Monday, February 25, 2008

Monday, With Regets.

This was a bittersweet and eventful weekend. A good weekend with a sad ending. On Saturday I was at Northern Woolies for a book signing in the morning. In spite of the snowfall on Friday quite a few people came by to have boks signed, and shop, and chat. It was a lot of fun. I even had my own entourage - Girl and Cutler needle felted, Katy and Traci shopped, Mary Alice and Barbara knitted. I did not get pictures of everyone (because you cannot simultaneously sign books and take pictures), but did get a couple of my Feltsters. I really think they should have been knitting two socks at one time on one long circular! After we headed to Mesa Verde for lunch; Melissa has a big weakness for Mexican food. Big big. Love beans. Love salsa. Love cilantro and limes and...peanut butter. Thai Peanut Burrito (in a bowl) is very yummy.
I started a shawl for a lace class (more on that later), organized my knitting area, made lists of what's to do, and when it's due. I wrote a lot, got some patterns and other paperwork taken care of, and started outlines for classes. There was a lot of productivity here. I finished the socks I am calling Caravan for submission to Judith Durant's next book. These need to go out in the mail today to Storey. I love the socks, I love the yarn, I love the pattern. The yarn is Hand Maiden Mini Maiden, and the colorway is Paris. They're knit on a US0 needle at about 10 sts to the inch. But totally worth every stitch, seriously.
On Sunday our shopping adventure began with more Mexican; lunch at Margaritas in Keene. Then we scored the elusive Wii at Target (and a Starbucks tall skinny cinnamon latte because...well...I was there after all). I spent a lot of time at Christmas on the prowl for a Wii but eventually gave up. There were three at Target. Three. Just sitting there. A swing through Home Depot yielded an offer too good to refuse - $50 off of a minimum $100 charge if you qualified for a Home Depot credit card. We needed two light fixtures and a faucet, items we've been putting off for years (literally) so we exploited the offer. Then we bought groceries, and oddly half of what I needed was on sale. This is rare, because we're "perimeter shoppers" - vegetables, meat, dairy then home. I did need some aisle stuff this week; brown sugar (for Mr. W's granola) and cocoa powder (because I have a horrible chocolate problem). It felt like a good shopping day. Then we headed home.
I am a little practical about life and death in nature, and always have been. Although a member of the Disney generation, I've always been able to separate my anthropomorphizing of various woodland creatures and house pets from reality when it comes right down to it. I eat Bambi. I would eat Thumper. I would not eat Flower, but I'd shoot him if he was in my hen house without a second thought. Living where we do 12 deer in the yard at 7am not uncommon. They bed down in the half acre that separates us from our nearest neighbor. I've considered felling the trees here to make more garden and livestock space, and maybe we will someday. For Bambi et al, this is the perfect motel. Trees offer protection from the wind, shallow snow under the evergreens means bedding down is comfortable. Down the hill there's two running streams, and across the street a field perfect for digging up dried grass. Animals live out their lives in relative normalcy. Yes, there are homes and human footprints, but the old raccoon or injured fox found dead in the woods is not uncommon. We've even had a human die up here 'in the traces' so to speak while working his woodlot. I'd like to go that way myself, naturally, no big brouhaha, no hospitals and such. So it wasn't hard for me to accept that my favorite and by no means youthful rooster Napoleon was taken yesterday by a hawk while we were out. Taken may be a little bit of an overstatement, since most hawks are not actually strong enough to carry off something as large as a chicken. Still, hunger and winter snows are enough to make any predator take a chance. And a senile rooster (who probably thought his turkey buddy was coming by for a visit) probably made an excellent target. The hawk was hungry enough to stick around for the meal in spite of our comings and going with groceries and Wii and light fixtures. It's probably been a long couple of weeks for him with the ice keeping rodents from his view. I love the hawks here. When we took down all the trees I was elated to see them over the meadow, taking pigeons out of the air like it was a McDonald's drive-thru. Pigeons are pests, but hawks belong here. Really for Napoleon to die this way, in the talons of one of my beloved hawks, was the perfect poetic end to a life well-lived. We got Napoleon as a young rooster from Tregellys Farm. He came with a "brother" Franc (later named Earl, "...cause Earl had to die"!) and a hen named after my grandmother, Eleanor. They share attitude. I remember Napoleon as being very catchable. He shoved his head in between two bales of hay, tail feathers sticking straight up in the air. "If I cannot see you, you cannot catch me!" I shook my head and thought "This one's maybe not so sharp." but brought him along anyway. He was a bit of a runt, undersized and not exactly a credit to his Maran ancestry. It's how he got his name - a runty Frenchman who never knew his size mattered and in the end it didn't. It turned out that he was amazingly sharp. For many years he's kept his various flocks safe from predators in the air and on land, alerting me to the presence of dogs, foxes, coyotes, a couple of bears and occasionally even went after Mr. Wonderful, but never Girl or I. I think he thought we were his hens, too. The hens have come and gone, and he's loved them all. He even got to rear some of his own chicks, and taught them well. He made peace with the a lone tom turkey, who eventually developed a flock of his own and often came by to visit - chickens and turkeys wandering and bathing and foraging together in the side yard. His second in command, Plush (named for the yarn) will get the job done with his fuzzy Cochin boots and his iridescent black mantle. Plush a striking specimen, and all that a "real" rooster should be in appearance. But it won't be the same as my little general racing around the yard and eating bread from my hand. I always said if Nappie were a man Mr. W. would be in trouble. I am going to miss him.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

When is a Mall not a Mall (or is it!)?

