Sunday, December 13, 2009

11 year old Used Car Saleman

So me & Liz went over to the Troop 80 Xmas tree lot to get a beautiful fragrant tree for the castle. As we strolled trough the rows of smaller trees, we were met by Zach, our personal boy scout salesman. He showed complete confidence as he extolled the beauty and quality of the scout trees, taking the time to spit to the side like any good 'ol boy, and pressing home how we'd be helping our local boy scouts. When we told him we were looking for a 'big' tree his eyes lit up and he led us to the barn that housed them. AS we followed along behind him, we both thought he had a very promising future in used car sales - or mabe amway.

We quickly found, with Zach's help of course, a beautiful nine foot noble fir. Zack also direct us around the corner to select a tree stand and get the tree netted all the while he chatted, spit, chatted, spit. He stuck with us all the way through the check out line, offering hot chocolote, pictures with our troop salesman, and every possible upgrade he had in his arsenal. Turns out he is completing with the other scouts to win an all expense paid trip to Wilderness camp which sounds like a huge big deal to him. I have no doubt he will emerge at the top of the list this year with his fabulous sales skills.

We're really looking forward to the party on thursday which has also turned into a booksigning for Warren Mcclenegan and his new humor book, Reel Livin'. Here's the cover:
We're hoping for a good turn out to congratulate him on a great accomplishment. We will also be displaying the covers of the many of the books we have coming out over the next few months so it should be an exciting time.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Greeting Card Rules

So I was just wondering how long you keep a greeting card. I cleaned my office and unpacked the rest of the boxes from the move (a year ago!) and ran across several old cards people had sent. I was just wondering if there were any rules on when to throw out greeting cards. When you think about it, once you've read the sentiment you have no more use for the card, but I've always felt it rude to immediately toss it. My hubby, on the other hand, will usually read the card, smile or nod and immediately toss it. This has always bothered me. I somehow feel obligated to retain the card at least until the occasion has long passed before getting rid of it as if somehow tossing it six months later will be less offensive to the sender - who has no idea what I do with the card and probably doesn't care if or when it gets tossed!

This brings up a real problem for me with the whole idea of greeting cards - and not just because I regularly miss the occasions that they are for. The only reason I buy the darn things is out of obligation to the one getting to the card so they won't feel 'forgotten' - or as a convenient place to put money for their gift. But since the only people I buy cards for know how I feel ( and would just as gladly take any cash handed directly to them), why would they feel forgotten if Hallmark doesn't give them a sappy sentiment? Since when did paper scribbles (which I could write much better BTW) come to symbolize relationships? People feel obligated to buy them, then people feel obligated to keep them and then they end up in a

No I'm not just ranting today, but its getting to the time of year to look at buying Xmas cards. I don't do personal Xmas cards. I tried it a time or two years ago but decided it was a ridiculous waste of time and energy and I really kind of suck at that sentimental thing.

But I remember years ago when I was in Jr High, helping my mom do Christmas cards and found that I knew almost no one on their list. How can you grow up with two people and know hardly anyone they know? Don't you wonder sometimes how people got on the list in the first place? Of course I quickly learned not to ask as I would get some thing like "Oh you remember! When you were three they lived next door to us in Plainview and had those two cute little girls you and Cindy played with until that incident at the birthday party. But her hair grew back. And then there was that day your grandpa showed up drunk and passed out on the lawn and their brother helped drag him home and clean up the puke...." ..........ho ho ho .......

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Throwing in the towel...

No I'm not throwing in the towel, I'm just dumbfounded at how many other people do so at the drop of a hat. I'm working on numerous books for clients that are focused toward small businesses so the subject of running a small business has been uppermost in my mind. Not that I'm ever far from the subject because, hey, I run a small business. But every once in a while I see something that stops me dead in my tracks and makes me wonder, "What were they thinking???" Happened to me today in fact. I was taking a break from writing this afternoon and going through the mail. Included was the monthly issue of Shopper's Window which is a local pulp showcasing ads from local businesses. So I'm flipping through this little publication, making fun of Liz cause she was on a call and actually working when this ad catches my eye:

Now I ask you, What were they thinking? Why would I even want to go to a place that was obviously just about to give up and call it quits? And they paid for this ad! I can think of a dozen ways to market yourself and NONE of them involving begging people to show up at your door because you are this desperate. Case in point is we have been doing some marketing for an author client of ours for a couple weeks and today it started to pay off as we booked a speaking engagement and radio interview. There are so many ways to get yourself out there as an author or small business person that will help and improve your exposure and cash flow - but unlike this business, you can never ever let em see you sweat!!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Christmas lights and 2010...

So today I'm gathering up interviews for an article for a feature article for the December issue of Credit Union business magazine. Its on trends and business forcasts for the industry for 2010. Its interesting because I have to interview very large organizations as well as very small ones. The difference in the two is staggering. Of course the behemouths have multiple layers of "press 1 if you know the person's extension, press two for loans" ad nauseum then you finally get someone who transefers you to someone who calls someone that's not there only to send an email for them to return your call. So I went the other direction and called the little guys. I got a person (like live and breathing and everything!) who didn't know the answer to my question but immediately transfered me to a guy who said, this is Keith the CEO can I help you? Now I ask you, when's the last time that happened? I've always been a huge believer that if someone calls our business, someONE should answer the phone! Not a machine or endless voice option loop.

Its one thing I always tell our writers and clients - if you call, we will answer. How hard is that? maybe its the society we live in that seems so impersonal, or the fact that I'm just getting older but I would take a real human who can't answer my question over a impersonal machine anyday. Its like Meg Ryan says in You've Got Mail, "Whatever business is, it should personal." So that's my rant for the day.

In other news, Christmas is coming!!! Oh yipppee! My favorite season. A week ago they had christmas toys at the Petco, so Barky got a candy cane striped squeaky bone. He also got a Rope Dog which he proceeded to disembowl and scatter about the house. Today I had some christmas light pros come by and do an estimate for lights for the castle...they should be up before thanksgiving. I always love the holiday season - mostly for the great movies. They had the remake of miracle on 34th street on HBO last weekend which was a great start to the season!

Monday, October 05, 2009

Fabulous Fruity Drink Recipe - The Tidal Wave

I had a great new fruity drink on the boat. What they've been doing on all the carnival cruises this year, is that early in the week they have a 'Mixologist' competition and passangers compete to create the best fruity drink which is then available at a special price the rest of the week. The winner on our boat was called the Tidal Wave - and its blue. Now I know what you're thinking, because I thought it too: If it's blue its gonna suck. This is because its the rule of fruity drinks that if its red or orange, then its probably pretty good - but if its blue or green then it sucks. Its like suckers, the blue and green ones are always the last ones picked. But of course I had to try it and ordered one anyway knowing it would probably suck. Well surprise, surprise it was one of the best fruity drinks I've ever had so I asked the bartender for the recipe:

The Tidal Wave

(equal parts)
Peach Schnapps
Blue Curaqao
Pinapple juice
Sweet & Sour Mix
Garnish with orange slice and cherry - and of course a little unbrella)

last day....

The last day on board is always depressing. Mostly because you have to pack and contemplate going home. All in all this was one of the better cruises we've taken probably because I REALLY needed a vacation and also because we went to some locations that were totally different than the Mexican and Caribbean locations we've been to before. I even watched some movies while on board - I can't remember the last time I saw a current movie! This trip I saw Marley & Me which was very touching and then I also saw The Proposal which I also liked. I wasn't sure I'd like Sandra Bullock as the evil 'devil wears Prada' type, but it turned out to be really great. I also saw Benjamin Button, and although I like the uniqueness of the premise, I didn't think it was very well executed. Some parts were downright boring, but I'm sure I'm in the minority there as many people I know loved it.

