Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Where Oh Where Is Our Hotel? (Subtitle: Riding Around in a Shuttle Van for Three Hours? Not a Fun Way to Start Vacation!)

So we just returned from a 7-day cruise to the Caribbean with stops in Nassau, St. Thomas and St. Kitts. We went on Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas, which – lemme tell ya – is one friggin’ big boat!

We got a little sun (not too much, which is good for us pale faces), did a little sightseeing (and still had time for a little shopping, which is really good for us shopaholics), and ate and drank a lot more than usual (but not so much that we worried about hangovers or our clothes no longer fitting). So, all in all, a great time.

But our voyage did not begin smoothly.

We took a direct flight from Columbus to Miami and that went okay. I’d say it went “great” – but you know how it is when you’re wedged into a tiny airplane with many people and much luggage. You feel like a sardine and are quite grateful when the doors open and you can finally un-pretzel your legs.

There were eight of us traveling together – five adults and three small children. As in a 5-year-old boy and his 3-year-old twin brothers. We arrived in Miami at 8:20 PM, gathered our mega-pile of luggage and proceeded to the nearest shuttle to take us to Ft. Lauderdale and the Hyatt hotel we had pre-booked.

For future reference, please note that there are a LOT of Hyatt hotels in Ft. Lauderdale.

Once we got that mega-pile of luggage crammed into the back of the shuttle bus, the eight of us (plus the driver) climbed into the vehicle and prepared ourselves for the approximately 30 minute drive to the hotel.

Only it took M-U-C-H longer than thirty minutes.

Why? Because the driver was an idiot. Er, I mean, the driver got lost. Multiple times.

We told him from the start that we needed to take a small detour to a pharmacy as one of the twins was sick and a prescription had been called into a particular pharmacy in Ft. Lauderdale. So he managed to find that pharmacy and the dad jumped out and quickly fetched the prescription. 

We were all still relatively awake and anticipating our week-long getaway, so we were mostly in a good mood. We may have been getting a little hungry and the kids were getting a tiny bit antsy, but that was normal. Right? So the driver takes us a bit further to a Hyatt Place hotel and announces we had arrived.

Ah, relief and anticipation! I couldn’t wait to wash my face, brush my teeth and change into comfy PJs. I wanted to get to bed early so I would be fresh and well-rested the next morning to start our vacation.

Not our luggage cart. Ours was wayyy fuller! Ha!
Once all twelve (count-em!) suitcases and carry-ons were piled onto the luggage cart, we generously (and I mean REALLY generously) tipped the driver and then trudged into the lobby with our hotel confirmation sheets in hand.

That’s when it all started to fall apart.

The clerk haughtily told us we were at the wrong hotel. When we sighed in frustration and then asked if they had any available rooms he said, (a) no, and (b) we’d be paying a “cancellation fee” at the other hotel, which was basically the entire night’s rate.

Fortunately, the shuttle driver was slow to leave and we were able to flag him down and tell him his job wasn’t finished. He was probably cursing himself for taking the time to greedily count his tip instead of hightailing it out of there. But he grudgingly loaded all those bags back into the shuttle while we all climbed back into our seats and prepared for another short drive to the correct hotel.

As they say, “hope springs eternal.” Right?

Wrong.

Our hopes were dashed when the second Hyatt was still not the right hotel. This time we had only started to take the bags out of the vehicle when Vince told us to hold off; he wanted to make sure we were at the right hotel before we unloaded.

Meanwhile, one of the twins who was not feeling well vomited on the floor of the shuttle bus. Fortunately, I was in the row behind him and neither saw nor heard it so my sympathetic gag reflex was not activated. Big “whew” – as the shuttle driver was already looking a little panicked by this point.

And Girl Scout Jane had Wet Wipes at the ready so all evidence of barf was quickly cleaned up. (And, really fortunately, Girl Scout Jane wasn’t the one responsible for cleaning it up!)

