Cocoa and cinnamon perfect ingredients for a tasty chili

Savory Beef Chili

Savory Beef Chili

We had just come back from a wonderful weekend in Orange Beach, Alabama with friends Paul and Rachel and I suddenly realized that it was almost time for the Super Bowl. I make a new chili recipe each year for Super Bowl Sunday. I was pressed for time so I turned to a favorite chili recipe book for some ideas.

The Real Chili Cookbook by Marjie Lambert is packed with meat only chili recipes, chili with beans, untraditional chilis, vegetarian chilis and more. After reading several recipes I chose a recipe that I actually prepared back in 2011 called Savory Beef Chili that I mentioned in a post about our neighborhood’s annual Torrey Pines Butt Kicking Chili Contest.

That year my wonderful neighbor Bob Kessler won the contest. When asked what recipe he used Bob replied, “This is not a real recipe that I picked up from a book. It is just something I just thought of off the top of my head.  I just kept putting it together and I kept tasting it as I went along”.

So, I decided to post this recipe. The recipe sounded yummy and very easy to make so into the kitchen I went.  I had all the ingredients in the house so no shopping needed.

Savory Beef Chili

Ingredients:

IMG_1177b3 Tbsp. vegetable oil

2 pounds beef, cubed

1 ½ onions, chopped

1 stalk celery, finely chopped

½ green pepper, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

12-ounce bottle beer

8-ounce can tomato sauce

2 jalapeño chiles, unseeded, minced

2 bay leaves

3 Tbsp. commercial chili powder

2 tsp. unsweetened cocoa

1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 Tbsp. lime juice

at least ½ tsp. Tabasco or other hot pepper sauce

1-2 tsp. salt

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Directions:

*Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a skillet and cook the beef until browned. Remove the meat with a slotted spoon and discard the greasy cooking liquids.  Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in the skillet and sauté the onion, celery, bell pepper, and garlic 5 minutes.

*Put the beef and vegetables in a large saucepan with the beer, tomato sauce, and 2 cups of water. Add jalapeños, bay leaves, chili powder, cocoa, and cinnamon.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until the beef is tender, at least 1 ½ hours.  Stir occasionally and add water if needed.

*Add the lime juice and Tabasco sauce and cook 5 minutes. Add salt, taste, and adjust seasonings.

The recipe called for 2 pounds of beef but did not suggest what cut. I had two pounds of stew beef in the freezer so used it for the chili.

The recipe was indeed easy to put together and then it just sat on the stove slowly simmering and releasing the aroma of chocolate and cinnamon into the air. Randy came into the kitchen asking what was cooking because it smelled so good and I told him I was making a chili that would be delicious.  He said, “I can’t wait”.

I used Tabasco sauce.  The Tabasco created a nice smoky flavor but there was little heat in the chili.  Now, that normally is a plus for Randy but even he mentioned that the chili was not very hot.  The next time I make this chili I will either add more Tabasco sauce or use hot pepper sauce.

IMG_1189bI have over the years prepared many chilis and have my favorites. One of my favorite chilis also won a trophy at the neighborhood’s Butt Kicking’ Chili Cook-off in 2012.  The chili was created by Brian Partin and entered into the contest by his parents Jack and Diane Partin called Chili with chocolate and coffee.  It was so yummy!  Then there was a chili that my son-in-law prepared that I just loved and had to have.  He had searched for chili recipes on the internet and got a feel for the basic ingredients for a good chili and created a chili I called Smokin’ Texas Chili by Roger Campbell.  That year I prepared this perfect topper for hot dogs for our Fourth of July celebration.

I am always looking for delicious chili recipes. Have one?  Pass it along and I will give it a try.

No matter which team you are cheering for on Super Bowl Sunday have a great time.

Enjoy,

Mary

Posted in Chili, Cookbook, Food, Recipe | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Snowbirds, shrimp and seagulls

View of the beach from Paul and Rachel's 8th floor condo

View of the beach from Paul and Rachel’s 8th floor condo

We recently had the best and most relaxing weekend at Orange Beach, Alabama while visiting friends we met while on a trans-Atlantic cruise September 2014.