I also read two books on the plane - the first was on the way out and is called 'The Children's Blizzard'. It is a creative account of the 1888 blizzard that swooped down over the Midwest suddenly in one afternoon killing hundreds of school children on their way home which is why its known as the Children's Blizzard. The subject matter is very intriguing and interesting but I have to say the writing was a bit lackluster. It is also noticeably uneven meaning that there are passages of scientific information written so differently in tone and feel from the rest of the text that it seems 'stuck in' by someone else. Its a little bizarre, but then I tend to read things like an editor rather than an actual reader.

The other book I read was Dave Sadaris' book, When You are Engulfed in Flames. Of course Dave is a humorist and I've read his essays before. This one was touted to be about death and dying but I'd say less than 50% of the book was about that. Quite a bit was about his being gay and in a gay relationship -which was totally funny and realistic and makes you think about the stupid things you say to, wonder about, or ask, gay people. I laughed out loud in several places which is certainly the mark of an excellent humorist as I'm not an easy laugh most of the time. So if I find it funny, then its usually REALLY funny. I also thought that a couple of the essays could have been cut out or shortened, but over all a good read - just maybe not a read for everyone.

Tomorrow we disembark in Ft Lauderdale -BOOOOOOO!!!

Pukin on the Boat!

Not me, but all those pansies with motion sickness. If you've looked at a map, then you can see that Panama is a loooooong way from Ft Lauderdale. This means the captain has to gun it back toward Cuba to make it on time. This wouldn't be a big deal in the gulf where the sea is totally flat, but in the Caribbean its a little choppier and any additional speed gives the boat a little sway and shimmy which you can really notice at the back of the boat. Of course neither one of us gets sea sick so we had a fun day at sea but the decks were noticeably deserted. Another fun activity today was going out on the deck facing the waves which were spraying water over deck three(that's about thirty feet or so above the water level) and leaving a layer of salt on everything. You don't often get sea spray in your face on a cruise but we did this trip!

Most of the day was spent relaxing and playing in the casino, along with a little shipboard shopping. In the afternoon we could see the mountains of Cuba and the ship came very (very) close to shore. Got some great pics of that along with another beautiful sunset and a full moon. A dreamy evening on deck for sure.


This morning we got up at 5 am....yes that's 5 am, something I swore I'd never do on vacation, but our day long excursion to the Panama Canal starts at 6:45 and I really wanted to see it. The first leg of the journey takes us by bus (nice buses again!) across the country to Panama City and the Pacific side of the canal. Panama City is pretty awesome with many very tall skyscrapers. On the way over we had yet another tour guide who was interesting. Although we traveled on a wonderful highway, he proceeded to tell us how marginal, average or bad things were. Now really, if you are in a location and don't like it that's fine, but if you're a tour guide do you really want to share that? I have a client in Panama and know that much of what the guide was saying was his own opinion rather than reality. His English was also marginal.

There were a total of 450 people on the tour from our ship, 11 buses worth. We boarded two large ferries for the trip half way down the canal and once on board, the difference between the tour guides was night and day. The one on the boat was very educational about the canal and all the great things that Panama was doing to expand the canal and enhance it. They are currently widening the canal from 125 feet to 700 feet to both accommodate bigger ships and facilitate two way traffic as right now one section of the canal is only one way which means it takes a ship 8-10 hours to navigate the canal depending on the traffic volume. They are also adding a another set of locks - a 10 billion dollar project. The weather was great for this type of trip as it was overcast and misty so it was very cool and comfortable for the tropics.

As we approached the first set of locks it was really astounding to see them work and know that they are 100 years old. They raised our ferries in 8-10 minutes through each of the 3 locks which is amazing to see and experience. There was a tour we could have taken that just went to the visitor center and watched the ships go through the lock but that would have been such a rip off there is nothing like experiencing it yourself and I would definitely recommend putting on your "things to see before I die" list. Of course during our last dinner in the dining room before we bailed for the supper club, the subject of the panama canal excursions came up and the consensus was that they were just going to have a peek but didn't see the value in actually going down the locks as it was another $79. Seriously??? Of course these are the same people who don't want a cabin with a balcony or window because there's nothing to see but water........

Bats, Monkeys and sloths! OH MY!

We have docked in Costa Rica and are off on our excursion. The first part is by bus through Limon, where our tour guide starts educating us on Costa Rica. His name was Eric and he was very educational. The buses were also large and comfortable with great air conditioning! Eric told us that Costa Rica is only about the size of west virgina and has about 4.5 million people. The took the money they would have spent on the army and put it into education and are now also using it to build up their reputation as a great ecotourism destination. He said that they now teach ecotourism as a subject starting in grade school all the way through high school as their #1 industry is now tourism.

The bus ride took us to a banana plantation which was also very educational. It was the Del Monte Filadelfia plantation and I had no idea that bananas weren't native to central America because they are everywhere and grow like weeds. But they were brought there in the 1890s from asia. We watched as they processed the bunches of bananas and both me and Kevin thought it would be really weird to be a worker in the plantation and every day have people come by and take pictures and video of you doing your job.

The bus then took us to a little train that is a refurbished 1940s train they use so tourists can ride through the jungle and along the shore to take pictures of wildlife. Anytime someone spotted something, we'd stop for everyone to take pictures. Along the way there were howler monkeys, several sloths and lots of jungle which is pretty neat as long as you're in the train and not walking through it. At one point, the tracks run alongside a beautiful black sand beach that is completely deserted and undeveloped. We all got off the train and tromped around taking pictures for a while and that was pretty cool. The waves were beautiful.

Once back on the bus, we went to the river and transferred to boats. The boats were pretty loaded and rode about six inches above the water which of course has caymans and crocodiles in it (though we didn't see any). What we did see were bats hanging upside down on a tree trunk, lots of various birds and exotic butterflies as well as numerous sloths again. Coast Rica must be sloth central and they are the perfect animal for photo ops as they move so slow. The boat ride was fun and when we got back to the dock they had a little buffet of fresh bananas, pineapples (which were also imported as a crop) and fresh coconut. If you've never had a tree ripened banana, its fabulous!!

All in all it was a great fun day as we saw a little bit of everything that Costa Rica had to offer. I'd definitely go there again!

South to Central America!

Another fabulous day at sea and it seems I've become allergic to my computer. Its the first time in three years I haven't worked on board the ship and I've only checked email twice so far. I think its good that I'm starting to section off my time so I'm not always working and unable to relax - and believe me I'm relaxing right now! Today was the Texas Hold 'em tourney on board. They are giving away a free cruise but I got my butt kicked early on - still it was fun. I basically didn't do much today but putter around, shop on board, play black jack and enjoy the ocean. What better way to spend the day?

The seas are picking up now that we're out of the gulf but I think the waves are still tiny - apparently some of the other people on board don't agree as the boat was rocking a little more than they liked -of course most of them had the Cozumel hangover that added to their issue. We had another fabulous dinner in the supper club and I played poker until midnight or so which was an early night for me but we have a big shore excursion in Costa Rica tomorrow.


I've always loved the water around Cozumel -its that surreal blue that pictures don't do justice too. On our very first cruise, a short three years ago, we were in Cozumel and it was different - they'd just had a hurricane a few months before and were scrambling to get things back in order but it was charming as you could walk the streets of the town. Now its all built back up and quite touristy near the pier. Lots of bars and shops and a huge fence between that part of the city and the rest - I'm sure to give the touristas a feeling of 'safety' but it was kinda ridiculous. We shopped and then had lunch at one of the bars overlooking the water - it was very calm and peaceful. But as always happens on a cruise to Cozumel, people were totally plastered. I'm not sure what it is about the place, but every time we've been there people were drinking so much they could hardly stand up! Its tequila people - nothing more, nothing less. Okay I'll admit its a fun time, but I'm just too old for the hangover. I had two margaritas and was woozy!

