Crockpot Barbecue Pulled Pork Sandwiches and Soup

the broth used to cook the pork roast in makes great soup

Pulled Pork Sandwich and Soup

Crockpot Barbecue Pulled Pork Sandwiches and Soup

Pulled Pork Sandwich


Pork roast

other serving options include regular or gluten free hamburger buns

Barbecue Pulled Pork Sandwich on Sourdough Hoagie Roll


1 Onion

Barbecue sauce



Buns or rolls


getting ready to cook pork roast in crock pot

onions on top uncooked pork roast in crock pot

Put 1 cup water in the crock pot, turn onto high.  Take several slices of the onion, and separating the rings spread it over the bottom of the crock pot.  Sprinkle in desired seasoning. I use a few shakes of Mrs. Dash.  Place Pork Roast on top of onions.    Slice rest of onion and separating the rings spread onion over the top and around the sides of the roast.  Add water to top of roast.

Cook on high for 4-6 hours, or low for 8-12.

Take roast and onions out of crockpot when meat is cooked through and easily shredded with a fork or pulled apart by hand.  Pour liquid from crock pot into a large saucepan or small soup pot.  If using a very thick barbecue sauce, keep a bit of the liquid in the crockpot. Shred the meat and break rings of onion into strips. Return most of the meat and onions to crock pot, but set some aside for the soup.  Stir barbecue sauce into the crockpot until it reaches your desired ratio of meat to sauce.  Cook on high 1/2 – 1 hour or until heated through.

Serve on sandwich rolls or hamburger buns of choice.

pulled pork, yum

cooked pork in the crock pot, shredded and with barbecue sauce added

In a family full of people on special diets, my hypoglycemic daughter has informed me that of all breads, sourdough raises the glycemic index the least (less even than whole grains.)   She can not tolerate any other white bread.  One of my gluten free sisters who can sometimes tolerate a bit of straying from her diet said sourdough is the easiest regular bread for her to handle, more so than plain white (which is the only other regular bread she can occasionally eat as she can’t tolerate the whole grain breads at all.)   So sourdough buns may be a good choice when feeding a variety of people!

use the leftover liquid from cooking the roast to make soup

pulled pork soup cooking in a saucepan

Pulled Pork Soup

Put the reserved meat and onions that didn’t go back in the crock pot into the soup broth drained from the crock pot . Season as desired.  Add some vegetables and bring to a boil.  Stir in some noodles and when the noodles are soft and the veggies cooked you have homemade soup to go with the sandwiches.  Rice or a can of black beans or pinto beans or something similar are other options instead of noodles.

I added mixed Mrs. Dash and lavender pepper for the seasonings, and mixed vegetables and gluten free noodles to my soup, but you can add whatever you like to yours.  The noodles will soak up some of the broth so try not to add too many.  If it gets too low you can add water and if needed a bit of chicken or beef bouillon.  If your roast had a lot of fat on it you may want to chill the broth and skim the fat off the top before making it into soup.

making soup & sandwiches

pulled pork soup

copyright My Cruise Stories 2015
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Seattle Great Wheel

cruise ships docked in Seattle

Royal Caribbean and Celebrity cruise ships in Seattle

All summer long Alaska-bound cruise ships come and go through the Port of Seattle.  For passengers with a bit of time before or after a cruise, Seattle’s waterfront area offers quite a variety of things to do.

Seattle seascape

Seattle waterfront with the Great Wheel in the distance

Walking along the Seattle waterfront, the Great Wheel ferris wheel, one of Seattle’s newest attractions, is not hard to find.  Rising high above pretty much everything else on the waterfront, just walk in the right direction and there it is on pier 57.  Pier 57 also hosts Miner’s Landing, which has shops, food, and an arcade with an indoor carousel.  For reference, cruise ships load mainly at pier 91, and sometimes at pier 66.

Seattle ferries

Seattle Ferries cross Puget Sound to Bremerton or Bainbridge Island

The Seattle Aquarium is on pier 59, and the Seattle ferries at piers 50 and 52.  Pier 67 hosts the over-water Edgewater Hotel, and at Pier 69 people catch the Victoria Clipper for visits to Canada’s Victoria B.C. on Vancouver Island.

Seattle ferris wheel

looking up at the great wheel

Pier 70 is where MTV’s The Real World Seattle filmed in 1998.  Pier 86 is currently a public fishing pier.  Some piers remain in commercial use and some no longer exist, but many piers hold shops, restaurants, and other tourist attractions.

riding Seattle's waterfront ferris wheel

Seattle through the Great Wheel

On a random visit to Seattle with my aunt and sister, we took a ride on the great wheel.  There’s quite a lot to see as you rise above the pier.  You can see the tall buildings of downtown Seattle, the Space Needle, the nearby container port and many other waterfront piers.  The view changes by the second depending on which direction you look and where you are on the wheel.

waterfront piers

Pier view from the Great Wheel

Ferries and harbor cruise ships cruise in and out of view, as well as any other boats in the area.  Some days you can see cruise ships at the dock.   Whatever else might be in the area at the time changes as things come and go.

pier 66 Seattle

tall ship at the dock

We happened to see a tall ship at nearby pier 66.  From the wheel we could see people walking about on the deck of the ship.  Figuring we had nothing to lose we walked over there after our ride ended.  At first it looked as if we would not get in as a fence blocked the entrance to the pier, marked with a sign that said not to pass through the gate.  A sailor stood nearby so my sister asked if people could tour the ship, and he said yes, and for free.  My favorite price.

sailing ship from Mexico

on board the tall ship “Cuauhtemoc”

The ship belonged to the Mexican navy, a training ship for them.  Curiously, one of the many flags it had flying was from Washington State University.  We did not find anyone on board who spoke English well enough to ask them about it.  We did find out after rephrasing the question in several different ways that it had stopped in Seattle for just a few days so we lucked out getting to see the ship.  It just goes to show you never know what unexpected things you might happen across in your travels.

