Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Though the day dawned sort of overcast, it's supposed to be another hot day here in North Texas.  103 today, 102 tomorrow, then a magical cool-front is supposed to sweep into the area and cool us down to the mid-nineties.  Ok, that's not cool, but I'll take it. 

When I've attended that one class of photography school, the teacher/owner was a transplant from Virginia.  She commented on our beautiful skies here (note to self, when searching about something beautiful in this mostly flat, mostly tree-less area, use skies!)  This got me to thinking of some sky shots I've taken over time.  Most are from our lake lot and others (like the one taken on the cruise) are not.   Some were actually taken with my IPhone camera, some with my Canon Elph, and others with my new Nikon D3100.

Anyway, in no particular order, here they are.

These were a particularly spectacular sunset out at the lake.

Now these below were taken with my cell phone camera (thus the lack of true clarity), but the clouds and the colors are still amazing.

Now these (taken with my digital Elph, I think) were a lovely spring sky at the lake.

And this is dusk at the lake, one of my favorite shots because of the deep blue colors.

Storm clouds gathering in the East, again at the lake.

And another shot near dusk.

And this - another sunset/dusk picture.  Look at those colors!

Aren't they amazing!  You could almost taste them!

Peaceful and tranquil, a crane stands in the water  near sunset

More sunset skies.

Can you spot a theme here?  Lake=sunset=sky?  Cuz I'm asleep at sunrise, that's why!

And I'll end with these.  I know I posted them before, but this is sunset somewhere out in the Gulf of Mexico, on our way back to Galveston from Cozumel.  Gorgeous, truly gorgeous.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Monday, August 29, 2011

Now that I've finished posting about my vacation, it's back to real life.  Two weeks ago today, we lost our little Daisy Mae.  She is sorely missed still. 

I started a photography class last week.  I bought it on Groupon and it's four weeks long, one hour per week.  We're learning about aperture and shutter speed and depth of field.  All stuff that I've longed to understand.  We even had an assignment, which I've completed exactly half off.  I go back for my second class later this week, so I've got to finish by then.

In writing news, I'm working on the next Harlequin Romantic Suspense.  Since it's not actually contracted yet and I don't have an actual deadline, I'm simply trying to do a certain number of words a day. 

One of my other goals since quitting the day job was to learn Adobe Photoshop, which I got for Christmas.  I practiced with it all weekend and actually made a new book cover for Lone Star Magic.  I bought the image (it's Jimmy Thomas) for $10 and then added text.  I really like it.  See what you think.

I changed it out at Barnes and Noble and Amazon, though Amazon takes longer for some reason.  I'm hoping this will increase sales on this book, which has historically been my slowest earner.

Next up in the self-improvement thread, I'm going to learn to use Dragon Speaking Naturally, another program that's been sitting in a drawer.  I just got my rights back to five more books, those very early Kensington Precious Gems.  They're so old that I no longer have the file on diskette or computer, and my choice is to pay for a scan or try to type them in myself.  Since I'm guessing they might need some editing as my writing skills have grown in the 13 years since the first one came out, I'd like to put them into the computer myself and edit them before putting them on sale.  At least I can now make my own covers, for a fraction of the cost!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Friday, August 26, 2011


On Friday, August 12th we arrive at Cozumel, Mexico. 

Cozumel is a very popular cruise ship destination.  We parked next to another Carnival Ship, the Valor, and a Royal Caribbean Ship.  At another dock nearby was a Norwegian Cruise Line ship.

It was hot here, in the mid-nineties, and sunny.  Our excursion this day was to crew an America's Cup Yacht racing boat.  We met our guide and were separated into two teams.  Half of us went on the American Sailboat, the other half on the Canadian.  Each person was given a job - I was bartender, which suited me perfectly.  Lonnie was timekeeper. 

We raced the Canadian ship doing exactly what they do in the America's Cup race.  We lost :(
But still, what fun. 

Our crew

On this trip, I of course put on SPF 50 and wore a cap, but completely forgot my ears.  Since my hair was in a ponytail, the tips of my ears got BURNT.  They were bright red. 

After the excursion, we wandered around the little shopping area at the port.  Having shopped a lot elsewhere, we were basically shopped out.  Since Margaritaville wasn't in the port, but somewhere in town, we elected to go to a place called... arrrgh, the name escapes me.  But we had our requisite margaritas.

But the margaritas were good, if expensive.  Then we headed back to the ship, where this cute towel animal awaited us.

The cruise ship actually gave classes in how to make these towel creatures, but since I saw no use for such a skill, I didn't attend.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Wednesday, August 24

The next morning, we woke up in The Cayman Islands.  This was a tendered location - in other words, the ships had to stop out in the water and a boat ferried passengers into the port.  We learned that the officials of Grand Cayman do this so they can collect taxes from the cruise ships.  Here I am on the port, showing you how far out our ship (and the Royal Caribbean ship on the right) had to park.

