Monday, November 20, 2017

What is wrong with Instant gratification anyway?

All hail The instant gratification generation!

Lately, with Christmas looming, I’ve been wondering what to buy for family members.  All the Christmas songs make it sound easy and fairly inexpensive.  After all, isn’t a personal handmade gift something to be treasured?  Sorry to say this is not so for the instant gratification generation! 

Instant gratification, so what does that mean?  Well, when a young adult sees a material thing they desire, whether it be a car, television set, expensive handbag or shoes, they buy it.  There is no waiting for the right time, a holiday, birthday or event.  They want it; they get it, right there and then.  If they cannot afford it there are always deferred payments, sales, and plastic.  After all, if they wait they may lose out.

Don’t get me wrong, we, the parents are responsible for this trend.  We’ve told them from the time they could walk that they deserve the best.  We’ve supported bad decisions, and helped them out of a debt countless times.  After all, they are adults.  They know the consequences, or do they?

The dangers of instant gratification are many.  High-interest rates, bad credit ratings, and money spent on impulse, when it could be used for more important things like rent and food. 

And what does this generation do when they become parents themselves.  They can no longer give in to the instant gratification to which they have grown accustomed.  They must sacrifice for their progeny.  They must become us, giving until there is nothing left to give.

I remember when I was a young mother.  My daughter was on top of the list.  Whatever she needed came first.  I wore my clothes till they were out of style.  I drove a used car.  I cooked dinners because restaurants were out of the question.  I paid my bills on time and my credit was immaculate. 

When my mother raised my three siblings and myself, she deprived herself of anything frivolous. If there was one piece of pie left, she cut it into four pieces and left none for herself. I believe that if there was a drought that woman would have died of thirst before she let us go without.

I am afraid for the instant gratification generation.  We, their parents will not walk this earth forever and one day they will have to depend upon only themselves.  They will have to sacrifice.  I hope that any new mother will teach their children unselfishness.  I hope that new mothers will sacrifice only when necessary and teach their children that instant gratification is not always possible. Unfortunately, as we age, we learn.  Maybe we learn too late.

I am afraid for the children of today. Every time  I enter a store there are always children crying and demanding their parents give in to their demands. And they do.  That, my friends, is instant gratification in its infancy.  And we only have ourselves to blame.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Lemon, lime, or cucumber, which is the best fruit in your water?

I have to admit I drink a lot of water.  I’m just not into sodas and other sugary drinks.  Water, however, can be a bit bland.  So I’ve always opted for a few lemon wedges in my water.  Do you like lemon, lime, or is it cucumber in your water, or do you just drink it straight from the tap?

First of all, let’s clear up one thing.  I love lemon in my water.  Lemons have one drawback though.  They are full of seeds.  I sit there and try and dig the seeds out before I put it in my water but I always miss a few. 

These errant seeds fall to the bottom of the glass and sit there waiting for the straw to reach them.  Then as I try to get a drink, I suck the seed into the straw, blocking any actual water from reaching my parched lips.

So now I have a straw with a stuck seed.  What’s a girl to do but take the straw out and blow into the straw trying to dislodge the seed?  Thus, making the straw with the seed similar to a native blowgun. I sit there trying to look innocent while my poor husband almost loses an eye from the flying seed.

So I get an epiphany.  Limes, which are a citrus fruit similar to lemons, do not have seeds. Don’t ask me why or how they grow more limes, but they don’t have them. Botany is not my forte, but it has something to with not needing to pollinate to grow fruit.  As for how one makes more lime babies, you will just have to look it up. 

I realize that restaurants that have bars usually have an ample supply of lime wedges.  So at those establishments, I always ask for limes.  I admit I get a few questioning looks as if they didn’t hear me correctly.  Sometimes they bring me lemons anyway.  At those moments I just revert to trying to seed the darned things.  And I try and warn my husband of incoming projectiles.

Now, we finally come the question of the third fruit, Yes, it is technically a fruit. I am referring to the cucumber.  Some spas and fancy establishments are big on adding cucumbers to their water.  They say it detoxifies the body. There are other benefits as well, but aside from that, to me, it just tastes weird, not horrible, just weird.

I offered my husband a glass of cucumber water from a hotel once. He sipped, he gagged, and then he watered a potted plant.  It is a taste, I believe, one has to acquire.