One of my missions in Cozumel was to find Rocko a real bulldog collar - you know the kind that's black with the little silver spikes because they have some great leather craftspeople there. I don't know if you've perused the dog collar section at your local pet store but the collars are, well, gay! They are all pink and prissy and just not suitable for a ruff tuff bulldog - okay he's really not ruff and tuff but he thinks he is. They did have doggie shirts on the boat that said 'cruise dog' and I was really tempted. But of course Kevin was standing there going, "Now really, what would Caesar do?" Caesar Milan is always getting onto owners for treating dogs like kids, but its still tempting. I guess I can have a bracelet made up with the initials WWCD for pet owners like me who are tempted to sin by buying the dog a wardrobe. Anyway, we didn't find a collar so I was disappointed.

Kevin convinced me to give Steve one more chance, so we had dinner in the dining room. It wasn't any better and quite honestly after having such a great meal at the supper club (at a cozy table for two!) I just wanted to eat there every night. So we bid farwell to the dining room knowing they'd never see our buts again on this cruise.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Fun Day at Sea!

First fun day at sea! On our way to Cozumel and we slept in. I always sleep great on the boat, something about the slow rocking (or maybe its just the alcohol!). Ordered our regular room service then down to explore the ship. Went through the stores – pretty much the same and explored the boat from top to bottom. I was really surprised that we didn’t hear hardly any of the deck part even though our room is the closest. We played at the casino and of course I had to play poker even though it’s the crappy electronic table. There are these two guys who are Mexican, but speech English in a New York accent. They are loud and excitable though seem to be harmless. The turned the poker table into a craps table with shouts, banging the table and yelling in Spanish. One guy even looks like Tony Soprano so its like the Mexican Sopranos play poker! Their chicks even look like mob girls – its kinda funny.
We dressed up since it was the first elegant night and headed out to the supper club. It was great as always and I didn’t have to listen to Steve and his wife talk about how a balcony cabin just isn’t worth is because all you see is water. REALLY?? It a cruise FYI. We spent literally hours the first day staring at the pretty blue water which was so calm it was eerie and needless to say, I made reservations at the supper club for tomorrow too. The official excuse is that we wanted to eat earlier so Kevin could watch Monday night football, but the real reason is that I’d rather pay an extra $60 not to put up with Steve and I know eventually I will tell him to take a big dose of shut the F*** up but why ruin the whole week?
We thought about going to the shows but blew it off to play blackjack after dinner and I did really well but it seems I’m like the only player who understand the concept of ‘dealer dollars’. Every bet you play a dollar for the dealer and when you win, they win too. It a good luck thing but I swear some of these people act like they are paying their mortgage with their winnings – as if. Anyway, we closed down the casino at 2:30 am. Tomorrow, Cozumel!

On the Boat!

Boat Day!!
So today is the day we finally get on the boat. We arrived at the port terminal without incident except that all the people on the hotel shuttle act like they’ve already had a few shots of tequila! Wait was short – about 20 minutes and then we’re onto the boat. It s really like coming home. We’ve sailed so many of the conquest class that we know where everything is already so it makes it really easy. Our room is on the tenth deck – highest up we’ve been so far and we’re a little concerned that we are right by the hot tub and pool and are wondering about the noise so we’ll see. We left at 4 pm and pulling out of port in Ft Lauderdale is always exciting. As we passed through the jetties, we were on the opposite side of the boat and got a great photo of the beach going south. The boat hugged the coastline as the sun set and as we passed Miami, there were several other cruise ships leaving port on the way to the Caribbean and the Virgin Islands – all wonderful cruises as well. As night came on we could see the lights of the keys and a thunderstorm in the distance. Our dinner is at 8:15 and we went down to the lobby bar for a few drinks and great music.
At dinner we met our dinner mates : a young couple from Miami celebrating their 5 year anniversary, a young couple from Miami who are experienced cruisers and then there was Steve & Ieda. Steve is a retired lawyer and travels the country with his RV in a caravan. AS the young couple talked amoung themselves I realized that even retired lawyers are annoying and have very little social skill. In fact they rank right up there with IT guys in that respect except they think they are the smartest people in the universe. AS the night dragged along I was really glad I’d made reservations at the supper club for tomorrow…..
We played a little at the casino then crashed for the night. All in all, very glad to be back on the boat!

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Cruise Extravaganza Begins..

Woo hoo! And we’re off! Well, not off on the ocean yet, but off to Ft Lauderdale. Me & Liz took Barky (Rocko) to doggy summer camp yesterday and there were so many people making a fuss over him he didn’t even know I was gone so I can now cruise guilt free - although the castle was eerily quiet without him.

So we packed up and I went to check us in online on Continental and they offered us a first class upgrade for $79. And I had one of ‘those’ moments when you wonder if its worth it. I mean we all still get there together so does it really matter? Now I will admit that I’ve never flown first class. I’m a hard core Southwest Airlines person and first class flies in the face of flying for ‘peanuts’. But in this case I felt I was more than justified since continental charges $55 for 2 bags – Each way. And if you upgrade then you get three bags for free so if I can fly First Class for $79 round trip that saves $31 net – for both me and Kevin.

So after we got off the puddle jumper and onto the real plane in Houston for Ft Lauderdale, we settled into the cushy first class seats. Then they served us chicken fajita wraps that were hot and fresh fruit on real plates with real silverware. They also serve all the beer and wine you want FREE and your earphones are FREE too! I had no idea they did that on these shorter flights and of course now we’re hooked. But it made me realize that they are really soaking everyone who is paying coach. We got the flights for less than $400 each on Expedia and the upgraded to First Class and paid no baggage fees, no booze fees and no other fees AND our luggage was marked priority and came off the plane first and we were on our way. It just goes to show that you really have to do the math because just because you assume you are saving a buck by squishing into that uncomfortable middle seat in coach between Tonya the Talker and Sam the Smelly, doesn’t mean it’s true.

So anyway we get to Ft Lauderdale just fine and dandy and arrive at the hotel for the night which I paid with my Starwood points for free AND they didn’t have many people there today so they upgraded us to club level (don’t you love upgrades on stuff that’s already FREE?). We then went down to the lobby bar and had our first official vacation fruity drink. Kevin had a Pina Colada and I had a Mai Tai (make that two). Kevin kept getting brain freeze but I was down for the count. We started the day at 5 am so it didn’t take much to put me out.

After a short nap we got headed over to Truluck’s for our birthday dinner. The place was nice of course and had a hoppin’ bar with live music. We decided to try the Alaskan King Crab since we’re rarely ever in a place that really has good seafood and Truluck’s is known for its crab. I have to say it was totally better than lobster. For dinner Kevin got the Joshua Crab (cousin to the stone crab) and I got the Prosciutto wrapped Mahi Mahi. Mine was excellent! Of course if you wrap bacon around anything its going to be good. Kevin said his was okay. Not because the Joshua Crab was bad, but he just liked the King Crab so much better. He said it was like following lobster with a plate of tadpoles. They put a candle on a piece of chocolate cake for our birthday. Happy Birthday to us! Now tomorrow we get on the boat!!!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Subtitles & Pimp my Dog!

I realize that its rare for me to post again so soon but today was too funny to let go without comment.

So I was watching Discovery tonight and they had this show on about the wild pig explosion in the US....of course they interviewed some very amiable guys from Louisiana who hunt these pigs to control the population. Skeeter and Bubba (Yes, those were their names for real) had accents so thick that the show had inserted subtitles. Which I can understand 'cause every time I watch Swords I really wish they would have subtitles for those thick Boston accents...but anyway. So I'm pointing out these subtitles to my husband when we realize that the subtitles are WRONG! Every time Bubba talks about his dogs chasing the pigs and says, "They's on um," the subtitles read, "They own one." Don't you wonder if the discussion in the editing booth came down to a 'rock, paper, scissors' decision of what them good ol boys actually said? Way to confuse them Yankees Bubba and Skeeter!