When it's got an amusement park, a wedding chapel, a meandering moose, and a whole lot of yarn crafters! The CYCA Mall of America Knit-Out this past weekend in Minnesota was awesome, huge, and truly wild at times. In addition to the moose, I saw a shark, a tree frog and a lion. It was like Disney World with no mice. I met amazing knitters and crocheters, famous knitters and crocheters, young and old knitters and crocheters, and got some terrific sushi (and a shirt for Mr Wonderful that says "Macho Maki Man").

I met Judy Johnson who knits bears for Mother Bear, which is a great organization "... providing comfort and hope to children, primarily those affected by HIV/AIDS in emerging nations, by giving them a gift of love in the form of hand-knit and crocheted bears". She had a few friends in tow, as you can see. You can visit the Mother Bear website - and if you feel inclined you can give yarn, needles, knitted bears, or - of course - money. So far they've donated 25,600 bears.

On Saturday and Sunday there were author's forums and books signings featuring authors (alphabetically!) Susan B. Anderson, Edie Eckman (she's got the coolest crochet motif book coming in August called Beyond-the-Square), Nicky Epstein,Antje Gillingham, Vickie Howell (author and forum host!), Debbie Macomber,Annie Modesitt, Kristen Nicholas, Isela Phelps, Karen Thalacker, Kim Werker. I apologize if I missed anyone, it was a busy weekend! Not all of them are featured in the pics on the blog since I could not take pictures and be on stage at the same time. Demos happened during the day in front of Sears in an area that was usually packed with people at demo time - really packed. After demo time, people seemed to just grab chairs and knit, which is always awesome to see. Sort of an informal knit-night, only afternoon and in the middle of a mall.

The fastest knitter competition drew a big crowd. 260 or so stitches in three minutes would get anyone's attention. It would also kill me, for sure. I can knit fast in spurts. But not that fast!!! The winner was Hazel Tindall from Aith, Shetland. Watching her was staggering. Very small movements, no wasted effort or energy. At one point she looked up out into the audience, and just kept right on knitting at that speed, almost casually. Awesome.

I really want to thank everyone at Storey for sending me to this, especially Amy - who's head probably often aches because of me. Thank you for putting up with my neurosis. I had a blast, and can't wait to do it again.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Diary of a Kidnapped Knitter, part 3

