Simple, Easy Shepherd’s Pie

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Enjoying our easy Shepherd’s Pie as the sun sets on our lanai.

I remember with great clarity just how hectic it was to prepare good, wholesome meals for my family when I was a young working woman and mom.  I was always looking for recipes that could be prepared from ingredients that were readily available in my pantry and make it to the dinner table in a timely manner to quell the hungry bellies of my family.

Well, on my most recent trip to my daughter Kristine’s, I found one of those dishes.  Kristine told me on the day I arrived that since we would be celebrating St. Patrick’s Day during my visit she was going to prepare a Shepherd’s Pie for dinner.   Kristine found this recipe in the September 30, 2007 issue of Real Simple magazine.

I loved it.  We added a small salad and had a wonderful meal.  I asked her to please send along the recipe so I could prepare it for Randy.  She did, and he loved it too.

Easy Shepherd’s Pie – Diana Hyle

Ingredients:

1 pound ground beef

1/3 cup ketchup

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

8 ounces frozen mixed vegetables (such as carrots, peas, and corn), thawed

¼ cup (1 ounce) shredded Cheddar (optional)

1 16-ounce package mashed potatoes, refrigerated or frozen and thawed

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 400° F.
  1. Place the beef in a large skillet and cook over medium-high heat until no trace of pink remains, about 5 minutes.
  1. Spoon off and discard any fat. Stir in the ketchup and Worcestershire.  Add the vegetables and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.  Spoon into baking dish.
  1. Mix the cheese (if desired) with the potatoes in a bowl. Spread over the beef and bake until heated through, 10 minutes.  Divide among plates.

When Kristine put this pie together, she prepared boxed mashed potatoes.  I, on the other hand, decided to try something different.  I purchased a package of frozen Ore/Ida Steam n’ Mash cut Russet potatoes.  The directions were simple; microwave the potatoes in the bag for 10 minutes, pour potatoes into bowl, add 2/3 cups milk and 2 T butter, salt and pepper to taste and mash to desired smoothness.

I like my potatoes to be very creamy so I added a little more milk and butter.  No matter how you prepare the mashed potatoes this dish will be a simple, easy and delicious meal to serve on any day.

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When it came to adding the cheese, I mixed some into the mashed potatoes and sprinkled some on top of the potatoes, then baked.

The day I decided to prepare this dish I had purchased beautiful, plump, red, ripe tomatoes so that is what I served along with the pie.  We also enjoyed a nice glass of Merlot too.  Everything was delicious.

It was a beautiful evening so we ate our dinner on the lanai.  We ate, we talked, we laughed and as the sun began to set I thought; that was quite a nice meal!

Enjoy,

Mary

Posted in Food, potatoes, Cheddar cheese, mashed potatoes, Merlot, Shepherd's Pie, ground beef, frozen mixed vegetables | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Friends, Family and Rum Cake

Rum Cake (From Scratch)

Rum Cake (From Scratch)

March was a dizzying month.  Our March calendar was filled with visits from friends passing through the area, having fun at Dayton’s Bike Week  with friends, celebrating a friends birthday, traveling to Virginia to visit with my daughters and celebrating our granddaughter’s 19th birthday, celebrating Easter with our lovely neighbors, pub crawling with friends and finally trying my hand at making a rum cake from scratch.

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Clockwise from top left–Barry and Lana, Dale Ann, dinner with Sue, Doug, Jim and Vilma, lunch with Bill and Jane.

Like so many, we keep up with our friends on Facebook, etc. but that can never replace breaking bread with a friend as you laugh and reminisce about good times gone by and good times to come.

Me, Kristine, Madalyn and Jennifer enjoying a birthday dinner at THAI Shirling

Me, Kristine, Madalyn and Jennifer enjoying a birthday dinner at THAI Shirlington

Birthday girl Madalyn and her mom (my daughter) Jennifer

Birthday girl Madalyn and her mom (my daughter) Jennifer

March also found me traveling to Kristine’s home in Virginia for our annual NCAA March Madness get together.  Kristine and I took a break from our crazy weekend to meet my daughter Jennifer and granddaughter Madalyn at the T.H.A.I Shirlington restaurant to celebrate Madalyn’s 19th birthday.  Seeing the girls made my weekend as I was nursing my wounds after the second round had wreaked havoc on on my brackets.  I actually had North Carolina in the finals, but alas, they were not destined to go all the way.   Oh well, there is always next year.

