It was an early excursion today. We had room service deliver breakfast to wake us up once again. The weather promised to be stifling hot again today so we dressed in cool clothing. We picked up water on the way to the gangway.
Michael in Argostoli before boarding the tour bus.
Once again, we took a water taxi to get to our bus waiting at the waters edge. Today our excursion was to Argostoli, the capital town on the island of Kefalonia Greece. The tour guide took us on an excursion all over the island. Kefalonia Greece is the largest of the Ionian islands in western Greece. The deep blue waters of the Ionian sea make a beautiful foreground of this lovely island.
did you guess? Kokolata, Greece
bad photo of hubby
the beach down there zoomed in
looking straight down
Our tour bus took us on winding steep hills and we stopped often at scenic overviews for photography opportunities. The scenery was just amazing. The most azure blue seas I've ever seen were there in Kefalonia. We stopped in a little harbor town called Fiskardo, where I ordered my daily capuchino fredo and today I splurged on a slice of apple pie.
mmm apple pie and cappuccino
my ever smiling honey
Michael and I walked around the town taking pictures and looking for our gag gift challenge for the last day with the dentists: The strangest souvenir we could find for 2 euros or less. Michael found a two headed donkey that was made in China, and that turned out to be our second souvenir because it didn't win the prize for corniest/cheesiest souvenir contest.
You'd think I would have come home with suitcases crammed full of souvenirs, clothes for the babies, trinkets for our daughters, but not this time. During the ship excursions we were busy most of the time touring, and when we did get free time to shop, I was busy taking pictures.
I really really wanted to buy a purse in Lucca, Italy after we were done touring around the town and finally had some shopping time. But I couldn't tell the difference between the ones that were selling for 165 euros and the ones that were selling for 35 dollars except price. And they were so highly pigmented I was afraid if I bought the cheap one it might run on my clothes and I hate when that happens. What if I bought the more expensive one and it ran?
So I found no purse for me in Lucca. That was really the first place I seriously looked. It was my quest to come home with an Italian bag. I wasn't about to buy a Gucci or Yves St Laurent, there is just no way I can justify spending that much money on one bag. I left Lucca empty handed, and the day we went to the place the pope vacations, there really weren't any purse shops there. There was a leather shop, but nothing that grabbed my attention there.
At the goodbye party for all the dentists and their spouses and family, I met a nice lady dentist from Hawaii and she said she too was a purseaholic and had not found anything in Italy. She was hoping to find her "Memories" bag in Barcelona where she was spending a few days before heading back to Hawaii.
That got me excited at the proposition of finding just the perfect purse to bring home from my Mediterranean cruise once we got to Barcelona. Well the day we toured Barcelona via bus (that story comes later) we went into quite a few purse shops on the main shopping thoroughfare and nothing called me.
Michael was trying to help, picking out things that he thought looked like me…bags that were kind of me, but nothing was that special handbag. I decided to wait till I got home and find the perfect Italian bag at Zappos. I google Italian purses and Italian leather purses and nothing nothing nothing and then I found this bag by Michael Kors called Gansevoort in 4 different classic colors that I fell flat on my face for. I googled more on this bag and discovered that it could possibly made with Italian leather. However, it is made in China possibly with Italian leather. That's close enough for me when I am completely smitten with a bag.
When it arrived today, I carefully opened the white box and pulled out my bag. It was wrapped in plastic and each handle and each strap of leather was covered with paper for protection. I did the unveiling with hubby. Once I removed all the outer wrappings and inner stuffings, I handed it over to him and he said "Someone is going to be jealous" I said who? He said "Anyone who sees it". I take that as a compliment from him and that he approves with my choice.
So here it is: My Mediterranean Cruise Remembrance Purse.
Of course all kinds of things are to be seen and done while in port, but I also wanted to share just how amazing the ship is. If you remember that I accidentally bought 2 romance packages, one of the gifts was dinner for 2 at the Pinnacle Grill. I think it was one of only two restaurants on board that you had to pay for food. We made our reservation and went to dinner shortly after we left port in Corfu. Our next stop is Argostoli, Greece, but first, our romantic dinner.
One of the first nights of the cruise we decided to give this restaurant a try and walked up to the host and asked to be seated. He asked us if we had a reservation and when we said no, he looked at Michael (in his shorts) and said no room for us. Michael replied "but there are plenty of empty tables". Then the Maitre De showed up and informed us quietly that men must wear sport coats and long pants to dine in the Pinnacle Grill.
So we dressed up (sort of) (well very dressed up for me) and headed down for our romantic dinner in the Grill. The food was fabulous, the service was superb. You have many different waiters in the Grill. One waiter to serve your water, another to serve you bar drinks. Another to serve the bread and then yet another to take your order. They were all exemplary at their respective jobs. We were pampered.
Michael had the tomato salad with balsamic dressing and I ordered shrimp cocktail. The tomato salad presentation was just beautiful. We both ordered filet, and honestly, it was amazing. The Maitre De came by our table and asked if everything was ok. Everything was better than ok!
The waiter took our picture with my iPhone and encouraged us to try dessert, even though we were both stuffed. I acquiesced and ordered the cheesecake and we each got a decaf cappuccino. It was delicious!
When we made our way back to the stateroom there was another towel animal waiting for us!
