Cozumel

Our last stop on the cruise was Cozumel. We sat by the beach, was served lunch, and relaxed. It was a nice end to our cruise. The water wasn’t as clear as we had expected, but we were still able to go in and swim.

This is the view of the ship docking. The lamps were still on because it was still pretty early in the morning. I wanted to see the sunrise and watch the docking, so while husband was still sleeping, I got up and made my way to the top floor. I realized I could only either watch the sunrise or the docking because the sunrise was on one side and the docking was on the other. I decided to watch the docking.

Once we got off the ship, we took a short bus ride to the beach resort and found a nice spot right by the water. In the photo, husband and I were in the water taking a photo of where we sat. I believe the third or fourth umbrella in the front there (right to left) was ours.

Here’s the view directly in front of where we sat. That’s an inflatable water slide. I believe you have to get on a jet ski to get over to it. We didn’t bother with that. It was nice relaxing by the water and that’s all we really wanted.

We had a great time on this cruise. The cruise members were super friendly and the food was pretty good. The best part, of course, was just getting away from the every day and relaxing.

One thing I always enjoy about cruising is how beautiful the cruise ships are. When we arrived at the Cozumel port, two Carnival ships also arrived. Husband and I were having breakfast when we saw the two ships.

We ate quickly and went to the top floor because I knew they were going to have to “spin” and I wanted to capture it. The first boat pulled in bow first but the second one spun around.

This was probably the most exciting part of our vacation for me…lol.

We’d love to go on another cruise next year. We don’t have anything set in stone yet but we’d really love to go again.

Costa Maya

Our second day on the cruise, we arrived in Costa Maya. We took the tour to see the Mayan Ruins. It was a one hour bus ride to the location and then about an hour walking around the ruins and listening to our tour guide.

We had a pretty large group of people on our tour but there were other tour groups there as well. The people in the photo were all from our group. Behind me was another tour group waiting for their turn.
Our tour guide said areas like this with overgrown trees on top of rocks were Mayan pyramids that have not been excavated but will be.

It was extremely humid on the tour. We were told that it was rain season and that it had just rained and that it was going to rain again. The roads were dry so it was hard to tell but there were moments when rain misted.

I learned so much about the Mayan people on this tour. Our tour guide was Mayan and it was interesting when he spoke Mayan to us. It sounded like he was speaking Chinese. He said the Mayans migrated from China and that’s why their language was very similar.

Costa Maya was enjoyable, aside from the humidity.

Port of Galveston

The cruise we took in late July was out of Port of Galveston in Galveston, TX. We stayed at the Harbor House Hotel which was walking distance to the cruise check-in building. We were at the hotel for one night and had time to eat at two restaurants, watch an oil tanker come through the waterway, and watch the sunset with the cutest tugboat in the view.

View from our hotel room. We ate lunch at the restaurant in the building behind the bus.

Our room in the hotel.

Front of the hotel.
Walking along the port.
The back of the hotel.
The view during dinner at a restaurant that was walking distance from the hotel.

Watched an oil tanker as it came through and docked.

Sunset. This little tug boat looked much bigger in person.

Embarking the Royal Caribbean Grandeur of the Seas.

At our muster station. We were required to simply go to our station before the ship left the dock. Someone was there to scan our card and then we were done. We watched the rest of the drill information on our phones. It was very simple and quick compared to pre-COVID (on a different cruise line).

The main pool area.

Main pool area with the movie screen in view. During cruising out at sea, they played “Dune” and “King Richard.”

Top deck.

Our cabin.

Cabin bathroom.

Leaving port.

Going toward Costa Maya, Mexico. We were out at sea for one full day before arrival. You can see all the oil tankers waiting to come into port. We counted over 20 tankers. Most of them were not in view.

More photos to come…

Photos and Unboxing of the Caramel B6 Folio Cascade

Last time I posted, my youngest daughter hadn’t started school yet. Now, she’s already two and half months in and coming upon her first PSATNMSQT test. Last year she took the PSAT, which was required by the school for the all the students to take. This year she qualified for the PSATNMSQT. Can you believe next year she’ll be taking the SATNMSQT?

I know I promised cruise photos and they’re ready to go and should be up soon. I can’t wait share photos and talk about my experience with this vacation and cruise line.

Chic Sparrow came out with this limited edition leather called Caramel. It’s a nubuk leather. Husband said it’s the same leather they use on Birkenstocks so I decided to get my hand on one. Here is the unboxing:

In the last 35 seconds of the video there is a clip of the drive through the mountains on the Million Dollar Highway. I provide a short description in the comments of the video about the city we visited and this highway, so if you’d like to learn a little bit about history, click on “Watch on Youtube,” and “Show More.”

