How To Pack For A Cruise!

Hey cruisers! This list is great for most any cruise but I modified it specifically for Open Bar Cruise Fall 2015. Fell free to leave comments if you think I missed something!

Click here for a printable PDF version!


  • Pants-Skirts
  • Shirts-Blouses
  • Belt
  • Dress Shoes
  • Comfortable shoes
  • Flippy-floppies
  • Socks
  • Workout clothes
  • Swimsuits (2 at least)
  • Suit Coverup
  • Undies and bras
  • Formal Evening Wear
  • Dinner Wear
  • Sundresses
  • Shorts
  • Tops
  • Tshirts
  • Light sweater-Hoodie
  • Robe
  • Jammies
  • Hat/visor


  • Hair ties/clips
  • Makeup
  • Hairbrush
  • Hairspray/Gel
  • Deodorant
  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Soap
  • Razors-shave gel
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Floss
  • Curling or Flat Iron (After some debate RC does allow these on the boat. Yay!)
  • Blow dryer (one in room)
  • Lotion
  • Sunscreen
  • Chapstick
  • Kleenex
  • Tweezers
  • Nail clippers/file/polish
  • Cologne
  • Sunscreen
  • Q-tips
  • Tampons
  • Medicine (aspirin, pepto, bandaids, vitamins)
  • Medical ID info
  • Birth Control Pills/Condoms
  • Prescription medicine

Documents & Misc.

  • Sunglasses
  • Cell phone & Charger
  • USB wall plug
  • Earbuds
  • Laptop & Charger
  • Credit Cards-ATM Card
  • Passport
  • Money
  • I.D.-Drivers License
  • Birth Certificate
  • Tickets – passes confirmation #’s
  • Keys
  • Itinerary
  • Luggage Tags
  • Jewelry
  • Watch
  • Purse
  • Journal
  • Luggage Locks/keys
  • Safety pins-sewing kit
  • Ziploc bags
  • Cigs E-Cigarette-Charger
  • Gum/Mints
  • Your Hangover Cure

Don’t forget to…

  • Throw out stuff in the fridge that will be gross by the time you get back
  • Lock all doors and windows- set alarm
  • Lock your car
  • Have neighbor check the mail/feed animals
  • Go shopping for missing items-in travel sizes!!!
  • Put ID tags inside luggage
  • Change $40 into small bills for street vendor purchases and tips
  • Put all nail files, scissors in checked luggage
  • Send email to important people (I’ll be out of the country…)
  • Get a ride to the port
  • Call mom – give her your itinerary
  • Pay bills that will come due while you’re gone
  • Put all “necessities” in the carry-on, you may not get your bags for hours
  • Double check all reservations
  • Get to the port early
  • Bring goodies for theme nights


  • I listed shampoo and soap because I can’t use any old brand, that will be in the room as will a blow dryer.
  • Make sure you don’t pack your ID and boarding pass in your checked luggage
  • You may not be able to get into your room right away, don’t carry on too much
  • Your bags wont arrive at your room right away, don’t leave necessities in them
  • After Check in stop by the Open Bar Cruise booth to figure out what you need from them

Look forward to seeing everyone!

Click here for a printable PDF version!

How To Host A Mongolian BBQ

How To Host A Mongolian BBQ

So every year my lovely and talented friend Tasha throws a Mongolian BBQ for her boyfriend Mike on his birthday. The party is always a hit and every year it gets bigger and bigger. Let me preface this instruction with the notion that this party takes a lot of prep! I only help dice and slice and my hands still smell like garlic. But the result is always amazing. You can base the amount of food you prep depending on the number of party goers. I would suggest starting small, a dozen or so people and work your way up to Tasha and Mike’s level of 50-100. Here’s what you’ll need:


  • An outdoor wok or a grill with a flat tray to grill up your food
  • A meat slicer – otherwise you’ll be doing it all by hand
  • Disposable bowls for raw ingredients
  • Bowls for finished product
  • Clothespins for identifying whose bowl is whose
  • Utensils for cooking and eating including chopsticks for fun


Sauces:  Make as many as you can for diverse tastes. Garlic water is always the biggest hit so make plenty. Add boiling water or chicken broth to ingredients to bring out the most flavor and let cool. Water is what makes the food cook quickly and evenly. So be sure to have plenty of flavored water on hand. Here are some of the ones Tasha offered.