And it was beautiful sail out, watching the sun set over Corfu and as Corfu disappeared from the horizon, we were blessed with a gorgeous sunset over the Ionian Sea.
Tomorrow: Argostoli Greece, where we toured the entire island.
The second part of the day was a treat. After the visit to the Palace, we boarded the bus and headed to a Greek woman's home for a home made greek lunch and a swim in her pool if you desired. We were greeted by a man handing out shots of Ozo in little paper cups. He also had orange juice, so I picked that. The woman who owned the villa spoke English and told me that she has lived here since she was a little girl. The dear woman does this for a living, entertaining 3 tour buses a week. She had a bunch of helpers thank goodness and the food was amazing. And she was a lovely gracious woman. I wish I would have written her name down.
this is her villa, the woman who fed us in Corfu
Have I mentioned how wonderful the Shore Excursions that are booked through your ship with #HALcruises? Do book through the ship, you are much safer in many aspects as you will soon read once we get back to Italy. But do it early, don't wait till the last minute. Pick your excursions at least 3 months in advance.
this was her pool, she invited us to take a dip
Back to our private lunch. The meal she (the lady who owned the villa) prepared for us consisted of iced local beers, homemade wine, home made kumquat liquor, many authentic greek dishes and deserts, fresh fruit from her garden and store bought cherries. There wasn't a cherry tree on the property that I saw, so I asked her and she said no, she bought them at market.
The dear woman who fed us in Corful, Greece
Our picnic tables were set under an apricot tree with blue and white checkered tablecloths and crystal wine and water glasses. The food was delicious and it was nice to get to know some of our shipmates that sat at our table.
We talked about the bad odor we smelled all over the 8th floor the day before. I hadn't thought much more than "this really stinks" and it did go away by the next day. But this man, one of our table mates at the Villa, said he contacted the front desk of the ship and they gave him a 400.00 room credit for his inconvenience.
the view from her back yard
I hadn't complained, but once I learned that Holland America would make it up to us, I decided to call the concierge (our private concierge did I mention that?) he sent us a bottle of wine to make up to us for our inconvenience. Neither of us drink wine though, and we ended up giving it away to one of the workers before we disembarked on the final day.
another view from her back yard
So please sit back and enjoy our private villa and the owner's most beautiful flowers.
Her gardens, oh her gardens were so lovely. I hadn't brought my micro lens along for this excursion, so I did the best I could with my Nikon D800 and the 28-300m which is an all around good combo for touring. I investigated most of her gardens taking close ups of her beautiful flowers.
you knew I'd sneak him in somewhere right?
Next: Our return to the Nieuw Amsterdam and sites of Corfu as we set sail to Argostoli.
Our excursion to Corfu on Tuesday started with an outing to Sisi's Palace, otherwise known as Achilleon. It was hot again, the kind of hot that would (and does) keep me inside at home. Once again I heard 40 degrees Celsius and tried to ignore the Fahrenheit temperature. Today I brought a dry washcloth along from our stateroom. And water.
seen at the entryway
the view from the palace door
When you leave for your shore excursions, make sure to purchase a bottle of water on your way off the ship. If you can handle the larger size, go for it. I didn't have any room to carry a big bottle, so I just got the smaller size. It was gone by the end of visiting Achilleon, but they did have a refreshment stand on the way down. Drink lots of water.
Achilleion Palace is a beautiful place that was built by Elisibeth of Austria, otherwise known as Sisi. Sisi had an obsession for beautiful things and also she was very powerful. Tragically, she lost her son Crown Prince Rudolph of Austria. One year later she built the palace Achilleion and decorated it after her obsession with the Greek God of Achilles.
The palace is richly decorated with furniture that was intricately detailed and the ceilings were beautiful paintings. There are statues, sculptures and paintings of Achilles in each room. There are also many beautiful mirrors. Sisi obviously had a thing for Achilles!
I took a lot of photos inside the rooms, here are a few. The rest of the photographs on Flickr on my set called Corfu Greece.
The gardens were lovely and the view was spectacular. Did I mention it was hot? We were melting which was good because the delicious food we ate at the next stop needed worked off.
Someone said it was 40 degrees Celsius and I thought oh please don't convert it. It was hot enough without learning what 40 was in Fahrenheit and then the tour guide said "that's over a hundred" and I decided then that I didn't need to know how hot it was. My knee pits were sweating and my eyes were stinging from the sweat dripping into them and the guy next to me had brought a washcloth from his stateroom to wipe his face off and I thought "why didn't I think of that?"
Our first stop was to see a dancing musical performance by people in their finest dancing clothes and I'm not sure how they did that without fainting from heat exhaustion, but they didn't and I couldn't feel sorry for myself when they were in full costume, on stage, singing and stomping their feet to the musicians playing behind them.
So I took pictures, here there and everywhere inside the little theatre and quickly decided that convergence of lines and symmetry were going to be part of my photography memoirs from our Mediterranean cruise.
After the little show was over, we took a walking tour of the great wall that was built around Dubrovnik hundreds of years ago, and I saw the scars of recent wars. The sadness in our tour guides eyes was overwhelming when he spoke of sending his wife and children away during the last war in the 1980's and how he hung fishing wire strung with razor blades from tree to tree in his front yard to keep the insurgents away, a homemade booby trap to protect his home.