Meanwhile, the driver was on the phone calling Dispatch to find out the exact location of our pre-booked hotel. He had that information, of course, because we had given it to him back in Miami and he even had the correct address on the GPS screen in his vehicle, so it was hard to fathom what his problem was.

Maybe he had never been to Ft. Lauderdale before? Maybe – like me – he was directionally challenged, but – unlike me – he didn’t know how to follow the GPS instructions?

Maybe we should’ve checked to see if he had a legitimate driver’s license?

Nevertheless, he climbed back into the driver’s seat and said he was certain he had the correct hotel this time. And off we went.

But that would be a big N-O.

This time we stopped in front of a Hyatt hotel where a formal wedding had taken place and men in tuxes and women in fancy gowns were standing out front.

Again, we opted to check to make sure we had the correct hotel before off-loading our luggage and the kids and ourselves, so Vince was the only one to exit the vehicle. But yet again, he was told we were at the wrong hotel!

By this point, it was almost 11 PM and I was royally pissed. I mean, come on. THREE wrong hotels?!  And two extra hours to get us where we were supposed to be?

I wanted to ask for our very generous tip back!

By this point, our driver had zero credibility with us and, even though there couldn’t possibly have been that many Hyatt hotels left in all of Ft. Lauderdale, we wouldn’t even let him try to figure it out. Instead, we grabbed a cell phone, hit the GPS app and directed the driver to the correct hotel. Sure enough, our fourth stop was finally the right one.

When I stumbled out of the van, I very nearly kissed the ground, but I thought that might be a little too melodramatic even for me!

But it truly was a great relief when I got to our room and was finally able to wash my face, brush my teeth and change into comfy PJs.

But our evening wasn’t over quite yet. We all couldn’t decide if we were more tired or hungry at this point, but hungry won – so we ordered pizzas and calzones to be delivered to our rooms. If I could remember the name of the restaurant I’d tell you because the calzones were THAT good. But, yeesh – eating food that late at night was crazy. And we didn’t sleep all that well. But we DID sleep.

And I was ever so grateful I wasn’t still riding around in the back of a shuttle bus!

So I figured our trip could only get better from there – right?!

Well…


Monday, April 24, 2017

Florida and the Dreaded No-See-Um

Last week I returned from a quickie trip to Florida to visit good friends. They have a place down in Palm Beach Gardens and enticed me with a few magic words. You know the ones – Beach. Sun. Ocean. Oh, and let’s not forget that happy word: Shopping.

I was tempted, but not enough to pack my bags quite yet.

But when they uttered the ever-magical phrase, no dog-walking required, I couldn’t find a flight fast enough.

Did I miss Vince and Maggie Minx and Twinks and Jinx while I was gone? Oh, you betcha – especially Vince. But it was nice to have a few days of downtime. I didn’t have to do a single load of laundry. I didn’t have to worry about doggie poo bags. And best of all, I didn’t have to figure out what to fix for dinner or purchase the fixings or, well, do the actual fixing.

The most taxing thing I had to do was decide which bottle of wine to open for happy hour.

That’s my kind of chore.

I was gone just long enough to recharge my batteries and I left Florida just before Susan and Jeffy rescinded the Welcome mat.

I always remember my mom telling me that guests, like fish, start to smell after three days. Which conjured up a horrible image and I almost missed her point. And while my mother never pretended to be the author of that quote, she said it was a good philosophy to have about being a welcomed guest. Or maybe about being a guest who would be welcomed back.

Of course, with any good battery recharging getaway, there is always the chance of a downside. Like missing your connection. Or getting dragged off an airplane (!) Or arriving just as monsoon season hits.

Fortunately, none of those things happened. No, the worst thing that happened to me was the attack of the dreaded no-see-um. Aptly named.

Because I didn’t see-um.

But my ankles and wrists looked as though I had caught the plague. I had little red welts all over me and, boy, did they itch! For such a little bug, no-see-um bites sure do pack an itchy punch.