  • Garlic Water
  • Garlic Lemon
  • Sweet and Sour
  • Hoisin Wasabi
  • Mushroom and Eggplant
  • Ginger and Black Pepper
  • Hot Pepper
  • Soy Sauce
  • Sugar water

Meats and Noodles: Slicing can be done days in advance and frozen until the day of the party. Soba noodles can be cooked the night before and left in a drizzle of sesame oil to keep them from sticking together.

  • Sliced Beef
  • Slice Chicken
  • Sliced Pork
  • Large Shrimp
  • Diced Tofu
  • Soba Noodles

Vegetables: Be sure to dice in similar sizes so that the food cooks evenly. Include anything you would enjoy in a stir fry type meal. Some of these can done the day before but most are best when done the day of the party.

  • Bok Choy
  • Napa Cabbage
  • Red Cabbage
  • Carrot
  • Green Beans
  • Mushrooms
  • Water Chestnuts
  • Celery
  • Pea Pods
  • Peppers
  • Bean Sprouts
  • Onions
  • Scallions
  • Green peas
  • Baby Corn
  • Pineapple
  • Bamboo Shoots
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Sesame seeds
  • Peanuts

Guest Prep: Making signs with instructions is the easiest way to let guests know how the process works. We got inventive with our list:


Be sure your wok or grill is nice and hot before you begin. Here in Florida, the chef gets pretty warm in the outdoor kitchen so be sure to keep the cold beverages coming. It’s best to have 2 chefs so one can cover for the other so everyone can enjoy the party. It also helps to have a sous chef of sorts to help keep bowls in the order they were turned in.

Bowls cook really quickly. Add oil to the wok before adding a bowl. Constantly stir to get an even cook on all pieces. Be sure to cook chicken and pork thoroughly. Beware of any guests with allergies. We couldn’t do shrimp or pineapple for this reason. Be sure to clean your wok with water occasionally to get out old pieces of food that may burn and effect future bowls. Also clean after your friend who likes things spicy has theirs done. You don’t want a 5 year old getting residual heat in their bowl.

A constant stream of bowls will be coming in so it’s best to have the prep chef not be the same as the chef that cooks the bowls. Because, well… exhaustion. Be sure to have a pitcher of plain water on hand for guests who didn’t add enough liquid to their bowl. Bowl should be filled to the brim with water after meats and veggies are added.

And this is me, a happy girl with a bowl of Mongolian! Enjoy your Mongolian Barbeque!




When People’s Dining Habits Make You Crazy

Since the beginning of mankind humans have gathered together to eat food in a communal fashion. You would think after thousands of years certain criteria for joining the group would be “set in stone” as it were to keep peace among the natives. However, time and again I find people doing the same disgusting and irritating things over and over again. When you bust them they look at you blankly like “What’d I do?” or the smile mischievously for they know they’ve been caught in a faux pas. The worst offenders in my mind are as follows:

1)   Double-dipping – I don’t care if you 3 or 93 this is by far the most disgusting of communal eating wrongs. What makes you think I want your saliva in my taco dip? How about I come over and pee in your spaghetti sauce? I feel these two things are equivalent. Even worse is watching a snot nose kid put a soggy sucked-on Ritz back in a couple of times. YUCK! And yes this goes for chefs putting the spoon back in the pot after a taste.

2)   Touching all of the food – I once watched a 6 year old touch every piece of cake on a buffet line. I think he was counting them?? Yay for math, boo for your frog-catching grimy mitts on the dessert. You know children don’t wash their hands (neither do some adults) and they for sure itch their privates, play with their gum and pick their noses. This goes for dipping your bare fingers into bowls of food, cakes, etc. Tongs, people, tongs!!!

3)   Eating the best part of a dish to pass – Please quit eating all the cheese off the bean dip, all the bacon off the baked beans and picking all of the shrimps out of the pasta salad. Yeah, I know, it’s your favorite part. But it’s everyone else’s favorite part too!! What entitles you to the cream of everything?

