Protect Your Kids Online

Posted: January 17, 2010 by jgrantmarshall in Uncategorized

Today, I happily stumbled across some free software that I am really excited about. It is called “Family Safety” and it is part of the free Windows Live suite. (As a side note, I have previously used Photo Gallery, also part of the same suite, and love it!) Family Safety, as it is aptly named, is a website filter that keeps your kids from inappropriate websites. As the parent, you get to set how strict you want the filter to be. For instance, I locked it down to pre-approved kid friendly sites, but anything else has to be approved by me. When your child hits a non-approved site, an alert tells them that it must first be approved and they have the option for the program to email an adult for authorization later or to authorize right now if the adult is present. The adult authorizes by either receiving the email at a Hotmail address or by entering in their Windows Live ID credentials (used for Hotmail, XBox360, etc.). The great thing is that this can all be administered over the web and the settings can remain the same for ALL machines that your child has access to!

If you are interested in more information or to download for yourself, here is a link to get you started:


Tiger Cubs Hike Mt. Pisgah

Posted: October 10, 2009 by jgrantmarshall in Uncategorized

Last Saturday, we beat the odds and didn’t get rained on (much) for our 1st hike with the Tiger Cubs!

Creamy Tomato & Basil Soup

Posted: October 4, 2009 by jgrantmarshall in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

Tonight I used up some of the tomatoes and basil that we have left in the garden by following this recipe:,1818,152172-237207,00.html

I followed the microwave instructions because… well, I’m a guy and a fan of the microwave!

I first chopped the tomatoes (about 2 lbs) and put them in a microwave safe bowl. Natalie harvested some basil (about 1/2 cup) and I put about 1/4 cup in with the tomatoes. I also added 2Tbs of olive oil and some minced garlic because garlic, like cheddar, makes everything better. I heated this, covered, in the mic for 10:30 and stirred it 3x.

While waiting, I stirred 1/2 cup of chicken broth into 1/2 cup of whole milk because we had whole milk and not heavy cream like the recipe called. I would do the whole milk or possibly even 1% next time because it was still creamy and good.

When the tomato mixture was finished in the mic, I poured everything in to the blender until it was evenly mixed. Lastly, I heated the soup one more time in the microwave to the desired serving temperature.

I added grated parmesan and a bit of fresh basil to top off each serving.

More of Allie Walking

Posted: September 5, 2009 by jgrantmarshall in Uncategorized

Day 6: Cruising Home

Posted: August 31, 2009 by jgrantmarshall in Uncategorized

Today, being a day at sea, has been much more relaxing. Thankfully! I was able to sleep in a bit, but nowhere near as long as Nat, who slept until at least 1100. While she was sleeping, I ate breakfast, shot baskets at the basketball court, climbed the rock wall, went swimming and sat in the sun. I actually sat out a bit too long and will be bringing a sun burn home as a souvenir. 😦 On the rock wall, I found the light blue course to be a bit much for me so I did the yellow course twice.

We ate lunch in the main dining room and it was a nice change from the Windjammer. To start, we each had a salad prepared to our liking from the salad bar. Mine had fresh greens, egg, shrimp, salmon, asparagus, cucumber, tomato and the list goes on… My main dish was a Morroccan-style pita.

After lunch, we strolled around the ship. We watched the Ms. Biceps Competition while sampling a frozen yogurt on the pool deck. We also caught up on some more shopping… er, we being Natalie, but I’m sure you knew that already, huh?

Oh, in the last post I may have been writing about "The Quest" game show that we were about to head to. It ended up being a lot of fun! What The Quest is is a competition where the audience is split up into 10 teams and the teams are given a task/mission to complete in the fastest time and points are awarded with the fastest the most and the slowest the least. Some of the tasks were to have a woman give a man a piggyback ride, to come to the front with 5 ladies bras and to have 2 men imitating their favorite sexual position (together… & it was funnier when you were there). Our team won the competition!

Tonight, we have two shows to go to, dinner and perhaps dancing on the pool deck at 2330. We’re gonna be busy!

Day 7: It’s Been a Lovely Cruise

Posted: August 31, 2009 by jgrantmarshall in Uncategorized

Our cruise is quickly coming to an end and the real world has been looming over us today. On the one hand, we can’t wait to see the kids tomorrow, but on the other there sure are a lot of things that will need to be done when we get home. We have filled the day, though, with as much fun as we could and were also able to keep it relaxed.

This morning, we took a dip in the Solarium hot tub and afterward we hit the back sports deck. We started our sports off with mini-golf and again Natalie beat me. The wind on the course was an ever present obstacle that got the better of me on nearly every hole. Next up, I shot some hoops for a few minutes. Lastly, we played ping pong. I couldn’t remember the specifics of the rules, so we mostly just hit the ball back and forth.

We had lunch again in the main dining room. The salad there just might be my favorite meal that I have had. In case I didn’t write about it before, the staff stands behind the salad bar and puts all of the ingredients that you choose into a big metal bowl. You can choose the greens, cheese, meats, etc. and when finished they cut it all up in the bowl using what looks like a pizza cutter. For me, I have found that I have gotten a bit particular about what I eat and it is nice to be able to have it how I REALLY want it. Obviously, I have eaten very well all trip long but I have also felt a bit guilty when I eat how I normally haven’t been lately. (Not real guilty, though, because I am about to go find dessert #2 in the Cafe Promenade.) Our tablemates at lunch were a nice family from Southern California (& they spoke English). We had a nice time chatting with them. Actually, we have met a bunch of really cool people on the cruise like the newlyweds that we have shared our dinner table with and the couple from New Zealand that we shared the cab with in Mazatlan. Today, the cruise director, Dave Chapman, said that we have over 4,500 passengers from 67 countries on the ship right now. It is amazing to me that things go as smoothly as they do… & how they plan or even store that much food I will never know.