that's a lot of sails

plaque on the tall ship shows what it looks like with the sails up

copyright My Cruise Stories 2015
Posted in Port Cities, Washington | Tagged , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Orcas Island

cruising the San Juan Islands

Wilderness Adventurer in Eastsound

One morning on the Wilderness Adventurer from Un-Cruise Adventures started at anchor near Orcas Island in Washington State’s San Juan Islands.  Orcas is one of the few islands in the San Juan Island chain serviced by the Washington State Ferries.  After another fantastic breakfast people grouped up according to their chosen activity. Skiffs brought passengers to the dock near Rosario Resort where everyone hiked up a very long dock to a parking lot with vans waiting for the trip to Moran State Park.

resort on Orcas Island

Rosario Resort

Options for the day included a steep hike to the top of Mount Constitution, a hike around a lake with a van ride to the top of Mount Constitution, or a van trip to the top of Mount Constitution with optional short hike to a waterfall along the way. Or in other words, arrive at the top of Mount Constitution the hard way, the easy way, or somewhere in between.

on a nicer day there would be a better view

view from the top of the stone tower on the top of Mt. Constitution

We chose somewhere in between, the 4-mile lake hike. The trail circled around a beautiful green lake with some ups and downs in the terrain, but nothing like the steep incline of the uphill hike option. We heard frogs and woodpeckers and saw a number of trees and stumps riddled with woodpecker holes, but did not actually see any woodpeckers or frogs. I did see a spider scurrying across a single strand of web above the trail though.


big old trees

The mainly second growth trees had patches of old growth mingled in. Old growth trees in these rocky islands often do not grow to the large impressive mass people normally imagine when thinking of old growth.

shallow root system

root ball of fallen tree

They do their best to cling to a thin layer of dirt on a rock without getting blown over in a storm. Most of the trees consisted of cedar, spruce, or hemlock, but some areas had shore pines as well. Shore pines found clinging to the rocky edges of islands in the San Juans look small and often twisted, but the same tree in better growing conditions can become tall, straight, and as large as any other inland evergreen tree.

trails and trees

the trail took us under a fallen giant

Huckleberry bushes grew along the edges of the trails in some places. Wild Washington huckleberry bushes have little round leaves, and when in season, tiny red berries. Wild strawberry plants, Oregon grape, nettles, or other vegetation grew alongside other trails. Luckily ferns often grow near nettles which can come in quite handy as fern juice can ease nettle stings.

early season nettle

young nettle

Nettles do have their uses. Some people harvest young nettle leaves to cook like spinach or to dry for making tea. Nettle tea is said to help lessen the affects of allergies to things like pollen. If you pick a nettle leaf with your fingerpads on the top and bottom of the leaf without touching the pointy sides you can harvest it without getting stung. As kids my sister and I tested that theory at summer camp where we picked many nettle leaves to scare the mean girls who mercilessly picked on one of the other girls at the camp. We never got stung. Fortunately we had no luck catching a wild mouse we found at the camp one day since it likely would have bitten somebody.

emerald green lake

the camera could not capture the almost magical beauty of this view

In some places along the hike we just saw forest, others revealed views of the lake. In one spot the lake water appeared almost luminescent emerald green. Unfortunately the camera did not catch the ethereal beauty of the scene.

forest bridge

big bridge on the trail

Along the way the trail crossed over a number of wooden bridges mainly over small forest streams. Bridges big and small all kept our feet dry as we passed above the water. A full loop around the trail brought us back to the van for the trip to the top of the mountain.

forest bridge

passengers crossing a small bridge on the trail

It was rather windy up there, but the summit had some impressive views of Puget Sound and nearby islands. A castle turret-like old stone tower gave us an opportunity to climb up even higher for views above all of the area’s trees.

Orcas Island

stone tower on the top of Mount Constitution

Little rooms alongside the tower stairway gave the history of the life of Robert Moran, who donated the land for the park and paid for some of the roads and bridges running through it. His estate is now the privately run Rosario Resort where our skiffs landed.

Washington State Parks

inside the stone tower

Robert Moran had an interesting life.  He came to the frontier town of Seattle in 1875 at 18 years old, alone with no money.  He worked his way up from a steamboat worker to a shipbuilder, sending for his family along the way when he could afford it.  At 31 he served two terms as Seattle’s mayor, during which time the great Seattle fire destroyed much of the town.  He was instrumental in rebuilding it.  In 1905, just one year after completing the only battleship ever built in Washington, ill health sent him to Orcas Island in retirement, where he lived much longer than he would have dealing with the stress of his life in Seattle.

on top of Mount Constitution

some passengers have a picnic with a view

We enjoyed a picnic lunch at the top of the mountain, which the ship’s crew had made for us before we left the ship that morning. The vans then brought us to the town of Eastsound at the end of the waterway called Eastsound to catch our skiffs as the ship had moved while we were away. It started to rain and the wind kicked up. We boarded the skiffs from a rocking dock and the skilled crew brought everyone safely back to the ship through the pounding waves.

