Wednesday, December 4, 2019

#2285 WW Wednesday team purple

It's been a couple of years since WW changed up the plan a bit, so it was time and that's what they've done. Now the plan is called myWW and members have three options to choose from: high points and fewer 0 point foods, medium points and more 0 point foods, and fewer points and lots of 0 point foods, including potatoes (!), brown rice (!), and whole wheat pasta. The plans have color names: green, blue and purple. I chose the purple plan, the one with the fewest points and the most 0 point foods. I've been doing it for about a week and a half and it's been good. 

I know that WW plan works if I work the plan. It is a day-to-day thing. Planning what I'm going to eat each day and tracking in advance works for me. It's not my natural tendency to choose a salad, so I have to consciously make that choice.  I am a work in progress, as all people are, I suppose.

It is not my intention to obsess about this whole topic. I just thought you might be interested in this little WW change. I like it. I feel re-energized and satisfied.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

#2284 travel Tuesday: the best day of 2019

I am shamelessly copying my sister's idea of cross-posting an idea from Instagram over here on the blog. My sister is brilliant and has the best ideas and I want to be like her, so here we are.

On Instagram I am participating in a challenge of sorts to post a photo that fits the theme of the day. The challenge is presented by Susannah Conway, a lady that I'm certain I would be friends with if we lived anywhere near each other. However, she lives in London and I live in Salt Lake City, so we'll probably never meet, but I do follow her on IG and participate in stuff she puts out there.

Today's prompt is "best day of 2019". This one was sooooo easy for me to choose. It was February 16. MT and I were in Thailand, in the Krabi area, and we decided to rent a private longtail boat for the day. We arranged it through the resort where we were staying. It was a four island tour with an English-speaking guide and a driver who took care of us all day.

I have written about the day at length here and here, so I won't go into details or post more photos, except for this one which I put on IG today:

What makes this day so memorable is the unbelievable factor. I wouldn't have ever thought that I would be on a longboat in Thailand (!) happily sitting at the bow (!) looking at this incredible scenery and having conversations with our guide about all kinds of things, from politics to how he learned to speak English so well to what our families eat for dinner to why I have two big scars on my knees.

I also remember that MT got a terrible sunburn because he was so busy snorkeling that he forgot to reapply sunscreen. He said it was one of his favorite snorkeling days. He just got to swim and swim. Our guide, Leng, didn't hurry him or worry about where he was because he saw that MT is a strong swimmer.

Another great thing about this day was how relaxed and worry-free we were (until I saw that monkey where we had lunch). Overall and for the most part, I was super-relaxed and so happy to be there. I wouldn't have wanted to be anywhere else. If that doesn't make for the best day, I don't know what does.

Monday, December 2, 2019

#2283 Monday movie mini review

I like to watch movies, but it seems for awhile I wasn't watching many movies. I enjoy going to the cinema because it's fun to see the film on the big screen and eat popcorn. There just haven't been many movies I wanted to shell out the money to see for awhile. Until there was. Last Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, my menfolk and I went to see the movie Knives Out.

From the previews, it looked like a bit of a funny Agatha Christie-type story and I guess it was like that in a way. There were definitely funny parts, like Daniel Craig's Foghorn Leghorn southern accent which seemed so strange coming out of James Bond's face. It was Agatha Christie-esque in that it was a mystery with a death and the whodunit question. It was also about a family that is not what it seems and a caregiver who wants to do the right thing and can't tell a lie.

I was charmed and entertained by this movie. There are so many fine actors in the film. I especially liked Chris Evans - he was the anti Captain America in this one. He wore a white sweater in one scene that made me swoon. (It seems like I'm not the only one if you look at the internet.)

That. Sweater.
If you are looking for a fun movie to see, I highly recommend Knives Out.

Since I was in the movie-going mood, on Saturday I went to see Frozen 2.