For the rest of the afternoon, we each relaxed and read books. I went up to the pool deck and froze… I used a towel as a blanket instead of something to dry off with. While up there I was treated again to the Caribbean band, Mega 4. I love the steal drum, it sounds like vacation to me.

We had the table to ourselves again for dinner… go figure, it is also the day to pay gratuities to the wait staff. HMMMMM. I do have to say, that if you have never been on a cruise, that you need to go (on Royal Caribbean, of course 😉 ) just to experience the pampering offered at mealtime. It is like nothing I have ever experienced. Our head waiter, Rodulfo (Rudy), from the Philippines, and our assistant waiter, Laurentiu, from Romania, were masters at reading what was wanted before you knew you wanted it. Natalie didn’t even have to say anything when she found that she just couldn’t eat the lamb that she had ordered but Rudy noticed and traded out her meal right away. I have no idea what kind of training these guys go through but I do not think any waiter anywhere could be more polished than the Royal Caribbean wait staff.

After dinner, we went to the farewell show and were entertained again by the juggler, Steve Carte. His comedy and juggling were just as good the second time around. I might have to see if he has anything up on YouTube.

Well, I am running out of things to say, Natalie is running out of items to pack and as Jimmy Buffett said, "It’s been a lovely cruise!" (Yes, I have been waiting this whole trip to say that!)

Day 5: Puerto Vallarta

Posted: August 28, 2009 by jgrantmarshall in Uncategorized


Port days are just crazy. The day starts out rushed, waking up early, and go-go-going all day long until you collapse at the end in a tired, worn out pile. We are both very glad tomorrow is a sea day so we can go at a more relaxed pace and get the rest that hasn’t happened, yet.

Today, I slept in a little bit but not as much as Natalie. While she slept, the ship docked and I went out exploring for an hour. I found a great stretch of beach that was literally a stones throw from the ship… if you can throw a long way. There were various beach resorts and hundreds of palapas to sit under. I walked about a quarter of a mile and stopped at a resort called Krystal (I think) because it had a very nice pool and lounge area. There was a pool bar, a number of bridges and a great view of the ocean. It would have been a great place to spend the day, but I needed to get back to meet Nat at the ship. On my return, I stumbled on a newly hatched sea turtle. The shells of his brothers and sisters all appeared to have been hatched previously and they were gone. I watched him for awhile before continuing back.

When Natalie was ready, we did a little bit of shopping near the dock. As we started the search for a taxi to the Malecon, we stopped or were stopped by a lady offering massages. We turned down the massage deal, but she gave us the insider tip to take the bus downtown instead of a taxi because it would only cost 50 cents apiece. The bus ride was a fun adventure and I only thought we might die twice. Not entirely kidding.

Downtown Puerto Vallarta was fun and there was loads to see and do. Just like the previous two stops, there simply is not enough time to properly visit the port city and we felt rushed to see the basics. Looking back on it, next time it may be better to just focus on one thing, say just go shopping or just do water sports or just go sight seeing and forget about trying to do anything else. Even as I write that, though, I know that isn’t right either. Not enough time in port is probably the only thing I dislike about cruising. Today was hot and humid again, so shopping was a pretty sweaty affair. I had to stop for beer a couple of times and wait in the shade while Natalie visited the shops. While waiting, I met a Canadian ex-pat who had retired down there and we talked for probably 15 minutes. He said what I would say when his friends ask him what he does to stay busy in PV, he said, "Whatever the hell I want to do!" …& that, in a nutshell, is exactly why you go to Mexico. We saw and took pictures of the famous statues lining the Malecon and one of them counts as a Geocache (the only one I was able to do). We also walked up to the cathedral of our lady of Guadalupe. I say "walked up" because the city rises straight back into the surrounding hills/mountains from the beach. The only level spot is the beach. We did not do any swimming in that area because it is now the rainy season and there are about a dozen rivers draining muddy water into the bay, so the water looked more like chocolate milk.

We called it a day a little early and went back to the ship and ate a late lunch at Johnny Rockets, which is a 50’s-style burger joint on deck 12. On a side note, we spotted a Johnny Rockets on the marina in Cabo, too. Anyway, this was our first experience and it was a fun one! We each had a load of fries and onion rings to start, followed by a Double Rocket (2x 1/3 pound patty and Tillamook cheese) and finished with an Oreo sundae. The service, as has always been the case on the cruise, was perfect. When we started getting close to finished with our fries, the waiter took away our "cold" plate of fries and gave us more "hot" fries. The staff even cranked up the tunes and danced along with "Twist".

This evening we have played shuffleboard, watched a magic show, eaten a late dinner at the Windjammer and are about to go to the Quest show. I don’t know what the show is about but we keep being told it is not to be missed for adults. After that is Awesome 80’s night in the Dragon’s Lair dance club.

Good night, All!