Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Costa Rica Day 4

The rafting left us a bit achy the next morning so we decided to take it easy today. After a slow morning and breakfast at the hotel, we drove about 20 minutes to get around to the other side of the volcano to visit the Hanging Bridges.


Hanging Bridges is a private reserve of about 600 acres of protected rainforest.  There's a two mile trail through the rainforest including many suspension bridges to get back and forth across the valleys in the volcano's shadow. The bridges provided some great views of waterfalls and Lake Arenal. We didn't see a lot of wildlife but it was a nice, peaceful walk. 


After the hike, we headed back to our hotel and had a light lunch.  We then spent the afternoon reading and napping (we make sure we include that into all our vacations). For dinner, we headed to La Fortuna to find a steakhouse mentioned in our Lonely Planet guide. After driving back and forth a few times, we gave up and have to assume the place has closed since the book was published. Instead, we ate in town at the Lava Lounge. While the place was clearly a bit Americanized (Mike had a cheeseburger), it was nice in that it was a bit busier than anyplace else we've been--the downside of going off-season is that almost everyplace is deserted! Like all the restaurants we've seen, it's an open-air building.

There were several street dogs wandering in and out of the restaurant (we'd seen them on our walk through town a few days earlier and Kathie pet them for a bit), so once our food came Kat gave them some treats.  The dogs were very well-behaved; they come up to the tables but if you show no interest, they just walked away.  Even when they want food, they just lay down by your table and wait for scraps without begging.  One of the waiters noticed Kathie feeding the dogs and said that the owners of the Lounge would often give scraps to approximately 14 of the street dogs in that area during the day.  The waiter did offer (jokingly) one of the dogs for Kathie to take home but we're pretty sure our dogs wouldn't have been pleased with that vacation souvenir.  After dinner we headed back to the hotel and called it a night.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Costa Rica Day 3

We signed up with Desafio expeditions for a rafting tour to the Rio Toro (Bull River).  They picked us up from the hotel and then picked up a group of 5 and we headed to the river, about 1 hr and 20 min away from La Fortuna. Along the way we stopped at a gift shop/cafe to stretch our legs.  Behind the shop was a river with trees along the shore.  We saw multiple large iguanas lounging in the trees and grabbing breakfast at the foot of the river. At the entrance to the river, they gave us some quick instructions and we practiced at the beginning for about 5 min.  With only 7 of us, we only had two rafts.  Our raft had Mike, Kathie and Rick (from Holland) with our guide, Luis.  The other raft had the 4 remaining rafters and their guide, Jonathan. 

The group of rafters


The weather was great, a little cloudy but warm and no rain.  The rafting on the Rio is definitely a lot more exciting than the rafting we've done on PA or WV.  First, since it was only two rafts, we just kept moving through all the rapids without having to wait for the rest of the party to catch up.  Second, the Toro is much more narrow than the rivers we've done in the past and there are a lot more rapids with very few areas of calm waters.  Last, the views are a lot more beautiful with gorgeous vegetation, birds, butterflies, waterfalls, and we saw some howler monkeys in the trees. The water, while cool, was also much less cold than the waters we've rafted in the U.S. since those are generally winter snow run-off.


Halfway through the trip, we took a break at a calm area of the river and snacked on fresh watermelons and pineapples.  Fruit always taste so amazing in the tropical countries, probably because they are picked when they're ripe.

We got to do some fun things during the rafting trip.  There was one area where Kathie got to sit on the very front of the raft and"ride the bull" through some rapids.  She had a great time with that.  Another section, Andrew (the riders switched out halfway through) and Kathie turned around so they were facing backwards while Mike on the right side continued to face forward.  Through the rapid all of us were rowing forward (respective of our positions) and therefore spun the raft around and around while going through the rapids.  Riding the Toro was a fantastic experience and one we would definitely recommend to others, especially using Desafio expeditions.  The whole ride was about 2 hrs long through 10 miles of river.


