Friday, May 30, 2014

What to Do, What to Do?

As regular followers know, I made a decision a while back to stop trying to "diet." While I continue my quest for healthiness, I was just so tired of counting and thinking and planning and so forth that I was becoming numb, especially when the scale wasn't giving me any joy.  Then I went on vacation, and lost four pounds without even exercising.  I decided that between smaller portions (I wasn't as hungry) and complete stress relief it seemed my body settled down and started to go where it wants to be naturally.

Of course, now we've been home for a couple weeks and I'm pretty sure my stress levels are right back where they were before vacay.  I haven't stepped on the scale because I just don't want to, but there hasn't been any drastic change in my clothes, so...

Anyway, this week at my job, they announced that there is going to be a 12-week weight loss and fitness challenge.  A professional, degreed nutritionist and wellness coach is being brought in and will conduct weekly 1 hour meetings.  If you can't come to the meeting, it's going to be video taped.  In addition to a daily motivational point that will be emailed, she is also going to meet with each person individually to give them an eating/exercise plan based on their individual needs.  Also, my boss owns a hot yoga studio, so he said that he will pay for unlimited yoga for June, July, and August for anyone who joins the challenge.  It costs $35 to join but that money is going to go towards prizes throughout the 12 weeks and there will be a grand prize at the end.

SO.  I am feeling very conflicted about this.  Every part of me wants to do it, except the part that doesn't want to be dieting -- and that's a pretty big part.  I feel like a dog who has been chasing it's tail for the last 3 days... my thoughts go round and round in a big circle and I can't figure out what to do!

Gah.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Vacation, St Martin: New Things #2, Fort Louis

This was sort of an old thing/new thing combined.  Marigot is the capital of the French side of St. Martin.  Every Wednesday and Saturday there is a market there filled with booths that have lots of stuff:  kitzchy souvenirs for the tourists being brought off the cruise ships, some genuinely beautiful and original things, as well as a fresh fish and produce market.  Additionally surrounding the market area there are restaurants - local BBQ type stalls, outdoor patios, bakeries, etc., as well as art galleries and other types of shopping.  We have gone to this market once, if not twice, every time we've visited.  I will say our purchases have become more discriminating as the years have gone by, but it's fun all the same.

 Main drag by the market, we were looking for a parking place.  As you can see it's busy around there.

We got behind this vehicle and Mr. Helen was frustrated because it was going so slow.  He started yelling, "Come on!"  I looked a bit closer and started laughing, then explained to him that the sign on the top of the car meant Driving School and that was a student driver.

This seems to be the only shot of the market I took this year.  This market actually goes around a huge circle so this is a terrible photo lol! I need to take a lot more next time because all my best photos of were before digital cameras. Next time, OK?

Anyway, one of the things you can do while in Marigot is to climb to the top of Fort Louis.  Again, every year we'd say we were going to do this and every year we didn't.  I was determined that this was the year it would happen so on market morning I said to Mr. Helen, wear sneakers, climbing to the fort!

This fort was built in 1789 as a means to protect the Marigot Harbor.  You can read a little bit about it here but it's primarily an historical site now.  Once you reach the top, you get sweeping 360 degree views of the island.  It's really incredible and one of the times I wish I had a better camera!




 We made it - look at these views!


I love the colorful roofs in the Caribbean






This is me climbing up some rocks to take a photo for the lady who had taken ours




  The remainder of the Fort with the French flag flying proudly

Crazy cactus like this were all over the grounds

The only way in and out

These views were so gorgeous and we could pick out various parts of the island where we'd stayed in the past and you could see the airport. It was really fun and amazing all at once.  I don't know why we put this off for so long, especially since it's free.  We will definitely make this climb again - maybe with a better camera next time!

P.S. If you're getting bored with this series, hang on to your hats - I should be done in about 3 more posts, including the ever-important shopping/what did I buy post for Shelley and the flora/fauna post for Lori! Then I'll be back to my regular boring posts LOL.  

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Vacation: St. Martin: New Things #1, Fish Day!

As I mentioned previously, because this vacation was two weeks long, we were able to do some new things without feeling like we were going to miss out on all of our favorite things.

One of the really fun things we did was to go to Fish Day.  This is held the first Sunday in May in Cul-de-Sac and is a like a carnival/street fair which goes from 10 am to 9 pm. It celebrates the fishing heritage of the island and features local and international entertainment, food, shopping and a general good time.


Drum Corps


Here's a video as they marched by











Cable TV was there filming and we found out that we were on live TV dancing!  We never got to see ourselves on the rerun, though we tried.

