Catch Me I’m Falling

 

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No, I didn’t fall again.  But others did.  Well, I almost did at the poker table, but the pit manager and another player caught me.  The pit manager was pulling out my chair for to sit down and I didn’t know it, so when I went to sit down, I would have hit the floor if they hadn’t caught me.  Two people had nasty falls on the Lido Deck on day one of the cruise.  It was raining, there was standing water everywhere and the deck was very slick.  Both had horrible bruises on their legs.  One lady was in a wheelchair with her leg extended.  A lady was telling me about a Princess cruise she and her husband had taken some years ago to Hawaii.  It was a 14-day cruise out of San Diego.  The median age on the cruise was 78 and in the 14 days on board, there were 6 deaths and 13 broken bones.  Now you would think that the deck was stacked against the older passengers before it ever left port and it would be sad if it weren’t so comical thinking about the bodies stacking up and casts on legs and arms.  Ok, ok, I’ll be nice.

Our boat was set to sail at 4:00pm on August 21.  We were on the Carnival Breeze sailing out of Galveston.  After making a quick stop at the bar on Deck 3 where we entered the boat, and people-watching because everybody enters the boat on that deck,

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we made our way to the buffet (our last and only trip to the buffet) to grab a snack before Muster.  We thought we could hide and escape Muster, but no such luck.  No place is safe to hide from the Muster Nazis.  Luckily our station was in one of the theaters so we didn’t have to stand out in the rain.  One lady came in late like us and was having difficulty standing.  The theater was packed with every seat taken and people were sitting on the floor.  The Muster Leader asked if anyone would volunteer their seat for the lady and not one man responded.  However, a lady got up and gave her a seat.  Two guys asked if they could have a chair because their legs hurt too.  I could expound on this and the lack of chivalry, but I’ll leave it at that.

Because Marie and I both had birthdays in August, Carnival gave us gift cards.  Marie got a $50 card to the spa and I got one for $25 worth of pictures from our cruise (which I didn’t use).  We did make spa appointments for later in the week, Marie for a manicure and me for a pedicure.

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After getting settled in and unpacked, it was time to hit the casino.  We had to wait about thirty minutes for it to open up.  Marie sat down at Lil Red and I went to Gorilla Chief.  I had played it before on the Breeze and did pretty well.  It’s really fun when it’s active and today was no exception. I got several bonuses, fifty-plus free games and made some money on it.  I love it when the gorilla goes into chest beating mode and he did and drew a crowd.  Really fun.  Then on to one of the new machines on the Breeze called Diamond Storm.  I met a really sweet and beautiful lady named Indy.  She was on the cruise with her husband, father and fifteen other family members and they were having a great time.  I really enjoyed visiting with her.  But eventually we both gave up on Diamond Storm.

We were booked for the 8:15 dinner seating at the Blush restaurant, one of two fine dining restaurants on the ship and each has an early and a late seating.  We decided to go on over and get in line.  The doors are locked between the two seatings, so there is usually a line waiting to get in.  Plus it usually takes us several days to get our bearings and locate our restaurant.  We were anxious to meet our dinner companions and hoped we would like them.  We got lucky.  There were two other sisters from Texas, Opal and Judy;

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two beautiful young ladies who both had just taken the bar exam; two nurses from Louisiana; and a couple from Dallas.  The couple from Dallas were originally from New York, moved to Miami to retire, then moved to Dallas to be near their daughter and grandchildren, but were not happy with the move.  In fact, it seemed their unhappiness was overflowing onto the cruise because the first night they called the maître d over to ask for a table change.  The wife said she thought her husband would be more comfortable with a husband/wife couple to talk to, but I think she was the one who would be more comfortable.  He probably would have been just fine with a table of eight younger women to talk to.  As far as the menu on the first night in the dining room, it has gotten increasingly harder to give a positive critique.  It is the same menu night after night in the dining rooms – every Sunday on the Breeze is the same week after week, every Monday the Breeze has the same menu and so on.  To be fair I am sure it is quite the undertaking to replenish supplies if every week brings a new menu.  Plus many new passengers seem to enjoy the food.  After four or five cruises they will have a new perspective.

After dinner we went back to the casino, but good luck was not to be.  We went to bed about midnight.  It had been a long day with traveling three hours, boarding, unpacking, Muster, etc.  We had all day the next day to gamble so off to bed we went.

Marie got an earlier start than I did on Monday.  She went down about 9:30 and I went down about 1:30.  I planned to have a Bloody Mary for breakfast and a Bloody Mary for lunch and dinner, but I couldn’t wait.  I had to have Pizza Pirate which was as good as ever.  I had a Margarita pizza and Marie had a cheese pizza.  Yum!  We strolled through the casino where we saw something we had never seen before.  There were two Amish girls standing by the craps table watching.  And yes they were Amish; well they could have been Mennonite but we think Amish.  Maroon long loose fitting dresses with a gathered waist and elbow length sleeves, no buttons or trims of any kind.  Such a strange sight to see them in a casino, but more on the Amish girls later.

Dinner that night was prime rib and lobster tail.  We couldn’t not go, lobster dinners don’t come around very often.  It was very good.  In fact we had two each and probably could have eaten more.  The only thing about that is when you order a second entrée, they bring you the whole plate again, sides and all.  So I had one slice of prime rib with a baked potato and two lobster tails with sautéed shrimp and rice pilaf, plus dessert.  Between the entrée and dessert course, the waiters danced for all of us.

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It’s always fun and they do encourage audience participation.  A girl at a table behind us was really enjoying the show and decided to join in the dancing.  She stood up on her chair and mooned the other diners and began dancing and waving her napkin over her head.  Because she was standing on the chair in her high heel and short dress, it was probably not a good idea.  Suddenly she lost her balance and landed on the table, sitting on her plate of prime rib.  At the risk of sounding catty, it really was hilarious.  We were all so busy enjoying the moment that we forgot to take a picture.  However I did get her picture in the casino later.

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After dinner I sat down at a Sacred Guardians slot.  I had never played it before but the man next to me was doing quite well.  He was there with his wife who was on the other side of him.  He ordered a drink and unfortunately when he tried to set his drink down, he missed the shelf and spilled it.  I handed him my napkins and almost immediately an attendant came over and cleaned it up.  He mentioned he was legally blind and couldn’t see that he was going to miss the shelf.  I assured him it could have happened to anyone.  He pointed to his wife and said she was his fifth wife.  He said that he was retired from the Coast Guard and had five different wives in five different ports.  I wasn’t having much luck on my machine so I wished him luck and went on my merry way.  I was afraid he might be looking for Wife Number Six.

I had some luck on Super Fusion 7’s for $358.52.  I played it down to $300 and moved over one machine to Lucky Lines.  I won $477.60.  I had a good night for a change.  It was about time I had a change of luck.  Marie was still playing in the same area.  We felt like we had to stay for the big loot midnight drawing every night, but some nights it was struggle to stay awake for it and this was one of those nights.

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img_1726On Tuesday we docked in Cozumel.  We got off the boat and walked down the pier to the duty-free shop but decided we were hungry and would come back and shop after we ate.

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We passed all the shops and made our way to Pancho’s Backyard for lunch.  We were starving and looking forward to chips and salsa and Margaritas.  Pancho’s has a really good queso with green salsa.  We ordered the queso to share and each a Cadillac Margarita.  It’s a frozen Margarita with Grand Marnier on top.  I had beef fajitas and Marie had chicken quesadillas.  So good.  On the way back we went back through the duty-free shop planning to buy alcohol, perfume and jewelry.  Instead we bought a chocolate candy bar.  Shows where our priorities are.

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On the way back to the ship, there was girl who thought she was a great dancer.

 

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After a long nap we made it to the casino.  We had no plans for dinner since we had such a big lunch.  I decided to play Ultimate Texas Hold-em.  I bought in for $200, played three hours and cashed out $165.  I guess I didn’t do so bad.  Marie was still playing slots and doing good.  She can play the same slot for hours and not lose or make much money and not get bored.  In fact I don’t think she went above a 20 cent bet all cruise.  And with that bet, there was no way she would win a free cruise.  I have ADHD when I play slots but I can sit on a poker table for hours.  I have gotten Marie to play video poker a few times and she liked it but she doesn’t want to try table games.  Maybe someday.

On Wednesday, we docked in Belize.  Because we had both been there before and it was raining, we decided to stay on the ship.  We went out by the pool and enjoyed watching the other people and we watched a Bee Gees concert on the outdoor screen.  Marie walked over to the Italian restaurant on the ship named Cucina del Capitano and made reservations for dinner that night.  Then she made our spa appointments for Thursday while I watched the concert and drank a beer.

img_1732Our dinner at Cucina Del Capitano that evening was very good.  We had been given a bottle of red wine by Carnival so we took it with us to drink with our meal.  I had the Caprese salad for a starter and Marie had Eggplant Parmagiana.  I had the braised sort ribs which I did not like at all.  It wasn’t like any short rib I had had before.  It was more like a huge slab of roast beef, stringy roast beef.  Marie ordered Chicken Parmesan.  Marie skipped dessert but I had the apple tart which was the best part of my dinner.

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Thursday was a beautiful day in Honduras but since we had spa appointments, we stayed on the ship.  Plus we had each been there several times.  Marie decided to nap on the deck.  She kept waking herself up snoring and said “Sorry, Sorry.”  The deck was crowded.  She then fell asleep again and an hour later when she woke up the deck was empty.  I guess she snored everyone away.

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The spas was very popular spot.  Lots of people were using the sauna, getting massages, and taking a soak in the hot tub.  Marie’s appointment was first at 1:15 and mine was at 1:45 so I was able to sit in the lobby and watch the comings and goings.  While I was sitting there one of the Amish girls came in to make  appointments for a pedicure and a massage.  Yep, I was confused too.  She also said she had to ask her boyfriend if the time would work for him.  So I don’t know if they were going for couple massages or just making sure the time was okay.  Marie had seen them on the deck earlier and the boyfriends had on shorts and tank tops.  I did  read where because the Amish people have much better cash flow because of their business ventures (furniture and produce) they are taking vacations now.  I also read that young adults after the age of 16 can participate in Rumspringa which is when they can choose to see what life is like among non-Amish before they decide if they want to continue to live the Amish lifestyle.  Maybe this was what was going on.  I would have loved to ask, but I really didn’t want to be rude.  No, really.  There was a male Amish father type along and he was dressed in traditional Amish apparel also with a bowl haircut.  The Spa could have given him a more hip style.

That evening we ate dinner at the Sushi restaurant.  It was awesome, Tuna Tartare, California rolls and a Tuna roll.

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Afterward it was time to try our luck in the casino.  When the ship is in port, the casino is closed so after the ship enters International waters, only then is it open.  I don’t know if my heart wasn’t in it, but I couldn’t do anything but lose money.  We decided to spend a big part of the day in bed.  Both of us were tired and needed the rest.  The next morning Marie woke up with chills and stomach problems.  I didn’t have chills, but my stomach was a little messed up too.  I don’t think it was the Sushi.  I asked her if she wanted some Tylenols and she said yes.  I gave her three and she took them.  She asked me why I gave her three and not two like the directions on the bottle says and I told her that the bottle instructions were only a suggestion.  So then she said that I have an answer for everything and I told her she could take the high road but someone has to take the low road and that would be me.

