Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Pain that is Yoga

For years, every annual review I've had at work was concluded with "you should really take yoga." Apparently I'm an intense person, and I must stress my managers out. But I *love* stress. Adore it! It motivates me and keeps me entertained. Why would I want to get rid of it?

I've often complained about my flexibility to friends and family. More often than not, their response is, "why don't you take a yoga class?" And I just roll my eyes at them, because they were part of the grand yoga conspiracy, too.

DH has played his part in this, too. Since I can't relax around the house for more than a day, he thought it'd be great fun to have his Mom get me a yoga kit for Christmas two years ago. You know, so I could be all zen in the house? It laid in its original packing materials for two years.

The final player in this great yoga push was my old triathlon Coach. The evil one. She told us it would help us strengthen our core. Stretch our legs. Make us faster. Yeah, you heard me right....faster. So this, I think, was an intriguing thought, but I was not ready to commit just yet.

Until NOW! After 2 months of strength training in the gym, I decided to add another facet to my off season. Something that would help me to stretch out my hip flexors, IT bands, quads, calves, and strengthen that pesky, fat core of mine. Something that MIGHT make me faster when I get to Iron Girl in May, or at the very least, just get me to the starting line injury-free.

One of the accountants at work recently became a yogi and started offering classes on Monday nights after work. Since it was free and in the building, I felt I really had no excuses not to give it a try. Heck, maybe I'll even learn to relax? (Nah! That would be a pipe dream)

So, I've been to yoga twice now, and I have to say, it's quite a challenge! My favorite word is "namaste." I have no idea what it translates to, but it basically means "class dismissed," which also means I made it through alive. I've been quite impressed with my ability to relax in downward facing dog.......sweat like I'm going to die while trying to do slow off my good balance to those flexible crazies in the room in tree pose....... My shoulders and back are always sore after yoga, as is my stomach, since we do a lot of core work. How exciting is this??

Now, why people think yoga is relaxing is absolutely beyond me. I shake the entire time. I get hot and uncomfortable. I fall on my head. But darnit, I'm doing it! And boy, can I feel the stretches in my IT Band and hip flexors. If this isn't good for me, then I give up.

So it was with great pleasure that I phoned my old boss last night to inform him that I'm finally taking his advice with respect to our annual review..... I'm taking yoga. :)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


The New Year has brought about a lot of talk in our tiny little household. Not just about the usual mundane issues like paying bills, making dinner, or skiing on the, we're talking BIG picture here. New house. Dog. Kids. Huge stuff.

So to prepare for all of that, we decided to do a major budget restructuring. We've been living off of one income for a while now, so I thought it would be nice to actually see our savings INCREASE for once without having to stockpile a bonus or a tax refund. So we have "traunches," if you will, for certain expenses. Stuff that is monthly, like rent, cell phones, and other bills, don't get counted, nor does gasoline -- I mean, seriously, am I going to limit how far I drive? So the obvious stuff was groceries, "slush", and our own personal allowances. Hubs and I are giving ourselves each a little somethin' somethin' each month so that we can be selfish yet controlled.

Unfortunately, we've both opted to zero out our allowances for the next 2-4 months by going overbudget in the very first 1/2 of the 1st month we've attempted our budget! Mine's totally legit, though. I'm getting a month-to-month personalized coaching plan from the head coach of my new team. She only takes 10 people a year, so I snatched her up for the next 3 months to get me to "Iron Girl Redemption." She thinks that I'll need more personalized attention now than I will for the 1/2 Ironman....and thinks the 1/2 Ironman Plan that she's written for general consumption will easily get me to the finish line in August. But kicking arse at Iron Girl is going to require lots of work...and she ought to be compensated for it. ;) Of course, this has put me in the hole. Until May. I have $0 to spend on myself until May, but I also need a bike fitting and new tires. Once that's done, I'll have $0 to spend on me until August. Or worse!

Hubby, on the other hand, after getting his snowboard for Christmas, plus boots and bindings on top of that, decided that he wanted a stupid miniature flat-screen HDTV to go in the "man room" with his brand new laptop! I mean, seriously!!! Would you like some champagne and caviar with that?! I just about killed him yesterday when I saw it, but it was 1/2 the price of my 3-months of personalized coaching, so what can I say?? At least my overage is in pursuit of a better body???

Needless to say, this seriously puts a damper on the "saving for a house" fund. And with his champagne tastes and need for new, I'll probably have to suck it up and buy a new construction with all the bells and whistles. We must get a hold of these "overages" NOW before we end up homeless and penniless.

