Tuesday, December 7, 2010

HypnoBirthing Cruise in the Caribbean

I've been meaning to write about our HypnoBirthing Cruise, but have just been so busy getting ready for the holidays, that I have been putting it off. I also started writing a novel about it, and decided to not go into a daily log of our trip. I've decided to break it down into highlights, good to knows, and what we learned.

Highlight #1: The weather! The weather, minus the morning at Grand Turk and a windy Thurs night at sea, was excellent. 70-80 degrees, sunny, gorgeous. It was strange seeing Christmas trees at the islands when it didn't feel at all like Christmas weather-wise.

Highlight #2: The islands! We visited Half Moon Cay, Bahamas, St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and Grand Turk. Half Moon Cay had the best beach. St. Thomas had great snorkeling, Grand Turk had awesome kayaking in the canal, and Puerto Rico had...well, we shopped in Puerto Rico, but it felt very familiar to Chris and I because it is like a mix of Europe and the Bronx.

Highlight #3: Harry's Steakhouse! Harry's Steakhouse was a restaurant on the ship that was not included in the price of the cruise, but worth every penny! It was $30 a person, for a 5 course meal. I had fillet mignon and lobster tail, which was perfect. The rocking of the ship was less noticeable here, which was a nice change from the first night on the ship.

What We Learned: YES! You do feel rocking on a cruise ship! I had thought that on a ship that size, it would be like a floating island and you wouldn't feel the movement. But I was wrong. Luckily, I had done a hypnosis session with a friend of mine right before the trip to ward off motion sickness. If I hadn't done that, it would have been a VERY rough week. I still was affected by the motion off and on, but it wasn't as bad as boat rides I have been on in the past.

Highlight #4: Conclave! The two days we were at sea, I attended the HypnoBirthing Conclave. Since this was my first Conclave, it was nice finally putting faces to names and email addresses. I finally met Marie "Mickey" Mongan, the founder of HypnoBirthing. I also made some new friends too, which was great. The seminars were interesting and I learned a couple of new hypnosis techniques which was fun.

Highlight #5: Towel Animals! Ok, seems silly, but we really did enjoy the towel animals that were in our rooms each night after we had turn down service. The guy who did Carolyn & David's room was better than ours by far. One night, we had a mystery animal, and even now, after buying the Towel Animal Folding Book, I still don't know what animal that was! :)

Good to Know: On Carnival, there is always something to do. In some ways that is good, and in other ways, not so good. We played Bingo one night, dropped into the casino for a few rounds on the slots, went to a few shows, and to a few game shows. There were other things going too, but not all of it interested us.

Chris said it right when he said that the Cruise was a like a combination of summer camp and a frat party. Lots of people took advantage of the 24 hour bar service, which was not included in the cost of the cruise. The ship also offered things like a Mardi Gras party, X rated scavenger hunt, and games that were divided up by floor like who could decorate their room door the best. We skipped out on those things.

What We Learned: Bring earplugs when cruising. It can be very noisy at night and especially early morning. It didn't help that they played music in the hallway ALL NIGHT LONG.

Highlight #6: Our dinner companions! Every night, we went to the Silver dining hall for dinner at 6pm. We sat with a family from Colorado who was also with the HypnoBirthing group. The couple had two kids that were so much fun to talk with! The kids had us smiling and laughing every night. We also had great service at our table. The waiters were funny, and our head waiter, Welly, learned our names after the first night, and always made sure we were happy.

What We Learned: Something we didn't like as much was the dinner show. After the main course, the waiters would all have to stop what they were doing and dance or sing to amuse those dining. I felt like it was really just too much. They had been working so hard, running back and forth from the kitchen, and then they would make them stop and dance/sing like monkeys. I guess they enjoyed it, but really, they didn't need to do that.