At the wall, I lost Michael. Well, sort of. The thing about the planned excursions is that when you are doing the activity, there really isn't time to stop and shop for souvenirs. But Michael decided to stop and buy us a spoon rest and the tour guide started walking ahead and I followed thinking Michael was right behind me but he wasn't and it was very crowded. And hot. Did I mention hot? I panicked and yelled "MICHAEL" and there he was in his royal blue shirt, carrying a little bag that contained our only souvenir from Croatia.
We walked the wall for a while, what was supposed to be 1800 yards turned out to be 1800 miles (not really) and then time we stopped to listen to a group of street musicians. There was a little patch of shade that everyone was trying to stand in. And we told the guide that we needed water. "No problem, we have that back at the bus" he replied and we headed back to the bus to get going to our next stop.
This was our first excursion where we'd be set free to explore for an hour. Michael and I were a little worried about letting the tour guide out of our sight, but we relaxed by a marina and had a bit of lunch. I tried to memorize how we got to this little place from where the driver parked our bus. I'm the map reader and direction giver in our marriage and if I don't remember, we could end up walking in circles (has happened before).
But we found our way back to the bus, passing by an ice cream shop with beautiful displays of creamy goodness in their freezer case. I asked if I could take a photo and the gal behind the counter said "sure" and I got a few shots. We didn't buy ice cream though, it was so hot that we both knew we'd be sticky messes if we did.
Then on the way back to the Nieuw Amsterdam, we stopped by the bridge (I wish I remembered details) that seemed to be a source of pride for the tour guide and I reckon the citizens of Dubrovnik.
When we got back to the ship, there were stewards handing out iced towels and lemonade and Purell to each passenger entering the gangway. High tea was waiting for us in our stateroom when we got back. Again, we showered and snoozed for a bit before dinner. Monday night was smart casual in the Manhattan Dining room. That was the night we decided we really didn't like the food in that dining room and that 8 was just too late for us to eat.
On returning to our room, we found another towel animal on the bed.
On Saturday night, we noticed a breakfast menu on the bed, one of those things you can hang outside of your door and they pick it up for you and bring your breakfast at the specified time. I decided this would be the best way to wake up, and we'd get some nourishment into ourselves before hitting the shore. Neither of us are breakfast eaters but we needed to store energy for the excursions.
So with a gentle rap on the door Sunday morning, our breakfast was delivered to our room (at no charge… food is free on HAL). We both ate and drank our coffee, took our pills and got ready to go.
Each excursion met in the Theatre by the Sea on the second deck, and a lady with a microphone would send us off onto our different excursions. Every offshore excursion I picked was food related, "a taste of Sicily" "a taste of Tuscany" and so on, but our first excursion off the boat was for a serenaded gondola tour of Venice.
the ceiling of our water taxi caught my eye
We exited through the gangway onto a water taxi that took us to the city.
our ship as we headed to Venice via water taxi
Once we arrived, we started the trek to the Gondola place and it was quite a hike, up granite staircases, down the other side until we finally arrived at the Gondola dock. I saw lots of beautiful things. Venice, in person. Pinch me. Was I really there?
Once we carefully boarded our gondola, you must be careful or it could tip if you step on the wrong place, we took our seat right ahead of the Gondolier. 2 other couples joined us, one of them the wife had an umbrella that you invaded my space in quite a few of my photos.
Our group had about 50-60 people in it, I'm not sure how many really, I didn't count. We were group number 21. Once all the gondola's were full, we shoved off on our tour of the streets of Venice. There was a man on one of the other boats, standing on one end just singing his heart out. He had a beautiful tenor voice and I recognized everything he sang.
our private tenor
Maria Callas home we passed by on our gondola.
there's that blue umbrella in the corner!
After the ride was over, we made our way back to the water taxi, following our guide who held up a picket sign with the number 21 in red. Michael and I stayed close to him, it was very crowded on the streets and we didn't want to be left behind because we lost the guide. At least 2 couples were left behind at each port, but none of them were on excursions booked through the ship.
The ship's security force keeps careful track of you, you must present your room card every time you get on or off the boat. And they can account for every single person that takes a tour. However, a few brave people did venture into Venice without a ship arranged tour and got left behind. There would be an announcement every day at shove off time "will Mr and Mrs So and So from room whatever please call the front desk" and in all fairness, the boat did wait a full hour before departing without the people who didn't make it back. It was up to them to make arrangements to the next port of call to meet the ship.
So if you are a first time cruiser, make your excursions through your boat! They won't let you get lost or leave without you in a strange town.
Once we got back aboard, we took our showers and then had a siesta.
Michael and I dressed for our first formal night onboard
Tonight was formal night in the Manhattan Dining Room. I was excited. I never dress up ever, well except for weddings and funerals. So this was fun, being girly and wearing dresses. Hubby looked real smart, but he didn't bring a tie. Next cruise, I'm renting him a tuxedo (they do that through the ship also).
In the Manhattan dining room, we were assigned table number 304. Our group was supposed to be big enough to seat all the dentists and their wives and children, but mostly everyone rebooked their eating time earlier. I guess 8pm was a little late for those with kids.
So out of the two full tables of 8, only 6-7 were ever seated at our eight o'clock dinner time. Oh well, we got great service. Speaking of great service, you are very pampered and spoiled on a Holland America cruise. It's a slap in the face once you disembark back into the real world where people aren't getting paid to be sweet and wait on every passenger they encounter. Yeah, it was easy to get used to!