Why must triathlon be so expensive??

At any rate, that's my rant for the day. If anyone in the Denver area has a job for a pilot, you know where to find me. I've got one you can have. For free! Because if he's busy, he won't have time to buy more "stuff." :)

Monday, January 12, 2009


Well, it's been a wacky start to the year! The cold from hell returned after a 2-week hiatus, relegating me to the tired, snotty, coughing laziness that I just recovered from. To spite it all, I decided to attend my last running program practice of the season. Coach had been wondering where I disappeared to....and really, there was no fever, so would it hurt me to at least show up and have a nice snotty walk?

So, I got up at 8am and headed over to the trail where I met up with a lot of familiar faces and Coach. I was equipped with many Kleenex, and bundled up to fight the cold. But it was great to be back!

I admitted that I hadn't done much over the past month, so she sent me off on an aerobic 4-miler. Rather than stare at my heart rate monitor the entire time, I decided to just go "easy" and enjoy the beautiful but chilly morning. I have to admit, I have a great time out there. Yes, I was slower than you could possibly imagine, but I was so happy I got out of bed and went for a run! By mile 2, I was really in my groove and decided to keep going....I was curious if I still had my 10K "base." ANd you know what? I got it! It's a few minutes slower than it should be (like, 8 minutes slower!), but I was sick, and it's been a month..... The good news was that absolutely nothing was sore, and I felt like a million bucks at the end. Woohoo!!! Last year at this time, I had lost my entire running base....starting at a 10K is just so refreshing at this point.

Season starts in a few weeks. I am bouncing off the walls, but I have lots to do. Must hit the pool a few times so that I don't get placed in a lower swim level than I should be. Also need a tune-up on my bike, new tires since my trainer is destroying my old ones, and also need to schedule a bike fit at some point in time. Combine all this with my personal coaching, and I am WAY over budget at this point. Need to do the tax return and beg for forgiveness, I think. ;)

Well, that is it for me. Still sick. But still hanging in there. 5430 Long Course, I'm coming to get you!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

The trip

Well, here's the long-promised rundown of our wonderful vacation! Excuse a few formatting issues....this was a long time in the making.

I had book club the night before we left for our trip. Memory Keeper's Daughter. We were all unanimously depressed and drank and ate and gossiped our way through the evening, finding it quite difficult to bring the conversation back around to the book. I had packed the night before, so thankfully all I had to do was enjoy myself.

We left home at 6am the next morning, my Dad coming over super early to drive us in to the airport. Our flight was on time, and by 2:00pm EST, we were in Miami. I found that the whole time I was there, I just couldn't help myself.....I needed to sing Will Smith's song, over and over and over again. "Welcome to Miami. Bienvenido a Miami!" THe airport is a hole, and the cabs are a total racket, but somehow cheaper than my darling SuperShuttle. So we cabbed it to our hotel, the Marriott Biscayne Bay, which I had secured with my long lost Marriott Reward Points for a grand total of $0!!! Yeah, I know, brilliant.

We got a room on the Bay side, and when we got to our room and looked out the windows, we could see all the cruise ships at the Port! It was very exciting to think that we would be on one at the same time the next day.

DH and I got comfy and then ventured out to the Metromover. It's Miami's way of connecting the downtown. A free monorail system of sorts. Unfortunately, there's not much to do in downtown Miami, and riding the Metromover is pretty darn sketch. I've been in most majors cities in the world. London, NYC, LA, Chicago, Boston......but Miami was unfortunately the dirtiest and most "spread out" of them all. We hit the Bayside Marketplace, an indoor/outdoor mall with a section of flea market type stuff and a Hooters. I'm shocked that people spend their time in Miami going to this place. Is that really all there is? We grabbed a quick bite to eat, tried to find some last-minute items, and then headed back to the hotel where I finished my Charlaine Harris book and DH watched loads of football.

The next morning, I couldn't sleep so got up at 6:30 am and peaked out the window....and what do you know, there was the Carnival Valor pulling into Port! It was a little disturbing to think that 7 days from then, I'd be getting up at that time and would have had to repack everything. Ugh..the worst part! But it was still exciting, because that was going to be our home away from home for an entire week.

We got to the Port of Miami via taxi around 11:45am. We were immediately greeted by a Porter, who slapped tags on our bags and waited expectantly for his "tip." You really shouldn't call it a tip at this point. The fate of your bags lays in the hands of these gentlemen. If you don't tip, you go naked for 7 days. Why don't they just charge $1 a bag and call it a day? Seriously, if they work 4 days a week, and there are 3000 people going out on each ship each day, these people are making a killing. Sign me up!

