Carnival Kitchen Onboard the Carnival Panorama

According to Carnival Cruise Line’s press release on November 14, 2019, guests can get ready to have some “FUN WITH COOKING” while at sea on their next cruise. Carnival is debuting its first-in-fleet culinary studio, Carnival Kitchen, onboard Carnival Panorama in December 2019. Guests sailing on the newest ship can put on their chef’s hat and engage in more than 15 onboard cooking classes showcasing a variety of international cuisines and led by the talented Carnival chef’s. Carnival Kitchen gives you the opportunity to explore the art of cooking in a fun and interactive way.

Classes featured in Carnival Kitchen include a Pasta Master Class where guests explore the art of Italian cooking and prepare homemade pasta. In The Orient Unknown Class with Dinner, guests will master the flavors of the Far East to include cuisines of Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines and more. During the Carnival Classics Workshop Class with Dinner, the chefs share the secrets behind some of Carnival’s most beloved dishes such as tuna tartare, saffron risotto and the ever popular warm chocolate melting cake! Other additional fun classes will be available as well. The classes will be one-hour and two-hour morning, afternoon and early evening sessions primarily on sea days and will accommodate up to 18 guests per class.

Carnival Kitchen is located on Deck 4 Aft on the new Carnival Panorama and features nine marbled-granite cooking and prep stations with individual sinks, refrigerators and stove tops as well as all tools, utensils and ingredients necessary to create a memorable meal. The space is accented with white and grey pattern-tiled floors and steel ceilings and walls as well as a dedicated dining area within the Carnival Kitchen for guests in the evening classes to enjoy a themed sit-down dinner included in the price once the classes commence. Class prices range between $30 and $59, and Carnival Kitchen-branded items are available for purchase onboard. You can take a sneak peek at the Carnival Kitchen in a virtual video here:

Carnival Panorama debuts with a special three-day voyage on Dec. 11, 2019, followed by year-round Mexican Riviera cruises beginning Dec. 14, 2019. Voyages depart from the newly renovated Long Beach Cruise Terminal and feature stunning destinations including Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta.


Travel to Cuba


Did the recent June 4, 2019 change in regulation for travel to Cuba by OFAC put a crimp into your plans to book a cruise to experience Cuba? While the “People to People” travel program category used by the cruise lines is no longer in effect, the “Support of the Cuban People” category continues to offer a viable option to travel to Cuba.

Under the “Support of the Cuban People,” category, travelers must have a full-time schedule of activities that improve the lives of individuals in Cuba. This involves enhancing contact with the Cuban people, supporting civil society in Cuba, or promoting the Cuban people’s independence from Cuban authorities. There are Cuban vacation itineraries currently available that satisfy the requirements of the still acceptable “Support the Cuban People” program. Contact me if you would like additional information on these Cuba travel opportunities. 



When in Rome, Do as the Romans Do

How often have you said “When in Rome…” or heard someone else say it in conversation? Etymologists believe the phrase “When in Rome, Do as the Romans Do” dates back to around 390AD. In a letter written by Christian Saint Augustine to the Bishop of Naples, Augustine suggested that the Bishop adapt to local customs whilst visiting local parishes to avoid possible scandal or embarrassment. Saint Augustine explained in the letter by way of example that while in didn’t fast on Saturdays in Milan, he did so when visiting Rome. The phrase today in the English language can almost be considered cliché. Who would have thought such a phrase could trace its origins back to a letter written between two Italians well over 1500 years ago.

Keep Calm and Travel On!



Whether it is cruising, touring near and distant lands, camping, glamping, a weekend getaway or a longer trip, travel let’s us discover, explore, relax, and enhance our well being. I’m excited to begin another phase of training before I officially launch my travel business by the end of July; however,  I am able to help you with your travel plans while in this next training phase with the assistance from experts in the field who provide guidance and mentoring through my professional affiliation with the travel host agency I’ve chosen.  I will be a part of the Oasis Travel/Signature Travel Network which will provide me access to top suppliers and amazing pricing in the industry. Let the fun begin!



Thinking about a self drive vacation in Ireland?

If you have any interest in visiting the Emerald Isle, then I have two words for you:  BOOK IT! However, you need to decide if you want to see Ireland on an independent self drive vacation or as part of a tour group (there are both small and larger group options). This decision is a very important one to make, and there are pros and cons (you’ll be in Ireland so using the word “cons” is really silly because like I said, you will still be in Ireland seeing the beautiful country!) to each choice.

