Monday, February 25, 2008

Cruise Recap: Short Version

Well, we made it back from our second Celebrity cruise aboard the Millennium. It's going to take me awhile to give a complete recap/review, but here's a quick overview:

* Celebrity misdirected our luggage. All we had for the first two days was one garment bag with Rich's tux in it, two of my informal night outfits (sans shoes) and the clothes on our backs. We were not alone: all 24 people who were on our Celebrity transfer bus did not have their luggage for the first three days of the cruise.

* Four out of our 5 missing pieces arrived in San Juan on Day 3. The largest piece--with all of the clothes for my two youngest children--did not meet up with the ship until Day 4, in Tortola.

* The ship itself was every bit as grand and beautiful as I remembered. The service in the dining room was top notch, and the food was excellent.

* The ship's photographers were very aggressive and annoying, one in particular.

* They no longer have Cova chocolate for sale! The horror!!

* The stop in Labadee, Haiti was wonderful, and we wished we could have been there two days.

* Swimming with the dolphins in Tortola was a highlight for the entire family.

* As one of the comedy acts onboard said, "Casa de Campo should be re-named Casa de NADA because there is NOTHING THERE."

* All of the shows and entertainment were terrific. Great band, too.

Okay, that's the best I can do with only a few hours' sleep. I will go into a day-by-day recap as time permits. Overall, it was a nice vacation, but fraught with stress over the luggage situation and not the relaxing escape I had hoped it would be. We still don't know how Celebrity is going to make it up to us (so far, all they've offered is a $100 credit per stateroom). Uh, I don't think so.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Celebrity Millennium Revisited

The Millennium
photograph by RichYak

Tomorrow, we leave for a 7-day Celebrity cruise aboard the beautiful Millennium. I'll be posting a day-by-day review when I return.

This will be our second trip on the Millennium. In August of 2006, we sailed the Mediterranean with her. It was a fantastic trip, but with so many great sites to see at each port (Barcelona, Monaco/Nice, Florence, Rome, Naples, Santorini, Athens, and Venice) we barely had an opportunity to enjoy the ship itself.

This time, we're sailing the Caribbean, with two At Sea days and a far more relaxing itinerary. We depart from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida and head to San Juan, Puerto Rico, where we're looking forward to visiting the Old Town. From there, we'll stop at Tortola in the British Virgin Islands and swim with the dolphins. Then, it's off to Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic, the private island of Labadee in Haiti, and back to Ft. Lauderdale.

I promise to take lots of pictures and take excellent notes on everything, as usual. The kids are already looking forward to all of the free ice cream, and I'm dreaming about that sushi bar on the aft deck. See you in a week!

Friday, February 15, 2008

A Step in the Right Direction

Given the information I recently received about the awful stuff that goes into most commercial pet foods, I decided to switch my cats over to a cruelty-free, all-natural premium brand. Yes, it will cost more, but I feel that it's worth the sacrifice.

My local pet supply store had a wide variety to choose from, and gave me a bunch of free samples to try. I'm not going to make the switch completely until I get back from my vacation next week, but I have let the cats sample the new food, and they LOVED it.

The one that I think will suit their needs best is Wellness brand's Indoor Health Formula. It has no animal by-products, no soy, no corn, and no artificial ingredients. So far, even finicky Mittens gave it a good rating.

I tell you one thing: it certainly looks and smells a lot better than the old stuff. Pricewise, it's pretty steep: Whiskas dry food cost me about $1.21 a pound, while this Wellness variety comes closer to $3 a pound. However, the company does have some mail-in rebate offers that I will take advantage of, and I have the comfort of knowing that this food is a lot more nutritious then the old stuff. It doesn't have any cheap fillers like corn, so of course, it's going to cost more. If it helps my cats stay healthy and strong, it's worth every penny.

The certified pet sitter who first told me about this important issue recommends both the Wellness brand and Innova. You can find more info on them here: Wellness Brand:, Innova:

Cruelty-free Pet Food Companies

As requested by a friend, here's the list of pet food companies that confirmed to PETA that they do not test their products on animals:

Active Life Pet Products

Amoré Pet Services, Inc.