I totally loved it. I get emotional at most Disney movies, and this one about sisters pretty much does me in. In this movie, there is a flashback to when Anna and Elsa were little and their parents tell them a story. They are then drawn across the sea to the land of the forests where they must right a wrong. Adventure ensues. Kristoff and Sven are there and so is Olaf and there's also an adorable little fiery salamander that I just can't even...

I mean...he's adorable!
I want this little fellow!

So go see Frozen 2 while you're at it. The music is great. The story is fun. I smiled and yes, I cried (because Disney!) and it was just wonderful.

One more movie to talk about. On the way back from Mexico I watched a couple of movies. One is a classic, When Harry Met Sally, which I hadn't seen in quite awhile, so it was fun. The other was a newer movie that I hadn't seen called Yesterday.

The film has a weird premise: there is a 12 second power outage all over the world, and when the power comes back on, only this one guy, Jack, remembers the songs of The Beatles. The Beatles did not exist. Jack decides the world needs the music and since he is a struggling musician who has decided to hang up his guitar anyway, he writes down all the Beatles songs he can remember and tells everyone that he wrote them. Nobody knows any better. The thing is, that Jack doesn't have the heart of a songwriter, so when asked (by Ed Sheeran) how he came up with the words to some of the most beautiful songs ever written, like Let It Be or The Long and Winding Road, for example, Jack's got nothing.

Strangely, though, there are two other people that do remember The Beatles: a man from Russia and a woman from Liverpool. When Jack is becoming a big star, these two people figure out a way to meet Jack and they give him some information that leads him to...well, I'm not gonna spoil it for you.

Obviously, the music is fantastic and the dude who plays Jack is a good singer and everything is fine, but the movie was kinda meh for me. Richard Curtis, who has written movies I adore like Love, Actually and Four Weddings and a Funeral, wrote this story and I just wasn't as charmed by it as I have been with his other movies. It was okay for an airplane ride though.

That's all for tonight! More words tomorrow :)

Sunday, December 1, 2019

#2282 hello December!

The last time I wrote I said I wouldn't write again until Monday the second - you know, even day, even month writing. Then I decided that since I missed the fun and challenge of writing every day in November, I would write every day in December. I'm still going to write about the movies tomorrow though.

I like December. There are quite a few social events to look forward to which is fun. This week I have stuff on Thursday and Friday. Next week I am going to California for work and I'll be able to squeeze in a visit with my aunt and uncle and spend a long weekend in southern CA celebrating Mom's birthday a bit early. The following week is basically a food fest at my work and the following week is Christmas!

Even though I just got back from vacation, having this four-day weekend at home has been very nice. I didn't do much on Thursday or Friday. I did get out and about yesterday a little, and that was good. Today MT and I went out for breakfast, then we did some paperwork for the rentals. After that, I settled in on my bed to watch the 49ers - Ravens game. I fell asleep right at the end. Osi woke me up early this morning because she doesn't understand weekends. I understand the Ravens won the game.

Tonight I am making chicken posole soup. It smells delicious. Oh! On Friday I cooked a ham and made some cheesy potatoes, AKA funeral potatoes around these parts. It was kinda like a late Thanksgiving meal, even though that's all we had, ham and potatoes. Everyone was happy. Later there was cheesecake, then we went to a movie, which I will write about tomorrow.

On another note, last night the Utah Utes football team wrapped up the PAC-12 South championship. They will play on Friday for the PAC-12 championship against Oregon. #GoUtes

Happy December y'all! More words tomorrow!

Friday, November 29, 2019

#2281 tacos and cheesecake for Thanksgiving

Our little family was planning to go to Pocatello for Thanksgiving. On Wednesday it snowed and snowed here. It was still snowing a lot on Thursday morning. I looked at the road report and saw the words "snow-packed roads" all the way to Idaho. I looked at the weather forecast and saw the words "more snow on the way". I chickened out. I told MT I didn't want to face the treacherous roads for turkey lunch with family. I told him he could go but I couldn't stomach it. He was disappointed (re:angry) and didn't talk to me for a few hours.

