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Adventures on Nassau

That's Atlantis from the cruise ship port.

Out of all of the islands we’ll be visiting, Nassau, Bahamas seems to be the most recognizable.  It’s one of those destinations that feels like you’ve heard of other people going to all your life.  Well it’s finally our turn.  The only problem is, we only have 5 hours to enjoy it.  How on earth can anyone see or do anything in 5 hours?!  I’m guessing it all has more to do with getting the ship back to port according to the cruise lines timetable, I mean we have to get off the boat at 7am after all.  Ugh.  As I mentioned in a previous post, Nassau seems to have been taken over by the honking North American style resort of Atlantis.  You’ve heard of it I’m sure.  When you look at pictures of the island, that’s pretty much all you can see.  I am going to attempt to find other things that we can do there though, we’ll see how it goes.

If you’ve ever looked into the history of the Caribbean you will know that pirates played a huge role in it’s development.  Nassau’s location made it prime pirating territory, and has a museum to preserve that history.  Nassau was after all home to the pirate legend Blackbeard.  Here you can stroll through a replica pirate ship, or take a pirate themed tour through the island starting right at your cruise ship port.  While I love history, I’m not sure this type of tour is my cup of tea.  We might however drop in to the museum for a quick peek on our way to other activities since it’s located right downtown.

Now this however is much more mine and Chelsea’s style, horseback riding on the beaches of Nassau.  Chelsea and I are both avid equestrian fans.  We’ve taken tons of lessons throughout the years and while neither of us are proficient, if there’s a horse nearby we’ll be there!  While I was looking for things to do previously I hadn’t seen this activity.  Now we’ll have to chose between this or Blue Lagoon, what a choice!  The only downside to this activity is the cost.  For a 1.5 hour ride it will set you back $150, although it includes a 25 minute drive both ways to the facility I still don’t think it’s in our price range.  We’ll have to see if we can save our pennies.

I have very mixed feelings about this next activity.  There are two different dolphin encounter programs on Nassau, one at Atlantis, the other on Blue Lagoon island.  Swimming with the dolphins was at the top of my list of things to do in the Caribbean; however upon reading further I changed my idea of how cool that would be.  If you haven’t guessed yet, I’m an animal lover.  I think sometimes that I enjoy the company of my pets more than I do people.  Swimming with dolphins would be quite an experience, but, what about the dolphins?  To provide people with such an experience these extremely sentient beings are subjected to a life on confinement.  Now I’m not saying that the programs on Nassau itself are shady but there are many worldwide that are, with tiny enclosures and unhappy animals that occasionally decide they’ve had enough and attack.  As a statement against this type of entertainment, we will be forgoing any type of ‘swim with’ programs unless it is somehow done in the open ocean and the animals choose to be there.

Nassau has a wealth of history, as do most islands in the Caribbean.  To prove it Nassau boasts two other museums on top of the pirate one, and a Bahamian art gallery as well!  On top of all the museums, all you need to do to steep yourself in Nassau’s history is walk down the streets.  With old style colonial buildings everywhere you look you probably can’t help but feel the days of old right there with you.  Visit Christ Church Cathederal, built in 1670, and the very first church build in all of the Caribbean, see all of the pink government buildings from the 1800’s, and walk up the 65 hand carved stairs built in late 1700 to see Fort Fincastle.

Of course there is also a plethora of authentic cuisine, and shopping to do, but ultimately I think we’re still going to find ourselves spending our five hours at Blue Lagoon island, we just have to figure out how we’re going to get ourselves there.  It has been a dream of mine since as far back as I can remember to visit a place with clear blue water.  I think it’s for that reason the Blue Lagoon is so appealing to me.  Finally I’ll be able to see those turquoise waters!  Maybe while we’re there we can do a little snorkling.

So my previous statement that there really isn’t much to do on Nassau if you forgo Atlantis, wasn’t very accurate.  After a little more digging you can see that there’s TON’s to do in the Bahamas, it’s just a matter of choosing.

