Saturday, December 2, 2017

Are you hanging Christmas vacation style lights, or are you laser lazy?

laser lazy
Blue light fiasco

A few years ago as my husband was putting up Christmas decorations, he slipped and fell off the roof.  He broke his wrist, on one hand, his thumb on the other, had a hematoma in his leg and a concussion.  Sounds bad, and it was.  It took several months of recovery, but he was extremely lucky he made it out of that mess alive!

So the following Christmas I went on a hunt for a way to decorate our home for Christmas without pulling out the now taboo ladder.  As I cruised around looking for ideas I noticed several houses that had tiny lights covering the entire front. After a little investigation, I learned they were laser projection lights.  I had found the answer.

That year, however, was the first year of laser light introduction and they were as rare as hen’s teeth unless you shopped for Christmas decorations in July. So I spent hours looking in stores.  When that didn’t pan out I took to the Internet.  I was soon to discover that during that first year, laser lights will go down in history with the cabbage patch kids and beanie babies.  Oh yeah, you could get them on eBay if you were willing to pay ten times its retail value.  And if you went to a legitimate store, you could wait for months and by then you were thinking about sipping a Mai Tai by the pool.

I didn’t give up though and I found these large globe light strings with blue light projection.  I thought, why not?  You still had to string them up but at least you could hang them on the lower level porch and aim the projection towards the house.  My husband used a chair to hang them, which in my estimation was even less safe than a ladder, but at least it was only three feet off the ground. He got them up without further injury unless you count a sore thumb from poor aim with a wayward tack hammer.

So the on the night of the unveiling, I was a little disappointed.  To me, our house resembled a fish tank or a swimming pool with the dizzying projected blue moving lights.  Not the Christmas feeling I was searching for. So, after Christmas, they landed in our basement of lost lights.

Next year, I was better prepared.  As soon as the stores started putting out Christmas items I was there.  Sure, it was August but the early bird gets the worm, right?

I found laser lights that had an enormous repertoire of light shows, red, green, blue, white, you name it. I was beyond excited.  I felt like Jonas Salk must have felt when he discovered the first vaccine for Polio. It was an elation that would soon evaporate.

When we opened the box, the enormous round plastic globe looked cheap but convincing.  Then we put it in the ground.  No ladder, no chair, no injury, but also no good!  The lights were large blurry, moved erratically. The cheap plastic remote was confusing but we kept it because, again when the actual Christmas season came around, there weren’t any other choices. We used it that year in moderation because I still didn't care for it. 

And this year, when we hooked it up, the remote wouldn’t work.  I replaced the batteries, checked the connections, and it still didn't work.  And then I threw it at the wall and it shattered into a million pieces. File that under Crystal's epic fails. Unfortunately, there was no manual operation for it.

Fast forward to this year.  I went out and found a laser light.  It was on sale!  And they a ton of them on display! And this one does everything that I ever wanted.  It has tiny stars that cover the entire house. It has images that project as well.  It moves or stays still, however you choose.  It’s metal, not plastic and for now, it’s perfect.

Until next year…when the next new thing appears on the horizon!

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Are you pitching a tent for the Black Friday sales or are you sitting on the computer on Cyber Monday?

black friday

Black Thursday, Black Friday, Small business Saturday, and Cyber Monday are all names intent on removing money from wallets.  Here is my issue, however, they weren’t happy just focusing on Friday with lines wrapped around the building.  They had to take away Thanksgiving.  Now, the lines start on Thanksgiving Day.  They pitch tents and bring chairs and sit in the frigid cold. And for what, a flat-screen TV or the latest gaming system?

“Material-itis” is what I call it.  It is the need for material things over any other needs.  And are you truly honest with yourself? How much are you really paying for that 55-inch TV? Time is money.  You may not realize it but you are working for an object as you sit and sleep on the sidewalk in the cold.

When I was a kid, we got one gift.  It wasn’t extravagant.  It didn’t take three months of salary to pay for.  We didn’t make lists that contained things that were hard to obtain. Parents didn’t have to fight unscrupulous people who sit in lines to buy hard to get items so they can sell it for 10 times as much on eBay. Whatever we got we appreciated.  We didn’t get multiple gifts either.  One person, one gift that was the way it was.

Whose birthday is it anyway?  It’s not yours, it’s not mine, and it’s not theirs.  Who should really be getting the gifts?  And if he were to say what he really wanted, it wouldn’t be a material thing.  Do you think he would want a 60- inch flat screen TV, of course not? It would be easy to get him a gift.  He would want you to be kind.  He would want you to give to someone less fortunate.  It would be to buy something for a stranger without expecting anything in return.  Mostly he would want you to spread love, and love doesn’t cost a thing.  You can spread the love on Black, purple, or any color or day of the week.

So for those who are pitching those tents for Material gains.  For those who will push and shove and cut through lines for TV’s and more I say you are missing out on the true feeling and meaning of Christmas.  You are putting greed in your hearts instead of love.  I guess it will continue until you realize that one day those TV’s you worked so hard to get will be sitting in a landfill with all the other material things you once valued above all else. 

So this Christmas, I hope you are like me and steer clear of the sales that are nothing but a way to get you in a store, but if you do venture out, spread some love. Make someone’s day a little brighter even if it’s only because you smiled at him or her. And then you will see what Christmas means to me.

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.

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