In other news this evening, Kevin took Rocko out around the neighborhood as he normally does each evening. When they return, Kevin says, "You're not going to believe it. We got approached by a Dog Pimp!" Apparently they were strolling by a house a block up from ours and this guy working in his yard starts running after them and says, "Is that a male bulldog? Cause I have a couple of young purty female bulldogs." What is this, VEGAS?? Of course when Kevin told him that Rocko's boys were toast, the poor guy seemed really disappointed. Good thing doggys don't understand English because the news that Rocko could have been the subject of a doggy threesome would have devastated the poor pooch. Can you imagine the Forum column in the next Bulldog Penthouse?? On second thought, Rocko may have a future as an erotica writer.......

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Pig ears and cruiseliners

As most of you know by now, we have a new addition to the castle - Rocko the bulldog.

He's about six months old and quite high maintenence right now as we're still working on the housetraining. I know the first question, "so if you can't keep fish alive, why did you get a dog?"

Well I love a challenge I suppose. But I'm amazed at all the cool stuff they have for dogs now including Pig Ears. I swear they must be like doggy crack! Rocko will chew on one until it is oblitereated, then spend hours (or days) hunting for the little leftover bits (bacon bits?) in the carpet. So I did a search yesterday to see the nutritional value of a pig ear and apparently the are just south of potato chips. Darn. Why is it that the one thing he really loves is so bad for him? I'm still giving him pig ears.

A short two weeks away is our Panama Cruise!! I can't wait! It seems like forever since we'd had a long relaxing vacation. We leave from Ft Lauderdale and then go to Cozumel, Costa Rica then on to Panama. Its an 8 day cruise which I really like as there's lots of days at sea! I'm trying to get several projects finished up before we go so I can really relax and enjoy the ride!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

TV makes me Hungry...

So a couple nights ago I was watching No Reservations and Anthony Bourdain was in Mexico....Ahhh...the tacos, enchiladas and super fresh guac.....I so want to be there. We will be stopping in Cozumel on our cruise to panama, but that's still six whole weeks away!!! I was too hungry to wait so we went over to Leal's and had a little teaser.....brisket tacos are the bomb!!

So this week we also saw the rerun of the season opener for Man vs Food which featured Amarillo. One of the places, Coyote Bluff, has the Burger from Hell - a supposedly wicked hot burger. We'd never been there and Kevin really wanted to go, so he said he'd pay if we went. So last night we drove over to grand street. It took us a little while to find it as its very small. The parking lot (actually its dirt and potholes) was very small - and full of maybe 12 cars. We entered the restaurant (read SHACK) The decor looks very "found it on the side of the road" with rusted signs on the walls, an old bathtub in the middle of the floor filled with ice and beer and maybe 12 tables. They can't serve more than about 30-40 people at a time. all the tables and booths are a hodgepodge of diner chairs, cast off benches and things that seem to be nailed together from old crates While the tables are all odd size and several lean precariously - but they were all full of eager patrons. A very cozy atmosphere. I would estimate the square footage to be in the 400 foot range - TOTAL, including the kitchen.

We sat within about 6 feet of the back door - which is probably good since the front door was blocked by people waiting for us to eat faster so they could have a turn. If there had been a fire we'd probably have been the only ones to get out!

You might think that I'd be put off by this, but actually its was kinda cool. The menu is on a large chalk board (over the bathtub) and they only take cash and checks. some people may find that a bit backward, but its been my experience that a tiny restaurant that doesn't take debit cards means that their stuff is so good that you will pay cash or starve. That was true in the this case as well. We treated ourselves to a big plate of chili cheese fries which were great and then both had the much touted Burger from Hell. It tasted great! Although neither one of us thought it was all that hot. It had Japalenos and habaneros....but I really like habaneros...

Its funny when you sit in such a small joint in close proximity to other people - it almost feels like a family gathering as people ask how hot our burgers are and should they order one too. Its exactly the kind of place my dad would love and we'll have to take him next time he's here. We'll also have to bring some of our international clients there too and see how they respond. It should be a good laugh!

I would totally go there again but we have to quit watching just makes me hungry....

Thursday, July 23, 2009

When it rains.....

The ceiling falls in!!!

So here's what happened: Me, Ryan and Kaci went out for my sister's wedding a the end of June. Kevin stayed at the castle. So while we were gone there was a big thunderstorm that dumped like 3 inches of rain in an hour on the castle which never happens. So the castle roof sprung several leaks - one up front through the one of a kind wood ceiling (yikes!), one in the turret skylight, and one right over my recliner in the back of the house. within a couple of hours, the one over my recliner had turned into a torrent!! water down the wall and a 2 ft x 2 ft section of ceiling came tumbling down. So, while I was in Santa Fe with my son and brother at a casino after the wedding, I got a panicked call from home.

So its not bad enough that the ceiling of my precious castle falls, but that I now have to deal with contractors! I'm convinced they are the devil incarnate - with a few exceptions. We also found out that there are really only two roofers in town that specialize in clay tile roofs so we had to wait on them to get around to it. One guy comes over and says that it will be $3600 to fix it and $15000 to do it right. Crap....we called the insurance company even though we were skeptical they'd pay. So the next guys come over and I'm expecting another several thousand dollar estimate, and they say that the flashing has just pulled away from the house and they can fix it in a couple hours for $275. So I guess the real cost to fix the issue is somewhere between $275 and $15000....did I mention I hate roofers? Its like financial Russian roulette. So needless to say we took the $275 bid and David (our favorite handy man of all time) is fixing the inside damage for a few we feel like we squeaked by on that one.

There's always a 'then'....this week the air conditioner started making this noise like a screeching rat...great...more we called a couple of air conditioning guys and no one could get to it for a few I was getting ready to go buy deodorant in bulk when David said he knew a guy. I love when people know people....anyway he called Daniel and Daniel came over to check it out. The castle has an upstairs and a downstairs unit. Daniel said they are about 20 years old and we need to start budgeting for new the tune of $4-$7,000 EACH....where are the Rolaids when you need them? But he was able to fix it for less than $500...Whew!! another financial mine field skated right through. BTW if any of you want David or Daniel's numbers, just email me. Good contractors are extremely hard to find!

On the writing front, we're zipping right along with numerous projects. Todd's radio spots start airing on 12 Canadian radio stations this week and his show starts next week. This bodes well for the launch of his book this fall. We finished up one book for Joe Vitale and will be starting the second one shortly so that's well on its way as well. We've been approached by the people behind 'Beyond the Secret' -the sequel to 'The Secret' to possibly do some work on the book version, we'll see if that works out.

On the investment front, the Milam property is for rent again. We went in and put in new carpet and painted so its looks like new again and we've been getting lots of calls so hopefully it will be rented by the first of the month. Also the restaurant in Thailand is moving forward and is on track to open October 1, the start of their busy tourist season. The cherry orchard in Australia is still waiting to get rolling so we'll see how that works out.

As usual there's too much going on in the summer for me to even sleep, so if you see the light on the castle at 4 am that's me burning the candle at both ends.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

What do you mean its summer??

When did the seasons change? I know they did because hailstones are hitting my window instead of snow...but so far I'm missing it as usual. It seems like the last few summers I've missed simply because summer is our busy season. And of course this year, I decided to take a week off right in the middle of it and play the World Series of Poker. It's on my bucket list and I've thought about doing it the last couple of years, but the timing just didn't work out - and there was that whole thing about maybe not being able to compete at a World Class level.

Well this was the year and I went for a week the first part of June. I have to say it was very surreal and a little intimidating at first. Now that ESPN plays the world series events constantly, everyone has a good idea what the event looks like and I have to say its just like stepping into your television set and suddenly being there. Same room, same players, same everything - And thousands of people all with poker on the brain and nothing else.

The first event I played was the NL $2000 (Event #11). There were 1646 players and when you sit down at your table and see Chris Ferguson, Phil Helmuth and TJ Cloutier walk by to sit down at their tables in the same event, it gives you the jitters. Over the course of the event almost every major pro that I've seen on TV busted out of this event and that's even more weird. To see major players - bracelet winners - get up and leave while you still have chips in front of you makes you want to stand up and do the Snoopy Dog Happy Dance!!