Great visit with Jim, Vilma and Geri

Great visit with Jim, Vilma and Geri

Two days after returning from Virginia our friends Jim and Vilma arrived for a planned visit.  To our surprise and pleasure our friend Geri learned that they would be here and decided to pack a bag and drive down from South Carolina for what turned out to be a wonderful visit filled with catching-up, funny stories, a great deal of laughter and Geri’s beyond delicious rum cake.   What a treat!

As Geri was saying her goodbyes the next morning I asked if she would share the recipe but she resisted.  A few days later I received a wonderful thank you note for our hospitality from Geri. In her note she wrote, “Now Mary, you really did lay a guilt trip on  me re: the recipe; but unfortunately I am true to my word—sooooo I have come up with a compromise”.  The compromise was another tantalizing recipe that I will prepare sometime in the future.  I was disappointed but wrote back and expressed my admiration for her ability to guard, what is obviously, a treasured family recipe.

Once the calendar pages turned to April, I decided that I would do some research and find a rum cake recipe on-line and try my hand at making one myself.  I found quite a few, many of which started with a boxed cake mix but the one that caught my attention was a recipe called Rum Cake (From Scratch) on a blog site called Gimme Some Oven.

I found this recipe to be fairly easy to make and appreciated the helpful hints that were included about not over-baking, over-mixing and a substitution in the event you did not have cake flour on hand.  I had all ingredients on hand except the buttermilk; a quick trip to the grocery store took care of that.  I had several flavors of rum on hand and decided to use the Ron Virgin dark rum.

Rum Cake (From Scratch)

Ingredients:

IMG_22402 ½ cups cake flour (*or see substitution below if you only have all-purpose flour)

1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon baking soda

1 ¾ cups sugar, divided (plus extra for sugar-ing the pan)

10 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

½ cup buttermilk, room temperature

½ cup rum (not spiced)

3 Tablespoons vegetable oil

1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

6 large egg yolks, room temperature

3 large egg whites, room temperature

Butter-Rum Sauce ingredients:

½ cup butter

¼ cup water

1 cup white sugar

¼ cup rum

Directions:

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350°.

Grease a bundt pan liberally with cooking spray.  Then add a few tablespoons of granulated sugar to the inside of the pan, and gently tap and turn it around until every square inch of the inside of the pan is coated in sugar.  (Be especially sure that the inner core of the bundt pan is coated in sugar so that the cake does not stick.)  Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together cake flour (*or see substitute below), baking powder, salt, baking soda, and 1 ½ cups sugar until combined.  In a different medium bowl or large measuring cup, whisk together melted butter, buttermilk, rum, oil, vanilla, and yolks until combined.  Set aside.

In clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat egg whites at medium-high speed until foamy, about 30-45 seconds.  With whisk still running, add in the remaining ¼ cup sugar.  Continue to beat until stiff peaks just form, about 60-90 more seconds.  Transfer the whipped egg whites to a separate bowl and set aside.

Add the flour mixture to now-empty mixing bowl.  Using the whisk attachment again, gradually pour in butter mixture and mix on medium-low speed until it is just combined, about 15 seconds.  (Don’t overmix!)  Stop the mixer and scrape whisk and sides of bowl.  Fold about 1/3 of the whipped egg whites into batter until just combined, then add the remaining whites and gently fold in until no streaks remain.

Pour the batter evenly into the sugared bundt pan.  Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.  (Don’t overbake!)  Transfer the cake to a cooling rack and let it cool for at least 15 minutes.  (While the cake cools – or even better, while it’s in the oven – make the butter-rum sauce.  Instructions below.)

Once the cake is slightly cool, use a toothpick or skewer to poke lots of holes all over the surface of the cake (while it is still in the pan.)  Pour about half of the butter-rum sauce over the surface of the cake.  Let it rest for 5-10 minutes until the sauce is absorbed.  Then carefully invert the cake onto a serving platter or pedestal, and drizzle the remaining sauce evenly on top of the cake.

Serve immediately, or cover until ready to serve.

How to make the Butter-Rum Sauce:

In a medium saucepan, whisk together sugar, butter and water until combined.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, and continue to boil for 5 minutes or until the sugar is completely dissolved.  Remove from heat and gradually stir in rum (carefully, as the rum will make the sauce boil up again).