Monday, January 28th
Today is Nassau Day. Land is good. Land is life. We had 15 foot seas overnight. I did not know it was possible to feel so nauseous and not be pregnant. We breakfasted at Tritons before getting off the ship. Note Mr. Wonderful cleaning his hands at yet another station. They are everywhere. All the time. I am so clean I squeak.
We went through the charming customs office in Nassau in no time and headed out onto the streets. I had a moment in which I saw something that looked a little like nirvana - a Starbucks. Now, I am not a Starbucks addict, but I am a latte addict and I had not seen a latte in a week. There's this thing, a skinny latte? I love it. The words "Skinny cinnamon" just fall out of my mouth and my wallet falls open every time I see a mermaid in a green circle. I walked into this Starbucks and asked for a skinny cinnamon.
Stare. "wah??"
"You know. A cinnamon dolce latte made with skim milk and sugar free syrup?"
Stare. "We don't do that."
"Um. Can you do anything with skim milk?"
Stare. "We only got whole milk."
The idea of whole milk just made me want know.
Forget it. I quit. I will die from latte-less-ness. I will be found on the deck of the Wonder in a pool of tears, sans latte. Fine. Whatever. We shopped a bit in Nassau but found the prices to be more than we'd pay on the Mainland. We did get a teddy bear with color changing feet and a t-shirt that changes color in the sun for Girl. There's no grass in Nassau, only concrete, graffiti, and dirt. It appears that poverty is rampant.
Since shopping sucked, we decided to walk down and grab a ferry to Paradise Island and check out Atlantis. Ferry. Boat with flat top, and plastic lawn chairs not nailed to deck surface, and maybe 8 life jackets for the assembled "guests" - there were about 20 of us.
While we waited for the boat to fill (they don't cast off till it's full), I watched this guy clean conch shells, make holes in the end, and blow into them. Kinda cool. Not cool enough for me to get off the rocking, bouncing ferry, though. The water on the Nassau side where the cruise ships dock was filthy. Foam egg cartons, empty mazola jugs, soda bottles and cans, and just general goo coat the water's surface. As the boat casts off, an extra person hops on and gives a "tour" of the ride across. He does not, he says, work for the ferry company. He works for tips. It's how he survives, he says.Once on Paradise Island it was like we'd been swept back to Disney World. The chaos, poverty, dirt of Nassau was replaced with snowy white benches with mosaic tile inlays, green, lush grass, immaculate resorts. Everything is pristine, and there is no sign of the poverty of the streets of Nassau. We passed another Starbucks. I tried again. "Skinny cinnamon". Just re-read the bit from above. Repeat of the same experience. "Huh? A wah??". I could die here. With no latte. It won't be pretty. Mickey has it in for me where coffee is concerned. First Fountainview Ice Cream Bar, and now ports with broken Starbucks.
Mr. W. played Triton-Wanna Be at Atlantis, and we wandered around and looked at their aquarium a bit. Then he blew $30 on video poker. At one point he was up by $85. He didn't tell me or I would have hit the cash-out button. I hate gambling. I hate casinos. I hate watching people who look like they're down to their last dollar running for an ATM. I hated the opulence of the shops in the face of what I'd just seen in Nassau. I hated the yachts parked outside. Luckily Mr. W. wasn't particularly enamored either (losing repeatedly right off the bat is disillusioning, and a pouting wife totally doesn't help one's mood, I am sure), so we split and headed back to the ship.
It was at this point that I sent Katy an instant message, at around 1:30pm, which contained the words "cruise sucks." So far I'd tossed my cookies all night, listened to the annoying clack of loose trim in my cabin between visits to the toilet, been saddened to see what the great resort Atlantis has brought to Nassau (think Norwich, CT, only the locals have fared much worse - no one paid them fair market value for their huts.), watched my husband 'donate' $30 to Atlantis, ridden a ferry with a tour narrated by a man in desperate need of dental care, a shower and a laundry mat (in no particular order), wandered through overpriced shops, and been turned down by not one but TWO Starbucks in my request for a nonfat ANYTHING.
Things were growing desperate. I turned to my Navigator, that insightful listing of all things cruiseish. That's when I saw it. "Cove Cafe: offering a wide selection of specialty coffees..." I bounced off the bed and ran for deck 9. I walked in the door. I said "Can you make me a latte, but with skim milk and decaf?"
"Yes, ma'am. Would you like a flavor shot?"
I could have cried with delight
He, server who's name I forgot and who got huge tips on top of the automatic 15% gratuity Disney smacks on beverages, he saved me. He gave me a Cove Fanatic card (buy 5 specialty drinks and get the sixth free). I loved him.
We had reservations for Palo, the adult's only restaurant for that evening. This was awesome. They do sort of push booze on you, and this was one evening where I wasn't sure if it was beverages or the boat moving me. There was a lot of free this n' that in glasses with dinner. Dinner was excellent, and our server was great. We cleansed our palates with a mixture of vodka and limoncello (hic-cup!) and left.
See that picture up there? I have no pictures of us together. We go to Disney and they take them, and we don't buy them because they're like a million dollars for an 8x10. On the ship I think they were like $39.95 for one picture. Pictures are posted daily in this place called Shutters where you can buy your prints right off the wall. Or...if you're cheap and can take pictures of your pictures!!! MWAHHAHAHAAAA!! Nice try, Mickey! Gotcha!
Back in the room, a bunny waited for me, resting with some chocolate mints. Now if only the ship would stop MOVING. All night, up and down and up and will never end.
Tuesday, January 29th
Sunrise over Castaway Cay. We've stopped moving. I knew when we slowed to dock. I ran onto the verandah to watch. I'd been awake watching my eyelashes grow and feeling my stomach slosh. Get me OFF this boat.
Donald Duck at the post office on Castaway Cay. We mailed post cards to Girl and Number One from here. I still don't think they've arrived.
The Flying Dutchman is anchored in Castaway Cay, and Captain Jack Sparrow does a meet n' greet first thing in the morning. We missed it. We had a different objective in mind.
Love this sign. Really you should read it and know that they're serious, about all of it. I know of at least one person stung by jellies during our trip.
We headed straight for Serenity Bay, the adults only beach. Notable differences between this and the main beaches include the presence of adult beverage servers walking up and down all day, the absence of children, and the large number of unocupied beach chairs and hammocks. We staked out a spot and settled in. The water was cold, but the sun warm. A dip to cool off, then find a chair and...
Well. Ahhhh...We stayed until sometime in the afternoon, then headed back to the ship to rest and get ready for dinner. I could have stayed on Castaway Cay for the rest of my life.
Wandering before dinner we spotted Pirate Minnie signing autographs outside Triton's. Pirate night on the ship means...
It means they put a handkerchief on my head folded like a hat, and sell me a $5. pirate glass that lights up so that when Aidan visits he can be amused, and the menu is a rolled treasure map with pirate themed dinner selections.
Another picture of a picture. Getting sick of that dress? Me too. Although "dress up night" was only supposed to be one evening, pre-dinner wanders indicated otherwise. Next time, bring more dresses. Next time?? NEXT TIME?? AM I JOKING??
During dinner the stewards and servers engage in a rollicking game of limbo with the guests. There is dancing, yelling, and waving of pirate-y handkerchiefs. A deck party follows with dancing, imperlied crew and shipmates, a daring Mouse, and finally fireworks.I retired, and found an elephant. Maybe, I thought, since we're at Castaway Cay tomorrow, maybe they'll just let the boat sit here...maybe??Nah. Too easy. I spent another sleepless night listening to the trim and contemplating the rolling of my stomach. This cruise is just way too much fun for me...
Wednesday, January 30th
Once up and moving, with the ship sitting still, this whole cruise thing isn't half bad. Castaway Cay is amazing. There's lots of activities on and off board. We hopped off the ship as soon as the door opened and headed onto the island. We rented bikes, rode for about an hour then shopped in the shops on Castaway Cay where locals sell some of the same stuff you can get in Nassau. We got Girl a t-shirt and me a bracelet. Then, back on board, there was Palo brunch...