I played extremely well that first tourney, and can't think of one hand I would have played differently. In the end I finished in the money - 160th - so I made the top 10% and took some $$ home. I wanted to prove to myself I could play at this level and I did. I told my sister that I cashed in my first World Series Event and she asked how big a deal that was. Big. Like HUGE. They track every world series cash you ever have in your career and then you are forever known by that track record. There was one guy I was talking to while playing a cash game who said he'd played fifteen world series events and only cashed once - which made me feel good! I also got to play some of the cash games which was great because I've really been wanting to play some live Omaha as its hard to find a game at home or even in most of the casinos in Vegas. But they had several of them going on at the World Series due to the large contingent of European players and that's the predominant poker game over there. I met a guy from Germany and one from Phoenix who were really great Omaha players. They taught me more in a few hours than I've learned in the last couple of years about Omaha so it was very valuable.

Some of the cool things I saw in passing were: Doyle Brunson on his motor scooter (he's hell on wheels!) - Phil Ivey receiving his 6th bracelet - Mike Caro trying to get away from some dumb blondes there for a tanning convention - A whole slew of young twenty something players who have never had a job and who also think that 100 grand really isn't worth their time to play for - Several domestics in the hallway always seeming to involve guys who want to keep playing and wives who just want to eat dinner already - Chris Ferguson standing in line to pee - watching the feature table from the ESPN bleachers - Talking to Sam Grizzle at the Omaha cash table - having Sam Farha and Eric Lindergin watch the play at my table for over an hour(they weren't watching me, but who cares?) - seeing Humburto Brennis' latest fashion statement - watching Annie Duke in the Omaha 8 or better event - and many others too numerous to mention.

On my return home I had my first real struggle with jet lag. I'd always kind of scoffed at the idea that jet lag could kick your butt for several days - but it did. Even though there's only 2 hours in time difference between Texas and Vegas, most of the events and games didn't start until 2 pm or later and we played 12-14 hours at a stretch so I quickly adjusted to sleeping all day and playing all night. Once back in Texas I just couldn't seem to snap out of it and found myself napping on and off all day. It was weird and has taken me a full week to get back to normal.

And yes, we have books galore in process as usual. A great variety this time around with clients all over the world - from former Olympic stars, to radio personalities, to race car drivers it promises to be a fun summer writing even if I don't step outside to personally experience the soaring temperatures. This is always why I'm so ready to go on our yearly birthday Cruise in Sept as the busy season winds down. This year, we'll be floating down the Panama Canal and hopefully visiting a great casino in Cost Rica!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Our Book on Jay Leno!!!

So its the busy season obviously - so busy I haven't posted in a month but that's good. So one of the books we wrote last fall, Lucrative Love has really been making waves. The author is Tom Feltenstein, and last Friday the book was mentioned in a skit on Jay Leno!! See it here:

Tom has really gotten a lot of press and we even helped him with the tag line for his billboard that he put up in West Palm, FL. He's a very funny guy!!

Anyway, we are back in the swing of things with more writing projects and various other books that we are publishing AND the WSOP -that's World Series of Poker for all you fish out there - is only a few weeks away. I'm traveling to LV June 3 - 10 and will play up to three events. If I do well, I'll also buy in to the main even in July. I can't wait as this has been on my bucket list for a while and now I'm doing it.

Cruise update: we finally made a decision on where to go on the birthday cruise the end of Sept. The winner was the cruise out of Miami that goes to Costa Rica and Panama. There's even a shore excursion on a ferry that takes you on a ride completely through the panama canal. Very excited about that and will be stocking up on mosquito spray!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

so totally excited!!

Not only is my Jen coming home for her very first visit to the castle(3 more days!!), but we learned today that one of our favorite authors, Joe Vitale, will be co-authoring a book with us to be published by TAG Publishing!!! We are also doing one for him that goes with his new attracting wealth seminar which I've been listening to and its pretty neat.

Business is booming as usual for spring time and we're glad to be back in the swing. This year I've also committed to adding more to our little real estate portfolio. Contrary to what a few people told us, owning rental property has been a great experience and there are some wonderful deals out there right now. We want to build it up to have lots of cash flow and also to get the capital appreciation. The office has taken a few field trips this last week looking at some properties and next week we're seeing some more. I think there are a couple that have real potential - we'll see.

I also got some waterlilies and irises for the pond. The fish love them, playing hide and seek in the lilies almost like its a real pond instead of a glorified aquarium...of course that blue gravel is still a bit of a give away, but I don't' want dirt in the bottom of my pond.

My much beloved little Kia has moved on to a better life. No it didn't die on me, but my Dad's car did on the way out to the castle. So he took mine for a few days and fell in love (who wouldn't). So he bought my car and I got a new one....well new to me...a Kia of course but this one is a V6...I hate having to turn the air conditioner off to get up the on ramp on the interstate so hopefully this one will not have that issue....

Thursday, April 02, 2009

New Writers and Updates

Things are moving along well for TAG. We've taken on a couple of new writers in the past few weeks that can offer us some depth just in time for the busy season. We're also doling out projects as they come in to our regular stable of writers who are hard at work again. Its nice to get back in the swing of it again and I'm amazed at how much more organized I stay when I'm busy.

We're once again working on the websites as they went by the wayside over the past few months and we will be producing a couple of Cds - one on how to get a book published with our company and then a set on how to write a non-fiction book to expand your business. We've had so many requests for the how to set that we decided to meet the demand. As soon as we have them ready, you all will be the first to know.

I'm getting better at handing things off to Chris (our marketing assistant) instead of being my normal control freak self and that is working well. I think hiring a person is one of those steps that some writers wonder about. When do you know you're ready? The truth is you don't. But once you hire someone, you'll be amazed at how you ever got along without them. The determining factor for me was when I was working 12-14 hours per day (and so was my business partner) and we just couldn't get it all done.

We talked about hiring someone and so each of us made a list of the tasks we did each day for a week. The first thing we looked at were those tasks that took a large amount of time or interrupted our work flow that didn't produce much. This biggest culprit in that area was lunch. We used to do lunch with writers or friend a few times per week. We realized that this was draining our time and so we limit those outings to one every two weeks and we never do business over lunch anymore. We have people come to our office and that way we stay in the flow of work.

Once lunches were deleted (or severely restricted) we looked at our lists and picked out the second most time consuming culprit - errands. Trips to the bank, post office, fed ex, office depot, and a myriad of other tasks was eating up a huge chunk of time. We also discovered that we spent a lot of time doing very small projects - Internet research, press releases, web copy and other tasks that took up way too much time for too little return. We thought we needed someone with some writing skill and could easily justify part time. So we hired Chris last October. As we were able to focus on the things that made us money, projects, authors and money poured in. Way more than justified what it cost for us to have an extra person. By December he was working over 30 hours per week and in January he started full time.

The lesson here is that by taking the risk to add someone we expanded our business to the next level and having realized that we will be looking for more people to add to the staff to take it to an even higher level. We've had that 'aha' moment and are well on our way.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Feeling a bit overwhelmed at the moment so I'm blogging as a way to avoid the thousand things begging for attention. For those following along, an update on the pond. We had an additional floater due to the algae bloom and sad to say it was Spot...the calico fantail. Bummer. But then today Gina called and said the new shipment of sea kittens had arrived for my viewing pleasure. I'd planned to replace the one dead red cap and the bubble eye...and of course, now Spot. However, some how the quest for three new fish turned into seven! How does that happen? Well, I kind of know how it happens, I can't seem to buy just one of a certain kind of fish. Its like they need a friend of their own 'kind' to pal around the pond with. So I got two redcaps, two gold and white something or anothers, two calico bubble eyes, and one very large flashy replacement for Spot. I'm not sure why I never buy a companion for Spot since all the others have a little friend. I guess since he's always been such a loner - kind of the James Dean of the pond, just a little too cool to have any competition. Maybe Spot#2 will need a friend, we'll see. Again, the beautiful thing about fish is if they croak, you scoop them out, feed them to the neighborhood cat and then get another one just like it.