We went through security in 15 minutes, rushed through the "Sail n' Sign" card line, and then were allowed to board. We were on the Valor by 12:30pm, with an hour to spare until we had access to our rooms. Hubs and I headed upstairs to the cafeteria for lunch, where we tried the fish n' chips. It was exciting being on board. The ship was just humungous. They piled 3,000 people on board, but you had no idea! Plenty of nooks and crannies for everyone.

Muster drill was at 4:00pm, so we rushed to our muster station and just stood there like idiots with our life vests for 15 minutes. Afterwards, our bags were at our door so we did a rush job of unpacking. Once unpacked, we walked up 9 flights of stairs to the main deck and tried to find a spot at the railing....only to discover that we were already sailing!! Ooops. We missed our first sailaway. :) We were still in the channel leaving the Port, though, so it was fun to see everyone wave to the people on the highway. So exciting watching a cruise ship leave Port, I think --- so many people excited to be leaving their cares and worries behind them for a week of fun and adventure. It's the best kind of excitement there is.

Carnival does this cheesy dance party at sailaway. I have to admit, it was tempting to partake. I just watched and enjoyed it all. They videotaped it and then replayed it on a continuous circuit on our TVs in our room, so you bet I made up for not dancing in person by boogying in my cabin.

Dinner for us was late -- 8:15. We joke that we always eat with the old people, but to avoid this, I purposely chose the later of the two seatings. Since the Valor is themed, we were in the "Washington" dining room. Our waiter was a gentleman from Jamaica named Owen, and our assistant waiter was Fernando. I loved Owen from the proud and professional. I just wanted to hug him every night! He quickly learned that I had a cappuccino after dinner with dessert.....needed a little somethin' somethin' to keep me up until 12am at least. He had a pretty good palate, too. Everything he recommended was really good. I guess I was pretty impressed with the food. It wasn't as fattening as I was expecting, and the portions were reasonably small. I had healthy options to choose from every night --- shrimp cocktail, broth-based soups, salads, steamed fish, grilled chicken -- and it made me feel less guilty when I ordered a naughty little dessert each night. They had this dark and white chocolate bread pudding called "bitter n' blanc" that was absolutely to die for. I'd sail Carnival again just to eat it.

ANYWAY, enough about food! We hit up every show on the ship, investigated every lounge, partook in copious amounts of movie and "name that tune" trivia, and even attended a few of the shore excursion clinics. We went to the gym on our two sea days, doing our best to stay upright whilst using the elliptical machines. (I tried to run, but I nearly fell off the treadmill and decided to just skip my run) I have to say we were never, ever bored. There was no sitting on the deck and basking in the sun for us. No, we were busy beavers, moving from one activity to the next with little to no down time. Hubby has serious ADD and cannot relax. Some vacation, huh?!

Our first shore stop was Grand Cayman. We had to tender ashore, as there is no Pier and the water is too shallow. DH and I snuck into the tender boat line (I'm usually a rule follower, but I just didn't have patience -- I was too excited!) and got to shore very early. It was a HOT day, partly cloudy but plenty of sunshine, and we had nothing planned. I was trying to save money, so I left Grand Cayman empty because I'd read that it was a Port you could walk around without having to do an excursion. Plenty of shopping and restaurants. It became very clear that DH had no intention at all of just walking around, so we began our search for a tour company. I'd only read about 3 of them online -- Captain Marvin's, Moby Dick, and Nativeway -- so I tried to search them out. We found Nativeway, but their excursions involved too much snorkeling. DH the non-swimmer refused to do more snorkeling than was necessary. So I found Moby Dick's by the Pier, and we signed up for the "Snorkeling/Sting Ray" excursion.

We loaded into a purple school bus and drove down the island to the Marina. Grand Cayman looked like every other Florida island. Gorgeous beaches, neat hotels, and American chains lining the streets. I was a little just had such an American flair to it. At any rate, once at the Marina, we got on the Moby Dick boat and headed out to the sand bar in between Rum Point and West Bay. It was a rough 30-minute trip, with choppy seas and a bit of a swell. When we pulled up, there were probably five or six similarly sized boats already anchored by the sandbar, so our group opted to do the snorkeling first. The reef here is supposedly the best 12-foot dive spot in the World. I think I can believe that.