*If you don’t have cake flour on hand, you can instead mix together 2 cups plus 3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour + 5 Tablespoons of cornstarch.  Then (very important!) sift those together before adding to the cake.

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Toasting a great day at Dayton Bike Week with friends, Kristine’s cat Elle, pub crawling with friends, celebrating a Ellen’s birthday.

As soon as the cake was cool I sent slices to neighbors Bob and Sandy.  A few days later Sandy returned my plate with slices of pound cake and fresh strawberries and thanked me exclaiming, “The rum cake was delicious!!”

I agree, the cake was delicious and I will make it again but I have to say that Geri’s is, in my opinion, the best rum cake I have ever tasted.

Well, I guess that says it all.

IMG_2209Enjoy,

Mary

Posted in buttermilk, cake, Dessert, restaurants, rum, rum cake | Tagged , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Afternoon tea and almond biscotti

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You can’t get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me. ~C.S. Lewis

I cannot think of a more pleasurable way to spend an afternoon than curling up on a comfortable chair with a cup of fragrant tea and a book.

A few years ago my friend Lorraine presented me with a Christmas gift of homemade biscotti. They were delicious! I learned that biscotti are small, crisp twice-baked cookies typically containing nuts, made originally in Italy. I loved these crunchy, delicious cookies and decided that I needed to learn how to make them and add them to my afternoon tea time.

The years rolled by and after purchasing many, many boxes of Nonni’s biscotti, I finally decided to find a biscotti recipe to try.  One afternoon I was looking through one of newest favorite cookbooks, The Slim Down South Cookbook by Carolyn O’Neil, MS, RD and came across a tasty sounding recipe for almond biscotti.

Great,” I thought.  I had all the ingredients so off to the kitchen I went.  The recipe seemed easy enough; at least I thought so.  By the end of the afternoon I realized that even cooks that have been in the kitchen their whole lives sometimes make mistakes.

IMG_3268bAlmond Biscotti

4 large eggs

1 cup sugar

2 Tbsp. vegetable oil

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 tsp. almond extract

3 ½ cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp. baking powder

1 cup chopped almonds

  1. Beat eggs and sugar at high speed with an electric mixer 5 minutes or until foamy. Add oil and extracts, beating until blended.
  2. Combine flour and baking powder; add to sugar mixture, beating well. Gently fold almonds into dough. Cover and freeze 30 minutes or until firm.
  3. Preheat oven to 325°. Divide dough in half; lightly flour hands and shape each portion into an 8×5-inch slightly flattened log on a lightly greased baking sheet.
  4. Bake at 325° for 30 minutes or until firm. Cool on pan 5 minutes; transfer to a wire rack, and cool at least 15 minutes.
  5. Cut each log diagonally into ½-inch thick slices with a serrated knife, using a gentle sawing motion; place slices on lightly greased baking sheets.
  6. Bake at 325° for 15 minutes; turn cookies over, and bake 15 more minutes. Remove to wire racks, and cool 20 minutes.

Serving size 1 biscotti—Calories 121; Fat 3.5g (sat 0.5g, mono 1.7g, poly 0.7g); Protein 3.1g; Carb 19.3g; Fiber 0.8g; Chol 27mg; Iron 1mg; Sodium 39mg; Calc 32mg.

I was in a hurry, which you should never be when trying a new recipe, and skipped an important step and did not follow one step accurately.

In step 2, it was necessary to ‘cover and freeze for 30 minutes”, I did not. Then I sliced the cookies thicker than the directions recommended.

When the biscotti were done, I felt that, rather than having a crunchy texture, they were a hard and doughy. I decided to go back into the kitchen and try again.

The second try was so much better. The biscotti were thinner, crunchier and a perfect complement to my cup of tea.

The next day I sat down to spend  a lovely afternoon with a cup of my favorite white fusion tea, a crunchy almond biscotti and the newest women’s murder club novel, 14th Deadly Sin, by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro.

As I sat enjoying my tea time interlude I thought, “Life is so very good and delicious”.

Enjoy,

Mary

Posted in biscotti, Cookbook, Food, Recipe | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

Fun day with friends at the annual Dayton Bike Week

75th Daytona Bike Week

75th annual Daytona Bike Week

What a fun day! I was so excited because after a two-year absence I would be accompanying Randy on a bike ride with friends Dennis and Connie to attend the 75th annual Bike Week at Daytona Beach.