4)   Eating over the pan – I went to one of those charity-social downtown type of things where they were serving a buffet of appetizers for the crowd. I’m minding my own beer when my friend A.M. says “Aw hell naw” and points out a fella eating a chicken wing over the whole chafing dish of wings. She strolls over to tell this guy the wing pan ain’t his momma’s kitchen sink and to grab a plate like a civilized person. AHAHAH. Get ’em girl. I mean really… these are adults!!

5)   The presumptive addition – Please do not squeeze lemon over the seafood appetizer we are all about to share! I hate lemon on my fried seafood and you ruined it for me! Same goes for salting or saucing. Also, as someone who strives very hard to make good food, please do not automatically salt my food before you eat. It shows your lack of forethought and an impulsiveness I find to be a character flaw.

6)   Chewing with you mouth open – No one wants to see your cud, moo-cow. Close your trap. (This goes for popping gum too)

7)   Blowing your nose in a restaurant – I’m halfway through a plate of bacon and eggs and you Mr. Booth-Next-Door decide it’s a good time to clear your sinuses into a hanky. Take it to the restroom!

8)   The loud extended burp – So many people feel it’s OK to burp loud and long at a table full of people. “It’s a compliment in Arab nations -hahah” STFU, it’s gross.

9)  Talking on the cell phone at dinner – It’s rude. It’s even ruder at a restaurant. It’s a rare treat for me to get to go out to eat and I don’t want to listen to you on the phone whether your my dinner companion or someone close by. Oh, it’s an important business call? Fine. Take it to the lobby. Now that I think about it, it is just as rude at home where I’ve spent time and energy to make a nice meal, tell them you’re at dinner and to call back, they’ll understand.

10)   Rude to the server – Making someone take 5 trips to the kitchen because you think of something you want each time they return is rude. Speaking down to staff is rude. Making a server stand there while you take 5 minutes to decide… rude. Tipping poorly, rude. They are a server, not a servant. I think everyone should spend 6 months as a server so they understand the grueling nature of restaurant service. They would never tip poorly or be obnoxious again. Oh and if your toddler just left a explosion of finger food all over a 5 foot radius, tip even better.

(Modified and reblogged from September 4, 2010)

Screen Shot 2015-08-03 at 2.25.38 PM

How Not To Be “That Guy” When Invited On a Friend’s Boat

Hey! You’ve been invited to go boating with your friends! Folks with boats know people will start coming out of the woodwork the moment they buy a boat and are usually more than happy to have some others along. But there are a few rules you need to follow in order to get invited back.  Keep in mind, boats aren’t cheap to buy or maintain. Also marine gas ain’t cheap either and someone will be cleaning up a house full of tracked in lake mud after your adventure. They’re spending time and money to take you out so don’t act like some D-bag at a frat party.

Here’s a couple of rules to ensure you’ll receive future invites. (Note: When I say guy, I mean guys and girls, I’m from Michigan it’s what we do.)

1) Food – Don’t be the guy that brings one bag of pretzel rods for a full day of boating. Eventually you will get hungry (especially after a few beverages) and when you do you will have to depend on the kindness of others to be fed properly. Mainly because they don’t want your drunk ass passing out due to lack of proper nutrition or falling off the boat. Consider bringing a sub sandwich, chopped fruit, veggies, chips or some other easy to transport food. Be gracious when someone does offer you their food and don’t just take for granted that the host/hostess is supposed to feed you unless this was specifically implied.

2) Drinks – Always bring twice what you can drink. Boating is a communal affair and you may have to share a couple beers. (Because there’s always the person who came completely empty handed or underestimated their ability to consume beverages on a hot day). Also don’t show up with just drinks, put them in a cooler and cover them with ice. Unless you’re bringing Fireball, we’ll make room in our cooler for that. And drink a water every now and again. Proper hydration will ensure that you don’t get too intoxicated and be “That Guy.”

3) Guests – Did you tell the captain you were bringing a friend/dog/child on their boat? Bringing tag-alongs without notice is a big no-no. Maybe that extra will overcrowd the boat, or pee on the carpet (I mean the dog not the friend) and some situations just aren’t kid friendly. Besides, now you are personally responsible for the care and feeding of your guest. You’re going to have to share your warm 6 pack and pretzel rods between 2 people now. Always check with your host/hostess before dragging along a sidekick. Yes, even you, beloved friend.