On the work front, can you say holy moly?? Have projects lined up from here to the Arctic - just waiting on the flood of paperwork to come through so we can get started. TAG has also signed some new authors with cool book ideas and they are exciting I must say! We got the ARCs back for a fiction client that we're doing some marketing for and they look pretty good. I am amazed they can print them in 48 hours these days!

In other news, Jen is coming home for a week in April!!! So excited...she hasn't been home in forever. Last I saw her was on the cruise last summer and she hasn't even seen the castle yet! Anyway should be a good time. Well must get back to work, it won't do itself.....

Monday, March 09, 2009

5 things I did last weekend...

Its been an eventful couple of weeks at the castle. Here's this list for last weekend.

1. cleaned the pond - we had a couple of tragedies at the pond. Two floaters. The problem is the algae is just taking all the oxygen so the little fish suffocated...bummer...I had asked Gina to send a guy over to clean it...unfortunately it was a kid and he half assed it so as usual, if you want something done you have to do it yourself. Me & Kevin caught the survivors, took all their toys out and scrubbed the walls down I have to say it is sparking!! So we went over to fish pros and bought three more fish to add to the crew and i had Gina order some replacements for the deceased.

2. Talked with David and Andrea - as friends and now authors for TAG, I was excited to hear they may be moving back to Texas!! California is overrated anyway and you can't beat the cost of living in Texas. They are also making good progress on their book.

3. Went to the depot and got more stuff to hang some of the paintings that I haven't hung yet from the move (now almost 8 months ago!!). I didn't actually get to the hanging part, just got the stuff. The pond was a priority.

4. Got some mothballs - we are having cats issues and they are really annoying. Not our cats mind you, but everyone else's in the neighbor hood. Our exterminator dude suggested moth balls to put under the bushes and around the yard where they like to leave their calling cards. I have to admit, the smell of mothballs would certainly turn me off!!

5. Drank too much wine - I know this may come as a shock to some of you, but it turns out that Pinot Noir is very easy to we & Kevin also goes great with Oreos.....gee no wonder it seemed like the weekend just slipped by....

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

5 things....

I saw this on Britta's blog about 5 things she did this weekend( and decided to participate. I agree that whole "25 things about me" is way to intimidating so here goes....5 things I did this weekend:

1. watched my husband try to unstop the sink....I'm not sure what exactly happened, but apparently, while he was furiously plunging he created some sort of vacuum that made the refuse water shoot out the vent pipe that is on the roof right above the kitchen foamy, liquid plumber laden water was draining off the roof, my husband just stands there going "that can't be good."

2. had rib eyes and lobster for valentine's dinner - okay they were lobster tails...and it was the same experience I always have when eating lobster...two bites, six dollars, really???

3. Worked on TAG Covers - Warren's is on my last post.....Andrea and David's I'm finishing this week before Vegas and I really like the colors they have picked...a dark teal - very pretty

4. Went shopping to walmart - I know this is probably something that other people do all the time....but I very rarely ever go to walmart...and they really didn't have anything so it was a wasted trip for the most on the way back we stopped at Exotic Aquatics and got some stuff for the fishys...(oops, I mean sea kittens!)

5. Watched Todd's book hit #1 on in two categories - Financial planning and budgeting/money management. We'll be in Vegas this next weekend at his next seminar( ....of course, being in Vegas will probably produce a really interesting '5 things' list for next weekend!!!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Warren's Book Cover

This is the cover of Warren's first book. We are thrilled to have him as one of our newest TAG authors and I have to say this book is one of the funniest I've ever read. Its all about the misadventures of his Dad and brothers on their annual fishing/camping trips. We're planning to launch it right before Father's Day in time for the summer camping and fishing season. It would also make a great gift those who want to give Dad a chuckle for Father's Day this year.

Friday, February 13, 2009

And yet another new author

Things have been rolling full steam ahead for TAG Publishing! We have yet another new author. A humorist who has written about his misadventures camping and fishing. We worked with a fabulous artist on the cover - its only been a week or so and its already done!! As soon as we get the title confirmed, I'll post it for everyone to see. We are really excited!

Its been pretty amazing the last few weeks as great projects have found us, we haven't even had to go looking which is how it should be. We'll be off to Vegas at the end of next week to help Todd Dean with his next seminar ( Of course I'm sure I'll squeeze in some poker on the side! One cool note on Todd's book, More Money Than Month, is that it hit #2 in financial planning books on this week. He was beat only by Suze Orman's new book so that's pretty good.

We are at the half way mark in the ghostwriting/freelancing class and it seems to be going well. It's interesting to think how far we've come in such a short time. It really only been three years since we started down this path and we seem to be moving at lightening speed! I quit my 'real' job less than two years ago and now its like I have created an entire career out of thin air - or perhaps I should say a blank sheet of paper. When things come together this well, you know you have finally found your calling....

Sunday, February 01, 2009

great weekend.....

Had a total fabulous weekend in Orange County!! We went to Anaheim for Todd's seminar and to meet with some publishing clients (people we've been talking to for a while about the book thing). The seminar was great - even better than Hawaii! We're tweaking as he goes along and assisting as we can. Given the overwhelming response of attendees, everyone could benefit from his financial seminar!! He's really helping people. (

Anyway, one of the clients we met with was an old friend form high school. We haven't seen each other in literally years - like twenty years. But it was just like we'd been apart for a week and things were totally the same. Its amazing how that works. Even better, she and her husband are writing a practical relationship book that is really fabulous from their experience as relationship counselors over the past decade (I mean really great stuff!). We talked and came to an agreement and I'm thrilled to announce they are the newest authors to who will be published by TAG Publishing!!! We are so excited as we think they have fabulous potential and a real heart for helping others. We also talked to two other clients we're still in negotiation with, but as soon as I know something, I'll announce it.

I have to way the weather in Anaheim was beautiful!! A wonderful warm breeze! it was wonderful and while yes, we were right across the street from Disneyland (my own personal version of hell), we were on the 12th floor and got a great view of the wonderful fireworks display.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Granny had a Secret

So today me & my business partner got on the subject of female empowerment. Not the Gloria Steinem, down with men type of stuff, but more on the business acumen of women and how difficult it would seem to us to be expected to stay home. Its different if you choose to as I did when my kids were little, but to have that expectation forced upon you is different.

So I was telling her about the book I read about the whale ship Essex. It revolved around the community of Nantucket in the early 1800s where the men would be home for a few weeks or months and then frequently gone for as long as 2 or even 3 years at a time. The women ran the entire town, all the businesses, municipal government, everything. They were truly empowered and apparently loved it as some of them noted in their writings that they married whaling men specifically for the freedom it gave them.

The author of that book also noted that in the renovations of one of the historic homes, they found some letters along with a plaster penis ....hummm.....Granny had a little secret! She didn't need a man at all if a stiff piece of plaster would work....I found it really funny that the author would even mention it but it just goes to show that we are not so different as those who came before us - no matter how much we think we are.

On another note, the Ghostwriting class started again last night at AC and even though it was cold and snowy several brave souls showed up....

Monday, January 26, 2009

Books Read in Transit

The only time I get to read anymore is on an airplane. On this last trip I read Malcom Gladwell’s Outliers – it was really interesting. In it he examines those who become successful and why. One of the most intriguing ideas he presents is that we are a product of where we come from and a person’s ability to rise above and succeed is dependent on a series of lucky breaks. He also noted that the amount of time it takes for someone to gain superior expertise in a particular profession is around 10,000 hours. Very interesting.

I also read In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick. It is a historical narrative of the ship Essex that was sunk by a whale in the 1800s and was the inspiration for Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. The true story is pretty gruesome as the survivors were forced to eat their shipmates as they died and at one point they even killed one who was still alive and ate him. One of the most interesting parts of the story is the psychological changes that take place in a survival situation. It makes you ask yourself what you would do in the same situation – or maybe it just had that effect on me because I happened to be on a cruise and wondered what would happen if the boat sank! The book also tells what happened to the survivors later in life and how the actions were viewed by others. Again very interesting.
I will be on a plane again at the end of the week on my way to LA so maybe I’ll get a chance to read some more.

