The Food, by Xander
The food on our 4-day Carnival Cruise to Ensenada was fantastic. There were two dining options: you could eat at a food court or a fancy sit-down restaurant (the food was included in the price of the cruise). First the food court: it included a deli, pizza place, celebrity chef Guy Fieri’s gourmet burgers with toppings bar (I liked the smoky bacon bits and sautéed mushrooms), a taco/burrito stand, an ice cream machine, and a lot more. Also, each of these food places changed over for breakfast.
The sit-down restaurants for breakfast and dinners were my favorite because the food was delicious and our servers were extremely nice. The menu changed every night with delicious fancy foods. My two favorite appetizers were alligator fritters and escargot bourguignon. Yum.
The Activities, by Athena
We went on our first cruise in 2014 so this time we had the chance to check out some of the things we didn’t do the first time. We chose to visit many new activities and spots such as the spa. At the back of this area was the gym; after my mom and I worked out a bit, we went into the sauna and the steam room.
Following dinner the second night, we enjoyed the “Divas” show in the main Dynasty Theater (a sing and dance show). In the show, the performers sang and danced to Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, Rihanna and more. It was very entertaining. On Thursday night, the first day we got on the cruise ship, we watched the Hasbro game show with volunteers from the audience playing games such as “Operation” onstage. It was fun with the British host/cruise director “Matey.”
When our ship (named the “Imagination”) docked at the port of Ensenada on Saturday morning, we took a shore excursion to “La Bufadora” (The Blowhole). Our tour guide Gilberto led our group on the short walk to the natural geyser; we passed many small Mexican shops offering souvenirs and food and “Gil” gave us each a free drink sticker to the Habana Banana! We watched the geyser, which sprays sea water up from a small cave, shopped a bit and had a delicious lunch at the Habana Banana, where we all shared a platter of soft tacos , shrimp and clams. Shortly after lunch, we made our way back up the line of shops and got back on our tour bus to return to the ship.
On Saturday night, we went to a rock ‘n roll show (held in the same cruise theater as the “Divas” show and featured the same performers) except the songs were rock and we watched from the upper balcony seating. My parents also got to have some alone time in the Serenity adult area in the very back area of the ship with two hot tubs and comfy lounge chairs while me, Xander and Troy were one deck above sliding down the waterslides in the mini-waterpark.
My dad and brothers also saw an ice carving show on the Lido deck where a champion ice-carver transformed a block of ice into an Indian-head ice sculpture in just 15 minutes. We also learned how to make towel animals with Matey (a dog and an elephant). The new activities we got to do were so much fun and I thought it was nice to experience some of the things we missed on our first Carnival cruise.
Regular please (cuz that makes sense!)….
There are few things more satisfying than watching not one but all three of your kids pick up on a sport or activity collectively – especially after you’ve traumatized one of them and she bounces back from it a couple hours later.
The setting was during a Spring Break overnight trip to Mountain High Ski Resort in Victorville. The kiddoes would be taking just their second lesson ever (the first was an introductory group lesson at the smaller Mount Baldy in 2015); but first, to kill some time before the instructors arrived, I thought I’d relay some pre-lesson tips from my many years of snow skiing and head over to the bunny slope for a couple of test runs.
Instead of using the people mover (think “tow-rope” from back in the day!), my brilliant plan was to introduce them one at a time to the easier of a pair of chairlifts. I would take Athena up first, ski back down the short distance to get the boys and we’d all ski down like one happy foursome.
Except it didn’t quite happen that way.
Yep, I accidentally chose the more challenging “beginner” chair and it was all downhill (pun intended) from there. Long story short, I ended up behind an accelerating Miss A yelling “Lay down, lay down!” before catching up to her and eventually side-stepping down together — about 45 minutes later — to the waiting and not-so-happy Troy and Xander. “Where WERE you?!” they screamed at me.
“Uh, trying to get Athena back down in one piece; sorry boys, we took the wrong chairlift!”
But as I already alluded to at the top of the story, this tale has a happy landing! Because when their actual lesson with an actual certified instructor was over, T, A & X were a sight to behold (especially Miss A what with having to overcome the horror of her maiden run!) Now they really were ready to take multiple chairlifts up to that very run. And Troy and Xander even summoned the courage to explore a more advanced trail by day’s end.
