Thursday, August 30, 2012

Alaska Cruise - Food!!

'Here it is, just as I promised--an entire post devoted entirely to cruise food. I'm sorry.

And you're welcome.

Question: Have you ever tried any of the following?

*Wellington steak
or *Chilled peach soup?

Well, so have I.

I tried them ALL on the cruise actually, and for the first time, too.

You see, I'm not much of a seafood lover, which is why I hadn't tried most of those things before. But I figured a cruise was the perfecf way to expand my reportoire of eating habits. And you know what I discovered?

That I'm a lot pickier than I thought I was.

I usually brag that I'm not a picky eater at all and like most everything, but now I have to clarify: I'm not picky at all if I'm doing the cooking, and if I've already tried everything on my plate.

Ha ha.

But the cruise food was simply divine (I mean, how could it not be when I had no fewer than FIVE desserts on most days?)

My favorite thing though? That chilled peach soup. Man, there should be sonnets written about that chilled peach soup. I am determined to find out how to make it.

The palate-cleansing smoothies were pretty scrumptious too.

 Ever want to know what Beef Wellington looks like? Well, today's your lucky day:

On our last night, we celebrated with a Baked Alaska (above). Isn't that just the prettiest dessert you've ever seen?

Our last full day on the cruise, the chefs all put on a pastry party, which looked something like this:

To which our faces then looked something like this:

And, as a result of said pastry party, our last breakfast on the cruise looked something like this:

I have discovered a grand secret: the best tip for motivating yourself to start losing weight is to go on a cruise and completely stuff yourself silly all week long, to the point that you never want to see another creme brulee or medium rare steak again.

Or at least not for a very long time.

But to wrap things up, I discovered three very important things on the cruise:

1: I need to try new food way more frequently than I do. How else will I ever learn how to become a gourmet chef if I can't even handle a few unique flavor combinations?

2: The presentation of food makes a BIG difference in how appetizing it looks

And 3: Room service is pretty much the best idea of all time.

So, are you hungry yet?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Alaska Cruise - Victoria, Canada

To round out our vacation, we made a quick stop in Victoria, Canada for about four hours. Originally we'd planned on going to the Butchart Gardens (which has been on my dream list ever since I've heard of its existence), but due to cost and time constraints, we decided to save it for some future trip.

(I WILL go back, folks--I am determined to see those Gardens, dang it!

We first wandered around the main heart of the city, where we spent significant time around The Empress Hotel, which was surrounded by some of the loveliest rose gardens I've ever seen (not to mention some of the largest hydrangea bushes!).

In my future trip to Victoria, I plan to get a cup of [herbal] tea at the Hotel's official Tea Time Room. Pretty much I just saw all the little cakes they had on their cute little silver serving platters, and I was officially determined right then and there that we were coming back someday.

Luckily for us, we had a backup plan to Butchart--before we stepped onto land, Matt had glanced through some of the other tourist sites available, and we'd discovered that there was a castle within walking distance from downtown.

And I knew that we were going as soon as I heard Matt utter "Castle."

I married such a [cute] nerd.

And really, when it came right down to it, Craigdarroch Castle was definitely worth the 30-minute walk it took to get there. Although not an actual "castle" in the traditional sense of the word (more of a glorified mansion from the late 1800s), the castle boasted all-wood walls and floors, authentic furniture (much of it from the original home), and loads of ideas for Matt's future castle plans.

He took pictures of every room.

Even the bathroom.

We rounded the night off by checking out the sights and sounds of the artists and musicians set up around the pier.

One of my favorite pictures from the whole trip is the one below that Matt got of his parents.

Can't wait until next time, Victoria!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Tuesday Tell-All, Back 2 School Edition

*I taught my first day of school today. It was my first first day of school as a teacher ever, and I am EXHAUSTED. I feel like my feet have swollen up like a pregnant lady's (I'm sure never wearing those heels again in this heat!), and I needed a Dr. Pepper something awful by the end of it. But all that said, I feel like it really went pretty well--the students were (mostly) responsive and well-behaved, and I even got a couple of them to say that I'm already their favorite teacher.

*Little do they know, mwa ha ha.

*See that adorable pencil vase above? That was an awesome classroom-warming gift by my dear friend Petrice, who never ceases to amaze me with her creativity and thoughtfulness. Every day I wish I could have half of her natural artistic and creative talent--she's amazing! (And tons of students/teachers commented on the vase, too). There's just something so magical about having a fresh bouquet of flowers around . . . it just perks your mood right up.

*I'm seriously tempted to start treating myself to a fresh bouquet of flowers every month. I would just love that.

*I teach 5 periods total and have one prep period. Four of my classes are Language Arts classes, and my last class (an elective class) is Creative Writing.

*Funny story: several students, upon being asked to share why they signed up for Creative Writing, said that they took it because they thought it was an art class. Like calligraphy and stuff. I had more than a few students admit that they really didn't like writing at all. I didn't know whether to laugh or weep for them--and myself.

*Also, half of my creative writing class (no exaggeration) said that they only took the class because their friends were in it. Hmmm...