Orcas Island

skiff picked up passengers at the public dock at Eastsound

After waiting out the weather a bit the captain gave the OK for anyone who wished to take a skiff back to Eastsound to explore if they should so desire, but nobody did. Instead of the scheduled brewery tour in Eastsound, people from the brewery roughed waves and weather to come to the ship bringing along beer for passengers to taste. On cruises you have to be flexible and sometimes it’s better to go with plan B – even if that plan was hastily made up on the spur of the moment.  It was a beer cruise so we had a lot of beer lovers onboard who appreciated and enjoyed the samplings from Island Hoppin Brewery.

orcas island map

map of Orcas Island courtesy of GVP books

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2015
Posted in Un-Cruise Adventures, Washington, Wilderness Adventurer | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Quest for a Ship On A Stick

cruise ship in port

Carnival Splendor

Cruise ships plan entertainment each day, which passengers can participate in if they choose. They all have a daily paper delivered each evening with the next day’s activities. On Carnival they call it the Fun Times. Winners of various competitions throughout the cruise are sometimes awarded the much coveted ship on a stick.  I had heard of these ship-shaped trophies, but never actually seen one.  Before this cruise we had never participated in any activity which offered such a wonderous prize. Tina looked through the daily schedules for things to do because we had to find something to entertain 12-year-old Justin for part of the day or he would spend the entire time on board sliding down the waterslide, which would probably result in one heck of a sunburn.

cruise ship prize winners

winners of the scavenger hunt

On the first sea day we tried out a scavenger hunt. We got quite a few items, but the other teams had more. One team had them all and they won a ship on a stick.  Our first glimpse of this much talked about trophy.  Now that we had seen it we wanted one too.  What sort of mystic spell does this gold colored plastic ship cast that once people lay eyes on one they will go to great lengths to have it?  We got medals for participation even though we came in last place.  The medals are actually metal and of better quality than the trophy yet something that easy to get does not carry the importance of something you have to earn.  Perhaps if the medals were not given out so freely they would mean more.

win this

Carnival Medal

Later we tried Win Lose or Draw.  It came out in a draw.  They divided all the participants into two teams.   The game started with each team making a list of things for the other team to draw.  Then the girl who ran the games picked something from one team’s list for one of them to draw while the others guessed within a time limit.  When they finished the other team got a turn.  At the end of the game both teams had the same number of points so each team received one medal.  No ship on a stick for anyone and the team members had to decide which person got to keep the medal.  Maybe it’s just me, but it seems that giving medals to less teams in the scavenger hunt and having one for each person on the winning team (if they’d had one) for this game might have made a bit more sense.  Then again perhaps they do give the entire team medals should one team actually win.  I’ve only played that game the once so I really don’t know.

games on a cruise ship

John draws the picture for win lose or draw

Most onboard trivia games are short, individual, and one set of questions on a particular topic and then done.  We went to one called Super Duper Trivia.  This game had teams of 2-10 people.  They say more is better, which to some extent is true because of more brains to come up with answers, but it also means more chances to make the wrong choice when faced with multiple suggestions.  We grouped up with the people around us. Every team had to name themselves so I suggested Random People since our team was composed of all the random people sitting in the same area. One of the other people wanted it to be Brilliant People instead so the team went with that and in doing so probably cursed ourselves to be anything but.

Each team rolled a giant die first for the subject of the question and then again for the number points a correct answer would score. If they got the question wrong the next team could steal if they came up with the right answer.  If not that question died and did not pass on to a third team.  If it had things might have gone differently in the end as we knew the answers to several questions that we never had a chance to answer when two other teams could not.

competition on a cruise ship

Justin rolls the giant die

Justin became our official team roller. He rolled 6 for the points and we got the question right, starting the game with a lead since we were first to go. Nobody else got 6 points of their own the first round, but one team missed their question giving the team after them a chance to steal, which they did.  The team that stole that question got their own question right and jumped into the lead. They got another steal or two in later rounds as well which put them well ahead of everyone else.

Meanwhile we had no opportunities to steal and missed a couple of our own questions so though they would not say who had what for points or where each team stood we knew we were nowhere near the top of the pile.

When time ended for that day they said we had to come back for part 2 the next sea day.  About half of the people from the first day’s team showed up for the finale, everyone wearing some sort of Carnival swag as it was worth 10 points if everyone on the team had some.   At least some of the people from each team came back so we did not move up in the ranks due to any whole team not returning.  We wore the medals from the scavenger hunt for our swag and the other 2 returners on our team each had a ship-on-a-stick tucked into a front pocket of front of their shirt, won in a ping-pong tournament.

The rest of the teams had Carnival swag as well, ranging from t-shirts bought in the ship’s gift shop to the beach towels or bathrobes from their staterooms or the pins given by Carnival to returning guests of gold rank or higher.  (Every cruise line has some sort of loyalty program for returning guests.  More cruises means a higher ranking and better perks.)

carnival games

the girl running the trivia game

The schedule in the fun times did not say the trivia game that day was a continuation of a previous game so some new people showed up.  The newcomers banded together forming their own team called a song and a prayer as that’s about all the chance they had of winning.

All through the second day we were cursed with low rolls for the points, though we did get all but one question right and even managed a steal.  Justin knew the answer to one question when nobody else did.  One of the questions asked where to find Mount Olympus.  Though we gave Greece knowing they wanted that answer I did add in that Washington State has one as well.  The girl in charge looked skeptical and said she’d have to look that up sometime.  At the end of the game she listed off the team scores, last to first. The new team came in dead last. We were second to last. The team with the early lead continued their lucky streak of points and steals throughout the game and took first.

She had a number of prizes from ships on a stick to medals to champagne and chocolate covered strawberries to award. Everyone kind of thought she’d give something to the first place team and then work down from there awarding something to second and maybe at least third, but no, she gave all the loot to first. Did one team really need both medals and ships on a stick for the same game? Yeah, she probably should have at least given the medals to second place even if first got everything else. (We were 5th and expected exactly what we got – nothing.)  Perhaps that scavenger hunt just left me with a biased opinion of the medals and they aren’t as easy to get as I initially thought.

Another time we tried a trivia game at the Red Frog Pub, which also had groups, but just the people you came with.  Games in the Red Frog must be really popular because more people showed up than they had chairs in the room.  We didn’t win that one either, but I don’t think the prize was a ship on a stick anyway.

cruise ship trophy

Finally my very own ship on a stick!