The guides anchored the ship by the edge of the reef, and then told us to grab flippers, goggles, and a vest. And to jump! No instruction at all. I'd never snorkeled before, but the waves were pretty big and I was freaking out about DH. He put on his inflatable vest and followed me into the water, but he didn't let go of the boat. The waves were trying to push him under, so I flipped out again and then made him get back on the boat. I just didn't feel comfortable, and the last thing I needed was for him to drown! We were hardly with a group capable of rescuing him, I don't think....

Anyway, he let me go off on my own, so I tried this "snorkeling" out. I hate the flippers and refused to kick, so I ended up doing freestyle the whole time -- I must have looked like an idiot! The coral and the fish were simply gorgeous, and the ocean was so clear and crisp. I really, really loved it out there. But there were so many people running into me and swimming in front of me that I totally lost it. After 10 minutes, I gave up and swam back to the boat. Our guides totally understood why I was frustrated. :) Anyway, after we rescued our stray snorkelers, we headed back over to Stingray City where we saw even more boats on the sandbar! Ah, I guess that's what you get for being in Grand Cayman on Tuesdays, with 4 ships in town. (2 from Carnival, one from Norwegian, one from Princess)
We picked a deeper section of the sandbar to anchor, then got out carefully. There were big rays everywhere we walked. I was doing the stingray shuffle the entire time, and was not too keen on the touchy feely stingrays. I think they enjoy scaring the crap out of people. ;) I swear, they would swim close to the surface and just LOOK at you with those eyes. These are not stupid fish....these are pretty smart creatures of habit who live a very long time. I was impressed with how "domesticated" they were. But like our naturalist said, you'd put up with anything for free food, right? I kissed my sting ray for 7 years good luck....they willingly swim into the guide's arms and stay there, so I didn't think it would kill them to get a kiss form me. I'm sure it got some squid for its good behavior.
At any rate, after a half hour, we headed back to the boat and back to shore. It was definitely very interesting to get dumped in the middle of the Caribbean Sea and to stand amongst massive stingrays, but I can't say I'd do it again. Been there, done that.
We got back to Grand Cayman with several hours to spare before we had to be back on the ship. Rather than pay to eat, we decided to just walk around a little bit and then get a head start on the rest of our cruisemates in the tender line. It was HOT out there, so we didn't last long. I noted a cute restaurant right next to the tender dock, Eden Rock, that rented out snorkel equipment. They seemed to have very docile seas and a beach from which to access the reef..... I think if I ever went to Grand Cayman again, I'd go to Hell (how the "hell" are ya? We hope you have a "hell" of a good time) and then grab a bite and snorkel at Eden Rock.
We got back on the ship, changed out of our salty clothes, and then headed up to eat a late late lunch at the buffet. It was nice to sit up and enjoy our meal, watching the tender boats hurry to the ship to get people on board before the ship's departure time.

Day 2 was Isla Roatan. It was a 12pm arrival, so we had time in the morning to go eat breakfast in the dining room (bleh!) and then walk around Deck to check out the Honduran islands. They are so was like Jurassic Park. ;) Everyone says that if you are looking for topographical changes and beautiful scenery, you should pick an Eastern Caribbean itinerary. But I have to say, Roatan and its sister Bay Islands are just beautiful.

As the ship approached the Pier in Coxen Hole, we made our way to the side of Deck three..... The view was amazing, and we were greeted by a dancing show by the native Garifuna dancers. I know it probably sounds cheesy, but they were holding up the Honduran flag and welcoming us to shore. I was absolutely enchanted by these dancers and got even more excited for disembarkation!
Once we were secured to the ship, we jumped in line to get off the ship and were off in less than 5 minutes. Our excursion for the day, "Kayak & Snorkel," was chosen at random from our home computer, so we had no idea what to expect. We stood in the line that our guide had formed, and it turned out there were only 4 couples on the trip with us! The beginner scuba line was humungous, so we felt really lucky that we were going on a ship excursion that was small and intimate.

Our guide took us to our bus at the Port, driven by an American man who was originally from Chicago but had bought the Cannibal Cafe and Seabreeze Inn in Roatan. He was hilarious trying to maneuver us through traffic in our little bus. We watched in awe as we looked down the row of primitive shops in Coxen Hole and looked at the barefoot children playing in their rooster-inhabited front lawns. Poverty? Yes. But it did not bother me as much as the homeless I saw in Downtown Miami. These people may have been poor, but they are rich in family, culture, and nature. Again, I was fascinated and totally drawn in. Our guide told us about Coxen Hole's history......since it was the only place on the island where the reef allows access by larger ship, Pirates would come there and hide their loot and use it as a place to attack Spanish ships returning home from the Honduran Gold Coast. The people are a mixture of native Carib and Arawak Indians, descendents of African slaves, Spaniards, English, and other European influences that came to the island in the 16, 17, and 1800's.