After dinner we head back to our room and were greeted by a towel animal made by our stewards on the bed. That night, we found our Romance package waiting for us that I had
part one of our two Romance package
Actually I bought 2 Romance packages, thinking I needed to buy one for hubby and myself, but that wasn't the case.
There were two boquets of flowers and 2 bottles of wine and a folder filled with all the goodies that came along with the romance package, including a 25 minute massage in the spa for each of us. 4 total. Oh well, they did reimburse us for the portions of things that we never got a chance to use. Definitely buy the romance package, it's awesome
I read in the folder that we would have complimentary high tea served in our stateroom each day if requested. I just needed to call guest services and tell them what time I wanted it delivered. We picked 4pm, since dinner wasn't until 8.
High tea was lovely and just what we needed to hold us over till dinner at 8.
The alarm went off at 4 am and both hubby and I popped up ready to go. Horray Horray, it's travel day. We started by wolfing down our first cup of coffee, and then doing last minute things before it was time to go. Our son spent the night so he'd be here in the morning. We needed to leave at 5am and then we were off to General Mitchell International Airport.
(yes, the bear came along)
We had a seven hour layover in Atlanta, but we were so excited to go on our cruise, the time just flew by. What didn't fly by time-wise was the flight from Atlanta to Venice. Our seats were one aisle and one center seat, and we were crammed in tight for the 9 hour flight. I tried to sleep, and I probably did sleep for an hour or so, but not enough to save me from jet lag.
Once we arrived in Venice, we took a cab to the port where our ship- the Nieuw Amsterdam was tied up. Michael and I were both confused on how to get a cab but we learned quickly that the one that barges ahead in line to get your fare will be fast to rip you off. While I was helping get the luggage unloaded and onto the carts by the ship, Michael was getting the shaft from the cab driver. He told him it was 48 Euros. Michael handed him a hundred dollar bill and the cab driver said "thank you" and left without giving him any change.
Welcome to Venice
At the port we headed for a podium where a nice lady was standing handing out forms to fill out asking if we had a stomach illness or flu in the last 48 hours. I wonder how many people would say "yeah, I've had diarrhea really bad" knowing that they would lose their trip. But, there were Purell stations set up everywhere in the port and on the ship. We boarded the ship about noon Venice time. There was a red carpet to the gangway, and a Purell station right there before we could even get on board. That's smart thinking…if they lied about being sick, at least they might probably use hand sanitizer.
Our embarkation photo
The first 2 days we weren't allowed to touch anything but our plates in the Lido Restaurant which was the buffet. There would be no helping yourself for the first 48 hours - and that made us feel confident that anyone who might be sick wouldn't be spreading the flu. Heck, you couldn't even enter the restaurant without using Purell. There was a guy standing at the door with the bottle, squirting each pair of hands that walked through the door.
But back to embarkation … Once our number was called, we went to a counter lined with people, similar to the checkin counter at the airport but staffed with very friendly people. We had our pictures taken and were each issued a room card. Then we weaved our way through the maze to immigration and security. After we cleared that we headed onto the ship.
She was magnificent.
We took a glass elevator to the 8th floor Lido Deck and found our room at the stern (back) of the ship. Our room was beautiful, like a suite at a swanky hotel complete with a wrap-around verandah deck. There was a table with 4 chairs, 2 lounge chairs and 2 chairs with cushions and ottomans on the dec
Our room was on the top floor, starboard (right) side.
By now, we were both exhausted and getting acquainted with the deluxe verandah suite that Michael booked for us was fun. There were drawers and closets everywhere to put our clothes in. A note on the bed suggested we store our empty suitcases under the bed. Once we got unpacked, and looked through all the papers and excursion tickets on the bed, we
decided we just couldn't do the first day's excursion.
window seen at the Port of Venice
Our travel agent had told us not to sleep when we arrived on the ship or we'd really get hit with jet lag hard. Instead she suggested we go on an excursion. The point was to not go to sleep until bedtime in Venice but we just couldn't hang. So we took a nap instead.
the clock changed time zones without a sound
Dinner time was 8:00 pm in the Manhattan Dining room. First night's dress was "Smart Casual" so we spiffed ourselves up in our best casual clothes and headed down for dinner at 8. We weren't happy that our dinnertime was that late, but quickly found out that we could eat whenever and wherever we wanted. There was no shortage of food. And it was delicious food!
Manhattan Dining Room
The first night I slept well, but hubby woke up in the middle of the night restless and unable to fall back to sleep. But he stayed in bed and read until he got tired and we slept in until our room service was delivered in the morning. We used room service as our alarm clock in the mornings! That was much nicer than getting a wake up call and ensured that we would get a meal before heading out for the day's adventure.
Update: Now that hubby put the D800 on the insurance policy, I'm no longer worried about bringing it or leaving it at home. It's traveling to the Mediterranean Sea with us. Thanks for your help you guys!
Oh man, now it’s the shoes. 14 days of cruising requires careful thinking about how I am going to treat my feet. Heels are out of the question no matter what. When I wear heels I feel like a little girl wobbling around even when they are just 1 inch high. So it’s flats and comfort I’m looking for.