I don’t know if we were tired of rich food, or we ate something that didn’t agree with us, or we had the Zika virus but I did have two mosquito bites so I guess it was a possibility.  We were moving pretty slow and enjoyed it.  We started thinking about how comfortable it is to be in your Pj’s and robe and that the cruise ship should have one whole day designated as Pj’s and Robe Day.  No other clothes allowed.  Eight straight days of hair and makeup and uncomfortable underclothes gets pretty tedious.

We managed to pull ourselves together and leave the room  We had two days left to hit the big one and accumulate points in hopes that Carnival would give us another free cruise.  We received in our mailbox outside the door to our room a coupon for four people to order off of the steakhouse menu.  We decided to invite Judy and Opal to join us at dinner and it was very good.  We all had lobster and filet mignon.  It was delicious.  After dinner the four of us went to the casino to play.  Judy played mostly video poker and Opal played the slots.  I don’t know if they won much money, but they both had accumulated a lot of points.  In fact, they each received a free cruise for two.  Carnival is good about that if you play a lot.  I don’t know if Royal Caribbean or Norwegian does the same, but it is nice to be appreciated.

As we were debarking the ship we took an elevator to deck 3 to head to Customs and Baggage Claim.  As we got on the elevator there was a young handsome deck hand getting on also.  His name was GianLucca and he was Italian.  He had a very thick black hair and beard.  On his dimpled chin he had a white streak in his beard, another one in his eyebrow and another one on his temple.  I told him he needed to get a flight out to Hollywood instead of docking in Galveston.  I think I still have a bruise on my arm where Marie punched me.

By the end of the night of the last day of the cruise I had accumulated 6900 points plus the time I spent playing poker.  But we did not receive a free cruise this time.  We were very disappointed.  When we got home I called Carnival and they said because we have two more cruises booked they were not able to offer another one until we had taken the ones coming up.  I actually thought that was pretty tacky on their part, but what are you going to do?  In November, we will sail out of New Orleans to Jamaica and Grand Cayman on the Carnival Dream and then in April of next year we are really excited to sail on the Carnival Vista, the newest ship in their fleet.

Next week we will be in Las Vegas for six days.  Hopefully we will have several success stories when we get back.  Catch up with you then.

 

Biloxi Bound

The day after I got back from my girls’ trip cruise with Ginger and Raegan, Marie and I got on a plane at Hobby airport and flew to Biloxi.  This was a complimentary flight with a free hotel room for three nights.  I know I have said it before, but we love the Biloxi/Gulfport area.  So beachy and laid back.  And for those of you hysterical types, there is plenty of history to check out.  It seems like so many adventures come to us and we are enjoying them all.  Leaving my husband at home to oversee the remodeling project was a no-brainer.  He loves a mission and I love for him to have one.  As before this chemo has not made him sick, and he can’t stand the thought of leaving our cats and would rather stay home.  And so it goes and so do Marie and I.

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We got seated and all comfortable.  A really nice couple from Conroe sat next to me.  As I got adjusted in my seat, I placed my purse under the seat in front of me.  This was fine for a few minutes until a woman in the seat directly in front of me chastised me for putting my purse under her seat.  She let me know that I was supposed to put my purse under my own seat.  Just as I was about to correct, a lady several rows up spoke up and said “No, it goes under the seat in front of you.”  Problem solved, except for the fact that her seat back was in the reclining position even during takeoff and landing.  I behaved and never said a word.  I’ll take that Brownie point now.

We really enjoy the Biloxi trip.  The flight is short, only about an hour and a half.  Free cocktails on the way to Biloxi but no cocktails on the return.  A bus picks us up at the airport, takes care of our luggage, and delivers us to the Beau Rivage where our luggage is delivered to our room.  As always, our room was lovely.  It overlooked the baseball field where the Biloxi Shuckers play.  We could have watched a game if they had been playing and oh yeah, if we hadn’t had gambling on our minds.

 

Jailhouse Rock, Jamaica Style

 

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I know we have been absent for awhile.  Things are crazy at my house.  We have a remodel going on in kitchen and bathrooms, my husband is going through chemo for the second time, the free cruise offers are rolling in, Marie and I going to Louisiana and Mississippi casinos, and just life in general.  I am going to try to shed some light on how crazy things have been as I sit and watch the news networks.  Notice I said networks, plural.  Just trying to be Switzerland because I am not ready to commit.

On June 10 my contractor started demolition and my husband and I began our journey to try all of the restaurants in Bryan/College Station.  Sounds like more fun than it was, but we ate out about every other day.  I have always wanted an outdoor kitchen and I finally had one.  We moved our refrigerator and microwave to the patio and plugged them in so we could warm up leftovers and frozen dinners.  On June 12 my daughter-in-law Ginger and granddaughter Raegan and I boarded the Carnival Breeze to Jamaica, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel.  This was Ginger’s 40th birthday cruise.  Her birthday is not until September 30 but because she teaches school we had to schedule during summer break and we couldn’t go off and leave Raegan.  Her brother Tanner had baseball tournaments scheduled and he wanted to stay behind with his dad.  Plus we needed a girls’ trip.

So off we went, armed with Dramamine, mosquito spray, and sunscreen.  The weather in Galveston was overcast, hot and humid.  As we stood out on the Lido deck waiting to sail, Ginger was talking to a couple from West Columbia, Texas and learned that they were neighbors of her cousin.  Then later in the cruise she saw a little boy who was in her class in Floresville.  I told Ginger that she would probably run into either people she knows or people who know someone she knows.

Raegan is 10 and the first day she was a little overwhelmed by the crowd of people crammed into the tiny pools and decided not to go swimming yet.  We suggested Camp Ocean but she was undecided on it.  We had a while to wait to go to dinner but after muster and exploring the ship, we decided to freshen up and make our way to the dining room.  This was Ginger’s and Raegan’s first cruise so it took some time getting adjusted.  Marie and I would have gone to the casino when it opened or found a place to sit and order a drink and watch people.

Finally it was time for dinner.  We were led to our table in the Blush restaurant.  It was a table for nine and no one was seated there.  I was afraid it wasn’t going to be much fun with just three of us at such a large table.  I questioned the waiter about it, but he said to wait a few minutes.  Sure enough a family of three sat down.  It was a very lucky thing because they had a daughter named Gigi who was almost 10 and she and Raegan hit it off immediately.  Debbie, Tom and Gigi were from Round Rock, Texas which is about 30 minutes north of San Antonio.

It was so cute listening to their conversation.  Gigi told Raegan she loves horses and Raegan said she did too.  Then Raegan said her favorite color was blue and Gigi said hers was too.  Gigi told Raegan she loves Camp Ocean and that Raegan needed to go.  The girls had a blast together and Debbie and Tom were so nice and each night dinner was very pleasant.  The girls went to Camp Ocean on sea days and loved it.  They were really cute together.

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Our first day on land was Jamaica.  Ginger and Raegan wanted to snorkel and I just wanted to chill.  We took the bus to the beach and everyone got to do what they wanted to do.  They found a lot of shells, I found a lot of cocktails, we had bar food on the beach and it was a lovely day.  This was my first time to get off the boat in Jamaica and I really enjoyed it.  Instead of taking the bus back, we decided to take a taxi.  Really, I decided and it was a big mistake.  Our driver first noticed I was limping, which I often do, and offered to get me some botanicals.  I told him thanks anyway but no thanks.  He said he had some really tasty brownies in the back seat, but I again said no thanks.  He mentioned Jamaica has really good coffee and I said that sounded good.  He offered to get me a cup so I took him up on it not knowing what it involved.  He whipped the taxi across all the lanes of traffic and parked on the sidewalk in front of a store on the opposite side of the road.  The clerk came out and went back in to get me a cup of coffee and as we were waiting, a cop bicycled over with his ticket book.  The driver told the cop that I was drunk and he had to get me a cup of coffee.  I wasn’t drunk but I thought it might be best just to be quiet and let him handle it.  I turned around to look at Ginger and Raegan and their eyes were huge.  Then all I could do was laugh and say not to worry.  I think they were more afraid we would be late getting back on the ship.  Well, we got back on time, didn’t get arrested and the driver got a $50 ticket for parking on the sidewalk.

The next day was Grand Cayman and since Ginger had been there before, I figured she and Raegan would be fine without me.  They didn’t have much luck snorkeling because the water was cloudy close to the shore.  I enjoyed a day resting. Day three on land was Cozumel.  I got off the boat because I adore Mexico and wanted to do some shopping and get some good Mexican Food.  There is a fabulous restaurant there called Pancho’s Backyard.  The food is exceptional and service is great.  We made a few purchases.  I bought two bottles of Esperanto Tequila which is my favorite and I can’t find it in Texas.  It is so smooth and doesn’t have a charcoal taste like a lot of other tequilas.  We also bought some Amoxicillin to have at home.

The next two days were cruising days to get back home.  Time passed so fast but everything about it was enjoyable.  We ate at Cucino del Capitano Italian restaurant twice and it was excellent as usual.  We had several Guy’s Burger Joint hamburgers, more than several Pizza Pirate pizzas (yum) and made a few passes at the buffet, oh and room service.  I know I haven’t talked about gambling because it wasn’t anything to brag about.  I mostly played at night when the girls were busy with other stuff.  It was hit and miss, miss mostly.  But all in all and I think Ginger and Raegan would agree with me, it was a great trip, one we may have to make a tradition.

 

Rockin’ Ramen

Part II of the Slotsisters’ adventure started when we stepped off the ship.  Well, Marie did.  I rolled off in a wheelchair because Marie was afraid I would fall again.  I was still pretty sore from my less than graceful fall.  So she insisted I ride in a wheelchair which I must say was a relief.  It is a long walk from the dock to Customs and on to Baggage Claim and then to board the shuttle and after our rude awakening that morning, I was a little shaky.   But we made it and took the shuttle to LAX in order to catch another shuttle to Fox Car Rental off-site at LAX.  These are complicated logistics but there is a reason to this madness.   Yes it’s that time again when Albertson’s Monopoly Game is winding down and we wanted to make one last push for game tickets.  And we wanted to spend what little time we had to concentrate on the southern California area.  We were super excited about this part of our adventure, not only for our travels but also because we were flying high with the prospect of winning a big money prize.  We felt like we had a lot of people pulling for us including the fine people at WeirdUniverse.net.  If you haven’t already checked Weird Universe out, you should.  It is a riot.

