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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Belize 2008

We traveled to Turneffe Atoll, Belize for a week and had a lovely Thanksgiving! We stayed at Turneffe Island Lodge for a week of diving, relaxing and fun.

The Trip to Belize
For financial reasons, we departed on Friday the 21st from National Airport rather than BWI. Todd was thirsty and I was trying to stay hydrated for the flight, so we stopped at Wendy's in Owings Mills for a big soda to drink. Everything was fine with traffic. I had mapped out three different routes to get to the airport, and we ended up taking New York Avenue into the city.

When we got off of New York Avenue and on to 395, it was a different story. The road became a parking lot, and the large soda that I drank wasn't helping. It took us about an hour to get from New York Avenue across to Arlington. It was too long, I was dying. Thankfully, I'd allowed plenty of time, but I was afraid to get off the road to find a restroom, not knowing how easy one would be to find and how easy it would be to get back onto 395. I knew that even if my bladder made it to the airport, I wasn't familiar with National and how easy it would be to find a restroom there.

So... I went in a cup. We make fun of Todd for doing a similar thing back in 2005, but at least he has the proper equipment. All I can say is that I'm grateful that he has all-season floor mats in his car (although, I'm proud of the fact that there was no spillage!), and that Wendy's soda cups are so wide!!! I was much better after that and we headed off to Houston without further incident (Hooray for Continental Airlines, again!).

We spent Friday night in Houston at the Marriott at Bush International Airport. It was uneventful and we took a plane out to Belize City first thing Saturday morning.

The manager of the lodge, Paul, met us at the airport and took our bags. As we headed to the dock, he let us know that there would be only one other couple staying on the island. That is right, only four people in a resort built for forty. We were sort of flabbergasted. There would be another couple arriving on Wednesday, but for now it would just be the four of us.

The two of us at sunset:
From Belize 2008 Topside - Todd's Photos (sized)


Eva and Tom, the only other guests at the resort until Wednesday:
From Belize 2008 Topside - Todd's Photos (sized)



Turneffe Island Lodge
We spent a little time at the dock bar/restaurant in Belize City until the boat was ready to leave. We met the other couple (Eva and Tom) who would be at the resort during the stay, and also met Paul's wife, Kelly. Most importantly, we met Jorge, who gave us rum punches as we headed out on the boat for the hour and a half boat ride out to Turneffe Atoll.

Our Cabana:
From Belize 2008 Topside - Kim's Photos


The pool bar at the resort:
From Belize 2008 Topside - Todd's Photos (sized)


As we pulled up to the resort dock, we were greeted by what must have been 20 staff members. All for us!! We also met the co-managers of the resort, Jason and Karen.

The lodge itself is located on Turneffe Atoll, which is about 30 miles offshore from Belize City. It's on a 14-acre island and has a capacity for 40 guests. We were in a private cabana, and there were lots of places to relax - by the pool, in a hammock, on our screened in porch, or in a chaise on the beach. I preferred to get my sleep on in the hanging bed (I think it is queen size?) under a palapa at the end of the dock.

The hanging bed under a Palapa:
From Belize 2008 Topside - Todd's Photos (sized)


A view from the main lodge:
From Belize 2008 Topside - Todd's Photos (sized)


Meals were served family style and very tasty. I ended up finding it very necessary to buy the cookbook.

The ladies in the kitchen preparing dinner:
From Belize 2008 Topside - Todd's Photos (sized)


The Diving
We did 2-3 dives per day. At our request, we did a third dive on Monday, when we were originally scheduled to only do two dives. Sadly, visibility was not what we would have liked, so we didn't see the "big things" (sharks, rays, schools of fish, etc) that we expected. Still, we had some excellent dives. We got to see a lot of small things, from shrimp to nudibranch to flamingo tongues, etc. Todd was specializing in macro and super macro photography, and the dive master (Marcel) and I were up to the task of finding tiny things in coral heads for him to photograph.