Animal Food Services

Artemis Pet Food

Azmira Holistic Animal Care

Boston Baked Bonz, Inc. (entirely vegan)

Bravo Raw Diet

Burns Pet Health, Inc.

Canusa International

CountryPet Pet Food

Dr. Harvey’s

Dry Fork Milling Co.

Dynamite Marketing, Inc.

Evanger’s Dog and Cat Food Co., Inc.

Evolution Diet, Inc. (entirely vegan)

Good Dog Foods, Inc.


Halo, Purely for Pets

Happy Dog Food

Harbingers of a New Age (entirely vegan)

Holistic Blend

The Honest Kitchen

Know Better Dog Food

KosherPets, Inc.

Kumpi Pet Foods

Natural Balance Pet Foods, Inc. (has vegan options)

Natural Life Pet Products, Inc. (has vegan options)

Nature’s Variety

Newman’s Own Organics

Onesta Organics, Inc. (entirely vegan)

PetGuard (has vegan options)

Pied Piper Pet & Wildlife

PoshNosh Inc.
1-866-893-4006 (Outside Ottawa-Outaouais)

Raw Advantage, Inc.

Sauder Feeds, Inc.

Stella & Chewy’s LLC

Timberwolf Organics, Inc.

V-dogfood LLC (entirely vegan)

Veterinary Nutritional Formula

Wow-Bow Distributors Ltd. (has vegan options)

Wysong Professional Diets (has vegan options)

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Truth About Pet Food


I had an enlightening conversation today with a certified pet sitter who will be looking after my pets while I'm on vacation. She told me about the book Food Pets Die For by Ann N. Martin.

The book exposes the horrific ingredients that are used in producing commercial pet foods. Diseased cattle, rancid oil, moldy cornmeal, roadkill animals, and even euthanized dogs and cats are being turned into pet food.

This turns my stomach. The more research I do, the more upset I become.

The good news is, there ARE pet food companies out there who manufacture high-quality, cruelty-free foods that are safe and nutritious for pets. You can find more information here at PETA's website, where they have a list of companies that do not test their products on animals. Although the term "human-grade quality" can vary from one manufacturer to the next, the PETA list is a good starting point.

Eye-opening, to say the least. My cats will definitely be making the switch.

Tiger in her tiara

Mittens, lounging around

Nothing but the best for my babies!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Project Runway at Bryant Park, NYC


Click on the link above to see video of the collections presented last Friday at New York Fashion Week, courtesy of Newsday.

Five of the designers showed their collections, although only 3 were finalists competing for the top prize.

Based on the video, I'd say that it's down to Jillian and Christian. I think Christian has a definite high-fashion point of view, but that Jillian's clothes were more wearable and fashion-forward. So, edge to Jillian for the win!

side note for reality tv junkies: the first model in Chris March's show is none other than bitchy Bianca from last season's America's Next Top Model.

Heaven...wrapped in foil

ah, it's that most glorious time of year again...Cadbury Caramel Eggs are now available, at a store near you!

Forget about those rancid "creme eggs"...those are gross. For me, Easter season is all about the Caramel Eggs.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Ash Wednesday

Wow, if the size of the ashes you get is any reflection of what kind of sinner you are, I've been a BAD girl this year!


Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Calamine Lotion: my new wonder drug

Some of you may recall an earlier post of mine, where I sang the praises of Calamine Lotion, and how it saved me from the dreaded "Jalapeno Hands" last year. Well, once again, the little pink miracle drug has come to my rescue.

I'm just getting over a bad cold, and in addition to a red nose that would make Rudolph cringe, I also developed a nasty fever blister on my lip. Great...don't I look attractive?

This kind of blister usually takes a solid week to go away. My lip blows up like a balloon and I look positively awful. Abreva helps a little, but not much.

Last night, before I went to bed, I put a tiny dab of Calamine Lotion on the blister as an experiment, just to see if it would help dry it out and make it heal faster. This morning, the blister was HALF the size. It's now almost 24 hours later, and (after a few additional dabs of Calamine throughout the day) the fever blister is almost completely GONE.