I’ve got 4 nice dress outfits for the formal dinner nights on board. 3 of them are black, not completely black, but Shades of Black. Black is for dress up, right? My quest to find shoes that would be suitable for this cruise has kept the UPS guy hopping with white boxes from Zappos.
So anyway, I can wear these sandals with all of my dress outfits. I’m good to go. I not sure if they are comfortable enough for our shore excursions though. I’m hoping to break them in really well so they will feel like slippers for BlogHer12. Yes, that is my foremost thought... what is going to be comfortable enough for BlogHer12? But let's get this trip under our belts before I start stressing and obsessing about New York.
Just the other day hubby said: More shoes? But honey, These Shoes are supposed to be the best the most comfortable black sandals ever. Of course I need the most comfortable sandals ever, I’m going to be walking. A Lot.
Each pair of shoes that I’ve bought promise to cradle my feet in comfort, which is exactly what I am going to need tromping through vineyards and up hills and mountains. Blister pads are ordered too because no matter how comfy any shoes are, I always always get a blister on at least one foot.
We each are packing 2 checked bags for 14 days of cruising and three days in Barcelona. That should give me enough room for at least six pairs of shoes right? I am not buying any more now.
I promise honey.
Do I have enough? What else do I need for the feet?
Oh man, I just can’t decide. Which camera should I bring? I’ve been researching the webz and read that you should leave valuables at home. Actually the wording went something like: Don’t take anything you would mind losing. Don’t wear flashy jewelry, there goes my bling dangit.
But back to the Camera, yes a capital C camera the camera I have been lusting after since it’s release in February...the new DSLR the full frame lusciousness, the 36.1 megapixel that is 20.1 megapixels on medium setting wonderful goodness, the new Nikon D800. I am totally in love with her already, and I’ve been thinking about naming her but so far haven’t come up with anything worthy and fitting.
Do I risk it? Do I bring it along on a once in a lifetime cruise to the Mediterranean where I’ve read don’t bring anything you don’t want to lose... How can I risk it? What if it rains while we are on offshore excursions?
I don’t want to carry it with me everywhere, but I will. I have done that before with the D300 and even once in Deadwood South Dakota I panicked because I couldn’t find it and guess where it was strapped: round my neck. I’m such a doofus sometimes.
So do I bring it? I have a really nice pocket camera, a Nikon Coolpix S8000. It has it’s own very special Coach pouch-but then again, they tell you not to be a spectacle, to leave the good jewelry at home. Do I dare carry my Coach accessories in my purse that obviously is not?
And then the real truth is...My camera is my jewelry. How can I leave it behind when I have the opportunity to devour the manual while we are at sea and learn all the intricacies of my new toy?
I will have opportunity to take macro art photos in places I’ve never been, maybe never will go again...I need it. Don’t I?
What to do, what to do. I’m more than willing to leave the diamonds at home, but the camera too?
We were supposed to leave for Egg Harbor on Thursday, but we had high winds. There was a news report about a camper flipping over on the freeway, so we weren’t going to take a chance. Early Friday morning, we headed north for Door County.
There was a glider swooping down over the freeway near OshKosh. At first we thought he was in trouble, but quickly realized he was just a daredevil!
This year we stayed at Egg Harbor Campground, a lovely place to camp! We used to stay at Door County Camping Retreat, but they hassled us so much about the dogs. Only 2 Sandoval dogs go camping with us, the other two usually stay with a friend which is “camping” to them.
But our daughter brings her dogs too, so that equals 4 shih tzu’s on one campsite and that was strictly forbidden at DCCR. One day the guy came by in his police golf cart and got up in my face about having 4 dogs on one site and the dogs went ballistic. He hollered and said “SEE THIS IS WHY WE ONLY ALLOW 2 DOGS PER SITE” and I yelled right back and told him he was threatening me and that’s why the dogs were barking like crazy. That was our last time there.
Egg Harbor Campground is located in beautiful Egg Harbor, which is half way up the Door County pennisula. It’s quaint and woodsy and quiet and there is a nice playground for the kiddies. They also have a heated pool, but it was far to cold to even think about swimming. AND, when hubby asked if they had a dog limit, they said they didn’t care how many dogs we had. We are highly unlikely to bring all 4 of our pups ever because it is just to hard to keep them from spilling out the RV door at once.
Nikki and her little family arrived in early evening. Quinn came running to us yelling “CAMPING, HAPPY!!”. Yes, he just loved camping. I think eating ice out of the coolers was his favorite part of camping. But he also loved going for walks, and singing. Sleep was definitely not his favorite part, but we did manage to get both boys to nap, and they slept quite well in the camper.
Saturday night was very stormy and rainy, and an early to bed night for all of us. Sunday was perfect weather, and we stayed up late, hanging around the campfire. Actually I should say they stayed up late because son-in-law’s parents brought their 2 big dogs to the fire and that set off vicious barking from our little Ted E Bear who hates big dogs with all his might.
So my job was keeping Ted E quiet while Gavin was sleeping and that involved staying in the RV with the bedroom door shut. I was a little disappointed that I didn’t get a pudgie pie, but after son in law’s parents went back to their camper, Nikki and I feasted on cheeseboards that she had bought for us earlier in the day. Yumm.
Of course you can't take babies camping without the obligatory sink baths, and we had dirty boys!
