Thursday, September 29, 2011

Thursday Travels: Rhapsody of the Seas, Montego Bay

What the Western Caribbean lacks in scenery, it more than makes up for in fun! Jamaica is no exception. There are so many excursions and activities to choose from that it makes an excellent port to revisit. One of the most popular excursions is a trip to the Dunn's River Falls near Ocho Rios.

The falls are a national treasure in Jamaica, and climbing the cascading falls is an adventure not to be missed. I am so glad I had this opportunity before my back became such an issue, it would be impossibility for me now. It is not an easy trek up the falls, nor is it without some risk, but oh so much fun!

The climb begins on the beach, where the falls spill into the ocean. The climb is a total of 600 feet...all on very slippery rocks with ice cold water cascading down on you!

A human chain is formed in order to assist one another in the climb and guides are positioned along the way to help with the more difficult areas. Not for the faint of heart, many people turn and climb back down after the first 20 feet.

We had lots of picture ops and enjoyed the climb greatly. What was unexpected was how enjoyable the bus ride to and from Montego Bay was! This was a ship excursion and we filled an old school bus easily.

 Our guide on the bus ride was a woman who insisted we answer everything with "Yes, Mon" and "No worries, Mon." We sang Jamaican music, especially that of Harry Belafonte, and learned a great deal of the social, government and education structure of Jamaica. 

Along the way back we stopped at a roadside eatery for local food. This was NOT a place you would find in a Frommer's travel guide, but man it was good! Jerk Chicken fresh off the grill, Jamaican Meatloaf (more like a meat pie), and Rum Punch. Truly one of the best meals I have ever had!

They also had the bus pull over to buy some fruit from guys dangling the stuff from their hands along the road. No fruit stand...just guys waving fruit alongside the road! It was an odd fruit called guinep. You peeled back the thin green peel to expose a slightly gelatinous fruit. You basically suck this off until all that is left is the pit. They bought enough for everyone on the bus to try it...and those of us who actually enjoyed it were able to eat several.

Despite our local food foray, none of us suffered from any form of food poisoning or even indigestion. I will try the local foods anytime I get a chance on a cruise...after is an adventure!

Bon voyage ~Marla 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Family Ties

Family events of any kind tend to make me slightly melancholy. With funerals it is expected, but even weddings and reunions can effect me this way. They always leave me with a bittersweet feeling. I think this is mostly due to my placement in the extended family birth order. See, I am the youngest cousin on both my mother and father's side of the family. The age difference is as much as 23 years on my father's side and 21 years on my mothers. My closest first cousins are 4, 8 and 10 years older than I am. My own brothers are 13 and 15 years older.

Having several cousins old enough to be your parents makes you appreciate the times you do have together, but also speaks to the fact that you won't have as much time together. If I attain the ripe age of 85, it is unlikely many of my first cousins, or my brothers for that matter, will be there to celebrate with me.

This rather begs the question; How much do I really have in common with these people anyway? After all, some of us grew up in different generations! Amazingly enough, I find having a relationship with them very easy. That tie our parents and grandparents had is enough to put us on the same page. Shared stories and memories of our ancestors, this also helps us to bond in a way that is much deeper than my relationship with my first cousins child, who is only a few months older than me.

Family has always been extremely important to me, and this latest family event only serves to strengthen my resolve. Time is short and precious on this earth, and I don't want to waste any of it. I think I need to plan some short road trips and spend a little more time with these very important people!


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Tasty Tuesday: Local Cultures

Cerviche at Sabor
Living in Kansas lends itself to many misconceptions. One is that the landscape is pancake flat and consists only of wheat fields; Another is that we lack ethnic diversity.  Neither of these statements are true. For a city with a metro area of less than 700,000, Wichita is actually quite diverse. One place this can be seen is in some of our local eating establishments. I wonder how many Wichita natives have actually explored these places? They are not necessarily well known, but they offer a real taste of culture in our area. If you haven't already, give some of these local establishments a try.

Great Lebanese food can be found at N&J Middle Eastern Cuisine. The outside is nothing special...but the food is! Like many of the more authentic local places, if you want an upscale atmosphere, then head somewhere else. The food more than makes up for it! Enjoy the belly dancers too!

Delicious Vietnamese food can be found just north of downtown. Saigon is a personal favorite! Their Pho is wonderful!

My favorite for Korean is Ah-So. Though not all their food is Korean, they try their hand at some traditional Chinese dishes as well, Korean is what they do best.

Wichita offers a plethora of authentic Mexican...head north for the best! I am personally fond of Paleteria la Reyna. Great food and fabulous Mexican Ice Cream!!

Old Town is home to good Bavarian food at the Imbiss Grille and Latin fare at Sabor Latin Bar & Grille.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog; Authentic Tuscan cuisine is found at Luciano's in downtown Mulvane.

Though hamburger joints are on every corner, I just have to plug Jack's. If you have never been simply must try it. Just don't order anything in a large size!!