To quote the illustrious Doctor Bones McCoy: "I'm beginning to think I can cure a rainy day!"

Monday, February 4, 2008

Curious Lives by Richard Bach

I finally got around to picking up that copy of Richard Bach's Curious Lives: Adventures from the Ferret Chronicles that I'd purchased a while back and never read.

I'm only 37 pages in, and already, I'm hooked.

Richard Bach is the author of one of my all-time favorite books, Illusions: Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah. He's probably best known for Jonathan Livingston Seagull, but I've read many of his works, including One, The Bridge Across Forever, and The Messiah's Handbook. I love his writing, his fearlessness to explore the way we look at the world, the way he blurs the lines between the possible and the impossible, and his courage to put all of these audacious visions down on paper.

Curious Lives is a story of a world where the inhabitants--poised on the brink of extinction at their own hands--rise from the ashes to create a world where there is no crime, or war, or hatred. I've come upon one scene that seems particularly apropos, given the state of our world right now.

An excerpt:

As the remains of ferret civilization watched, the philosopher faced a world's cameras and the surviving members of his nation's council.

"You will forgive me if I am not so eloquent or entertaining this evening," he said. "I have little to say, but perhaps I speak for more of us still alive."

He studied the remaining leaders, looked into the cameras beyond them to survivors on every corner of the globe.

"From this day forth," he said, and then he paused for a long while, "I withdraw my consent from evil."

The words echoed from speakers in halls and homes and public spaces.

I withdraw my consent from evil. Any other time, the idea would have been a puzzle, a trick of words. Today, however, Avedoi Merek became the voice of a civilization's conscience, stark and straight, and today a race of animals listened.

"I withdraw my consent," he said, "from war." Soft-spoken, an impossibility all of a sudden required.

"I withdraw my consent from violence," said Merek. "From hatred. From malice."

He looked into the heart of every one of his race left alive.

"I withdraw my consent from these. In my actions. In my thoughts. In my choices. I withdraw my consent from evil. Forever."


An entire society with the freedom and the power to destroy itself listened, numbed at how close it had come to doing so.

These are scary times we live in. To date, we've lost 3,943 U.S. soldiers in the War on Iraq, with no end in sight. On the eve of "Super Tuesday," I sit here, unable to decide who I want to support with my vote tomorrow. I don't honestly think that any of the current candidates has what it takes to set things right for our country.

Perhaps that's because I'm looking for the solution outside of myself, instead of looking inward. Perhaps it's time I gave a bit more thought to what I could be doing to effect the change I want to see in the world.

That's how Richard Bach's books are: they make you see the world just a little bit differently than you did before.

I'm off to read some more. Ferrets...gah. And yet...I am drawn in. You can click the link below to learn more about the book, if you care to join me.

Hampton Roads Publishing: Curious Lives by Richard Bach

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Go Giants!

Congratulations to the Champions of Superbowl XLII, the New York Giants!

The last couple of minutes of that game were incredible. While I do feel sorry for the Pats, who had an otherwise perfect season, I'm glad our boys brought home the trophy.

Props to David Tyree for an amazing catch, and to Eli Manning for evading that sack on the next play and making the touchdown happen.

Tonight, we celebrate!

Friday, February 1, 2008

Democratic Debate: Quick Take

I watched the debate last night between Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton, and I have to confess, it nearly put me to sleep. I was very glad to see both of them learning from the Republicans' mistakes and keeping things civil, but I never quite got a handle on exactly WHY I should vote for one of them over the other. I know they didn't want to spar and look antagonistic, but it was all a bit too bland to make much of an impact.

If I had to give the "win" to someone last night, I'd say Hilary did the best. She was engaging, funny, and more than held her own when it came to answering the critical questions that came her way. Wolf Blitzer did a far superior job of moderating than Anderson Cooper did, and keeping things orderly. I know, it was easier for him having only two candidates up there, but I still think AC bungled the Republican debates with his weak moderating.