Here are photos of the Caramel Folio:

This is a very pretty leather. After a few days holding it I’m not too sure I’m digging the suede feel. I like it, but I just don’t know if I love it. I wonder if this is the same leather they use for the Traveler’s Company’s Camel Traveler’s Notebook. I feel like I almost have to buy that one too just to compare.

July’s 2022 Playlist

The last couple of weeks in July, husband and I took a cruise vacation to Costa Maya and Cozumel, Mexico. It was a really nice and relaxing vacation. When we returned, we took a road trip to Silverton, CO, which is 6 hours from where we live. I’ll be sharing photos soon. Right now, let’s check out my playlist.

I’ve been editing a novel for Camp NaNoWriMo for July and am happy to say, I completed it! I was worried I wouldn’t be able to hit my word count because of the vacation and all but I did it. During the editing, I listened to the playlist I made for the novel but I also had Pandora.com on and listened to a lot of Enigma and Sarah Brightman. One song in particular came on and brought back memories of a dance I taught a few students at Catechism some fifteen or twenty years ago. This was the song:

The dance was only about 2 minutes long so the song was cropped just enough to fit. For some reason, I don’t now where that cropped version is. I wouldn’t be able to share it but I wanted to listen to it.

Often I’ll listen to epic compilations as background music and the one below (over an hour and a half long) was really nice. I was editing the sci-fi cyborg novel so the music really didn’t fit but for some reason just having the music low as “white noise” really got me going. I was able to edit over 60K words. My goal was 50K.

If you’re a writer, do you like having music in the background or do you write without any music/noise?

Book Review: Kingdom of the Wicked

Title: Kingdom of the Wicked
Author: Kerri Maniscalco
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Year Published: September 7, 2021

Date finished: July 6, 2022

This book was recommended to me by my daughter. She loved it and thought I should read it because it’s fantasy and there’s romance. The cover was very pretty too.

The story is about a girl named Emilia who is on the hunt for the person who killed her twin sister. Emilia comes from a family of witches and can cast spells, summon demons, and whatnot. She’s got some powerful gifts, but because she’s portrayed as young (even though she’s 18), her personality falls on the very naive side. At times she seems mature, but her decisions always seem non-thought-out, hasty.

Emilia summons a demon to help her find her sister’s killer. However, in her haste, she summons the demon (Wrath) whom she saw at the alter where her sister was slain. She thinks he was the one who killed her sister, but because the spell she used forged the two of them to be stuck together for a time, she holds back. The story continues on the path of Emilia’s quest to find the killer even though she’s aware Wrath could be it. She begins to form an attraction for him, and he to her as well. Later, he gets into an altercation where he is injured pretty badly and leaves earth. Emilia now has fallen hard for him and wants to find him.

I’m not sure what to think exactly about this book. I don’t not like it, but I don’t love it either. I am intrigued enough to read the next book. It’s written very simply so it’s easy to read. The plot is simple as well. It’s sort of murder-mystery with magic, and then there’s the young, innocent romance. The characters don’t feel fully thought out. There is a sense that Emilia wants to go in one direction (to find the murderer of her sister) and yet she’s leaning so far the other direction (her sudden love for Wrath). There is consistency with the storyline. Nothing is too far-fetched into any direction so it makes it safe for the really young readers.

Who should read this book: Those who enjoy young adult fantasy or fantasy with a gothic or dark feel such as Caraval, For the Wolf, and Gideon the Ninth where it feels like it’s always nighttime. However, the writing style is more so for young adults, unlike Gideon the Ninth where the writing is more mature, similar to Dune.

June’s Playlist 2022: Breakup Songs

Photo taken 10 years ago this month after a hail storm.

In June, I was listening to breakup songs to get the mood I want for the current story I’m getting ready to edit for this months’ Camp Nano. In a strangely funny way, I found two iconic songs that were extremely well done but are completely opposite of each other.

The first one is “Driver’s License” by Olivia Rodrigo. This song has a naive innocence that I’m pretty sure every teenage girl or young adult who has had their heart broken could relate too. Olivia’s writing skills is something else. She’s very talented.

The second song is “You Oughta Know” by Alanis Morrisette. This is the grown up version of a heartbreak song. You can just feel the betrayal.

I love both of these songs for their differences and similarities. Other breakup favorites I listened to were:

  • “Back to Black” by Amy Winehouse
  • “Apologize” by One Republic
  • “What Goes Around…Comes Around” by Justin Timberlake
  • “Somebody That I Used to Know” by Gotye
  • “It Must Have Been Love” by Roxette
  • “Dancing On My Own” by Robyn
  • “The Scientist” by Coldplay

Do you have a favorite breakup song you listen to?