With my poles in one hand and my iPhone in the other, I followed behind them to capture a video of their shared triumphs:
Irene recently returned from New York City, where all the Valverde siblings
helped their sister Janet celebrate her 50th b-day. Here are some very cool shots
taken on Irene’s iPhone 7:
I almost choked on one of those oversized cold & flu capsules yesterday; the first one went down okay but the second horse pill got stuck in my throat and I had to dry-heave it out. I was standing over the sink so everyone thought I was retching from being under the weather the past few days. Now my throat is sore on top of an extremely irritating cough.
And in case anyone was wondering, the second pill was spotted on the dining room floor – SEVERAL feet from the sink where I was trying to expel it after apparently having bounced off a rubber Tupperware lid!
Yah, so that was fun, and for some unknown reason I’ve decided to share, perhaps the result of an idle mind lolling around the house with a cold on New Year’s Day. It’s one thing to be sick, but pair that with a day where practically everything is shut down and you get this post. While many people try to kick off their new years with lofty resolutions, my first one is to strongly consider going back to liquid cold remedies only. Maybe. We’ll see.
Then, after popping a cough drop, I randomly wondered if it will be possible to blog EVERY day in 2018, because I mean, here it is Jan. 1 and I’ve already cranked out the first one! I guess I could make it a resolution, but then there are definitely more pressing matters at hand – like getting rid of this annoying hack!
Happy New Year to all!
When Troy returned from a recent visit to Dave & Buster’s arcade and asked me to assemble this little plastic cell phone jail (complete with lock & key), I saw an opportunity to commandeer his gag prize choice. Yep, this would become my personal toy whenever I deemed their mobile devices needed a little alone time.
Only Troy has a phone number on his iPhone, but I gave my previous cell to Xander so he can text and utilize other features and apps with the home wi-fi.
X watching too many sports highlights on the ESPN app or YouTube? Troy playing too many successive games of MLB17 or Crossy Road? With the handy-dandy cell-phone lock-up, say hello to technology-free activity time!
Available at your nearest Dave & Busters or wherever plastic cell phone jails are sold!
The kiddies had such a good time on their first visit to Underwood Family Farms in Moorpark they requested a repeat visit over the Fourth of July weekend. So we packed a picnic lunch and made the 45-minute drive from West L.A. to basically play the role of Old MacDonald for a few hours. The following is their account of the outing.
Picking Fruits and Veggies, by Athena
As we walked into the enormous field of fruits and vegetables I was so excited and curious about what I was going to pick, taste and see. Although I’ve been to Underwood Family Farms once before, there would be different kinds of fruits and vegetables because it was a different time of year.
First we picked beets, then we kept walking and saw red lettuce, radishes, bok choy, and some more greens. We saw navel orange trees and avocado trees, but sadly they were not ready yet. The raspberries were in season so we picked a lot of them. I liked how when you are picking your fruits and veggies you can eat as many as you want at the same time. I ate so many raspberries because they were so delicious. Then we came upon the strawberries and ate even more.
After that we picked some peppers, a squash, potatoes, green tomatoes and carrots. I had a lot of fun getting the carrots because you pull them right out of the ground and they are so sweet and tasty. We also picked zucchini. I had so much fun and I loved picking the fresh fruits and vegetables like a farmer.
Farm to Table, by Xander
When we got home, I grabbed the fruits and vegetables that we bought, ran into the house and started washing them. We were planning to make a salad with all the vegetables we picked and added some teriyaki steak strips. We also made fried green tomatoes; I sliced all the vegetables such as carrots, American radishes and French radishes.
My mom and Athena cut the lettuce and grilled the steak while my dad and I made the fried green tomatoes in our little Fry Daddy. The fried green tomatoes were complicated because you had to coat them in egg, then a flour coating, and finally the bread crumbs. Then you put them into the fry cooker and wait 3-4 minutes. We all ate the delicious meal together as a family and we all loved Underwood Family Farms!Animals and a Show, by Troy
Besides fruit picking, there was a small area with animals you can feed and a show we saw with four different animals. My brother, sister and I fed several animals such as chickens, ponies and sheep by putting 25 cents into a machine that gave us food for that type of animal. We weren’t allowed to touch the animals, but we could take pictures of the ostriches, goats, bulls, pigs and more.