In hindsight, I'm sure everything would have been fine. It did eventually stop snowing and the roads seemed well taken care of.  I don't know if it ever snowed in Pocatello. Yesterday morning it felt like the right decision and yesterday afternoon and this morning, it seemed like the wrong decision.

Since I hadn't planned on being home, I didn't have much food in the house. I did have some taco meat in the freezer, so we had tacos for Thanksgiving. It was simple, and damn, they were good. Our contribution to the family Thanksgiving was dessert: a cheesecake from Costco with toppings, so that's what we had for dessert. Tacos and cheesecake are not traditional Thanksgiving food and that's okay.

I spent the day on the couch binge-watching season seven of The West Wing. I started with episode eight and I watched to the end of episode 22. That's 15 episodes to you and me. That is a prodigious amount of TV watching for me, or anyone really. If each episode is around 43 minutes long, that's 645 minutes which is nearly 11 hours of TV viewing. My back kinda hurts from so much sitting yesterday. The West Wing is such a good show, though, I just didn't want to stop, and now it's all done. What will I watch next? Lizzie will tell me :)

Overall, kind of a weird Thanksgiving, but it all worked out, I guess.

Next time I write, which will be on Monday Dec. 2, I'm going to tell you about a couple of movies I recently watched. Have a great weekend!


I just updated my 2019 Reading page. I have reached my goal of 60 books this year! I just added five books to the page. Check it out!

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

#2280 Chichen Itza, Suytun and Valladoilid

While we were in Mexico, I only went on one excursion, and it was a doozy. I have wanted to see Chichen Itza, and the tour operator at the resort had a pretty good deal on this trip. It was a small group: there were just seven of us and we were all staying at the same resort, so it was fairly private. The two couples were from Canada. We had a semi-nice van and an English speaking guide named Alfredo. I thought the price was pretty good too, $125/person.

We loaded into the van around 8AM and made our first stop at a gas station/convenience store in Playa del Carmen. Alfredo bought snacks and drinks for us there. Back in the van, Alfredo gave us a lot of information about the Riviera Maya and what we would be seeing that day. I was interested in what he had to say and when he was done talking, I fell asleep. He told us we were about two hours away from the site and he talked for about half an hour, so I must have slept for 90 minutes.

There was a lot of people going into the site that day, but something tells me that it wasn't close to what they get in the high season. Of course, the site is large with many open spaces so it didn't seem very crowded.

My least favorite thing about the place, and I'll just get this out of the way right off the bat, is that vendors are allowed to sell their wares on-site and there are over 1,500 vendors set up in there, all selling pretty much exactly the same crap. Many of the vendors offered a ceramic jaguar's head and when you blow into it, it makes a jaguar sound. There are also bird and monkey ceramics that make noise. Super irritating. Here is a photo of one part of one trail and all the vendors set up on the side of the trail:

In my humble opinion, it detracts from the site. In no other place I have been were vendors allowed to sell within the site. Sure, there are plenty of vendors outside the parks, but not inside. At Angkor Wat there was one vendor who sold drinks and souvenirs, but they were outside the main temple complex when you were passing from one temple, Angkor Wat, to another, Bayon.

On with the story. Chichen Itza was a Maya city between 600 AD and 1200 AD. Thousands of people were said to have lived in and around the city. The biggest structure is El Castillo, the Temple of Kukulcan. It might be the largest structure I have seen at Maya ruins. The temples at Tikal are big, but this thing is huge.

What I found most fascinating about it and about the Maya in general is their math skills. The whole temple is based on the calendar. There are nine levels and those represent the pregnancy cycle. The Maya were all about fertility. There are 91 steps on each of the four sides of the temple. 91 four times is 364, representing the days of the year. There's also something about the number 260 which has to do with religious ceremonies. Pretty much everything they built had to do with the numbers I just talked about. That is true in all the Maya ruins I have visited.

One new thing I learned was that all the structures were painted at the time of their occupation. All of the paints were organic, and said to have been the pastels favored in the Caribbean nations now. I had never heard that before and I had a hard time wrapping my brain around El Castillo being a shade of light pink, maybe.

