Posts Tagged ‘MS Sound of Music’

Random Friday Thoughts — November 1, 2013

I survived my first week back at work after visiting Europe for the first time.  I met some really great people on the cruise and Ray and I got to spend some quality time together.  As much fun as it was, I’m happy to be in my own house this weekend and spend time with the family.

I hope you all survived trick-or-treating and that you weren’t too scared of the costumes this year or that you don’t have too much of a tummy ache from eating all that candy!

Here are my random thoughts this week.



Gretel Halloween

That’s Gretel dressed as a zombie rock star last night.

Now that she’s 12-years-old, she was thinking about skipping out on trick-or-treating this year.  I convinced her to go begging in the neighborhood with her “hoodies” one more time to have fun and, for a selfish reason, to bring me back some good candy that I really didn’t need.  (I took one mini-Payday bar, so far!)

We ended up having about two dozen or so candy beggers, which means we still have some of our big bag of Tootsie Roll mix left to eat this month!


By following my blog, you know that we spent eight days recently in Europe visiting parts of Switzerland, Hungary (a technicality), Slovakia, Austria, and Germany to celebrate Ray’s 50th birthday, which was back in late August.


My favorite city was definitely Zurich, Switzerland, and my second favorite was Bratislava, Slovakia, and luckily we spent almost 24 hours in each of those cities.


It was interesting going on the local tour of villages and hearing the history and seeing all the castles and brightly colored buildings.

The food was amazing on the “MS Sound of Music” cruise and the staff was incredible.

My final thoughts are that we need to brightly paint all of our houses in the U.S. to add some color and fun and that, for the most part, the people in Zurich are very fit and healthy.  We rarely saw anyone out of shape and if we did, it was mostly likely a tourist.  And, boy, there were some beautiful Europeans.  Okay, to be fair, we did see some really ugly ones, too. 🙂


With breakfast and lunch buffets daily, cake and coffee each afternoon, free-flowing wine at the amazing four and five-course dinners, along with a cheese spread buffet after dessert each night, I’m happy to report that Ray and I only gained about three pounds each on the cruise!


Nevertheless, I want to eat right and exercise over the next four weeks to shed some weight to prepare myself for all of the tasteful downfalls of Thanksgiving and the holiday season.


I first blogged about “Ender’s Game” back in mid-July when anti-marriage and anti-gay comments surfaced that the author of the book that the movie is based on made in the past.  There was even talk of boycotting the movie.


The science fiction/action movie hits theaters today.  It stars Asa Butterfield (“Hugo”), Academy Award nominees Harrison Ford (“Witness”), Viola Davis (“Doubt” and “The Help”), Hailee Steinfeld (“True Grit”), and Abigail Breslin (“Little Miss Sunshine”), along with Oscar winner Ben Kingsley (“Gandhi”).

Earlier this week, I watched the trailer for the first time and it actually looks pretty good.  However, I’m really torn about telling people to go see it or avoid it because of what the author, Orson Scott Card, said in the past.

If you don’t recall, he said that “marriage has only one definition, and any government that attempts to change it is my mortal enemy. I will act to destroy that government and bring it down.”

Orson Scott Card

And, he’s called same-sex attraction, “reproductive dysfunction” and that “normalizing a dysfunction will only make ours into a society that corrodes any loyalty to it, as parents see that our laws and institutions now work against the reproductive success (not to mention happiness) of the next generation.”

Lionsgate, the company behind the movie, has distanced themselves from Card saying, “As proud longtime supporters of the LGBT community […] we obviously do not agree with the personal views of Orson Scott Card and those of the National Organization for Marriage”.

My problem is that if the movie is a success, people who haven’t read the book might buy it and that means more money for the hater.


I have a solution if you choose to see “Ender’s Game” and you have friends or family that are LGBT and have been affected by Card and people like him, think about making a small monetary donation to the Human Right Campaign, which is the “largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans.”