The van drove us to the West End of the island, which is a gorgeous strip of real estate that is joined by a dirt road and dozens of little inns, cantinas, and touristy dive shops. Our home base for the day was the Cannibal Cafe, where we stashed our belongings and promptly changed to go snorkeling. There was a snorkeling crew there for us -- a certified Scuba instructor and 3 teenage boys who were there to guide us around Half Moon Bay. We learned how to adjust our masks, put on flippers, and inflate our life vests, then headed down to the beach where we jumped in the water and prepared for our trip. Our original guide got into the water in the "rescue" kayak, and he was always there in case we had issues. My non-swimming husband felt totally comfortable in these calm waters, and I was more at ease because of all the help around. If there was any place for a beginner to feel safe, this was it. We swam in a line, following our guide as he navigated us through the Bay. The waters were so clear and beautiful, and we saw many gorgeous fish and coral formations. DH sometimes just hung on to my feet and let me drag him through the water, and I liked this because I knew where he was. Towards the end of the Bay, where the boats were entering, it got a little rough and DH flipped out a bit there. But thankfully, he calmed back down and we were soon on our way. I think the trip was about 45 minutes? I got out of the water and immediately felt like throwing my snorkeling gear on the ground and going for a run. Gee, can't get the triathlete out of me anymore!

After snorkeling, we went back to the cafe, rinsed off, and then sat in the shade as we ate fresh homemade quesadillas and freshly-picked watermelon and pineapple. Holy cow, can you say delish? I was in paradise......this place was just too idyllic and amazing for words.

When our snack was through, we grabbed our oars and life vests and prepared for our kayak trip. I ended up knocking their beautiful Amazon parrot off of his perch with my oar and felt horribly guilty! I swear he glared at me with his birdy eyes the rest of our trip. ;)

DH and I were in a double kayak, amongst the three other couples and our 3 guides. We were pretty pathetic as we paddled down the West End. I have better rhythm than the hubs, so it irked me that he was in back and "in control." I felt like a little anarchist every time I put my oar in the water. Note to self: if we ever kayak again, get a SINGLE!! I loved it, though. Reminded me why I wanted to do Crew in college. So much fun to glide down the West End and enjoy the calm and beautiful ocean.

We pulled over to shore at the halfway point and dragged our kayaks up the beach a little ways. Apparently, this was our flora and fauna hike. Of course, it was a thinly-veiled attempt at getting us to rent our guide's cousin's beach bungalows, but it was still beautiful. We scaled the large hill leading up from the beach and into the thick jungle canopy of Roatan. They showed us two different types of banana trees, multiple types of watermelon, cashew trees, trees that produced such fragrant leaves that you could make teas from them.....oh, it was so beautiful. This island is literally FILLED with sustenance. And the people here are so proud of it, bragging about how hardy their children are to allergies because they live off the jungle in their they don't need much from the mainland because they can sustain themselves on the island. Oh, it was amazing.

So we headed back down the hill, kayaked back to the cafe, and then rushed onto the van because our day was over and we had to get back to the ship. It was so sad to leave.....DH and I made sure to tip generously, as the American dollar goes so far down there and our guides had been so attentive and kind. Really went above and beyond -- I felt depressed leaving them behind!

Once back at Coxen Hole, we realized we had about an hour before we had to be back on the Ship. Knowing I had Christmas coming up, we decided to brave the shops and see what we could find. Lots and lots of hand-carved wooden baskets, animals, name it. I think the first place we went to was called "Yabba Ding Ding." It was so thick with Valor passengers that we immediately left. I wasn't that motivated, and frankly, wanted to change out of my salty clothes and get something to snack on! So back to the ship we went, to wash up and snack at Rosie's.

