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Crown Cruise Vacations | February 28, 2015

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Cozy up with tea, and plan your warm weather vacation

December 18, 2014 | Heidi

‘Tis the time of year for cold weather, when our thoughts drift to lying on the beach for a warm weather vacation.

If you’d like to take a look at Caribbean cruises, click here.

For the Bahamas, click here.

And to look at Mexico, click here.

While you’re reading, stay warm by making yourself a perfect cup of tea- courtesy of Jackie Finch, who got these instructions while on Holland America’s Eurodam.

PREPARING PERFECT CUP OF TEA

So how should the perfect cup of tea be prepared?

First off, never fix tea with tap water, which I have always done. “Chlorine and fluoride have been added to tap water which can greatly affect the taste of tea,” said Eurodam’s Party Planner Anaise Brown. “It’s best to use artisan spring water.”

Using hot tap water to speed up the boiling process is especially undesirable, she added, because then you are adding even more impurities from your home’s water heater. If you want to see the huge difference that water can make, Anaise suggests preparing cups of tea side by side using different sources of water. “You can really taste the difference.”

Never microwave a cup of water for tea. Of course, I always do that.  Instead, bring the water to a rolling boil in a kettle and let it cool a bit.

“Tea is very delicate so it cannot be in boiling hot water,” Anaise said.

Measure the tea into a glass container (plastic and metal pick up unwanted flavors, Anaise said) and pour the hot water over the tea. “Don’t let the tea steep very long, no longer than three minutes,” Anaise said. If it is steeped too long, tea can get an acidic taste.

“And never squeeze the tea bag.”

All this time, I had thought that twisting the string of a tea bag around the bag was the proper way to squeeze out any last liquid and taste. In fact, Anaise recommends buying quality loose leaf tea instead of tea bags. “It pays to buy loose leaf tea because it tastes better and you can use the leaves over and over for more cups of tea,” she said.

As for its benefits, tea contains antioxidants that can help protect the body. It also can boost the immune system and can help lower cholesterol. Tea is calorie free and helps keep a body hydrated.

Make Carnival Magic’s Tiramisu for the holidays

December 11, 2014 | Heidi

Do you love desserts?  It would be hard to beat this Tiramisu recipe for a delicious holiday dish!

 

Carnival shares recipe for popular tiramisu

By Jackie Sheckler Finch

No wonder I love tiramisu. I knew it had coffee, alcohol and ladyfinger cookies in its delicious blend. But until I attended a cooking class aboard the Carnival Magic,I wasn’t sure of the other ingredients. Every one of them is yummy.

After watching the instructor and tasting the scrumptious results, I’m going to try to the recipe when I get home. Might be dangerous now that I know how to make it.

Here is the recipe shared by Carnival Magic chefs and some little tips on how to make it.

First off, our cooking class leader Wes said that tiramisu is not something to whip up in a hurry. Although it isn’t difficult to make, he said, it is necessary that some of t

he steps in the recipe have time to be refrigerated for the best consistency. So, for best results, don’t plan to make it right before dinner and expect to serve it an hour later.

“I would make the mix beforehand and refrigerate it overnight to get it into the right mousse-like texture,” he said.

Another very important tip, Wes said, is that the filling ingredients must be cooked in a double boiler.

“You don’t want to cook the eggs in a regular pan,” he said. “You just want to make a nice frothy yellow base in a double boiler.”

Although other recipes might call for a different base, Wes said Carnival Magic chefs prefer ladyfingers. “They make a good consistency.”

When you are ready to assemble the tiramisu, Wes suggested using clear glass containers for visual appeal.

“You make three layers of mousse and two layers of ladyfingers,” he said. “It is very important that you use clear glass so you can see the layers and how fluffy the tiramisu is.”

TIRAMISU

Filling ingredients:

6 ounces egg yolk

¼ quart heavy cream4 ounces sugar

4 ounces mascarpone cheese

1 ounce Marsala wine

1 ounce Grand Marnier

1 package ladyfinger cookies

 

Syrup ingredients:

1 ½ tablespoons instant coffee

4 ounces sugar

6 tablespoons Kahlua

½ cup water

 

Whisk heavy cream until it forms soft peaks. Refrigerate until use.

Cream yolks and sugar until smooth. Add in cream over a double boiler whisking constantly until coating consistency to make a sabayon (French name for light mousse-like sauce).

Cream mascarpone cheese until smooth and fold into sabayon.

Gently fold Grand Marnier, Marsala and whipped cream into the sabayon and refrigerate until the mixture sets.