The morning we left was just perfect for a motorcycle ride. The air was clear with a slight breeze that promised to keep us cool as we rolled along.  We were riding on Randy’s 1992 Yamaha Venture Royale touring bike while Dennis and Connie were riding his 2015 Harley Davidson Ultra Limited.

I love it when we take to the roads on the bike. While Randy is guiding the bike to our destination, I spend my time sitting back and taking in the sights along the roadways.

We left around 10am taking a route that was very familiar. After leaving the community, we traveled down CR 25 to Oklawaha turning on 314a making our way to SR 40. I love this route as we pass so many beautiful water oaks along the way.  These majestic trees with their limbs stretching out draped with Spanish moss have become a favorite of mine since moving to Florida.

Our next turn took us onto SR 40 which is a long, almost solitary ride, through the Ocala National Forest. We eventually emerged and made a turn onto I 95 south eventually taking the exit to the International Speedway.

At one point during the ride through the forest, I found myself fixated on the sky that was filled with small, beautiful white clouds. “The sky is so still,” I thought.  As I continued to look up I started to imagine an artist climbing high into the heavens and painting those lovely clouds onto the light blue morning sky.  The sky was beautiful; just beautiful.

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IMG_2099Our first stop would be a new venue for Randy and I; the International Speedway. In the past we have gone straight down to Main Street. Dennis and Connie had been to the speedway in the past and wanted to see what changes had been made since the renovation.

 

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The newly-renovated speedway was amazing! We were able to park our bikes within walking distance of the activities on the midway.  Vendors, places to eat, TVs turned to ESPN, demonstration rides; it was all here.

This was one of my favorite bikes.

This was one of my favorite bikes. Beautiful!

IMG_2115For the next two hours we walked through rows of vendors, past a line of bike manufacturers offering demonstration rides and an eating area under a canopy of solar panels. We stopped here and there to shop for tee shirts, pins and patches, registering with several insurance companies who were offering free tee shirts and admiring the many custom bikes along our walk.

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This was the last, fun bike I enjoyed before leaving the speedway.

 

Lunch time was drawing near so we mounted our bikes for the short ride to Main Street. It was fun to look at the license plates as we road along.  There were plates from as close as Georgia and far away as Maine.

Dennis and Connie

Dennis and Connie

As we rolled along towards Main Street I asked Randy, “What did you think of the venue at the International Speedway?”

“I thought it was big. So, big I don’t think we got to see the whole thing.  But, it was well organized,” he replied.

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IMG_2124IMG_2125Once we crossed the bridge we were able to locate a parking space quickly and headed to the Sunsetters Riverfront Bar & Grill.  The restaurant is located near the bridge and overlooks the Halifax River.  Randy and I have eaten here several times and the burgers are always good and the beer always cold.  We took our time enjoying the view and watching, and at times hearing, the bikes coming and going across the bridge.

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After lunch we took a walk down Main Street. Walking Main Street has always been a fun activity.  Everywhere you look there is something interesting to see.  Keeping a steady walking pace is impossible as you find yourself stopping constantly to look at the many beautiful and interesting bikes parked along the sidewalk and stopping periodically to watch the endless parade of bikes driving up and down the center of Main Street.

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Looking at bikes at the Speedway and Main Street

There are old bikes, new bikes, custom bikes and bikes made from everything but the kitchen sink on display. At any given time you would see a Harley Davidson, VMax, Indian, Victory, Gold Wing, Suzuki, and many other bikes slowly cruising up and down Main Street.  And, if you are a people watcher, what a fun day you will have.

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Randy loves Main Street because, to him, it represents what a classic bike week should be. “Main Street is mass hysteria,” he said as we walked along.  “Lots of bikes, lots of people, lots of music; just lots of everything”

Volkswagen custom bike

Volkswagen custom bike

Randy mentioned that the funniest thing he saw as we walked along was a man selling a tee shirt with a picture of presidential candidate Donald Trump dressed in leathers with the caption, “Vote for Trump”. I missed that one but it would have made me laugh too.

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The restaurants, taverns and shops along the street had a steady stream of customers coming and going. We stopped in a few shops finally finding just the right tee shirts and pins to mark our visit to this year’s bike event.

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After walking the length of Main Street down one side and up the other, we made our way back to our bikes for the ride home.