Our cruise wound up on April 30 and we didn’t fly back to Texas until May 4 so we had three full days to collect and donate as much as possible.  The game was over on May 3 so we had to work fast.  The shuttle dropped us off at LAX.  We found where we were to wait to catch the rental car shuttle.  I sat down to wait next to a young man talking loudly on his cell phone.  I couldn’t help but overhear his conversation that his girlfriend was mad because she caught him making out with her sister.   We were to catch a shuttle to Fox Car Rental. When we arrived at Fox the line waiting for assistance snaked around the waiting room.  Marie found me a seat and she stood in line for a car.  An hour and a half later we drove off in a Jeep Compass.   Marie was tired from basically standing still for so long, but I made good use of my time.  The people watching was exceptional.  There were people who spoke no English, people in skimpy outfits – some who were justified and some who weren’t, lots and lots of tattoos and piercing and strange haircuts.  You have to remember Marie and I both live in small towns and have to get our kicks where we can.  I was sitting next to a really nice elderly lady with loads of luggage.  Her husband was in line for them waiting for a car.  She began to tell me that they were in California to visit their son and grandchildren.  She said that they had to come to California to visit because their son refused to fly.  I asked her why and she said he thinks it violates his Fourth Amendment rights.  I guess my face was blank because she said. “You know, freedom from search and seizure.”  I had no answer to that and just said something intelligent like “Huh”.  I figured he either was mentally imbalanced or had something to hide from TSA and hated to point out to her the obvious – that maybe it was better that her son stayed off of airplanes. My husband worries about me talking to strangers, but how else are you going to learn.  I say hello to everyone – adults, children and dogs.  Everyone has a story to tell and can impact your life, hopefully for the good, but you won’t know unless you talk to them.  And I really think I was safer talking to the nice lady than I would have been had I talked to her son.

Since it was early afternoon, we headed to our first Albertson’s in Calabasas where we exchanged 100 tickets and received 200 tickets back.  I was running low on some toiletries so while I took the time to restock, Marie bought several flats of Ramen noodles.  We got in the car and I proceeded to go to work opening tickets.  On to the next stops in Semi Valley and Santa Monica Mountain Range where we only exchanged tickets. We hadn’t had much to eat that day and decided to find a place to eat.  We found Casa Escobar in Westlake Village because it was time to refuel on Mexican food.  I am not a diehard fan of the Kardashians, but occasionally I tune in and the Kardashians went to Café Escobar to eat during one episode.  We figured if it was good enough for them it was good enough for us.  The waitress brought to our table chips and three different salsas.  The chips at Mexican restaurants in California are very different from what we eat in Texas restaurants.  Ours are very thin and light where in California (or at least the ones we have had) are thicker and a lot of the time are flour tortilla chips.  But hey, who’s complaining.  We had Mexican food and it was pretty good.   I had fish tacos and Marie had beef tacos.

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We enjoyed our meal and left in search of a place to stay.  We checked in to a Sheraton Agoura Hills in Westlake Village.  We stayed up for awhile opening tickets and got a good night’s sleep.

On May 1 we had an exciting day planned.  Seeing the beauty of California, our Albertson’s Monopoly game adventure, and checking into Harrah’s Valley Center for a little fun.  We were staying two nights and looking forward to settling into our temporary home.  At our first Albertson’s we exchanged tickets and bought donuts and two more flats of Ramens.  We were waiting to get to the San Diego area to donate to the food bank there.  Early in the afternoon we drove through McDonald’s for Egg McMuffins and Frappuccinos.  So good and so many calories.  We planned to grab something to eat at Harrahs later.

We did several drive-bys (where I sat in the car and opened tickets and Marie went in to exchange tickets).  We had lots of stops to make and it was much quicker for Marie to go in and take care of business.  We did drive-bys in Long Beach and Temecula and then took the scenic route to Harrahs.  I really think all routes in California are scenic, but this one with orange trees as far as we could see in any direction was beautiful.

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We arrived at Harrahs and it was very nice.  After we checked in we went downstairs to check out the Diamond Lounge.  We immediately went up to the bar and ordered a drink and thinking it was complementary, we were surprised when we found out it wasn’t which was after the bartender set them in front of us..  We were informed that because we were in an Indian casino, California state law requires the casino charges for alcohol, this from one of the two states that legalized marijuana.  As if that wasn’t bad enough, there were no snacks out, no chips and dips, no nothing.  So then the bartender asked if we would like to have a plate of meat pies and we asked if it was complementary and he told us it was.  They were good, but all in all it was a strange experience.

We headed to the casino, Marie to see what machines they had, me to the Hot Shots we had seen on the way to the Diamond Lounge.  I hit a few bonuses and got a little play money.  I played Crazy Money which was fun and again I hit a few bonus games and played for awhile.  Then on to Buffalo Stampede and hit a few bonus games and barely kept my head above water.  There is a lot to be said for familiarity and at this point I was missing the Horseshoe in Bossier City, Louisiana, but we can’t resist seeing what’s out there.  Marie decided to go to the room and work on game tickets.  I stayed a while longer to play tables, all for nothing.  I should have gone to the room.

The next morning of May 2, we headed out for Ramens and ticket exchange.  We decided to head toward San Diego so that when we were through buying noodles we could drop them off at the food  bank.  Plus our luggage was in our room at Harrahs so we had room to spare in the Jeep.   We came back through Temecula, Escondido, and then to San Diego.  We had a hard time finding one Albertson’s in San Diego.  Our GPS took us to downtown San Diego.  So odd because all the others were in wide open spaces with lots of palm trees, flowering shrubs and parking lots.  Now we were in a spot with concrete, cars and high rises.  We drove around and around looking for a parking space, nothing on the street, and finally found a parking garage that we thought was for Albertson’s shoppers and we were right.  So odd to think about shopping for groceries there and pushing out a cart full of groceries into a parking garage.  Marie took our 400 more tickets and got 2,000.  The manager was very generous. More work to do.

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By this time we were hungry.  I had seen a show called Food Paradise on the Travel Channel and it featured a restaurant in San Diego called Café Coyote which was voted one of the top ten Mexican restaurants in California.  We had less trouble finding it than the last Albertson’s.  It was in Old Town San Diego, a really picturesque area with shops, restaurants and hotels, reminiscent of many tourist towns in Mexico.  We loved the area and put it on our list of places to take our husbands.  Café Coyote was fabulous, the food, drinks, and ambience were great.

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We would have loved to spend more time in Old Town, but not this trip.  We needed to get back to Harrahs and decided to stop at the Western Eagle Food Bank in Temecula.  We unloaded our Ramen noodles and were on our way back to Harrah’s.

It was pretty much a replay of the previous night, less the Diamond Lounge, been there, done that.  Slots, tables and back to the room to open tickets.  I did play a slot called Zodiac Signs which turned out to be pretty fun and cashed out more than I had put in.  But I was through gambling for this trip and would have to wait until I was back in Texas to head to Louisiana for more.

The next morning we checked out and headed to Los Angeles to turn in our rental and spend one last night in California.  This was the last day of the Monopoly Game and the last day tickets would be handed out.  We went to Oceanside, Huntington Beach, Long Beach and one Albertson’s in Los Angeles.  We would not be able to receive tickets on May 4th or exchange any for more tickets after our last stop so we were almost through.  We would still be able to enter codes online to check to see if we were instant winners until May 25.  Marie had been entering ticket codes since the contest started and other than winning two more tickets numerous times, we hadn’t won anything online.

We decided to have one more adventure when we got to Los Angeles.  We went in search of Pink’s Hot Dogs, Hollywood.  Pink’s is famous with Hollywood celebrities.  Still looking for a celebrity, we went and all we got was a hot dog.  Marie reminded me that Guy Fieri loves a weiner that has a “snap” to it when you stick a fork in it.  In other words, a tough casing.  I’m so glad I got to experience that and I can cross it off of my bucket list.  I would so much rather have a Coney Island hot dog.  Much more appetizing, cleaner, and less “weiner snap”.

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We decided we were through for the day with everything but sleeping so we turned our rental in to Fox Rental and took their shuttle to our hotel. Marie booked us into the Sheraton LAX and we felt like we were in a luxury hotel.  It was very nice.  Our room was large, clean, quiet and lovely.  We opened the last of the Albertson’s Monopoly Game tickets and were glad of it.  To recap our Albertson’s Monopoly Game adventure, we collected 18,500 tickets, entered 15,500 tickets online (basically non-winners) received $246.46 worth of free products, and $40 in gift cards.  Last year we collected 40,000 tickets and this year we received roughly 1/3 of what we received last year.  It looks like on the list of Albertson’s winners that the $1,000,000 has not been given away since 2012.

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I remember when I was grown and Marie was a pre-teen, our parents and Marie took a trip to Gatlinberg, Tennessee by car.  Exxon (at the time was called either Humble or Enco) had a contest giving away prizes and our dad won a color television, RCA if I remember right, during the trip.  I think that memory gives us hope that maybe we will be lucky in our travels also, so until that time or until next year, we will be giving it a shot again.

 

 

Let Me You Take You On a Sea Cruise

On April 23, Marie and I embarked on another sea adventure.  The logistics of this trip were challenging, but it’s like anything else you want to do – you manage.  On the 20th, Marie drove down to my house under the guise of picking me up.  I think what she really wanted to do was make sure I packed right.  To be honest, she is a lot better at it than I am.  Marie has some OCD tendencies and I’m just the opposite.  I remember when we took our first cruise without our husbands and she insisted on carrying on all of her luggage.  And then there was the time when we went to our cabins right after we boarded to see if our luggage had been delivered.  Mine was there, but Marie’s hadn’t showed.  As we were walking out the door, the woman across the hall from us said that if she were Marie she would be worried.  I said, “Oh, don’t tell her that.”   Marie’s luggage came about thirty minutes later, thank goodness.    A big fear is that we would have to wear the same outfit we came on board with through the whole cruise.  At least Carnival supplies a nice comfy robe for the trip only.  Marie loved it so much she had to buy a new one on one of our previous cruises.

On April 21 we drove to her house with a quick stop at Casa Ole Mexican Restaurant in Bryan, Texas.  Had to make sure we had our quota of Tex-Mex because on the ship they rarely get that right.  We got up on the morning of April 22 and went to Dallas Love Field to fly out to Los Angeles on Virgin America, our favorite airline.  Roomy leather seats, no funky smells and Virgin has live television so a person can watch sports and news as well as Net Flix and On Demand movies.  We sat next to each other and watched Bravo and the Real Housewives for the duration of the flight.  It went by so fast.

We arrived in L.A. around 5 PM where we took a shuttle to a Hampton Inn near LAX.  It really is easy using a shuttle service.  The driver handled our luggage both at the airport and unloaded it at the hotel.  He even took it inside the hotel for us.  It was a very comfortable shuttle ride and because there are so many expensive cars in L.A., I was looking out of the bus windows to see if I could spot a celebrity.  We pulled up to the light next to a red BMW convertible.  Inside there was the driver who was male and a guy in the passenger seat and a girl in the back seat.  The driver didn’t look like any celebrity I would recognize and I doubt that he was anyone other than a nose picker.  It was so funny because he had the top down and was digging for gold.  It’s always funny when someone picks while driving like they think no one can see them, but hey, this was a convertible.  I imagine he thought he was cool in the red convertible and he might have appeared so if he wasn’t picking his nose.

On Saturday, April 23, we took another shuttle to the port in Long Beach where we boarded the Carnival Miracle.  We were sailing to Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, and Puerto Vallarta.  New scenery, new destinations, different ship.