On Grand Turk day I noticed they had Harry Potter trivia that afternoon and since Justin and I got back from the beach in time we decided to play since I thought I’d have a good chance there.  He just came along for something to do.  Each person got a pencil and a paper numbered 1-20 with a line for each answer. After asking 20 questions and saying the participants would have to help with pronunciation of the answers as she had never read the books or seen the movies, the girl from Carnival went through the list of questions while whoever got them right (or thought they did) shouted out the answers.

cruise ship prizes

Justin poses with the loot – and a towel animal

Justin’s paper was blank as he had neither read the books nor seen the movies and knew none of the answers at all. I thought I’d get everything since I have read all the books, but could not on the spot remember things like Mad-Eye Moody’s first name.  Apparently nobody else could remember every obscure tidbit she asked either.  I was the only one to say Hungarian Horntail for the dragon Harry fought in the Tri-Wizard Tournament.  Nobody remembered that the author of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was Newt Scamander.  In the end I had more right answers than anyone else and  finally won that elusive ship on a stick!

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2015


Posted in Carnival, Shipboard Life, Splendor | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Port Arthur, Tasmania

cruise ship in Tasmania

Legend in Port Arthur in the fog

On our cruise to Tasmania, Carnival Legend made its first stop at Port Arthur on a gray cloudy day.  Normally it costs money to see the historic buildings there, but the ship’s tenders brought us right to the dock in the historic site and nobody asked for any money from passengers coming ashore.  Perhaps the entry charge was included in the port fees for that stop.  Whatever the reason, the Legend’s passengers could roam freely through Port Arthur at will.  Ship’s crew offered a free guided tour or people could walk about on their own.  We started out with the tour, but did not stick with it long because my 3 and 5 year old grandkids did not keep up with the tour guide well enough for us to hear anything after the first stop or two.  Luckily we were also given some written information.

historic ruins

ruins of the prison and military buildings

It started to drizzle a bit as we first left the tender, making us wonder if we should have brought our raingear ashore.   It probably wouldn’t have been worth it though since mainly it just sprinkled on off and on with no heavy rainfall.

old penitentiary

Hannah and Daniel in prison

The kids enjoyed exploring the ruins of the prison and standing in a barred window like prisoners wishing for escape.  In its current condition the prison would not hold anyone as it had no roof and some walls missing.  It is undergoing restoration to preserve what they have left.

ruins of a prison

portions of the prison wall crumbled away and there’s no roof

Before the colonists the Pydairrerme people occupied the land where Port Arthur now sits.  The area still has Middens and other cultural sites from their thousands of years of living there.  They still populated the area at first contact with Europeans, but none were known to remain on the Tasman Peninsula beyond 1830.


passengers from the ship flock to the ruins

Port Arthur started as a timber station in 1830.  From 1833 to 1853 the hardest British and Irish criminals – those who re-offended after arrival in Australia, and rebellious prisoners ended up doing hard time at Port Arthur.  Their intent to grind rogues into honest men meant hard labor and forced religion for the prisoners.

military complex

guard tower

Some of the jobs prisoners had to do included working the timber with gangs of men chained together carrying trees on their shoulders.  They built many of Port Arthur’s buildings including making the bricks themselves.  Prisoners built ships at the dockworks and for a time ran a flour mill which was later turned into the large penitentiary whose remains now dominate the landscape.

tasmanian prison

parts of the penitentiary still stand tall

Harsh punishments included public floggings with 50-100 lashes from a cat-o-nine-tails (9-ended whip).  Port Arthur was considered inescapable.  The peninsula it sits on makes the site naturally secure on most borders, and no prisoner could cross the narrow isthmus connecting it to the mainland as it was fenced and guarded by soldiers, man traps, and half-starved dogs.  If hard physical labor didn’t keep the prisoners in line, Port Arthur had a worse place to send them.

a place of much sorrow

nothing left inside most of the penitentiary

The separate prison, intended to reform the worst of criminals, was just as likely to drive them insane.  Prisoners spent 23 hours of each day isolated in a single cell where they ate, slept, and worked.  One hour each day they could exercise alone in a high-walled yard.  On Sundays guards brought them blindfolded one by one to church, where they sat in isolated cubicles where they could see no-one but the priest and were not allowed to talk to one another through the walls.

old stone ruins

some remaining structure on the inside of the penitentiary

In its later years as a prison between 1853 and 1877 the prison housed many geriatric prisoners.  It was abandoned in 1877, but remains one of the more historically significant places in Tasmania.

old military housing

the Commandant’s house

The Port Arthur historical site covers many acres and has over 30 buildings, ruins, or other places of interest including a nearby coal mine.  Some visitors to the area take ferry tours out to see Point Puer Boy’s Prison – where juvenile offenders from 9-17 received an education wrought with stern discipline and harsh punishment.


inside the Commandant’s house

Ferries also bring tourists to the Isle of the Dead where around 1100 people from all walks of life at Port Arthur found their final resting place between 1833 and 1877.  Prisoners, military, and civilians including children are buried in graves on the island cemetery.  Industrial accidents and respiratory disease brought about by sleeping in cold cells in wet clothing were the most common causes of death in prisoners.

Port Arthur, Tasmania

looking at the Legend through the ruins

We saw just a small section of buildings, the penitentiary, police station, military officer’s quarters and guard towers, and the commandant’s house (which was later a hotel and a boarding house).  As we left the commandant’s house the wind whipped up and the sky threatened torrential rain.  A group vote sent us back to the ship rather than exploring further and risking a major soaking.  We didn’t see any snakes, but a man who worked there said while they hide in bad weather, on sunny days they are everywhere.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2015
Posted in Australia, Carnival, Legend, Ports of Call | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

How To Fold a Towel Giraffe

How to Make a Towel Giraffe

I’ve had a few google hits from people looking for instructions on how to fold a towel giraffe, so I thought I should write a post on that.  Since I’ve never actually seen a towel giraffe I had to make up my own.  This towel giraffe is entirely My Cruise Stories original creation.

towel origami

towel giraffe

Supplies Needed to Make a Towel Giraffe

1 Bath Towel                                              Googly Eyes or other eyes

1 Hand Towel                                             Pipe Cleaner (AKA chenille stem)

Yarn                                                             Piece of Pipe Cleaner  (AKA fuzzy stick)

rubber band

How to Make a Giraffe Tail

arts and crafts

hook the pipe cleaner over the circle of yarn loops

Loop a few strands of yarn around your fingers or some other object to make even loops.  Hook one end of a pipe cleaner over all the loops and twist it tight.

it sort of looks like a witch's broom

finished towel giraffe tail

Cut through the loops at end farthest from pipe cleaner to make single strands.  Even up ends of strands with scissors.