Monday morning we packed up, put everything away and headed for home. In high winds. I suggested pulling over until the front passed but hubby had his homing instincts on and was hearing none of it. He white knuckled it the whole way home and I was nervous with the wind trying blow us all over the road. We were really glad we didn’t drive up north on Thursday night!
It was a great weekend AND, my first time camping in 2 years. We've been "grounded" for a while because of all my stupid surgeries and it felt so good to be on the open road again!
And finally, a photo to show you what picnic tables are really for.
Have you ever walked into a room only to completely totally forget what you went there for? That happens to me more times than I would like to admit. I get so mad at myself when I’m just about out of the neighborhood and have to drive back home because I’m just not positive that I shut the garage door. I can't tell you how many times I have been in the middle of a conversation and completely forgot what I was talking about!
I don’t know about you, but I often lament at my memory, or lack thereof. Since completing chemotherapy in 2007, coupled with menopause brain, I’ve found myself to be more forgetful. Absentminded would be a good description of my brain since chemo ended and menopause began.
I was forwarded some interesting and informative information on chemo brain from a friend of my son. Here is an article from Science Daily in 2006 confirming that chemo brain really does exist. Chemo brain can last 5 years or more. I’m at the 5 year mark and my memory isn’t much better. But I am also in menopause, and that brings memory problems all of it’s own.
Imagine my excitement when I was invited to participate in evaluating Cranium Crunches from BOOMbox Network a few weeks ago. Cranium Crunches is a program written for people who want to exercise their brains. Each game targets a different area of the brain.
Cranium Crunches is the brainchild of Ruth Curran who developed these cognitive therapy games after her 70 year old mom who had undergone chemotherapy had started having trouble remembering details, or finding the right word in conversation. Her dad also suffered from Parkinsons-dementia. She developed these games with a purpose to help people with their cognitive function.
I love games so I decided to give Cranium Crunches a try. It didn’t take long before I was addicted! My favorite game is Memory Match. My least favorite game is One Of These Things is Not Like The Other. I was a bit disappointed in my ability to find the photograph that was different. I imagine that this the portion of my brain that needs more exercise!
There are many more fun exercises, I think you will enjoy them. Each game is made from beautiful photographs which enhance the game playing experience. I’ve stopped playing solitaire and substitued Cranium Crunches because if I’m going to play games, I may as well have get brain benefits.
I wrote this blog post while participating in a campaign by
BOOMboxNetwork.com on behalf Cranium Crunches and received
payment for my participation. All opinions stated within are my own.
I met my husband 13 years ago in a Golf chat room on Yahoo. So right there tells you we are both golf nuts. Seriously... we met in golf chat!
Every 3-4 years we buy new golf clubs. The reason? Because technology keeps getting better, and you do get more yardage. That is if you can golf.
When Michael got married, I had Tour Edge ladies irons and woods. The reason I picked Tour Edge as my first set of serious clubs is that I had won a Bazooka Driver back in the 90‘s when I first started to golf. There was a contest on the Tour Edge web page. I entered and won. It was so cool! Of course I bought the rest of the set to go along with it. Giveaways are a great marketing tool!
The first time Michael and I went to demo days at Edgewood GC, it was for Calloway golf clubs. I lusted after the X-14’s and was so excited when we tried them and both of us loved them. That year we bought new clubs, we each got a new bag, and personalized golf balls with our name on them. It was pretty exciting and I was certain that these golf clubs were the tools I needed to break 100 and finally start playing better.
That didn’t happen though! I hit the Calloway woods and irons really well sometimes, but more often than not I still hit crappy shots. But I had confidence that my game would improve now that I was using Calloway’s!. So I kept playing, excited and anxious for my game to come together.
Did I mention that I have 10 putters? That’s a true fact. And the putter that works the best for me is my original Ping putter that I have had for 20 years. But of course when my putting game stinks, I think it’s the putter’s fault.
I’ve finally learned that it is me, not the putter!
We also went to Demo days when the Calloway x-18’s were released. Both hubby and I replaced our clubs with the new driver, fairway clubs, and irons. It was a few years later and technology had improved some more and when you are at the range during demo days, for some reason you always hit the demo clubs well and you are sold. Again on the hopes of being able to score lower.
This time, when I bought my clubs, I got covers for the irons. I wanted to treat them with respect and I didn’t want them to touch each other in the bag when we were driving from shot to shot. Michael thought I was cuckoo for wanting to use iron covers and he predicted that wouldn’t last long. He was wrong though, I am meticulous about putting the covers on my club after I shoot. The iron covers are wearing out, but my golf clubs are still like new.
Now I’ve been playing with my x18’s for a few years and again, my game has not improved. We have a lot of money tied up in our clubs, after all golf is our hobby, and we want to use the very best. Since we don’t upgrade every year, when we do, we treat ourselves to the best.
see my Epiphanie Lyric Bag Hanging out?
When we went to Puerto Rico and played at Trump International, we rented Taylormade clubs. Both of us hit them well, and we didn’t score too bad (if you count over 100 an ok score). By now we have stopped trying to be so competitive and that has helped both of our games. We stopped taking the game so seriously.
Never will we play on The Tour. haha
Michael and I are hackers. But back to the Taylormade’s, hubby fell in love and has been so excited for demo days to be here.