Paul and Rachel are originally from Indiana but snowbird each year in Orange Beach for a few months. Last year we were one our way home from a visit with our grandchildren In Alabama and they invited us to stop for the night and visit.  We had a great time catching up and talking about future cruises we could take together.  According to Wikipedia,  “Snowbirds are typically retirees who wish to avoid the snow and cold temperatures of northern winter, but maintain ties with family and friends by staying there the rest of the year”.

The day we arrived the beach was cold and overcast.

The day we arrived the beach was cold and overcast.

This year Rachel let us know that they would be snowbirding again in Orange Beach and invited us to come on over and spend some time. The morning we left was damp, cold, overcast, and rainy and, at times, rain fell so hard it was hard to see the other cars on the highway.  I was not complaining though as it was the same weekend the north was experiencing a blizzard.

We arrived late in the afternoon and settled in for a lovely meal of salad, lasagna, and garlic bread and wine and conversation right up to bed time.

Still cold but the clouds were gone.

Still cold but the clouds were gone.

Saturday morning was cold, bright and beautiful. I stood on the balcony and could see waves of crystal clear blue-green water slowly rolling slowly toward the Confectioner sugar sand on the beach as the sun rose high in the sky.  The scene was just beautiful.

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IMG_0889We were in for a busy day. After a light breakfast, we headed off to an event called the ‘Snowbird Fest’ at the Event Center at the Wharf in Orange Beach.  The hall was filled with vendors highlighting their wares, representatives from several restaurants were on hand serving up samples of local favorites, and on center stage were entertainers who looked very much like Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton.  Walking around was fun as we stopped here and there sampling a little of this and a little of that.

IMG_0894One booth we stopped at, the Oyster House was serving up samples of cheese grits and blackened baby shrimp.  The shrimp was absolutely delicious.  We all made a note to stop at the Oyster House for lunch especially as we picked up coupons for several items on the menu.  We stopped at another booth that had samples of a favorite local drink called the Bushwacker.  I understand from Rachel that several local restaurants serve variations of this drink and residents have their favorites.  The one we drank was delicious.

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Mobile Bay

We left the event center and were treated to a drive through the area with Paul and Rachel pointing out places of interest including the first house they rented. We drove down a long road that eventually narrows to a spit of land.  As we drove Rachel pointed out that as the road narrows you can see Mobile Bay on one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other.  We ended our drive down this long road at Fort Morgan.  We did not stop but turned around and drove back to town.

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On our way to the restaurant we came across a large number of pelicans just relaxing next to the road.

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Key lime pie. Yum!

Key lime pie. Yum!

Then it was on to the Oyster House for lunch.  What did I eat?  Shrimp of course.  The shrimp was so incredibly tender and the coating light and delicious.  What I thought was most interesting was the way the restaurant serves cocktail sauce.  There are tiny plastic containers on each table with a little dab of horseradish.  Each person can make their own cocktail sauce by adding as much or as little ketchup as they like.  I thought that was very cool!

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Giant alligator outside the Oyster House Restaurant

We headed back to the condo for a great afternoon of conversation, enjoying a swim in the indoor pool and watching the sunset from the 8th floor balcony.  During our conversation, Rachel explained that the local residents and snowbirds enjoyed a very friendly relationship.  During the season several events are held for the snowbirds and the snowbirds hold several fund raising events to benefit the local communities.

Flora-Bama Lounge & Oyster Bar

Flora-Bama Lounge & Oyster Bar

Randy enjoying his morning coffee on the balcony before church

Randy enjoying his morning coffee on the balcony before church

 

Sunday morning Rachel explained that we were in for a treat as we were going to attend a very different church at the Flora-Bama Lounge & Oyster Bar put on by the Worship on the Water religious organization. The establishment is on the Florida-Alabama line, hence the name.  When we arrived I was blown away at the exterior of the church.