That night was the juggler/magic show. I initially didn't want to go because I hate BOTH of those things, but we were on a whole "do everything" kick, so off we went after dinner. The juggler was a cute, older Mexican guy who dropped quite a few things. Each time, he was like, "the sheep, it is moving!" Hahaha....yeah, I suppose it would be hard to juggle on a moving vessel. The magician was hilarious. He preyed on women in the audience, and I was totally entertained by him.....until he attempted the cheesy Vegas part of his show where he had a sexy dancer parade around and touch him while he made eyes at her. I laughed hysterically, telling DH "it has to be a joke! He must be mocking the Vegas acts." Oh, no. He was DEAD serious. It ended up creeping me out in the end, but I will say I was very amused and glad I went.

The next morning was Belize. Oh, Belize. The reason I booked the cruise, to be honest. I'd read about cave tubing and how cool it was, so I'd booked a private excursion with a group called "Major Tom" and for three weeks prior to the cruise went around the house singing, "ground control to Major Tom." Yeah, I was obsessed.

So it was a cloudy day in Belize City, and we were 4-5 miles off shore. Winds were buffeting the seas, and the deck was wet, so we could tell it had been raining. We snuck into the first tender line yet again, as we had a private excursion and had to get off first. All was well until I handed my FunPass over to the debarkation girl......the gentlemen overseeing the tender operation yelled "stop!" and chaos ensued for a few minutes. I stood there losing my mind, because I wanted to get on that tender boat so bad.

Eventually, they pushed us back into this room outside the infirmary, and accounced that tender operations had been halted due to the tender boats being slammed into the ship. They said the Captain was going to try to reposition and that we could wait. So the Captain moved us around, and I think he was talking to the Legend or Triumph captain as well, the other ship that was in Belize City with us. We waited a half hour before they told us to go up to the Ivanhoe theatre to wait. I flipped out. I knew our cave tubing was going to take 5.5 hours. With 8 hours in Port, this was a reasonable amount of time. But with each passing minute, I grew concerned that we weren't going to have enough time.

When they started the tenders back up, an hour or so had passed and we didn't have a tender ticket to get back in I gave up, made us drop our swimsuits back in the room, and then went upstairs to have a decent late breakfast. We got tender ticket #11, and it wasn't until 11:30 that we got to board the tender to Belize City.

The seas weren't all that bad, but people were getting wet! I must admit, Belize City was a dump and we never felt safe enough to leave the Port. It drizzled the entire time, and I moped the entire time about missing out on Major Tom. Oh, I was so depressed. I wish I'd had the foresight to research a backup tour, but no....I was an idiot. So Belize was a lost port to us. We lasted all of an hour onshore before we opted to go back to the ship.

Such a shame that so many peoples' favorite country was our worst experience! If only we could have gotten on a land tour.....I heard Lamanai ruins were beautiful. And the Jeep tour people had an amazing day. Ugh!

We spent the day playing all types of trivia. I regret to inform everyone that I never once won the coveted golden Ship on a Stick. Oh, it made me so mad! I think the old people were cheating.

We went to Scarlett's for dinner, the fancy steakhouse on board the ship that costs a little extra. It's supposed to be the equivalent of Morton's or Ruth's Chris, and I think they did a pretty decent job. I had a ceasar salad to start, but had to switch with DH because he didn't like HIS salad....then he complained about mine. For dinner, I had the surf and turf -- lobster tail and filet --- while DH had the 24-ounce porterhouse. He HATED his Porterhouse. Said it was too fatty. Complained the entire time. So I had to give him my filet to shut him the hell up. It made me mad....I felt like I was dining with a five year old. He didn't even order a side dish, so I just ate my baked potato and lobster and stewed silently. We were really full by then, but decided to order desert anyway. Oh, scratch that. *I* ordered desert because DH was upset it all sounded too complicated for him and he thought it was all gross. I didn't order what I wanted because I knew he'd want to try it and would complain, so I opted for the citrus cheesecake. I knew he'd like it. AND I suppose he did. A few bites in, he decided he wanted some and then proceeded to eat the rest of it. Of course, he complained the entire time that it wasn't good enough, but did that stop him?

So yes, a LOVELY evening with my adolescent husband. I enjoyed my meal, but I have to say that they did overcomplicate everything. I think that sometimes you need to let the flavors stay simple. Execute it well and it will be appreciated. When you fancify this stuff up so much that it's confusing to say and overwhelming to eat, it feels like you tried too hard. I'd probably not go back there given the opportunity again. I'd rather save my money and go on an excursion.