What We Learned: We also learned that the food on the ship was, well, not the 5 star quality food we had heard and read about. There was a 24 hour buffet, that, after eating there twice, we decided to stay away from the rest of the trip. The pizza on the ship was decent. The dining hall served breakfast and lunch as well as dinner, so we ended up going there every day, but the choices got old fast. We could get free room service, which was nice, especially on the days when I had to get up early for the Conclave. By the end of the week, we were SO ready to get some real food though!

Highlight #7: BBQ on Half Moon Cay! The day we were at Half Moon Cay, Carnival had a free BBQ lunch for us, which was very nice. The food was good and they had the best pineapple (that we believed came from the next island over)! Too bad the food quality wasn't as good back on the ship.

Highlight #8: Excursions! On Half Moon Cay, we did a nature walk on the island, which was a lot of fun. We learned about the small island and a bit about the plants and wildlife. In the afternoon, we took a glass bottom boat tour out into the lagoon and learned about the water life around the island. We even saw remains of a ship wreck.

At St. Thomas, Carolyn & David went off on a separate tour from us. We signed up for the Champagne Catamaran to the island of St. John. On the way to the island, we learned a bit about the area, and even went past Michael Jordan's house, Carol Burnett's house, and the owner of White Castle's house. We arrived at a beach (all beaches in the Virgin Islands are public beaches) and anchored the catamaran about a football field or less away from shore. We were told we could either get in and swim to shore, or take the dingy. GOOD TO KNOW: TAKE THE DINGY when offered! We put on our snorkel gear and got in the water, thinking we would just swim to shore (we had life jackets on by the way). I'm not the best swimmer by any means. So at first, I thought I could do it, and then realized, I had made a mistake in not taking the boat.

The waves were a bit higher than I had expected, and I got tired pretty fast. I basically freaked out and thought I wasn't going to make it. Chris was further ahead yelling, "I can see a sea turtle under me! Come over here Kat!" I didn't get to see the turtle, because I just had to get to shore and stop my panic attack. We made it to the shore, and I had to just walk around a little while to relax before getting back in the water. Eventually, I was fine, and we started snorkeling around the shore which was a blast! We saw lots of fish, coral, a sting ray, sea fans, and more. We took the dingy back to the Catamaran (didn't feel like we really had much time to snorkel). WHAT WE LEARNED: If you like snorkeling, don't do an excursion. Just rent a snorkel at one of the beaches and go on your own so you have all the time you want. We were suppose to have fresh bread, assortment of cheeses and fruits, and champagne on the way back to St. Thomas. We hadn't had lunch, so were starving. We were VERY disappointed to see them pull out Rum Punch and Bud Lights, a block of cream cheese that they poured jam over, stale bread, and some melon that wasn't even ripe. Everyone on the boat got drunk, which was a bit annoying. On the drive back to the port, up and down windy hills, we were really afraid that someone would get sick, but they all made it. Everyone was upset about the not as advertised catamaran.

At Grand Turk, Chris and I again went out on our own and did the clear bottom kayaking excursion. There was only 6 of us on the excursion, which was nice. The others with us were very friendly. We took a taxi to the canal where we would kayak. On the way, we saw flamingos, salt marshes, houses and buildings that had been destroyed by Hurricane Ike. WHAT WE LEARNED: Hurricane Ike really did a number on this small island. They are still rebuilding and really need more money to help get back to where they were before. It was very sad! We also saw wild donkeys, which roam the island.

The kayaking was fantastic! We hunted for conch, the island's main source of protein, Chris found a sea star, and we learned so much about the island and it's wildlife. Our guide had us taste fresh conch from the one's we had found in the water. It was good! Tasted a lot like a scallop. I felt a little guilty eating something that our guide had just killed, so when asked who wanted to keep the shell, I said no. We also went on a nature hike to see the light house and along the beach that was filled with conch shells, coral, and sea fans. The guide told us to take home anything we wanted, so I found a conch shell that had washed up to take home with us. WHAT WE LEARNED: There are over 1,000 ship wrecks around the island!