Book Review: The Leadership Guide: Unleashing the Power Within and In Others

Title: The Leadership Guide: Unleashing the Power Within and In Others
Author: Dr. Srikanth Gaddam
Genre: Non-fiction; Education; Self-help
Year Published: November 11, 2021

Date finished: June 17, 2022

This is a book on how to be a better leader in the workforce and how to continuously work on leadership skills to stay on top. It focuses on techniques by looking at oneself and one’s goals and purpose. The book opens with an introduction providing insights into why the author wrote this book. It’s a really helpful section in that it helps you understand the purpose and importance of leadership. The chapters are executed with straight-forward descriptions using bullet points and bolded sections to make it easy to focus on each particular points. Each chapter ends with a chapter takeaway, a quick key-points of the chapter.

I have read other books on leadership in the past and this one is one of the best. I like that it talks about an individual’s abilities and to look within to find that leadership. The book is full of important methods and techniques in leadership. It explains why leadership matters and how to get to where you want to be. It also includes the different types of leadership styles, challenges to overcome, leading teams and organizations, organizational leadership, leadership during crisis, and more. It’s a very thorough book with excellent points.

The book is focused on leadership in the workforce, specifically larger companies, but it could also be applied to an individual or smaller businesses. If you’ve ever taken a Stephen Covey course, you’ll know that the skills you’ve learned can be applied to everyday life. This book works the same way. The difference with this book is that it’s to-the-point and can be used as a reference guide for years to come. There are no stories or examples of how to use these steps. It’s not meant for that. It’s rather about the inner self and how to grow one’s leadership skills by focusing within as well as paying attention to the changing world around. This book was extremely well executed.

Who should read this book: Everyone should read this book. Even if you’re already a leader or have years of experience in leadership, this book is a great reference resource for those moments you might question your own abilities.

Book Review: Life of Evil: A Reeves and Blake Thriller

Title: Life of Evil: A Reeves & Blake Thriller
Author: Robert Lalonde
Genre: Fiction, Detective Thriller
Year Published: June 25, 2021

Date finished: June 11, 2022

The is a detective thriller about a murderer who has a unique way of killing his victims. P.I. Frank Reeves is hard at work figuring out who the murderer is. His secretary, Sam who is working her way to become an investigator finds herself closer to the murderer than she imagined.

This was a pretty fast-paced read. The characters were thrown in almost all together, so it was hard to get into the story at first. I liked the idea of the story and how Sam worked her way to become an investigator. The murderer was hidden well. I couldn’t figure out who they were until the very end. That was done excellently.  Overall, this was a good read.

Who should read this book: If you’re into mystery thriller, detective, and psychological thrillers, this one is for you.

Book Review: The Combat Diaries: True Stories from the Frontlines of WWII

Title: The Combat Diaries: True Stories from the Frontlines of World War II
Author: Mike Guardia
Genre: Non-fiction; WWII; Anthology
Year Published: April 1, 2022

Date finished: June 9, 2022

This is the first time I’ve read a diary of sort about military men in war. It’s not so much a diary but stories—short memoirs—about a few individual service members during WWII. It lets us see (and just barely see) the horrendousness of war through the eyes of these brave men. The stories provide some backstory to how and where they grew up, and how and why they entered the military. Each story ends with what each of them did after the war and a photo or two of them either taken during the war and/or afterwards.

All the stories are well told and provide insights into the many ways these men dealt with survival, following orders, what they saw/experienced, and everything else. One of the stories took me by surprise. It was the one where the Lieutenant was introduced to an OSS agent named Julia McWilliams, whom after the war, married and became who we know as Julia Childs, the television chef. There were so many things I wasn’t aware of, like the POWs in the Philippines, the OSS (Office of Strategic Services) that eventually became the CIA, the concentration camp that contained not only Jews but everyone else that “didn’t belong,” etc. I don’t want to take away from each soldier’s story because it’s their story that reminds us what freedom looks like, but just wanted to point out that there’s so much to learn from this book.

This was one amazing read. I enjoyed every story and wanted more. What I found interesting was that even in this type of environment, the men were able to find humor. I wish there was a way to read as many of these stories as possible in this style. I don’t know why this isn’t done more often, but I can also understand, and respect, that some families might want to remain private. There were so many military servicemen that died, and their stories will never be heard. I find that so heartbreaking.

Who should read this book: I’d recommend everyone read it.