How to Fold a Towel Giraffe Body

Use the closest color towel you have to the color of a real giraffe.  If the pattern on these towels had been solid rather than outlines these would have been perfect, but they were the best I could find.

how to fold towel animals

tightly roll each short end to the center after folding over the long edges

Lay the bath towel out flat with the side you want on the outside down.  Fold a couple inches over on both long sides of the towel.

making a towel animal body

put the tail between the rolls and then roll them tightly together with just the end part of the tail sticking out

Tightly roll each end of the towel to the middle from the short ends.  Put the finished tail between the rolls and place the body in a standing position, rolled side up.

the art of towel folding

stand the body up with the rolls on the outside and the tail in place

Try to make the front end taller than the back because that’s how real giraffes are.  Any extra pipe cleaner between the rolls and not sticking out for the tail can help with shaping the body.

How to Fold a Towel Giraffe Head

making a towel giraffe head

lay the hand towel out flat with the good side down and fold over one end

Lay a long hand towel down flat with the side you want on the outside down.  Fold one short end partway over the towel.  About 1/3 of the length of the towel after folding should be single and about 2/3 double.   The amount left in a single layer at the first fold should just come over the end of the folded over part after the corners are folded down.

fold the end into a point

from the center of the unfolded end, fold over each corner

From the center of the unfolded end, fold over each corner into a triangle.  The two triangles should meet at the center, but not cross over each other.  The edges of each triangle should just cover over the end of the original fold.

one step at a time

fold the tip of the towel so it comes halfway to the edges of the small triangles

Fold over the pointed end of the towel so the new fold comes halfway to the ends of the two triangles.

the ends are all in the same place now

fold the folded point over again so it comes to the edge of the other folds

Fold the end over again.  It should sit even with the edges of the two triangles.

tricky towel folding

pick up the towel as you fold the folded part in half

Fold the folded end in half.  You can pick the towel up as you do this, making sure none of the other folds come undone.  Fold with all the prior folds on the outside and bring both sides of the folded end together, don’t worry about the rest of the towel for now so long as nothing comes unfolded.

how to make a towel animal

pinch the edges together under the center of the folded part so it looks like a head

Hold both sides of the towel together tightly underneath the folded center so it resembles a head.  While holding the folded end together with one hand, find the points of the two triangles underneath the fold with the other hand and carefully pull them out for ears without disturbing the rest of the head.

step by step towel animal folding instructions

tuck the giraffe head tightly under your chin

Tuck the head under your chin with the ears at the back toward your neck and the nose at the front toward your chin.  Your chin needs to keep a tight hold on the head while your hands gather hanging towel on both sides.

tight is everything

there should be a hand on each roll, but my other hand is on the camera

Take one side of the towel in one hand and the other side of the towel in the other hand and roll them toward the center as tightly as you can.  Make sure the top part is tight and then work your way down until the whole thing becomes two tight rolls.

folding your own towel zoo

hold the rolls together

While holding the neck so it stays tightly rolled, take the head out from under your chin.

animals for expert towel animal folders

put a rubber band on the neck

Put a rubber band around the bottom end of the rolls so they can’t come undone.

towel animal folding step by step

you will probably need to shape the head and ears

Shape the head and ears as desired.

How to Make Horns for a Towel Giraffe

how to make horns for a towel giraffe

fold over each end of a little piece of a pipe cleaner to make horns

Giraffes have knobby little horns.  To make horns for the towel giraffe, take a small piece of a pipe cleaner and fold over each end.

Finishing the Towel Giraffe

bringing a towel animal to life

decorate the giraffe head with eyes and horns

Use a bit of double stick tape under the bit between the horns to stick the horns to the top of the giraffe’s head.  If you have googly eyes use double stick tape to add those to the head as well.  If you don’t have eyes you can make some with bits of felt or paper.

making towel creations

place the head between the leg rolls at the front of the body

Carefully place the head between the rolls at the front of the body.  Push the rolls back together as much as possible after inserting the head.  Adjust the body, head, and tail positions as desired.

towel art

finished towel giraffe

If you are a first time towel animal folder you may want to try something easier, like the penguin.   The head of the giraffe is rather tricky, making it one of the more difficult towel animals to fold.

For instructions on how to fold lots of other towel animals visit My Cruise Stories towel animal page.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2015
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Holland America Veendam

cruise ship at the dock

Holland America Veendam

Holland America ships are easily recognizable on the horizon by the dark blue color of their hulls, which sets them apart from other mostly white cruise ships.  They also tend toward smaller size.  While some cruise lines build bigger and bigger ships, Holland America’s niche falls into the mid-size ship category, with all ships built to fit through the Panama Canal.  Veendam is one of Holland America’s smaller ships, with just two sets of passenger stairs and elevators fore and aft and none central other than the atrium stairs which span only the atrium’s three levels.

cruise ship decor

Crystal Sculpture in the Atrium

This makes the lowest level of the atrium at the center of the ship a quiet place most of the time.  It has a crystal sculpture snaking up 3 decks at the center.  The lowest level of the atrium has some tabletop shuffleboard games and space for the entertainment crew to hold games or other events at times as well.  The front office customer service and shore excursions counters sit on the edges of the atrium’s second level.  Shops and the Ocean Bar surround the top level.

towel elephant

Every night the stateroom steward makes a towel animal.  One night we had this elephant.