GOOD TO KNOW: One thing we didn't like so much about the Cruise was the commercialism. There was a lot of pressure to BUY BUY BUY at the ports ("the best duty/tax free shopping" they would exclaim every day), and lots of pictures taken of you every where you went and they would sell them to you for over $20 a picture. If you didn't like the picture, you were to throw it away. What a waste of paper! Chris and I avoided the photos when getting off at the ports and as much as we could on the ship.

Carnival claimed to be one of the leaders in eco-friendly cruising, but I didn't see that being the case while there, which was a disappointment. They had notes in our bathroom telling us to only put towels on the floor if we wanted them washed in order to save water, and yet, they would take our towels no matter what. Each day, we got more and more paper showing us what was going on all day on ship and in port. So much of the stuff on the ship was not recycled, especially the alcohol containers. The pictures they took (probably more than 20 times throughout the trip) were thrown out....and all they really needed to do was put them on monitors like they do at the Zoo or theme parks and then you decide if you want them printed or not. I would have liked to see Carnival be a bit more green, especially if they are going to claim being eco-friendly.

GOOD TO KNOW: We also did not like the smoking on the ship. We had balcony rooms (which, if you take a cruise, splurge for a balcony because all in all, it IS worth it!), and sometimes we couldn't sit out there because others were smoking on theirs. One of the floors that held a lot of bars and the casino was always smoked filled. Unfortunately for us, that was the only way to get from the front to the back of the ship, so we had to walk through the smoke all the time. Up top, there was designated smoking spots, but people didn't follow that rule very well. We would have loved to be on a non-smoking ship.

WHAT WE LEARNED: If you go on a Carnival cruise, there are only a few times when you need to tip. Carnival now charges each room $10 per person, per day, for tips to pay everyone that works for you while you are there. The last night, they give you an envelope to tip your Maitre'd at the dining hall (which we didn't understand why considering we never met him), and if you want to leave a little bit extra for someone who made your stay better. You do need tips for the excursion guides and taxi drivers on island.

The trip to and from Miami was long. Both ways we stopped overnight to break up the trip a bit. We stopped in Palm City, FL both on the way there and the way back to eat. We ate at the New England Fish Market which was EXCELLENT! If you are ever in that area, go there. The first time we ate there was for my birthday dinner on Nov 26th. I had the sesame encrusted tuna steak cooked med rare. It was THREE INCHES THICK!! So delicious! The veggies with it were great and I had a nice glass of Pinot Grigio. The second time we ate there, on our way home, we had lunch, and again, it did not disappoint.

I could write more, but I think that is good for now. :)

All in all, it was a good experience. I'm glad we had the experience of going on a cruise, but Chris and I don't see ourselves doing another one for a very long time. Just not our thing.

You can view our pictures below...

GROUP 3 We took some underwater photos while snorkeling, but haven't developed them yet.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Long overdue post

I can't believe my last post was October of last year! Obviously being back in IN has caused me to come down with a case of blog-blah.

It's almost August now. I've been working on getting my business up and running. As of July 1st, I am now able to do hypnosis legally here in Indiana! I already have 2 HypnoBirthing couples, and another starting next week. Plus a hypnosis client this week. I'm working in people's homes right now until I find an office space. That, in and of itself, has been harder than I had imagined. Finding a space in NYC was very easy compared to here. I'm sure something will pop up soon though.

We've been living in Bloomington almost a year, and we will be here around one more year. Still not sure what next year will hold for us. Our life of being nomads is not over yet.

Chris has been working on his dissertation. The translating of French and Latin was very slow going, but now he's writing away and working on being finished by December. He will be giving a talk at a history conference in September in NY, and so we are looking forward to a road trip.

Not much to report otherwise. The hot, humid summer has kept us indoors mostly and we are desperately looking forward to cooler Fall weather. It will be so nice to hike again without sweating like crazy and becoming mosquito food.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Planning for the future

I've been hinting on Facebook on what I have been up to lately. I figured it was time for a blog post to let everyone know what I have been planning.