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View of Flora-Bama from the beach

The wooden building is weathered and bleached by the sun, has several levels and is right on the beach. What fun!  From the moment we walked towards the back of the building I had to laugh.  We entered the church through the entrance to the oyster bar.  As I was walking toward the opening for the church there was a bar on my left, a gentlemen making omelets to order and letting patrons know that, “A complimentary Mimosa comes with every omelet”, and another bar to my right where people were stopping for a drink before the services started.

Great music by the band during the service

Great music by the band during the service

IMG_0949bI do not know how many people the church can hold but by the time services started every seat was taken. The music was provided by a country western band that was very good.  The message for the service was ‘Heartbreak Hotel’.  Along with uplifting church music being played, several Elvis songs were played too.  Many of the hymns came from a book called the Honky Tonk Hymnal.  At one point one of the band members donned an Elvis mask as the band played ‘Don’t Be Cruel”.  I thought that was very funny.

Pastor Dan Stone delivered an uplifting talk on relationships that included Psalm 103:7-8, 1 Corinthians 13:11 and Psalm 103:9-12.  He talked extemporaneously and passionately about this topic and I left the tent feeling very good about attending this unusual service.

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After church we returned to the condo. Paul and Rachel wanted a bit of a rest.  While they were resting, Randy and I headed to the beach.  It was a beautiful sunny day but oh so cold.  I put on my heaviest coat, scarf and gloves grabbed my camera and off we went.

Reflection of a seagull in the surf

Reflection of a seagull in the surf

There were quite a few people walking up and down the beach. There were a few people digging in the sand and some fishing.  That was all nice to see but what I really loved was watching the seagulls, terns and sandpipers skittering in and out of the surf.

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I was fascinated that the birds were standing on one leg with the other tucked up under their bodies. I was also fascinated at how close they would allow us to get and even then would only walk away not fly away.  I would walk too close and they would turn and walk in the opposite direction.  If I turned, they would turn too only in the opposite direction.  Very funny!

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IMG_1141After a while we returned to the condo and prepared to go to a late lunch, early dinner that we call ‘linner’. Rachel thought that was a very funny name and wrote it down.  I have no idea how Randy and I came up with that name but apparently others have too.  It really is a small world.

 

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One delicious chocolate creation and four forks. Chocolate tart with vanilla anglaise. Delicious!

We ate at a very nice restaurant called Cosmos Restaurant & Bar.  What a good choice.  The walls were brightly colored with eye catching artwork displayed on all the walls.  Each of us ordered something different from their appetizer menu and then shared with each other.  I ordered the Firecracker Shrimp.  The shrimp was  lightly dusted bay shrimp fried and tossed in a spicy remoulade sauce.  I could not believe my eyes when the dish came to the table.  I was expecting a small portion of shrimp but the bowl was full.  I shared with everyone at the table.  The shrimp was spicy with just enough heat and absolutely delicious!

We returned to the condo for a wonderful evening of rest, great conversation and a promise to return next year.

As Rachel would say, “Absolutely” we will return next year.

Beautiful sunset on our last evening.

Beautiful sunset on our last evening.

Enjoy,

Mary

Posted in beach, Food, key lime pie, restaurants, shrimp | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Delicious Divas – 2015 in review

Received this fun review of my blog site, deliciousdivas.wordpress.com from WordPress administration.   It was fun to look back and see what readers are still interested in.  One thing I learned from this review is that I need to get back into the kitchen.  I will work on  that in the coming year.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 24,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 9 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Enjoy,

Mary

Posted in Celebrations, cruising, Food, travel | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

2015 ends on a bittersweet note

Where do I even begin? When last I posted we had just returned from a cruise to the Caribbean that, despite Randy’s trials and tribulations dealing with a bout of Shingles,  was actually a great deal of fun and just perfect to get us in the holiday spirit for our return home.