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We made it on board with no problem, hit the lounge on deck 2, and waited to sail.  I love to see the deck where we board the ship.  It is very pretty and each ship has its own theme throughout the ship.

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We were supposed to sail at 4 PM, but didn’t depart until closer to 5:30.  We endured muster which was tedious because our station was outside and it was quite hot and steamy.  On the past three cruises our muster station was inside in one of the theaters which made it much nicer.

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When we finally sailed, we had to wait for about 30 minutes for the casino to open.  We sat in the casino and staked out a machine and waited not so patiently.  Finally we were in business.  Marie sat down at Kitty Glitter and I had decided before hand that I was going to concentrate on video poker and Quick Hit slots.  I started with video poker and after awhile of no 4-of-a-kind, I gave up in search of Quick Hits.  I somehow got sidetracked by Hot Shots and I do love those.  I hit the bonus several times and the small progressive for $23.00.  Not enough to do me much good.

We decided we needed pizza, that maybe if we ate, we would do better.  I have always thought you couldn’t catch any fish on an empty stomach.  We headed to Pizza Pirate.  I had the Margherita pizza and Marie had the four-cheese pizza.  The Pizza Pirate only has five varieties including pepperoni pizza, prosciutto and arugula, and mushroom pizza , but they are all good with really crispy thin crusts.  Then it was back to try our luck on full stomachs.

Marie went back to Kitty Glitter and I decided to try my luck on Three-Card poker.  Marie can stretch her money much better than me and usually stays ahead by playing the minimum bet.  Her money lasts longer.  She hits smaller pots, but she goes further, recycling her wins and building up her points and not spending much money.  She did win a hand pay once on a 30 cent bet.   I keep hoping for a jackpot but those don’t happen often enough. There were some loud people on this cruise, you know the ones that bang on their machines and scream at each other across the casino.  One couple screamed “Honey!” at each other everytime one of them hit something or just wanted to communicate.  There is a funny story about “Honey” I will get to in a minute.

I sat down at the poker table and bought in for $100.  I noticed a man at the table had on a Huntsville Bearkats tee shirt and asked him about it.  Huntsville is only 45 minutes from my house and the home of the Sam Houston University Bearkats.  Of course he had heard of Iola. Crazy how you can go all the way to California and get on a cruise ship and meet a neighbor.  Even crazier is that it’s not the first time it’s happened to me.  Several years back Marie and I took a spur-of-the-moment cruise and there was a woman on the cruise who lives 15 minutes away from me and worked at a local restaurant I went to on an almost weekly basis.  Then there was the time in St. Thomas where my husband and I saw our daughter’s boyfriend’s parents shopping.  Also ran into another neighbor in Las Vegas at Harrah’s during Super Bowl weekend.  When I was still working in sales, I saw a customer and his wife at the Flamingo in Las Vegas.  Marie and I met a couple on this cruise from Kennedale, only a few miles from Mansfield.  So many coincidences.

Back to the poker table.  I had pretty good luck.  I hit several flushes, straights, and one three-of-a-kind.  I cashed out $430.  Maybe this would be my game this trip.  I heard of some straight flushes, but didn’t get one.  This was a 3 card bonus table where if you got a five-card winning hand and you bet the $1 bonus spot, the payouts were bigger.  I hit that several times with a full house and the 3-of-a-kind.  Fun game when you can at least get some winning hands.   Plus it’s a really social game.  People converse with each other and the dealers were all so outgoing.  Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and a place for everything, and bonding with your slot machine can be very rewarding, but sometimes you need human companionship.

Sunday was an at-sea day and Marie went down to the casino early and played.  She went to the deck to see the ocean, but it was not as pretty as the Caribbean.  That warm breeze was just not there.  The Miracle is a smaller ship than some other ones we have been on, and it was easier and faster to get from one end to the other.  However, the casino was smaller, there wasn’t a Cucina del Capitano Italian restaurant on the ship and the pool was tiny.  But we are the Slotsisters and we had business to take care of.  I had slept in and she brought me some coffee and yogurt from the buffet.  I got dressed, headed down and went straight to the poker tables.  This time I decided to try Texas Ultimate Hold-em.  I didn’t do that well, so I ended up back at Three Card.  I had another good day and cashed out $485.  I was on a roll.

Marie switched between Kitty Glitter, Cats, Cleopatra and Hot Shots.  There were very few of the newer style machines, only the Asian-themed slots were new.  We saw several hand pays and we were holding out hope for one.  It was early yet and we made sure we had plenty of opportunity.  Sometimes I bet the minimum, but most of the time I bet the maximum.  On Hot Shots, max was $2.00, and $2.50 on video poker, but on the Asian themed slots, the minimum was $.88 and the maximum was $8.88.  That was just too much for me.  I have heard of people hitting some good pots on these machines, but not me and I don’t think Marie has played them much.  These machines were so popular that there were lines behind each machine waiting for one to come open……INSANE.

We had tried to get reservations for Sunday night in the steakhouse but they were booked so we instead reserved a table for Monday.  We had requested Any Time Dining and decided to take a break and try out the dining room.  Carnival must not change their menus very often because they offered the same items we had eaten on the last cruise.  Marie had a Caesar salad, sautéed pork belly, pasta and Crème Brulee for dessert.  I had a Caesar salad, fried oysters appetizer, lobster tail, and Creme Brulee.  It all tasted really good and it was good to get the dining room experience out of the way early because if you eat there every night, it gets very tiring and unappetizing.  I will share with you some pictures on the buffet one night.  Marie decided to go to the Mexican buffet which was not that great, but the star of the dinner was the beautiful watermelon sculptures the chefs carved.

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Monday we arrived at Cabo San Lucas.  It is a big rock.  All brown, no green.   Can I say any more?  We got off of the boat and decided to shop instead of going on an excursion.

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We had a sunset cruise scheduled for Puerto Vallarta and couldn’t decide on what else to do in the other ports.  In Cabo every store had tequila tastings in hopes of selling a bottle.  At one table of tequilas, we heard one guy say “no thanks, that’s why I have to go to the meetings”.   I purchased two bottles of Esperanto tequila.  I can’t get it at Spec’s in College Station and I had bought a bottle on a previous trip to Mexico.  It is better than any I have had because it is so smooth and has no charcoal taste.  We wanted to go to Sammy Hagar’s Cabo Wabo bar, but decided instead on Senor Frog’s since we didn’t know how far away Cabo Wabo was.  We ordered chips and salsa and a Margarita.  The chips were flour tortilla chips and very thick and the salsa was like canned tomato sauce.  It was fun, though, watching the people take advantage of playing beer pong and doing tequila shots.  We were only spectators,  and never participants.   I was so concerned because the hose and shot glasses were passed around without any cleaning.   And it didn’t seem too hard for the waitresses to talk the customers into taking a shot.  If you have ever been to Senor Frog’s, you know what I am talking about.   If not, just check it out.  Senor Frog’s is in just about every port you can imagine.

Thankfully the Cabo port was the only one where we had to take a tinder from the ship to the dock.  It was horrible with an uneven step onto the boat as well as rocking back and forth.  I was really afraid it wouldn’t end well, but it did and we all got back without drowning.  I guess people in wheelchairs must miss out on a lot of sightseeing excursions.  I am not very sure on my feet and even though I have had better experiences with a tinder, I still may sit the next one out.

Back on the ship we went back to the casino to wait for it to open.  Off we went to play, Marie to the cat machines and me to find a loose machine.  I played Hot Shots, Quick Hits, Diamond Fantasy and Pink Diamonds, but ended up back on the poker tables.  I left the table even and went to find Marie.  It was time for us to go to our dinner reservations at Nick and Nora’s Steakhouse.  Nick and Nora were characters in the novel “The Thin Man”.  In the movie based on the novel, they were played by William Powell and Myrna Loy.   The restaurant had a New York vibe and offered a menu of beef and lamb entrees.  Marie had Tuna Tartare, Spinach Salad and a Filet with Béarnaise sauce.

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I had the pumpkin soup, lettuce wedge with gorgonzola cheese and bacon which I didn’t love because the gorgonzola was very overpowering.  I also had the Filet Mignon with a peppercorn sauce.  We each had Wasabi mashed potatoes but skipped dessert.

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Actually, the waitress boxed it up for us and we took it to our cabin.

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It was a very nice dining experience, excellent Kendall-Jackson cabernet, and attentive waitresses. We skipped dessert because we were anxious to get back to the casino.  Every night the casino has a drawing for cash – Hot Seat and Big Loot.  Our names were never drawn at night – more about that in a minute.

Tuesday we docked in Mazatlan and Marie decided to sleep in.  I think she had a food hangover.  Nick and Nora’s was delicious. It didn’t take any persuading me to sleep too.  We rolled out of bed about 2:00 and managed to get dressed and grab something to eat.  By this time we were sailing again and the casino was open.  I decided to play the BAM! machine (the only one) and I was able to hit over $200.00 and quickly got excited about the slot machines again.  It’s really disappointing to play and play and not hit enough to at least give a person hope, much less something to play with.  I thought the machines were really tight and I guess certain machines were just due to hit.  We just didn’t find any before someone else did.

Wednesday was Puerto Vallarta.

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We were looking forward to our sunset cruise shore excursion.  This was our late day in port and we weren’t rushed to get onto the dock. Stepping off the ship we found our excursion guide and we headed for the sailboat.  But first I couldn’t help but notice this sea lion waiting to have his picture taken.  Then after a long day of work he or she waddled onto a trailer and was put into a big truck.  Oh the Life.

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It was a gorgeous evening and even though the sail boat was not luxurious, we settled in with 18 other passengers.

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The sea was a little rough, but I took a Dramamine that morning.  Marie didn’t but she was fine.  The crew mixed Margaritas and served cold beer, cheese and crackers, guacamole, salsa and chips.  We were fine and it was a very enjoyable sail.  And the sunset was gorgeous.   Two male passengers however were not well during the cruise, in fact both had been in the casino every day, but we did not see them again until Friday.  They say if you wait to take Dramamine until you need it, it’s too late.  So I took it every day whether I thought I might need it or not.

We got back to the ship and I don’t know if I was a little loopy from sailing or the beer, (I just had a cup),  but I was playing cards in the casino and went to the bathroom and fell as I was turning the corner to go into the bathroom.  I went down pretty hard and I still have a bruise or two.  I went to bed and stayed in our cabin until Friday morning.  Even though my ribs were pretty sore I really enjoyed my relaxation time.  What was so crazy was that Marie was coming out of the bathroom and when she opened the door, she saw me on the floor.  Anyway it all worked out okay and I’m fine now.  The really bad news was that on Thursday morning while I was in bed they called my name for the big loot drawing and I missed out on $1,100. So not only my pride was hurt when I fell, but so was my pocketbook.