After the rafting, we were driven to a small cafe and had some delicious costa rican food: rice, chicken, salad, Spanish rice, beans and passion fruit juice.  The food was quite delicious, especially after a couple hours of intense rowing.

After driver took us back to the hotel and we crashed in our room for about an 1.5 hrs then drove to Ecotermales, one of the hot springs spa in the area.  It had been recommended by multiple guides and tourists from trip advisor. It's much quieter and low-key than some of the other spas and only allow 100 people for each 4 hr slot.  Since it's off-season, we didn't see more than a dozen people at the springs.  ecotermales has a series of cascading pools filled with volcanic heated water that was around 95 degrees F.  The water coming into the highest pool is supplied by a stream.  Each cascading pool is a little cooler but even the last pool is still nice and warm.  The last pool then emptied back into the stream which continues downriver.  It is a bit odd to see a hot stream in nature but in Arenal, there are a fair number of the hot springs you can access, including a public hot spring. 

I wish we had thought to bring a camera to the springs; EcoTermales is quite beautiful.  If you ever go, definitely bring a camera with you.  The spa provides locked lockers so you can put the camera in a safe place while soaking.
The spring water is crystal clear and doesn't smell like chlorine, sulphur or any other chemical.  It was so relaxing to just sit in the various pools.  We also bought the dinner option so we had some rice, beans, salad, and chicken for mike and tilapia for kathie.  The chicken was a little bland, the grouper was a little salty but it had very good flavor.  They also have a bar so we each got a drink. Kathie's piƱa colada was the best she ever had, and Mike's rum and coke had lime juice added for an extra flavor.  We stayed at the springs for about 3 hours enjoying the water and relaxing on the loungers.  We really liked Ecotermales because it was so quiet and private.

It was definitely a fun-filled beautiful day for us.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Costa Rica Day 2

We set our alarm but ended up waking early, before sunrise, probably because CR time is two hours later than Virginia time. Our room has a fantastic view of the volcano but it was mostly shrouded in clouds this morning.

View from our hotel patio
We took our time getting ready, then drove into the local town of La Fortuna for breakfast. Even though Arenal is a big tourist destination, and La Fortuna is the only town nearby, it doesn't have any of the usual tourist traps or shops; it's basically just another Costa Rican town (with a couple of tour operators). We picked up pastries at the bakery where the  locals were buying huge loaves of fresh bread, and our breakfast ended up being very inexpensive.

Center of La Fortuna
After breakfast we walked around town for a while. There is a small park in the center, and a large church nearby, but not much else to see. Our main event for the day was the rain forest canopy zip-line tour (for Kat) and gondola ride and nature walk (for Mike). We drove to the sky tour site, and half the drive ended up being very slow, on rough, unpaved, bumpy road.  These were the types of roads that we were expecting based on reviews from other visitors but in general, most of the other roads weren't that bad.

From the gondola we could see much of Lake Arenal, which was created to provide hydroelectric power to CR, and could see the volcano when the cloud cover allowed.  The rainforest was mostly beneath us during the ride up the mountain and we could see the huge leaves, trees, and branches, with a fair number of butterflies flitting about.


Once we got to the top, the tour guides, Katya and Leo gave us a few minutes to enjoy some fruit juice, admire the scenery, and take some photos.

Then Kathie joined the other six zip-liners and we got started.  The first two zip lines are considered test lines.  If you discover you cannot handle it, you can still back out and go back down the gondola.  You have to take the"chicken trail" back to the gondola.  After the first 2 lines, it's time for the real deal.  Once strapped into the line, they given you a gentle push and off you go!  You move pretty quickly down the zip line and have a fantastic view of the lake, trees below and the volcano.  There are 5 "real" zip lines we get to traverse.  The first two lines are practice and the last line is a photo opportunity.  The longest zip line is almost had a mile long and the fastest zip line goes up to 50 mph.  The last line takes you right through the middle of the forest.  The canopy tour with skyadventures was a fantastic experience.  The guides were a lot of fun, stayed enthusiastic and really made the tour enjoyable.  One of the advantages of going off-season is the small number of other tourists doing the same activities.  Leo mentioned that during high season, there can be over 40 people for one trip down the zip lines.