I was going to go along and try out new clubs, but I am just easing back into golf after having been on hiatus for so long after my back surgery and knee replacements. We hit the links once in a while together, but he’s mostly been playing with one of our son-in-laws when I wasn’t able to golf.
This year, I decided to jump back into golf with both feet. I’m going to make myself enjoy it, make myself get back into that golf nut mentality that I had when I first met Michael. When golf was our thing.
I don’t want new clubs. Well maybe I kind of do, but I have the new Nikon d800 on order (at his urging) and photography is really my hobby now, much more than golf is. I don’t want to be greedy and get new clubs too.
And the weather kind of helped in my decision to go to demo days. It is 47 degrees, cloudy and windy. That’s mother nature telling me she doesn’t want any more of my balls in the woods and water, that my Calloway x-18’s are good enough for me! And I stayed warm to write about it!
Besides, even with the best equipment out there, my game hasn’t changed much at all. Despite all the lessons, all the rounds we have played, sometimes 6-7 rounds a week the first few years we were married, I just cannot score better.
I think some people have the golf gene. Apparently I am not one of them. My clubs are good enough. They are excellent as a matter of fact. The golfer however, is not.
I accept that, and my new weapon on the golf course will be my Nikon d800, all 36.2 megapixel, full frame, lightweight goodness.
BlogHer NaBloPoMo Tuesday, May 1, 2012 (I seemed to have gotten yesterday and today's prompts confused)
Who did you play with as a child?
After we moved to our single family home in Bausman PA, I played with a gal from school named Karen. She lived a few blocks away from my house. She didn’t like to do the same kinds of things I did, she was a girly girl and liked to play with Barbies. I like to build forts and climb trees.
I had another friend named Robin, and we got in trouble together pretty regularly. I’m fairly certain her parents did not like me. One time I “tanned” under her sunlight and got so sunburned my eyelids were just about swollen shut. Robin was a little younger than I was, and she had a sister named Bonnie who was my age. Bonnie seemed boring to me because she was a bookworm and didn’t like to do the things Robin and I did. Robin gave me my first cigarette. I remember getting so light headed I had to lie down on her sofa. I was 13.
Then there was Dave. Dave and I became friends shortly after we moved to Bausman. He was my age and had cool toys like erector sets and radios and trains. He didn’t have a dog so he liked me to pretend I was his puppy. I remember being uncomfortable doing it then, but now it seems just plain weird. We fell out of touch when we went to middle school as he was in public school and I was little Miss Catholic Girl.
Thinking further back, when we lived in Lancaster on Winthrop Drive, I had 2 friends who were twins with pure blond hair. They lived up the street from my house, on the street that I dreamt opened up and swallowed cars and people during an earthquake. I think that is my earliest remember of a nightmare.
Back to the Twins. Kim and Lynn were a little younger than me too, but we lived in a neighborhood where everyone were friends. One day the Twins and I decided to play hairdresser. I cut their bangs and boy did I get into trouble. We weren’t allowed to play together anymore.
My earliest childhood memory of friendship was the little boy next door. He and I played “doctor” together. My grandmother caught us. I remember getting into serious trouble and I wasn’t sure why. Shortly after that we moved to Bausman.
I know this is disjointed and all over the place, but so was my childhood.
Today’s prompt is: Write About a Strong Memory from Recess
How about the time I chipped my tooth on the chain link fence?
Most days at St. Joseph Catholic school in the 1960’s, we walked two by two holding hands, in a giant circle. Every now and then (maybe it was more often than I remember) we got to run around and play on the playground.
St. Joe’s was in Lancaster PA and just about in the city. It had a Lancaster address, in a location that was known more commonly as “The Hill”. Back in those days I remember a lot of Irish people lived on the Hill. Back in the days when you could walk all over and not be afraid.
But I was afraid in school, afraid of the consequences of pissing off a nun and having to write “Sister Agnes Bernadette” one thousand times for getting caught for calling her Aggie B which was our nickname for her. She was a mean old Sister with a quick draw of her poker which she loved to rap knuckles with.
I got sent to Catholic school in the 4th grade. In third grade, I was in an experimental class that was split grade level, third and fourth. I thought only the smart third graders got to be in the split class so I must be one of them, right? According to my parents, from my earliest memory, they told me I had to go to Catholic school because I wasn’t learning enough in public school.
After being a parent, I understand their rational. They did love me and wanted me to get the best education that was out there. And, they had to pay tuition because Catholic school isn’t free. So it wasn’t an easy decision for them, we were lower middle class and free public school seems like the more economical choice.
As a child though, pulling a kid from one school and sending them to another was very traumatic. I remember the first few weeks at the new school and everyone had friends and I wanted a friend, but they had all been together since kindergarten and I left all my friends from K-3rd grade behind.
Our uniform was a green jumper with a white pixy collar blouse underneath. We were allowed to wear knee socks, and there wasn’t a restriction on what kind of hosiery we were permitted to wear and I do remember a pair of neon green knee socks that made my mom cringe and holler at me when I’d wear them to school. She thought they were ugly. I loved them. That is probably when my sock fetish started.
Back to the tooth and fence story... one day we were allowed to run around the playground like banshees, and a few of the kids were running up and down this little concrete hill, bouncing into the fence and then do it all over again. I decided this was the most fun thing going on at the playground but dumb me forgot to put my hands in front of my face when the fence was coming right at me and BLAM... chipped front tooth. That was the last time I played that game! And it was walking in circles didn’t seem so bad the next few days.