Friday was our last day to play on the boat.  We hit the casino running. Since I missed the day before, I had to make up for lost time and hopefully lost money.  I tried to find a hidden gem in a remote corner of the casino, but not so.  I did play some slots that I hadn’t seen earlier in the week and I did hit enough to give me money to play on but no hand pays.  I played Slingo, Wolf Run, Buffalo Stampede, Triple Double Diamond Hot Roll, and Spitfire Bonus – all with little results.  Played 3-Card poker, Ultimate Hold-em, and Let It Ride.  When we went to our cabin that night, there was a letter under the door saying that Marie had received another free cruise from Carnival.  So we will be off on another one soon, the next time out of Galveston.  The last night the casino also gave away a free cruise  and guess who won?  “Honey”!  Now first you have to picture a handsome gray-haired man with a neatly trimmed gray beard  wearing a gold Lame’ shirt.  He was with a pretty and well dressed lady, also called _”Honey”.  When his name was called, he was playing right next to Marie and I.  When he came back from getting his certificate, we heard him tell some other people that he was the “Most Interesting Man In the World”.  Pretty soon other people were calling him that and he was really enjoying it.  To be honest, Robert (his real name) did resemble the Dos Equis spokesman.

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We met some other interesting people and saw some we didn’t get a chance to meet like the woman who wore a Ship Captain’s hat the whole trip and pulled a suitcase behind her.  She also wore nautical themed clothes to match her hat.  Then there was an Asian family we saw at the buffet.  They were so sweet and cute.  The mom reminded us so much of our mother before she died.  She was thin with a new permanent in her hair and she smiled a lot.  So did our mother.  The couple had three adult daughters who were with them and took them on this trip. The daughters doted on them constantly and you could see how proud the parents were.  Our parents had three daughters and seeing them together made us miss our mom and dad.

The next morning was check-out time and was pretty much a nightmare.  We had to be out of our cabin by 8:30 and didn’t read our instructions and had filled out a room service request the night before for 9:00.  It was to be our wakeup call.  I’m really surprised at Marie that she did not have this under control.   I had to go to one of the showrooms and pick up my tequila.  Our stewardess Joanna started knocking at 8:30 and woke us up.  She was ready to clean our cabin for the next guests.  We finally left about 9:30, got to the dock and on our shuttle bus.  We were headed back to Los Angeles where we were renting a car and starting on the second leg of our trip.  Stay tuned for part 2 coming soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just A Friendly Little Game of Monopoly

Spring is in the air and Albertson’s Monopoly Game is in full swing. We are trying to win and are giving it our best shot. We have until May 3 to collect all the tickets we can and that includes a lot of driving, purchasing hundreds and hundreds of packages of Ramen noodle soup, and making lots of trips to food banks.

Marie has a number of Albertson’s Grocery stores in her area but I don’t have any. Albertson’s has partnered with Randall’s Grocery stores in the Houston area and Tom Thumb in the Dallas area and they are all participating in the Monopoly game. Last week I made a trip to a Randall’s and was only able to buy six flats of Ramen because that was all they had. I received 161 tickets plus 14 more because of groceries I bought. Out of 175 game pieces I received one coupon for a free
12-pack of Dr. Pepper product, 24 coupons for 2 free tickets each and 55 coupons for cents off products.

Earlier in the month we made a trip to Bossier City, Louisiana to purchase Ramen and donate to the food bank. Plus it was past time to work on maintaining our Diamond status at the Horseshoe Casino. We met at the Horseshoe in the Diamond Lounge on a Wednesday. Love the drinks and the bartenders in the Diamond Lounge, plus the hors d’oeuvres are usually really good. All of the Diamond Lounges we have been to are very nice and each offers different bar foods.

We met a cute couple from Missouri who were stopping off on their way to Houston to board a cruise ship. They told us that the Diamond Lounge at Harrah’s in Las Vegas is the nicest one they have been to. We tried to go there on our last trip to Las Vegas, but the line to get in was a mile long and we didn’t want to wait. Instead we went to the one at Caesar’s and it was nice. Caesar’s has waiters to bring drinks to your table, but in Bossier City, you have to order at the bar and carry it to your table yourself. My favorite food in Bossier is their fried coconut lobster on a stick. This last time there was crab stuffed shrimp and they always have fresh salads and homemade potato chips.

We each had our own rooms this trip. Usually we share a room because Marie thinks I will sleep all day if I get a chance and she’s right. Because we had lots of stops to make at two Albertson’s and shopping to do at Belk Department Store plus donating at the food bank, she had me on a schedule. By the way, I know I have mentioned it before, but the beds at the Horseshoe are the best. Such good sleep. She did let me sleep until 10:30, but I could have slept much longer.

After we had a bit of refreshment, it was on to the casino. We started on the third floor. I went to Superman and had no luck. Then to Rumble Rumble and Buffalo Stampede. No luck on any of these. I am beginning to think I need to go back to the old time machines like Double Diamond and Triple Diamond. I went down to the first floor where the Hot Shot machines are and hit a few small jackpots and got back some of my losses. I played Luck of the Lemur and got one bonus. Marie wanted me to play Three Kings and I did and got up over $200. I have attached a video of my play on Three Kings.

 

 

The next morning we got up and went to the Albertson’s in Shreveport which is the sister city to Bossier.  We bought twenty two flats of Ramen and immediately dropped them off at the local food bank.  We then took a break and stopped at a Mexican food restaurant to eat.  We had to have it.  How do people in other states live without TexMex food?  And I’m not talking Taco Bell.  Real sit down Mexican food, fresh fried chips and salsa, guacamole, Margaritas, enchiladas, the works.

We wanted to make a video of our experience with Albertson’s because the process is very rewarding in that we are contributing to a good cause by feeding the hungry as well as the hope it gives us to try to win the contest all the while raising Albertson’s and Ramen’s profits.  In addition we usually have grocery shopping to do for our family, so everybody wins, well maybe not us so far.  But we keep trying.  Here is a video we took in the Albertson’s checkout line using a selfie stick I bought.  But for some reason that we haven’t figured out yet, there is no sound.  Wouldn’t you just know that if something could go wrong, it will.  If you can read lips or enjoy silent movies, we hope you will enjoy this video.

 

 

 

Then it was back to the casino.  I felt the poker table calling me and decided to play before I hit the slots.  Marie was on the first floor playing Davinci Diamonds and the poker room was on the same floor.   I got a seat at a 1-3 no limit hold-em table.  I am usually a very cautious better and a bad bluffer.  I usually have to have something in my hand to bet, like a pair, A-K, or 2 high cards suited.  And then I like to play with caution to try to grow the pot.  I was dealt a pair of threes and the dealer flopped a three.  I bet the minimum and it went around the table.  On the turn, the dealer turned over another three and I made a small raise and the only other female at the table raised $25.00 and around the table it went.  I ended up with a $300 pot.  Not bad on a $100 buy-in.  If only I had gotten up then while I was ahead, but not so.  I guess you could say it saved me money because I could have spent that and more on the slots.

The next morning Marie went downstairs to breakfast and I had day old donuts in my room while I got ready.  And then it was off to Albertson’s in Shreveport, the food bank and Belk to check out their sale.  No time for other casinos this trip so the Horseshoe got all of our business.  We bought 12 flats at the Shreveport location and then went back to Bossier City and bought 9 more.  We were emptying the shelves and decided to make this our last Ramen purchase for this trip.  Our checker at the store was very efficient and kind enough to let us video him ringing up our purchase.  Since I didn’t use the selfie stick, this video has sound.

 

 

After stopping at the food bank and being recognized by “Oh, you’re back!” we made a quick stop at Belk where I bought too much. Here is a video I took of Marie with her basket of Ramen.  I thought that a good name for us would be Vidiots, but little did I know that there is a video store in Santa Monica, California with that name.  Maybe we’ll go and take a selfie in front of the store.

 

 

We were invited to a chef’s demonstration and dinner at the Horseshoe where they were giving away free-play prizes of $1000 each.  So we hurried back and hit the Diamond Lounge before our dinner at 8:30.  The dinner was very tasty and the wine was flowing.  We were seated at a not so friendly table or so we thought at first.  The people to the left of us didn’t have anything to say to any of us at the table.  But as soon as dinner was over one of the women grabbed the centerpiece and left with it.  Why she would want it I can’t imagine since it was a mason jar with a plastic spoon and a plastic spatula glued down in it, but maybe she didn’t have any at home and was going to do some canning.  However, she is going to have a heck of a time getting the utensils out of the mason jar.  It is dewberry season in Texas.

We played for a few hours.  I found some machines on the third floor that I had forgotten about.  They were quarter Triple Cash machines and years ago there would have been a line behind each machine waiting for someone to get up.  I have attached a video of my play on the machine, proof that the old-timey machines may still have some life in them.

 

The next day was a travel day and we needed to get home to our husbands and cats.  Next week we will be going on another free cruise, this time we are flying to Los Angeles and cruising to Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta, and Mazatlan.  Can’t wait, vacay for eight days and then we are staying in California for three days to hit as many Albertson’s as possible.  We have several thousand coupons for free tickets and we may make some purchases to donate while we are there.  Whatever we can accomplish, we need to work fast.  Windshield time uses up a lot of valuable Monopoly play time, but we will give it all we’ve got and let you know how we did.

 

 

SERENITY NOW

Hi everyone.  This is Marie and it is very unusual for me to be writing this blog.  Dianne does a great job and I feel like a duck out of water; however because Dianne told me write it, I will do my best.  I had won a cruise back in September and asked Dianne if I could take my husband Chuck with me instead of her because I felt he needed a break from work.  She was fine with it and so Chuck and I took off for Galveston on Saturday, March 5th, the day before the cruise on Sunday.  After a brief visit with Dianne and Jim in Iola, we stayed overnight in the Houston area because we wanted to stay close to the port.  Sunday morning we started toward Galveston and since Dianne and I are still playing the Albertson’s Monopoly game, Chuck and I stopped at the store near the port to buy Ramen noodles and cash in on game tickets.  Two days before I left town, I dropped off a huge load of 45 flats of noodles to Mission Metroplex in Arlington, TX.  They were so excited to see the donations and told me these go like hotcakes.  All the kids love them as an after school snack or even dinner.  So Chuck and I crammed some in the back seat of the truck and headed toward the port.

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The Carnival magic is a beautiful ship that mainly sails to Caribbean ports.  The Magic had just come out of dry dock and was boasting of two new restaurants, Guy Fierri’s Burgers and the Blue Iguana Cantina.  Soon, the Magic will be going to Miami, Florida and the Carnival Breeze would be entering the port of Galveston and exchanging itineraries.

We entered on the third floor, and took the stairs to the 12th deck to view the port of Galveston and downtown.  Before going to our room, Chuck definitely wanted to eat at Guy’s Burgers and so we enjoyed a very good burger cooked on a flattop that was extra clean and new and the burgers tasted delicious.  People were soon crowding the burger line and we were thankful we had gotten our lunch when we had.

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So now it was off to check on our room which would be a small inside cabin, however free, and comfortable enough for us both.  Our luggage had been delivered and as we entered, we both noticed an odd smell but could not identify it yet.  As we were putting away our hanging clothes, Chuck opened the closet and there it was; old, dirty, stinky work shoes.