Unfortunately, we left in a rush and I managed to forget my camera.  So I had to use my cell phone camera for this port.  We also forgot hats and had to buy two caps (the sun was pretty hot).

 I had booked a tour excursion through a place called Portpromotions.com for this stop because American Express had offered a deal if you paid for the cruise with their card, you got a free shore excursion.  This turned out to be a good thing.  While the rest of our fellow passengers were climbing on buses to tour the island, we got a private tour guide in his taxi.

The first place we went was the turtle farm.  The Cayman's used to be called the Tortugas because of the giant turtles here.  The locals used to hunt the turtles and they were (and still are) their primary source of meat, though it is now illegal for them to hunt them.  All the food turtles are raised on the turtle farm, where they butcher 1500 pounds of meat a day.  The locals buy their turtle meat at the grocery store.  The turtles are fed pellets made by Purina (why am I not surprised).  I took several pictures of the giant turtles (they are very friendly) with my cell phone camera.

 The turtles really were quite fascinating.  We even visited the hatchery, where we saw a teeny baby turtle that had just made its way to the surface.  Turtles bury their eggs 3 to 4 feet down and the newly hatched turtles have to make their way through all that sand to get to the surface.  This helps their circulatory system.

After the turtle farm, our guide took us to the Rum Cake factory.  The Tortuga Rum Cake is known throughout the world.  They offered free samples, which we tasted and then of course, had to purchase a cake.  We got pineapple and have been rationing out tiny slivers each night after dinner.  (Both to make it last and because we're trying to lose the cruise weight).

After the rum cake place, we visited Hell.  That's right, they have a place called hell.  There are lava rock fields there. 

And of course their are gift shops.  My husband bought a t-shirt that said "I've been to Hell and back."  Another popular item is a postcard.  You can send you friends a postcard that is postmarked in Hell.

After this our guide offered to take us to the beach.  We declined and opted instead for a mini-tour of the island.  We saw the Governor's Mansion.  The Cayman's are British Owned and the Governor is appointed and, according to our guide, makes $70,000 A MONTH!  (I want that job!)

Then it was back to our ship.  Our next stop would be Cozumel, Mexico.

And of coursein our room, another cool towel animal awaited us.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Monday, August 22, 2011


On Wednesday, August 10th, we docked in Jamaica.  The weather was sunny and warm and the water an impossible shade of turquoise blue.

There was a small reggae band playing and Lonnie joined them for a picture (and a tip).

After some shopping (I needed a swimsuit cover up), we went down the pier to go on our excursion - a huge catamaran that would take us out in Montego Bay for snorkeling and rum punch.

They hoisted the sail and we sailed away.  Ahh. 

Lonnie swam in the Caribbean.

We saw parasailes. 

And we went to Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville, where we had margaritas and I bought a T-shirt.

Once we were back on board, we set sail again.  The crew danced to the Black-Eyed Peas and Beyonce.

They offered us more rum punch or 'Wata', the local bottled water.

And we slowly made our way back to our waiting cruise ship.

Clouds had rolled in, but it didn't rain.  Instead, we had some lovely respite from the sun.

Finally, back in our cabin, the room steward had this amazing towel animal waiting for us.

As we left Jamaica and headed toward the Cayman Islands, I knew that Jamaica was one place where I definitely want to  return.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Now for the cruise.    We drove down to Galveston and to my husband's sisters house.  She very kindly let us park our car at her house and she delivered us to the pier.

Here are our first glimpses of our ship, the Carnival Conquest, docked at the Galvestion Pier.

And once on board, here is the main pool area with the 72 foot TV screen.

This main pool area had two hot tubs and was for everyone to use (in other words, kids were allowed in this pool and in these hot tubs.
This area was the adult only pool area.  There were also two hot tubs here.  There were plenty of shaded areas, so I was able to spend a lot of time lounging by the pool and reading.  I actually read 4 complete books while on this cruise, which I really enjoyed.
Lastly, below is a picture of our cabin.  We were at the very front of the ship and had a window. 

The first two days of this cruise were at sea, so we got plenty of time to explore the ship.  For breakfast, there were two options - a breakfast buffet, or a sit down breakfast in the aft dining room, called the Monet Dining room.  We did the buffet once, but the rest of the time we did the sit down dining.  It was much more enjoyable.

For lunch, there was a buffet, a pizza place, a hamburger/hot dog grill, and an Asian place similer to a Mongolian Grill.  Lemonaide, Iced Tea, Water, and Coffee were free.  You had to pay for soda or alcohol.

At dinner, you had the choice of the buffet (naturally) or an assigned seat, assigned dining time.  We were assigned the Renoir Dining Room, 8:15 pm.  This was late for us, but we managed to go four out of seven nights. 

During these two sea days we went to the shows, played bingo once, and mostly just lounged around the pool and read.  Oh, and ate.  Did we ever eat.  I gained six pounds this trip, though I've lost two of those already.

Next up, Jamaica.  I'll post more about that on my next blog.