Here’s the link:


Gay marriageBehind MeMyFavoriteDecoratingCartoon


While on vacation last week, I read my third book recently and I can’t believe how much I’ve been missing out on by just reading magazines!

The Art of Racing in the Rain

“The Art of Racing in the Rain” by Garth Stein is a must read if you’re a pet owner.

Yes, I was tearing up at the end of the first chapter and I cried during the last two chapters of the book.  However, over the course of the rest of the book, I laughed many times and smiled many others.

It’s a very reflective book narrated by Enzo, the family dog, as he awaits his own death and welcomes it.  There’s a reason he’s ready to die after living a happy, fulfilling life with Denny, a race car driver that excelled in driving on wet tracks, his wife, Eve, and their daughter, Zoe.

Enzo’s stories of Zoe’s mean stuffed animal zebra, Eve’s parents (who he nicknames “the evil twins”), and dogs in Mongolia will you make laugh and cry.

04012011 ABBA Anthony

Miss ABBA, if Enzo is right, I can’t wait to see you again and say hello.  No, this doesn’t mean I’m ready to die and join ABBA.  You’ll have to read the book to figure it out! 🙂

Vickie, thank you for sharing it with me.

Now, I’m on to my fourth book of the fall!


While it may be some time before “12 Years A Slave” and “Kill Your Darlings” make it to the Quad Cities, another movie opens this today in New York and California that is at the top of my list of movies I want to see this fall.  And, I just found out that it starts in Davenport, Iowa, on November 22nd.

Dallas Buyers Club

As I blogged in early October, “[Matthew] McConaughey plays Ron Woodroof, a drug using, womanizing, homophobic man who was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in 1986 and given only thirty days to live.  It tells the story of how he began smuggling non-toxic, alternative medicines from all over the world, thus forming the “Dallas Buyers Club”.

For his part, McConaughey lost around 40-50 pounds and his co-star, [Jared] Leto lost 30-40 pounds to play Rayon, an HIV-positive transgendered woman, who became business partners with Woodroof.

Awards buzz is already building for both actors.


Sometimes, I choose songs that I think will be big radio hits and sometimes, I just like the song and I want to share.  Today’s song fits in the latter category.

French house music DJ Cedric Gervais now lives in Miami, Florida.  He recently made his acting debut in the Mark Wahlberg movie, “Pain & Gain” (which I have no desire to see) and he remixed Lana Del Ray’s big summer hit, “Summertime Sadness”, which reached #6 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Gervais also remixed Howard Jones’ 1980s hit, “Things Can Only Get Better”, and it’s incredible.


And, since you’re already thinking about Howard Jones, I’m featuring the original song for you to compare.

During his U.S. Hot 100 chart run that started in 1983 when he reached #27 with “New Song”, Jones scored nine Top 40 hits.  His last hit, “Lift Me Up” reached #32 in 1992.

Of those nine Top 40 hits, two reached the Top Ten, “No One Is To Blame” (#4, 1986) and “Things Can Only Get Better” (#5, 1985).


That’s it for this week.  Can you believe that November is here already?


Plans For A Milestone Birthday

When it comes to birthdays, turning 13, 16, 21, 25, and 30 are the birthdays that seem to get the most glory.  Once you reach a certain age, many people stop making a big deal out of them.

I remember, as a teenager, thinking people who were 30-years-old were over-the-hill.  Once I hit 30, and then 40, I began to think much differently about those ages being ancient.  While I’m one of those people who don’t make a big deal out of each successive birthday, this year, it’ll be different for Ray.  Later this month, he turns 50 and we’re planning on celebrating it in style this fall.

Turning 50 is a big deal to me.  Think of all of the great people who never made it to 50:  my mother and her mother (47 and 48, respectively), Whitney Houston (48), Judy Garland (47), President John F. Kennedy (46), Elvis Presley (42), John Lennon (40), Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (39), Princess Diana (36), Marilyn Monroe (36), Jim Morrison (of the Doors) (27), Janis Joplin (27), Jimi Hendrix (27), James Dean (24), and Ryan White (18).