When boarding the Veendam at embarkation on the first day, crew stand at the elevators and stairways ready to direct confused passengers to their cabins.  Why are the passengers confused?  On most ships if the room number starts with 1, you’re on deck 1.  If it starts with 6 you’re on deck 6.  So passengers who have not consulted the deck plans for the location of their stateroom tend to head to the wrong deck because on the Veendam numbering starts with the Pinnacle Suite at 001 and it is on deck 10.  The Neptune suites have the next lower numbers starting from 002, and working their way to higher numbers as they approach the vista suites at the other end of deck 10.  As you work your way down to lower decks of the ship the numbers get higher with the lowest passenger floor having rooms in the 700-800 range.  Only on deck 5 are there cabins that start with the deck number as the cabins at the front of deck 5 are in the 500 range.

The decks can get confusing as well since the lowest passenger deck is labeled as deck 4 rather than deck 1.  Deck 4 is also the A deck.  Newer ships have decks A, B, and C going down toward toward the water and then start the deck above A as deck 1, which is usually the lowest deck where passengers regularly go.

crew on stage

The hard-working Veendam crew on the stage in the showroom at sea

The Veendam was updated fairly recently.  It was the first ship renovated with Holland America’s Signature of Excellence upgrades, the line’s latest features and amenities which include a $2 million art and antique collection.  The Veendam has teak decks and spacious staterooms, most with bathtubs. Stateroom categories include interior, ocean-view, lanai, spa, vista suites, neptune suites and one pinnacle suite.  Neptune and Pinnacle suite guests have the private Neptune lounge available for their use.

oversized cruise ship balcony

Vista Suite Balcony

The Veendam has no balcony cabins other than spa or suites, but the even vista suites have larger than average cruise ship balconies.  It has some lanai cabins, which are cabins with sliding glass doors to the outside walkway on the promenade deck, and deck chairs outside the room for the use of passengers booked in that cabin.  The sliding doors of lanai cabins and windows of ocean-view cabins on the promenade deck are made of one-way glass so occupants can see out without being seen from the outside, though at night with the lights on in the room people may see in so it’s a good idea to shut the curtains at night in those rooms.

cruise ship bar

One of the Mix Bars

Veendam has a number of bars including the Crow’s Nest, Explorer’s Lounge and Ocean bars, as well as Mix, a three part bar with separate sections serving martinis, champagne, or spirits and ales, and an outside bar at the Retreat on the back of the Lido deck.  Dining venues include the upscale Pinnacle Grill, Canaletto Italian, the Lido Buffet and the Rotterdam main dining room.

cruise ship swimming pool

Lido Pool

The Vendam has plenty for passengers to do. Pamper yourself in the Greenhouse Spa or keep fit in the gym or sports courts. Attend a variety of lectures or presentations including cooking demonstrations and digital workshops. Relax on deck or in a hot tub or enjoy a dip in the pool.  Take in an evening show at the Showroom at Sea. The ship also has shops, art auctions, and for young guests Club HAL or the Loft for teens.

wash, dry, or iron your clothes on this ship

Veendam deck 6 biggest self serve launderette

When sailing on the Veendam, passengers can pack light because the ship has 3 self-serve launderettes where people can wash their own clothes if they have quarters. ($3 will wash and dry a load.)  Each of the launderettes has an iron and ironing board.  The one on deck 6 has about twice as many washers and dryers as the ones on decks 5 and 9.

Ship Facts

Ship Class: S
Ship’s Registry: The Netherlands
Passenger capacity: 1,350
Crew members: 580
Gross Tonnage: 57,092 grt.
Length: 719 feet
Beam: 101 feet
Maximum speed: 22 knots
Dedicated: January 1996, by actress Debbie Reynolds

cruise ship dining room

Rotterdam Dining Room on the Veendam

Dining Room Dress Code:

Dress Code Per Holland America’s Website:

Evening dress falls into two distinct categories: Formal or Smart Casual. Smart Casual can be defined as slacks and sports shirts or sweater for men and skirt or trousers and sweater or blouse for women. Printed T-shirts, swimsuits, tank tops and shorts are not allowed in the restaurants or public areas during the evening hours.  On festive Formal evenings, ladies wear a cocktail dress or gown and gentlemen wear a suit and tie or tuxedo.

What People Actually Wear:

In these days of baggage charges on airplanes people tend to pack lighter for cruises than in the past and formal clothes take up a lot of suitcase space.  People dressed nicely for formal nights, but I did not see a single tux or gown.  I’m not the most observant person about other people’s clothes so it’s possible they were there and I didn’t see them, but then again they would probably stand out and get noticed.  Most of the men wore suits and the women skirts or dresses.  Lots of women wear sparkly clothes for cruise ship formal nights, but sparkles are not a requirement.

Though the dress code actually appears to include all public areas of the ship, people wore jeans (which the dress code did not ban) to the lido buffet and some changed out of their dinner clothes to attend the shows.  We asked one of the crew working at Canaletto if it was OK to wear jeans there and they said yes.  (Canaletto is an area on the Lido that serves Italian food in the evenings for a small surcharge.)

playing giant chess

Giant Chess Game on the Lido Deck

Other Random Stuff

A couple years ago I went on the Westerdam with a large family group.  On that trip I roomed with my aunt and sister and on embarkation day we took the spa tour and since there were 3 of us they gave us an even better deal for the thermal suite than their couples deal.  This trip it was just my aunt and I in the room, but we still found a way to get a great deal.  If you wait a couple days to sign up for the thermal package it gets a bit cheaper each day, so assuming it doesn’t fill up before you join you can use it for most of the trip and still save money.