I was also anxious to get home to put into action the information I learned from reading I Am Not Sick I Don’t Need Help! by  Xavier Amador that I took with me on the cruise. My hope was the words contained inside would help me understand how to reach my daughter and deal with her on-going health battle and accept help.

So, as we left the terminal and started the long drive home I was filled with excited anticipation about ending the year celebrating Christmas and New Year’s Eve with family and friends.

I was so excited when we finally arrived at the house. I was eager to tell my daughter all about our cruise, finish decorating the house, do a little gift shopping and start planning the menu for Christmas dinner.

Have you ever walked into a house and immediately felt that there was something wrong? I noticed as I walked towards the front door that the house was dark.  I opened the door and the air was cold and there were no sounds.  I called out her name and there was only silence.  I looked to my right into the kitchen and it looked as though it had not been used in a while.  I started to walk down the hallway and a cold shiver ran down my body as I looked into her room and saw nothing.

Where she normally kept all her important papers was clean. The bed had been made, all her clothing had been removed from the closet and dresser and the towels she had been using were neatly folded on top of the clothes dryer.   There I stood in the living room shocked, bewildered, and sad with tears slowly making their way down my face when Randy walked into the house.  “What’s wrong,” he asked.  I looked at him, buried my face in his chest and said through tears, “She’s gone, she’s gone”.

The neighbor who had been watching the house and taking in our mail came over and explained that, while we were gone, my daughter had purchased a used car, packed up all her belongings and had left. Not only did she leave but she left the morning we came home.  I searched the house and could not find a note explaining her decision to leave.

I found myself unable to concentrate on much for the next two days as I contacted the rest of the family to share the sad news and wait to see if my daughter would contact us.

In the meantime I had to pull myself together because we had friends coming for Christmas dinner, plans with friends a few days after Christmas and celebrating New Year’s Eve with friends.

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Having Bob, Sandy, Dennis and Connie over for Christmas dinner was a blessing. We had a wonderful time dining on a delicious HoneyBaked ham, homemade scalloped potatoes, Bob’s delicious beans, corn pudding, Hawaiian rolls, and pumpkin pie.

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The conversation at the table was, as always, lively, interesting and fun. After dinner we opened our holiday party crackers filled with colorful paper crowns, corny jokes and a little gift. Then we played a matching game that my friend Ellen sent to me.  It is called the ‘Candy Game’.  I read out the description of a candy and everyone had to guess the name of the candy.  We had a great time as some of the candies listed were from our childhood and brought back fond memories.

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A few days later Bob, Sandy, Dennis, Connie, Dennis, Eileen, Randy and I went out and had a grand time visiting several local establishments and enjoyed hoisting a glass or two to all the good times we have had over the past year and vowing to have more good times in the new year.

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We ended our evening at Dennis and Connie’s home where we continued our celebration. We had fun, once again, laughing and reading the corny jokes from our holiday party crackers.

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IMG_0831bWe celebrated New Year’s Eve with Bob, Sandy, Dennis and Connie at Topper’s Tavern at the Eagle Ridge Golf Club in Summerfield, Florida. And, oh, what a great decision that was.  Restaurant manager Steven Maholick and his staff went out of their way to make the New Year’s celebration something to remember.  The tables was set beautifully, there were holiday tiaras for the ladies and black top hats for the gentlemen, beads and noisemakers.  The DJ played a great variety of music for the dinner hour and dancing later.

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IMG_0834There were times when everyone had a great time dancing in their seats to familiar 60’s tunes.

But the best part of the evening was the food that was prepared by Chef Carlos Belmonte. From the moment I read the menu I knew we were in for a treat.  The dinner consisted of four courses.