Todd is ready to dive:
From Belize 2008 Topside - Kim's Photos


Black Spotted Nudibranch:
From Belize 2008 Underwater (sized)


Flamingo Tongue:
From Belize 2008 Underwater (sized)


Sharp Nosed Puffer... They had just spawned and were EVERYWHERE.
From Belize 2008 Underwater (sized)


Something very interesting was the White Spotted Toadfish (photo). They are unique to Belize and stay mostly in holes. They look to me like a combination of a spotted eel and a scorpion fish. They make a noise underwater that sounds like a chainsaw, which is very strange.

We did a total of 16 dives, Todd took some wonderful photos, and I got to do a back roll off of the boat, which is unusual for me. :)

The Great Blue Hole
The big diving spectacle in Belize is the Great Blue Hole. We were about an hour and a half from the Blue Hole and took a day trip out there on Tuesday. This was by far the worst weather of the week, being cloudy and rainy most of the day. However, since we were underwater it really didn't matter all that much. Well, except on the boat ride out there, which was a little bit rough.

Kim in the Blue Hole:
From Belize 2008 Underwater (sized)


Since the Blue Hole is a former cave, when we went deep enough, we could see the stalactites that had formed before it was filled with water. These were fairly deep, so for this dive we went to about 130 feet, which is the limit that we can do as recreational divers. I got to experience some nitrogen narcosis, which was weird and kind of cool. Inside the hole were some sharks and large groupers, but not the bull sharks that we were expecting (just reef sharks).



After diving the Blue Hole, we went to Half Moon Caye, where we did two more dives, had some lunch (it was raining, so lunch was on the boat), and walked around the island. There was a bird sanctuary there, so we were able to see some boobies.

Todd at Half Moon Caye:
From Belize 2008 Topside - Kim's Photos


Thanksgiving
Thursday was Thanksgiving. It was my first time being out of the Maryland/Virginia area, and only the second time I've been away from my family for Thanksgiving (the first being a Thanksgiving spent with Dave's family). The Lodge went above and beyond anything that I would have expected! The table was beautiful, the ladies in the kitchen did a fantastic job with the food, and everything really was perfect.

The Thanksgiving Table:
From Belize 2008 Topside - Todd's Photos (sized)


Paul shows the Thanksgiving Turkey:
From Belize 2008 Topside - Todd's Photos (sized)


Of course, Todd suggested over and over again that we start out the night with loco chicken shots - half Wild Turkey and half Tequila. As disgusting as it sounds, they all did one (I did not, since I was drinking my family's favorite drink for Thanksgiving, a cosmo... my mom says they are Thanksgiving like because they contain cranberry juice).

Jorge preparing the Loco Chickens:
From Belize 2008 Topside - Todd's Photos (sized)


Everything Else
There's really not a whole lot of other things to report. We had a wonderful time, a great Thanksgiving, and a fairly uneventful trip home.

Blue Tangs:
From Belize 2008 Underwater (sized)


Sunset:
From Belize 2008 Topside - Todd's Photos (sized)


Photos below:

Belize 2008 Underwater (sized)


Belize 2008 Topside - Todd's Photos (sized)


Belize 2008 Topside - Kim's Photos

Coming Soon: Belize

So, last night we arrived home from a trip to Belize. Blog post and photos to come later today or tomorrow!!


From Belize 2008 Topside - Kim's Photos

Thursday, November 27, 2008

What I'm Thankful For

Whenever anyone has asked me what is the thing I fear the most, it isn't airplanes or sharks or spiders or boogeymen or what have you. The thing that I fear more than anything is losing someone that I love. I've been relatively lucky in my life, and I haven't had to face the loss of a loved one on any sort of large scale. Sure, I have had two grandparents pass away (and a third passed before I was born), but I was too young to be seriously affected and they were both old enough to have lived long, happy lives. I've also attended my fair share of funerals, but that is what happens when you have an extended family as large as mine.

In the spring of my sophomore year of college, but roommate's mother passed away. When that happened, I realized a serious fact: someday, I would be saying goodbye to my own parents, and it could happen sooner than I realized. My parents were 40 years old when I was born. They were receiving AARP magazines when I was still in elementary school. I should have known before then, but it really took seeing someone else lose a parent that really made it sink in. Since then, I have worried when my mother travels. I hate her being behind the wheel of a car for a drive as long as the one to Florida, or even Ocean City. I worry about her heart, her weight, her possibility of becoming diabetic. If I even think about the fact that I will probably attend her funeral, I get choked up.