 

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Adventures on St Martin/St Maarten

I mentioned last week that I was going to post some articles regarding the ports we will be visiting and what there is to see there.  With only 4 days left before we leave I figured I better get a move on.  I’ve decided to start with St Martin as it’s the island that has me most undecided as to what to do there.

Orient Bay

It seems the most efficient activity would be a tour through the government endorsed Jo Junie tours.  With a safety first attitude for this trip, being government endorsed is a huge plus.  I found out yesterday while trying to book a hotel for Fort Lauderdale that pre booking stuff in a place you know nothing about really takes a lot of trust.  The itinerary for Jo Junie tours is:

 

 

A sightseeing visit to Oyster Pond, a marina located between the Dutch and French sides with spectacular views.
A 2 hour visit to Orient Bay which has a clothing optional side, not that me and my 17 year old daughter will be visiting that side! (***careful prime bits exposed on link.  Although it’s a govmt site)
Hilltop at Orient bay for more prime views
A shopping excursion to Marigot, the French open market.
A stop at Sunset beach/Maho Bay where you can see the plane’s underbelly 2 inches from your nose.

Marigot, the French Capitol

The price for the tour is minimal, includes all you can drink refreshments, and it gets you back to Philipsburg with plenty of time to look around there as well.  On the plus side, it sounds like you get to see a little bit of all the highlights St Martin/St Maartin has to offer.  I like the idea of being able to see both sides of the Island, which we might not be able to do on our own and get back in time.  On the down side is, will I want to leave when we need to, or are there other things along the way that I would prefer to see instead?  Apparently I hate making these kinds of decisions.

Maho Bay/Sunset Beach

While looking around for other things we might want to do though, it seems our decision is made for us, as there really aren’t any other highlights.  From what I can tell the tour really is the best of St Martin/St Maarten.  Unless you want to while your day away on one beach, which isn’t really my thing, plus we’ll have three days to do that in Florida.  There are too many cool things to see in the Caribbean to lay around all day.

 

Loterie Farms

One thing that is missing from the tour that I might suggest to the owner is Loterie Farms.  All of our family are avid naturists, we love to hike, and commune with the outdoors.  I also love history.  Loterie Farms was formerly Loterie Plantation, established some time in the 18th century.  They offer hikes through a beautiful tropical forest, as well as zip lines, and an obstacle course.  They also have several exotic outdoor cafes and restaurants that look like once in a life time treats.

For St Louis

 

Another highlight of St Martin is Fort St. Louis.  If you’ve ever looking into the history of the Caribbean you will know that it is rife with pirates and countries battling for control of what was considered the ‘best’ islands.  Various countries always had easy trade in the forefront of their minds during battle considerations, thus it was imperative for those who currently controled those islands to properly defend them.  Most islands you will visit will have some sort of historical monument to those defenses and Fort St Lous is St Marin’s.  Thankfully this Fort is located at Marigot so we will be able to have a quick look if we can forgo a little shopping to do it.

 

 

 
 

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Cook’n Recipe Organizing Software Giveaway!

Cook’n is a wonderful all in one recipe software.  There are so many features to this software that you will never need another!

500 recipes already installed
Super easy to add your own recipes and personalize
Capture internet recipes in seconds (which means that you can import any recipe you find online!)
Auto fill for quick entries
Change serving amounts in a heartbeat
Counts calories
Nutritional facts
Makes grocery list
Tons of pre loaded cookbooks or make your own, and print it out with its own table of contents.
Plus one free cookbook download with purchase
Menu planning. Yay! With grocery list!
Easy step by step instructional video
Customize categories to make it work for you

After installing the software, which went off without a hitch, it took almost no time to figure out how to use it.  I took about five minutes to watch the introductory video, and it went a long way in explaining the basics.

While I’m loving the software, I was worried about spending a lot of time inputting my own stuff only to have a computer crash and lose it all.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve lost everything when either my computer died, or one of the kids downloaded a virus and the hard drive needed to be wiped, so this was a pretty big consideration for me.  I sent a question in to DVO and got an immediate response with instructions for a 2 click back up, it seriously could not be any easier!