Mike took a small hike through the rainforest with another guide and small family while he waited for Kathie to finish her zipping.  The guide pointed out a few local plants and trees and explained a bit about the Costa Rica ecosystem.

After we both finished, we ate lunch at the small cafe there.  Kathie really liked the fried yucca fries there. They taste a bit like French fries but has a slightly different taste to them.

Since it was on the drive home, we stopped into Arenal Volcano National Park.  You cannot see the lava from the park but there are some nice trails to take to see the forest and the old lava flows.  We took the recommended 5km hike which takes you to the 1992 lava flow area, then a hike through the secondary forest.  We didn't see any monkeys but we did see some toucans, butterflies, hummingbirds, big spiders, and a 100-year ceibo tree that was enormous.  It's hard to believe it's only 100 years old.  We did hear a lot of odd insect and bird calls during our walk.


After the hike, we headed back to the hotel and soaked in their jacuzzi for a while.  A 5km walk is a fair bit for us so it felt nice to relax in the warm water with a great view of the volcano.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Costa Rica Day 1

Mike and I took an 8-day trip to Costa Rica at the beginning of October.  Our friends who had visited Costa Rica only had good things to say about the country.  August through September is considered the rainy season in Costa Rica and therefore the off-season.  I did some research and found that even though it's rainy season, most of the morning and early afternoon is fine and the rain usually starts around 2pm until the evening.  We figured it would be perfect for us; we could do activities in the morning then relax and read in the evenings.  We decided to hit two different locations at Costa Rica; Arenal, the location of an active volcano, and Playa Flamingo (Flamingo Beach) located on the drier Pacific coast.


Below is the first day of our trip:

First day of our trip started really early for us.  It feels like our starting flights always start so early in the morning.  Our flight was at 8:30am which isn't too early except when it turns into an international flight, so we ended up at the airport at 6:30am.  At least it gave us enough time to check into our flight and grab some breakfast without rushing.  Mike also got to experience the new and improved dulles airport with the trains instead of the mobile lounges.

Our flights were smooth and on time so we made it to San Jose by 1:30 CST.  We had already decided to drive from San Jose to Arenal (our first destination) as soon as we arrived.  Unfortunately we came in during quite a deluge and Mike had to drive for 3 hours in pouring rain through VERY twisty one lane roads as it got steadily darker and continued to rain.  It was a baptism of fire for Mike's first drive through Costa Rica.  Mike did a fantastic job of avoiding the Tico drivers and made it ok to our hotel, Volcano Lodge and Gardens. We checked in, and grabbed dinner at the hotel restaurant, Sura.  The food was pretty good; Mike had the pork, Kathie had the grouper.  We were the only ones in the restaurant for the majority of the night.  After dinner, we headed back to the room and crashed.

We have noticed that everyone we've run across so far in Costa Rica have been exceptionally friendly.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

World of Disney


Thursday was our Magic Kingdom day. We had been told about two behind-the-scenes tour from friends. Backstage Magic is a 7 hour tour that spans across Magic Kingdom, Epcott, and Hollywood Studios. Keys to the Kingdom is a 5 hr tour just at Magic Kingdom. Since we haven't been to Magic Kingdom in over 10 years, we wanted to do the half-day Keys to the Kingdom and then spend the rest of the day at Magic Kingdom.


The Keys to the Kingdom tour is quite good. The tour guide explains the various names written on the windows on Main Street, the history of Walter and Roy Disney, and the history of the company. She also took us on two rides: Jungle Cruise and Haunted Mansion and gave us a lot cool information about the rides and also some of the tricks to create the rides. Then our tour guide took us behind the gates to some of the backstage areas: trash collection, parade float storage, back of Splash Mountain, etc. I can see why this tour is not allowed for anyone under 16 years old (we weren't allowed to take any photos). It definitely brings the stark reality of Magic Kingdom to life. Lastly our tour guide took us into the Utilidors, the underground tunnels below Magic Kingdom. Cast members use the tunnels to move from place to place within Magic Kingdom without disturbing the "theme" of each area (heaven forbid you see a Tomorrow Land cast member in Frontier Land) and basically get the day-to-day business of running a park completed without disturbing the visitors to the park.