OK, so the next day was Cozumel. We were dragging by now, but I got room service every morning so that we could stay on schedule. They were perpetually early, but I caught on after the first day so I was always dressed and up when they arrived. DH was always in bed, groggy, and mad that he had to get up so early. We were supposed to meet our tour in the Ivanhoe theatre at 8am, but I couldn't get DH going until 8:05. As we were walking up the stairs to go to Ivanhoe, we ran into a huge crowd. I spotted a ticket that said "Ultramar," which was what was on my ticket. I asked the guy if he was going to Tulum, and he said they'd been dismissed and that we were to exit the Ship and head to the next Pier to get on the shuttle. I thanked him, got in line behind him, and then kept him in my sights until we were off the ship and had spotted the 400-person Ultramar catamaran.

It was a crisp day in Cozumel. The sky was a fall-colored blue. Deep, rich, slightly chilly. The ocean was churning pretty good. We were a little groggy, but we managed to get on the boat and then enjoyed our 30-minute trip across the ocean to the mainland, Playa del Carmen. When we got off the boat, we were immediately split up into groups of 40. Our group was claimed by a young Mexican girl named Li-Li, who ran our tour. She was a recent college grad who majored in history, so she was a whiz when it came to Mayan culture. Being part Mayan herself, it felt a little more authentic.

We walked single-file through the cobblestone streets of Costa Maya to our bus, then took our seats. For 45 minutes, we got a great cultural lesson and learned about the Riviera Maya and Yucatan Peninsula. Did you know Yucatan roughly means, "I hear you but I don't understand you?" Ha! We stopped at a Mayan Cultural Center along the way to use the restroom, and DH and I bought what we thought was a Mayan calendar. When we got home, the piece of paper that came with it described it as the Aztec calendar. Hmmm.....authentic Mayan Cultural Center peddling Aztec calendars? Doesn't sound so authentic to me.

Anyway, we ended up at Tulum very quickly thereafter and followed our tour guide through the village and 1/4 mile down the road to the ruins. They were stunning, sitting up on this cliff overlooking the ocean. We learned the differences between temples and palaces, tried to understand why they sacrificed humans, and got to see photos of how they really looked in the time that they were in use. (They were red!) We were given an hour to roam around after our tour, so we headed down to the beach for some "ruins on the cliff" photos, and then went back to the bus so that we didn't miss it. Overall, we are so glad we did this. I finally figured out that DH is a history buff, so if you stick him on a bus with a tour guide, he's a happy camper. Been there, done that.

We napped on the bus on the way back to Playa del Carmen, tolerated the Ultramar shuttle ride, and then perused the touristy shopping village at the Pier in Cozumel. We got back to the ship a little less than an hour before we were supposed to, had our token snack at Rosie's, and then prepared for dinner. It was at times like these that we were happy we had the late seating! if we had the early seating, we would have to take shorter excursions or skip the formal dinners altogether.....

That night, there was an early show, "Motown Sounds & Comedian," which I enjoyed. Dinner was really good -- I had lamb chops and Bitter n' Blanc -- and after dinner there was a deck party! They were doing all the sailaway dances, so I abandoned DH and joined everyone on Lido for some dancing foolery. Mississippi Slide, Cupid Shuffle, Conga Line.....I danced for a half hour and knew all the moves because I'd been practicing them. ;) So much fun!

The next day was depressing, as it was the last day of our cruise and time to get into "disembarkation" mode. We slept in, attended the disembarkation talk, and then proceeded to hit the gym. After the gym, we took quick showers and caught the tail end of the chocolate buffet. I ate chocolate for lunch, and felt like a cow. After gorging ourselves, we did more trivia, then went back to our rooms to pack. So sad! We chose to do the regular disembarkation, so we got our tags, #30 (that's the second to last group to leave the ship), and had to have our bags out in the hallway by 12pm. Valor had a holiday show around 5:00pm, so we attended and enjoyed the Christmas carols. We tried to get in the mood, but it was so sad knowing this was one of the last times we'd be in Ivanhoe! We did a little duty free shopping before dinner, then had our last dinner with Owen. It was yummy, too.....lobster and crab cakes with a spicy remoulade, panko crusted jumbo shrimp, and grand marnier souffle. Mmm.... We handed tip envelopes to Owen and our bar steward....and to that annoying assistant matre'd. He did nothing for us other than annoy me, but I felt bad and put some money in the envelope anyway. I refused to put our table # on it, as I didn't want to be thanked....or associated for the small dollar amount I put in there. (Sorry, I refuse to give $20 to a man who didn't do that much for me!) When he was walking around thanking everyone, I got up from my table and ran to the restroom to hide. How sad is that? Anyway, was sad to say goodbye to Owen. After 7 days, you grow attached to everyone. I sincerely hope he gets promoted one of these days....he's far too smart and on-top-of things to be waiting on people his whole career.