Mexican Cruise Day 8

The weather got a little chilly as we rounded Baja and neared California. We saw quite a few whales which was pretty neat. The last day is always sad. Its also the time when everyone is trying to print off their boarding passes in the library….Little old people have significant difficulty with the technology thing. We packed our bags after dinner and would have sat on the balcony but it was too cold. I’m looking forward to being back at the castle again but will miss the warm tropical weather. All in all, I’m really glad we went. Had it not been planned, I would have put it off as I always do but I need some downtime!! I have no idea what our next vacation event will be but I’m sure we’ll take our birthday cruise in Sept though I’m not sure where we’ll go…we may even go back to Hawaii…

Mexcian Cruise Day 7

Another fabulous day at sea!! I was going to work – but I blew it off and played poker most of the day. The day was mostly uneventful. EXCEPT – there’s always an ‘except’ – for the little incident we witnessed right before dinner. Me & Kevin were sitting in the lounge area enjoying some wine before dinner watching all the people and of course there were a few that were very drunk. One in particular happened to be a dwarf girl in an electric wheel chair….she did a donut right beside Kevin and was laughing and talking loud…you almost felt guilty laughing at her– but it was funny. Then she was zooming down past the restrooms and totally took out this little old man. I know – again it shouldn’t be funny but you had to laugh. The sauced Oompa Loompa takes out grandpa on the high seas…so politically incorrect but so funny. We ate in the supper club instead of the dining room and it was wonderful.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Mexican Cruise Day 6

Manzanillo! This is the first port we stopped at where tourism isn’t the main industry. They have a HUGE shipping port, factories and other industry. They bussed us into the downtown area where there were many cantinas, shops and all kinds of everyday business. The neat part of this place is that it is full of locals just going about their daily business and ignoring the tourists for the most part. We sat at a little cantina and watched kids go to school in their uniforms and then walked around to shop and also saw people doing their laundry at the laudromat, getting their daily tortillas from the tortillaria and many other activities. I found a hand woven rug with an Aztec design and a big colorful serving dish with chili peppers for the castle. I also got Harlee a cute little linen dress with pretty embroidery on it. We stayed a few hours and it was nice.
I heard several other people say they didn’t like it because it was dirty, but we didn’t see any of that and compared to old Acapulco it was sparkling! We had some great guacamole and margaritas and didn’t worry about it as the place was really clean. Kevin gave their Banos an A+ (comparatively).

One thing we didn’t do was go to the pharmacia….when in Mexico, buy cheap drugs!! We totally forgot about that! I also didn’t find the chocolate liquer for Liz so she’ll have to settle for Kaluha….

Mexican Cruise Day 5

So we woke up already parked off the coast of Zihuatanejo (that’s “Zae watt ten a hoe” for all you gringos. They also have excursions over to Ixtapa (Icks Tapa) for those who choose. I chose a quiet day on the boat….Its hot, I’m tired, its Mexico….so there….Kevin got off and said it’s a little fishing village not much to see. They used the life boats to tender everyone in to shore.
So one thing I left off from yesterday is the whole explanation of why I don’t pee in Mexico. While we were in old Acapulco shopping with the Loenardos yesterday, the shop owners kept giving him free beer. So of course, after a short while he has to go. The only place close is the ‘Banos Publico’ – which is a public restroom….he said he was almost afraid to whip it out…the floor was dirt and the fixtures looked as if they were original turn of the century. The sink is on the outside where they have a convenient coke bottle filled with half shampoo and half water to wash your hands…then little napkins to dry off with. Of course the Leonardos assured him it was one of the best Banos in the area….so needless to say I held it….
The biggest highlight of the day was watching Kevin doing the Macarena at dinner…..

Monday, January 19, 2009

Mexican Cruise Day 4

Got up decently early. We’ll be docking in Acapulco at noon which is great as we’ll get to see the view coming into port which we don’t usually get to do as they come in early to most ports. We had our room service and hung around on the balcony as we neared the port. In the shallower water, there were sea turtles everywhere – they’d pop up by the boat every couple of minutes – I guess the boat disturbed them and they had to pop and see what the deal was. Bonnie and Howard are going on an excursion today to release baby sea turtles so I’m anxious to hear how that goes. Yesterday I thought I saw a whale – several others did – but I just got one glimpse so who knows. As we came into port a pod of dolphins zipped by us followed by what I have to describe as two planks lashed together with an out board motor. I couldn’t decide if it was two fishermen or Gillian and the Skipper making a run for it.

Acapulco Bay is really beautiful and we decided that since the boat will be docked until 1 am, that we’d wait until it was a little cooler and then get out and wing it and hopefully find a great place to eat and maybe shop a little.

I spent the afternoon in the library working but I was also highly entertained by the crew as they took some of the lifeboats out for maneuvers as they often do at the various ports. These life boats aren’t the little inflatables, but the 50 person hard shelled fully enclosed types – so they aren’t small. The lifeboat right in front of the library window had an issue. At first it got stuck as they were winching it out over the water and then about the time six or eight ship’s officers showed up to see what the deal was, one of the cables broke and they dropped it on top of the rail. It bounced off the rail and swung out and smacked the side of the hull until the other cables caught it but it was funny to see the guys in white uniforms scatter like mice. The head guy started yelling something in Italian that I didn’t understand, but I’m sure it translated to something like “Who’s dumbass idea was that?”

They had to call some repair guy from the port and he showed up looking like a surfer dude from California. Again, don’t know what was said but one of the guys in a dark blue jumpsuit (these guys are the maintenance crew who keep everything running) was telling the story to the repair guy and they were all laughing – until a white uniform showed up. So I have to believe they were definitely having a chuckle at some officer’s expense. It’s interesting how much you can gather just from watching people interact even if you don’t understand one word they are saying.
We got off the boat about 4:30 as the sun was going down. There was a breeze and it was in the low eighties so it was nice. We met a cab driver named Leonardo. The first cab guys you met at the terminal are the ones who are the ‘offical okie dokie’ guys there to make sure you don’t get in with an unscrupulous cab driver. We also learned they are the only ones who are allowed to drive Tahoes while all the other cabs are Volkswagens – not the sedans mind you but the bugs. This is because in the old part of town the streets are very small and only the smallest cars can navigate them. Kevin was a little hesitant at first, but when he found out he could be in a VW bug he was thrilled. Besides, I’ve met enough slimy Mexicans to be able to tell the good ones and Leonardo was a good one – reminded me of my ex’s dad actually and very nice. We told him we wanted to shop for jewelry and find a good restaurant and that’s it.

He told us we had to see the cliff divers, but we thought it was really a tourista thing so it wasn’t on our list (we watched the opening of the Love Boat for years and saw the cliff divers so how great could it be?). Leonardo took us to a small jewelry story on the edge of their big market. He cautioned us that many of the 400 booths in the market did not sell real jewelry – just the junk - so we needed to stay with the ones he pointed out. They probably get kickbacks from those booths, but as it turns out I found exactly what I was looking for at the first one and at a great price so I don’t care if they have a whole cartel going. Kevin got a couple of shirts and Leonardo Sr had to go back to the terminal to pick up a scheduled group so he turned us over to Leonardo Jr who was a beginning cab driver and had a Grand Marquis.

I know many of you have heard me say that once you go Mexican you never go back – for seconds - due to the fact that my first husband was Mexican. However, I have to say Leonardo Jr would make a nun rethink that. He was HOT! About 25ish with a mustache and great smile. He took over from his Dad and drove us to a great restaurant called El Zorrito….and I have to say it is perhaps the best Mexican steak I’ve ever had in my life!!