It had been a fun, fun day.  We enjoyed the company of our friends taking in all the sights and sounds of bike week at the Speedway and Main Street.  I will be looking forward to next year.

Enjoy,

Mary

Posted in Daytona Bike Week, Event, Motorcycles | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Yummy White Chili

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The first post I saw on Facebook this morning was an announcement saying, “Only 10 days left till spring”. I sat a few moments staring at the screen and thought, “Really? What happened to winter?”

I absolutely could not process the information. It seemed to me that one moment it was fall and then it was spring in my home state of Florida.  So, I reflected a few moments on our weather during December, January and February and realized we really did not experience a cold or long winter and what little cold weather we did have evaporated as soon as the sun rose high into the morning sky.

I have always loved the cold winds of the winter months because it brings on thoughts of filling my kitchen with the aromas of hot soups, hardy stews, chilis and other stick-to-the-ribs cold weather dishes.

So, before spring takes hold, and as a last hurrah to winter, I decided to dust off a white chili recipe I collected many years ago from co-worker, Tim Rosin and invite some friends over for dinner. I have served this dish as a meal and as a party dip.  Either way it is easy to prepare and loved by everyone.

White Chili-Tim Rosin

IngredientsIMG_2076b

1 to 2 lbs. skinned chicken breasts, cut into bit-sized pieces

1 T olive oil

48 oz. jar/can Great Northern Beans, undrained-(or 4-14oz. cans Hanover brandGreat Northern Beans)

32 oz. mild, thick and chunky Salsa

2 tsp. cumin

8 oz. Monterey Jack Cheese (or Swiss cheese)

Jalapeño pepper, grated

Corn chips

Directions:IMG_2086b

In 3 quart Dutch oven, brown chicken in oil

Add beans, salsa, cumin and jalapeno pepper. Heat well for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally so as not to stick.

Add cheese, stirring until cheese is melted.

Serve with corn chips.

I was serving a dinner for six so I used 5 boneless-skinless chicken breasts. Be sure to brown and cook the chicken through.  I used the Tostitos brand mild, chunky salsa.  While it did not say in the recipe, I took the seeds out of the jalapeño before grating.

Along with the chili, I served a fresh, green salad, corn muffins and a Boston cream pie  for dessert.

I knew the chili was a success when our friend, Bob, exclaimed as he lifted another spoon of the chili to his lip, “Oh, I like this”. Bob is a very good cook in his own right so I took this as high praise.

I will be preparing this dish again next week as my daughter Kristine and I start our annual NCAA March Madness weekend together.  We will be sitting on her couch and dipping crunchy corn chips into this delicious chili as we cheer on our favorite basketball teams hoping that one of our brackets will be the winner in this year’s pool.

Enjoy,

Mary

Posted in Boston Cream Pie, chicken, Chili, Food, Recipe | Tagged , , , | 9 Comments

Celebrating on the Serenade of the Seas-Epilogue

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A few days after we returned from our cruise I sent an email to my fellow cruisers and asked if they would share their thoughts about the trip. I am always keenly aware that when I write I am writing about my thoughts and feelings; I wanted to know theirs.

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I was interested in their overall thoughts about the cruise and specifically their thoughts about our group excursion sailing around St. Kitts and beach break on Nevis Island.

IMG_1653Connie and Dennis’ response:

“We had a great time from the time we boarded the Serenade until we got off on Day 11 with the best of Friends!”

About the catamaran sail Connie wrote, “OMG..too much fun…Loved every second, would do it again in a heartbeat!”

“A GREAT cruise with GREAT friends,” wrote Dennis.

“The catamaran trip was a highlight for me of the entire cruise”.

IMG_1651Sandy and Bob’s response:

“We recently returned from an 11-day cruise to the British Virgin Islands.  We cruised with our friends, Randy, Mary, Dennis and Connie.  The cruise was fantastic and we had a wonderful time, as we always do with our friends.

The weather was wonderful and we visited 3 islands that were new to us. This cruise was made even more special and enjoyable because of the addition of two other friends, Marty and Caryn, who decided to join us.  What a great ‘eight-some’ we made!!!!  We all blended together so well.  Awesome!!

Certainly the highlight of the cruise was the catamaran cruise around St. Kitts Island. Oh my.  What fun.  Weather was wonderful.  We even had a bbq on a beach where we saw no one else except the folks on the excursion and the man in charge of the food.  The food was terrific and the beer was plentiful and cold, certainly two pluses.  This excursion should have proven to Marty and Caryn that we all are certifiably crazy.  However, a stranger on the excursion did tell Mary that she was obviously the “sedate” one among us.  Only time will tell”.