Sadly, I realized too late what was happening and by the time I finally applied a little bug spray to my exposed parts, the damage had already been done.

But the good news was that it WAS the last day of my visit and I was heading back home to Ohio’s unpredictable weather. Which meant that all those little red welts would mostly likely be hidden under layers of clothing and no one would be forced to take a cautious step away from me out of fear of catching whatever contagious virus I had.

And even better news is that my husband had a magical fix for my bug bites much like the father in My Big Fat Greek Wedding had with his bottle of Windex.

Except Vince’s potion is Oil of Oregano. Have you heard of this stuff? Let me just say…it stiiiiiinks! I mean, it seriously stinks.

Vince has been using Oil of Oregano for pretty much everything the past couple years. He pats it on his face. He uses it as an antibiotic. I think he even gargles with the stuff, but don’t quote me on that. He may have stopped that practice when I refused to kiss him goodnight because of the smell.

But I’ve gotta give the man his due – he applied that oil of oregano to my no-see-um bites and they never itched again – not even once. Which is amazing because I’m the kind of person who will hang on to an itchy bug bite far longer than the average human.

So anyway. I had a wonderful visit with my friends and I did, indeed, recharge my batteries. So I’m back to walking the dog and carrying doggie poo bags. And I’m back to figuring out what to fix for dinner. But it all seems a little less taxing.

Best of all, I’m back at home with my Vince. Where I should be.


And, happily, those dreaded  no-see-ums didn’t follow me back to Ohio.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Too Much to Do, Too Little Time

I woke up this morning with my stomach in knots thinking of all I had to get done today. I hate waking up this way. Almost as much as I hate waking up to Maggie’s piercing yips in her crate long before the 7 AM alarm goes off.

But what can you do when the dog wakes up and needs to use the facilities before you’re ready for her to use the facilities? You get up and walk the dog.

You might still be in your PJs and grouchy as all get out because you’re still half-asleep – but you get up and walk the dog.

And what can you do when you have a long list of things to do and not enough time to do it all? You just start with the first thing on the list and hope you can get everything done without too much angst.

You might roll your eyes and throw an exaggerated sigh in your husband’s direction when first thing in the morning he gleefully states that it’s “Egg Day” (instead of the much simpler and quicker “Cereal Day”) – but you haul out the egg pan to get started making him breakfast so he can get off to work.

And, seriously, it’s the least I can do since Vince works so hard for us. I’m being sincere here. The man works “half days.” This would be 12 hours to you and me. Personally I can’t imagine working such long hours…

…but I digress. I was talking about me – and how much I had to accomplish today! (And, after all, doesn’t the world revolve around me?!)

Anyway, I sort of knew there was no way I’d manage to get Vince’s eggs cooked and get him off to work, shower and get ready for my day, greet the new Handyman when he showed up and get him squared away on the myriad of tasks I had for him to do, take Maggie to her vet appointment, attend a 4-year-old’s birthday party on the other side of town AND get my mom’s taxes finished today.

Super Woman I am not.

So I missed the 4-year-old’s birthday party and I feel badly about it. But our handyman didn’t finish until well after the party started. By the time I would’ve walked the dog (for the nine thousandth time today), got her in her crate, and headed to the party, it would’ve been pretty much over.

Sigh.

Fortunately, the 4-year-old won’t be upset that I wasn’t there. And he’ll have a blast shopping for a new toy at Toys R Us sometime soon. But his mom puts so much love and effort into his birthday parties that I hated having to miss it.

But I guess sometimes compromises have to be made. Can’t say that I’m a big fan of the compromise, but such is life.

On the other hand, Maggie Minx got all her vaccinations and treatments and is hopefully set for a while. Either that, or I’m going to need to add another line to our budget for veterinarian bills. (Who knew dogs require way more trips to the vet than cats? Not me, said the first-time dog owner…)

And our CPA received all the paperwork to handle my mom’s taxes and that got finished today. Ooh, a whole nine days before the deadline! But it was such a huge relief to me that a big part of that knot in my stomach loosened appreciably.