I’m the independent type, and I love to meander around new destinations on my own so it will come as no surprise that my husband and I opted for a self drive vacation while in Ireland. Keep in mind that one needs to evaluate their own comfort level when it comes to driving on the “other” side of the car and the “other” side of the road in a different country! Also, most flights from the US will arrive in the morning local time, and as such, you’ll be starting out your drive with jet lag for sure. I know I did, and the first day was by far the worst day behind the wheel. There were no accidents (thank goodness), but I was rather tense and tired while driving that first day. By day three, I was much more comfortable. I will caution you that many of the roads off of the Motorway (think our interstate road system) are more narrow than the roads you are probably used to driving on. I can’t emphasize this enough. I know I would not be comfortable renting any vehicle larger than a cross-over SUV, and on some roads I still may wish I had a smaller vehicle. We drove a BMW wagon which was new and already had documented scraps and dents on our rental paperwork!

Renting a car in Ireland is a different experience than renting a car in the US. To begin, I recommend you use a car hire broker such as AutoEurope. They have been in business over 60 years and help get the best rental rate with the car hire companies. There are other car hire brokers you can research on the internet as well. Most cars in Ireland are manual transmissions. You will have to pay extra to rent an automatic transmission vehicle. If you are not used to driving a manual then I highly encourage you to pay the difference and rent an automatic. You’ll have enough on your hands just getting used to the other side of the car and the other side of the road. Trust me. Now that I have had my first “rodeo,” I do think I’ll be fine renting a manual on our next visit, and therefore, save some money on the car rental.

The next big ball of wax to get through is the insurance. Oh my gosh. This part drove me crazy. Forget about using your own auto insurance company to cover you while driving in Ireland. Although there is one type of credit card that can be used in place of part of the insurance, you have to have something crazy like a $50,000 availability on the card. Just do yourself a favor and at the time of booking get the CDW (Collision Damage Waiver) and add the Supercover liability as well. Without the Supercover, you will need to have a certain cash balance available on the credit card you used for the booking, and the amount will be held on the credit card until you return the car. If there is damage, your card will be charged accordingly. The amount held on your card is dependent upon the class (size) of rental car you rent. Without the Supercoverage, our hold was going to be something like $1800. Umm, no thank you. I’ll just get the extra insurance. You will also be offered Tire and Wheel coverage (charged as a daily rate) because even with the Supercoverage, that isn’t included. We did not get the tire and wheel coverage; however, I cannot stress enough how important it is to purchase the Supercover liability. Ninety percent of rental cars in Ireland are returned with some sort of damage. You will totally understand why after one day of driving and passing cars, trucks, buses and tractors on very narrow roads! Also, you must add navigation to your rental package if the vehicle does not come equipped with a navigation system. I had road maps, and we looked at them frequently; however, the navigation system was such a big help!!

Have I scared you yet? I certainly do not mean to, but I am being very honest here folks! Other rental decisions will be aC/no AC as well as diesel or gasoline. We rented a diesel and will do so again. Most cars over there are hybrids too so don’t be surprised when the engine cuts off at stop lights. Also, the boot or trunk space as we call it, is much smaller than we are used too. Keep that in mind when renting a car for the number of people in your traveling party.

If you think you’d rather sit back and relax while someone else does the driving, you’re in luck. There are several reputable tour companies that offer various packages to attract different interests. Whether you choose an independent self drive vacation or join a tour group, one thing is for certain. You WILL fall in love with all of the beauty that is Ireland!!!


Do you go ape for apps?

I really try to limit the number of apps on my iPhone because I usually have so many photos on it that take up memory space. Yes, I am horrible when it comes to moving my photos over to the cloud or wherever the heck I put them. However, I have one app that I downloaded for work, and it quickly became a favorite personal app too.

Take a look at the Scanner Pro app in your App Store.  It looks like this.

This app will quickly scan a digital version of a paper document and create a pdf file. It seriously takes clear photos with very little distortion. I often use it on the go when a party to a real estate transaction needs a document. I simply pull out my file, locate the document, open the app, take the photo and lastly, create the pdf. Then off it goes in an email to the recipient. Talk about easy, fast and not missing a beat.