Drunken Shrimp Gazpacho

Drunken Shrimp Gazpacho

The two choices for the first course included:

  • Drunken Shrimp Gazpacho
  • Lamb Lollipops with Mint Apple Chimichurri
Grill Caesar with Parmesan Crisp

Grilled Caesar with Parmesan Crisp

The second course included:

  • Grilled Caesar with Parmesan Crisp
  • Seafood Chowder with Mussels
Surf n Turf-5oz Filet Mignon with Sea Scallop and Shrimp Skewer, Garlic Potato Puree and Wilted Spinach

Surf n Turf-5oz Filet Mignon with Sea Scallop and Shrimp Skewer, Garlic Potato Puree and Wilted Spinach

The entrees included:

  • Surf n’ Turf -5oz Filet Mignon with Sea Scallop and Shrimp Skewer, Garlic Potato Puree and Wilted Spinach.
  • Seafood Florentine Stuffed Flounder with Tomato Risotto and Sauce Choron
  • Pistachio Crusted Sea Scallops over Sweet Pea Risotto & Burnt Citrus Butter
  • Pork Osso Bucco with Creamy Polenta and Braising Juices
Gran Marnier Cheesecake

Gran Marnier Cheesecake

The desserts choices included:

  • Black Forest Cake
  • Gran Marnier Cheesecake

Everything on the menu sounded so wonderful it was hard to choose. But choose I did and every bite was delicious.   I especially liked the gazpacho that accompanied the shrimp appetizer.  It was light, delicious and a perfect complement to the shrimp.  The grilled salad with the light but tangy dressing was very different and delicious.  I loved the Parmesan crisp that came with the salad.

I love filet mignon so, of course, that is what I ordered for my entrée. The filet was so tender you could cut it with a fork.  The entire entrée was wonderful.

By now I had eaten every morsel that was set before me and thought, “Can I really eat dessert?” “Yes,” was the answer so I ordered the Gran Marnier Cheesecake.  The cheesecake was light and delicious; a great way to end a wonderful meal.

When Chef Belmonte came into the dining room the entire room complimented him on his culinary skills.

Saying goodbye to 2015 and hello to 2016.

Saying goodbye to 2015 and hello to 2016.

IMG_0825We spent the rest of the evening talking, laughing and dancing a little. At midnight champagne was poured and everyone watched as the ball dropped at Times Square ringing in 2016.

2015 was such a bittersweet year.  2015 held, for me, so many good memories and so many sad memories. As a rule I do not make New Year’s resolutions.  I prefer to set goals.  The main goal I have set for 2016 is to remain positive that my daughter will realize that she needs help and will look to the family for support.

Enjoy,

Mary

Posted in Appetizers, Celebrations, Dessert, Food, restaurants | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Final day of a festive holiday cruise

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Walked on to the balcony this into a morning filled with warm air, calm seas and blue skies.

What a great way to start the day. Now add to that a cup of hot steaming coffee, a TV channel with a roaring fire and Christmas music and I thought to myself, “It is going to be a great day!”

Randy seemed to turn a corner waking after a good night’s sleep. We met our friends at the Windjammer and had a great breakfast.  Everyone at the table agreed that Randy had a ‘bounce in his step’.

The last day on a cruise ship is always a bee hive of activity. Last minute shopping for that perfect tee shirt, those must have souvenirs, jewelry for the favorite ladies in our lives and, of course, all those wonderful photographic keepsakes.

Connie and Dennis had set up our lounge chairs again in the Solarium pool. At any given time one of us was on our way to take advantage of all those last minute sales; me too.  I made my way down to Guest Services to check on our account then down to the photo shop to choose which pictures I would like to purchase.  The pictures were great making it very difficult to choose.  I decided I would wait until Randy was with me to make the choices.

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I made a quick run to the cabin to change into my bathing suit, pack a little and return to the Solarium. On my way I stopped in front of the three Star Wars pictures that were in our passageway.  The entire passageway was filled with movie posters from many different countries.

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I thought it was interesting that our cabin would be on this deck and along this passageway. I am a big Star Wars fan and very anxious to get home to see the new Star Wars movie.  As I hurried to make my way back to the Solarium I came across a plaque about the posters.  It read:

“Original movie posters from several countries, and from every genre, are featured in this corridor, from classics such as Hitchcock’s ‘Marnie’ and ‘The Birds’ to modern day blockbusters like ‘Gladiator’ and ‘Harry Potter’.