With it's dessert buffet, fruit and cheese buffet, antipasto bar, and bread buffet. This is washed down with complimentary mimosas (one per customer) and followed by soup, egg dishes, full entrees and many offers of more mimosas (um. thanks. no. you see I am tired of feeding the fish, and I'd like to eat and be happy for a few hours). We rolled back to our cabin for bathing suits and headed off for Castaway Cay again.
Mr. W on Castaway Cay relaxing with a fruity adult beverage. MaiTai I think.
Fish we saw while snorkling. We saw more fish, or I sort of saw being blind without glasses and all. Snorkeling was fun, and would be more fun if I could see better. Nest time there will be contacts.
Castaway Cay's barrier reef from the ship
Image from the tower on the bike path on Castaway Cay
Cairn. I placed a stone. This means I have to go back. Maybe I could swim out.
Once back on board we indulged in a one hour Exotic Rasul spa treatment. I shall not, for the sake of any young readers, detail this escapade. I will only say this: if you are ever in a spa and someone offers you a private steam room for two and a ton of product with directions for each, TAKE IT. I think it was $81, not including tip. I walked in cranky, a little sunburned, and a little tired of being sick and tired. I walked out catatonic, but in a good way. I did not know you could be that relaxed. We tried to wander the ship, but in the end collapsed in deck chairs in little puddles of exfoliated, mudded, frangipani oiled goo. Only drawback - while we were in the spa we shoved off from Castaway Cay. I knew it the moment it happened. I said "We're moving agian." Mr. Wonderful felt nothing. But I knew. When we emerged Castaway Cay was no longer on the horizon. This is our last evening on board and our last restaurant change - Animator's Palate where everything stats off black and white and bright, and changes during dinner to dark and colorful. Even the waiters vests change.
Back in the room, my final animal waited for me. A peacock. Or a turkey...either way I loved him.
Another night of delightful motion. Tomorrow we disembark, or debark as they say around here. I cannot wait to be in my car.
Thursday, January 31st
It is over. I can leave. Hallelujah. LAND!! LAND HO!! We docked in Port Canaveral. Our scheduled breakfast was 8:45 at Animator's Palate - things run differently on the last evening, and breafkast would only be served in that restaurant at that time, or you could get something at the Beach Blanket Buffet. I just wanted off. Mr. W. agreed. We went to Beach Blanket and...oh my. Is it possible?? Yes, it is. Disney failed me in the food department. This buffet was nothing short of repulsive. I got some grits - tasted like chemicals. Scrambed eggs? Tasted like...just nothing like eggs. I grabbed some fruit and a banana, and tried to choke down some decaf. We finished as quickly as we could and headed down to debark, expecting chaos. We walked right off the ship, had our cards slid through for the last time, and headed for baggage claim. A porter approached us and asked if we needed help. I nodded toward Mr. (CHEAP) Wonderful, who said "SURE!". The porter grabbed out bags and within five minutes we were at our car. Joy. Great joy. Now we can drive for three days. And you know what? I am TOTALLY ok with that.

Phew. I am done. No more scary trip reports. Well, until nest week, but that one may have some knitting involved.

Oh, and about 'next time'? Um. November 2009, 7-night on the Magic, sailing to Grand Cayman and Cozumel. With some anti-barfing techniques and drugs. Once you're home, and you've got time to think, all you can see in your mind is endless blue seas and beaches, dinner at Palo, and the inside of the Vista Spa, and you've got no choice - re-book or die.