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Chuck closed the door quickly but not before the smell permeated the room.  Suddenly I remembered an episode of the best sitcom (in my opinion) that ever existed; Seinfeld.

Setting:  The front of a restaurant in NYC.  The valet pulls up in front of the restaurant in Jerry’s car, a Saab, whereupon Jerry tips the valet and Elaine and Jerry get in the front seat.  Immediately Jerry notices a foul smell.  Elaine agrees but they are confused as to what and where it came from.  They both agree it is B.O. (body odor from the valet).  Jerry tries unsuccessfully to rid the smell throughout the episode by spending quite a lot of money on various services to eliminate the “beast”.  Much to no avail, Jerry is defeated.  He has to sell the car.  Well that’s another story and I will end my memory there.

Back to the closet:  We called the steward, Gilberto, and he was very apologetic.  The room had been occupied by a worker at dry dock and inadvertently he missed cleaning the closet.  We decided to leave for a while so the steward could clean the closet and air freshen the room.  That was the glitch and it was smooth sailing from there on.

The ship sailed at 7:00pm that day and we decided to eat at the Pizza Pirate that night.  Our burger earlier was very filling and we weren’t that hungry.  But the Pizza was delicious as always and perfect for a snack. They have the usual pepperoni, but I enjoy the mushroom(fungi), prosciutto and arugula, or the four cheese.

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The winds had picked up and it was very cool.  I had brought a thick sweater just in case but Chuck did not have anything else but “Cabana wear”; another Seinfeld episode that I will spare you from.  We managed to stay on deck for a while that evening until we decided to check out the casino.  I mean I am a SlotSister.  It was pretty dead there which I thought was strange.  I played a little bit and then headed back to the cabin, which was in much better condition than earlier.

The next morning, we got up at 6:00 am because Chuck rises early every morning for work and being the good wife that I am I get up with him.  We decided to get ready for the day and eat breakfast in the Southern Lights restaurant where dinner is served every night.  Instead of the Lido buffet that has plenty of choices, we enjoy the restaurant where it is a lovely setting, delicious food, and a chance to sit at a large table where one can meet people from all over the states.  That morning, we met Wayne and Carol, two retirees who love to travel in an RV so much that they sold their home and live in their very large RV traveling all over the U.S. and cruising when they feel like it.  They had just come from Livingston, TX, where they volunteered at an RV retirement community, which is similar to an assisted living center only you live in your trailer.  Meals, housecleaning, entertainment, church services and medical services are provided for a low $1,000.00 a month.  What a deal!  I should check into that, except I need a trailer.

After breakfast, we wanted to check out the Serenity Spa deck, where no children are allowed.   We relaxed on couches and hammocks and enjoyed the view, until it was time to eat again.

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Dianne and I really don’t eat every meal, since we stay up late and sleep late.  This was an entirely different cruise.  Chuck and I never went to bed past 10:00pm and never slept past 6:00am.  We never missed a meal and we explored every nook and cranny of that ship over and over again.  Chuck wears a pedometer and we racked up 14,000 steps every day.  We climbed the stairs instead of taking the elevators.  We had three stops on the trip; Jamaica, Cayman, and Cozumel.  We had excursions for every port and I can truly say we were exhausted every day.  Serenity Now.  Another Seinfeld episode.

Wednesday morning we had an early debarkation in Jamaica and were taking a tour of a coffee and pineapple plantation, Croydon Plantation.  We got on our bus and had to wait for about 45 minutes due to two passengers that were late and decided to not show.  We left without them.  The bus driver enjoyed local gospel music and it was quite good.  So I will call it the Croydon Plantation Gospel Tour, as it was an hour and a half trip to the plantation.  The plantation is located in the highlands, (the mountains) of Jamaica.  The scenery was lush and green and beautiful.  The climate was perfect.  Our tour guides were informative and the walk through the plantation was something I would recommend.  A tasty lunch was served; jerk chicken, rice, beans, and greens.  Sounds very southern and that’s ok with me.

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Thursday morning we had to take a shuttle boat from the ship to the Cayman Islands.  The coral is protected there and the cruise ships are not allowed to dock.  Our excursion that day was an amphibious bus that toured the island as well as the waters.

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It’s a bus and a boat.  Cayman waters are gorgeous.  We were allowed to feed the fish from the bus and the fish recognized it and were very excited for feeding time.

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We also went to 7 mile beach.  I think I need to rent a condo here sometime. My sweet niece Ginger and her family used to.

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By the evening the children on the ship were really revved up.  As they came out of the elevators, every button was pushed and I saw this one cute little boy run in an open elevator and look at the buttons.  He looked at me and I said, “Don’t do it.” “Don’t do it.”  He looked at me and shook his head no.  He was caught and he knew it.  I love it.

I went to the casino that night and played some.  Without Dianne here, it’s just not the same.  In fact, Chuck was sitting next to me and said, “Dianne would love this.”  By the way, I did put our WWW.Slotsisters.com sign on the cabin door.

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Dinner in the dining room every night was good and I was very careful to eat healthy.  Sometimes I did not have desert or ordered a sugar free one.

Friday was Cozumel.  Months earlier I had looked on the excursions in Cozumel through Carnival and saw an America’s Cup sailboat race.  It looked fun so I booked it.  We were taken out to the ocean where we chose which sailboat we wanted to ride.  Some chose the Stars and Stripes and some chose the North, a Canadian ship.  The Australian captain wanted to include some of us as mates and help control the sails.  Chuck was chosen as one of the “grinders” for the sails.  Little did we know that it was a very stressful and energetic job.  The race was amazing and the sailboat was fast and furious.  We had to hold on at times in order to not fall out into the ocean and at other times it was smooth as glass.  I could see Chuck working so hard as I was just enjoying the ride.  I asked later if he liked it and he said he did, but he worked so hard he didn’t get to see the race and what was going on.  Serenity Now.

The last day on Saturday was a relaxing day.  We got up as usual…..early.  I ate at Blue Iguana Cantina and had a delicious breakfast taco with an egg over medium on top.  It was very good.

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Chuck read most of the day and I played in the casino some.  My favorite slot on the magic is the Cats machine.  I won the progressive and did quite well.

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We got our luggage packed and ready to leave the next day.  I can say it was a fun trip.  Chuck enjoyed it and needed it.  However, I am ready for some more trips with my SlotSister.

 

OYSTERS, OYSTERS AND MORE OYSTERS

Marie and I often are amazed at how much fun we can cram into a short period of time.  If only we could manage to do that when we have housework to do or errands to run.  But housework is not nearly as much fun as travel adventures and we had a whirlwind trip.

It started on February 7, Marie left church and drove to Huntsville, Texas to meet Jim and I so we could switch cars and take mine to Biloxi.  Just trying to keep it even on the miles we put on our cars and since we’re making a stop at Coushatta Casino in Kinder, Louisiana to cash in our free play, Huntsville is on the way.  Logistics as well as luggage is always an issue, but we manage.  Just getting ready to go on an adventure is a lot of work, but worth it when we get there.

So off we went to Coushatta which we both love.  I had $100 in free play and Marie had $25.  I was determined to use their money and not spend any of my own since we hadn’t been back from our cruise for long and I had gambled a lot.  Plus we weren’t staying long because we had a reservation in Lake Charles, Louisiana at the Golden Nugget Casino and Resort.  I managed to cash out over $200 using Marie’s method.  I will let her explain how she does it, but basically you cash out while you are ahead, a new concept for me. (Actually you pick your bet, divide it by your free play, and hit that number of times at your favorite machine.  Sometimes it works great). (per Marie, but too much thinking for me).

We left Coushatta and drove to Lake Charles.  The rooms at the Golden Nugget are first class.  The Golden Nugget is owned by Tilman Fertitta who owns all the Golden Nugget Casinos as well as Landry’s seafood restaurants, Bubba Gump’s Shrimp Co, and Saltgrass Steak House for a total of 500 restaurants.  Since Mr. Fertitta is a Texas boy I had big hopes he would be instrumental in making casino gambling legal in Texas, but so far it has not come to be.  We decided to go ahead and eat so we would not have to stop playing to go eat.  We went to Landry’s, which is located in the hotel. in hopes of having fried oysters.  Much to our disappointment, the restaurant was out of oysters (note to Mr. Fertitta) so we ended up sharing a fried shrimp and catfish dinner.  It was delicious as Landry’s usually is but it wasn’t oysters.  Then on to the main event.

I was still using the Marie Method of Gambling, but I wasn’t sure it would last.  I prefer to bet the maximum on the slots if the maximum is less than $4. Marie is more likely to bet the minimum and gradually go up from there.  We love Hot Shot slot machines and the maximum is $2 which I faithfully bet because I want to hit a hand payout (which I did last year at the Horseshoe in Bossier City, La. for $1994.00).

I hit some small amounts on Wicked Winnings III and ended up on it ahead, but walked around and lost most of it in different machines.  I played Willy Wonka, Lord of the Rings, Triple Diamond, and various others that soaked up most of my winnings.  Nothing much to report, just more fun than profit.

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On February 8 we headed for Biloxi with two very important stops along the way – our first Louisiana Albertson’s in Lafayette and Baton Rouge for Ramen noodles and Monopoly tickets.  Luck was on our side.  They had four packages for a dollar.  There are 24 packages in a flat and we bought a total of 10 flats each.  With bonus tickets, we netted 265 tickets each.  And we were just getting started. The game started February 3rd and runs through May 3rd, 2016.  This year it may be a little more complicated because Tom Thumb and Randall’s are all participating as well as Safeway on the West Coast.  Randall’s is in the Houston area and Tom Thumb is in the Dallas area.  Oh, Lord, it makes me tired thinking about it and excited at the same time.  But hopeful for a big win this year.  On our way out of the store, Marie spotted some really gaudy gold Mardi Gras necklaces with a fleur de lis so we bought one each so we could celebrate in style.  I also bought a King cake which I couldn’t resist since it had caramel icing.  It’s more like a cinnamon bread than a cake and it fit nicely on the back floorboard with the Ramen noodles on the seat.

We hit Biloxi about 5:00 p.m., checked in to Harrahs’ because our reservations at Beau Rivage didn’t start until the next night.  Harrahs’ rooms had been remodeled and were very comfortable.  Harrahs’ properties have always had great beds and still do.  In fact I ordered one of their mattresses for my guest room to make sure my guests are comfortable (I really don’t have that many).  But my granddaughters and I sleep really good on it.  Marie flaked out on me this night.  She stayed in the room to call Chuck with the promise she would be in the casino later, but she fell asleep.  I found some Hot Shot slots and had fun but never saw her.  When I went upstairs, she was in bed.  I let her slide this time, we had the rest of the week to go and had lots of stuff to accomplish.