The poster, which has been in existence for over a hundred years, has become an important method of communication. Today, it is recognized as a vital art form, attracting artists at every level, from painters to commercial and theatrical designers.”

Around 1:00pm the heavens opened up and the sea started to swell creating a lot of whitecaps. There was a Carnival ship in the distance and we watched as it became completely enveloped in the fog and rain.  All of a sudden we watched as the Carnival ship burst out of the mist and away from the storm.

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Sandy had been down on the Promenade buying some tee shirts and came back telling us how cute the Promenade looked with towels animals all around the Christmas tree, and other areas.

 

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I love towel animals so I grabbed my camera and ran down the stairs to see for myself.  How fun, I thought when I stepped off the elevator.  I walked around the Promenade looking at all the animals and smiling whenever I saw one that had been placed in our cabins over the years.

When I returned to the pool deck the wind had picked up. The wind was so strong all the pools were emptied.  There happened to be a barbeque at the main pool today.  Randy had gone to the Windjammer to get some lunch and laughed as he recounted watching hamburger and hot dog buns being blown across the deck.  We all really laughed when he told about a woman who was carrying pieces of cake across the pool deck only to have them both fly across the deck and into a wall.  I wish I could have seen that.

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We returned to the cabin did a little packing and prepared for the evening. Up to the Diamond lounge for cocktails and then down to dinner.  I always love the last night on the ship because the menu includes a wonderful comfort meal; roasted turkey. The turkey is always moist, the cranberry sauce just a little tart and the mashed potatoes nice and creamy.

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(Back from left) Jeff, Allison, Mary and Randy–(Seated from left) Bob, Sandy, Connie and Dennis

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The eight of us had a wonderful time sharing memories of our cruise and talking about the upcoming holidays. During dinner the dining room staff marched around the room and singing.  It was quite entertaining.

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One of the servers had a fun time walking around with two wine bottles on top of his head.  This was the same gentleman who, in the mornings, would walk around the Windjammer with trays of pastries or coffee cups on his head.  We all marveled at his balancing abilities.   Everyone in our area of the dining room was popping up trying to capture this funny sight on the cameras, iPads or iPhones.  The whole sight was very funny.

Now it was time to return to the cabin, finishing packing, put our luggage outside our door and settle down for a good night’s sleep. We closed the curtains, turned off the lights and turned on, for the last time, the TV channel with the roaring fire.  We snuggled close and found ourselves singing along with the Christmas music.

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We were up early and up to the Windjammer for breakfast and look at what we saw; a beautiful village of Gingerbread houses made by the culinary staff. They were all beautiful.  “What a beautiful way to end our cruise,” I thought.

Next stop, home.

Enjoy,

Mary

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A joy filled day on the Navigator of the Seas

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What a beautiful morning. The prediction for the day was temperatures to be in the 80’s.  When I look up at the sky it was almost hidden behind a blanket of white drifting clouds with just a hint of blue peeking out.  I just knew today was going to be a wonderful day.

Randy had another restless night so I volunteered to go down to the café and get us some coffee.   When I returned I put on the television to catch some news before heading up to the Windjammer to meet our friends for breakfast.

But each screen was blank and the only words that could be seen were, “No signal”. We sat sipping our coffee while I kept trying to find something to watch and came across a channel that brought a smile to both our faces.

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To our surprise and joy the screen filled with the sight of a beautiful crackling fire with soft piano music in the background playing Christmas songs. How wonderful, we thought.  I closed the curtains, turned off the lights and there we sat in our bed sipping coffee mesmerized by the beautiful sight filling our eyes feeling relaxed and happy.  All memories of our restless night just melted away.

Eventually, we made our way up to the Windjammer to meet our friends and after breakfast we all made our way to the Solarium pool where Connie and Dennis arranged six chairs together facing the wonderful blue waters of the Atlantic. And, there we sat talking, laughing and enjoying being together.