Once a year, two teams of seven players each would come to Chichen Itza to participate in a ball game. I don't know if the ball game had a name; it was played in what is always referred to as the ball court. I've seen ball courts in Coba and I think in Tikal as well, but they were small compared to the ball court at Chichen Itza. This ball court must have been the Super Bowl of Ball Game.

That's our guide, Alfredo, in the white shirt. The two walls are the barriers of the ball court. The object was for the players to bounce a rubber ball off their hip, elbow or shoulder through the circle you can see up high on either side. Click on the photo to enlarge so you can see the circles. Use of hands or feet were prohibited. The circle is seven meters high. I can't even imagine how a goal was accomplished. It only took one goal to win. The reward for winning was being sacrificed.

Yep, the winning team, all seven of them, were sacrificed. It was a great honor, we were told. They were ceremoniously escorted by the losing team to the sacrifice temple.

This is the sacrifice temple. Do you see at the top of the stairs there is a little statue? That's Chacmool, where the sacrifices were done. He looks like this:

photo from the internet
The winning player would lay on his back so that his chest would be open. His arms and legs and head would be held. The priest would then cut out the player's beating heart, then the player's head would be chopped off. Their bodies, heads and hearts would then be thrown into the Sacred Cenote. It was sort of a "back to the womb" thing.

Here's a photo of the Sacred Cenote:

The water is all green and kind of stagnant. We were high above it. You can't go down in there, thank goodness. Pretty gnarly story, huh?

The ancient Maya were hardcore.

Family photo!

There are a few other structures, like a Venus temple and the cemetery structure and a few other things. There are some carvings still showing on some of the structures. I liked all these skull carvings on the cemetery structure.

Usually before I go somewhere cool like Chichen Itza, I do a bunch of research about the place so I know what to look for and a bit of history on the place. Since I wasn't expecting to go to this site, I was unprepared and I feel sad about that. I feel like I want to know more and see it again someday. The stuff I wrote about here was what I heard from Alfredo. He talked a lot but didn't tell us about all the structures. I need more. Maybe someday.

From Chichen Itza we went about half an hour down the road to the Suytun cenote. Apparently this was another sacred cenote to the Maya and I think sacrifices may have occurred in the cavern. Again, I did not research this site since I didn't know I'd go there and I'd never heard of it! There was a big gift shop and we bought some stuff (of course). There is also a restaurant onsite where we had lunch. I thought it was good. It was a buffet featuring salad, noodles, cochinita pibil (my favorite!), chicken, and rice and beans. There was also a "lime soup" that was delicious. It was chicken broth with some tomato and subtle lime flavor. I liked it a lot.

After lunch we were able to go into the cenote cavern. It was far underground. I wish I had taken a photo of the stairs going down to the cenote, but I didn't because frankly, I am a bit claustrophobic and it took every bit of courage and fortitude I had to do down into the cave. I was hanging on for dear life to the little rope handrail. The stairs were steep and narrow and there were a lot of them. I did not swim. There are fish in that water. I saw them.

Maybe you are asking what a cenote is. The Riviera Maya has the longest system of underground rivers in the world (Alfredo said). Cenotes are sinkholes. There are many cenotes in the Yucatan and several are open for swimming. MT has now been to at least three different cenotes.

I just read on the internet that Suytun is the most Instagrammable cenote. There were a bunch of people taking photos down there. It's pretty dark though.

She's hitting her angles
There is a concrete platform out into the water that has the widest part right under the opening at the top. In this photo, it kind of looks like the opening is on the side, but that is where the light is reflecting. It is interesting. Here's another view of the platform from above, (but at the bottom of the stairs to get in and out of the cavern).

The final stop on the tour was the Colonial city of Valladolid. A Colonial city is one that the conquering nation took over; in this case Spain was the conqueror. The native Maya still lived in the city but were not allowed in some parts of the town. We just went to the main square and looked at the church and strolled a little. We also ate coconut ice cream that wasn't actually very coconut tasting at all. It was refreshing though, and I don't even like ice cream.