heated ceramic chairs

Veendam thermal suite

Walking down the hallway to our room on the first day, we passed a room where someone had posted a big sign on their door proclaiming “WE ARE KITTENS!”  Kittens?  I did a double take on that one, and upon going back and reading the sign carefully and not just in passing it actually said we are knitters.  Sometimes various groups get a number of rooms on a ship and then people interested in that activity book through that group and participate in their activities.  I’ve done it in on poker cruise, and seen other groups such as quilters or scrapbookers on various cruises.  Above the “kittens” sign they had a small square sign about their group, which appeared on a number of other doors as well.

what are kittens doing on a cruise ship

Walking past with a peripheral glance I saw this sign as kittens

Speaking of doors, on the Veendam the cabin doors are magnetic, but the walls are not.  I thought all cruise ships had magnetic walls, but I guess you learn something new every day.  I learned something else on this cruise too.  On embarkation day the whole area around the port had a power outage, including the port buildings.  Often ships in port plug into shore power so they don’t have to run their diesel engines at the dock, but I never knew it could work in reverse.  On that day the tech crew ran power lines out from the ship to power the security equipment needed on shore for boarding and it ran some lights as well.  Though not as efficient as a normal boarding day, it is amazing that the ship could do that at all.

copyright My Cruise Stories 2015
Posted in Holland America, Veendam | Tagged , , , , | 13 Comments

Decatur Island

on the water

boat wake

While we love to take trips on cruise ships, sometimes it’s nice to cruise around in a small private boat.  We miss our dog when traveling without her, and taking our own boat to a dog-friendly cabin means she can come too.  Isabelle gets so excited when she sees us pack.  Normally an independent dog, she becomes cling-on-doggy when we get ready to leave.  Open the car door and she’ll jump right in.  When she sees the luggage, she knows someone will leave soon and she always wants to come too.

island cabin

cabin at Decatur Head

Washington State’s San Juan Islands provide many opportunities for recreation of all sorts.  Some islands have year-round inhabitants, some vacation cabins, and some no humans at all.  Some of the larger islands have parks and a few small islands are parks.  Washington State Ferries visit four of the biggest islands, the others are reached by private boats, small planes, and a variety of water taxi or island hopper boat services that can transport vehicles.

map of the San Juan Islands

Decatur Island on San Juan Islands Map

We recently had the opportunity to visit a smallish privately owned island nestled between Lopez and Blakely called Decatur.  Several private vacation communities and a handful of permanent residents make up the population of the island.  Decatur has no public facilities such as hotels or campgrounds.  Other than coming as a guest of someone with an island cabin, outsiders can visit by staying in a vacation rental.  The island has a private small-plane airport and water-taxi service from Anacortes.

pirate ship for kids

pirate ship playground

Decatur Island covers 3.524 square miles.  We stayed in a cabin at Decatur Head, one of the private communities, as guests of my sister-in-law.   There is a rental cabin at Decatur Head on the other side of the small bay near the public boat launch where sometimes the island transport drops off vehicles and a water taxi drops off foot passengers.

big driftwood

a whole tree washed up on the beach

We docked briefly near our cabin to unload, then parked the boat on a nearby mooring buoy.  John spent a considerable amount of time taking various people out fishing, which gave Isabelle and I plenty of time to explore the nearby portions of the island.

really small school

one room school house

A walk up the gravel road brought us to the island’s only school, one of the few one-room schoolhouses left in the USA.  Students above 8th grade catch a ride on the mail plane to a high school on a larger island.


tiny island deer

Just before reaching the school we saw a deer grazing on the roadside.  The island has some tiny deer, this one looked no bigger than my dog.  During the summer the school hosts a public market on Saturdays.

little store

island store

Isabelle and I walked up the same road another day with John and his sister.  She knew of a small store a short walk beyond the school.  In addition to basic grocery supplies the store sold ice cream and milkshakes.

beach fun

driftwood homestead

One morning we walked down the beach for awhile.  Near the cabins people have made all sorts of structures out of driftwood.

driftwood fence

looks like an old west graveyard

One reminded me of an old western style graveyard, though I doubt that was the builder’s intention.   They likely intended it to resemble a fenced yard for their cabin-like structure.  It amazes me how much effort people put into building driftwood houses on a beach where the next storm will likely turn them back into a pile of logs again.

San Juan Islands

Isabelle enjoys the view from the top of Decatur Head

Climbing up the hillside behind the cabin provided lots of woods to hike through. Anywhere near the edge offered views of the sea or sometimes neighboring James Island, one of the San Juan Islands’ marine parks.  The San Juans tend to have a wet side and a dry side.  Underbrush on the wet side grows thick and can include nettles, the dry side like where we were is far more navigable between the trees.

marine park

a sailboat moored at James Island State Park across the water

Our recent small-ship cruise on the Wilderness Adventurer sailed through the San Juans, with a hike on Sucia Island, another one of the area’s marine parks.

dog in a lifejacket

dock dog in her lifejacket, ready for a boat ride

This San Juan Islands Guide Link has more information about the San Juans and what they have to offer for anyone interested in vacationing there.

 Copyright My Cruise Stories 2014


Posted in Washington | Tagged , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Memories of a Cruise Ship Doctor Part 9-Still Cruising

Although no longer a cruise ship physician, Len Kreisler MD still enjoys cruising as a passenger.  He’s added this last story in just for the blog.  His previous stories on the blog came from his book regarding his cruise ship doctor days.  In this story he tells us how a chance meeting on a cruise ship led to learning something about the history of  some major players in his adopted hometown of Las Vegas, Nevada.
Palace Station Hotel Las Vegas

Palace Station Casino photo courtesy of

As a cruise ship physician and as a cruise passenger, I definitely prefer the smaller (1000 to 1200 passenger) ships. For one, I do not like waiting in long lines for embarkation or disembarkation; either at the beginning of the cruise, at the end of the voyage, or for shore excursions during the trip. I like to socialize with the passengers and crew and if current security polices allow, I like to visit the bridge, request dinner with the Captain or another officer, and have a relaxed open seating policy; i.e. just show up during the designated meal times and be seated where ever the Maître Dee’s judgment takes you. On a smaller ship the”Hotel” service people get to know you and your preferences; for dinner, room serve, etc. Here is one pleasant memory on a small ship cruise.