Our handyman worked hard today, too. The shingles on our roof are once again firmly attached and I won’t need to worry about either indoor rain showers or neighbors pointing out our lack of home maintenance and their concern that we’re causing their property values to fall.

He hung a toilet paper holder on the wall in our bathroom. Maybe that sounds a little weird – who puts their toilet paper on the wall? But it looks like a cloud and I love it!

I got this holder last year and it’s been sitting in a box patiently awaiting someone with skills and tools to hang it on the wall. Someone who is definitely not me, since the installation required not only a level but a stud finder. And it came with pieces and parts that I couldn’t even identify. While I graduated decades ago from pounding nails into the wall using a high heel, I’ve never moved beyond the simple hammer stage.

So it was a relief to finally take the now-empty box to the recycling bin.

We’ve lived in our house nearly five years now – and the dishwasher in our kitchen has never been firmly attached to wherever it needs to be firmly attached. Fortunately, it has always worked – and it has never leaked water onto the floor. But the fact that it wasn’t properly secured has always bugged me.

So the handyman firmly attached it. Another thing to check off the list!

And, finally, we also have a beautiful new kitchen faucet – one that isn’t scarred and pitted. And it’s one of those faucets where you wave your hand in front of it and the water automatically starts running. Wave it again, and the water shuts off.

Yeah, yeah, I know – could I be any lazier? (Said in my best Chandler Bing voice.)

But that installation required him to crawl under the sink. Vince and I have decided that our crawling under the sink days are over. The last time Vince had to do this, we both ended up soaking wet and grouchy. Apparently my flashlight holding skills leave much to be desired.

Today, I didn’t even once have to hold a flashlight.  Made writing the check all the more worth it!

It’s now nearly 8 p.m. and I haven’t come close to finishing all the things on my list. But I got a big chunk crossed off and that’s a huge relief. And I also got a blog written – something I didn’t think I could possibly fit into my day. So there you go – shows you can always manage one more thing. Right?

And tomorrow is another day. I’ll see what else I can cross off the list.

Let’s just hope I don’t wake up with my stomach in knots.

And that Maggie sleeps in at least until 7 AM.



Monday, March 6, 2017

Kale Salad = The Jane’s Domain Squinchy Face

I’m working from home today, so I decided to eat a salad for lunch. Since the Salad Fairy is off on Mondays, it was up to me to prepare my greens.

Oh, who am I kidding? The Salad Fairy is a myth. There is no Salad Fairy, I’m afraid. Around here, I’m the only one who wields the salad spinner and chops the lettuce.

Anyway, I wasn’t in the mood to either wield or chop, so I went with Plan B, which was the already prepared Salad Kit in A Bag.

Only problem was, this particular kit (from Costco, by the way), is a kale salad.

Blechh.

I’m sorry – I know kale is supposed to be good for me, but whenever I eat it, I feel like I’m munching on the dead grass outside in our yard. Except I’m guessing that the dead grass outside in our yard is a little more tender has a touch more flavor.

Ordinarily I love salads. I cut up lots of veggies and use dark, leafy greens. My salads are pretty tasty -– just ask Vince. And they are legendary – just ask me!

But, noooo. I had to go with Plan B.

Now Costco ingeniously provides some sort of poppyseed dressing to go with the kale salad because they know that otherwise, ain’t nobody nowhere buying that bag o’ cud. Problem is, it’s a big bag of salad and there are only two packets of dressing. By the time you’ve thrown a couple handfuls of kale in a bowl and topped it with (okay, drenched it in) dressing, you’re out of dressing.

And today, I sent Vince to work with a bowl of cud, er, kale plus the other packet of poppyseed dressing to “enjoy” for lunch. 

