How to Fold a Fire Breathing Towel Dragon

How To Make a Towel Dragon

Sometimes I use towel animals from cruise ships on my blog and sometimes I come up with my own designs.  These dragons are creations of my own imagination.

how to fold a towel dragon

fire-breathing towel dragon

Dragons are a fairly difficult towel animal to make and are best suited for experienced towel animal folders.  If you are a beginner and want to make a dragon anyway try the small dragon first because it is the easiest.

Supplies Needed to Make a Towel Dragon

the art of folding towels into animal shapes

different types of towel dragons: multicolor – majestic, green and striped – big, black – small

For a Majestic Dragon: 1 bath towel, 2 hand towels, 1 beach towel

For a Big Towel Dragon: 2 bath towels, 2 hand towels

For a Small Dragon: 1 bath towel, 1 hand towel, 2 wash cloths

eyes (googly eyes or bits of felt or paper)

flames made from paper or felt

nostrils made from paper or felt

pipe cleaner (in craft stores may be called chenille stem)

How to Fold a Towel Dragon Body

how to fold cruise ship towel animals

tightly roll both short sides of a bath towel to the center

All sizes of dragons use a bath towel for the body.

folding the standard towel animal body

Fold the rolled towel in half, rolls to the outside. Pull tips out of the center of each roll.

towel art

Take the tips from both ends of one roll in one hand and the tips from both ends of the other roll in the other hand and pull until the rolls pull into legs and the middle into a body.

how to fold towel animals

flip finished towel animal body over

How to Fold a Towel Dragon Tail

towel origami

hang center of one long side of tail towel on a wall hook or tuck it under your chin. Roll both sides to the center as tightly as possible.

The big dragon and the majestic dragon use hand towels for the tail.

difficulty rating for folding towel dragons: high

Keeping your tail rolls as tight as possible, tuck tail rolled side up between the leg rolls on the body. Make sure the solid edge of the towel is on top of the body and all loose ends are contained between the leg rolls.

The small dragon uses a washcloth for the tail.

How to Fold a Towel Dragon Head

towel folding101

Just like the tail, hang center of one edge of long side on wall peg or tuck under your chin. Roll both sides together as tightly as possible. This will be more difficult than the tail because it is a bigger towel and really tight rolls are more important.

The majestic dragon uses a beach towel for the head and neck.

it may not look like much now, but soon it will be a dragon.

Place the end of the tightly rolled towel between the leg rolls of the body opposite the tail. Tuck any long loose ends in between the tail rolls.

The big dragon uses a bath towel for the head and neck.

towel origami

the head and tail towels tucked into the body with the head towel’s loose ends tucked into the tail

The small dragon uses a hand towel for the head and neck.

toewl art

Take one pair of legs in hand and bring them over top of the head and tail towels to meet the other pair of legs. Keep the motion going to roll the whole body over until it is standing.

fold one of these to watch Game of Thrones with you

Adjust leg position as needed so dragon body stands on its own.

How to Fold Towel Dragon Wings

folding a towel into dragon wings

Fold over about an inch across one edge of the long side of the wing towel

The big dragon and the majestic dragon use hand towels for the wings.

folding a wascloth into a towel animal

Flip the towel over and make another fold in the opposite direction.

The small dragon uses a washcloth for the wings.

the art of towel animal folding

Continue making small folds across the towel.

making towel creations

When done the wing towel will look something like a fan

the art of towel origami

wrap a pipe cleaner around the center of the wing towel and twist it tight

steps to towel animal folding

Insert the ends of the pipe cleaner into the folds of the body so the wings stand up a bit above the dragon’s back. Position wings as desired.

how to fold towel animals

If you don’t have a pipe cleaner just pinch the center of the wing towel together on the dragon’s back after making the fan-like folds and spread out each wing as desired.

Finishing the Towel Dragon

best towel animal ever

Raise the head and neck towel. Curve the base of the neck back so it rests on top the wings. Curve the top of the neck forward and the head down. Adjust to desired position.  A beach towel gives this majestic dragon a very long neck.

Decorating the Towel Dragon

finished towel dragon

Decorate dragon with eyes, nostrils, and flames. The googly eyes and paper flames have double-stick tape holding them on this small dragon, but the felt nostrils stay on their own.

fire breathing towel dragon

big towel dragon

For step-by-step instructions on how to fold a variety of other towel animals, please visit My Cruise Stories Towel Animal Page.

big towel dragon

this dragon needs tighter rolls

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2014
Posted in Towel Animals | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments

Carnival Cruise’s Afternoon Tea

afternoon tea on a cruise ship

Afternoon Tea on Carnival Breeze

One of the best kept secrets on Carnival cruises isn’t a secret at all.  It’s right there in the daily Fun Times schedule on sea days – Afternoon Tea.  It sure seems like a secret if you attend though.  It’s like an intimate little tea party compared to the amount of people on the ship.

one of Carnival's best kept secrets - afternoon tea

waiter serving afternoon tea treats on Carnival Liberty

Most passengers probably just skim right over afternoon tea on the daily program without really noticing it’s there, or they’ve never gone and have no idea what they’ve missed out on.  It’s not just a cup of tea, though they do offer a nice selection of teas to choose from since it is a tea after all.  Everyone selects the type of tea they prefer, and gets a little silver teapot of hot water.