After the tour, we took our time walking around Magic Kingdom and just having fun riding the rides and enjoying the entire atmosphere. We did figure out that Universal was so empty because EVERYONE was at Magic Kingdom instead. The place was quite packed with people, but it was still less crowded than the busy seasons. The rides only took about 15-30 minutes total, including Space Mountain. We had a great time at Magic Kingdom, it really is easy to get sucked into the atmosphere.


We spent friday just wandering around Orlando's tourist section. We wanted to take it pretty easy so we caught Clash of the Titans and did some of our Disney shopping then just relaxed at the hotel for the rest of the day.

We had a fantastic time in Florida. It was nice to get away for a week, and I know the dogs also had a great time in their vacation homes. I'm quite surprised they didn't sulk when they got home!

Roller coaster fun!


On Tuesday morning, we drove to Orlando and prepared to do some amusement parks.  Gray and Cindy were heading up north on their sailboat but the timing worked out so they met us on tuesday for dinner.  They had a great suggestion to meet at California Grill at the Contemporary Hotel.  California Grill is on the 15th floor and overlooks Cinderella's castle.  We hung out in the lounge grabbing various appetizers and wine for about 4.5 hours until the Magic Kingdom's fireworks show started.  The view was very very cool, plus California Grill pipes the music/sounds from the fireworks show into the restaurant.


We headed to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure for Wednesday.  Since Spring Break had just finished, the two parks were virtually empty.  We tried the new Studios coaster, Rip Ride Rockit.  The two unusual things about the ride: 1) you choose the music to listen to, it comes out of the speakers by your head, 2) the incline to the first hill is straight up.  The ride is very smooth and surprising long.  The coaster is fun but not one I found to be outstanding; however it's ALWAYS fun to ride a new coaster.



After doing some of the other Universal rides and walking around, we headed over to Islands of Adventure to ride our old favorites: Hulk coaster, and Dueling dragons coasters.  They are definitely still classic rides.  Dueling dragons is very cool because they run two coasters on two different runs, but in two places, the two coasters intertwine so it feels like you're about to run into each other.  We rode several other rides at Islands also but the coasters are definitely our favorite.

Ahhh, Florida is so beautiful

We took a nice, long, overdue vacation to Florida last week.  Usually we visit Mike's mom down in Port Charlotte around February every year but this year we waited until I was finished with work (that's a WHOLE different blog entry). 

We found pretty cheap direct flights straight to Fort Myers from National and headed down to gorgeous florida to be pampered and fed silly on April 10th.  The weather in Florida was absolutely gorgeous.  Mid-80s and sunny pretty much the entire time.  We stayed with Mike's Mom from Saturday until Tuesday morning.  Mike did some computer tech support while I made sure the chaise loungers didn't float away.  We did help Mom pull some dead bushes out of her front garden and did a little bit of weeding but really spent most of the time being completely spoiled.  I think Mom felt like she should take us somewhere like the beach but both Mike and I really wanted to just nap, eat, swim, snack, and read so we were quite happy staying put.


View from Mom's pool

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Always an adventure!

So this is a "catch-up" blog entry since I was really bad about blogging for the last 6 months.

We foster for our local lab rescue and we've been fostering for about 8-9 years now.  After we adopted Pete, we tried to foster for a while but Pete had so many various issues we had to stop so we could concentrate on Pete only.

Pete has gotten so much better and sometimes he really looks like he wants someone to play with.  Max doesn't play with Pete so we thought fostering would be good for all of us again.  So at the end of November 2009, we got Coco, a little petite chocolate lab.