4) Smoking – Always ask before lighting up on someone’s boat. Once again these are expensive machines, and just because they’re open air doesn’t mean it’s ok. Owners always fear that some drunk may put a burn hole in the seat. Be considerate and ask first and NEVER throw your butts in the water.

5) Littering – Speaking of throwing things in the water. Absolutely nothing goes into the water that is not seaweed. Orange rinds, peanut shells, and such are no big deal but be mindful of your beer caps, cigarette butts, wrappers and cans. Litter is destructive and disgusting. In fact if you find a piece of trash in the water, pick it up and put it in a trash bin. Don’t be a piggy.

6) Be Prepared – Be sure you’ve brought all you need for fun in the sun. This includes sunscreen, sunglasses, chapstick, and a towel along with your food and drinks. Trust your friends when they say you need sunscreen or a water.

7) The Captain – OK here’s the deal: The captain is in charge of the boat. (The captain may not always be the one in the drivers seat) If he/she says it’s time to go, it’s time to go. If they ask you to move, sit down or shut up, do it. As fun and relaxing as boating is, it is the captains job to ensure the safety of all the people on their boat and they are liable for you. Also, the captain chooses the music or appoints a DJ, end of story.

8) Safety – If you feel a “Hold my beer and watch this” moment coming up, just say no. Do not push anyone out of a moving boat or jump out of a moving boat. Do not hang out by the motor of a running boat. Don’t try a double back flip off the platform. Don’t sit on the rails at high speeds. In other words don’t be dumb.

9) Passenger Etiquette – Respect the boat! Don’t step on seats, only hard surfaces if possible. Leave coolers on the floor. Don’t bring any glass on board.  Respect equipment including paddle boards and floats. Don’t play with any buttons or switches. Don’t try to start the boat while the captain is away. Don’t try to “help” unless the captain asks you to. A friend also mentioned that you should use spray sunscreen BEFORE getting on the boat. Sunscreen spray makes seats sticky and hard to clean. The lotion kind is better for your skin and the environment anyway.

10) Don’t be late – Nothing is more tiresome than sitting with a boat full of people waiting on that one person who didn’t plan ahead. We could be out having fun, but no we’re still at the dock because you just texted “On My Way!” from inside the beer store. Have some respect for your friends and get there when you are supposed to.

11) Disembarking – Don’t stand up until the boat is fully secure. Make sure you grab everything you brought with you on the boat. Make sure all trash has been cleared and put it in a proper place at the house. Ask for help if you need it. And ask the Captain if they need help wiping down the boat!

Oh and if you get invited out regularly, offer to chip in for gas. A gas station gift card is the easy way to make this happen. That’s it for now friends! Please let me know if you think of something else I can add!


(Update: Geez Louise on toast! Thanks everyone for sharing, this has been amazing! P.S. Y’all are a riot and I spend most of my time on pontoons and ski boats in lovely Orlando, FL)

(Update 2: Just a reminder that this content is copyrighted and cutting and pasting it to your forum or page without credit is not cool, please use the share buttons, thanks. )

34 Awesome Things To Do In Orlando This Weekend

So recently I had a friend in from out of town and he asked me, “Well what’s to do around here besides Disney & Universal?” Are you kidding me? There’s so much to do it’s hard to make a choice. From restaurants to shopping, there’s a ton of things hip and happening around here!

Let’s start by eliminating any large theme parks, golf courses, chain restaurants and major shopping meccas or we’ll be here forever. So want something fun and funky to do? Here’s my list.


Weekends Downtown– You ready to get your party on? Then head downtown on a Friday or Saturday night for people watching and some adult beverages. Beware it is a crowded younger scene at Wall Street Plaza but feel free to go to Tanqueray’s Bar which has, since 1984 been serving up live bands and a smoke filled old bank vault every night. 

(Update: Marriott Traveler did a great video to give you and idea of what Downtown nightlife is like )

Harry P. Leu Gardens – Is botany your thing? Because Leu Gardens is a gorgeously landscaped 50 acre park perfect for a romantic stroll. Don’t miss Date Night Movie where you and your date watch a movie under the stars. Blankets and picnic baskets welcome. 