I have been talking to the wonderful ladies at the Bloomington Area Birth Services group about ways to get involved. I signed up as a volunteer, and I also talked to them about things I could teach there. I'm in the process of creating a Reiki class for pregnancy and birth as well as Reiki training for health care providers.

Another program I'm working on is relaxation for childbirth. Teaching women techniques to help them get out of their mind, and into their birthing bodies so they can have more comfortable, relaxed birth experiences.

On top of that, I have decided to further my education and to get a Diploma of childbirth education with Childbirth International, and also to do their Breastfeeding Counselor training. While I have the time this year, I decided it was good to expand my knowledge and skills and to aquire some education that will allow me to work here in Indiana (since I'm unable to do hypnosis related work). I started the programs today and am very happy with it so far. My goal is to be finished in 6 months or less so that I can start teaching childbirth classes again and to help women with breastfeeding.

Taking care of Grandma's things

It's hard to believe that Grandma's house is now sold and that all of her things have been taken care of. It was a difficult process, but we all worked together to make it through.

We had a garage sale on Friday. Chris & I had been going down to Salem to help Mom organize and price things for the sale. We decided to go down the Wed before to get tables from a church and to help set up. I was quite surprised that we had people show up Thurs night while setting up! We sold quite a lot before the sale even began on Friday. Mom had also sold a lot of furniture the weekend before to the neighbor across the street.

Friday was a VERY cold day for a garage sale. The sale was to begin at 9am, so we got to Grandma's house at 8:45am to get ready to open. When we pulled into the driveway, the place was empty. Mom thought that maybe the weather would keep people from coming. However, before we could all get out of the car and close the doors, a flood of people showed up in front of, and behind, Grandma's. We had people lined up at the doors!

The first 1/2 hour of the yard sale flew by! It was really amazing how much we sold in such a short amount of time. When we looked at our watches to see the time, we really had expected it to be closer to noon. We were shocked that it was only 9:30am and we still had the whole day ahead of us.

People came in waves all day long. We huddled around a small ceramic heater to keep warm.

We pretty much sold out by 4pm. We had a few items left to take to Goodwill and the local shelter, and the people buying the house bought the rest of the furniture from us.

It was a very successful day. We were very happy to not have to do a 2nd day of it!

Mom handed over the keys to the new owners on Sunday. They are so happy with the house. I really think they will take good care of it.

I'm still going through Grandma's pictures and scanning them. If you haven't seen the links on Facebook yet, send me an email and I'll send you the links. There are a lot of goodies in there!

It's still so weird thinking that I will not be going to Grandma's house again. To see it empty was very strange, considering she has lived there my whole life.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Ryan & Michelle's Wedding Weekend

This weekend was, simply put, wonderful. It began with Ryan's bachelor party on Thursday night. Yes, I was invited and I was the only girl there. :)

Chris & I drove up to Ryan & Michelle's apartment to drop of their wedding gifts, and to get Ryan ready for the night. Michelle and I had him dress up in pimp garb for the evening. Alex was already there at Ryan's. We met up with Scott (Michelle's brother), Dad, and Nick Sakura, a a sushi restaurant in Indianapolis for dinner. After dinner, we went to Nicky Blaine's, a bar in downtown Indy. We had a great time together! Chris & I cut out early so we could drive back to Bloomington, and the guys went out for the rest of the evening.

Friday was the rehearsal and dinner. We had to do the rehearsal in one hour because there was to be a wedding right at 5pm. We ran through the routines as quickly as possible. I never imagined there would be so much to do for a Catholic service!

For the rehearsal dinner, we went to Sahm's restuarant just around the corner in downtown Indy. They had a room set up just for us. The food was very good and we enjoyed the time together. Weston, my 2 1/2 year old nephew, had so much fun running around and getting attention from everyone.