Here are a couple of photos:

the church
The square...and there's T!
Again, I felt at a disadvantage because I knew nothing of the history of this town. I felt like I was walking around ignorant, because I didn't know what I was looking at, and mute because I couldn't speak the language. Frustrating. I think that was just me though. Everyone else seemed content to wander and just look at stuff. Everyone there speaks English anyway. It seems like everyone I met in Mexico is at least bi-lingual and many know more than two languages.

I don't know how long exactly it took to get back to the resort. I wasn't really paying attention, but I'd guess about 90 minutes. I mostly read during the ride back. It was a long day, but it was interesting and fun to spend time with MT and T.

Monday, November 25, 2019

#2279 Mexico memories & musings

Hola amigas! We are back from a nice vacation on the Riviera Maya. I love to go on vacation and I am happy to come home as well.

We stayed at a beautiful resort, Ventus at Marina El Cid. The room was nice; the only thing I didn't like about it was the location, directly across from the elevator. It was kinda noisy. We had two beds plus a murphy bed, so we each had our own little space. I don't think the regular beds were queen size, but maybe they were. I was comfy in my own space, and I think MT was too. The murphy bed was quite firm, but T slept well.

I won't bore you with the day-to-day details because my days were all the same: have breakfast, go sit by the pool, read, have lunch, drink beer in the afternoon, and then have dinner.I ate chips and guacamole every day. MT went snorkeling three times. The guys went on an adventure excursion at Selvatica. I think they did the one called Off-Road. They rode ATVs, went zip-lining (something neither of them had done before) and swam in the cenote. They had a great time.

On Thursday the three of us did an all-day excursion in which we went to Chichen Itza. We have been fortunate to see several of the Mayan ruins in Mexico, Belize and Guatemala. I wouldn't say that Chichen Itza was my favorite, but El Castillo is enormous.The Mayans were remarkable in their engineering and mathematics.

From there, we went to a cenote where we shopped, had lunch, and swam. The final stop was the city of Valladolid for a quick walk around the square.

I will write in more detail on Wednesday about this epic day of touring. I'll post photos too! 

One thing that I decided while I was in Mexico is that I don't like being mono-lingual. It is ridiculous that so many people in the world speak their own language plus English. I need another language or two. I'm working on one right now, French, and I'll be adding Spanish to my lessons.

Another thing I figured out is that when I don't do much else but sit around and read, I can get through a book in a couple of days. I finished three books while I was gone. I was about three quarters of the way through one book when I got there and finished it on Sunday afternoon, which was our first full day there. I started the second book and read it in two days. The third book also took two days. The fourth book took a little longer because I started it on Friday and was reading it on Saturday which was the travel home day. I watched a couple of movies on the plane - and the Utah football game! - which took away from my reading time. I finished that book on Sunday afternoon between dealing with loads of laundry.

I don't really understand when people say "Oh you must hate to be back from vacation." I actually don't hate to be back. I understand that vacation is a break from reality. When the vacation is finished, I am thankful for the experience and looking forward to where I might go next. I will admit, though, that the snow that came today did make me long for the balmy temperatures of the Riviera Maya.

Here's another thought that crossed my mind: I'm lucky and fortunate. We've been able to go to Mexico several times and it has always been great. Before we went, both MT and I were thinking, "Oh, we are going back to Mexico. La di da. Been there, done that." Each trip is different, even though we might do similar things (I am a pro at sitting by the pool). And even if we were not as excited about this trip, I realize that to another person, this trip would be flat-out amazing and wonderful and their dream vacation. So I thank my lucky stars and the hard work that we do in order to be able to go on trips like this and spend time together and get away from real life for a week. It's fucking glorious.

In the end, we had a great time and I actually wouldn't be sad if we found ourselves back at Ventus sometime in the future. Good times!