Sunday, June 5, 2011

A Weighty Matter

I have to admit that during the entire time we were away, I was a murder trial junkie.  While our TV selections were limited, we did have HLN (CNN Headline News) so that even when we were in sunny Mexico, I was watching the Trial of the 21st Century back home.  Since arriving home, I have (of course) checked the news, both written and video, and oh boy, this is bad - Judge Perry raised the issue of incompetent counsel as a basis for future appeal if a certain line of questioning is pursued. Apparently Jose Baez "opened the door" to questioning regarding Casey Anthony's felony charges regarding her theft and use of checks belonging to a former best friend, and while the Judge was prepared to allow the state to pursue what would have been devastating testimony for the jury to hear, he did so with the caveat about possible future appeals. There is no doubt that Jose Baez is stepping on the Chief Judge's last good nerve. There is also no doubt that he is an embarrassment to the legal profession.

I would like to know how Giada deLaurentiis grew up eating, at least according to her, copious amounts of Nutella without turning into a very chubby individual.  I love the stuff, but it has the same calorie count as butter, so I limit my intake.  Like peanut butter, I could eat Nutella out of the jar using a spoon or my tasty index finger, and if I were to indulge in that too frequently, I can only assume I would come to regret it.

Giada and her mother are making (and eating!) Fried Nutella Ravioli. 

Speaking of regrets, I have none.  About eating, that is.  It felt as though all I did was eat for the past seven days, but that was apparently as imaginary as Casey Anthony's nanny, because when I got on the scale this morning, I had lost a pound and a half.  Rob is the same weight he was before we left.  After the last full day on the ship, when we made sure to try everything we had not drunk or tasted before that, I figured I'd have to be rolled down the gangplank.  I guess that perception came from the same part of my brain that fears I am going to wake up one morning 140 pounds heavier than I was the night before. 

From our first full day on the cruise:

May 29, 2011

There ought to be a law against indiscriminate breeding by annoying people. Look, when there are 4500 people on board, excluding the crew, you have got to indulge in some bitchy people-watching. You can't help it - whiny parents with whiny kids. Morbidly obese women sporting heroic breasts, searching out the legendary "midnight buffet", only to be disappointed by the relatively Spartan nature of the 21st century version. Jeez, lady, you already ate enough to save a third world country from starvation - are you saying that 24 hour pizza, ice cream, and coffee, plus late night snacks of huge hot dogs, hamburgers and French fries is somehow not enough?

Breakfast at "The Gathering".  I kept expecting the cast of Babylon 5 to show up.

We are sitting by the window, enjoying a post-breakfast respite, now that the whiny kid has been spirited off for delivery to Camp Carnival. The food has been rather good so far. Ahh ha ha, whiny kid has been replaced by sullen teenager. It's a good thing we never raised a girl.

This morning we are going to check out a cooking demonstration by the Steakhouse chef. The weather is glorious, and sometime today we're going going to sit out on the deck like proper tourists, soaking up sun, sights, and tropical libations. I like this ship!!

Cooking demonstration held in the Chef's Art Steakhouse.  That's Rajesh on the right.  The fellow on the left better watch his hair extensions; apparently there's a big market for those, and they've become the top target of thieves and ruffians who would do harm to possess them.

We're at the cooking demonstration. We all get samples to taste and they are awesome. A lot of garlic, truffle oil, exotic mushrooms, and mac and cheese to go with a grilled free range chicken breast. A tiramisu to die for. Fun with yum. And recipes to bring home.

More from the cooking demo.  I have to admit the creamy mac and cheese tucked under the chicken was awesome and the tiramisu was ethereal.

I don't know if my hearing is going or is merely dyslexic, but I was sure the onboard shopping director was exhorting us to head over to the Burnt Flounder Lounge. Never did find it, but we took our own tour of the ship, checking out the tax and duty free stores and taking pictures from the highest decks. Pretty and mesmerizingly peaceful.

