Showing posts from February, 2011

Book Review - Major Pettigrew's Last Stand

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was our book club selection for this month and I found it delightful. Major Pettigrew is a retired widower in a small town in England. His younger brother's death sets him off on a path to a relationship with the widowed Mrs. Ali. Mrs. Ali is of Pakistani descent (though born in England) and runs a small shop in town.

The two face obstacles in family, friends, religion and tradition. There's a lot of drama and some wonderful descriptions of small town life with its pettiness and intolerance. While I found Major Pettigrew a bit stiff at first, I grew to appreciate his steadfastness and attempts at doing the morally correct thing even though he didn't always come through.

Very quick read that is surprisingly full of action and characters.

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Book Review - Real Vampires Live Large

Real Vampires Live Large by Gerry Bartlett

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Gloriana St. Clair is a vampire after my own heart. She sucks in her stomach, has boy issues (and mostly the good kind where too many of them want her), runs her own business and has lots of dear friends. She also has a billionaire trying to kill her and a bunch of Energy Vampires trying to get her to hand over her stored up energy.

This was a fun read.

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Ships and Dip 4 - Costa Maya

Our first stop on the cruise was to Costa Maya, Mexico. I read some post-cruise comments from some of my fellow travelers and they weren't very impressed with it. I can understand why because there's not a lot to it. A small shopping and drinking area right when you get off the ship, a pyramid and lots of jungle.

We, regardless of what was there, enjoyed the day immensely! I guess it's sometimes just what you do and whom you do it with.

The bulk of our group went on a bike/kayak trip while our smaller group of Mary, Norene, Blondie and I went to the beach. Blondie was in charge and found us the bus (after I made us all have an initial cocktail) and it was a very short drive to our stop.

There was a little shopping area to pass through before we got to the beach. A guy approached us but Blondie shooed him away. A second guy approached us and I let him talk to us. Good thing as he became our waiter for the day.

Sammy was The Man

His name was Sammy and he's from East LA origin…

Book Review - Ghost Town

Ghost Town by Rachel Caine

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Nice addition to the series. Claire and Myrnin are working on rebuilding the device that keeps people, and their memories, in Morganville. Myrnin tweaks the machine and all is not well as the residents of the town, both human and vamp, start losing their memories. Add in Claire's Dad's illness, vampire politics and some ugly violence and it's an action packed story. (Although they did seem to go home and sleep a lot.)

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Book Review - Mr. Monk on the Road

Mr. Monk on the Road by Lee Goldberg

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I LOVE these books! Thanks to Lee Goldberg, I can continue to visit the world of Monk that I've missed so much since the show ended.

As a surprise birthday present for Monk's agoraphobic brother, Ambrose, Monk and Natalie kidnap Ambrose and go on a road trip in a big RV. Of course, murder is never far away when Monk's around so there's mystery as well as family and friendship dynamics.

Ambrose is such a sweet character. I love the affection and respect that he and Natalie share for each other.

I also like the ending and mystery resolution. I actually didn't see it coming.

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Ships and Dip 4 - Songwriters in the Round

I love songwriter events. They're a great opportunity to learn more about the artist and the music than you can just seeing them perform. The music has more meaning and is more enjoyable when I know what inspired it or where it was written or just more about the craft of writing it.

Ed Robinson of Barenaked Ladies hosted the Songwriters event on the cruise. He picked Boothby Graffoe, Jason Plumb, Alan Doyle (of Great Big Sea) and Jenn Grant to appear with him.

Boothby, Jason and Ed(notice lonely mic)

Alan was late to the show because Great Big Sea had a Q&A right before it that ran late. As his punishment, he had to follow Boothby in performing. He begged, "Could you just sound like shit for me?" He didn't luck out. Boothby was brilliant. Alan wasn't bad either, truth be told.

Boothby did the Budgie song and he added in a line that went something like this: "did a wine tasting today and the guy fucking hated me". It got a big laugh. He had just come fro…

Ships and Dip 4 - Flip Cup!

How cool is this: getting to play Flip Cup against one of your favorite bands?

I think it's very cool and Guster put themselves out there for the event.