ZoomAir at the Sanford Zoo – Get ready to zoom through the trees at fast speeds! Your Zoom Air adventure starts with a short lesson on zip lining then you’re free to go exploring through the trees. Much like that rickety bridge in that Indiana Jones movie, you make your way through rope and cable bridges and zipline across to other bridges. Not for those scared of heights.  P.S. While you’re in Sanford, stop by the quaint downtown for boutiques, antique shopping and great food. 

Road Trip: Clermont – Must see attractions just west of Orlando include the Citrus Tower, a mid-century observation tower with a charming Old Florida gift shop.  Right next door is the Presidents Hall of Fame and gift shop for those into memorabilia and artifacts from all of the U.S. Presidents.  A few miles down the road is the Lakeridge Winery. Complimentary winery tours and wine tastings are offered seven days a week. For the best time don’t miss the ‘I Love Lucy-esque’ Annual Harvest Grape Stomp in August. 

East End Market – Feed your inner foodie and head to East End Market for some specialty food, furniture and flowers from a variety of vendors. If you’re a nut for cheese like I am, head to La Femme du Fromage for artisan cheeses.

Park Avenue in Winter Park – The abundance of shops and restaurants on Park Avenue is rivaled only by the excellent people watching. Park Avenue’s a mix of well-dressed wine sippers, college kids and families. At the center of it all is the park for which it is named surrounded by great architecture and grandiose homes. Not to miss, the Annual Winter Park Arts Festival in March each year with a Florida artist showcase in October. 


Little Vietnam – In the middle of the quirky and delightful Mills 50 district of Downtown Orlando is Little Vietnam. This area is an assortment of unique shops and restaurants and the best Asian Food markets around. If you love Boba tea, Banh-mi or Pho, this is the place to be. My pick? Nha Trand Subs for Banh-mi, a Vietnamese style sub sandwich. 

The Milk District – Named for the unmistakeable presence of a large milk factory in the center of it, the Milk District features a lot of great places to drink and play. Since 1958 Sportstown Billiards has been a great place to shoot pool, get a craft beer and smoke a cig. And don’t forget Tasty Tuesdays Food Truck round up. If you’re out that way during the day do not miss a stop at Pom Pom’s Teahouse & Sandwicheria or Jimmy Kimmel’s favorite, Beefy King (you do yourself a dis-service if you do not get tater tots with your beef sammich.)

Orlando Museum of ArtThe Orlando Museum of Art features a variety of artistic collections and traveling exhibitions from around the world. With 10 or more galleries on display at all times plus great events and art programs, consider an annual pass. Admission is only $10 for adults for the day.

Ripley’s Believe it or Not – Quaintly called the odditorium, Ripley’s Believe It or Not is a museum of the weirdest collection of oddities on the globe. The Orlando odditorium features shrunken heads, an authentic vampire killing kit, a shooting gallery, and a wild spinning vortex tunnel.

Sleuth’s Mystery Dinner Shows – In the mood for a good whodunnit? Sleuth’s features a live action mystery play right before your eyes. Ticket includes the show, meal and adult beverages as the characters play out a mystery. The crowd then guesses who they think the murderer is in the cast. A lot of fun and laughs are to be had during the performance. Multiple shows are available to see throughout the month.

Orlando Shakespeare Theater – In the mood for a theatrical production? Orlando Shakespeare Theater features two theaters which show unique stage shows for adults and children too. 

Aloma Cinema Grill – A pitcher of Beer and fries during a movie? Sign me up. Aloma Cinema Grill shows the latest releases in a cool comfortable table seating atmosphere. Dinner and a movie all in one place!

City Walk – While technically a part of the Universal Theme Park universe City Walk is a world in and of itself. Stop by Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville for a frosty margarita, or enjoy the nightlife at multiple bars. There’s also great shops and restaurants to enjoy all without the price of a ticket. Parking is normally $16

Downtown Disney – Another offshoot of a popular theme park is Downtown Disney which is always bustling with shops, restaurants and great venues like Cirque du Soleil, House of Blues, and Planet Hollywood. Be sure to visit the Lego Store, Ghirardelli’s for your free chocolate sample and the Harley Davidson shop. Again, no park tickets needed to enjoy some Mickey.
(Note: Right now they are under construction and the place is packed and parking will give you heartburn)