After dinner, we went back to the Garrison (where we were staying) and went over to Uncle Steve & Aunt Sue's room for games and drinks. It was so nice seeing the family from CA and WI. The last time I had seen everyone together was years ago at Grandpa George's funeral. We had a great time playing B.S. and poker. Some of us, Mom and I included, had to learn how to play Texas holdem. It was kind of crazy playing poker with 10 people!

Saturday, September 19th was the big day for Ryan & Michelle. Ryan had stayed with us at the room, and Michelle had stayed the night with her parents. We got up early and Ryan, Mom, Chris & I went over to Steve & Sue's for pancakes, courtesy of Uncle Steve. Then it was time to get ready for the wedding.

Alex came over to the room and helped Ryan and Chris get their tuxes on. We all got ready and drove to the church early. The wedding planner at the church filled us in with last minute details, and then it was time for photographs. Guests started arriving, and my job was to pass out the programs.

The ceremony itself was about an hour long. I did a reading along with one of the bridesmaids and one of Michelle's aunts. The sermon was kind of a blur to me, because I kept looking over at Ryan & Michelle and smiling at them. They looked so happy, and in love. Both were just picture perfect in their wedding attire. Michelle looked like the perfect wedding Barbie doll, and Ryan was very handsome in his tux.

After the wedding, there was more pictures, and chatting, then the bridal party took off in a party van to go take pictures around downtown, while the rest of us went back to the Garrison for cocktail hour.

The reception was perfect. The bridal party's entrance was hilarious. Michelle, Ryan, Chris & I had thought about different ways for them to enter the room. Here is a video of the entrance.

While we ate the delicious dinner, we watched a slide show that Michelle had created of pictures of the two of them growing up.

Ryan & Michelle did their first dance, which they had prepared at dance lessons with her parents. Then there was the father-daughter dance, mother-son dance, and the speeches. The speeches that Alex (best man) and Meredith (Maid of Honor) gave were so nice. Here is a video snipet of the first dance...

The rest of the evening was spent dancing, socializing, and having a blast. The party wasn't over until after 11pm.

The next day, we got up early and met some of our family at IHOP for breakfast. Then it was time to say our goodbyes and promise to reconnect soon. I'm thinking there will be a McCracken reunion in the works very soon!

PICTURES of the weekend can be found below.

Bachelor Party



Tuesday, September 8, 2009

September Updates

Ah, September is here....low 70's...rainy, milder days, the feeling that Fall is just around the corner. We are all moved in to our apartment here in Bloomington, and are feeling more "settled".

Everything is unpacked and put away, and we are now in the decorating phase of the process. Carolyn is making valances for us and pillow covers, Ryan & Mom put up a curtain rod the other day, and I've been getting pictures printed and framed for the walls and shelves. We are feeling more at home now.

We have become good friends with our maintenance guy. He fixed our leaky sink, helped us hammer down carpet tacks, and checked on our drippy A/C today. We also had a major disaster with our washing machine overflowing the other day and causing damage to the apt below. Luckily, the damage was a minor bill on our part, and we ended up having to get a new washer. We shopped, and shopped, and eventually purchased a Whirlpool Cabrio 5 cu. ft. top loader. So far, VERY happy with it.

We are enjoying being back in B-town. About once a week, we hang out with my good friend, Jeremiah, who I have known since High School. We have frequented some of our favorite restaurants, and tried a few new one's as well. Last night, we went to Japanae with Jeremiah, and had sushi that was quite good, for IN sushi. Chris has been working on his research and I have been running errands, grocery shopping, going to the recylcing center once a week, and taking care of the house. Today has been the first day I have had time to sit down and knit!

Lately, we have been getting two questions from others, that I feel like I should address here on the blog...get the info out to everyone right here...right now.

The first question is "Kat, are you going to get a job?" or put another way "What are you going to do this year?" Since I'm unable to do hypnosis here in IN, that eliminates my career, basically. I've been too busy with the move and getting settled that I haven't really put too much thought into this. I did email someone today at the Bloomington Birth Services group and will be meeting with the owner next week to see if she has anything I could do for her. I may explore some other options, maybe teach a Reiki class or something as well. I'm not too concerned about it as we are focused on other things this month. Ryan (my younger brother) is getting married next week. Our main focus, though, brings me to the second question we get asked often....