What is flip cup? Glad you asked. It's a drinking game, of course. The goal is to chug your beverage (generally beer) from a plastic cup, put the plastic cup mouth up and hanging on the edge of the table, flip it up in the air with your fingers hitting the bottom of the cup so that it lands mouth down on the table. You get as many tries as it takes to get the cup in the right position. Once you succeed, the next player on your team does the same. The first team to get the final cup in position wins the round.

Actual written rules!

I consider myself a semi-seasoned veteran after my last Jimmy Buffett tailgate event in Alpine Valley, WI. I'm not sure how many rounds we played but it was a lot.

32 teams with six players each entered in a single elimination tournament with the winner getting to play against the Guster guys. It was …

Ships and Dip 4 - The Music: Mike Evin

Mike Evin is yet another artist I wasn't familiar with before the cruise. He's a very fine piano player and they had him set up in the open Atrium area. It just worked out that we had some down time on two different days while he was playing so we caught parts of his shows.

Mike Evin

After only two shows, I already had a liking for several of his songs. I've since purchased the albums, Good Watermelon and I'll Bring the Stereo. The first title song is fun and I also really like We Should Dance, Stay Gritty, Stripper in My Car and If You Were My Girl. Evin has a nice blend of fun, poppy songs and sentimental ones. They all sound great. The piano work is very crisp and clear.

Andy Creeggan

Evin was joined both times I saw him by Andy Creeggan (former BNLer). Andy added some great accordion and percussion work and appeared to be having the time of his life.

What is that box?

I was completely intrigued by the box that Andy was beating on. It looked like a speaker but with a plas…

Ships and Dip 4 - The Music: Great Big Sea

I knew I was going to like Great Big Sea when Blondie told me they're like an Irish drinking song band. I love the Irish. I love drinking. I love singing about drinking. It was a trifecta!

They're not actually Irish, though. They're from St. John, Newfoundland and lot of their songs are about the sea and are inspired by their home.

For trip preparation, I ordered Great Big CD from iTunes and listened to it several times before we left for the cruise. The most notable time while I was riding the shuttle at the DFW airport on my way home from Calgary. I was in my own little world and it was fantastic because I was done with travel (mentally) and wanted to be in a happy place. After hearing Donkey Riding, The Night Pat Murphy Died and Mari-Mac several times, I was in the happy place.

Great Big Sea was the big show on the first night of the cruise. They were very, very fun and energetic. That was good since the show started at 11PM.

Great Big Sea (I think that's Ed from BNL i…

Ships and Dip 4 - All right Mr. De Mille, I'm ready for my close-up,

By Thursday on the cruise, I was beered out. I know, that's probably hard to fathom but it's true. I switched to wine and August, our favorite server, talked me into buying a full bottle. It was cheaper than by the glass and I think he knew I would have no problem polishing it off. It was served in a bucket of ice which was nice because it kept it cold but meant that I was carrying around a bucket for the afternoon.

I was carrying said bucket on my way to the Songwriters in the Round event when I got on the elevator with two guys from Sixthman. They are the wonderful people who coordinated the entire cruise. I'd seen the two before because they'd been running all over the ship taking pictures and recording videos.

As we rode down to the Stardust Lounge, we joked about them drinking out of the bottle and I asked them if they were having a good time. They said they were and asked me the same question. I said I absolutely was. They asked if I would mind saying that on camer…

Ships and Dip 4 - The Music: Boothby Graffoe

Boothby Graffoe is so effing brilliant that I'm half way in love with him and haven't actually met him. He's an unbelievably good raconteur. His storytelling is enhanced by his British accent and wit and he's a very good guitarist as well.

He opened each Barenaked Ladies concert, hosted a wine tasting and was featured in the Songwriters in the Round. The concert openings were good, the wine tasting not so much for him. Apparently, the cruise ship guy in charge thought he was going to be able to teach people about wine without realizing this was a rowdy group of drinkers there to see Boothby. Let's just say he didn't appreciate Boothby's humor at all.

The Songwriters event was right after the wine tasting and Boothby inserted a line into one of his songs about the guy hating him. Funny, funny man.

I purchased Boothby Graffoe and The Following People from iTunes when I got home and it's hilarious! I'm glad I didn't listen to it at work because people…

Ships and Dip 4 - The Music: Barenaked Ladies

I'm all about my playlists on iTunes because there are usually only a couple of great songs on the many albums I have and playlists are an efficient way to listen to only the best of the best. However, there a few albums that I consistently play in their entirety because every song on them is a winner.