Pointe Orlando – In the heart of International Drive is Pointe Orlando a bustling center with food, shopping and entertainment. Take the little ones to WonderWorks to enjoy an afternoon of fun and games. (Yes it’s that crazy upside down building) Adults can enjoy the Improv comedy club or grab a cocktail at the upscale Blue Martini or a drag show at the Funky Monkey. Fancy lads and ladies in a kilt? Head to The Pub for authentic British Isles atmosphere. This place has more awesome restaurants than I can list. 

lake eola

Lake Eola – Downtown Orlando’s heart is Lake Eola. With a one mile walking trail around the lake, it is great for taking in the Lake Eola wildlife. Those big swans in the center? They’re paddle boats that you can rent and enjoy the lake ON the lake. Be sure to check out all of the crazy sculpture as you go. Eola Sunday Market is a great farmers market with multiple booths and variety of food, plants and flowers. And on other days Relax Grill is a perfect spot to grab some grub and watch people go by with a lake view. 

Ivanhoe Village – Known affectionately by locals as Ivanhoe Row, Ivanhoe Village is a unique bit of Downtown Orlando. Put on a pair of comfy shoes so you can hit up great places like the Lake Ivanhoe circuit workout, The Hammered Lamb for gyros, White Wolf Cafe for brunch or Gargi’s Lakeside for fine Italian food. Cool shops like Boom Art, Rock N Roll Heaven, and tons of antique shops round out the fun. 

Black Hammock Adventures – You haven’t done Florida until you’ve been on an airboat ride. Relax and do some bird watching and gator spotting as you zoom along on a high powered boat. Black Hammock has airboat rides, a tiki bar and a restaurant. So fill up the gas tank and head over to Oveido, just northeast of Orlando.

Winter Park Farmers Market – Every Saturday Winter Park Farmers Market is open for business. Tons of fresh veggies, plants and gourmet food are available. Stop by the cheese shop, the smoothie booth and Florida orange juice booth for sure. 

Old Town – The highlight of Old Town is their weekly car cruises which feature great old cars making their way up and down the main drag. There’s also a carnival, dozens of unique shops, restaurants and live music. 

(Update: Old Town is getting a facelift!)

Fun Spot America – It’s HUGE! hollers the spokesman on TV for this fun place to spend the day and play. Fun Spot has Multi level go carts, thrill rides, roller coasters and arcade games.  Tickets are just $39.95, a deal considering what you pay elsewhere. 

Enzian Theater – Film buffs take note! The Enzian believes film is life and features throwback films and independent features and is the only not-for-profit cinema in the US. Eden’s Bar, the on-site watering hole features daily specials and a full bar. The Enzian is also the home of the Florida Film Festival, a yearly event in April. 

Theater Downtown – An all volunteer production takes place at Theater Downtown throughout the week. With edgy, odd and humorous shows to meet your theatrical needs, Theater Downtown is a great place to see classics and unique shows alike. 

Cornell Fine Arts Museum – Located on the campus of Rollins College, Cornell Fine Arts Museum features an Old Masters collection along with other artworks throughout the ages.(They have a Bourgereau, my favorite painter) The nearby Alfond Inn also features a contemporary collection. 

CityArts Factory – A up close and personal collection of art is featured at this downtown venue. Art is available for purchase. CityArts Factory has free admission Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m

Celebration Town Center – So nestled among Disney property is the picturesque town of Celebration. At the heart of the town is Celebration Town Center, a great place to eat, shop and walk around. Some have said that the atmosphere is a throwback to a more simple time in history where beautiful homes are surrounded by white picket fences and the local ice cream shop is the place to be. The eerie perfection of your surroundings will quickly fade as you find yourself shopping, eating and enjoying the picturesque area. Oh, and don’t miss Octoberfest at Celebration!

wekiva(Photo Credit: Devin Esterbrook)

Wekiva Island – If being outdoors is your thing you MUST visit Wekiva Island. Camping, hiking, canoeing and swimming are a great way to beat the summer heat here in Orlando and Wekiva has it all. The crystal clear cool spring fed water is as refreshing as it sounds. You can rent paddleboards, canoes, and kayaks and there are on site bathrooms, outdoor bar, volleyball court and more.

Morse Museum – The Morse Museum is home to a beautiful collection of the works of Louis Comfort Tiffany, renowned glass maker, potter and jeweler. The museum also features other works by well known artists. If you’re the type to ride the SunRail, through September 2015, show your SunRail ticket to get free admission to the Morse Museum! Do a double and head to the Mennello Museum of American Art for Free Family Day on the Second Sunday of each month.