Then they bring around the goodies.  Sometimes on a rolling cart, sometimes carried in on trays.  Tasty little treats you don’t see anywhere else on the ship or at any other time.  Some of the best sweets we’ve ever had on Carnival ships have been at afternoon teas.  They also may serve little tea sandwiches.

more than just a snack - afternoon tea is an experience

tea sandwiches on Carnival Breeze

The last thing people on cruise ships need is more food of course, but it is a vacation so have fun.  Afternoon tea is one more way to relax and enjoy what the ship has to offer.  They seat people around large tables in the order they arrive, so it’s also a great way to meet new people and socialize with other passengers on the ship.

small but tasty sweets at afternoon tea

treats at afternoon tea on Carnival Liberty

The whole afternoon tea experience is a delight, not just the food – and it’s free!  You can take as much or as little of the food offered as you want.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2014
Posted in Carnival, Cruise Food, Shipboard Life | Tagged , , , , , , , | 8 Comments


ships in Sitka anchor a distance from shore

Westerdam in Sitka

Many cruise ships stop in Sitka during the summer Alaska cruise season, including the Holland America Westerdam on the cruise I took with extended family.  Sitka sits mainly on Baranof Island and partly on neighboring Japonski Island, with the two islands connected by a bridge.  Sitka lies on the outer coast of the inside passage on the Alaskan panhandle in the heart of the Tongass National Forest, accessible only by air or sea.

Sitka bridge

Bridge in Sitka

As the glaciers receded from the area about 10,000 years ago the Tlingit people  first settled the land.  Russians came in the late 1700′s.  The changeover ceremony in 1867 after the Americans purchased Alaska was held in Sitka.  The town still has Russian architecture near the tender dock, though the prominent Cathedral of St. Michael is a reproduction built in 1966 after the original burnt to the ground.

cathedral in Sitka

St. Michael’s Cathedral

Sitka has a lot to see quite close to the cruise ship dock for people who just want to get off the ship and see things on their own.  We did not book anything through the ship there, wanting to get to the Fortress of the Bear and Raptor Center on our own.  At the tender dock just as passengers come ashore a number of people waited with signs for various activities.  Shuttles waited to take people to town who wished to start at the far end and stroll back toward the ship on their own.

view of Sitka from near the graveyard


Right away we saw someone with a sign for Fortress of the Bear and signed up immediately.  We had waited for a tender to shore until we thought they would be open, but found out that on cruise ship days they actually opened earlier than their official time so we could have come an hour sooner and been nearly the only ones on the bus.  Ours still did not have very many people, but the bus after came quite full.  The person with the sign said that their shuttles did not officially stop at the Raptor Center, but some drivers would.  The driver said they all did.  I had asked on facebook prior to the cruise and they had said none of their shuttles stopped at the raptor center anymore so we felt quite pleasantly surprised to find out that they did.  We had thought we’d have to take a cab, but since we did not see any it was very good that we didn’t need one.  The raptor center is walking distance from the tender pier where our boats docked if no-one in your party has walking limitations, but too far for people with mobility issues to walk.

old Russian cemetery in Sitla

tombstone in the old Russian cemetery

At a lecture my sister and I had attended on the ship, the presenter had said to go visit the old Russian Cemetery, but would not say what sort of interesting feature we would find there.  While within walking distance from town, it was not a short walk, nor an easy one, meaning only those able to walk quickly on varied terrain including hills should attempt it.  My sister had zipped up castle hill next to the tender dock before we took our tour, but my parents and I just walked to a nearby marina.  We saw a pedicab waiting for passengers.   Not having time for it just then, I asked the rider if he went to the graveyard.  He said he would, but it involved a steep hill.

building in Sitka

Alaska Pioneer’s Home

The bus let us off in town on the way back from the raptor center so we had a bit of a chance to see some of the architecture of the old Russian buildings.  Before we made it to the church that dominated the skyline at the end of the street my sister took off on her own to go find the cemetery.  The road back to the dock went past castle hill, which while steep, was not very large and we hadn’t done a lot of walking so we went up to the top.  It had options of steeper or less steep pathways and lots of flowers to see along the way.

cannon on top castle hill

Shooting the Westerdam…with my camera, not the cannon

At the top we found…….not much.  Just a few old cannons and some signs.  Seriously shouldn’t castle hill have a castle on it?  Reading some signs posted around the top we found that the closest thing to a castle had been a politician’s house people called the castle.  Tlingit natives had structures there before the white man came, as the view from the top gave them quite a strategic advantage spotting any approaching enemies.  That advantage made the hill popular with the subsequent Russian residents of the area, who displaced the Tlingets to claim the hill for their own.

riders work for tips

Pedicab in Sitka

At the bottom of the hill we found another pedicab, this one with a native Tlinget girl on the bike.  She  took us to the back side of the cemetery to an area special to the locals, though not the place where the graves are that we had intended to see.  We had quite an interesting ride with her.  Tlinget people are all either raven or eagle, she was an eagle.  She found salmon berries and Sitka spruce to forage on along the way.  Apparently driving a pedicab works up an appetite.

bald eagle in Sitka

eagle by an old building on the backside of the graveyard

On our way out of the woods we came across some people who said the eagle we had seen on our way in sitting by the little old wooden fort thing there had some sort of injury and they had called the raptor center to come and get it.  The raptor center people arrived about then, so I went around to the other side to see the eagle as quickly as possible, which without actually being on the little building as the eagle and raptor center people were involved a detour on a path going the opposite way, down some stairs, and around about half a block on the nearby road.  By the time I got there hoping to take a video of the people catching the eagle, it had flown to the roof of the nearest house and the raptor center people had left because if it can fly they don’t take it.