So what is your preference, lemons, limes, cucumbers, or just plain H20?

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Is a fun cruise in your future? Read this first

Endless hallways

When I was a kid, our family had a Vista Cruiser station wagon.  I didn’t really like that land yacht but it did fit everyone in the family in that car.  Now I am thinking it was kind of prophetic that I should be on the Carnival Vista, their largest at the moment ship, cruising.  I’m not expert but I can tell you a few things about Carnival cruising since I’ve been on several of them on various sized vessels.

Carnival seems to be channeling “Jaws,” thinking they need bigger and bigger boats.  I hate to burst their bubble but bigger is not a plus on a cruise ship. I guess you have to think like their executives, however, the more people they can squeeze on a boat, the more money they make.

Size, it seems matters.  I’ve been on smaller boats and had a great time.  We got to see and do a lot on the smaller ships.  We saw shows, ate, drank, and played in the casino.  On the Vista, we didn’t do much of that at all.  We never got into one comedy show and the only variety show we were able to get into, we had a great view of a very shiny pole.  The Vista holds about 4,000 passengers and lines are as long as the football field length hallways.

So don’t be surprised if the last day of the cruise arrives and you have yet to experience the fun they are always touting, unless, of course, you consider waiting in lines fun.  There are infinite lines, lines,  everywhere lines.  The shows that you can actually get into are basically glorified infomercials, selling something.

And if you are a repeat cruiser and have been there, done that excursion, don’t bother staying on the boat.  There will be nothing to do, unless you want to get in the pool. And honestly, it is the best time to get in the pool since it won’t be crowded. If you want to spend some money you can always visit the spa.

When it comes to food, be prepared for yet again endless lines.  If you like the buffets you may not be able to see the end of the line without a pair of binoculars.  For example, at breakfast, we waited in line while people behind poked us with the tough like plates.  And when we finally got our food we had to walk around holding the plate till we found a place to park it before dinner.  Fortunately for me, I never cared for buffets.  The restaurant is a better bet as long as you can make it by their hours of operation.  On port days, better not sleep in.

Now, as we all know there is a lot of drinking on these boats.  They don’t call them fun ships for nothing.  The bathrooms are kind of wonky.  You may find the ladies room and think that the men’s room would be in pretty much the same vicinity, but you are wrong. I came across many a man confused, and bewildered, wandering around looking for the men’s room.

When the boat is at sea the pools as so full of people you may need a crowbar to shimmy yourself a spot.  There wasn’t a kiddie pool anywhere that I know of so kids were jumping and splashing into a crowd.  And I’ve yet to see anyone leave their drinks on the trays around the pool to find a bathroom.  And with all that drinking…see where I’m going here?  I’m kind of wondering if getting in that pool isn’t that different from sitting in a giant toilet bowl.

When you are a repeat cruiser they supposedly give you extra benefits.  Since I’ve been on six cruises, they gave us two free bottles of water and a drink coupon on the last day.  September is my birthday month and on my last cruise with my birthday two weeks away, they gave me a $50 certificate to the spa and a bottle of wine.  Nice touch.  This year, same time, different boat, yup, you guessed it I got Zippo.  And I don’t’ mean the lighter.

Finally, I don’t want to sound like a total negative Nancy buzz kill.  There are some pluses.  Aren’t there always a few pluses?  I have to say it was easier to get on the boat this time, without so much red tape.  The photos are no longer posted willy-nilly on bulletin boards but digitally presented on large screens.  And you can find it easily with a touch of a button in the photo section or on your cell phone.  All of that certainly saves paper.  So you did your part for the environment by saving a few trees.  You can do a lot on your cell phone, buy photos, order excursions and see what is going on at any specific moment.

They have a pretty nice IMAX theater on board showing current movies, for an additional fee of course.  If you want popcorn, however, you will be eating it out of a prepackaged little bag.  No popcorn smell to entice you and make you feel like you are really in a theater.

The food is much better on this boat than some of the boats I’ve been on.  Don’t get me wrong, on my first cruise several years ago the food was awesome.  Then it kind of went mediocre.  Now it’s pretty awesome again in the restaurants. 