Day Trip: Mt. Dora – Looking to get away for the day and go shopping? Then Mount Dora is the place for you. This historic village is a great place to eat, shop and wander. Be sure not to miss the Rusty Anchor 1 Hour Sunset Cruise or the summer concert series at the historic Lakeside Inn

Skydive Space Center – Ready to jump out of a perfectly good airplane? Great! Head over to Skydive Space Center! Your tandem jump will be over the gorgeous Space Coast which includes views of the Atlantic coast and Kennedy Space Station. Don’t forget to pull the cord!

The Great Escape Room – Are you smart? Crafty? Good at deduction? The Great Escape Room will test your skills to see if you can figure out how to break free before your time is up! Part scavenger hunt, part puzzle this brainy activity will have you and your friends puzzling and puzzling until your puzzler is sore. 

Orlando Science Center & Crosby Observatory – The Orlando Science Center is the perfect place for the science geeks in all of us. There are multiple interactive and educational exhibits for folks of all ages. T-Rex towers over visitors in the Dino Lounge and other exhibit halls. Located inside OSC is the Crosby Observatory. Fun things to do include looking through the 10-inch lens of the telescope to see deep sky objects including planets, moons and galaxies. Right now on exhibit is Mummies of The World… creepy!

Orlando City Soccer – We finally have a soccer team! While the new stadium is being built you can catch Orlando City Soccer at the Citrus Bowl. Go put on a purple shirt and join the rowdy fun. Single tickets start at $35.00. Go Lions!

Holler at me. What did I miss that’s good?


Vikki’s Turkey Frame Soup

Prep time 10 minutes. Cook time 1-1/2 hours.

  • Turkey frame
  • Water
  • 1 large onion diced
  • 2 garlic cloves or 1 tsp of garlic powder
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon instant chicken bouillon
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 3 stalks of diced celery
  • 1 cup carrots diced
  • 3 cups of long grain and wild rice

(I use fresh herbs from my garden, if you use fresh triple these amounts)


(I adjust all ingredients based on the size of the pot, amount of turkey meat, etc. It always turns out good so go forward fearlessly)


First, remove all decent pieces of white meat from the bird for your other dishes, the dark meat actually makes a better soup. I try to set aside the legs for making soup. If you’re left with mostly bones your soup will still be good. Try to remove as much stuffing as possible. Try to refrigerate the frame as soon as you have finished your turkey meal. A turkey frame will keep for a few days in the fridge before you need to make your soup. Set aside a day when you’re working around the house as this is a slow recipe done in stages.

Next, Pull out the biggest pot you own.

If your turkey frame is bigger than your pot break it with kitchen shears and fill pot with water to cover most of the frame. Add onion and garlic. (You’ll notice I don’t add salt at any point, this is low sodium by design – if you do add salt do it at the end after you’ve had a taste, a lot of salt comes naturally from the turkey since you basted it in butter no doubt. Bring to a boil, lower heat and cover and simmer for 1 and a half hours.

Remove turkey frame carefully from pot and set on large dish or cutting board. Use a slotted spoon to go through broth looking for bones that fell off.  If you like you can strain broth through a sieve and return broth to the pot.

Let frame cool to a temperature you can handle. Meat will be easy to remove from frame. Carefully go through frame pulling off pieces and set aside and return small bits directly to pot. Chop larger pieces into bite sized pieces and return to pot.

Be leery of rubbery cartilage bits, skin and tiny bones. It’s best to feel your way through the turkey meat looking for unsavory bits. 

Stir in tomatoes, bouillon, herbs, pepper and rice. Return to boiling, reduce heat cover and simmer 25 minutes.

Time to taste! I love to throw in whatever is needed, maybe salt, more thyme or whatever you feel is needed.

Your soup is ready! I like to serve it with a nice crusty chunk of buttered French bread or a grilled cheese sandwich.


Mexican Sweet Corn Cake (Jiffy Mix)


Many have asked for my sweet corn cake recipe so I thought I’d put it up here so you can make it too. It’s embarrassingly simple.

1 box Jiffy Corn muffin mix,

1 can of creamed corn,

1 stick of melted butter.