bald eagle

bald eagle in Sitka

Back down at the pedicab our driver took us back to the tender pier, stopping right at the end of the line of people waiting to get back to the ship so we could just get right in line as we got off.  We tipped her well as there was no actual charge for the ride, they just work for tips.

old Russian graveyard

graveyard in the woods

Later my sister said she found the graves.  While not entirely sure what the person in the lecture meant by this graveyard being a must-see, she said it was unusual.  While most graves sit in neat rows in a large expanse of shortly mowed lawn, these sat among trees in the woods.  The townspeople let nature take its course, and as tree roots grow larger some of the graves get wonky.

old Russian graveyard

grave gone wonky

Sitka has a variety of things to do.  The area offers hiking, biking, boating, museums, wildlife watching tours, native dancers, fishing, kayaking, historical buildings, shopping and much more.  The visitor’s bureau has a page on their website of things to do in a day for tourists such as cruise ship passengers that just have a few hours to visit.

Posted in Alaska, Port Cities, Ports of Call, Westerdam | Tagged , , , , , , | 8 Comments

The Things We Take For Granted

It’s kind of amazing how a moment in time can change your life forever.  You’re just going about your everyday business and BAM, something happens.  A fall, a car accident, earthquake, mudslide or fire.  Whatever the issue something will never be the same again.  A loss that can never be recovered whether it is a loved one, a lifetime of memories in a lost home, or the full use of a part of your body.  Permanent is forever no matter how big or small the loss.  While my recent loss is nowhere near that some other people face it will still have an impact on my life.

Going about our everyday lives, we really don’t think about the things we do routinely – until we can no longer do those things.  Everything seems to take twice as long to do with half as many hands.

After breaking my arm in my lame adventure last week I’ve come to realize just how much more difficult things become when your body ceases to function as it once did.

dog as Harry Potter

The culprit Isabelle in her best-ever facebook costume.  The costume has nothing to do with this story.  I just like this picture of the guilty dog.  Now if only I had Madam Pomfrey to magically mend me the way she always did with Harry Potter when he got injured in the stories.

Tripping over dogs is not a good thing to do.  I’ve never broken a bone before, so of course I can’t just do a normal break that heals with 6 weeks in a cast.  No, I break a bone in the elbow joint, the likes of which the orthopedist has seen only 3 in 30 years.

Simple things like making a snack or pouring something in a cup take longer and make a lot more mess when you can’t hold something in each hand.  Opening a new gallon of water nearly stumped me.  It was the sort that you just twist the cap to break the seal.  Only I always open those with my left hand.  I just do it with that hand and never thought about why.  Not until I tried to twist that cap off with my right hand and found that I don’t have the strength in that wrist to do it.

I changed careers years ago due to carpal tunnel, but haven’t been bothered by anything more than the occasional need to wear wrist supports at work since.  My right wrist was the weakest though and apparently there are things it still can’t do.  I did eventually get the cap off, but I had to use a knife to get the little strip of plastic seal partially severed and sticking out far enough to finish the job with scissors.  (I could have just asked the hubby to open it for me, but that would amount to my being defeated by a gallon of water.)

not fun

the supposedly temporary splint

Taking a shower is not so simple either.  No longer can I just strip off my clothes and jump in.  Now I’ve got to wrap the arm in saran wrap, put a garbage bag over it, and then seal the end with more saran wrap to keep the splint that runs from well above the elbow to partial  fingers sticking out at the end dry.  So I got in the shower with only one functioning hand and found only the liquid soap in a pump bottle user friendly.  My salon shampoo and conditioner in giant economy sized bottles did not work well one handed.  Blindly holding enormous bottles over my head and squeezing in hopes something came out resulted in anywhere from nothing to way too much and my not knowing which until after putting the bottle back and rubbing around whatever’s there.

I’ve never chosen products strictly by their packaging before, but on a trip to the store I found only one brand of shampoo and conditioner in pump style bottles and it is a brand I’ve never tried.  Hopefully I will like it as it too is the giant economy size.

I can use whatever brand I randomly find in travel size bottles for a few weeks without issue, and often do when traveling.  On a regular basis though some of the cheap stuff turns my hair into the consistency of straw, hence the giant economy sized bottles of salon shampoo for home use.  Only time will tell, but hopefully this brand is not the stuff straw hair is made of.

The other major problem with showers is shaving.  I don’t know about other people, but I’ve always shaved my left pit with my right hand and my right pit with my left hand.  I’m not so sure shaving the right pit with the right hand works all that well and am wondering if I’ll have some sort of long gorilla hair snaking down the right pit in a few weeks if I consistently miss the same spot.  Speaking of odd hair, I certainly hope my arm doesn’t grow the weird hair my daughter’s arm grew when she broke her wrist.

Then there’s the wardrobe issue.  As the sleeves on most of my shirts would not fit over the bulky splint even if I could get them on and off (which I can’t), I am limited to a few button-up short-sleeved shirts with wide enough sleeves that I dug out of the stuff I never wear at the back of the closet, and a couple way-too-big-for-me shirts I got at the local thrift store because they had big scoop necklines and wide short sleeves so I can get them on and off.  I found a sweater there too that actually has fat enough sleeves for the splint.  My husband called them ugly clothes, but since my choices were very limited and thrift store clothes are cheap I got them anyway.  Now if I could just find some sort of cape or cloak for outdoor use to avoid the loosely dangling empty jacket sleeve on one side.

On the plus side, I am getting better at typing one-handed.  Also if I offer to lend anyone a hand in the near future I can be quite literal about it – just the one.