That’s it for the pluses…Technology may have helped to get all the people on the boat easily, but leaving is quite another story.  Chaos is too kind a word.  We stood on a stairwell for quite some time inching along.  It seems that Carnival while getting 4,000 people off the boat are also in the process of loading 4,000 people on for the next cruise.  It feels kind of like, “hey we got your money, now get off.”  We were thankful that we didn’t check our luggage but hand carried because after waiting in this endless line we were herded into a big warehouse where the luggage was laying everywhere akin to a giant Easter egg hunt. 

To sum it all up, Carnival needs to get back to what made them fun.  They need to re-visit the little things that made people feel special and kept them re-booking new cruises.  On the large boats, they need to have more shows and things to do so that everyone and not just those who stand in line an hour before, can participate.

If there are inches between people in the pools and one has to shimmy into the water, maybe, just maybe, they need more pools.  Carnival is boasting that they are ready to unveil even larger boats than the Vista next year.  McDonald'snalds canceled the supersize and I think that Carnival should consider following suit.  Then again more people, means more money.  I still think that cruises are great value for a vacation, but should I cruise again, it will be only on the smaller boats.  And I think 6 cruises behind me it may be the time to try a different cruise line.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Are flea markets and thrift stores, deal or no good deal?

It's almost Fall. And people are flocking to the malls and discount department stores for school clothes and supplies, I wonder how many are going the alternate route and shopping at flea markets, yard sales, and thrift stores. On crisp fall days, it's fun to plan some family outings and Flea markets and bazaars are much cooler than the dog days of summer. 

It’s hard for a family these days to make ends meet especially and when you have kids that grow out of their clothing in practically minutes, so many people are turning to thrift shops and other budget friendly places.  But is it really a deal?

Flea markets are often full of professional fleamarketeers that sell low quality new items for what seems like a great deal.  A great deal until you take off your shoes and the socks you bought are hanging on by a thread, literally.  Or when you washed your favorite team T-shirt and it turned every other piece of clothing you own a dingy shade of puce.  Yes, puce is a color. The dictionary defines puce as a dark, brownish, purple hue. Now doesn't that sound delightful?

The new toothbrush you bought broke in half while brushing your teeth.  And, the super deal 79 cents  Crest toothpaste turned out to be Crost.   Guess you didn’t notice there was an “o” where the “e” should be.  Further examination reveals that it is made not in the USA but a country whose name you can’t even pronounce.

And everywhere you look there is glassware.  Broken, chipped, and dusty. Turn a lane and there are appliances of every kind that may or may not work.  $2.00 for a Nutrabullet, it’s worth a gamble, right?  That is what you told yourself before your kitchen walls turned out to be covered in blueberry pulp.

And the upholstered ottoman that looked so elegant doesn’t seem like such a great deal when the fleas start to hatch. 

Don’t get me wrong there are super deals to be had at flea markets, thrift stores, and yard sales. You just have to be careful.  Let me close with just a few words of caution.  Know your prices.  Know your items and what you are looking for.  And as the old saying goes, “let the buyer beware.”

Check out all the others posts at the bottom of each new post on Crystal clear blog.  And please leave a comment. I'd love to hear your adventures in thrifting too!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

10 easy travel tips to better enjoy a Greek vacation

Windmills on Mikonos Greek vacation

10 tips to enjoy a Greek vacation

When you travel abroad or even in the United States many times it is a learning experience.  Recently we traveled to Greece the land of my ancestors. I had always wanted to visit Greece and this past Christmas my husband gifted me with a Greek vacation.  Now don’t get me wrong, I loved it.  There were, however, parts of this Greek vacation that were not as pleasant as I had hoped.  I take that back, I expected some bumps, but I think we discovered there are other ways to do the same things with less of a bumpy road.  So what follows are my suggestions for possibly a few less bumps. As the saying goes forewarned is forearmed.

Greek vacation

1.  Book it yourself. We opted to go with a travel agency.  They booked our flights, our hotels, and our transportation from one island to another.  This vacation was booked 6 months in advance.  I think the next time I will choose to book my own flights, transportation, and hotels.   When you book things that far in advance even as a private person you can get the most reasonable rates. 