“The Animal Show” featured four different trained animals. They did tricks like jump over a pole, spin in a circle and give their trainers high-fives. There was an alpaca, a potbelly pig a baby goat and even the farm family’s dog. The two trainers explained some of their traits and history. We got to pet the dog at the end of the show but not any of the others.
And making the slo-mo highlight reel from the 60th Anniversary festivities…..
March 29, 2017
“Happy 84th” I say to my Dad on a morning call. “I haven’t been able to find the time to send you a gift for your b-day so just wanted to give you a heads up to expect a little something next week.”
Little did he know that the little something would be me and the famiglia in the flesh at his and Sheila’s surprise 60th wedding anniversary party in Florida nine days later.
April 7 (the actual day of their anniversary)
Me, Irene, Troy, Athena, Xander, my bro Gary, Alex, sis Lisa and nieces Jessica and Chelsea are huddled in the upstairs library of the 5-bedroom AirBnB in Boca Raton that would serve as the accommodations for our 4-day fiesta. The anniversary couple thought they were stopping by a listing that Chelsea wanted to show them (Chels recently got her real estate license) before my sister would take them out for breakfast. We decided not to shout “Surprise!” as the doors were flung open, instead letting video and photos capture the moment. Minutes later, the silence was broken by waterworks from the happy couple and greetings from around the room.
Realizing that Grandma and Grandpa Florida (as the kiddies call them) didn’t yet have a grasp of the full surprise, I told them that we would all be staying in this house together and Lisa would be shuttling them back to their condo to pack a small bag for the next few days. Surprise #2 and more waterworks! A buffet lunch kicked off the party and continued well after our home-grilled steak dinner.
Who needs a resort when you have a house that features a pool area with a Jacuzzi, a hammock, a retractable awning for shade and sun worshippers alike, a grill that you could cook a side of beef on, (not to mention a yacht parked alongside the pool for that added ritzy atmosphere) and AN ELEVATOR! The boys even picked up the lone fishing pole that was provided and cast a few lines into the intra-coastal waterway (no fish were caught but Troy did reel in a piece of seaweed with a small green crab clinging to it!)
Earlier that day, Grandpa Florida joined us on a field trip to a local park to watch the boys take some batting practice!
Then it was back to the house for Surprise #3 when some local relatives and friends trickled in for the “official” anniversary celebration at 6 p.m. – a cocktail/dining reception that was enjoyed by all and highlighted by a cake and video tribute (put together by Alex) complete with pictures of the anniversary couple over the years (“Got a booth, babe?” read the best caption alluding to dad’s classic request for his favorite restaurant seating!)
Inside our crib, an assortment of board and table games lent an extra element of camaraderie throughout the weekend: we paired up for a variety of Jenga and chess matches and turned a dining room table into a ping pong court with a portable set that was also provided by the house. Since we had to rise at 4:30 the next morning for our return flight to L.A., we turned in a tad earlier than the previous couple of nights but not before raising a final toast to the magnitude of two people acheiving a six-decades-old bond!
Stepping out onto the balcony, I surveyed the rectangular main gardens below and thought how awesome it was to be back in Rome. But wait, it was actually Malibu and my first visit to the Getty Villa (*EDITORS NOTE: this was a family outing with the kiddies and their cousins; the real Rome was pre-children!)
Adjacent to the Getty Museum, The Getty Villa is modeled after a first-century Roman country house in Herculaneum, Italy. The building was constructed in the early 1970s by architects who worked closely with J. Paul Getty to develop the interior and exterior details. Inside on two floors are antiquities collections and changing exhibitions as well as outdoor herb gardens and fountains. The cousins particularly enjoyed the Family Forum room for a little hands-on discovery: role-playing with foam swords, shields and headgear in front of a projection screen, and using dry erase markers to decorate replica urns and bowls.
Also worth noting is the indoor/outdoor Café that serves casual Mediterranean-inspired fare (beer & wine are also available). I was compelled to relay my compliments to the kitchen after lunch: my Villa Burger ($14.95) with crispy onions, Emmental Swiss, sherry gastrique, arugula, roasted garlic & pepper aioli on a Brioche Bun (with a side of shoestring garlic fries) was one of the best gourmet burgers I have ever had.
To reserve a time and arrange for your complimentary tickets, go to http://www.getty.edu/visit/cal/index.html (parking is $15).