I went back to the orthopedist a week and a half into this injury.  The surgery part of the option of surgery or not is getting close to the limit of being an option, but the odds don’t sound any better than they did at my first visit there.  Chance of full recovery with or without surgery – 0%.

Surgery costs a lot of money.  With better odds and better insurance it might be worth it, but for a 50% chance of having a 30% better range of motion, 10% chance the surgery would actually make it worse, and 40% chance it would make no difference at all, it really does not seem worth it to me.  Even the doctor said he would not get the surgery if it were him.  Adverse reactions I have to jewelry make me hesitant to have foreign objects implanted, making the no surgery decision that much easier.

While changing the splint and taking more x-rays it was found that I also sprained my wrist.  In fact wrist pain and not the elbow caused me dizziness and diaphoresis when the splint first came off and the doctor was trying to explain…..something I missed being barely mentally present at the time.

Later though when left alone in a room with a sink while between splints I managed to wash my hand and arm.  That arm had not been washed in over a week and won’t be again until the new splint comes off so I took the opportunity to wash it while I had the chance.

The new splint is much the same as the previous one except I have the whole fingers out now and they are much happier that way as the finger swelling that had not improved since the accident went down some in just a few hours.

Next up – physical therapy, though I have no idea when that will start.  Getting the joint moving sooner rather than later seems to be the plan.

Posted in Randoms | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

Jamaica Zip Line at Good Hope Estate

cruise ship at Falmouth dock

Divina docked in Falmouth, Jamaica

As the rain poured down, the MSC Divina pulled into the dock at Falmouth, Jamaica.  Gathering our things for the day’s excursions, we passed on rain gear, though we both had packed some.  Zip lines, we thought, would just destroy the rain gear, and with going river tubing getting we pretty much expected to get wet.

people climbing Dunns River Falls

Dunn’s River Falls, Ocho Rios, Jamaica

Cruise ships stop at several different ports in Jamaica.  We visited Ocho Rios on the Pearl, but have not yet seen Montego Bay.  Many of the same excursions are offered at all three ports.  Dunn’s River Falls near Ocho Rios is one of the top spots, but we found it too crowded and commercialized for our taste and had much more fun on the Jamaican Bobsled roller coaster at Mystic Mountain on our visit to Ocho Rios.

Jamacian Bobsled roller coaster

View from Infinity Pool at Mystic Mountain with bobsled roller coaster and slide

The Divina posted the meeting place and time for their various tours in the daily program for the day of the excursion rather than including that information on the tickets.  After checking where to go we met up with our group in the designated lounge.  Quite a variety of tours met at the same place and time, so the shore excursion girls handed out stickers with bus numbers according to each person’s chosen tour.

Our group got called along with a couple others.  As we headed out of the ship and under a small canvas pavilion the crowd bunched together as more and more people tried to get off the gangway and under the shelter while the ones in front had stopped moving.  They all seemed to have stopped under the shelter to pull the looks-like-a-garbage-bag sort of rain ponchos out of nowhere and start putting them on, some saying the ship handed them out.  We saw nobody handing those out anywhere nearby, but one person said it was when they got their bus stickers.  They hadn’t given us any, or even mentioned their availability when we got our stickers.

jungle flower

flower at Good Hope Estate

Did they have a second sight that somehow let them know we had opted not to bring our own raingear when we could have?  Whatever the reason, we saw very few other people without them.  Even on our tour nearly everyone else had one so it wasn’t that they thought that tour didn’t need them.  We thought it was quite nice of the ship to hand them out, but did wonder why they didn’t quite include everyone.

We had just far enough to go to get to the bus for the rain to have a chance to get us fairly wet.  Nobody liked the air conditioning pouring out of vents all along the sides of the bus, so the tour guide turned it off.  By the time the bus got fully loaded the sun had started to make an appearance through the clouds and the rain began to slow to nothing and the driver decided to turn the air conditioning back on.  Luckily the vents on that bus closed individually like the sort airplanes have so we did not have to sit in wet clothes with cold air blasting directly on us.

On the way to the Good Hope Estate where a tour company called Chukka runs a variety of tours the bus driver kept us entertained with snippets of history, songs, and mini lessons on how to speak Jamaican (ya mon).  The weather cooperated as the sky stayed empty of rain and the sun came out for the rest of our tour.

butts up

river tubing

They pointed out the Great House of the Good Hope Estate where people go for tea and other excursions as we drove past it, stopping near a distant small building housing a gift shop.  Zip-line comes first, followed by a lunch break (lunch of jerked chicken, fry bread, and juice provided.)  Then the river tubing.  Or so we were told.  We had a short break giving people time to change clothes, use the restroom, or buy or rent footwear they might need for their tour.  Before long we got herded to a bus to take us to the start of the zip line river tubing.  Apparently other people had been told of the change in plans while I was in the gift shop or something, but we were pretty much at the river before I knew.

zip line at Good Hope Estate

harnessing up for the zip-line

After a nice long float down the river and a stop for lunch at a restaurant behind the gift shop, the zip line guides came around to let us know it was time.  We walked over to the start of the zip-lines, or Canopy Adventure as it is officially called.  So if you take this tour and end up on a bus, you’re headed to the river.  (In spite of the confusion I had a good time.)  The guides outfitted everyone with a harness, helmet, and gloves.  Then they gave instructions including to check that our “arness and elmet” were fastened properly.