I added my new Sweet & Salty stir fry recipe, and it took less than two minutes.  Almost everything was auto filled as I typed, and I just had to copy and paste the instructions.  Not only that but you get a nutritional break down for your recipes too.  It gives you the calories and breakdown for the entire recipe and you just divide to get your serving amounts.  Because it is a new recipe to the program those nutritional values might not be perfect, but it gives you a pretty good idea.  You can also use that nutritional guide to make your meals healthier by substituting or omitting certain high calorie or high fat items.

While adding my recipe I came across a small problem.  The coconut oil was not one of the pre-loaded ingredients.  It took less than a second to add but I was not able to edit it to include the nutritional information.  I talked to Brent over at DVO, and was told that while the capability is not there right now, they are aware of it and diligently working to add it.  As soon as they have the fix it will be automatically downloaded to your software!   I can’t ask for much more than that.  Also in the works is Cook’n mobile, this will allow me to sync all of my recipes with my ipad and make it easier to use in the kitchen, or take your shopping list with you to the grocery store, can’t wait!

With the huge number of recipes to choose from the search feature is a blessing.  You can look for a single ingredient to find a recipe to help with dinner planning, or so many other options that you’ll never have any trouble with the ‘What’s for Dinner?” question again.

The only real glitchy part I found that is a bit disappointing is the accuracy of the nutritional information.  When I first tried the info for my self inputted recipe it was only about 80% complete.  I figured that was because it was not a recipe that came with the program.  Unfortunately though, it seems that even with the pre-loaded recipes that information is far from complete.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad the feature is there but I wish it was a little more rounded.  Now having said that I am sure DVO is well aware and working to update, which will in turn automatically be updated to my software.

Win it!  DVO has graciously offered one of our followers a copy of Cook’n, that is an $80 value!  I know you will love it as much as I do.  This giveaway is open internationally.

To enter the giveaway please go to this link on Facebook – Cook’n Rafflecopter Giveaway  In order to provide you with the convenience of rafflecopter entries we must install the widget on facebook, as wordpress free blogs do not have the capabilities.  I would however appreciate if you could bookmark this page to do your daily entries.

Disclaimer: DVO Software provided me with a free sample of this product to review, and I was under no obligation to review it if I so chose. Nor was I under any obligation to write a positive review or sponsor a product giveaway in return for the free product.

 
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Posted by on April 1, 2012 in Giveaways, Recipes

 

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Earth Hour – Please Do Your Part

Earth Hour is today, March 31st begining at 8:30pm (your own time zone) and ending at 9:30.

The Earth really is in your hands.

If I’m not mistaken this will be the fourth year in a row we have participated in earth hour.  I wholeheartedly support the efforts of this organization and think it highly important that we all do everything we can to participate.  It is a great opportunity to educate your children, and spend time with them ‘off the grid.’

I worry a lot about the place that we are leaving for our children, and firmly believe that we as North American’s need to start giving up some of our comforts to benefit the planet.  I realize it will not all happen all at once, but it also won’t happen at all if we don’t.  Something has got to give somewhere or our planet is eventually going to implode.  I also realize that strides are being made every day towards a greener earth, but after how long we’ve been abusing the planet, is it really fast enough?

I have a child with autism.  Autism was 1 in 10,000 20 years ago.  When Ben was diagnosed in 2000 it was one in 170, and today it is one in every 130.  It is reaching epidemic proportions, and while there is nothing to prove my thoughs, I believe there is a genetic predisposition but also that our environment plays a role in onset.

The first year that we participated was the first year we were living in Calgary.  I was mortified the next day when I found out that Calgary was the only city in the world who’s energy useage had gone UP during earth hour!  Unfortunately It kind of personifies the city we live in.  I had more than one person say to me that year when I mentioned it was coming up that they would be sure to turn on every electronic gadget in their house, and that the whole thing was ‘hogwash.’  On the radio I heard a phone call from a woman who exclaimed that it was all just a giant government scam.  Some people really just aren’t getting it.  After the winter we’ve had here in Canada though, I hope things are becoming abundantly clear.