IMG_1657Caryn and Marty’s response:

“Mary, the 10 day cruise was filled with happiness. To go with a big group from our Del Webb home was a big plus.  We enjoyed competing in games the Serenade of the Seas provided.  Marty enjoyed a few movies and what fun that all could enjoy the Super Bowl on board. Ship.

The best was the catamaran to Nevis Island. So glad we were able to enjoy this with you, Randy, Sandy, Bob, Connie and Dennis.  We were impressed with the lunch of chicken, hot dogs, coconut slaw and other sides the crew provided.  So fun playing in the ocean and meeting new people.  No better feeling than sailing on a catamaran with wonderful weather, good friends, the ocean spray keeping you cool and the crew keeping the punch flowing.  Happy Happy Happy!”

IMG_0088bRandy’s response:

“I wanted to go on the Cat Cruise the last time we were here in December, but the good ole Shingles were too painful to expect to get around on a boat comfortably. The boat was really nice, equipped with dual hulls and heads.  What I was surprised at was the speed this boat would attain.

They hoisted the sails and shut off the motors and WOW, we really took off. Other than the boat, we, the passengers, had a great time up front enjoying the wind and spray in our hair and the rest of our bodies and playing around and laughing.  Fun, fun, fun!!!  The meal on a mostly deserted beach was really wonderful.  The chicken was tender, beans tasty and everything else was just what you wanted after sailing from one island to another, especially the coconut slaw.  YUM.

On the trip back someone was trolling and caught a Barracuda. Oh, did I mention the all-you-can drink ice-cold beer, rum punch, soft drinks or water you wanted on the boat and the island.  A dip in the coolish waters near the boat was very refreshing after lunch and the walk on the beach before lunch was very romantic.  I was totally amazed with the whole excursion and would do it again sometime”.

IMG_1735How wonderful,” I thought.  After reading each response I realized that we were all of like mind about the cruise and our joint venture on the catamaran.

As for me, I loved every minute of this cruise. I enjoyed very much the time we spent with our friends on and off the ship; I enjoyed the ship and, I certainly enjoyed the delicious food served in both the main dining room and Chops Grille.

But like the others, the catamaran sail we took around St. Kitts Island to a secluded beach on Nevis Island was just wonderful. Everything about that day was perfect.  What made that day so special for me was seeing Randy relaxed and enjoying himself to the fullest.

2015 had been a trying year as we dealt with a family crisis that came out of the blue. Randy stepped up and was so wonderfully supportive both physically and emotionally.  We believe that the stress of this time in our lives caused a very painful case of the Shingles for Randy causing us to cancel this wonderful excursion while visiting St. Kitts in December.

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From the moment we stepped onto the catamaran, Randy began to smile widely and laugh heartily. He spent the entire time going over to Nevis and back on the webbed front of the boat enjoying the salty spray splashing onto his face and, frankly, everywhere else.  Seeing him enjoying life again seemed to melt the memories of the past year right out of his mind.  I loved that.

The cruise has come to an end and we are back home but there will be a next time. Until then…

IMG_1461bEnjoy,

Mary

Posted in cruising, travel | Tagged , , , | 13 Comments

Final day of fun and celebrations on the Serenade

Finale of "Farewell Variety Showtime"

Finale of “Farewell Variety Showtime”

It is 5:45am and where am I? I am up on deck 12 waiting for the sun to appear over the horizon to usher in the last day of our wonderful cruise.

6:15 am

6:15 am

The last day of any cruise is always a beehive activity. There is the hectic packing so luggage can be put outside the cabin door before you go to bed; the last minute shopping for bargain souvenirs; the one more look at pictures taken by the crew photographers that will wow all your family and friends back home and hopefully getting those last few rays of sunshine poolside before returning home.

6:45am

6:45am The sky is starting to lighten up and fill with orange and gold colors

Randy surprised me by coming up and keeping me company until the sun had risen over the horizon and then we made our way down to the lounge to get hot cups of delicious café latte.

By 6:48am the full sun pops up above the horizon and filling the sky with hues of bright orange and gold.

By 6:48am the full sun pops up above the horizon and filling the sky with hues of bright orange and gold.