*Despite all that, I'm still way excited to teach that class. I love writing so much that I figure that some of my positive enthusiasm about it is bound to rub off on some unsuspecting teenager...

*My classroom decorating scheme is totally random because I was simply dreading having to do it. Basically it just consists of whatever I've gleaned off of other teachers (including Matt's dad, who's a religious instructor). I'm just proud of myself because I had more than one student tell me that they "really loved how I'd decorated the room." Mission accomplished.

*I always thought I'd be a super strict teacher, but I've found that I have a tendency to be almost too nurturing to the point of not being challenging enough. I've really got to find a way to remedy that, and pronto.

*Today I talked about disclosures for over four hours. Yuck. Just yuck.

*Only a tenth of the students get my humor so far. The rest just look up at me, scared to do anything but stare.

*I find it disturbing that on numerous questionnaires that I got back today, students had written that they liked English "because it was easy" and "because they got to watch movies a lot." Boo on that.

*Despite having the above sign outside my door, me standing outside the door and welcoming students (while saying my name), AND telling the students to double check their schedules to make sure they were in the right place at the right time, I still had about five students who were in the wrong place and had to get up and leave after roll call. Bless their hearts.

*During first hour, just as I was getting into my teaching groove, the class had a major freak-out moment when a GINORMOUS bug started scuttling across the floor. Chaos ensued as girls and boys were shrieking and getting up on their chairs. I finally requested that some brave soul kill it (cuz heaven knows that I wasn't going to!), and I made everyone applaud for him when all was said and done. It was actually pretty ridiculous.

*My classroom was about 95 degrees by the last period today. Yuck.

*I took my creative writing class outside because of the heat so that they could do their getting-to-know-you thing out there in the shade. One particularly vocal student (whom I have for Language Arts, Creative Writing, AND Advisory) said, "So when are we going to do the fun thing?" Bless his heart.
*And finally, here's the secret to making everyone think you're cool: just hang up this Yoda poster on your front door. Then they're forced to love you. (Get it? "Forced" to love you? Ha ha. I know I'm awesome).
*Oh buddy, it's been a long (but good day). I need some ice cream.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Alaska - Tracey Arm Fjord

Before this cruise, I had never heard of Tracey Arm Fjord. Just in case you haven't either, the Fjord is a narrow inlet that's been carved out by a massive glacier off the coast of Southern Alaska. The opening to the Fjord is a tricky little sucker to navigate on a cruise ship (or so we heard), but once you're in, it's one of the most incredible sights you could ever see--sheer cliff faces, roaring waterfalls, turquoise icebergs...

And once again, we got VERY lucky with the weather; it was a perfectly clear, sunny day, and we were able to see it all.

I thank my Heavenly Father every day to have the honor of enjoying such a beautiful world.

And in case you were wondering, it was probably one of the coldest mornings of the whole trip (despite the blue skies and sun).

Thank goodness we bought those rainjackets in Junea, or we would have just been two more icebergs to add to the pile.

But in summary, if you ever get the chance to go to Tracey Arm Fjord--JUMP ON IT.

It will be one of the most amazing sights of your life.

I promise.

Friday, August 24, 2012

In Which I Leave on Vacation Again...

Well, we're off again. It seems like we just barely got home (oh wait...), and now we're off to our next big adventure:

Youth Conference.

I'll have more Alaska posts waiting for you when I get back.

(If I survive).

Just kidding.

About the survival part, that is.

What are you going to do this weekend?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Alaska - Skagway & Ketchikan

Although Skagway was my least favorite of all the places we stopped, it's definitely worth a quick trip. Skagway is a town that was built up mainly due to the massive gold rush in Alaska in the late 1800s, and the town definitely has an old Wild-West kind of feel to it (complete with old saloons and everything).

As for us, we enjoyed getting pictures on the old train models and buying souvenirs. Skagway was the best place for shopping because it had tourist shops that went on as far as the eye could see, it seemed.

The picture on the bottom left there shows what kind of face I make when I don't know when Matt is going to be taking a picture. The one on the right is actually of one of the snow plows they used to hook up to the front of the trains in winter.

 We went on another (shorter) hike while in Skagway, where we found the magical mushrooms that  looked just like bagels (don't they??) and a random couple by the river who obviously wanted their privacy. Don't worry--we just took pictures around them,  ha ha.

The last city we visited in Alaska was Ketchikan, which, as you can see below, is the salmon capital of the world. I wish we could have spent a lot more time here (we only spent about 5 hours) because the town had a quaint, small-town feel to it, along with lots of awesome photography opportunities.

It was here that we went kayaking for about 2.5 hours, which was my favorite excursion of the whole trip. We went in the early morning, when the lighting upon the water could not have been more beautiful. We saw starfish and seals and more salmon, and we still did not see a bear.

Dang it.

Just fyi, most of the kayaking pictures are stolen from Matt's mom, Sherry.

Oh, and have you ever been kayaking? I thought I had, but then I realized when we started that maybe I really hadn't. The paddling was a little tricky at first (and I got a little wet from my splashing), but after a couple hours on the water, Matt and I were fairly positive that we could have beat the other three kayaks in a [very short] race.

We should enter the Olympics next time.
01 09 10