For syrup, dissolve instant coffee in hot water, mix sugar, Kahlua and refrigerate to chill.

Soak ladyfinger cookies in coffee syrup and arrange in three alternating layers of cookies and sabayon mixture in tiramisu dish. Serve garnished with chocolate powder. Slip a strawberry slice on the top of the dish and put a slender piece of biscotti in the mixture. Serves four.

S.S. Legacy works hard to be ‘green’ ship

December 2, 2014 | Heidi

ABOARD THE S.S. LEGACY – Two aluminum water bottles are lined up on the desk in my cabin. Cloth napkins on the dining table take the place of paper. No Styrofoam or plastic cups are used on this vessel. Daily menus are printed on small pieces of paper, as are daily itineraries so that paper use is minimized. Recycling efforts are everywhere.

“We take our commitment to conserve and protect the environment very seriously,” said Patrick Rice, hotel manager for the S.S. Legacy. “We do everything we can to be ‘green.’”

On my weeklong cruise along the Columbia and Snake rivers, I am noticing many of the efforts made by Un-Cruise Adventures cruise line. My itinerary and all preparations for the trip, in fact, were made electronically. Cutting back on the use of paper is an ongoing goal.

The tiny menus work just as well as huge ones. And the small piece of paper with the next day’s itinerary that is placed on my bed at turn down each night is all I need to keep up with daily activities.

As for cleaning – which the ship’s crew seems to do constantly to keep everything looking lovely – the ship uses “green” cleaning supplies. “It is all-organic, no chemicals,” Rice said. “We use Simple Green on our deck.”

Eco-friendly toiletries and amenities are provided for passengers. Instead of bars of soap and bottles of shampoo and body wash, the S.S. Legacy has soap, shampoo and conditioner dispensers in the shower and by the bathroom sink.  Those cute little bottles that many hotels supply are nice but they do seem a waste of plastic, as do bars of soap that are often opened, used a few times and then left for the housekeeper to discard when the guest checks out.

The ship also encourages less frequent washing of linens, which I always support when a hotel or motel offers the choice. I don’t wash my bedcovers at home every day, nor do I wash my bath towels after one use so I see no need to have it done when I am staying in a hotel, motel, ship or other accommodations.

Cruising some of the world’s most fragile and pristine ecosystems, the S.S. Legacy believes it is a privilege to explore the world’s natural wonders and strives to leave a positive impact on the people and communities they visit, Rice said.

Passengers on large ships often don’t even get to step foot off their ships.  With several thousand passengers on the big cruise liners, such a huge amount of people could be harmful to the fragile environment and the small communities along the way. In contrast, the S.S. Legacy has 33 passengers on our cruise. And we will leave the ship every day except one, walking ashore to visit museums and other attractions.

“Our goal,” Rice said, “is to leave any place that we visit better than we found it.”

Story and photo by Jackie Sheckler Finch

 

The six-toed Hemingway cats of Key West

November 25, 2014 | Heidi

KEY WEST – Rita Hayworth lounges on a bed. Tony Bennett curls up on a chair. Harry Truman suns himself on the front porch. Howard Hughes snoozes by a bench. And Dorian Gray hangs out somewhere around the bushes.

These cats are free to go wherever their want in the Hemingway House because it is their home. They are special cats and as many people probably come to see them as come to view the Key West place where renowned author Ernest Hemingway used to live and write.

They are the famous six-toed Hemingway cats.

“They are all descendants of Snowball, the original six-toed cat,” said guide Mary Jane. “We have 44 cats today and they lead a very good life.”

It all started, Mary Jane said, when an old sea captain gave Hemingway his six-toed fluffy white cat named Snowball. “Ernest Hemingway admired that cat so when the captain left town, he gave the cat to him,” Mary Jane said.

Seafaring legend has it that polydactyl cats (those with extra toes) bring a bounty of good luck. “Hemingway was a very superstitious man. He believed he needed all the good luck he could get,” Mary Jane said.

The Hemingway cats themselves seem to be quite lucky. “They have really good care here,” Mary Jane said. “The vet comes once a week to check on them … Our cats have an average life span of 18 to 21 years.”

The Hemingway tradition of naming cats after famous people has continued and the cats respond to their unique names. “They know when we are calling them and they come if they want to,” Mary Jane said with a laugh.

It might help, I noted, that guides and caretakers often carry kitty treats that the alert cats can sense no matter where they are.

Story and photo by Jackie Sheckler Finch