Then, of course, there is Todd. The truly scary thing about bringing someone into your life to love is that same fear of loss. When we were first together, I worried about losing him in the normal fashion that you lose boyfriends - fighting, lack of interest, other women, whatever. Our relationship has grown past that, though, and I know that we'll be together for a long, long time. That is, of course, unless something far worse happens. And so, I breathe a sigh of relief every time I get that text message that says that he is past the finish line at a marathon. I am happy when he is safe at the end of his too-long commute (since driving is far more dangerous than any of the other "dangerous" things that we do). I am grateful for each and every night that he is safe at home and in bed beside me.

When my friend passed away a couple weeks ago at only 44 years old, you can imagine how upset his widow was. He was my soulmate, she said to us, we've been together since 1984... how am I going to make it without him? She handled herself so well, and yet it was heartwrenching to watch her living my nightmare. It only served to renew my fears.

And so, instead of the usual, "I am thankful for my iPod!" type thanksgiving messages, I would like to have a much deeper message. I am thankful for every single day that I get to spend with those people who are most dear to me.
  • I am thankful for the millions of emails I get from the UMBC folks about James Bond and writing contests.
  • I am thankful for my running friends, even when they whine about how many miles they're running and how many hills they are climbing.
  • I am thankful for Jim, and that he not mad that I said I am going to slap the chicken wings out of his hands the next time I see him with one.
  • I am thankful for my mother, and I'm thankful that she's come to understand and accept why I did some of the things that I've done recently.
  • I am thankful for my sisters and brother, who have loved and supported me for 30 years, no matter what.
  • I am thankful for The Bug, even though he somehow picked up a habit of biting my ankles while I am making dinner.
  • I am thankful for Dave, and the fact that we are still good friends.
  • And I am thankful for Todd, who never ceases to make me happy.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Please give your loved ones a hug and tell them how much they mean to you. Every single day with them is precious.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Private: News

News

Note: This is a private blog post.  To get access to my private blog, please email me.  Thanks!

It's Potluck Lunch Day!

Despite many great suggestions, I went with Hershey Kiss Cookies, which are a tradition in my family.  I made them Wednesday night and froze them.  They are currently thawing on my desk.  Making those cookies totally reminded me of my sister (the Florida one), and how she always made them when I was a kid.  My job was to unwrap the kisses.... :)

FormerRoommate, I am going to make your cake suggestion before the end of the year because it sounds really interesting.



Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Diving Records

I was making copies of my dive log, and thought I'd look and see what my longest and deepest dives were.  Keep in mind, though, that the length of a dive is often restricted by the dive master, the daily schedule, etc.  Hence, our longest dive was a shore dive (and a good one, one of my all-time favorites).  As for depth, I don't try to dive deep, and I find that some of the best things to see are shallow.  So, when I've gone deep, it's just been because there was something to see (like Randy's Gazebo, which has a wonderful chimney that lets you out at about 95 feet).  Plus, I'm usually diving Nitrox, which limits my depth to around 110 feet (not to mention that the Cayman Islands restrict our depth to 110 as well).

Longest Dives
1. 74 minutes: Atlantis, Bonaire, 9/3/2008 (average depth: 34, deepest depth: 61)
2. 73 minutes: Jigsaw, Little Cayman, 7/4/2007 (average depth: 36, deepest depth: 50)
3. 71 mintes: Le Dome, Provodenciales, 6/19/2008 (average depth: 33, deepest depth: 37)
4. 69 minutes: Black Forest, Providenciales, 6/20/2008 (average depth: 47, deepest depth: 82)
5. 69 minutes: Eagle Ray Roundup, Little Cayman, 7/3/2007 (average depth: 38, deepest depth: 88)
6. 69 minutes: Great Wall East, Little Cayman, 7/2/2007 (average depth: 39, deepest depth: 75)