Mix together and bake at 425 for 30 minutes. I double, triple and quadruple the recipe depending on the crowd (more time needed for a fuller pan). When done a toothpick will come out clean. I also use a aluminum disposable cake pan so no dish to clean or bring home from a party.


Papa Dennis’s Stuffed Peppers


4 medium or 3 large red, yellow, or orange bell peppers (about 6 ounces each)
½ cup Minute Rice that has been pre-cooked and set aside to cool.
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, minced
12 ounces ground round
3 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon Better Than Bouillon Beef flavor
2 Tablespoons red wine
1 (14 ½ ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained with ¼ cup juice reserved
4 ounces Cabot Vermont White Sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
2 T chopped fresh parsley (or 1 t dried)
Ground black pepper
¼ cup ketchup

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees

Remove about ¾ inch from the top of each pepper. Remove the seeds and inner membranes from the peppers. After extracting the stem from each removed top, finely dice the rings of pepper flesh that remains

Bring 4 quarts salted water to a boil in a large pot over high heat. Add the peppers to the boiling water and cook until the peppers just begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the peppers from the pot, drain off the excess water, and place the peppers upside down on paper towels to dry.

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position. Heat the olive oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat until oil is shimmering. Add the onion and the diced pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally until onion and pepper are softened and onions are beginning to lightly brown, about 5 minutes.

Add the ground beef, breaking beef into small pieces with a spoon. Cook until beef is browned. Make a well in the center of the meat mixture and stir in the garlic and pepper flakes. Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Mix garlic well into meat. Again, make a well in the center of the meat mixture and stir in the bouillon. Deglaze the entire pan with the red wine and remove meat mixture from heat. Add the cooked rice, drained tomatoes, cheese and the parsley to the meat mixture and combine until cheese is fairly well melted into the mix. Salt and pepper to taste.

Stir together the ketchup and the reserved tomato juice in a small bowl.

Place the peppers, cut side up, into a large casserole or baking dish that has been sprayed with cooking spray.

Using a soup spoon, divide the filling evenly among the peppers, pressing down with the spoon (or fingers) as you go to compress mixture into each pepper. Slightly over-fill each pepper.

Line the baking dish around the peppers with any remaining meat mixture. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the ketchup mixture over each filled pepper and drizzle remains over mix in the dish that is outside the pepper cups.

Bake until the filling is heated through, about 30 minutes. Serve immediately.

(I love you dad!)

Vikki's Shrimp Pasta Salad

Vikki’s Shrimp Pasta Salad

Like shrimp? This cold pasta salad is always a hit at barbecues and cookouts. Living in Florida this can be almost every weekend. I wait for frozen shrimp to go on sale and stock up for this recipe.


1 ½ pounds medium shrimp cooked, deveined and tails pieces off.
2 packets Dry Hidden Valley Ranch (get the one for dressing not dip)
16 oz. of sour cream
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup milk
1 ½ cups of frozen peas
1 ½ cups shredded carrot (I buy matchstick carrots)
1 red pepper, diced small
2 boxes bowtie pasta (Al Dente)

Cook pasta according to box directions (don’t forget the salt), drain, run under cold water until pasta is cool. While pasta is cooking combine dry packet, sour cream, mayo and milk, stir until smooth. Take 10 shrimp and dice them, add them to sauce. Add remaining full shrimp. (I set aside a few to put on the top of the dish for presentation). Add peas, carrot, and red pepper, stir until all ingredients are coated. Add cooled pasta. Stir. Add paprika for color and decorative shrimp.

I cook pasta al dente because it absorbs the sauce and gets more tender as it sits.

I never use small salad shrimp for this recipe, because they can’t be properly deveined they have a funky taste in my opinion, and folks love big, fat shrimp.

I add the peas while they are still frozen, they keep the pasta cold on the way to its destination and are thawed by the time the salad is served. If serving immediately allow peas to thaw before beginning.

I pack it to go to the cookout in those disposable baking pans with a lid so I don’t lose yet another large bowl to a friend. I will usually divide the recipe into two smaller pans so one can be set out to serve and the other tucked in the fridge or cooler until the first one runs out (It always runs out).

Whenever I ask what I can bring to a party, the resounding answer is always “Your shrimp pasta salad, of course”