Monday, February 11, 2008


We interrupt this compelling and delightful trip report to bring you a knitting update:
First, I will be at the CYCA Mall of America Knit-Out Saturday and Sunday February 16th and 17th at the Storey Books booth between Macy's and Bloomingdale's doing informal demos of my 2-socks method, and signing books, and participating in an author's forums and signings in the Rotunda. If you're in the area stop by, introduce yourself, say hello! I know my name's not on the list but trust me I shall be there with bells on! Unfortunately since I get in at around 1:00 AM Monday I will not be stopping in Greenfield for sushi at New Fortune which is my regular habit upon returning home from wherever. Maybe Monday evening. Monday is a special day for me (shhh... it's a secret, don't tell, but it's my birthday!).
Second, I will be at Northern Woolies in Greenfield on February 23rd, signing books from 10am-noon, followed by a loosely organized group take-over of Mesa Verde where we shall indulge our various passions for painfully fresh salsa and margaritas and chopped jalapenos.
Finished Objects: Socks designed for Knit and Crochet Today, I am calling them Castaway Socks. The yarn is Kaffe Fassett's Regia sock yarn in two colors (one landscape, one mirage). I like them. The pattern will be given away free on the shows website when "my" episode airs.
And almost finished is "Malea's Will-the-Cashmere-Be-Enough-Scarf-o-Tis", an adaptation of the seriously famous Clapotis. Mods: big honking needles (like a 9), little tiny yarn (lace weight cashmere), and only five initial repeats result in a more narrow scarf. Warmth will be provided by the luscious cashmere and the air space created by the drops and looser stitches. Don't ask me what the yarn is or where it came from as I have no clue. She just handed it over and said "Can this be a Clapotis and I will make you something?" and I said "Uh. Not so much. But it can be a scarf." Should be done today. I had to rip it when I did 7 repeats and was running out of yarn so fast it would have been a handkerchief-o-tis. One good long sauna should finish the thing (because there will be no more yarn). Since it was seven freaking degrees here this morning (not including the wind chill), the sauna is looking mighty nice. If you need me, that's where I'll be! Finally, my chopsticks can be held by something pretty and Malea-made rather than the ugly old Starbucks mug! If I'd thought about it I'd have convinced her I needed lovely square and rectangle sushi plates, too. One just the right size for seaweed salad, and another that can hold three or four hand rolls, mathing. Mr. W. and I share our sushi on one big plate. I almost bought some plates at Disney at Mitsukoshi, but I was afraid they'd break in transit. Maybe she's got other knitting she needs done...and maybe I have time (hah!!).
Another in-progress item, my submission for Judith Durant's next 101 book, Hand Maiden silk (and wool) socks in a color called Paris, and a pattern that makes the most of it. I love how these are looking. Yes, there is a second one. 2-at-a-Time All the Way. These are just very very pretty and I want to wear them, and the idea that I have to send them off to be judged when they so obviously want to be on my feet...but my feet will survive, and live till the socks come back!
And in the Wild Kingdom department, this genetically superior specimen of deer-hood was about two feet away from me. Admittedly, there was a shrub between us, and he was, perhaps, confused and thought I was a branch. I opened the sliding glass door, took his picture, coughed, cleared my throat. He kept munching, oblivious. I said "Well. You're not the sharpest tool in the shed, are you?" GASP! His head snapped around and he got that (forgive me, but really, it's the only thing I can think of) "deer in headlights" look and took off.
OK. Tomorrow, back to our regularly scheduled program, in which you are subjected to the continued exploits of MMO and Mr. Wonderful as they engage in their first ever Disney cruise...but will it be their last? Stay tuned!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Diary of a Kidnapped Knitter, Part 2

Still with me? Gluttons for punishment, I say. Mwahahahaa! Warning: There's a lot more pictures in this post, and we're getting on Mickey's Tub in here someplace, so this is a long one, folks!