So my dressing choices were either (a) a light balsamic vinaigrette or (b) a delicious Hartville Kitchen Sweet and Sour dressing with about a bajillion calories per teaspoon. 

And, yes, while the balsamic would have been a better choice as far as fat and calories go, I knew that the little bit of flavor it would provide would not be enough to mask the taste of the kale.

So here, too, I went with Plan B. (If you have not tried Hartville Kitchen Sweet and Sour dressing, you should. It’s decadent, albeit hard to find as it’s made near my hometown of Alliance - in a tiny town called Hartville. Hence the name on the jar.)

Usually I try to be judicious when using this Hartville dressing as it’s thick and pretty flavorful, so you don’t need much. But remember, we’re talkin’ kale here. So I did the drenching thing.

But it didn’t help!

Once I started eating the salad, I wondered where all the dressing went. Kale apparently has magical absorption properties as the salad was still dry and bitter.

Weird.

So after about an hour of eating – and making my squinchy face (which is now leaving permanent lines so I should stop making it), I finally admitted defeat and I put down my fork.

As you can see from the photo here, I didn’t make much headway.

Fortunately, kale salad is also very filling and I’m no longer hungry enough to seek out something tastier. This is a good thing.

Because I think there is a box of Girl Scout Thin Mints in the pantry.

I better not investigate.

And tomorrow? Well, if I have a hankering for a salad, I’m going to have to wield and chop. Either that or hire a Salad Fairy. 


(Oh, and PS, you should totally click on the Squinchy Face" link above - it was a blog I wrote in 2011. It was funny. Guess I was funnier in 2011.)

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

What Happens in Vegas Stays in…Aw, Who Am I Kidding?!

Vince and I recently returned from a quickie trip to Las Vegas. 

I get a constant barrage of flight “deals,” but I never seem to be able to work out the logistics. The "special" $55 flight ends up costing $355 by the time I get the dates and times entered. 

This time, however, it did work out and we got an amazingly cheap price on direct flights to Vegas, so I snapped ‘em up and we headed west.

While both of us have been to Vegas before, we’d never been there together and we were looking forward to spending a few days away without thinking about work or dog walking or family obligations. We brought a few bucks for gambling, although Vince isn’t much of a gambler and I don’t do anything but play on the penny slot machines.

Before leaving, I also purchased tickets for a couple shows – the Blue Man Group and Cirque du Soleil. I’d never seen either before and couldn’t wait for a little Las Vegas entertainment.

Because our flights were so reasonable, and I booked our hotel at the same time, I got a price break on that as well. So we stayed at the Bellagio. You know, the one with the dancing fountains?

See the building to the left? We were over there...
When we checked in, the clerk tried to bump us. For a mere $30 a day extra, we could stay in a room that overlooked the fountains. Vince, being the cheap, er…more frug…er…more “economically-minded” spouse between the two of us said no. He then amended his answer to say, “Well, whatever she wants.” But, somewhat to his surprise, I also said no. I was not interested in spending all of our slot machine gambling money on a view in a room we weren’t planning to spend a lot of time in.

The clerk, thinking he was doing us a favor, said he’d give us the room anyway without the bump in price.

Little did we know, it was a room overlooking a parking lot. Big whoop. Although off to our left we could see the fountains. We were in one of the side buildings. I didn’t even know there were side buildings at the Bellagio. And, yeah, it goes without saying that the Bellagio hotel is H-U-G-E! 

So, while we did enjoy watching the dancing fountains (and listening to the music play concurrently on the television in our room), I will also say it’s a good thing we weren’t paying an extra 30 bucks a night for the room. Because our main view was of the parking lot. Guess Vince isn’t the only cheap…er…frug…er, “economically-minded” partner!

In hindsight, I sort of wish we had stayed in a smaller hotel. Although “small” hotels in Vegas aren’t that easy to find. 