Once everyone was ready to go we all walked to the first platform to start our tour.

zipline in Jamaica

rider on the zipline

The first zip of the course is short and easy to give people a chance to practice before getting to the longer or steeper zips.  It also gives first-timers a chance to see what it feels like.

zipline in Jamaica

a rider waits for the person ahead to reach the next platform

While some people may not enjoy dangling from a harness while speeding through the air down a cable with the ground nowhere near and a tree at the end of the line, I find it quite fun.  So do enough other people to make zip lining a popular excursion at a number of destinations.

on the zipline platform

zipliners attached to the cable on the platform while waiting for their turn

Each person is strapped securely into a harness that stays on them for the entire adventure.  The harness has double hooks and each zip has double cables so if ever one were to break there is always a secondary for safety.  The platforms also have cables and the guides keep everyone clipped to one while they wait just in case someone were to fall.  I have never seen anyone fall off a platform, though I suppose it falls within the realm of possibility.

this zip goes over the river

low platform on a steep hillside

Before each zip a guide unsnaps the person’s hook from the platform cable and hooks them to the overhead line.  When they reach the other end another guide unhooks them and clips them to the new tree.  The guides travel with the group.  The first and last person to go at each platform is always a guide.  The guides have signals to let people know as they come in for the landing when to brake and when to let up, though on a lot of the zips that day we were told at the start braking would not be necessary and just to hold the harness part with both hands.

on the zip lie

no brakes needed this zip

Some of the zips landed on the takeoff platform to the next zip and others had a bit of a walk (or in some cases stair climb) in between.  I didn’t count the exact number of zips, but they seemed to have quite a few.  Weather apparently affects the speed and due to the lines either having dried or not having dried (I couldn’t hear which they said) most zips were not running fast enough to need to brake so we only needed a gloved hand over the cable ready for braking at the end on a few.

zipline Jamaica

not quite Tarzan

We had a good time and nobody crashed into any platforms, though there was one where they had to tell everyone to raise their legs as they came in for a landing or they would have.  Nobody hit any trees either.  (I did see that happen at a different time and place when a person too heavy for the guide to stop would not brake when told to do so.  On subsequent zips they paid close attention to the guide’s signals.  Leaving mid-course is not an option even if you do run into a tree.)

on the zip line

zipliners zip by so fast it’s a blur

The ride ended at the same bridge the river tubes passed under.  They had jugs of water waiting so everybody could have a drink.  Soon a bus came and picked us up there.

shore excursions at Good Hope Estate

end of the line with water jugs on the bridge

Back at the gift shop people who wanted them could purchase photos taken of them on the tubes or zips.  They also had a variety of other products including T-shirts proclaiming survival of the Chukka zip line, which most of the guides wore.

The tour bus took us back to the cruise ship port at Falmouth, which has a number of shops inside a fenced and gated area apart from the actual town.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2014
Posted in Caribbean, Divina, MSC, Ports of Call, Shore Excursions | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

My Lame Adventure

One of my favorite blogs that I read regularly is called Lame Adventures.  She writes about her everyday experiences in a humorous way.  Before getting into my story, I have to give credit to the Lame Adventures blog for the title of this one and the idea of making my tragic moment into a blog story.

dog in snow


I have a pretty good-sized dog.  Isabelle is a German and Australian shepherd cross (or as my son calls her, the international shepherd.)  About 55 pounds.  Yesterday I took her out for a pee break.  On the way back to the house I noticed the neighbor’s dog Jake outside of his fenced yard.  Neighbor here is not that close since each property has several acres.

As I headed toward the escaped dog he ran out in the road into the path of an oncoming car.  I started running in his direction hoping to get him into his yard before the car got there.  I jog with my dog sometimes and she runs along beside me without causing any trouble.  I hadn’t bothered to cross to the other side of the street though, and she’s used staying on the dirt strip alongside the pavement rather than running on the road itself.

Isabelle ran along quietly until she noticed Jake on the loose and got all excited.  She took a sudden turn and ran right in front of me, launching me over top of her back for a hard landing on the pavement.  I broke the fall with the non-leash holding hand and can barely move that arm now.  Also got a skinned knee and swollen cuts above and below one eye.  The car went around first Jake then me and Isabelle then went on its merry way without stopping to see if I was OK, though they must have seen me fall.

I managed to get up and get over to Jake’s place to put him inside his yard.  I had intended to go up to the door and let his owner know he’d been out, but was too dizzy by that point to do anything more than open the gate, let him in and latch it shut.

I got about halfway back home before my dizziness got to the lay down or fall down point so I crossed over the ditch between the street and my yard and laid down in the grass to recover.  Passing out from things like injuries runs in my family and has happened to me before.  I learned the hard way when that feeling comes I can’t ignore it.  Meanwhile a truck went by and this one stopped to ask if I was OK.  I didn’t know my face was bleeding until the guy in the truck said so.  I didn’t want the guy to think he had to get out of his truck and carry me back to my house or something so I got up and barely made it back to the house in time to lay down again on the other side of the door.

Once the dizziness passed I found that I could hardly move my left arm.  It’s not easy to do things with only one functioning arm as I discovered in trying to do pretty much anything all evening.

Jake escaped again shortly after and I still can barely move my arm this morning.  My hand is swollen and the fingers are all purple.  The cuts and swelling around the eye look worse too, but it’s the severe lack of mobility in the elbow that worries me. Now I’m faced with having to visit a doctor, which is a daunting prospect since my health insurance has a $4000 deductible so is basically the same as no insurance at all.