Wednesday 23 January:
The camera est mort. We tried gentle coaxing and were eventually reduced to hurling it across the room (ok, maybe we were not that cruel...we just whacked it around a bit). It is taking pictures of things like fireworks and restaurants, but all I get is a black screen with colored stripes. I cannot believe I am going to the Caribbean for the first time, my first cruise, and I have no camera. AND I have reservations for breakfast with Mickey Mouse. And no camera. We bought a disposable at the Contemporary before breakfast, trying to buy ourselves time. The only reusable cameras on property are three Kodak digital models I know nothing about – and two Hannah Montana $19.99 digital jobbers that hold 40 pictures and are not Mac compatible. I feel trapped. I am not going to buy a camera just because it's here, with no research. I cannot believe I have to use...gulp...FILM.
Chef Mickey's at the Contemporary was awesome. Mr. W. loves a buffet. I love to watch the kids when they're having fun, and when they see characters. The chef came and escorted me around the buffet, showing me what was safe and not safe. She made me gluten free Van's waffles, and gave me separate syrup too. We headed to the Magic Kingdom and picked up our Pirate and Princess Party tickets for Saturday. We rode Buzz, Pirates, and some other small things. Saw Mickey's PhilharMagic which I just love. It feels like the earth is moving under my feet sometimes, even when we're standing still and not on rides. This happened a couple of years ago on another Disney trip - we decided then that I had fluid in my ears, and didn't ride much. I hope it does not mess up the cruise.
After our nap (I love vacation.) we headed for Downtown Disney, with an eventual goal of Animal Kingdom Lodge for Boma: Flavors of Africa. I love me some Boma. Big time. And as usual I left fat and happy. There's a TON of stuff on the Boma buffet for GF people. The chef escorts me around and says “you can have that and that and that and that...but not that...” Usually it’s “You can’t have anything here, or there, but you can have that one over there...” They've even got two GF desserts on their regular dessert menu! I love the Carrot and Ginger soup, and the Kokonut Rice and the curry dishes. And they have an amazing hummus which can be slapped onto GF rolls or veggies. Loads of flavor, loads of interesting, loads of fun. After dinner we headed back to Downtown Pleasure Island. We went to the Adventurer's Club; first visit. I think we should have gone to the Comedy Club instead. It was funny, but a bit too schticky for us, and we left. I am not sure we drink enough to make it funny enough to stay. I got a latte at Ghirardelli, and we watched people.
Thursday 24 January:
Mr. W.'s cheese is slipping. We "left property" (meaning we got in a non-Disney vehicle and left the Disney enclave) and bought a new digital camera at a Wal-mart in Orlando in the middle of vacation. Five years ago he would have told me he hoped I enjoyed my memories. Now he just hops in the car and off we trot. I cannot stop taking pictures now. Common anoles, Smucker's single serving jelly tubs, my omelet, air, cars, anything. Just because I can.
Back on property we tested the camera out in Animal Kingdom and Epcot then headed for dinner at the Flying Fish at Boardwalk n the pouring rain. The food was excellent. Again the atmosphere is very loud, but I think trying to find a quiet dinner at Disney may be the biggest joke ever.
Us at Animal Kingdom - a rarity, pictures of us together.

Pouting Knitter stages a futile sit-in at the former Fountainview Espresso, now Edy's Ice Cream bar. Ten years of tradition ruined by ice cream. I am devastated.

And then, to top it off, no Figment??

Imagination view

China - this was under cover last time and has been finished and revealed

More World Showcase


Friday 25 January:
Epcot again. Somehow we find ourselves here over and over. No plans for lunch, so we grab a table at the Japan pavilions newly opened Tokyo Dining (formerly part of Mitsukoshi). I ordered sushi, and a fruity non-alcoholic specialty drink. Mr. W. had a bento box and a fruity non-alcoholic specialty drink, but a different flavor. Oddly enough, there are only two of these drinks on the menu and we chose exactly the right one for each of us. For dinner we went to San Angel Inn. I must say that this experience showed me the darker side of the San Angel. I was not impressed at all. Nothing fresh, and not good at all really. My vegetables were from a plastic freezer bag. Ick. Boo. Goo. The saving grace? Much chips and a good Margarita. Illuminations was awesome as always, and the new camera has a fireworks setting. How cool is that?

Saturday 26 January:
Pirate and/or Princess Day, depending on personality. I prefer to be a Princess this time around. Mr. W. is all Pirate. We were going to dress up for the party, but it was raining (cold rain) all day. I love warm rain, especially here where it chases people away so parks seem privately owned, so it does not bother me, but putting on a bridesmaid’s dress, sleeveless and backless, in the cold? Not so much. We spent the morning We may have a problem here. Epcot. Notice a trend? We spend the majority of our time at Epcot, and it gets worse every visit. We just can't get enough. It's not like we're shopping or eating incessantly. We just really are comfortable at Epcot. I love Soarin' and Test Track and World Showcase and the Canada movie and Maelstrom and...I just love Epcot. We headed to the California Grill for supper. I had sushi, really excellent sushi. Then we headed to the Magic Kingdom. P&P party was just so fun! We gathered boo&y. Mr. W. got more boo&y than me, which I thought was amazingly sexist, but I let it go. I mean, he was getting two strands of beads to every one of mine. AND he got more gems as well. There were games set up in Tomorrowland so you could earn more boo&y, and boo&y stations scattered liberally around the Magic Kingdom. A parade and fireworks capped the evening. We went on more rides, including Small World which always makes Mr. W. whine and cower a little but is required tradition, even the boys know this, and we 'did' Stitch's Great Escape which replaced Alien (no skin off my teeth on that one).
My Personal Pirate – tried it on but wouldn’t buy it

X Marks the Spot - all through the Magic Kingdom, Treasure Stations are marked this way

Smee on Parade!