Now enter children into the picture. The lovely teenager is at school and forgot the signed field trip permission slip or whatever. No problem. Out comes my phone, and I put the Scanner Pro app to work. The forgotten permission slip is delivered to his email account within minutes. Problem solved. I have scanned receipts, recipes and so much more to access digitally at a later time.

If you give it a try, be sure to let me know how you like it.


Where’s the Beef?

If you aren’t a vegetarian, who doesn’t like a good burger? I’m picky about the burgers I eat; just ask my husband and sons. They know how seldom  I order a burger when we eat out.  I usually make my own patties for grilling at home, but I’m up for trying restaurant burgers when they come highly recommended.

Now I introduce you to Northern Neck Burger,, with locations in both Kilmarnock and Tappahannock.

   I can’t even remember who first told me about NN Burger, but I’m sure glad they did. Oh how I love their burgers. I really should say burger because I am that highly predictable person who orders the same thing most of the time at a given restaurant. At NN Burger, that same thing would be the NN “No Nonsense” Bacon Cheeseburger. I think the special creamy “NN” sauce makes it, but that’s just me talking.

  Why not add NN Twister Chips to the meal, right? A couple of people can share an order. Yes, the serving is that big. My favorites are the Queso and The Local. Around coastal Virginia, Old Bay Seasoning is used like salt and pepper, and there is plenty of Old Bay on The Local.

I like to make a pit stop at the Tappahannock location when I’m heading up route 17 to Fredericksburg or points northward. Over Memorial Day weekend, we decided to have lunch at NN Burger in Kilmarnock. Of course, we hit at the peak lunch hour, and it was insanely busy with Rivah weekenders kicking off the beginning of the summer season. We had about an hour wait for our food (much longer than a typical wait so I don’t want to scare you), and we passed the time watching a professional cornhole tournament on the flatscreen. That was a first for the four of us. We like to play cornhole out by the pool, but these players were much more serious about their game. Ahh, I digress. Back to burgers!

Yes, you will be quite full when you are done with your meal. You can help walk off that stuffed feeling with a stroll along the shopping strip around the corner from NN Burger. Some of the shops were closed the Sunday we went, but we visited a few and tried on some “Bubba Boots. If the shoe fits, wear it. Right?


What’s your favorite burger joint? I’d love to hear from you. I know your dying to share your favorite place.

We Be Jammin’

So, there’s been an almost two month gap since I created this blog with ideas rolling around in my head for summer content. Fast forward now to late August…yes, life happened, and I didn’t follow through. This whole blog thing is rather intimidating. Well, I’m going to back track now to May and share my little adventure making jam with my Instant Pot, and then try to move forward with more commitment to my blog. I’ll be completely honest as I have no idea how to make the layout of this blog awesome. Heck, it took me forever to select the layout from a long list of available themes. I don’t even know what all of the submenus are about in my “Dashboard.” Alas, I’ll just attack the layout and format in little chunks and learn as I go. Now back to making jam!


Anyone who knows me knows how much I love my Instant Pots. Yes, I said pots as I have two different sized ones with permanent homes on my kitchen counter. I will say that while I love my Instant Pots, I have not named them. You see, I read in on online IP group that one lady named her pot and made a cute fabric cover for it. I don’t sew and I don’t have time to name kitchen apparatus so that’s that.

I’ve made many great meals in my IP so it was time to try something different. With an overflowing basket of strawberries, I hit up Pinterest in search of an IP jam recipe. Of course, I found several from which to choose. I settled on this recipe I was looking for simple and straightforward directions, and this recipe fit the bill. I did order small jars from amazon a few days in advance of making the jam. You can find them here

 For me, this recipe will remain my “go to recipe” for making jam as it is quick and easy, and I don’t have to use pectin. Simple cornstarch will thicken the jam. Just remember, the jam should be good for 3 weeks in the refrigerator or up to 1 year if frozen.  There is a link in the recipe if you are interested in preserving jam. Here’s some photos of the jam in the making.

 I gifted a couple of jars, and both recipients said the jam was tasty! The guys in my house took care of enjoying the remaining jars. I’m definitely putting berry picking and jam making on my calendar for early in the berry season for 2019. Who wants to do this with me next spring? Even simple things can make for a fun and adventurous day.