Coco was an owner-giveup to LRR because the woman was having back surgery and the man was going to be overseas for a while.  She's a little petite cute girl that LOVES people.  She's definitely more a people dog than a dog's dog.  She'll follow us around the house and just sit next to us waiting for belly rubs.  She loves to sleep on the couch, especially on her back, or lay on top of you given the chance. 


Coco loves to rips apart stuffed toys but unfortunately she eats the stuffing and fabric so we had to give her rubber toys instead. Coco had such a love of fabric that one morning she must have grabbed a pair of my underwear and eaten it while we were getting ready for work!  Neither of us noticed at all but then all of a sudden she started getting really sick. She couldn't hold down any food and she was in distress.  Mike and I had no idea what was going on and talked to our rescue director and gave her little bits of rice/chicken and water.  For one night (5pm to about 5am) we were really worried.  We kept an close eye on her and didn't sleep while we waited for her to get better or else take her to the vet.  By the morning she was fine and we didn't know what the heck was going on!

During that evening's walk, Coco finally pooped and when I went to clean it up I realized that she had pooped out one of my underwear!!  I cannot BELIEVE she passed that through her system without surgery.

Needless to say we find the situation a bit humorous now but it was definitely one of those "Oh my god" moments.  After that she was completely fine and had no issues at all.  She moved to other foster homes and was quickly adopted which wasn't surprising since she was such a great easy foster dog.


We were also very surprised at how well Pete behaved with Coco.  Coco was with us for 4 weeks and Pete did fine the entire time so we decided to continue fostering.

NASA PM Challenge 2010

Every year NASA has a Project Management conference.  It's a way for NASA to share experiences, lessons learned, and basically all sorts of knowledge with everyone else in NASA, including contractors.  This year the two-day event took place in Galveston, TX right near Johnson Space Center.

I was lucky in multiple ways.  Our company contracts to NASA HQ and allowed about 24 of us to go to the conference.  Unfortunately it took place RIGHT during the snowpolcalypse in february.  Almost all flights out of DC, MD, VA were cancelled so only 3 of us were able to make it to the conference from our company.

The conference was pretty darn cool.  There are multiple seminars going on at once, with various "tracks" or focuses.  Some of them included: Ares 1-X, Case Studies, Lessons Learned, International Forum, Systems Engineering, and on and on.

I started the first day out with "The Space Exploration Mission", an overview the space exploration past, present, and future.  Very well-presented, high-level, and informative with a really good speaker.  The next seminar was "Stop doing Stupid Stuff" which I really enjoyed.  A lot of these items are either common sense, or things you learn as a PM or manager but it's always good to have it reiterated.  The speaker was very good and the material was engaging.  This was the one seminar where I took lots of notes.  Went on to learn about the first stage of Ares 1-X program, how to balance work/life as a manager/project manager/program manager, and leadership panel discussion.  The first day had a lot of really great programs and speakers and I loved every minute of it.  We had scientists, analysts, program managers, and previous flight director speak.

The second day had some hits and misses with the seminars I attended.  "Observations of Crew Dynamics during Mars Analog Simulations" was fascinating and I knew Sue would love to have listened since it involved a lot of behavioral observations and social interactions.  "Lessons Learned: STS-107 Columbia Accident" was a tough seminar to listen to.  One of the scientists who had to evaluate the impact of the foam hitting the wing gave the seminar and talked about what happened during those three days while NASA had to decide what could be done before landing the shuttle.

The really good thing is that NASA puts the presentations and podcasts on their webpage for public availability.  Unfortunately they are still working on 2010 so it might be a while but if you are interested in the presentations, just bookmark the page and check back in a few weeks.

I lucked out on the way home too.  During the week more snow fell in DC so the other two people had their flights cancelled out of Houston and had to reschedule for saturday.  My flight was on time so I left on friday and made it home with no issues.  THEN on friday a snowstorm hit the south (Dallas over to Atlanta) which caused even more delays for the other two still in TX so they ended up getting even more delayed before they got home.

So not only did I get to go to this very fantastic conference, my flights were not cancelled or delayed at all.  Kudos to Airtrans in getting me out and back on time!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

October cruise

At the end of october, Mike and I finally took a nice long vacation. The last previous vacation we had was in February to Aspen. We usually take vacations about every 3-4 months but since I just started a new job in June, we had to wait a bit before I had the time away from projects to go someplace nice.


Due to the amount of stress we were both under, we decided on a cruise again. Caribbean cruises are great for us to do absolutely nothing and just de-stress. We don't read our mail, no phones, tiny tvs so we're disconnected from the world. We spend a lot of time relaxing, reading, and wandering around the ship and ports.

Most of our cruises have been on Princess but this year I found the Norwegian cruises were cheaper and so we booked Norwegian instead of Princess. We flew to Miami and did a 7 day cruise to the Dominican Republic, St. Thomas, Tortola, and Stirrup Cays (private island).

The cruise was a very typical caribbean cruise. Since we've done all the snorkeling, catamaran trips, sea animal tours in the past, we kept our excursions pretty low-key. We did some tours, and spent a lot of time just walking around ourselves. On the boat, we did a lot of reading, took naps everyday (pretty remarkable for Mike, he never naps), snacked, soaked in the hot tub, and basically avoided the people on the ship. It was a VERY nice vacation for us.


Near the end of the trip, I wrote up a comparison between our cruise on Norweigian and Princess. Below is the writeup in case anyone is interested in the differences we found. Interestingly reading the comparison, it sounds like the Pearl and the Grand end up averaging out but for whatever reason, we found we preferred Princess to Norwegian.


Our photos from our trip are located here.

Norwegian vs Princess

For us the point of a caribbean cruise is to decompress. We've done a few caribbean cruises that all the islands and activities blend together after a while but it's a great way to get away from it all and just relax without people, email, phones.

Most of our trips have been with Princess. We've also cruised with Carnival, I've cruised with Celebrity, and this is our first time on Norwegian. We had heard a lot of good things with Norwegian and it had the lowest rate for the time period we were looking at. Since this is the first with Norwegian, I thought it would be nice to see what the differences are. This will be a comparison between the Pearl and Grand.

The Norwegian Pearl seems to be a bit smaller than the Grand Princess. There's only one pool area (2 pools, one is for adults only) and four hot tubs. Having all the hot tubs in one place is nice since if one is crowded, you don't need to go searching all over the ship to find another that isn't crowded. The hot tubs on the Pearl also haven't been broken while we've been here. On our Grand cruises, hot tubs were regularly broken which made it even harder to find space in the working tubs. Pearl pools are salt water, the Grand are fresh but both pools close in the evening although Grand hot tubs stay open much later than Pearl.

We usually choose the interior cabin for our temporary home. First, it stays dark so we can sleep whenever we want and not worry about the sun. Second, we don't spend that much time in the cabin so it seems silly to pay for a large room. Lastly, it is the cheapest option. So far the Grand cabin seems a little bit bigger than Pearl rooms. It's probably not by a lot but when these room are this small, sometimes a little extra space does make a big difference. However on that same philosophy, the Pearl showers are significantly larger than Grand showers and it's nice not bumping my elbow or knees into the walls. For all interior beds, they usually push two twin size beds together to make one queen size. On Grand, they have a joiner between the beds so the middle isn't so obvious. The Pearl does not do this so there is a noticeable split between the two beds which is a little annoying when you want to try to cuddle in the middle of the bed. The room service is excellent on both ships.

For all cruises, the emergency muster drill is mandatory. This is done on the first day of the cruise where you have to don your lifejacket and find out where you have to meet in case the boat is sinking. Princess has this drill down much better than Norwegian. For muster, Princess makes the announcement in your cabin, warns you when it will take place and has staff direct you to the right areas. Norwegian announces the drill in the hallways so if you're in your room, you miss the instructions. There's no set time to head to your muster station, you just pick up your jacket and wander to where you think you have to go. It's not one big area, it's small areas all over the ship and if you're not paying attention, you end up in the wrong area. It's disorganized at best and would not be helpful in case of a real emergency.

Both Princess and Norwegian have freestyle or anytime dining. Princess will let you either choose "traditional" set dinner times (where you sit at the same table, same waiter, same group of people) or eat in the anytime dining room where you walk in and get a table. Norwegian only has free-style where you walk into any dining room and choose to either share a table or eat with your own party. Mike and I tend to be private people with no real set schedule so we really enjoy the freestyle/anytime dining options. The Pearl is definitely more casual than Princess with no formal nights. You can go to dinner dressed in jeans all the way up to formal wear depending on your mood. Most on the Pearl have been very casual, jeans, shorts, slacks. The Grand dinners have been a little more formal. While both ships have restaurants with a cover charge, the Pearl has a lot more restaurant options (ranging from $10 to $25/person). There's mexican, chinese, teppanyaki, italian, spanish and even a small restaurant (no cover charge) that does bar-type foods (potato skins, mozzarella sticks, buffalo wings). We like the extra restaurants because after a little while, the rich sauces, and non-spicy food gets a little old. The chinese on the Pearl was very good and had some nice spice to it. Overall, Mike likes the Princess food a little better, I think it's about the same for Norwegian and Princess.

I think the port you leave from really tends to dictate the age range and demographics you'll find on a cruise ship. Leaving from Miami on the Pearl, there's a huge range of age on the ship. Lots of families, overall a much younger average age than Princess cruises we've been on. There's also been a fair number of internationals on board this cruise. My guess is since Miami is an international airport, there would be more from various countries than our cruises from Ft. Lauderdale, Baltimore, or San Juan.

We usually expect production numbers (singing, dancing) to have a certain level of cheese on cruises, the production we saw on the Pearl was exceptionally awful. The singing was pretty awful, the dancing was boring, the production was uninspiring. This was the first time Mike and I walked out in the middle of a show.

The music aboard the Pearl seems to be a little more modern and hip than the Grand music with dance/techno music often playing in the main Atrium on the Pearl. On the Grand, we usually found a nice quiet spot to hang out, read, play with our electronics. On the Pearl, we've been spending a lot of time at the main atrium watching people play wii on the giant screen, or watching the flock of people descend on the sales while we just hang out, read and play with our electronics.

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Mike noticed poor attention to detail in much of the literature handed out each day: typos, grammar errors, spelling mistakes, etc. Not a big deal, but surprising.

It's 2010 already??

It's been a while since I've posted on the blog, perhaps my New Year's (albeit a little late) resolution should be to update it more often. While I do use Facebook and Twitter more often, I think there is a place for blogs.

Let's see, I guess this entry should probably be a catch-up/summary of all the various things that have happened in the last few months.

Mike and I took a VERY much needed vacation at the end of October. Poor Mike hadn't had a nice long vacation for a long time and I was getting a bit burned out in my new job. We tried Norweigian cruises this time around (we usually book Princess Cruises but the Norweigian cruise was significantly cheaper this time around). I did do a write-up on the difference between Norweigian and Princess, and I'll post it on the blog, but overall I think Mike and I prefer Princess Cruises.

My sister had a baby in early August! KJ (Kat Jr) as she will be named in my blog is an absolutely cutie-pie (and that's not a biased opinion at all)!! Jen is still mad at me for going back to work but at least I can be a weekend auntie. Both sets of grandparents are absolutely enthralled since KJ is their first grandbaby. Pretty soon she'll be crawling, I can't wait to watch KJ's parents run around trying to keep up with her!

Lastly we've started fostering again. For a long time we've had to stop fostering because Pete would become a jerk with a new dog in the house. Pete would either bully the foster dog, or bully Max if the foster dog stood up to Pete. Over time and with some patience, Pete seems to have mellowed a bit and we thought fostering was worth a try again. At the end of Thanksgiving, we tried fostering Coco for a month and was surprisingly successful. Pete did quite well with a new foster in the house and didn't become a jerkball so we've continued fostering. We're now on our second foster, Miles, who we've had for less than a week so far.

I promise I'll post a bit more going forward (I hope) but at least it's a start!