We packed walking shoes since we knew we’d do a lot of walking, but we neglected to factor in the half mile walk just to get from our room to the hotel lobby. One day, according to our handy dandy smart watches, we learned we’d walked over seven miles. And that wasn’t even the day we walked the Strip. 

That’s a whole lotta walkin’, my friends.

One afternoon, we dragged ourselves back to the hotel intending to go quickly to our room to drop off some purchases, change for dinner and then head back out. We rode the elevator to the 11th floor and walked around the corner to head to our room. Except the numbers were incorrect. Yes, we were on the 11th floor of the Bellagio Hotel – but in the wrong building! We had to go back down the elevator, walk across the casino to the lobby, past that and the myriad of shops and down another hall to our correct building.

Yeesh.

By the time we finally reached our room, I was so tired, I needed a nap. And a foot rub.  Neither was in the offering, however, and we had to head back down to the lobby to catch our Uber to make our dinner reservations. If we hadn’t already purchased tickets to the show later, I would’ve bagged the whole thing and stayed in our room and ordered incredibly overpriced room service.

On our last full day in Vegas, we walked along the Strip doing some sightseeing and a little shopping. We made the requisite stop at the M&M store with its four floors filled with all manner of things M&M. On the way back toward the Bellagio, we passed scantily clad girls in provocative outfits hoping to part tourists with their money for a “fun” picture to bring back home. We declined many an offer for things I didn’t even want to know about, although Vince somehow ended up with a pocket full of cards with even more scantily clad girls on them.

And in between picking up the obligatory Las Vegas T-shirt for Vince and grabbing a sandwich before the 7pm show for the Blue Man Group, we got tattoos.

What?

Okay, so not really. But we DID get temporary henna tattoos.

Even the mere consideration of entering a tattoo parlor is something so outlandish that nobody who knows either Vince or me would believe it. I’ve never been a big fan of tattoos and Vince has been quite vocal in his opposition to them.

But his son, the Marine, recently got a big tattoo on his chest and Vince wasn’t too happy about it. Not that he could do anything about it. I mean, it was decidedly not a temporary henna tattoo. And anyone old enough to defend our country is old enough to decide what he wants inked on his body.

But as we were passing the tattoo parlor, we decided it would be sooo funny if Vince got a temporary tattoo and sent a photo of it to his son. Wouldn’t that just be hilarious, we thought.

And we hadn’t even been drinking, so we couldn’t use total inebriation as our defense.

Nevertheless, in we walked to the first tattoo parlor I’ve ever entered. We talked with the heavily pierced, tatted, multi-hued haired girl behind the desk.

I thought it would be funny if Vince got the Chinese symbol for “Regret” as his temporary tattoo. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be obvious that it was tongue-in-cheek and it would lose something in the translation.

And then, as we were looking at the choices on the wall, somehow or other, I got roped into getting one also. How did that happen?

Eventually, we decided to get the other’s name on the inside of our arms. Since Vince calls me “My Janie” and I call him “My Vince” that’s what we decided on. After all, we knew these would last only about three weeks and there would be no need to regret the decision.

On the other hand, once the tattoo artist was done, we did have a couple regrets. One was that even though we were supposed to let the henna dry for only about a half hour (and we allowed an hour to be safe) both our tattoos smeared.  Makes it hard to convince anyone that a tattoo with smeary ink is real.

The second regret is that it was $25 a pop for each of those tattoos. You know how many slot machines I could’ve hit with 50 bucks?!

But anyway.

We’ve only been back about two weeks and there is no trace of henna on the inside of my arm, and I’m okay with that. Every time I caught a glimpse of it out of the corner of my eye, I thought my arm was dirty and needed to be washed.

So I’m guessing I won’t be walking into a tattoo parlor for a real tattoo anytime soon.  But, in the end, we had fun and had a Vegas story to tell afterwards.


So that was just a little bit about our trip to Las Vegas. My review of the shows we saw – and the scads of money I won (ha!) – will have to wait for another blog.