Deepest Dives
1. 101 feet: Randy's Gazebo, Little Cayman, 11/30/2007 (average depth: 46, bottom time: 52)
2. 101 feet: Bus Top, Little Cayman, 7/2/2007 (average depth: 43, bottom time: 55)
3. 98 feet: Blacktip Boulevard, Little Cayman, 11/29/2007 (average depth: 56, bottom time: 52)
4. 97 feet: Hands Off, Bonaire, 8/31/2008 (average depth: 43, bottom time: 64)
5. 97 feet: Mixing Bowl, Little Cayman, 7/1/2008 (average depth: 45, bottom time: 45)



Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I Miss My Piano

My middle and high school friends don't remember me as a runner.  If they were to pick out a hobby that they remember me really enjoying, it would have been playing the piano.  I loved playing the piano.  I would say that I spent between one and three hours a day practicing.  It was theraputic and there were few things that I loved more.

I started playing piano in the fourth grade.  I took lessons at Jordan Kitts in the Annapolis Mall and my mother would often take me to Friendly's next door for ice cream after my lesson.  I learned quickly and my teacher was impressed.  We didn't own a piano at that point, so I had to practice on a Yamaha keyboard.  It was ok, I enjoyed it, but I wasn't thrilled.  I had two piano recitals during that first year, neither spectacular, but what I got out of it was the one and only photo of me that was ever taken while I was playing the piano (I'll locate it and upload it at some point).

I switched piano teachers in the fifth grade and started taking lessons from Mrs. Moede, who lived a few miles from my house.  Mrs. Moede didn't believe in piano recitals, and thought that they stressed her students out too much.  She wanted to teach children to play the piano purely for enjoyment, and not to impress others.  So, I never had another true recital. 

Then, for my eleventh birthday, my dad bought me a piano.  It came from an auction sale (like pretty much everything did at that point of my life) and he paid $150 for it, which seemed like a lot to me back then.  Thankfully, he had a construction crew who came by and moved the piano into our basement for us.  Our basement was also our living room, my house was set up kind of strangely back then.

Well, as soon as we got that piano, I was HOOKED.  I played the piano constantly, often for hours at a time.  I was one of Mrs. Moede's best students, and I took on harder and harder pieces of music.  My favorite to this day is Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata."

Then came high school.  I still played and took lessons up until junior year, when I became secretary of the SGA, got a job at Sam Goody, and didn't have a lot of time to keep up with piano lessons.  I had become a little old for piano lessons anyway, so it was about time to quit.  The piano sat untouched.  I didn't have the time or the patience for it anymore, and I rarely played. 

In college, things got worse.  I lived at UMBC and when I wasn't there, my mom and I had moved to smaller house that was connected to another house rather than being isolated on four acres of woods.  I had to be more conscientious if I did play, and I almost never did.  I don't think that my college friends even think of me as a piano player.

When I got married, resources ran out to easily move the piano and I had to pay someone $500 to move the piano from Annapolis to Owings Mills.  Dave's mom played the piano and when he still lived at home he constantly complained about how he hated the sound her playing, so I was too shy to ever practice while he was home.  Again, we were connected to other houses and I didn't have privacy I once had.  I think I only played the piano once while I was married.

Then... the divorce.  The cost of moving the piano into my third story apartment would have been astronomical, and I would have had to have moved it out of there at some point as well (and by the time I was selling my house in Owings Mills, I was fairly certain I'd be moving to Manchester soon).  Todd promised we'd buy another piano some day.  I ended up giving my precious piano to the woman who bought my townhouse.  Presumably, she still has it and it still sits in the same spot in the living room, only a quarter mile from my work.  My music sits in a box in the basement, untouched for years now.

I miss that piano.  I had a dream last night about it.  I was in my house in the woods.  Todd was there, as well as some of my high school friends (Becky, Jessica, Johnny, Erin).  I was going to play for them, but then the piano wouldn't make any sound.  It was like the strings inside had been cut.  I was so sad, I wanted to play!  So, that dream prompted me to come here and tell the story of my piano and how it's gone.  I've thought about getting a new one, but they're expensive and a big commitment.  Going back to a keyboard would not be the same.  Sigh.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Goodbye, Tom

Today, very suddenly, we lost a friend. His name was Tom and he was my boss at both of my two former employers. We worked together for 6 years, and since mid-2007, he had been Todd's manager in his current job. I was shocked when I heard, not because Todd likes to joke about death, but because Tom seemed somehow... invincible. As I drove home, I knew I wanted to call my friends and give them the news, but first I had to call Todd to make sure it wasn't some sort of mistake. Maybe he'd heard wrong. Maybe Jim had been playing some sort of joke. Maybe it wasn't true. How could it be true?