Tink's treasure float

Sunday 27 January:
This day Mr. W. nearly lost his life. Driving to Port Canaveral to board the Wonder I look over and realize we have no gas. He's said nothing about this. And we are in the middle of absolute nowhere. Some exits in Florida lead to towns and gas stations. Others lead to alligators and swamps. I am the Navigator. It is impossible to tell from the map what is at which exit. The signs in Florida are often misleading. A sign up on the highway that says, for example, "gas" may mean "20 miles that-a way" when you get to the bottom of the ramp. The Driver is responsible for gassing the vehicle. This is not a new concept. In 16 years, the Driver has ALWAYS been responsible for gassing the vehicle. The Navigator is responsible for getting the Driver to his intended destination using maps, guide books, and a certain amount of gut instinct ("Ya know, I have no clue, honey, JUST GO LEFT."). He left Orlando on ‘E’ and headed for Port Canaveral, an hour away. And he never stopped for gas back when stations were plentiful. And he never said “Hey we need gas!”. And I had to pee. And we were in the middle of nowhere. And I wanted coffee. I sat in my seat and did not say all the things that came into my head. (such as "You have got to be kidding me. You have brought me to this alligator swamp of a state with no freaking gas in my car, so that I can sit here with my teeth floating while watching the speedometer and the gas gauge and wondering if Florida has the death penalty, and if killing a man who fails to gas the car on a vacation we've been planning for 10 years counts as justifiable homicide, and can I ensure a jury of married woman and a married woman judge, and will I really care if I get the chair because the simply joy of the act of strangling you right now would so far exceed the pain of the wattage, and if this car dies from lack of fuel and we are not near a bathroom you are so, so in trouble...." You know. Stuff like that.)
I found a gas station in the nick of time (all the way around), and we filled the car, emptied me, and moved on. At this point I was fairly sure Mr. W. was living on luck alone. Sheer luck. One more mile, and disaster would have occurred that could potentially have scarred him for life, or ended his life depending on the level of disaster to and within my car. We arrived at Port Canaveral. It was windy and cold. At the port we got stuck waiting for a drawbridge. It always amazes me how people will inch slowly forward in their cars as if they can, by riding your bumper, make the bridge go down? Or maybe they plan to push you over the edge so they can be first? We pulled into the Disney Cruise Line drop-off area and I debarked from the vehicle (new word! debark! opposite of embark! I always thoght it was disembark, but Mickey says debark...). The baggage guys took the luggage and said I'd see it later outside my stateroom. Mr. W. went and parked the car, grateful to be free of my negative "why did you just try to kill me?" energy. I was scanned and x-rayed and headed to guest check-in. A cast member handed me a card with the number 2 on it. This number represented our boarding number, I had learned this from my favorite Disney info location. 2 is a very good number. It means you board early, which is a good thing. It means you are ahead of the crowds. It meant, in our case, that we almost had the ship to ourselves. While the assembled 2’s gathered their children and strollers and carry-on, Mr. W. and I walked right onto the tub like we owned it.Here's how it works. You arrive at Port Canaveral sometime in the morning. We were there by about 10:30am. You get your boarding number, get your paperwork straight, get your Key to the World card (important, this thing is – charge card, room key, identification, you name it all in one) and then you sit until boarding, which for us was around 11:15am or so. They call your boarding number, sort of like airports, and you approach the giant Mickey Ears. You walk through the giant head-of-mouse and crew members scan your Key to The World card. The computer announces “Melissa M Oakes Onboard” in little LED letters (I was registered with my legal MMO, all written out and hyphenated. For the sake of simplicity they made me MO. I let it go. Um. Sort of.). As you walk onto the ship, crew members ask your party's name, and announce your arrival loudly. "The Oakes' Family!" Other gathered crew members clap and cheer vigorously for you. Then you're directed to lunch at one of two restaurants, Parrot Cay or Beach Blanket Buffet. We chose Parrot Cay and ate fast, then headed off to explore – a tip I got from the Dis Boards. We would have skipped lunch entirely if our dining time was not 8:30pm, and it also gave us a minute to sit and collect our thoughts. First Cruise. We are now officially trapped on this tub for three days and four nights, except for shore visits in Castaway Cay and Nassau. I quickly identified the most important locations on the ship (click pic for details) You're not allowed in your cabin until later, around 1:30 or so, so you can use the time to wander a little and get familiar with unfamiliar terms like aft, forward, midship, etc. I had specific targets in mind - Wave Bands, where, beginning at twelve thirty, one can make or change reservations for meals and such - I wanted the elusive Palo brunch in the worst way (and I got a res for Wednesday at 11!!), then Palo, since I knew we would be having dinner there on Monday and it gave us a good walk up on deck. Then our cabin, and the theaters and restaurants and clubs. We discovered that stairs are often much preferred over elevators. They are empty and often faster. We found a couple of quiet-looking nooks. 