Ray was born at Mercy Hospital in Fort Dodge, Iowa, on August 25, 1963.

While I always wanted dirty blonde hair when I was younger, these days I wish I was a ginger.  But, then again, I’m just thankful that I’m in my 40s and I still have hair!

So, when thinking of his upcoming 50th birthday, I thought about a surprise trip to Cancun, Mexico.  I was there in 1993 and I loved it.   I’ve been wanting to go back and I know that Ray’s never been there.  It’s a good thing I asked him before buying the package.  While he said it would be fun, he had other ideas and he’s the one turning 50!!!

However, I didn’t give up on Cancun.  Since I had some vacation time left over, we got a great deal and we’re going to Cancun for five days this weekend.  This is a picture I took of Cancun 20 years ago.

Cancun 1993 001

So, Ray thought about it, did his research, and he made a decision.  While both of us have been to Mexico and Canada (before passports were required), this trip was international and it required a passport.  This map is from the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and luckily, the trip he planned is “green”, which stands for “take normal safety precautions”!  Red is danger!

Safe Travel

So, obviously since the green locations on this map are in Europe, that must be the destination for his golden birthday celebration.  If you guessed that, you’d be correct.  Ray decided he wanted to take a cruise on the Danube River!  However, the timing for the trip didn’t work out for his birthday.  So, we’ll be taking it in October.

The cruise on the Danube River is on the “MS Sound of Music”.  Could the name be any gayer? 🙂

In October, we’ll drive from the Quad Cities and take an overnight flight from Chicago to Europe.  The original trip itinerary had us on an overnight flight from Chicago to Budapest, Hungary, and boarding the cruise.  However, I didn’t feel comfortable leaving the U.S. and arriving in Budapest to board the cruise on the same day.

While this is Ray’s trip, I’ve always been fascinated by Switzerland and it didn’t cost us anything extra for the flight changes to make it part of our vacation.  For the same price, we now fly from Chicago to Zurich, Switzerland, a global city and one of the world’s largest financial centers, and arrive Saturday morning!


We get to spend almost 24 hours there!   We then fly from Zurich to Budapest and board the “Sound of Music Cruise Tour” on Sunday, where we’ll travel the Danube River from Hungary to Germany with several stops in between in Slovakia, Austria, and Germany.

Sound of Music Cruise

The cruise departs Budapest Sunday night and after sailing all night and in the morning, we’ll arrive in Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, for an afternoon tour.  It’s one of the youngest capital cities of Europe, yet its history dates back more than 2,000 years.

From there, another night of sailing will be followed by an all day visit to Vienna, Austria, known for musicians Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Falco (“Rock Me Amadeus”).

After another night of cruising the Danube, we arrive in Durnstein (wine country in lower Austria) and another short cruise will take us to Melk (in lower Austria), where the historic Benedictine Abbey is located.

The next day, we arrive in Passau, Germany, which is also known as Dreiflüssestadt, the “City of Three Rivers”.  And, being a city of so many rivers posed a major problem earlier this summer when central Europe experienced some of the worst flooding in decades.  These pictures are from Passau in early June.

Passau Flooding 1 Passau Flooding 2

Since our cruise is more than four months after the flooding, it’ll be interesting to see how fast Germany responds to a natural disaster and how much of the city is flood ravaged and damaged.

The next two days will feature stops in Regensburg and Nuremberg, Germany.

When we awake after the last night of  the cruise, we’re driven two hours to the Munich (Germany) airport for our flight back to Chicago.  Once we get through customs, we’ll drive the three hours back to Moline just in time for me to go back to work — jet lag and all.  Crazy!!!!!!!

While Ray’s milestone birthday trip of a lifetime is still two months away, I’m already planning the trip for my 50th birthday in the fall of 2014!!!!

Happy Birthday early Ray!