So, tonight we are drinking shots of whiskey for Tom. He'd want that, he would think it was a proper send off. I didn't always see eye to eye with Tom, and he was as good at making enemies as he was friends, but he always had his employees' best interests at heart. He really wanted to make us happy, and moreso than any other manager that I have ever had. Some of my best ever days at work were at work parties that Tom organized - with chartered boats and crabs and an open bar. When he left Previousemployer, he had not just one happy hour, but two.

You will be missed, Tom. There are an awful lot of people out there who knew your name and smile when they think of you. This shot's for you...

Ideas for Potluck Lunch Day?

So, Friday the 21st is Potluck Lunch Day at work. Potluck Lunch Day is like Pretzel Day on The Office: Everyone looks forward to Potluck Lunch Day all year long.

The problem? Because I'm in IT, I'm supposed to bring a dessert. Last year, I brought cupcakes. However, I've got a lot going on and I know next week is going to be super busy, so I'm not going to have time to bake a dessert Thursday evening (trust me, there is no way). I still want to participate and I can get something from the bakery that I love in Hampstead, but I'd really rather bake something. So, can anyone think of something that I could make this weekend when I have time and either store it out or freeze or refrigerate it until Friday the 21st? Ideas?

I wake up every morning in a bed that's too small, drive my daughter to a school that's too expensive, and then I go to work to a job for which I get paid too little, but on pretzel day? Well, I like pretzel day... --Stanley

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Review: Eat Smart Veggie Crisps



Looking for a mid-morning snack, I thought I'd get some canned tropical fruit from the vending machine that I'd eyed up the other day. Sadly, someone got to them before me, so instead I decided to try out Eat Smart Veggie Crisps. The looked healthy, and listed themselves as 100 Calories on the front of the bag.

After getting the crisps from the veding machine, I noticed that the bag was not even a full ounce. The total weight of the bag was .75oz, which is less than you would get with a bag of regular potato chips. Presumably, this was done to achieve the magical "100 Calorie Pack" note on the front of the bag.

I checked out the nutritional info to see how healthy these things really are. They are "healthy," if you are looking for no trans fat or saturated fat. Otherwise, you do get 5g of fat per bag, but only 1g of dietary fiber. As for vitamins and minerals that you might expect from eating vegetables? 0% of everything.* Really, there is no benefit for these being made from vegetables, and looking at the ingredients, I am fairly certain that the spinach and tomatoes that are used in making them are only added to make the chips different colors. Otherwise, these are just Baked Potato Chips. Even the taste is about the same as Baked Lays - kind of bland potato flavor.

My Verdict? Don't waste your time. Go with Terra Chips instead, which do have some saturated fat, but contain more fiber and minerals and are far more delicious.

*The website says 2% iron, but the serving size is bigger on the website.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

I Think I Might Throw Out This Jar of Curry Powder

From Random Photos 2008


From Random Photos 2008


Well, this curry powder is old. It was wedding gift... for my mom and dad. They got married in 1959. They received a spice rack as a gift from somebody, and this jar of curry powder was included. It has never been refilled, that is just not a spice we use very often, I guess.

So... why do I still have it? I don't know, I mean, I guess it just got pushed around in the spice cabinet over time, and it moved a few times, and we just didn't use it very much. Then, when I moved out, I took the extras and seldom-used spices out of my mom's spice cabinet. She had multiples of spices where she'd bought spices to use in the motor home or at our beach condo, or whatever. I was used to that spice being around, and I never really contemplated how old it was. I think, too, I am not really crazy about curry, so it's not something that I really want to be especially potent. And spices kinda don't go bad (but 49 years?). So, I still have it.