High Noon
So we manage to find some deck chairs in Serenity and settle down to read and relax. I am very proud of the fact that I remembered our hats, even if Rob's does say "Grumpy" on it. But guess what we DID forget? Oh yeah, the sunscreen. Since we are essentially cave dwellers, it is doubtful our fish belly complexions can withstand too much more of this. But the heat feels marvelous and I can put on my Fashion Police hat, which looks a lot like my favorite straw hat, with cheerful anonymity. Like, "Girl, I know you're not pregnant, because if you were, you wouldn't be jiggling like that. I would like to send out a message to my sisters everywhere: bikinis and bellies don't work well together. And guys - I know you CAN take your shirts off, but that doesn't mean you should. If you've got man boobies, please keep 'em covered. If you were a girl, you'd be wearing an underwire bra to support those babies."

Miniature golf on deck

Apparently our cruise director's name is Butch. Cute. Butch, not his nickname. And hyperactive, but I think that is a prerequisite to holding that position. Butch has an assistant named Alan or George or something perfectly normal, but for the purposes of this voyage is wearing the unfortunate sobriquet of Baby Butch.

Hmmm ... I've been on this ship for 24 hours and I have yet to have any alcohol.

Midnight in the Garden of Food and Evil:

Took care of that alcohol thing. I had forgotten just how good the cosmopolitans are on these cruise ships. Tonight was "formal" night, and that means one thing: lobster. Never mind taking pictures in a formal gown, or shaking hands with the Captain - it's about my favorite food, the food I have designated for my last supper. I was actually able to hang up my Fashion Police hat for one evening.

When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie ...

Dining onboard is always an adventure. We acquired another couple at the table tonight. The gentleman apparently hates the city of Atlanta, which ought to be a crime. Our maitre d' sounds like Bela Lugosi. The entire waitstaff sang "That's Amore!" which was especially sweet because they are all Filipino. It was a good night.

From our table - Gloria, Ilia, and Bob

Tomorrow we dock at Cozumel, and we're going ashore to participate in a Mexican cooking class. No Mayan ruins for us this stop, unless I burn something.

If you have ever sailed on Carnival, then you know that all of their ships, regardless of size or age, are essentially the same.  This is a good thing, as far as I am concerned.  Think about it - it helps to know that Deck 5, the Promenade Deck, has all the shops on it, plus affords access to all the stairwells and elevators, front to aft, without interruption.  You can always orient yourself on Promenade Deck to find where you are trying to go.  At the same time, each new generation of ship has something even better to offer to guests, and the Carnival Dream is at the top of the food chain.  An example is again, Deck 5, where in addition to unfettered interior access, there is an uninterrupted exterior deck wrapped around the ship.  This is where the Lanai is located (good eats, plus a couple of whirlpools) and you can enjoy a stroll or jog without having to climb to the nosebleed section on Decks 13 and 14.  The ship has also incorporated bells and whistles that were first seen on ships built during the previous decade.

Each ship does adopt it's own theme.  When Rob and I were on the Carnival Triumph in late 2008, it was the Great Cities of the World theme, with dining rooms and lounges named accordingly.  On the Carnival Dream, it was about the color red, which was weird.  The Scarlet Dining Room, the Crimson Dining Room, and the Burnt Flounder Burgundy Lounge.  Weird.

Also weird - we just got back, but I've got to bust a move and finalize our plans for Little Rock.  Somehow I let it get past me just how soon the departure date was coming up.

I have to make a trip to Publix and do some cooking to feed the family, and I think I'll take an opportunity to participate in my self-styled "I can make it better" recipe contest.  As I had said throughout the trip, the food was really good.  Having said that, there were a few dishes that I tried (or in one case, had Rob describe to me) that I felt I could definitely do better.  One of those was the Cream of Sun Ripened Tomatoes with Herb Croutons.  My creamy tomato soup is better, in my humble opinion, and I have provided the recipe over here.

The other recipes that I have, or can do better:  West Indian Roasted Pumpkin Soup; Assorted Seafood, Newburg Style; Baked Eggplant with Mozzarella Cheese (an appetizer), served with a green pea fondue and Romesco sauce; Baked Alaska;  Stuffed Mushrooms.  Not sure which one I'm going to pick to make today - it will, as always, depend on what strikes my fancy once I get inside my favorite palace of provisions.

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