By 6:51am the sun is in full view promising a beautiful final day of our cruise.

By 6:51am the sun is in full view promising a beautiful final day of our cruise.

The schedule for our day was filled with activity. First and foremost start packing, go the shops to purchase a few tee shirts, go to the photo shop and choose our pictures, attend a group meeting with our travel agent and then head to the centrum to see our friends Marty and Caryn doing the ‘Thriller’ dance.  And, that was just the morning schedule!

Dorit and Klaus

Dorit and Klaus

When we finally made it down to the shop it was madness! We moved on to the photo shop and that was madness too!  As we stood at the computer looking at our pictures we noticed that some of our group was sitting in the conference room and Randy suddenly remembered that we were to be in a meeting with our travel agents.  I looked at my watch and said, “I thought our time was 11:00am.  It is only 10:00am”.  Randy said, “No, this is the right time”.  So we found a seat and wait for Dorit to start the meeting.  Dorit looked down at us and said, “Aren’t you early?”  Well, as it turned out we were but being early worked in our favor as the crowds had thinned out and we able to purchased our photos and our souvenir tee shirts quickly.  Now, really can life get any better than that?

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We returned to the cabin and opened the balcony door and heard someone yelling, “Rainbow, come see the rainbow”. We stepped out onto the balcony and saw a beautiful, fading rainbow just a little to the right of the bow.  Faded or not it was still a wonderful sight.

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We headed back to the room so I could do a little more packing. Randy decided to fool around trying on his knit hat with dreads.  We laughed and I talked him into wearing the hat to the dining room.  Too funny!

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I wanted to run down to the customer service desk to get a printout of our bill so I could check it over and we ran into Marty and Caryn. I looked at them and realized that we missed them participating in the “Thriller” guest performance in the Centrum.  They had already removed the rags that were dangling off their clothing but still had their makeup on so I was able to get a photo.

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We also missed the International Crew Parade of Nations in the Centrum. We had witnessed this event on another ship and were sad we missed it.  Members of the crew parade into the Centrum holding a flag representing their country of origin.  Thank heavens Connie and Dennis captured the parade for us.  It brought back nice memories.

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By now it was early afternoon and I wanted to do a little more packing so we returned to the cabin. Randy went out onto the balcony and quickly fell asleep.  I took this opportunity to run up to the gym to get some time on the treadmill.  I just love the view.  Time passed as I gazed out the window and over the bow of the ship to beautiful sunny morning of blue skies and calm seas and before I knew it I had walked for 60 minutes. I will miss this view when I return home.

Before we knew it, it was time to prepare for the evening activities. There would only be one seating for the “Farewell Variety Showtime” so we made arrangements with our wonderful servers to come to dinner a little early.

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Randy did indeed wear his knit cap to dinner. As soon as Marty saw Randy he excused himself from the dinner table and came back with his on.  They were just too funny.  Eventually, we were able to talk Bob into wearing the cap for a photo op.  Very funny indeed!

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I must say we were very happy with our assistant server Francisco. He was totally professional and had the most marvelous sense of humor.  We all thanked him and promised we would extol his praises on the end-of-cruise survey.

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I was happy to see that another favorite of mine was on tonight’s menu. I decided to choose a shrimp cocktail for starters and the Tandoori Chicken Salad with julienne cucumber, fried pappadams, cilantro and yogurt dressing for my entrée.  This dish is always good.

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Dinner finished and we were off to the Tropical Theater for the evening’s entertainment. The show opened with the Royal Caribbean orchestra who played a variety of upbeat music.  Then our fun-loving cruise director put on a display of popular dance moves from the 80’s to now.  He was fantastic so much so he received a standing ovation from the audience.

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The feature act of the evening was the acrobatic-aerial team of Duo Bolshakov. Alexey and Anastasia performed a stunning show that included aerial skills, and the most amazing skill with a hoop that I have ever seen.  At the conclusion of their show they brought their 4-year old onto the stage and amazed everyone that even at his tender age had master some of the skills of his parents. I was amazed at the little boys poise on stage.

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The show’s finale included many members of the ship’s staff and crew taking to the stage to say, “Thank you and farewell” to the passengers.

We returned to our cabin to finish last minute packing and settling down for a good night’s sleep.

Tomorrow we say farewell to the Serenade and board a bus to return home.

IMG_1899Enjoy,

Mary

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