Santa & me

At around 9:45am there was an announcement that Santa would be at the Promenade. In a flash I was out of my chair and quickly making my way down the stairs to get in line.  I was third in line.

I think I was the only adult without a child in the line. While waiting to see Santa I had a good time talking with a couple from Toronto and their 7 year-old boy.  The little boy was very funny asking me all kinds of questions about what kind of living arrangements I had in my cabin.  He wanted to know if I was sleeping on a bunk bed.  “No, I replied, “but I had a bunk bed when I was a little girl”.  I asked him if he was excited to be seeing Santa today.  “Oh, yes,” he said”.  I smiled and said, “Me too”.

When it was my turn I took my seat next to Santa. Santa asked, “Have you been good this year?”  I moved a little closer and whispered, “Now how much fun would that be?”  He laughed and put two thumbs up.  I did too.  Very funny!!!

Roaring fire in the cabin, a visit with Santa could the day get any better?

Cruise =at sea

We spent the day at the pool until it was time to return to the cabin and prepare for the evening. Tonight we would not be eating with our friends in the dining room.  Our wonderful travel agent, Andy Skolnik of Cruise One, gave us a complimentary dinner at one of the specialty restaurants on the ship.  We chose Giovanni’s Table.

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This was our second time at Giovanni’s. It is a family style restaurant specializing in Italian cuisine.

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The food, atmosphere and service were outstanding. We started with the Insalata Caprese per Due – Caprese Salad for 2.  This is one of my favorite salads.  The tomatoes were ripe and flavorful, the oil and balsamic delicate and the mozzarella cheese wonderful.

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We both ordered the Filetto di Manzo alla griglia, patate fritte all’olio agliato, salsa al Barolo o Burro di Gorgonzola: Grilled 8oz. Beef Fillet tenderloin, garlic oil flavored fries, Barolo reduction or Gorgonzola butter.  The beef was so incredibly tender it melted in your mouth.  I enjoyed the fries but I really enjoyed the pasta dish I ordered.

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For my pasta dish I ordered the Pappardelle alla crema di radicchio e pancetta: Pappardelle pasta with radicchio cream and pancetta. This pasta was delicious with a bold flavor.  The pancetta was a wonderful extra texture to the dish.

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Zuppa Inglese–Layers of Italian custard with brandy infused berries and traditional sponge. Delicate and lovely!

The entire meal was lovely and I cleaned my plate. But the dinner would not be complete without dessert.  Randy and I both ordered the Tiramisu’ alla Giovanni for dessert to top off what was a wonderful meal. Tiramisu is an Italian dessert of Mascarpone Mousse with layers of coffee soaked biscuits.  After our desserts were placed on the table our server brought over a wonderful try of mini desserts and, of course, I could not resist.  To say that we were satiated would be such an understatement.

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We decided to take a stroll on the Promenade and ran into our friends. I noticed that there was a ship’s photographer over by the Christmas tree and got our friends to all go over and get our picture taken.  It turned out very nice.

What a joy filled day! I mean does it get any better than having a roaring fire in your cabin (albeit a television screen), a visit with Santa, a soup-to-nuts delicious dinner and, topping it all off, a picture with your wonderful friends?  No, I think not.

Today was not a very good Fitbit day but there is always tomorrow. I walked 4,301 steps, 1.71 miles and walked 5 flights of stairs.

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Tomorrow will be our last day at sea before returning to port in Ft. Lauderdale.

Enjoy,

Mary

Posted in Celebrations, cruising, Food, Italian Food, restaurants, travel | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Quiet day at St. Maarten

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Our port-of-call for today is Philipsburg, the capital of Dutch St. Maarten.  We have been here several times and loved each visit.

The day was starting like all our other days on this trip, beautiful. I was up early to capture the morning rising above the island.  The dark blue sky was filled with beautiful snowy white puffy clouds drifting over a sea shimmering from the light of the rising sun.  I never get tired of the morning and evening skies.