Mr. Helen's friend BC is the founder of The Jolly Boys.  The Jolly Boys are an old fashioned Caribbean band consisting of mostly retired musicians.  They actually have become internationally known with the release of their CDs.  They know how to bring the party!






This man, Patou is not part of the group but is an up and coming musician who they invited on stage.  He played the conch!



Videos of The Jolly Boys with their guest trumpeter, people dancing and the conch player.



Of course we ate at one of the food stands.  I had shrimp, and tried grilled marlin for the first time.  It was delicious.  Also scalloped potatoes and a johnny cake.


Mr. Helen had stuffed crabs, rice and peas, shrimp, and one of my johnny cakes.


Like any good festival, there was even a bouncy house for the kids

Mr. Helen enjoying some of the other entertainment. 

We had so much fun we spent about 5 hours there!  We are very glad we made the effort to get to this and look forward to going back again some day.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Vacation, St. Martin: Fancy French Food

We went out for two fancy dinner while we were on vacation as we celebrated both our anniversary and Mr. Helen's birthday during this trip.

For our anniversary we went to our favorite restaurant on the Boulevard, Le Cottage.  On our very first trip there we discovered this place by walking the boulevard and checking out their menu and specials board.  We have gone back every trip we've taken.  The first time we went we decided to try it out because their specialty was pairing wine with your meal.  The sommelier will either give you a wine per course or suggest a bottle of wine for table based on what you order.  That sommelier, Stephane, is now the restaurateur.  He and his wife took the restaurant over about 15 months ago so we were excited to go back.

On the porch, ready to go

Shopping! Then we had to wait it out on this porch because a rain shower came through.


Yes, it really does get dark that fast - sun set is around 6:30. 



Sexy Fruits, one of my favorite shops in Grand Case.




We had our traditional table on the porch of Le Cottage.

Started with a champagne cocktail, also one of their specialties.
 


The specials are brought on a chalk board and left on the table with the regular menu

Part of their extensive wine collection.


Chilled carrot soup.  This is very French - you always get a bit of chilled soup to start.

We ordered the lobster bisque to share.  It came with this wonderful puff pastry on top.  The little glass has a lobster cream that you poured in once you broke the pastry. Delicious! You can see we ordered wine by the glass paired to this.  Mr. Helen had Bordeaux and I had Viognier


My meal was pork tenderloin with a blue cheese sauce (I love that they put they put the sauce on the side.). The triangles on the left were crispy potato wedges and there was mixed vegetable. This was paired with Merlot.

 Mr. Helen had the duck plate.  It's duck made four different ways served with crispy potatoes.  He was given Cabernet as his wine.

Dessert was Banana Pie served with vanilla ice cream and hot chocolate.  

My coffee served with a tiny chocolate wedge - what's not to love?!

The traditional rum digestive. This was banana rum. We're holding the glasses like that because Mr. Helen wanted a photo with our wedding rings.  Awwwww...

It was, as you can see, a FANTASTIC meal!  For Mr. Helen's birthday he decided he wanted to go back to a restaurant that we'd not been to since 2011.  I hadn't remembered it as a great restaurant (and these fancy meals are not inexpensive) and I tried to get him to pick another place but he insisted.  I was delighted to find they had improved considerably at La Villa.

 Pretty typical dress for men even at a fancy restaurant.  Collared shirt and shorts or khaki pants.

On the other hand, women tend to dress up a little bit, which I like to do!

I was fascinated with this heart that was on our table, it changed color. Yes, I'm easily amused.



This champagne cocktail was made with pineapple and orange juices.



 Chilled celery soup.  I need to try to make some of these chilled soups, they really are good.
  
 This restaurant has a fixed price menu where you can choose a starter, a main course and a dessert for $49 (they give one to one euro to dollar here if you pay in cash) and that's what I decided to do. Mr. Helen shared my starter and dessert.

We started with this salad that had a balsamic reduction and goat cheese croutons.  

I had Chicken roulade (stuffed with mushrooms) served with goat cheese ravioli, spinach, whipped sweet potato and broccoli.
 

Mr. Helen chose Crab Rissotto

For dessert, we had profiteroles, which are little balls of puff pastry filled with ice cream and drizzled with chocolate.  We ate the whole dessert and I said, "I forgot to take a photo!"  I did remember to take a photo of this box, which is what they bring the bill in.  On the left you can also see one of the two bottles of rum they brought.  Yes, at this restaurant, they bring bottles of rum and leave them on your table - you can have as much as you want.


We left there feeling that this restaurant may need to go on our must visit list.  It was really a lovely evening and Mr. Helen was happy, which is all I wanted for his birthday.