4 hours at the walk-in clinic later I’m sitting here with my arm in a splint and a sling.  I have to wait up to two days to hear from the orthopedist I was referred to just to get an appointment to find out if he can set the bone and put a cast on it, or if it requires surgery with a pin put in it.  Sounds expensive.   A lot of money spent each month (mainly by my employer) to pretend to have health insurance does not help much when it is actually needed.

I’ve heard an old saying that no good deed goes unpunished and at this point I may be inclined to agree.

Update:  A visit to an orthopedist brought the news that my options are surgery or no surgery, neither of which will restore a full range of motion to that arm.

copyright My Cruise Stories 2014
Posted in Randoms | Tagged , , , | 15 Comments

How To Fold a Towel Leprechaun

better than cruise ship towel animals

Towel Leprechaun

Supplies Needed to Make a Towel Leprechaun

1. Green Bath Towel

2. Beige, Tan, or Brown Hand Towel

3. Gold Pipe Cleaner (chenille stem)

4. Black Paper

5. Black Socks

6. Brown or Black Yarn

7. Eyes -googly eyes or paper or felt eyes

8. Leprechaun Hat

How To Make a Towel Leprechaun Body

making a towel leprechaun

green bath towel with short ends rolled to the center

Lay a green bath towel out flat.  Roll both sides to the center from the short ends.

how to fold cruise ship towel animals

rolled towel folded in half with some tips pulled out of the center

Fold rolled towel in half, rolls to the outside.  Pull the tips out from the center of each roll.

towel art

one hand grasps the tips from each end of the same roll

Take the the tips from both ends of one roll in one hand and the tips from both ends of the other roll in the other hand.

towel art

the leprechaun takes the standard towel animal body used on many towel animals

Pull until the towel resembles a body.

how to fold towel creations

headless towel body in seated position

Raise one end of towel leprechaun body up and set arms onto legs in seated position.

Decorating the Towel Leprechaun Body

it's not real gold, but it's not a real buckle either

gold square made from a pipe cleaner

Fold a gold colored pipe cleaner into a square, leaving one end sticking out.

using Christmas leftovers in St Paddy's day towel art

With the loose end wrapped to the middle and tucked down the square becomes a buckle

Wrap loose end to center of square, fold down and tuck end around opposite side so it forms a buckle.

how to make a leprechaun belt

slip a strip of paper through the newly made buckle and it becomes a belt

Cut a strip of black paper to the width of the pipe cleaner buckle and run the paper through the buckle.  Place over the front middle of the towel leprechaun body and tape to the back.

decorations transform towels into all sorts of different creatures

no head on this body yet, but now it has a belt

Fold small black socks down into themselves to make them into little boots for the towel leprechaun and tuck the ends of the legs into the boots.

How to Make a Towel Leprechaun Head

it's a lot harder to make towels look like people than like animals

pick a towel color that resembles a human skin tone for the head

Hang center of long side of skin-colored hand towel over hook on wall, or tuck it under your chin.

turning a towel into a head

there should be hands on both sides of the towel, but the other one is on the camera

Roll both sides tightly to the center at the same time.   Set rolled towel on flat surface, rolled side down.

it doesn't look much like a head here, but it will

leave enough towel for ears sticking out on each side and hold the any extra in the middle when starting to roll

From the wide end, leave as much of the loose part of the towel sticking out on either side as you want for the leprechaun’s ears.  Hold any excess loose part against the wide end of the rolled towel as you start to roll so it gets rolled into the head as you only want enough sticking out for leprechaun sized ears.

towel head

rolling the head

Roll tightly from the wide end toward the narrow end with the rolls on the outside.

folding a towel leprechaun head

finished leprechaun head

When you get nearly to the end, tuck the narrow end in between the rolls, leaving enough for a nose sticking out from between them.

How to Make a Yarn Leprechaun Beard

towel crafts

cut piece of yarn over card

Cut a strip of yarn long enough to tie around the leprechaun’s head.  Lay yarn string over a card several inches long and around an inch or so wide.

holiday crafts

wind the yarn around the card

Wrap yarn around the card and loose string taking care not to tangle the loose string into the end of the yarn you are wrapping with.  When the card has as much yarn on it as you want the thickness of the leprechaun’s beard to be, cut the end off from the yarn you are winding with so you just have the yarn looped over the card and string.

yarn crafts

once the card is full of yarn, pull it out leaving just the string through the yarn loops

Slide the card out of the yarn and then you just have loops over the string.  Set the beard onto the leprechaun’s head as desired and tie the ends of the yarn string together in the back of the head.

Finishing the Towel Leprechaun

how to make a towel head

head with eyes and beard ready to set on body

Tape eyes onto the leprechaun’s head with double stick tape.  Place the head on top the body.  Use a leprechaun hat purchased from party supply or dollar store, or make a leprechaun hat out of paper to set on leprechaun’s head.

towel leprechaun strike one

Make sure the yarn is not the same color as the towel. It doesn’t look human enough if the colors are too close like this one.

this towel leprechaun is wearing his St Paddy's day green

Towel Leprechaun all ready for St. Patrick’s Day

Now you have a finished towel leprechaun.  If you wanted to get really fancy you could add little glove or paper hands, a pot of gold, or other embellishments if desired.



Copyright My Cruise Stories 2014
Posted in Towel Animals | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Flavorful Stuffed Peppers

baked stuffed pepper topped with cheese and tomato sauce

stuffed pepper ready to eat

Looking for something new to try, I decided to try making stuffed bell peppers.  All the recipes I looked at whether online or in a cookbook looked rather plain and boring, consisting mainly of hamburger, plain white rice, tomato sauce, and maybe a bit of mozzarella.  While they all mentioned putting sauce over the peppers before baking, none of the photos of the finished peppers actually looked like they had any sauce on them.  So after my usual fashion I just used some of their basic how-to instructions for an idea of how they are made and then did a lot of things differently to make the recipe my own.  I don’t know about other people’s stuffed peppers, but these are very flavorful and delicious.