And finally...Midwest BBQ is alive and well at B&C Creations. You wouldn't even know this was an eating establishment unless someone told you! Their BBQ buffet, housed in an old garage of sorts at Washington & 3rd Street, is divine!

Get out there and try something new! ~Marla 

Monday, September 26, 2011

Happy Exhaustion

As of today we are officially off the wedding train. The tuxes and linens are returned and life is beginning to resemble a sort of normalcy. To all those who helped out during the last week...a HUGE thank you!! You helped make a beautiful, memorable day for my son and his bride. 

We enjoyed seeing family and friends, though I am beginning to understand cultures that make wedding celebrations a three day event...there is simply not enough time to visit with everyone at American weddings!

To all those who commented on how much you have enjoyed my blog, thank you so much. I gain so much from writing it, I am happy to hear others can find something worthwhile in my pouring out of my soul. I am very much looking forward to concentrating on it once again!

Thank you to those who inquired about my back...the Prednisone burst worked like magic and I have enjoyed the respite from pain very much! I wish I could stay on it forever, but I am very grateful my doctor was willing to assist me in really being able to enjoy this weekend. There is nothing better than dancing with your son at his wedding! 

Thank you for all your support. I have added a few pictures of the event to share with you. ~Marla

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Thursday Travels: Royal Caribbean Rhapsody of the Seas

The cruise bug is a funny thing. Once bitten it just kind of niggles at the back of your mind until finally it can simply no longer be ignored. Our first cruise was in December of 2004. By fall of 2006 I simply could not bear it any longer, and another cruise was planned. This one, however, was to be a totally different experience. 

Firstly we would be bringing an extra this point in time my DS and his girlfriend had been dating for over two years and I had a feeling that this one was for keeps (yeah, mom's just know these things). So we decided it was time to introduce her to the cruising experience. 

We also decided to try a new line; Royal Caribbean. As the sister line of Celebrity, at a more reasonable price, we felt it would be a good fit for us. Also we wanted to save a little money by sailing out of Galveston, Texas, a ten hour drive for us, versus paying for airfare. We chose an August 2007 sail date and a Western Caribbean itinerary...the only option when using Galveston as a embarkation port. We were in for a totally different experience...and an absolutely great time!

We decided to leave the day before and spend the night along the way. My DS celebrated his 20th birthday at a Buca di Beppo restaurant north of Houston. Even the trip to Galveston itself was fun! We were very lucky, cruising during hurricane season, to have beautiful weather throughout our trip.

 And watching a new cruiser is always a good time! The Rhapsody was smaller, older, and not nearly as classy as the Celebrity Millennium, and the cruise experience on it was an absolute blast! There were overhead announcements, towel animals, lots of activity, and a very laid back atmosphere...I was home.

I learned a lot on my first cruise and used that knowledge to do things a little differently this time around. That is one thing I have noticed, I grow a little wiser with each cruise I take! For this cruise we booked adjoining cabins, which made touching base with one another so much easier. We also hung out with different family members depending on what our interests were.

 The great thing about cruise ships is the wide variety of things to do, all in a fairly contained space. We could all get away from one another as needed, but still have plenty of good times together as well.

Another change was our dinner seating. On our first cruise we had been at a table for four in the middle of the main dining room. This time we were placed at a table for ten at a window, with another family of five. It was wonderful to get to know another family, whose children and a boyfriend mirrored our own! 

It was their first cruise and we actually talked one of them into trying the escargot...which after sampling, two more of them ordered! After all, if you can't try new things and be adventurous on a cruise, then when can you?!

Next time; Montego Bay, Jamaica!

Bon voyage! ~Marla

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Open Door

I grew up in a close family, and this closeness included our extended family as well. I saw my cousins fairly often, even though some were more than 20 years older than me. Usually these get-togethers were planned affairs, but occasionally someone would be passing through the Wichita area and just drop by. My parents were always pleased to see family, even when it was unexpected. I don't ever remember my mom being concerned about how the house looked, or complaining about not having time to clean up. They were just happy to spend time with loved ones.

This open door policy extended to their children as well. Even as a married adult I would show up unannounced and let myself into their home. My father had friends who would show up unannounced as well. Even though my dad has been gone 15 years now, I can still remember the look of pleasure on his face when someone would come to visit. It didn't matter if he was in the middle of dinner, he would drop whatever he was doing and greet his guests with vigor, happy to focus on them. At our own home our adult children and their spouse/spouse-to-be show up at our place unannounced all the time. They all have keys and are welcome here. It doesn't matter what is going on, or what condition the house is in, we are always happy to see them and spend time with them.