The year after that debacle, I decided to show my kids that to really make a difference we have to get off our butts and actually do something.  So that evening as earth hour began I flipped off the breakers, then I grabbed the kids, and the dogs on leashes and we all started going to the doors of houses who still had their lights on.  We were polite, and just explained that it was earth hour and the reasons behind it, and most proceeded to turn their lights off too!  For the most part people just didn’t know.  In the years since, almost our entire block has remained blacked out for the duration.  The kids are always very proud to know they played a role in educating others.

 
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Posted by on March 31, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Winner of the Vera Wang Perfume Giveaway!!!

Congratulations to Anne Taylor for winning the Vera Wang perfume set!  Her entries were verified, and she has contacted me to confirm the win.

With just a little under 4,000 entries the giveaway was a huge success.  Thank you for entering!

Please stick around to see what we have coming up.  I posted a new giveaway this morning and have another to post tomorrow.  There is also still Our J. Edgar Hoover Bluray/DVD Combo pack to enter as well, and in a couple of weeks, when we are back from vacation we’ll be posting the full Vera Wang swag bag giveaway worth more than $350!

 
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Posted by on March 31, 2012 in Giveaways

 

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Tropical Traditions Coconut Oil Giveaway!

When I first got word that I would be receiving a quart of coconut oil, I thought, now what the heck am I going to do with that?  Weirdly enough, a couple of days later while I was doing a nutritional consult with my trainer he spent ten minutes telling me how great this stuff is.  It was at that point that I mentioned I would be getting some of it to try.  Now I’m not allowed to say that this stuff is amazingly good for you, so I won’t, but I will say that it leaves vegetable oil in the dirt and you should too.  Leave the veggies in the dirt that is, at least as far as oil is concerned.

I decided to try the oil on my most love/hate recipe to see how it would go.  This is going to sound crazy but despite the fact that it’s a super healthy meal, I don’t make stir fry’s often.  I’ve tried using a dozen different packaged sauces, or just plain soy, and I just can’t find a flavour that I like.  Funny enough, a plain stir fry just tastes too ‘earthy’ for me, and the packaged stuff doesn’t do much to cover that unpleasantness.  This however I loved and will make over and over again.  The coconut oil really made the difference.

When I first received the oil it was solidified, it’s pretty cold here in Calgary, even on a good day, so that is normal.  I just followed the directions to bring it back to a liquid, it took no time and very little effort.

Here are some Coconut Oil facts that may interest you:

Learn about Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil
Tropical Traditions Video
How to use Coconut Oil
What is virgin coconut oil?
Popular coconut oil recipes

And our recipe that you might want to try, it was beyond yummy!

Sweet & Salty Coconut Oil Stir Fry

Makes aprox 4 servings, can be stretched with more rice.

2 boneless skinless chicken breast(optional)
1 ½ cups rice – 3 cups cooked
1 head of broccoli  cut into florets
¼ head of cauliflower cut into florets
1 red pepper cut into bit sized pieces
1 medium sized onion
4 medium sized carrots cut julienne
2 TBLS coconut oil
1-2 TBLS Reduced sodium soy sauce (to taste)

DIRECTIONS:

After the chicken is defrosted, cut into bite sized pieces.  I used about a tablespoon of coconut oil to sauté until fully cooked.  Once chicken is cooked, set aside.  Add the other tablespoon of coconut oil and sauté veggies starting with the harder to cook like cauliflower, and adding the lighter stuff as you go.  Sauté veg until warm but still crisp.  Once veggies are cooked to your liking re-add chicken and then add soy sauce.  I also add a touch of soy sauce to the rice.  Serve stir fry over hot rice.

While I don’t find coconut oil actually tastes of coconut but the oil gives a wonderfully sweet, yet mild, taste to add to the salty flavour of the soy sauce.  It makes a blah stir fry into a fabulous and healthy meal for the family.  My hubby doesn’t like the taste of coconut so I didn’t tell him what was in it, he loved it 😉

TIPS:

I am not an advance planner, which anyone will know if they’ve been paying the least amount of attention to my posts. My dinners each and every night are decided on generally at the very last minute. We do not have a microwave, and even when we did I hated defrosting stuff that way. My solution to this, at least for chicken breast that I need to cut up is to put them in the skillet with a lid and leave them on the minimum heat for about 10-15 minutes. Works like a charm to defrost those babies.