We were in a short dinner line waiting for the doors to open. It was the Regent Seven Seas Mariner’s18-day trans Pacific cruise from Hong Kong to California. Behind us was a very tall, good looking Texan with huge, rodeo-type belt buckle, snakeskin cowboy boots and a Marilyn Monroe look-a-like; at least fifteen years younger, embracing his left arm. I can assure you, it wasn’t his daughter or his niece.
I turned to him and asked, in jest of course:
“What part of New York are you from?”
He smiled and drawled back, “Galveston, Texas.” Where you from, Son?”
“Las Vegas since 1973.”
“Do you know the Fertita’s”, he asked?
“Familiar with the name, but don’t know them personally. I know that Frank, the patriarch, took a Motel Six on West Sahara Avenue and expanded it into a very successful gaming hotel, The Palace Station.  It has since added more properties throughout the valley known collectively as Station Casinos. Interestingly no one seems to know anything about where Frank came from. At least anyone  I’ve asked.”

He gave me an ear to ear, pearly, white-capped-toothy smile. He proudly went on to tell me the Fertita-Galveston story, as his young escort showered  him with swooning, affectionate eyes.  I could read her mind: “My sugar daddy is spellbinding ’em with his never-ending knowledge.”
Galveston had been an ipso facto gambling city for many years even though gambling was illegal throughout Texas. In 1956, an Elliot Ness-type, state Attorney General, decided he was going to clean up the state. Frank Fertita was part of the Galveston gaming establishment and was now out of business. Where else would a professional in the gaming business relocate? We had a few dinners together with great conversations during the rest of the trip.
a lifetime of doctor memories in a book

Dr. Len Kreisler’s book

To read and hear more about cruise ship medicine visit my web site: You can contact me directly with questions, comments or just plain cruising-smoozing. I have a chapter on cruise ship medicine in my nonfiction book, ROLL THE DICE, PIC A DOC AND HOPE FOR THE BEST.
                                                                     Len Kreisler MD
Excerpts from Dr. Len’s book about his cruise ship days:
The opinions in this blog are those of the guest author and not those of My Cruise Stories.  I’ve sailed on cruises from as small as 12 passengers on a yacht cruise to over 4000 passengers on a large cruise ship and enjoyed them all.  Each ship no matter how big or small has its own unique charm.   A cruise is what you make of it, so make the best of whatever cruise you are on and you’ll have the best possible experience.
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Friday Harbor, San Juan Island

Friday Harbor Marina

Washington State Ferry Passes By Wilderness Adventurer in Friday Harbor

As the Wilderness Adventurer of Un-Cruise Adventures approached Friday Harbor on San Juan Island we saw more activity on the little walkway that goes past the window to our room than we had all cruise long – all crew people. They tied two big bumpers to the railing there so we knew the dock would be on our side of the boat.

Friday Harbor, Washington

sea plane docked at the Friday Harbor Marina

Docking on the outer edge of a marina where they have space for bigger boats really makes a small cruise ship look big in comparison to the rest of the boats. It’s pretty interesting just to walk around the docks and look at some of the other boats tied up there. The dock we tied to even had a sea plane on one end.

at the dock on San Juan Island

old historic boat

One old wooden boat had a sign out in front of it with its history. Built in the 1920’s, it started as a small-ship cruise boat around Alaska, and they listed many famous people who had cruised on it way back when. It spent some time as a private vessel, did military work through world war 2, moved to California as a cruise ship for awhile, and now is back to cruising in Alaska.

Friday Harbor, San Juan Island

floating Bed & Breakfast

Another boat there had a sign out saying it is a B&B. The marina is very close to the ferry dock, so people could walk on the ferry and then walk over to the marina to spend the night there. A lot of boats said they were from places like Alaska or California, but some did claim Friday Harbor as their home base.

buildings in Friday Harbor

Friday Harbor

We walked up a tall stairway into town, though had we turned toward the ferry dock we could have walked alongside the water and got into the main part of town without the stairs. Local restaurants and small shops line the main street of the town, along with little art galleries. From the area the stairs lead to, the sidewalk toward town passes by several viewpoints to see the bay, marina, and ferry dock. Also the ferry when one comes in. We saw a small one which is probably for inter-island traffic and a big one that likely goes to Anacortes and possibly Sidney B.C. (Canada).

island hopper ferry

this small private ferry travels to islands not served by the state ferry

Friday Harbor sits on San Juan Island, the largest island in the San Juan island chain. It is one of the few islands where the state ferry stops on a run from Anacortes on the mainland which also includes Lopez, Orcas, and Shaw islands and a one time daily trip to Canada stopping at Sidney BC on Vancouver Island. Technically Anacortes is on Fidalgo Island, but it is separated from the mainland only by a channel easily crossed on a bridge.

painting a ship

crew of the Wilderness Adventurer touching up the paint

San Juan Island is most famous for the Pig War. In the mid 1800’s ownership of the San Juan Islands was in dispute between the USA and England. When an American living on the island shot and killed a pig owned by British soldiers it escalated tensions between the two sides, with both ramping up troops. Eventually the issue was resolved peacefully with the pig remaining the only casualty. It took 12 more years to determine ownership of the San Juans to the USA. San Juan Island still has English Camp and American Camp, both now national parks. There’s even a Pig War beer named after the confrontation, but it is made by an Oregon brewery.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2015


Posted in Port Cities, Un-Cruise Adventures, Washington, Wilderness Adventurer | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments