Posts Tagged ‘food’

Our Pre-Christmas Caribbean Cruise

Happy New Year’s Eve to you.  I’m so ready for 2012 to end and I’m excited about the new adventures that lie ahead for me and for all of my friends in 2013.  It’s also hard to believe that one of the biggest adventures of my life ended one week ago today and I’m just now posting a blog and photos about it.  Yes, I’m talking about our western Caribbean per-Christmas cruise.

After booking the cruise in May 2012, it finally arrived seven months later with us heading off to Chicago December 18th to start our journey.  In Chicago, we met up with Ray’s sister, Cindy, and his aunt and uncle, Virginia & Joe, for an evening of conversation, Mexican food, and margaritas.

 

Last Wednesday, Uncle Joe dropped us off at Midway and Betty (Mom) flew in from Cleveland to fly down to New Orleans on the same flight with us.  While sitting at the airport, Gretel entertained herself by drawing each of us on her Kindle.  This is me.

Anthony Art by Gretel

As we arrived in New Orleans Wednesday (12/19), you were bracing for a blizzard back home and we headed out to the French Quarter with temperatures in the 70s for tasty sandwiches at a funky little place called Jimmy J’s Cafe.  We then walked down Bourbon Street, along the Mississippi River, and to the Christmas display at Harrah’s casino.  That evening we also met a dear college friend of mine, Crystal, and her husband, Ants, for beignets at Cafe Du Monde.

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While shopping in New Orleans, Gretel bought herself a hoodie sweatshirt and a mask and Ray bought an old man hat (don’t tell him I said this) as a souvenir.

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On the afternoon of Thursday, December 20th, we were ready to leave New Orleans after having a yummy muffuletta for lunch and set sail from the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico to the western Caribbean Sea to Cozumel, Mexico, on Saturday, and then turn around to return back to New Orleans on Christmas Eve.

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Within minutes of leaving the Port of New Orleans, we were on one of the top decks of the ship for Gretel to act out “King of the World” from “Titanic”.

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And, then it happened.  No, Gretel wasn’t hurt!  As we were walking on the deck, the wind caught Ray’s hat and off into the air it went.  As it dropped toward the back of the ship, it appeared that we lucked out and it would land on the deck below.  As I started off toward the stairs to retrieve it, it hit the rail and became one more piece of matter to decompose in the Mississippi River.  We sadly watched it disappear at 20 miles-per-hour.

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This picture was taken moments later.  Without a hat, Ray still managed a smile.  In all honesty, as ugly as I thought it was, I was sorry that Ray lost his hat!

We were at sea all day Friday and the one thing that blew us all away was how the water changed from murky and muddy on the Mississippi to crystal clear, blue water at 6,000+ feet deep in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean.

One thing that was very obvious about going on a cruise is that you never go hungry.  You can get pizza, ice cream, and room service 24 hours a day and there were breakfast, lunch, dinner, and late night buffets, along with formal dining each night.

While it was nice to sample many things, one thing that saddened me about the cruise was not so much the amount of gluttony that took place, but the amount of food that people took or ordered and wasted.  This just blew my mind.  People wasting food has always been a pet peeve of mine and I tried not to let it bother me, but it was hard to ignore.  Don’t get me wrong.  I ate plenty on the cruise, but I never wasted anything and I ate everything on my plate.

Here are some of my favorites:  alligator, lobster, sushi, Caribbean jerk chicken, Wisconsin cheese stuffed tomatoes, cold mango soup, warm chocolate cake, cherries jubilee, and bitter/sweet bread pudding, and Tiramisu.

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On Friday night, it was the Captain’s Dinner.  That was the one night that it was highly recommended that you really dress up.  And, I think that my cruise mates and I pulled it by looking stunning and dashing.

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On Saturday, we arrived in Cozumel, Mexico, for our seven hours on land.  While there, we shopped and went to a beach.

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This was the view as we left Cozumel and our Mexican sunset.

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After that, we were back on the ship and we spent much of Sunday at the pool and I even went down the big slide into the saltwater pool with Gretel.

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And, Gretel and I tried to be very Gaga on the cruise.

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And, Miss ABBA got to “enjoy” the ocean, too. 🙂

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We didn’t have any trouble going through customs getting off the ship Christmas Eve morning and both flights and the three-hour drive home was uneventful, i.e. no delays.

This first two shots are of our plane descending into Chicago through the clouds.  While both are cool shots, it looks a little freaky.

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Overall, we all had a good time.  One thing that we didn’t account for was pairing two women, Tammy and Betty, in the same room.  Both have lived alone for many years and they didn’t exactly room together perfectly and butted heads a few times.  It reached a climax Sunday morning.  After a heart-to-heart talk with each one of them, the rest of the cruise and the vacation went off without a hitch.

Tammy and Gretel both experienced seasickness the second day of the trip, but after a Dramamine, they were okay.  Gretel was also fighting off a cold she caught from her mother before the trip.

Another thing that caught us by surprise on the cruise is that Gretel did not want to participate in any of the Camp Carnival events geared toward kids on board.  So, while they had many things to do, she wanted to hang around the adults, which prevented the grown-ups from checking out the clubs and casino each night.  However, Tammy did do some nighttime activities on her own and Betty hit the casino several times.  Ray and I did stop by the casino and we ended up losing only about $8, but we got to play for a bit.

Overall, we all had a good time on the cruise.  However, if I do another cruise or a major vacation, it will be just me and Ray.  We travel well together and you’re not trying to please everyone and play peacemaker.

A final note about the cruise is something that I found very disheartening.  While the cruise was reasonably priced, I found out that the reason is that Carnival pays their employees very little money (maybe as little as $74/month) and they rely heavily on tips.  They work for almost eight months straight and then get two months off to go back to their home country.  In addition to working seven days a week and months on end, they work multiple shifts in a 24-hour period.

So, my plea to anyone taking a cruise, please make sure you tip your servers and stewards very well before you leave the ship.

I’ll be posting all of the cruise pictures on my Facebook page tomorrow.

Anthony

Our Eating Habits Are Killing Us

Global warming, population control, American girls reaching puberty as young as 7-years-old, and obesity rates are all variables in my decision to be more health-conscious and, more specifically, cutting back on eating meat, especially beef.

And, here’s a disclaimer so beef producers don’t pull an Oprah-sized smack down on my ass:  eat hamburgers, steaks, and delicious prime rib (one of favorite past “guilty pleasures”).  Just cut back on how much you consume.  More on that later.

I’ve been working very hard on cutting back on how much food I eat and I’m getting some good use out of my treadmill.  Since Christmas, I’ve lost 11 pounds with 8 pounds to go before I reach my goal.  At that point, I want to maintain my weight at 149.

It’s not surprising that in 2010, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that 35.7% of Americans are obese, which means they are more than 20% above their ideal weight.  The CDC reports that “during the past 20 years, there has been a dramatic increase in obesity in the United States”.

In 2010, 36 states had a prevalence of obesity of 25% or more, including all six states I’ve lived in (Kentucky, Wisconsin, Texas, Ohio, Maryland, and Illinois).  12 states had a prevalence of 30% or more, with Mississippi being the highest (34%).  The state with lowest obesity rate is Colorado (21%).

The U.S. Department of Agriculture claims that the average American in their lifetime will eat 21,000 animals!  And, that every American eats up to 220 pounds of meat annually, while only 14% of us reach our recommended daily allowance of five servings of fruits and vegetables!

“Time” magazine reported that the U.S. produces 80 billion pounds of meat a year, with poultry making up 35 billion pounds of that!  I’m guilty because when I eat meat, it’s mostly chicken and turkey.  Occasionally, I’ll pork and seafood.  Rarely, do I eat beef.

When I made my decision last month to get serious about losing weight, I was shocked to learn that enough food is produced for every American to eat 3,800 calories a day, but we only need 2,350 calories daily in a healthy diet.

Fred Kirschenmann, of Iowa State University, told “Time” magazine in 2010, “you need to eat animals only to close the nutrient cycle.  If we changed a few things about how we live, we’d have fewer animals in the system”.

And, that’s a good thing.  Not only would we be slaughtering fewer animals, but this would help the environment.  The United Nations claims that the livestock industry produces 18% of the world’s greenhouse gases, which causes global warming.

Right now, the world population is around 7 billion people and is projected to jump to 9 billion by 2050!

It’s no surprise that Americans are considered gluttons when it comes to consuming meat.  There are restaurants that use gimmicks to serve insanely sized steaks and burgers on their regular menu.

Denny’s Beer Barrel Pub in Clearfield, Pennsylvania, features a 6-pound “bruiser” burger.

Arthur’s Steakhouse in North Brunswick, New Jersey, features a 24-ounce steak or a 48-ounce double on its regular menu, and not to be outdone, Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo, Texas, features a 72-ounce steak — that’s almost a 5-pound steak!!!!!!!!

However, upscale chefs across America are taking a different approach, by making meat the side dish in a meal that makes the sides the star of the entrée.  Also, some restaurants, like Hatfield’s in Los Angeles, turns dinner into a 4-course meal, so that when you get to the main course, the meat portions are smaller, but you’re still fulfilled.


In the United States, only about 1-3% of the population are strictly vegetarians or eat a vegetarian-based diet.  More and more people, including myself, are becoming “flexitarians” — part-time vegetarians.

This is nothing new since some customs and celebrities like Paul McCartney take part in “Meatless Monday” and Catholics are urged to abstain from meat on Fridays.

Even, Ingrid Newkirk, the president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) knows that becoming a total vegetarian isn’t a reality for many people, “Absolute purists should be living in a cave.  Anybody who witnesses the suffering of animals and has a glimmer of hope of reducing that suffering can’t take the position that it has to be all of nothing.  We have to pragmatic.  Screw the principle.”

It’s also alarming for me to see pictures and watch video of the crude treatment of mass-produced animals, whether it’s cows, chickens, or pigs, and to learn of the chemicals used to promote rapid growth of these animals to get them on the market quicker.  These chemicals are now being linked to girls reaching puberty in the U.S. as early as 7-year-old!

I was already on the health kick and was going to write this blog entry before watching the documentary, “Food, Inc.”.  However, after watching it last week, it really opened my eyes to how and what we eat.

Again, I’m not suggesting that we should stop eating meat.  That’s unrealistic.  However, we can cut back on how much we eat.

Bon appetit!

Peeps