Another thing I do that might help you save time, is instead of spending 15 minutes cutting up carrots into tiny pieces, get yourself a good peeler. Peel the tough outer layer off the carrots then over a bowl ‘peel’ the rest of the carrot in short even strokes. You will end up with pieces not quite as uniform and pretty but they are roughly the same size, and cook just as quick. The middle core that you can’t quite shred gets saved for a snack the next day.

I’ve also been using the coconut oil as a replacement for any margarine I would normally use.  It’s funny how chemistry can alter the flavour of a dish, but it does!  I used it last night to cook some eggs, and with a touch of salt it tasted more buttery than if I’d used actual butter, I’m not kidding!  I also used it in a quick sauté for a side dish of broccoli and carrots, and once again it added flavour to what would normally be pretty blah.  I will say that I’m not a fan of how it smells while you’re actually cooking with it, but thankfully the results are so much tastier than the smell.  I’m not one who’s big on trying new things when it comes to food, but I’m so glad I gave Tropical Traditions Coconut oil a try, because slowly but surely I’m getting hooked on this stuff.

Win it!  Tropical Traditions has been kind enough to offer one of our readers 1 quart of Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil!  That is a value of $40!

To enter the giveaway please go to this link on Facebook – Tropical Traditions Rafflecopter Giveaway  In order to provide you with the convenience of rafflecopter entries we must install the widget on facebook, as wordpress free blogs do not have the capabilities.  I would however appreciate if you could bookmark this page to do your daily entries.

If you are interested in ordering from Tropical Traditions please use this link – Tropical Traditions.  I will receive credit for referring you, and you will receive a free cookbook!  They have much more than just coconut oil there, it is all certified organic, and a great place for ingredients if you are going gluten free.

Disclaimer: Tropical Traditions provided me with a free sample of this product to review, and I was under no obligation to review it if I so chose. Nor was I under any obligation to write a positive review or sponsor a product giveaway in return for the free product.

 

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Run From Fear – Book Review

Book #1

The first time in a long time that I’ve read anything that wasn’t paranormal in some way.  I used to read the popular murder/mystery books, you know like James Patterson, Sue Grafton, etc, but after a while they get boring, not a lot of individuality in those books. Maybe it’s just that I’ve been away from them long enough to enjoy the mystery again, but I really liked these books.  They combine a good mystery, horror, and suspense with steaming hot romance.  I was pretty amazed at how much was jammed in them.

Book #2

They are all very well written, with clear, concise plot points that leave a trail of breadcrumbs for the reader to follow.  I also love the idea of how this trilogy works.  Generally a series will follow one main character and their exploits, this trilogy centers on the bad guys and the cause and effect relationship of their actions, it’s the glue that holds the three books together.  It was a unique and interesting difference.  The main characters are all somewhat related but again it really counts on the over all big bads in this world and how they cause so much pain for so many people.

Book #3

I’m a romance girl at heart, I have to have it, but I refuse to read general romance because it bores me silly.  You get nothing but book after book of happily ever after with not much difference to how each and every couple gets there.  I need plot with my romance, and this trilogy delivers in spades.  We get three completely different couples that are unique individuals with their own path to happiness, as it would be in the real world.  They each have their own demons to bear, and go about life in their own ways.  I very much appreciated three books that even though they followed relatively the same formula, didn’t feel at all stale considering I read all three back to back.

I am now a huge Jami Alden fan and plan to read everything she’s ever written!  I had a feeling some of the men we met during book three had previous stories and when I looked into her other books, sure enough, there they were.  See the beginings of Danny, Ethan, and Derek in the Gemini Men trilogy by Jami Alden.

 
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Posted by on March 30, 2012 in Book Reviews

 

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