Gordon by Barenaked Ladies is one of those albums. It's got their arguably most famous song, If I Had $1000000, but my favorite is Hello City. Or, maybe Enid. Oh, then there's Be My Yoko Ono which is fabulous, too. OK, I love them all!

There were plenty of opportunities to enjoy BNL on the cruise. Everyone got a seating assigned ticket to one of the three concert shows they did over three consecutive nights. They did a Q&A session on the non-Lido deck where they answered questions that had been solicited over the first few days of the cruise. They were also the main voices on the daily ship announcements. A couple of them individually hosted smaller events as well.

Oh, and …

Ships and Dip 4 - Norwegian Dawn

I think I've only sailed on Norwegian once before and it was years ago so I didn't have a feel for how it was going to be. On the formal side? Big, small or medium? Mediocre service and food or good?

Well, I'm pleased to say Norwegian is like the final porridge that Goldilocks tried; it was just right.

First of all, they didn't require formal dress for dinner. In fact, you didn't even have to go sit and have dinner at the same time and table each night. There were plenty of eating spots and we were able to go to the main dining room and get a table for our group of 11 without any issues at all. The food was good in there, too. They even did a fair job of blue rare steak.

The Stardust Theater was a great venue for the big shows on board. We had good seats for our Barenaked Ladies show and fantastic seats for the Songwriters in the Round event. There were lots of other lounges and areas to feature all the performers on board, too.

One thing we found puzzling, though. The…

Ships and Dip 4

My friends have talked about Ships and Dip for years. It's a cruise hosted by the band Barenaked Ladies. The entire ship is chartered just for that group. In addition to BNL, there are many other bands and musicians who perform and mingle with the attendees.

This year, it was the fourth cruise and it just worked out that I had the time and money and a traveling companion in the form of my friend Norene. She just retired so we both thought, what the hell, sounds like fun and signed up.

It was fun!

The cruise in itself would have been a blast. We took the Norwegian Dawn out of Port of Miami and made two stops. The first in Costa Maya which was just beautiful. The second in Cozumel which we've been to several times but still enjoy. Bonus, they have a Margaritaville there. Who can pass up a chance to give Buffett more money? (Cuz he needs it, you know.)

However add into your basic party cruise an entertainment lineup like this:

Barenaked Ladies
Great Big Sea
Jukebox The Ghost


I got to watch the Super Bowl on board of the Norwegian Dawn as we headed out of Port of Miami to Costa Maya, Mexico. My whole traveling group was rooting for the Packers which made it even more awesome. Yay, we won! (I know, old news but I'm just catching up on my blogging.)

I wasn't really nervous once the game started. Even when the Steelers got the ball back with a chance to tie with a field goal and go ahead with the extra point.

To add to the victory, I had really good numbers in our work Squares. Although I left the list in my cabin, I was sure I had to have hit one quarter. I got back to work today to collect $50! The guy running the game told me not to spend it in one place.

I didn't as I promptly lost it out of my pocket in the restroom. Sigh.

Fortunately, we have an honest group and someone turned it in to the receptionist. That Grant went right into my wallet after that.

Home, Sweet, Home - Finally!

I feel like I've been MIA for quite some time. I've certainly been away from home and logged a lot of miles. Here's what I've been up to:

On 1/31, I flew to Calgary for a work trip.

I got back to Phoenix late on 2/4 then jumped on a plane 12 hours later for the Ships and Dip 4 cruise hosted by Barenaked Ladies.

I was back home again on 2/11 then nearly immediately succumbed to a virus of some sort that put me in a mental fog for several days. Ugh.

During that time frame, I was in three different countries within five days. It was perhaps too much travel even for me.

I also hit a lot of airports:

Phoenix – 4 times
Calgary – 2 times
Dallas – 2 times
Fort Lauderdale – 2 times
Albuquerque – 1 time
Austin – 1 time

Throw in the Port of Miami and one ship docking each in Costa Maya and Cozumel, Mexico and you've got the whole itinerary.

I'm looking forward to staying home for a while.