Berry Pickin’ We Will Go

 On a recent Sunday afternoon, after a few dreary cloudy and rainy days, I trekked over to Surry at the last minute to pick some fresh strawberries at College Run Farms. You can check out their website at The website is updated daily with conditions for picking. There’s not much time left for the 2018 strawberry season, and all of the rain has certainly caused some havoc. Be sure to take a look at the website if you plan to go.

Getting out of the house was just as paramount to actually picking berries. From Gloucester, I get to enjoy a short drive on the Colonial Parkway before reaching the Jamestown-Scotland Ferry to cross the James River to Surry. For more information about the ferry schedule, check out the VDOT website at The ride across the James lasts about 20 minutes before docking . Here are some photos from my ride.  I always find the ferry ride an adventure by itself. Standing along the railing while the wind blows in my face and taking in the views is both peaceful and therapeutic for me. On the ride back to Jamestown, a tug pushing a huge bar passed by; unfortunately, I didn’t get over to that side to snap a photo.

Once you drive off from the ferry docks, the berry farm is about a 5 minute ride. The picking forecast for the day was not overly optimistic given the rain earlier that morning. However, even though some of the fields were wet, I was pleasantly surprised to find some dry rows and plump juicy berries that had somehow avoided getting soft and soggy from the rains. I did arrive prepared after reading the website with my rain wellies. In fact, I chose to pick on the wet rows that had less people so my boots certainly came in handy.  All in all, I was in the fields about 40 minutes total until my basket was overflowing with strawberries. Many were sandy from the rains so it wasn’t hard to resist eating a few while picking on this particular trip. In fact, I didn’t eat the first one until later that evening when I washed off a few to add to a dinner salad.  The entire basket of strawberries cost $9.50 to pick and boy was it fun other than when I was bit by a nasty May fly. That little bugger was persistent and sure enough got me on my hand. I didn’t let it get in the way of filling my basket and enjoying a nice waffle cone of homemade strawberry ice cream at the end.

So the rains held off until after I got back home in the early evening. Whew! The one thing I didn’t take was an umbrella or rain slicker. What a great way to spend a few hours on a Sunday afternoon. I wish I would have headed out earlier to enjoy a tasty lunch at the Virginia Diner in Wakefield which is about a 30 minute drive from the berry farm. You can check out their hours of operation and menu at It’s been a couple of years since I’ve eaten there, and I remember it well. Next trip over, I also want to make a pit stop by Smith’s Fort Plantation which you pass along the way from the ferry to College Run Farms. I’ve visited many of the local plantations during my childhood and adult years, but this one has eluded me. Take a peek here

Do you have farms in your local area where you can pick in season crops? If so, I encourage you to get out and take advantage. It will be a fun day for sure. Now, what became of all of the strawberries I picked? I’ll save that for my next post.

Another fun Seafood Festival for the books

Got seafood? Well,  I certainly got my belly full at the 70th Abingdon Ruritan Club Seafood Festival. The twice a year local event in Bena is always a crowd pleaser, and this one surely did not disappoint. On a side note, I like to refer to Bena as the “Gateway to Guinea!” I usually get a few laughs from some of the locals when I say that.

I have volunteered at the Virginia Country Real Estate beer booth for the last few years’ festivals and didn’t make it out of the booth. This spring, however, Jeff and I purchased tickets and enjoyed the afternoon and evening as festival goers. It’s one of those days when I make sure to eat very little if anything before the gates open so I can enjoy all of the deliciousness offered. I have my favorites, and they include the fried oysters, fried scallops, steamed shrimp and the coveted clam chowder. One can also find steamed oysters, oysters on the half shell, steamed crabs, clam fritters, fried fish, hush puppies, bbq, cake and ice cream. The beer and alcohol start to flow after the singing of the national anthem at 3:00 pm and continues until the last pour at 7:30 p.m. While I’m not a beer drinker, I do enjoy the Guinea Gotchas mixed drinks, and the jello shots were also a nice addition this spring. It’s always fun to see friends from childhood and new ones too while walking around the grounds.

The $50 ticket price covers all of your food and drinks, and of course, the Ruritan Club is a service organization that does a lot of good work in our community. Bottom line: it is a good bang for your buck if you like seafood. Mark your calendars as the festival is held on the third Wednesday in October and May and attracts people from both near and far, but you will need to secure your ticket prior to the event. The gate opens at 2:00 p.m. and the festival runs from 3:00 – 8:00 p.m. Will I run into you at the October festival?