One of the main reasons we made this trip was to look at condos.  My husband has been on a kick to move from Iola to somewhere he and I could spend the last hopefully many years of our lives.  For a long time, Jim has wanted to move to Santa Fe, New Mexico and I had thought that would be great.  However, as the years passed, I remembered all the times we have been on a beach vacation whether it was the Virgin Islands, Jamaica, the Bahamas, Hawaii, or Galveston.  I love the relaxing vibes of the ocean, even if I don’t stick my toes into the water.  Jim says he is tired of dealing with cattle and doesn’t want to have the responsibility of the lawn.  So we thought it might be good to retire, even though we are already retired, to the beach.  Biloxi and it’s sister city of Gulfport is beautiful as well as having lots to see and do. The biggest drawback is our kids and grandkids living so far away as well as Marie and Chuck not being as close.  On the other hand, our other sister Cheryl lives in Atlanta and she and her husband just bought a vacation condo in Destin which is quite close to Biloxi so we would get to spend more time with them.

We haven’t completely given up on Santa Fe and I think I could be happy with either one.  Both cities have casinos, art museums, shopping, wonderful restaurants and good weather except for snow in Santa Fe in the winter, but I can be a good hibernator.  The drawback to Biloxi/Gulfport is that the casinos might be a little too convenient for me where Santa Fe has less of them.

On February 9, we got up and left Harrah’s to drive down Beach Blvd. to check out the scenery.  This was Mardi Gras week and the 9th was Fat Tuesday.  Little did we know that except for the parade, the entire town shuts down for Fat Tuesday and even the schools close for three days.  We were hunting for a food bank in order to donate the twenty flats of Ramen noodles, but they were all closed.  So we decided to feed ourselves and try to find oysters.  We saw the Half Shell Oyster House downtown and decided it was a pretty safe bet we could eat oysters there.  It was an excellent decision because the food was amazing.  I had a half dozen raw and a fried oyster poor boy.  Marie had a fried oyster poor boy.  They were absolutely the best oysters ever, so fresh and not too big and very crispy.

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When we left Harrah’s we drove around Gulfport and found the cutest bungalow for sale on “historic” 2nd Ave.   It’s called that because it is in the historic district, not necessarily because something historic happened on it.  Although I am still researching that.  It is only two blocks from the beach and is listed as a condo which has many advantages like no yard to maintain because the HOA fees cover it.  We had a realtor scheduled for the next day and I asked her to try to get us inside the house, but it didn’t happen.  We drove back and forth on Beach Blvd. between Mardi Gras parades.  Biloxi had a parade from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Gulfport had an evening parade so we were able to dodge the festivities.  Not that we wouldn’t have wanted to see the parade, but it was unseasonably cold and windy that day.  We did get out of the car and walked along the beach which was white sand, really clean and pretty.

One thing that we both thought was hilarious was that there was a Waffle House on Beach Blvd. about every other block.  Marie had never been to a Waffle House until a few months ago, but I have been plenty of times, well, maybe not plenty.  I may need to go again.

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We made our way to Biloxi to check into the Beau Rivage.  We had three nights reserved.  We had a lovely 8th floor room close to the elevator with a gorgeous view of the swimming pool and ocean.

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We have also stayed in a room overlooking the ballpark where the Shuckers play baseball and it is fun to be able to watch a game for free.  Marie and I love the Beau Rivage.  It has such a southern charm about it, very tastefully decorated, excellent restaurants and shopping, and friendly staff.  Fresh flowers are everywhere and great southern dining.  This week, the hotel was decorated with Mardi Gras colors.  Even down to the fresh flowers in the gardens.   It is one of the few casinos that still offer Caribbean Stud Poker as well as the usual table games and a lot of the newer themed and old style machines.

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Since we had filled up on oysters at lunch, we went straight to the casino.  The first thing I noticed was that my Elton John slots were not where they were last time and Gremlins slots were in it’s place.  Hoping they had just moved Elton, I decided to look for him later and play Gremlins.  (I never found Elton.)  It was loads of fun with many bonuses and I remembered Marie’s Method and quit on them while I was ahead.  On to more endeavors and tried to get on Buffalo Stampede, Ellen, Red Hot Fusion, Willy Wonka, and Flintstones but they were all full and some had people standing behind waiting to get on them.  So I went to my old stand-by and played Hot Shots which are always fun.  I did manage to hit several small progressives just to stay alive, but nothing to brag about.

This is when Marie found me and was distraught about something.  She was playing Spartacus on a row of machines.  Next to her machine, there was a woman who apparently had drunk too much Mardi Gras juice and proceeded to throw up everything in her stomach.  I hate the word vomit, in fact I think it’s one of the ugliest words in the English language, so we’ll go with throw up.  Back to the story, I asked Marie what did she throw up in, a bag or what, and she said the woman just leaned over and threw up on the floor, carpet to be exact.  The cleaning people came over and put up biohazard caution tape and started to clean up the mess.  Marie asked me if I thought she had a virus and I told her that if she was ill she would have gone to the bathroom and that more than likely she had too much wine or some other spirit.  The next day Marie saw the woman playing a slot but she seemed to have sobered up.  And so you know now, Marie and I freak out about throwing up.  God bless nurses.

On Wednesday the realtor I had contacted called and asked to postpone the showings until Thursday because she was having trouble scheduling the properties we had talked about.  So Marie and I needed to find a food bank to make a donation.  We found a Baptist church in Biloxi which took the noodles off our hands and then we decided to take a sight-seeing trip east on Beach Boulevard.  Ocean Springs was that way and I had heard it was a really nice city to live in.  But we didn’t have any point of interest in order to navigate to any particular area and although it was a good sized city, we didn’t see any property that wowed us.  We turned around and went back the way we came.

There is a brand new casino at D’iberville called the Scarlet Pearl.  We decided to try it out.  D’iberville is just north of Biloxi, easy on and easy off of I-10.  It is a very nice casino, shiny and sparkling new machines.  We will definitely go back again.  Also while we were there, we got in line to get a players card and they matched our highest players card level from another casino.  So we have VIP benefits for playing there one time.  Pretty cool.

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Next we were craving oysters again and it was close enough to dinner time.  My friend Greg Bonat goes to Gulfport occasionally and recommended to me that we go to Captain Al’s.  We had a hard time finding it because my GPS hasn’t been updated in a while, but we were glad we found it.  This place was definitely a dive, and should be on Diners, Drive Inns and Dives. It was amazing.  We each had a cup of shrimp gumbo.  Marie had the fried shrimp dinner and I had the fried oyster dinner.  It came with a side crab salad and a stuffed baked potato.  A lot of food, and delicious food.  Again the fried oysters were fresh, crispy on the outside, soft and flavorful on the inside.  I had a cold beer and Marie had iced tea since she was driving.  I am perfectly fine with her driving.  I guess I should also mention that also on the menu were wood grilled steaks, but we were still on our oyster quest.  If you get the chance to go to Captain Al’s, go there.

On Thursday, we met the realtor downstairs.  She was showing us some condos that I had previewed on the internet.  First was Sea Breeze Condominiums which is the only complex built on the sandy beach and you don’t have to cross a busy road to go to the beach.  It was nice but something didn’t seem right with it.  I couldn’t put my finger on it whether it was the lack of space or the fact that with the sliding doors open, the noise from the people playing in the pool was really loud.  Next on to Ocean Club Condos which were beautiful with great views, but again was noisy, except this time with road noise.  The same with this one – it didn’t feel right.

I asked the realtor to take us to Gulfport and see if she could get us in to see the little bungalow on 2nd street.  She was not able to get us inside but we drove by several times and I think I am still interested in it.  I guess since we couldn’t go inside, I will just have to go back and see it again.  It’s hard to think of a move at our age, but if Jim and I don’t do it now, we will lose the opportunity.  Driving by the bungalow, I realized what the drawback was that I felt looking at the condo’s.  The fact that we have three inside cats and one outside, would be a little much for a condo association to approve.

Back to the Beau Rivage where Marie and I called for our car and drove back to Gulfport one more time.  We hadn’t eaten all day and the realtor didn’t offer to take us to eat, so we decided to go one more time to Half Shell Oyster House.  You guessed it.  Fried oysters.  I’m glad we weren’t due for a cholesterol test when we got home.  I ordered several Old Fashioned cocktails.  Poor Marie was still driving and drinking iced tea.  For an appetizer we ordered the hot crab dip.  Wow, wow, wow.  So good.  It was served with warm fresh French bread.  Unbelievable, and again the oysters were delish.  You just have to go to know.

Our last night to play and we wanted to make the most of it.  I played Willy Wonka, Lord of the Rings, video poker, Lightning Reels, and Superman.  I wasn’t ahead at the end of the night, but I also wasn’t too far down.  The next morning we left the Beau Rivage at 9 a.m. We stopped in Lake Charles at Albertson’s for 20 more cases of Ramen noodles.  And because we are multi-taskers, we went next door to Casa Ole’ for Mexican food before we got back on the road.

All in all it was a fun and informative trip.  We just aren’t rich yet, but there is still the Albertson’s Monopoly game.  Anything can happen.

 

The Cruise That Almost Wasn’t

 

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It was almost time for our cruise, scheduled for January 16, and on January 11, I had my gallbladder removed.  Great timing, but my doctor assured me I would be fine to go on the cruise.  On January 14, my husband drove me to Fairfield, Texas to meet Marie so I could spend the night before we were to fly out to Miami where we would board the Carnival Breeze on Saturday, January 16.  I was healing well and the soreness was almost gone.  I’m not really that tough, but you know you gotta do what you gotta do.

Marie’s husband Chuck took us to DFW to catch our flight out and help us with our bags.  Luggage seems to be a huge issue for us.  Marie and I have a difference of opinion on how many bags to pack, what to pack, and how to pack.  She usually gets her way and we pack less and lug less suitcases, but it’s still usually a nightmare.  And what is so odd is that usually if someone offers to help us, it’s  a woman and not a man.  Why is that?

We got to TSA screening and I sailed on through without stopping.  It was one of the few times we have flown and not been pre-checked so we had to take off our shoes.  For some reason Marie drew the short straw and was subjected to a body search. The TSA agent, which was a woman, had her hands inside the front of her pants and inside the back.  She said it was because she had on baggy jeans.  Seriously, she was not wearing baggy jeans.  They were GAP boyfriend jeans.  Give me a break.  She should have at least got dinner out of it.  I just stood there and watched and was glad it was Marie and not me.  Hah!

The flight was great.  We flew American Airlines round trip.  The seats were comfortable, leather, and had an entertainment screen on the backs of the seats.  We were able to watch television and movies both ways.  But as usual, baggage claim was a nightmare.  People everywhere were scrambling for bags and us trying to catch our bags on the conveyer belt.  We only had two checked bags between the two of us, but we had two carry-ons plus our purses.  We grabbed a cart and managed to load our bags on it and push it out to the curb where we took the shuttle for the Hampton Inn Blue Lagoon.

By the time we got checked in and got our bags upstairs, we were starving and exhausted.  We ordered a Cuban to be delivered to the room – a Cuban sandwich that is.  It was very good, but strange.  Inside the hoagie bun was ham and turkey and sliced pork and pickle chips which is normal.  But also inside and all around the sandwich in the wrapper were canned shoestring potatoes.  I have never seen that before and it might have been good for extra crunch except the shoestrings were soggy.