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IMG_0634We were hoping to go to the beach this morning but Randy had a very bad night. He was so tired that I offered to get coffee and breakfast and bring it back to the cabin.  The coffee maker in the Diamond lounge was still not fixed so first down to the Promenade Café for coffee then up to the Windjammer to pick up a few things for breakfast.

Eventually, we made our way up to the Solarium pool and settled in for a quiet day. While sitting poolside we found ourselves reminiscing about the several times we had been to this beautiful island.

Orient Beach

Orient Beach

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In 2013 we came to St. Maarten with many of our friends to celebrate Randy’s birthday. We had a wonderful time at Orient Beach.  Sand, surf and a wonderful lunch was just the perfect way to spend the day with friends.

Marigot Market

Marigot Market

DSC02833May of 2014 found us returning to St. Maarten alone and visiting the French side of the island. We caught a cab and traveled over to Marigot.  We walked around visiting the Marigot Market, looking over the menus of the many sidewalk cafes and admiring the many beautiful sailing vessels in the marina.  We eventually stopped at one of the cafes and had a delicious lunch.

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DSC01195Our most recent visit to St. Maarten was in October of 2015. We decided to try another beach and chose a trip to Buccaneer Beach at Simpson’s Bay.  What a great choice that was!  White sand beach, padded beach chairs, warm turquoise waters and lunch on the beach.

We both enjoyed our memories of these wonderful places and spending time with special people in our lives. As soon as we finished walking down memory lane, Randy fell fast asleep.  I took this opportunity to walk around a bit and take a few photographs.

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Les Dances Nicoises by Clemens Briels

My first stop was at an interesting piece of artwork by the main pool. It is a piece by artist Clemens Briels called, “Les Dances Nicoises”.  The plaque for this piece was so scratched and broken it was hard to read more than the artist’s name and the name of the piece.  I did a little research and learned that Briels, “translates his experiences in the Orient, the Caribbean and North and South America. These moments on his travels furnish him with the titles he so likes to transform into images. The traditional music of Central and South America is another almost inexhaustible source of inspiration for the artist”.

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Two pools with bandstand in them middle.

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On my way to the main pool I could not help but notice that it was empty. Had everyone gone on shore?  By the time I looked over the sculpture and picked up some lunch for Randy in the Windjammer I noticed a few people swimming in the Solarium pool.

Sandy and Bob in St. Maarten enjoying a cold one (picture by Connie)

Sandy and Bob in St. Maarten enjoying a cold one (picture by Connie)

Connie and Dennis

Connie and Dennis

I brought Randy’s lunch back from the Windjammer, settled into my chair and promptly fell asleep. I was awakened when I heard Sandy’s voice.  Dennis, Connie, Bob and Sandy had returned from their lovely morning on the island.  It was fun listening to everyone talk about where they had been and what they had done.

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Around 2:00pm we went back to the cabin to just hang out.  We took one last walk down the Promenade before returning to the cabin.  Of course, I could not resist taking another picture of the Christmas tree.  It is so beautiful! As the afternoon wore on we watched as our ship, the Freedom of the Seas and the Regal Princess all prepared to leave port before sundown.

Dinner was delicious as always.  After sleeping for quite a while poolside, Randy said he felt rested and would like to go to the evening show.  The headliner for this evening was comedian Steve Shaffer. I am so glad we attended the show.  It was good to hear Randy laugh out loud at Mr. Shaffer’s funny life-stories about everyday experiences especially the ones that related to Catholic guilt.

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IMG_3537We returned to the cabin and, as we do each evening, stepped out onto the balcony to see the night sky. The moon was hidden behind a fine mist making the night seem eerie.  I wanted to capture the sky so Randy and I, each armed with a camera, tried and tried to get a decent shot.  After, what seemed like an endless number of terrible shots I thought to myself, “I really do need to read the manuals for my new camera”.

We put our cameras away and retired for what I hoped would be a good night’s sleep.

Tomorrow we are at sea.

Enjoy,

Mary

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