"Are you two trying for a baby right now?"

Hmmm....Chris and I have talked about this and have come to the conclusion that when people ask us, what they are really saying is...

"So, are you guys having unprotected sex right now in order to procreate?"

Isn't it odd, how talking to someone about their sex life is usually taboo, but when it comes to talking about baby-making, everyone wants to know if you are having lots of sex? Chris & I find this to be so strange!

Chris was joking today that he is going to start giving very detailed answers to that question when someone brings it up....just to forewarn those of you who have yet to ask us and may do so after reading this post. :)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Move is over

I've been so busy, I haven't had time to post about our BIG move. Chris, David, and I flew to NYC on August 5th. We took a taxi to the Penske truck rental place; which was an adventure in and of itself since the driver did not know his way around the South Bronx. We got the truck, which only had 2 seats in the front, so I had to sit on the floor in between the seats on the way over to the storage facility.

Our friend Nate met us at the storage place to help us load up the truck. The movers had not packed the room well, so some of our wedding dishes were smashed, furniture scraped up, and boxes destroyed. It was not fun unpacking the room and taking everything downstairs to the truck, but at least there was an elevator to use.

After a few hours, we realized that the truck was not going to hold all of our things! It was too late to go back and get a larger truck, and we were getting closer to the time the storage facility would close for the day...so we just had to figure out what had to go in the truck and what would be left behind. One of the guys working at the place said he would take what we left behind...which ended up being a futon that I had since college, a rather nice bookshelf, a filing cabinet, a papasan chair with ottoman, a second ottoman, 2 office chairs, a buffet and hutch, and a few other items. I was SO upset about leaving some really nice things behind...about $500 worth! We did what we could, and I guess in the end, it was good that someone benefitted from our things instead of it getting thrown in a dumpster.

David and Chris drove the Penske truck back to Indiana, which was about a 14 hour drive. I stayed the night with my friend, Nancy, and we had a great time going out for sushi and drinks. I flew back to IN the next day by myself.

On Friday, Aug 7th, we loaded up some furniture that I had at my Mom's house and at my Grandma's house, and got ready for our next part of the move....heading up to Bloomington. We actually rented a U-Haul truck to use since we couldn't fit more into the Penske truck.

On Saturday, Mom drove the U-Haul and I rode with her, David drove the Penske truck, and Carolyn drove the SUV with Chris in tow. We hired two moving guys to unload everything, which was worth every penny! Those guys were great! They unloaded everything in under an hour and a half. We didn't have to wear ourselves out with lugging things up and down the one flight of stairs that we have.

We have been slowly unpacking and settling back into life here in Bloomington. Some things have changed, and other things have stayed the same. It's comforting knowing where to go around the city, and not having to learn where to go for groceries and other items. We are not the only Prius owners here, which is great. :) We passed 10 Prius yesterday while we were out and about! Bloomington is such a great city, and we are enjoying being back. We joined the local Co-op and are reconnecting with friends in the area.

Michelle, Ryan's fiance, has been living with us the last two weeks while waiting for their apartment to open up this weekend. It's been nice having the opportunity to get to know her better before the wedding next month.

Oreo is settling in a bit, but not sure why Michelle is here. He's not too keen on having a roommate. :)

Our apartment is not entirely unpacked, but almost there. I will be posting some up to date photos soon! We love our new place. It's HUGE, and the grounds are very nice and green. It has the feel of being in NH with all the trees, the ponds right outside, and the buildings remind us of our friend's condo. We have been to the pool once so far, and plan on going to the gym soon. We have two pools and two gyms on the grounds, plus a walking path and other ammenities. The place is so much nicer than other places we have lived here in the states.

Check out our photos HERE