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The shuttle picked us up the next morning and took us to the cruise terminal.  Our driver handled our luggage and we got through screening.  I had a cane I was using because I didn’t want to risk a fall so the port terminal staff were kind enough to provide me with a wheelchair ride to get onto the ship.  My ride ended at the 3rd deck bar on the ship.  Perfect.  It was smooth sailing from then on.

We took our drinks up to the lido deck to watch us sail away.  Miami has a beautiful cruise port with views of the intra-coastal waterway, large beautiful houses and condos, and the area where Miami Vice was filmed.  We found a couple of lounge chairs and watched Miami disappear as we sailed.  Next was time for muster (our favorite thing, hah) which turned out to be rather painless.

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As soon as muster was over, we decided to go eat dinner before we went to the casino.  We chose to have the Any Time Dining because we didn’t want to have to be on a schedule.  Plus we wanted to go to some of the specialty restaurants on the ship like the sushi bar and the Italian restaurant.  I have no idea what I ordered, but Marie had grilled chicken, Caesar salad, shrimp cocktail and a sugar free dessert.  She was starting out on the right foot but I was betting it wouldn’t last.  The only thing I remember I had was the Caesar salad and apple pie a la mode for dessert.  And I remember the pie because our waiter Vladimir said he picked and peeled the apples himself.

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Then it was on to the casino.  It was quite a bit smaller than the Carnival Magic casino and had less of the newer machines.  There was one Ellen slot and one called Ultimate Wheel of Fortune (I think), two Wonder Woman slots, and some of the Asian themed machines.  The rest were old type machines.  Marie fell in love with Spartacus and played it a lot.  I moved around trying to find one that would  be good to me.  Not much luck that first night or any other.

When we were on the Magic, the casino hostesses were constantly announcing jackpot winners, but on the Breeze, we only heard an announcement twice.  But to be fair, we did hear by word of mouth of other jackpots.  We just didn’t personally experience any.  To be fair, we did hit a few $50 and $100 pays, but that only gave us a little to play on.

I enjoyed playing the tables while on board, especially Ultimate Texas Hold-em.  I played with the same group of people every night and I really enjoyed them.  Here is a picture of Jim with his unusual sun visor.  Then there was Patsy from Boston who had a fabulous collection of Fascinator hats and she wore a different one every night.

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Ultimate Texas Hold-em is really a fun game.  It was a $5 minimum table and the least amount you have to play is your $5 ante and your $5 bet, but you can put $5 on the 3-card spot and another $5 on the 6-card spot, but most of time I didn’t play the 6-card spot.  A 6-card hand is really hard to hit so I rarely bet on it.  The main thing you need to know is that instead of playing against the other players as in Texas Hold-em, you are playing against the dealer.

There was a semi-live Texas Hold-em play in the casino bar, but I didn’t play.  It is played with electronic modules and I just didn’t feel like trying to figure it out.  I don’t understand why the cruise ship industry doesn’t include at least two tables of live Hold-em on every cruise.  It’s not like there is a shortage of dealers and I’m sure space could be found.

We also met a lovely lady, a retired principal from New York City.  Her name was Doreen Gardner.  Marie had lots of interesting conversations with her.

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Another woman, Nancy Sweet, was taking a vacation with her friends.

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We cruised for two full days and landed on the third day in Turks and Caicos.  It was gorgeous, beautiful white sand and turquoise waters and cold beer which Marie was good enough to go and get one for me.  A lot of people took excursions like zip-lining and snorkeling.  But we decided to just relax and soak up the sun and sea breezes.  Not to mention people watching.  It was a lovely day.

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The fourth day we were in Dominican Republic which because we had been to Haiti, we decided to skip this port.  I’m sure it was a mistake to skip it because who knows when we will get another chance to see it, but poor Marie had to put up with me sleeping until 3:00.  Some people said it was run down and some said it was beautiful.  We can’t confirm either one.  Thinking back on it I’m glad we missed it because the Zika Virus was in full swing.

The fifth day was Aruba which was my favorite port.  I have always wanted to see Aruba and was so anxious to get there.  Unfortunately we didn’t reserve in advance a spot on the Sunset Catamaran Sail and it was full.  We got off the ship and walked through town to the nearest casino.  You are probably not surprised.  It was very nice and we played with American money for about an hour.  We wanted to go to the Hard Rock Café for nachos since it had been too long since we had eaten Mexican food, but it was closed.  We passed up a casual seafood restaurant to make our way to the Hard Rock and didn’t have the energy to turn around and go back for seafood.

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At the casino (I understand there are more than one) I saw one of the passengers on our ship hit $5,000 on a Sizzling 7’s machine.  We weren’t there long enough to lose much money, but we stayed even.  We shopped in some of the local stores and I bought a refrigerator magnet and Marie bought a Christmas ornament.  From what we could see, it was a beautiful island and would really love to go back and see more of it.  No one had anything negative to say about Aruba.  One lady we talked to received a diamond ring from her husband which he bought in Aruba.  Our husbands weren’t with us and I’m sure they would have done the same thing if they were there.  Hmmm……..

Day six was Curacao and again I had a sleep day.  Another big mistake.  Every one said it was the best port of all four.

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I think because of my recent surgery, the amount of walking we did the day before, and the fact that there was not a sail day between the ports, it was just too much of a journey for me.  But a beautiful journey it was.  When we were in Aruba, we were as close to South America as we had ever been and probably would ever be again.  Curacao was north of Aruba so it wasn’t as close to the continent as Aruba.  When we sailed out of Curacao, the captain put the pedal to the metal to make the return to Miami in two and a half days.  It was a rough ride because they couldn’t put out the stabilizers with the speed we were going.  I never heard of anyone getting sick and we were fine except for being wobbly.  We took our 24-hour non-drowsy Dramamine and had no problems.  You can buy it at the grocery store in the drug department for about $4.  I wouldn’t think of taking a cruise without it.

We spent most of the last two days in the casino, along with a lot of the other passengers.  One of these days we are going to see a show or two so we can report on it.  No luck again, just fun.  I played Wonder Woman and here is the video of my play.

One thing was a disappointment to us, though.  On the last night of our cruise on the Magic, we received in the mail box next to our door an offer for a complimentary cruise which was based on our play.  This trip Marie matched her point play from the previous cruise and I doubled my point play and we received nothing.  It was quite a disappointment because we both know that Carnival made plenty of money on our play.  I e-mailed Carnival about it and received no response at all.

When we docked we took a taxi back to the Hampton Inn.  The taxi driver was very fast and as he made a U-turn in the middle of the street, Marie ended up in my lap.  That ride was very cheap.   Since we had no car we decided to walk across the street to an Asian restaurant.  We had to cross four lanes of traffic and we lived to tell about it.  We walked into the restaurant and the Asian lady behind the register got up and waved us in.  We thought she was motioning us to follow her to our table and so we did until she opened the restroom door and went in.  We started laughing and couldn’t quit.  We made our own way to a table and sat down and giggled hysterically for at least five minutes.  After we ate we made our way back across the four lanes of traffic, went to our room and got ready for bed.

The next day was a travel day back home to Texas.  We again had baggage problems.  When we got to curbside check-in, we were so happy that Miami had it.  When they weighed my bag, I was five pounds over.  I knew that refrigerator magnet couldn’t weigh five pounds.  The porter asked me if I wanted to take something out of my suitcase, so I started jerking things out.  Not realizing what I was doing, I took out my zip lock bag with my hair products in it which of course contained 8 and 10 ounce bottles of product.  I handed it to Marie to put in her carry-on and neither one of us even thought about the fact that I would be over  the four ounce rule.  We were just so relieved that my bag was under 50 pounds.  when we got to Security, our bubble was burst when the nice officer absconded with my hair products.  I was just glad Marie was my travelling companion instead of my husband who wouldn’t have taken the dilemma so easily.  Just one more lesson learned.  When we got back to Marie’s she went to the store and bought me some small travel-size plastic bottles to hold my hair product for my suitcase.  Hopefully, I won’t repeat this mistake.  In fact we made a trip to Belk Department Store and each of us bought a lightweight carry-on suitcase with 360 degree wheels and maybe I can distribute the weight of my suitcases better.  Time will tell!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ARTESIAN HOTEL SPA AND CASINO

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So we just got back from Las Vegas and one would think that would be enough.  However, The Artesian Hotel in Sulphur, Oklahoma had sent us hotel offers and free play money.  And I since I was still in Mansfield, TX and I didn’t have my car and Marie’s husband had a business trip in Detroit, we thought, “what the heck”, let’s go.

This is a beautiful boutique hotel nestled in the downtown area of Sulphur and it was fully decorated for Christmas.  As we entered the lobby, we were greeted by the gracious employees while smells of apple cider and hot chocolate permeated the air.  The hotel has three floors and all three floors were decorated for Christmas. There were 13 Christmas trees located around the hotel including one in the casino.  On the second floor was Santa and cookies and milk for the children young and old.  We snuck in grabbed a few cookies for later in the night.

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When we got to our room, which was beautiful, a complementary Christmas ornament was on our dresser.  Oh and two bedre’ chocolates, but more on that later.

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The casino at the Artesian is very small but has some good slot machines.  Buffalo Stampede, Davinci Diamonds, Giants Gold and many more.  The afternoon we got there I noticed Bier Haus had a jackpot that had to hit by $500.00.  It was at $458.00 and  I just knew it would hit this week.  Some young adults were on it that night, but had run out of “fun money” and left.  So I immediately got on it.  They might have the stamina to sit there all night, but I’ve got mo’ money to play.  Oklahoma allows 18 year olds to gamble.  We saw quite a few high school age players while we were there.  Marie was on Giants Gold and I was on Bier Haus until we couldn’t stay awake any longer.  I had made around $400 on it by hitting the bonus several times.    So at about 2:30 am we went to our room.

The casino was having a promotion on Tuesdays from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. to double one’s points.  For every 50 points you would receive a scratch-off ticket to win from $5 to $500 with a maximum of 5 scratch-off tickets.  However we don’t think the points were being doubled because on a $.50 bet on a penny machine, it took 20 spins in order to earn one point.  After 10:00 it still took 20 spins to earn one point.  Marie earned 2 scratch-offs and I earned 3 scratch-offs.  We each never had a ticket for more than $5.  And even the next day it was still taking 20 spins to earn one point.  We complained but we were told that each machine was calibrated differently from another machine.

To be fair and in the interest of giving the casino the benefit of the doubt, there was a power surge earlier in the day and the lights went out and the machines flashed off and back on.  I’m thinking that might have messed up the “calibration” of the machines.

The next morning Marie got up before me and headed down to the casino.  Bier Haus was empty and the jackpot still had not hit.  So Marie sat down and played for about an hour and then….. after a bonus round, a low voice came from the machine, “Major Jackpot Awarded”.  So essentially, we both made about the same amount of money on Bier Haus.

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It was time to go home after a few days, but before we left Oklahoma, we had to stop at the Bedre’ Chocolate factory and retail store.  We bought about $150.00 worth of delicious chocolate for gifts and some for ourselves.  It is wonderful chocolate so please visit this store on I-35 in Davis Oklahoma, Adventure Road as Oklahomans call it.

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Merry Christmas.

Dianne and Marie