Stuffed Bell Peppers


black beans and rice adds flavor to the stuffed peppers

Zatarain’s Black Beans and rice adds a lot more flavor to the stuffed pepper than plain white rice

7 large bell peppers any color

1 box Zatarain’s Black Beans and Rice

1.25 pounds ground turkey

1/2 onion

1 carrot

1 zucchini

1 can tomato sauce or a jar of spaghetti sauce

shredded cheese


fresh bell peppers

Bell Peppers

When shopping for bell peppers, make sure to choose only peppers that not only look good without blemishes on the outside, but also stand up on their own.

Prepare Zatarin’s black beans and rice following package directions using the full amount of water.  Make sure to give the rice stir now and then while it cooks.

While the rice cooks, prepare the peppers.  Set a large pot with enough water to cover peppers completely on the burner so it heats to boiling while you cut the peppers.

Thinly slice each pepper around the top.  If the top of the pepper is even, a circle of good useable pepper should lift off leaving the stem intact.  If it is not even then it will come up in two half circles.  Dice the removed pepper tops and set aside.

Cut carefully around the inside of each pepper wherever the core joins the edge.  The whole stem and seeds bit should lift off in one piece.  Trim any excess white parts from the inside of the pepper carefully, making sure to keep the outside of the pepper intact.  Rinse any stray seeds out of the inside of the pepper.

Set the prepared peppers into boiling water so they are standing up.  Boil peppers for five minutes then remove them from the water and set them aside in standing position with the water drained out of the inside of them.

Shred the carrot and the zucchini.  You can peel them first or not, whichever you prefer.

Dice the 1/2 onion and add it to the diced pepper tops.  Heat large non-stick frying pan.   In 1 Tablespoon olive oil, saute onions and pepper tops.  When they are partly cooked add the ground turkey.  When the turkey is partly cooked add the shredded carrot and zucchini.  When the meat is done and the veggies are soft drain off any grease.  Stir the rice and beans and 1/4 cup tomato or spaghetti sauce into the meat mixture.

Pour the rest of the tomato or spaghetti sauce into the pan or dish you plan to bake the peppers in.  Stand all the peppers upright in the sauce.  Spoon the filling into the peppers.  Cover the pan and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.  Remove cover and top each pepper with shredded cheese.  Use whatever type of cheese you like.  Bake uncovered 15 minutes more.

I used monterey jack cheese on the yellow and green peppers and pecorino romano on the red and orange ones.  As the photo below shows, the monteray jack melted better than the pecorino romano.

Put each pepper in a bowl, spoon the sauce from the bottom of the pan over the top of the peppers and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.  Enjoy.

stuffed bell pepper recipe

Baked Stuffed Bell Peppers

Copyright 2014 My Cruise Stories
Posted in recipes | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Interview with John Heald – Life on a Cruise Ship and Carnival Funships 2.0

cruise ship

Carnival Breeze

On our transatlantic cruise on Carnival Breeze, we had the opportunity to do an interview with Carnival’s popular spokesperson and best-known cruise director John Heald.  In this segment he talks about what it is like to live on a cruise ship and the upgrades to Carnival’s ships called Funships 2.0.  He also mentions a kitchen (galley) tour.

Carnival's most popular cruise director

John Heald on stage

John Heald was the cruise director on our cruise on the Breeze.  His very popular morning show filmed in the Club O2, which is normally the hangout for teens.  Deck chairs filled to watch his show on the big outdoor screen, many people watched on their cabin TV’s, and each day more people showed up live as they discovered where the broadcast came from.  One day John graciously stayed after the show so we could film this interview.

cruise ship bar

Red Frog Rum Bar – one of Carnival’s Funship 2.0 upgrades

John mentions both Guy’s Burger Joint and the Blue Iguana Cantina in this interview, as both are part of the Funship 2.0 upgrades.  People often wonder if it costs extra to eat there, and will be happy to know that it doesn’t.  The Red Frog Pub does have a very small charge for the excellent fresh made-to-order food found there.

In this video, John Heald talks about what it is like to live on a cruise ship and Carnival’s 2.0 upgrades.

Other blogs from the interview with John Heald include Best Places on Carnival Breeze and Things to Do and Best Kept Secrets.  For more detailed information about Funships 2.0, see this blog.

cruise ship crew members work hard

Hard-Working stewards got up early one morning and covered the whole Lido Pool area with towel animals

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2014
Posted in Breeze, Carnival, Shipboard Life | Tagged , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Jamaica River Tube

Chukka River Tube on the Martha Brae

Chukka river tube shore excursion

Having Fun River Tubing

At the Good Hope Estate, a one-time sugar plantation turned resort, Chukka provides many of the cruise ship shore excursions in Jamaica offered in Falmouth as well as from Ocho Rios and Montego Bay. Chukka (which means a period of play in polo) is one of the largest employers in the Caribbean with excursions around Jamaica and in Belize and Grand Turk as well.  From High Tea at the Good Hope Estate to horseback riding, Chukka has it all.  Tourism is the number one industry in Jamaica and much of the Caribbean so they want to keep the tourists coming.

