 that night; we had three tables.  Lester joined us towards the end of the meal.  He's quite the character and did a great job of working with us, when he wasn't off leading a dance class or a game show.  The staff on the cruise ship are kept very busy!

The following morning I woke up early, shortly after we arrived in Port Canaveral. I headed up to the one of the top decks to catch the sunrise.  What a beautiful start to the day!

I had a quick bite to eat at the buffet, then it was time for "easy" walk off departure by 7:30 a.m.  I met Amy and Sandra, who were heading off as well and we headed down to the gangway.  We were in quite a line-up in the terminal but they've obviously done this a few times so the entry back into the U.S. was very efficient.

As part of my fly, snooze, and cruise package I was scheduled for an 8 a.m. shuttle.  The volunteers at the terminal exit sent me the wrong direction.  By the time I called the company and discovered the mistake I thought I'd have missed the shuttle.  Ha!

What the company did not divulge was that they use large buses and they won't leave the port until it has reached a certain capacity.  As a result, we didn't get away from the port until 9:15 a.m.  This didn't matter to me as I was merely catching a taxi from the airport to my resort, however it mattered to one young couple.  They had thought 2 hours would be sufficient time to get to the airport, through security, and catch a 10:45 a.m. flight.  I don't know what happened but suspect they missed the flight.  When we arrived at the airport just before 10, we were held up at the gate because the bus was missing the appropriate stickers.  And to add insult to injury, they were dropped at terminal A and told to walk across to terminal B.   If they did make it, they should buy a lottery ticket.

I took the elevator to the 2nd floor, to the departure area, and grabbed a cab to my hotel, Point Orlando resort.  I booked the resort along with my flight, so the only additional cost was a $12USD resort fee. (Oh yeah, and the $50USD cab ride to get there.)

When I arrived, it was just after 11 a.m. and check-in wasn't until 4 p.m.  I thought I would just drop my luggage but was thrilled to learn they had a room available.  I was quickly checked in and given my key card to my executive studio, first floor, poolside!

The room contained a living area, kitchenette with bar fridge and microwave, a Keurig, sufficient dishes and cutlery for four, and everything needed to wash up the dishes.

The bedroom area held a king sized bed, the television and a closet with a safe.  Just as had happened at the Cocoa Beach hotel, the safe wasn't working.  But this time it wa truly was just batteries.  While I unpacked, Tim the maintenance man showed up to make the necessary replacements. 

The bathroom was large with a tub/shower combination.  After a full week of showers I looked forward to a good soak that evening.  But first, it was time to do some exploring.  I checked at the front desk and learned the I-Ride trolley had a stop just a block away.  I took the trolley down to the end of line to the Vinings Premium Outlet mall.  The stores were too frou-frou for me though I did stop in at the Carters (children's clothing) store.  I got three t-shirts and a long-sleeved shirt (clearance) for $20USD. 

On the way back, I decided to get off the shuttle 3 stops before my own.  I quickly learned that Orlando is a bit like the Vegas strip.  Things look close by, but they really aren't.  I walked over from Universal Boulevard to International Drive (about 4 blocks) then up International to Carrier.  (My resort was on the cross street of Carrier and Universal).  It took me about an hour in the heat, the temperature was around 85F, but fortunately I was carrying a bottle of water.  I must admit my feet were killing me by the time I got back.

Time to check out the resort pool!  I took a quick dip, then relaxed on a lounger reading my book for an hour or so. Wow, it was hot out there...without the breeze we had at sea.  Just after 5, I cleaned up and headed out to TGIFriday's, about a 10-15 minute walk from the resort. 

Way back, when I did my research for the this trip, and learned this restaurant was close to the resort, I'd been thinking about these green bean fries with wasabi aoli.  Yummy!  The beer is a Belgian Blue went perfectly with the fries.  I should have simply had the appetizer and beer but I also ordered a BBQ chicken salad.  It was great but huge - I barely made a dent in it.  

After dinner, I walked back to the hotel and spent another hour out by the pool (feet in the water - since they were still aching from my long walk.  As the sun went down, I was ready to head back to my room to relax and watch television before bed.

I knew I needed a good night's rest as I planned to visit SeaWorld the following day.  That will be the next post....likely in a couple of days or so.