This caused me to stop and wonder about people who don't like unannounced guests. Why are some people happy when someone drops by and others mortified or upset. Honestly, I don't think it is the interruption in their schedule that is the issue. I think it is a matter of wanting everything to look perfect when a guest enters their home. Now, before anyone takes offense, let me say I don't think that is a bad thing, it is just a difference in people. This did get me thinking though. God has an open door policy. We can enter in at any time. He always welcomes us with open arms and is pleased to see us. But what about us? Why do some people hesitate to welcome Him in to their homes, their hearts. They know they need Him. All they have to do is accept His grace and let Him in, but still they wait. Maybe they feel their house is not perfect or clean enough. He is welcome, but only later, after they have cleaned up the mess of their lives. The problem is...they can't clean up the mess without help, His help. The truth is He doesn't care what your house looks like, or how filthy and run down it is. He comes with His sleeves rolled up, ready to help you clean up the mess. He will make you acceptable. All you have to do is open the door.

For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. ~Luke11:10 NIV

Blessings ~Marla

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Where Were You?

With the 10th anniversary of 9/11 approaching I wanted to share my story of that day. Not one US citizen with normal mental capacity over the age of 20 can forget where they were or what they were doing that day. For me it started as just another day at work.

On 9/11/01 I had just finished welcoming a new life into our world. As a Labor & Delivery RN, most of my days were filled with happiness. Not all, but most. I had just finished my newborn assessment & had exited the delivery room when I saw nurses gathered around a TV in an empty room. The first plane had just hit and nobody was really sure what was going on yet. As we stood & watched a second plane hit the other tower, and we knew this was not an accident.

As we tried to process this, I was given a new assignment. A patient with a fetal demise was coming in to have her labor induced. As much as I wanted to continue watching, I had a new patient to admit, and one who was grieving for her own loss. Neither the patient nor her support person knew of the tragedy occurring in the outside world. They had enough grief of their own to deal with that day. Though I spoke with them a little about what was happening, they left the TV off and showed little interest. 

It was a long shift that day, dealing with a patient's grief while hiding my own. I was glad when the day was through & I could head home; I cried the entire way. A few months later I received a beautiful letter from the woman I cared for on that tragic day. She thanked me for the care I had given her & for making her feel as if nothing else was as important as her. In retrospect she realized how upset I must have been, yet I never took my focus off her care.

I treasure that letter. It is a reminder that no matter how big the problem is, it is the individual person that matters. That even when we are just doing our job we can make a profound impact on another life.


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Addicted to Amazon

Many years ago, when I was caring for my mother, I thought how nice a shopping service would be. I basically was her shopping service. She could no longer drive, so I took her to the grocery store at least once a week. If she needed things during the week, I would pick those up for her. Other family members offered to take her, but rarely did those offers come to fruition. Instead it was a weekly trek to the store. Mom was slow and liked to browse, it made for a long trip, but really I enjoyed it. I did not enjoy unloading it and putting it away. Now I find myself in a similar predicament. I mostly go with my husband and he patiently waits as I slowly make my way around the store. He unloads at home without my help and helps me put things away. If I need something during the week, he is the one to go get it. But, on the plus side, I have found the perfect shopping

They sell groceries! Along with lots of other goodies of course. I have started ordering from them on a fairly regular basis. Today my order was Clamato Juice and K Cups. I love Clamato Juice and it difficult to find at grocery standby...and it is cheaper to buy it in bulk on Amazon. In fact, based on the prices for bulk items on Amazon, I would say they are giving Sams Club & Costco a run for their money. The huge plus for me is I can order from my recliner and have it delivered free to my home. Forget Sams Club...this rocks!! Anyone else a Amazon convert?


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Tasty Tuesday: Luciano's

I admit I have been slacking off a bit. With the wedding less than three weeks away and a few home improvement projects demanding my attention, I have been a little behind in my posts. I hope to do better, but to that end I am going to take the liberty of using a few short cuts to keep my number of posts up but my time spent on them down. By October I hope to have a little more free time again!

Today I wanted to highlight a local restaurant; Luciano's Restaurant in Mulvane, Kansas. Luciano's is a delightful, delicious Italian restaurant in an unlikely setting. If you want to experience authentic Tuscan food, this is the place to go. In all honesty it is the best Italian food I have ever eaten. Disclaimer...I have never been to Italy...I'm sure it is just as good there! 
The story of how this small Kansas town became the home of such a wonderful eatery is really quite romantic. The following excerpt is from Luciano's website.

Luciano Mottola was born in Italy and grew up in Viareggio with his 6 brothers and sisters.  After meeting the love of his life, he made the decision to follow her back to the USA in 2003.

While traveling to places in Colorado, Montana, Kansas & California, Luciano selected
Mulvane as his place to begin again.
The wheat fields and sunflowers reminded him of his home in Tuscany - a place where value is based on quality instead of quantity and simple beauty and elegance are a part of everyday life.

Luciano's features wonderful fresh Italian fare at a reasonable price. The setting is intimate and very pleasant. If you live in the Wichita area it is well worth the drive to try this little gem.

Bon app├ętit ~Marla