Americano Burger Bar, Cincinnati OH

Last Thursday, the lovely Robin and I tried a new restaurant less than two blocks from the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company theater, where we were going to see a show: Americano Burger Bar.
We arrived at a few minutes past six o'clock and were seated immediately. Our personable server arrived within a couple minutes to take our order. We did something we almost never do: ordered the same thing, the "Queen City" burger and fries. They serve more than burgers and fries, but that's what we wanted.
The food was delicious, served piping hot. Robin noted that the fry cooks (the small kitchen was fully visible from our seats) wore hats but no nets or anything on their beards--and they were all amply bearded. She managed to shake it off, more or less.
The men's room was clean. Though I didn't need a whole beer keg to take care of business. 

Americano Burger Bar is located at 545 Race Street in downtown Cincinnati. 

Prova, Morgan Hill CA

Earlier this month, while visiting the California branch of our family, the lovely Robin and I accompanied Aaron and Nina to a restaurant called Prova, in lovely upscale Morgan Hill, for lunch.
It was a lovely day, the windows were wide open, and we were shown right to our table. We didn't know it was (at least partly) a tapas restaurant. But our server (though I think he was relatively new) was delightful and helpful, so we ordered.
For once, I wasn't real hungry so I ordered the fritatta, which was drier than I expected. Over-cooked, I thought.
The lovely Robin had a hamburger and fries, which was excellent, so she saved me a few bites. Altogether it was disappointing and overpriced but the company couldn't have better, and that redeemed the entire experience.

Morgan Hill is a charming community, but I doubt we'll return to Prova. It is located at 17340 Monterey Street in Morgan Hill, California.

How I Lost Weight on a 15-Day Cruise

Imagine my surprise, upon returning from my 15-day fortieth anniversary cruise with the lovely Robin, to discover that I had actually lost a couple pounds on the trip! Me. Who usually gains weight from thinking about food. It's true. But it wasn't by accident.

So how did it happen?

1. The lovely Robin and I ate like royalty but we intentionally stayed away from the 24-hour buffet on the ship. We started each day with room service breakfast (see here) but otherwise ordered from the menu in one of the ship's elegant dining rooms. That way, while we did have multiple courses, we also had set portions at nearly every meal (we did eat three meals in the buffet, I think, due to scheduling and availability). Overall, we ate well but never once felt stuffed while on board the Grand Princess.
2. I exercised every morning when the ship was at sea (except one day) in the ship's fitness center (above). That totaled nine exercise sessions, I think.

3. We snacked only on fruit, which was available (and free) in our room 24/7. Well, we also had an ice cream cone most evenings. But again, we stayed out of the buffet.

And that was about it. Not rocket science. And it didn't require a lot of effort. But it sure worked for me.

Other Shows on the Grand Princess

I've already mentioned (here and here) some of the fine entertainment the lovely Robin enjoyed on our recent cruise to Hawai'i on the Grand Princess. And the hits just kept on coming. Singer and humorist David Pengelly offered a whimsical blend of comedy and music that Robin and I thoroughly enjoyed.
The Perfect Gentlemen were not at all what we expected, based on the ship's newsletter blurb about their show. But their versatility and creativity were enjoyable.
Nashville songwriter, instrumentalist, and singer Ric Steele did a little bit of everything (my favorite was his rendition of the instrumental guitar piece, "Classical Gas"), including a touching personal story before performing an encore.
The ship's orchestra, singers, and dancers presented a dynamic "British Invasion" show (above and below) that delighted us both--though it was hard not to sing along. Okay, I did. But only sometimes. On every song.

Las Vegas entertainer Cheaza wowed everyone with a Whitney Houston tribute show. Absolutely wonderful. I loved it when she casually mentioned, "my aunt, Chaka Khan." Dang. And her finale ("I Will Always Love You," of course), brought the house down.
The ship's dancers presented a Stephen-Schwartz-produced show, "Born to Dance," that included video and narration about various choreographers introducing many of Broadway's most memorable dance numbers, from "Hello, Dolly" (above) to "A Chorus Line" (below).
We could hardly have been more pleased with the Grand Princess's entertainment options and presentations, both in the Princess Theater and smaller venues. Well done, Princess Cruise Lines! 

10 New Things I Learned on My 15-Day 40th-Anniversary Hawaii Cruise

1. Cruise ships registered outside the USA must include a foreign port in their itinerary; that may not have been the only reason to stop in Ensanada, Mexico (above), on our return from Hawai'i aboard the Grand Princess. But it was almost certainly the main reason. 

2. Booking through a travel agent may get you an upgrade. Good to know. 

3. A fifteen-day cruise is not too long. Not for us, anyway. We enjoyed every minute, and the length of the cruise gave us ample opportunity to get relaxed and stay relaxed for a good long while. 

4. Princess Cruise Lines is now our favorite cruise line. Not that we won't try others. But our first Princess cruise--and fifth overall--was easily the best. 

5. Ukulele chords are completely different from guitar chords. 

6. The events leading up to the annexation of Hawai'i to the U.S. were tragic and shameful. 

7. There are twelve Hawaiian islands. Eight inhabited.

8. The Hawaiian language has only twelve letters: a, e, i, o, u, h, k, l, m, n, p, w. And no sibilants. And no plurals. But once you know the basics, pronunciation is easy. 

9. Hawaii's state fish is the humuhumunukunukuapua`a. And it's not as unpronounceable as it looks.

10. Forty years of marriage to the ideal woman is not a walk in the park; it's paradise.

Movies Under the Stars

One of the fun experiences of my recent fortieth anniversary cruise to Hawaii with the lovely Robin was something we hadn't experienced on any of our four previous cruises (three with Carnival and one with Norwegian Cruise Lines): "Movies Under the Stars." Each evening at sea the gigantic screen overlooking the ship's Lido Deck featured an almost-first-run movie, such as La La Land (which we didn't take in, as we had already seen it) and Arrival and Passengers (which we did enjoy). Deck chairs were equipped with plush cushions and blankets, and we enjoyed both of our "Movies Under the Stars" (albeit Passengers a little more). 

Good Reads on Our Cruise to Hawaii

A vacation--even a fifteen-day fortieth anniversary cruise to Hawai'i--wouldn't be a vacation if I couldn't spend some time reading. Happily, I absorbed some outstanding books on our trip.

I usually try to read thematically when I travel, so I chose books related to Hawai'i. I'd already read the James Michener tome, Hawaii, so my list took a little more effort to compile.

I started the cruise with one historical novel borrowed from the library (East Wind, Rain by Caroline Paul) and one audiobook I had downloaded through the Hoopla app on my iPhone (Letters From Hawaii by Mark Twain). Both were excellent. I also read Lost Kingdom: Hawaii’s Last Queen, the Sugar Kings, and America’s First Imperial Venture (nonfiction) by Julia Flynn Siler and The House of Pride by Jack London (short stories). Those were also excellent, and all of them together were a perfect blend of fiction, nonfiction, history, and culture, by two of my favorite authors and two I'd never read before. I couldn't have imagined anything better.

We also bought a picture book (to read to the grandkids) on one of the islands: A Coconut Named Bob (pictured). Because, well, it's about a coconut named Bob.