Leonardo Jr. also said we just had to see the cliff divers and that it was really nice at night as they have it all lit up – not too tourista. So after dinner he drove us over and we got in free (not for the $35 admission fee (apparently only stupid gringos pay that price!) and we watched front row as nine of these guys swam the little channel of churning water and then free climbed 510 feet up the sheer side of this cliff – while they were wet! I now think that all those free climbing hot shots on the discovery channel with their chalk and safety gear are wooses! Try doing it in a Speedo covered in sea water with a whole crowd of spectators watching. What really got me was how fast they were. They scaled this cliff in less than a minute flat – they have to have amazing spidey senses… and then they jumped one by one from various levels doing flips, jumping backward – showing off really. Then suddenly three of them jumped at once!...after that a guy jumped from the very top spot…it was amazing and I’m so glad we went. We then returned to the boat and needless to say the ‘Leonardos’ got a big fat tip…..Viva La Acapulco!!!

Mexican Cruise Day 3

We rolled out of bed about noonish and ordered our regular morning room service. We sat on the balcony, drank coffee and were generally lazy. I was going to go back and work – but it just didn’t happen. I played electronic poker all afternoon instead and didn’t even check my email. I looked around at the jewelry so I could get an idea of the prices. When we get to Mexico I want to have a good idea of price ranges on the boat so I can tell if it’s a better deal. Sometimes it is and sometimes it’s not, especially if you look like stupid gringos – which we do. Bought a couple of T shirts cause I’m already out and Kevin’s not doing laundry until tomorrow when everyone else heads into Acapulco. Had dinner again with Bonnie and Howard and then played a while more in the casino. We also sat at the atrium bar where ‘Pat’ plays every night. He is the best country singer ever – sounds just like George Strait! And he does a great Willie and Waylon impression. Went to bed about midnightish…we were pooped…thank God there was no midnight show! We’re getting to old to hang with it….

Mexican Cruise Day 2

Our first day at sea!!! I’m wired (as in I have internet) and ready to roll. Of course we’re still on Texas time and got up at the crack of dawn – us and about 1000 little old people on the boat. I found the library/internet cafĂ© and it’s really a nice set up. It was still very chilly out on deck and at one point we were completely fogged in – talk about creepy! But I stayed in the library and put in a full day’s work which was great since yesterday I didn’t get much done due to the travel day.

We didn’t do much around the ship except lose money at black jack. We had a great dinner with Bonnie and Howard and then decided to stay up for the midnight comedy show. It was not the best, but they usually have great comics on Carnival so we’ll try the next guy. We stayed up til 1 am – that’s pacific - so 3 am our time so we were tired and will totally sleep in tomorrow.

Mexican Cruise Day 1

Of course most of the other people in the hotel were going on our cruise too so we joined the rest of the parade of people wheeling their luggage across the street to the terminal the next morning…even I couldn’t justify paying a cab to make a U turn. The cruise terminal is very very dinky…which is good and bad. Good in that there were virtually no lines. Bad in that this is the last cruise on our VIP status and there was no special VIP lounge….bummer. But we were still first on the boat so who cares? The boat is called the Spirit and I like it much better than the Triumph but not as much as the Liberty or Conquest. We’re not even going to discuss the Eurodam extravaganza. It was business anyway but I would sure never pay to go on Holland America. Carnival does it so much better and the sad thing is they are the same company! It’s like Wal-Mart and Saks being owned by the same corporation and Wal-Mart kicking their butt! But enough about corporate America.

Our stateroom was a new experience this time. We got one of those extended balconies near the elevators – it was the same price as the regular balcony so we opted for more space. We had no idea how much space!! It is a foot & a half wider and three times as long as a regular balcony. We have as much square footage outside as in! It reminds me of that long hallway in the Shining, but with an ocean view and deck chairs….totally cool.

We set sail at 4 pm – it was getting dark as the sun sets very early on the west coast and as soon as that sun started dipping the temperatures plunged!! We were shivering as the boat pulled out of San Diego bay. I got some great pictures of the skyline and military base as we went by. We also saw a pod of dolphins as we left. It didn’t take long for the decks to clear and everyone scurried inside.

We met our dinner mates for the first time – Bonnie and Howard from LA. They both work for the electric/water company in LA so Kevin had something in common with them. They seem nice and very normal.

I’m looking forward to two days at sea to work a little and relax a lot. Our first port of call is Acapulco so it will be a couple of days before we get there.

Mexican Cruise Travel Day

Day one of our fabulous Mexican Cruise although it’s really not a cruise day, it was a travel day. We left Amarillo about 10:30 am and landed in San Diego about 3 pm Pacific. The flight connected in Las Vegas so it was pleasant. There were also a ton of Chiropractors on the flight but I didn’t talk to any of them about a book…I’m still working on the spinal decompression book and one at a time is plenty…although he may be my favorite Chiropractor ever. He’s so nice and unassuming – a rare thing in doctor ranks. Anyway, the hotel was a $10 cab ride from the airport….so yes we probably could have walked but hey, I wanted a cab. We stayed at the Holiday Inn on the Bay which is a whole 20 steps from the cruise terminal and our boat docked right in front of the hotel.

We ate at a little restaurant built over the water called Antonio’s and yes, I had sea kitten – fillet of sole to be exact. We sat out on the balcony in our hotel room and enjoyed the near perfect 75 degree weather (no wind) until the sun went down. It was a beautiful first day and can’t wait to hop on board and get away. I’ll still be working of course, but I can do that anywhere which is the absolute beauty of being a full time writer!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

And we're off!!!

The last two days have been insanely busy!! Not only has every dormant author decided to start working on their book again, they all had to call to chat before I left. Yes, I feel the love but I'm ready to feel the tequila infused air of Mexico a lot more.

We've come across two great projects for our publishing company and are very excited to see how they go. I'll be revealing more as thing progress on those. I've also caught up a few things so I'm getting everything cleared out for the new onslaught of projects as seminar season kicks off. It usually doesn't get swinging until the end of Feb, but this year its starting mid-January. I guess its a sign of the times as people seek answers to the problems (financial and otherwise) that they have.

In other news, I'm a little wary about leaving the fishys in care of Liz and Chris for the week. I've left them before but it wasn't the dead of winter so I'm just hoping that they keep them from being fishcicles by the time I get back. Speaking of fish I saw something hilarious today. It's an article about the fact that PETA has 'rebranded' fish as 'sea kittens'. I know - I'm still laughing. Anyway it seems they think that fish need an image make over so all those bad people will stop torturing them by catching them and *gasp* eating them!!! Can you believe it? They even have bedtime stories and everything for wacked out people to read to their poor impressionable children. Here's the link -

You know, perhaps they should 'rebrand' cattle - they could be 'milk horses'. Chickens could be 'egg parrots' and carrots could be 'Chia Roots'. The world has gone mad - MAD I tell you! This will give me something serious to talk about on the boat when I've had one too many.....

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Mexico here we come!!

So finally we get a vacation that's just to relax. I know that it seems like a travel a lot, and I do but not very often just to relax. Of course I will still be working on the boat from my laptop, in fact i think some of my best work comes from relaxed cruises, sitting at the bar with a fruity drink close at hand.

On this journey, we're headed down the Mexican Rivera. I'm looking forward to the warm sea breeze and great Mexican food. Since its Mexico, we won't be doing much off the boat. While it may seem exotic for someone from the great white north, its not all that different for Texans. I really wanted a cruise that had lots of days at sea and wasn't a hustle and bustle of shore excursions to places that were unique and different. When its like that you feel obligated to get off at every port, but Mexico is Mexico so it allows me to relax and soak in the sun.

As soon as we get back from Mexico I leave for LA and then on to Vegas in Feb. Its the start of seminar season so our business will be picking up again and running full tilt until the holidays next year.

For those waiting on a castle update, the newest issue is that it seems to be mating season for some of the neighborhood cats and since we seem to be the only yard without dogs they choose to exhibit their loud kitty foreplay on the back patio while the labs next door bark themselves into a frenzy. I may rent a dog for a few weeks so they will at least take their sex screams out to the alley.