This jar of curry has lived in my parents' apartment in Washington, DC, then two different houses in PG County, then our house in Riva, then our house in Annapolis, then my house in Owings Mills, then my apartment in Columbia, and now it is in Manchester. Wow, the history.

But, I guess I should throw it out. For the record, I have a ground ginger also... that one is really, really, hard, though. The curry still smells like curry and doesn't seem like it's 49 years old.

Some interesting things:
Do you know the signs of aging?
Spice Check

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Lucky Old Sun

by Kenny Chesney and Willie Nelson
Just how I'm feeling today...

Up in the morning,
Out on the job,
Work like the devil for my pay.
Lucky old sun,
Ain't got nothing to do,
But roll around heaven all day.

Fuss with my woman,
Toil for my kids,
And sweat till I'm wrinkled and grey.
But that lucky old sun,
Ain't got nothing to do,
But roll around heaven all day.

Dear Lord above,
Can't you see I'm crying,
Tears are in my eyes.
Send down a cloud with a silver lining,
Take me to paradise.

Show me that river,
Lead me across,
And take all my troubles away,
Like the lucky old sun,
I'll have nothing to do,
But roll around heaven all day.

Dear Lord above,
Can't you see I'm crying,
Tears are in my eyes.
Send down a cloud with a silver lining,
Take me to paradise.

Show me that river,
Lead me across,
And take all my troubles away.
Like the lucky old sun,
I'll have nothing to do,
But roll around heaven all day.

But roll around heaven all day...

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Hope

I find I'm so excited, I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it's the excitement only a free man can feel, a free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain. I hope I can make it across the border. I hope to see my friend, and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams. I hope.
-- Red, The Shawshank Redemption

You go, Barack.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Recipe: Easy Asian Beef and Noodles

Probably my all-time favorite default recipe for dinners.  I love it because it is very healthy, super easy, only uses one pan, and only makes 2 servings, so we don't have leftovers.  Dave asked me for the recipe today, so I thought I'd share here as well.

I use whatever thin-sliced beef they have in the grocery store, but sometimes I do use more expensive cuts of meat depending on what is available.  I also tend to try to use broccoli slaw or rainbow slaw instead of coleslaw, because broccoli has more vitamin C and other nutrients than cabbage and I also think it tastes better.  I've also used whole pieces of broccoli, and once I tried using chicken flavored ramen and chicken, which was not quite as good (it needed something...), but worth a try.


Easy Asian Beef and Noodles

1 (8-ounce) rib-eye steak
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil, divided
1 cup (1-inch) sliced green onions
2 cups prepackaged coleslaw
2 (2.8-ounce) packages beef-flavor ramen noodle soup (such as Campbell's)
1-1/2 cups water
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce


Trim fat from steak; cut diagonally across grain into thin slices. Heat 1/2 teaspoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add steak and onions; stir-fry 1 minute. Remove steak mixture from pan; keep warm. Heat 1/2 teaspoon oil until hot. Add slaw; stir-fry 30 seconds. Remove slaw from pan; keep warm.

Remove noodles from packages; reserve 1 seasoning packet for another use. Add the water and remaining seasoning packet to pan; bring to a boil. Break noodles in half; add noodles to water mixture. Cook noodles 2 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed, stirring frequently. Stir in steak mixture, slaw, and soy sauce; cook until thoroughly heated. Yield: 2 servings.

NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION: CALORIES 489 (23% from fat); FAT 12.5g (sat 3.6g, mono 5g, poly
2.5g); PROTEIN 29g; CARB 68.1g; FIBER 4.9g; CHOL 55mg; IRON 6.3mg; SODIUM 1152mg; CALC 80mg


Monday, November 3, 2008

Photos: Tower of Terror 13K 2008

From Tower of Terror 13K 2008

Before the race

From Tower of Terror 13K 2008

Running out past the Walt Disney World Entrance Sign

From Tower of Terror 13K 2008

Inside Hollywood Studios

From Tower of Terror 13K 2008

Finish line!

From Tower of Terror 13K 2008

After the race, showing off medals
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