'We' discovered that I am a total control freak, and not knowing where anything was, or what was happening next freaked me right the heck out. After a while I settled down, and got the general lay of the land and things were good. But initially I was a bit of a basketcase. Leave the driving to Mickey, I rationalized. I mean, it’s Mickey, right? How bad can it be. Worse than US Air? I think not. We went to our cabin and prepared for drill. We donned our numbered life jackets and reported to our assigned location. For us this meant descending 2 levels to Animator's Palate. When we arrived we discovered that the restaurant was divided into a series of alphabetized stations. We were "T". As we entered a crew member checked off our cabin number (6132) and the number in our party (2) on a clipboard and we were told to seat ourselves at a table in our lettered section and wait. Cabins that did not report within a reasonable amount of time were called off by the megaphone lady. Those who failed to appear were given a letter from Mickey on their stateroom door. I want to know what it says. I will say that most people responded with relative haste, and we were not detained for more than ten or so minutes. The problem came when each alphabetized section's leader (we had six letters in our station I believe) began making announcements through a megaphone. All at once. And not all of the guests shut up and listened. Many tried to carry on their conversations over the megaphones. Our leader, even with megaphone, could not carry over the noise of a whole whack of bored people in life jackets and a whole whack of other people with megaphones. I heard little and understood less, except that in the event of the thing pulling a Titanic, we'd be better off grabbing a random, un-numbered life jacket and heading for a deck where there were life boats.
After drill we chucked (gently and neatly, even) our lifejackets in our cabin and went up to deck 10 midship to get a good view of the Sail Away party taking place on deck 9. They slide a wooden cover over the Goofy pool so that people can fill the space, and a huge screen above the deck allows for complete camera coverage of the event. An area normally filled with lounge chairs becomes a stage for the activities directors and some "special guests" (the kind with fake fur and no vocal cords – Mickey, Minnie, Chip, Dale, Goofy, Pluto and Donald). The whole thing was rather awesome and amusing really. I was sad to see so few adults (you know. besides. um. me.) behaving like children. That's what we came for, isn't it?? Yelling, screaming, clapping, dancing on deck? The chance to totally let loose and get wild, be a kid again? Mr. W. got me a spinny streamer thing. 50's music filled the air, and great upbeat tunes with lots of rhythm and simple dance steps led by the intrepid youth activities staff and their furry and feathered friends made for an awesome display. Kids were dancing, people were clapping and waving their spinny streamers, paper ribbons and confetti filled the air. It was just plain old FUN.
After the party we went back to the cabin to change for dinner, and found my first towel origami character - a monkey hanging from a coat hanger. Very cool. This was a highlight every evening for me. Also in our cabin was our Navigator for Monday, which is a printed listing of all activities on board and on land for the coming day. The Sunday one had been in our cabin on arrival. We discovered that a juggling act was on the menu at the Walt Disney Theater for that evening and trotted off, sideways and up and down and sideways some more (sea legs, anyone?) in anticipation. Mark Nizer was great and very funny and sarcastic and wry and good, in spite of some rough seas (8-15 feet, we found out later – you try juggling in that!). After the show we wandered a little until it was time for our dinner; we'd drawn the latest possible seating, 8:30pm. This does leave a bit of spare time on one's hands between the evenings show and dinner. We checked out Studio Sea where they were playing "Who Wants to be a Mousketeer?" (I think. Or maybe it was the other game..."Name That Toon", that was it!), then headed to Parrot Cay for dinner. Crew members are armed with hand wipes at all meals and when you embark from land visits. Someone greets you at the door with a disposable antibacterial, antiviral, anti-skin wipe. I appreciate the thought. I agree in principle, totally. I hate germs as much as the next neurotic person. But my hands did not appreciate the chemicals. Mr. W. seemed to think this was an opportunity to be a good example for the typically germy little children and reticent adults, as if we could spread the good news of germ theory by complying in a public fashion with the enforced hand cleaning ritual. I complied as well as I could for his sake. But having just come from a restroom where I not only washed my hands with a good old-fashioned nurse-style 1 minute (sing the ABC song, including the whole end part) scrub but managed to enter and exit the restroom without touching anything, it seemed redundant to me. At dinner we were seated by ourselves at table 7. I am not sure if they'd placed us alone due to my gluten issues (which Disney often does for allergy folk) or if our intended dining partners had changed their dining assignment, but we were alone - this is not the norm. Usually two or more parties are seated at a table, strangers to one another unless you have a particularly large group in tow. We'd been sort of looking forward to tablemates, hoping for some interesting dining companions that would fill the blog with tales of public burping and scratching, at the least. But alas, it was just us, and we neither burp nor scratch in public. (sorry!)
Now, as I am saying all of this, I realize I have left out the most exciting part of the whole cruise experience for me. Remember back at the Magic Kingdom when I felt a little sloshy after being on simple rides, like Pirates of the Caribbean? Well. We hit "rough seas" of 8-15 feet. Apparently there is fluid in my ears because I, who have never been sea in my life (Once, when the Lake Champlain Ferry was heading into a big storm I heard someone mention water spouts and raced for the rail demanding to know where. My mother spent the whole trip across looking green, but I bounced around like a Tigger on speed. Nantucket ferry in a thunder storm? Nothing but fun. Whale Watches? Fine by me, bring it on.) found myself kissing the porcelain god for half the night, while trying to ignore this annoying ticking and tapping noise in the cabin the other half of the night. The boat she goes up...and the boat she comes down. And she goes uuuuup, and she comes dooown. And my supper....she comes, uh, up. And then she goes down. With the loud woosh sound peculiar to toilet facilities on ships. But in all, it’s pretty and I am adjusting, and things will be better in the morning. Right?