2.  Check the airline. Our scheduled itinerary was to fly to London on British Airways, then after a short layover, fly to Greece.  I hate to bash any airlines but the plane we were on was old.  And I mean old.  The seats were crammed as close as possible and since the travel agency booked the flight we had the worst seats on the plane.  There were no windows in the same zip code and we were situated right by the bathroom.

3.  Check the airline amenities. Our short layover turned into several hours (Not the airlines fault) and the second flight, which was 3 ½ hours didn’t even offer a soft drink.  The flight attendants blocked the aisles with their credit card machines for people to pay for drinks or a light lunch for quite some time.  No one could even walk down the aisles to visit the restroom.  When they finally reached us, they were out of everything except some foul couscous lunch salad that after two bites we promptly tossed in the trash.

Arriving in Athens

4.  Use local transportation when necessary. We finally, reached Athens.  Our hotel was nice in the center of the city.  We could see the Acropolis from the roof and as anyone who ever looked off into the distance from atop a building, it looked a lot closer than it really was. While it wouldn’t be considered walking distance to the Acropolis, we opted to walk.  8 miles, we walked, but it was totally worth the walk.  For anyone who has issues walking, I suggest taking a bus or a taxi.

5.  Steer clear of ferries if you have extra money. On the following day (we did lose a day with the flying) we were to board a ferry to the first of our island. The hotel was nice enough to provide us with a bagged lunch. The ferry has assigned airplane style seats? And, they were, of course, the worst seats on the boat.

4 ½ hours later we arrived in Mikonos. Mikonos was a beautiful island and our hotel was fantastic!  The grounds were lovely with plants and flowers galore.  The pool was relaxing with a bar right there for refreshments.  The included breakfast was typical Greek fare and very good. Why such a wonderful hotel? Even a broken clock is right once a day. (Not exactly breakfast items but Greeks don’t usually eat breakfast, which you may read about in a previous post)

6.  Book your own hotels. After our stay in Mikonos were continued on our way to Santorini. Yes, another ferry, that took several hours with the worst seats on the pretty empty boat!  Now, the hotel in Santorini was the worst hotel on the trip.  Actually, it was the worst hotel I have ever had the unpleasant opportunity to endure.  There was no chair in the room, only a bed.  The bathroom was so small that you had to hold the sink while you used the toilet.  The shower was probably 2 foot by 2 foot and the shower curtain would stick to you when you showered.  The water overflowed but they, fortunately, had a drain in the floor.  Camping with Girl scouts, I’ve been in outhouses in the woods that were way nicer than this one.  Wow that the travel agency would use that hotel!  Greece is not known for its great breakfasts but this one with its stale bread, canned fruit and yogurt was by far the worst!  Is there a positive?  There has to be some positive right?  It was close to the main drive in Santorini and the Wi-Fi worked better than all the other hotels!!!!

7.  Skip the extra 4 hours to Oia unless you have a lot of extra time but be sure and visit Akrotiri.  Santorini was beautiful as was Mikonos.  We took a tour of the island, which was totally worth it.  We paid the extra money to go to Oia to view the sunset, which I would suggest you forego.  The extra 4 hours to not see a sunset due to cloud cover was exhausting and I think a sunset from any part of this island would be just as beautiful.

8.  Officially I will never take another ferry I don’t care how much cheaper it is! So our time in Santorini came to an end. The time had come to, yes, board another ferry.  This time we were to return to Athens where our flight would be leaving the next day.  It was at least 12 hours by ferry and we didn’t arrive at our hotel till almost midnight.  Worst seats on the boat, yet again.  What did we learn from this?  Time is money.  Your time is worth money.  Don’t take a ferry if at all possible, even if it costs a little more.  A quick search and I discover some flights start at only $35 for a 35-minute flight one-way.  Not too horrible when you consider the comfort and time.  Again, seeing as everything is booked 6 months in advance, I can’t imagine if you did these bookings yourself it wouldn’t have been a lot better.  You could choose your hotels, your flights and seats, and your tours.

9.  Do it yourself.  All in all, I loved Greece.  I loved every part of Greece.  Too bad I didn’t have the time to enjoy more of Greece. I hate to use another old saying but-- if you want something done right, do it yourself!

10.  Pack some tissues and washcloths.  I forgot to mention, no hotels where we stayed had tissues or washcloths.  You may want to pack some!

Greek vacation

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