So, that night was the Carnival Legends show, where our fellow passengers perform with the dancers by singing songs by certain artists. I wanted to try out to be Britney Spears, but late seatings missed out on karaoke tryouts. Oh well! I think our cruise had some pretty bad singers.....the highlight was our cruise director as Dolly Parton. Overall, this was the worst show of our trip, but the only thing that saved it was seeing our entertainment staff....we'd grown attached to them, too.

After hanging out on deck, we decided to call it a night. Our last night at sea. We knew we were moving quickly and would be in Port within a few short hours. Ugh.Our phone rang at 5:45am. I suspect this was a mistake, as Chris didn't come over the loudspeaker until 7:30am, when customs cleared the ship and the first two groups were allowed to disembark. DH and I finished getting ready, and were out of our cabin by 8:30am. We headed up to Lido with our bags and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast. By 10:00am, our number had been called and we made our way to the American Lobby where we were held up for 20 minutes by Miami customs.....they got a little backlogged. Anyway, once off the ship, we picked up our bags and were out of the terminal in 10 minutes. Pretty painless compared to some of the stories I'd read.

DH and I grabbed a cab to our new hotel, the Courtyard Downtown, but there was something going on that blocked the streets so we had to get out and walk 3 blocks with our suitcases. So annoyed. We got a nice room at 11am in our hotel, so that was a relief. We decided to see the famed South Beach, so we walked to Bayside Marketplace to catch a cab and were swiftly driven over to Ocean Drive. I have to say, I expected a little more?? It was an overcast day, and we walked the length of Ocean Drive twice trying to figure out where we wanted to eat. We ended up eating at this hotel that wasn't that fabulous, then walked to the point where we could see the cruise ships. The Valor was smoking up a storm, so we knew it was close to leaving Port. How sad! Our home was leaving with another group of excited people, and we would be left behind in Miami. :(
We walked to a pedestrian mall somewhere near south beach, then walked a little while more until a taxi picked us up and brought us back to the hotel. I was sick at this point, so we sat around, watched football, read, and ordered pizza. Yucky night.

The next morning, we got a late checkout and then walked to Mary Brickell Village for lunch at Rosa Mexicano. Definitely not as good as the one in DC. We ended up walking back, packing up our things, and then taking a taxi back to the airport where we endured for many many hours until getting home.

So, that was our trip. Are you asleep yet? Well, it wasn't for public consumption-- I just wanted to document everything. :) We had an amazing time and I cannot wait to cruise on my next vacation! (South America? Alaska? Hawaii? Mediterranean? I cannot wait!)

Happy New Year!

Oh, this year is going to be good, I can taste it.....

I have some big news, too.

No, I'm not pregnant! I'm signed up for this:

Yes, my first Half Ironman. At the stroke of midnight, I kissed my husband and then pulled out the credit card. It's the last race in the Boulder Triathlon Series, and I hear the Sprint sells out in 4 days, so I wanted to be one of the first. How sad. ;) So now I am slightly scared, but pretty freaking excited. This is the "iffy" distance for me. The one I don't know if I can do. The non-runner is going to attempt to do a Half Marathon, finally! I'm signing up for a monthly training plan from our head coach, which will be pricey, but I am optimistic that she will get me through the race season with multiple successes.

DH is on board. In fact, we are hoping against hope that he will be so busy working that he won't realize that I am out training 1/2 the week. We are hoping that the new year will finally bring him career success. He deserves it. The mental anguish has been punishment enough. So if you have any spare juju, send them our way. I need my man to be a happy, employed pilot!

I must first get through the ski season. It's been a decade since I've skiied, and not very well, I'll add. I didn't grow up on skis, I was enrolled in a ski club at the age of 14 and was in the beginner group with 6-year olds. My best friend at the time was with me, and together, we were teacher's pet because we could help discipline the little hellions. It was pretty pathetic at the end of the season when they all skiied better than me. Hubs is a snowboarder. Since the last time I skiied, snowboarding was "rebellious," I'm not sure what to think of this. I got him a snowboard, boots, and bindings for Christmas, so I'm invested in our Colorado lifestyle now. He informed me that snowboarding results in less knee injuries than skiing.....and for some reason, I am more interested in snowboarding NOW than I should be. ;)

Well, I must finish my cruise summary now. It'll be up shortly....hopefully with pictures.

Happy New Year!