old stone bridge over the Martha Brae River

approaching a bridge which we later crossed on foot after the zip line

Our combo river tubing and zipline excursion from the MSC Divina started with a bus ride from the cruise ship dock in Falmouth.  We passed shanty towns with a lot of small houses that looked like they had tiny businesses offering anything from food to auto repairs in their front yards, then some larger and nicer homes, pastures of sheep or cows, and crops like bananas and sugarcane.  Sugarcane may not be what it once was in Jamaica (or the rest of the Caribbean) but they still grow some for sugar, molasses, and rum.  Other by-products of sugar cane include fuels and fertilizer.

wild air plants in Jamaica

air plants live in the trees

On the bus they said we would do the zip line first, have a jerked chicken lunch provided with our tour and enough time for changing clothes, and then do the river tubing.  We were nearly to the water before I found out that while some people had done that, the part of the group we ended up with was actually river tubing first.  I had decided at the last minute to buy the aquasocks they sell in their gift shop for people who show up with unsuitable footwear or those who decide that since those are available there’s no need to get their shoes wet.  (They also have rentals for aquasocks.)  I must have still been in the gift shop when they made the announcement.  Luckily I had my swimming suit on under my clothes.  Apparently this happens to people often enough that they routinely take the clothes back and have them waiting by the locker area when the group returns, as there is no way to take them with you on the river tube.

river tubing

a train of tubes

They panicked us on the bus saying cameras were not allowed.  We asked one of the workers there about that after we got off the bus and it turned out it was actually a concern for water on the river and hands free on the zip line.  Since my camera is waterproof and I had it on a neck strap (as well as in a small camera bag also on a neck strap) it was allowed.  Just goes to show it never hurts to ask.

he steers a whole train of tubes

river tubing guide on a blow-up kayak

At the water’s edge they lashed strings of tubes together, some of which they filled with water and rinsed out prior to boarding leaving small puddles in the bottom.  Everyone had to put a life jacket on before boarding their tube.  The guide had a blow-up kayak which he lashed to the front tube and paddled the entire group from there.  At times he turned the string around and pushed everyone along from the back rather than pulling from the front.  Although he was mainly steering and keeping the tubes from snagging on rocks and trees and things since the river provided the actual propulsion.

river tubing in Jamaica

just a little drop

Floating down the river our very knowledgeable guide kept up a nearly constant monolog of information about the plants and things we passed and history of the area, sometimes interrupted by a call of “butts up” reminiscent of the cave tubing in Belize.  When they call butts up it means rocks just under the surface you really don’t want to hit so you’d better raise your derriere or you could be sorry.

giant bamboo from India

locals call this bamboo the suicide plant

Giant Indian bamboo lines much of the riverbanks, planted by the English plantation owners back in the heyday of sugarcane farming.  They cut down the bamboo to make 30-foot rafts to bring their goods downriver.  We happened by a local cutting down some bamboo to make a raft, which in current times is used not for hauling rum and molasses to market, but for providing tourists with an authentic river rafting experience on the Martha Brae River.  This short river runs just 20 miles from an underground source to the sea.

getting ready to make an authentic bamboo raft

cutting bamboo to make a raft

The bamboo there grows about 4 inches a day and they call it a suicide plant because once it reaches somewhere over 100-120 feet high it becomes too top-heavy and snaps near the bottom and falls.  Tall as it grows, it is not the tallest tree there because it isn’t a tree at all, but a type of grass.

hanging termite nest

termite nest hanging in a tree

Some actual trees do grow along the river, many of them host to an array of air plants.  Instead of high mounds on the ground, termites there have nests that look like great blobs in the trees.  Our guide said the termite nests are all-inclusive resorts for birds who will peck holes into them they can crawl into, and while there find a ready meal.

Chukka, Jamaica

under the old stone bridge made from ballast off colonial ships

As we passed under a bridge he said much of the old stone architecture such as that bridge and many old buildings were made not from native stones, but from stones brought over as ballast in ships (much like the blue brick roads of old San Juan – only these rocks are not blue.)  Throughout the day we saw remnants of many old stone things from a lime kiln through the bus window to where a water wheel once worked on the zip-line route.  They still mine limestone in the area and also bauxite, used for making aluminum.

butts up

passing through a small rapid

Most of the float was a relaxing ride, but every now and then we got a bit of excitement in the form of a small rapid.  At one stretch of river the guide invited people to jump out of their rafts and swim, calling the slightly chilly water “refreshing.”  One person jumped in and a family of Canadians joined them, no doubt used to much colder water in their far northern home.  The Canadian mother said the temperature felt fine once she’d gotten used to it.  Not a fan of cold water, I stayed in my raft.  When we reached a place shallow enough for them to stand they all got back in and floated down the river once again.

Why swim when you paid to ride in a tube?

the first swimmer braves the chilly water

I would recommend this excursion for people interested in a nice leisurely scenic float, those who like to learn about the places they visit while still seeing the outdoors, people who want a pleasant day out in nature, or people who want something a bit different from the usual excursion, but not for anyone looking for wild rivers or major whitewater.

Near the end of the video there’s a couple zipliners in the background.  One seen as the tubes pass under the bridge and the other just after.  Watch carefully to see if you can spot them.

The brochure on the ship did say to bring insect repellent, which would have been a good idea had we packed any.  Sunscreen and sunglasses are also quite helpful as some areas of the river are out in the open, though much of it is nicely shady.  We did get lucky on the weather as it was raining when we left the ship and after we got back, but sunny during our tour.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2014
Posted in Divina, MSC, Ports of Call, Shore Excursions | Tagged , , , , , , , | 15 Comments