It was 48 degrees with a windchill of 43. I dressed in layers. There was no way I could get out of golfing today, I promised him we’d play on Sunday. Our golf cart is enclosed and we zipped it up and it wasn’t too bad out there today. We didn’t need the heater, and we have golfed when it was needed so you know we weren’t freezing. The sun is also warmer this time of the year and there are so many spring flowers at the golf course to shoot! The fact that we have a golf cart heater shows you that my hubby is a golf nut. I also own winter golf gloves and a wind/rain suit so I am pretty much prepared for anything on the course.
Michael teed off at about 11:30 and I tweeted about freezing and playing best ball so we would get done faster. Our golf pro shot me back a BRRR tweet. We were only out in the wind and cold when we were hitting and putting and when I was taking photos. I got to see some beautiful red flowers and test the limits of shooting macro with my iPhone.
The last hole we played was number number seven. Michael was so frustrated with his game that he just took me home. He called to ask if he could have his lesson sooner rather than at 3 as was scheduled. John was of course very accommodating and gave hubby his lesson shortly after. I decided lessons aren’t for me anymore. I know I can’t be any better than I am no matter how many lessons I take.
Seven was plenty for me today. We were lulled into a false sense of warmth back inMarch, but so far, April has been a bust. I just hope that May is warmer. I’m just itching to get out in the garden without being windblown and frozen into a Karen-sicle.
But in the meantime I’ve got a few ideas in my head to write about. I’m really digging using Siri as a voice assistant and dictating what I want to write about in Notes. I decided to take the plunge into NaBloPoMo because the subject is play. That sounds right up my alley!
The birds didn’t even land on the ground yesterday, that’s how windy it was in Big Bend. I just noticed that the Robins are in the back yard, welcome back! Where do you hide when the wind is blowing little birds?
We have many mature trees on our property and when the wind blows like it did yesterday, I am amazed that they don't snap and break. How they bend and sway, doing the hula dance, how far they can bend without snapping. We aren’t always this lucky, we’ve had a few big trees and limbs come down in the past during wind storms.
We tried to golf on Sunday, but after 5 holes, I just gave up. I was tired of fighting the wind for the door on the golf cart, and the windshield blew off numerous times. We’re pretty lucky we didn’t break it, because every time it blew off we ran over it. Saturday we had better luck. Hubby played 18 but I quit after nine, just happy that I could break 60 after a 2 year hiatus.
It felt good to be out there again. I forgot how much I love being outside, and the surprises that nature brings us when we golf. I can still swing and hit the ball, and play double bogey golf, and that’s not so shabby for a gal who’s 55 and has had her spine fused. I don’t ever expect to be a good golfer, I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I may never break 100 consistently. Some people have the golf gene, but not me.
Speaking of being 55, the other night when we were out at dinner, I caught a glimpse of my upper arm. When did these old lady arms replace my arms? Right there and then, I decided to start working out. Arms legs and my core, just being careful to avoid any weight lifting that would affect my spine. We have a weight lifting system in the basement. I’m thinking about venturing down there to check it out. I asked hubby if he’d show me how to work it and he said it was a piece of cake. I really don’t like having old lady arms!
Last Thursday, when I got to Nikki’s, she asked if I wanted to go to the park with them. Quinn could play with Jordy and Cooper, his friends from daycare. They had a blast, even little Gavin had fun. I brought my camera along and got some photos of pure glee from both boys! This kind of photography is when the zoom lens comes in handy. There are no poses, no fake smiles for the camera.
I finished reading 50 Shades of Grey last week. I don’t want to spoil it for you if you hadn’t read it yet, but let me say this. If you ever read the stories in Penthouse Forum (do they still have that magazine?), this was similar but long and drawn out. I really don’t need to read the other two books in the trilogy, I’ve had enough of Christian and Anastasia.
I still haven’t made a meal plan for the week, but this is soup week. My freezer is empty and it’s time to get cooking! I plan to make chicken and rice with spinach, and beef and bean soup.
Nikki is picking me up this morning to take the babies to their well baby check up. She’ll be here at 8:30. I don’t think she is comfortable going out alone yet with both kids. It will get a little easier for her as time passes, the boys are growing so quickly.
When I get home, I’m headed to the garden with the D300 to access tulip damage from the windstorm. I’m glad I got some photographs earlier in the week, I’m pretty suer the petals still on the stalks will be ragged from the wind.
Speaking of cameras, over the weekend, hubby told me to go ahead and put the Nikon d800 on order. It is backordered, but I’m not sure for how long. I check my email more frequently than usual... I’m just waiting for that email that says “we’ve shipped your d800”. To say I’m excited is just an understatement. He told me that I should have it because photography is my hobby. And because he loves me.
His birthday is on Sunday. I invited all the kids over for birthday dinner and celebration. I haven’t heard back from any of them, but I am sure they will be here. Michael turns 55! I got him all kinds of cool gifts and I’m so excited to give them to him. He has no idea what is in the gift bags and I haven’t dropped any hints.
What he does know is that Fed Ex had to redeliver one of his presents because we missed the signature on Friday. I bet he has a good guess at that one. Oh well. He’ll still be surprised at the other gifts.
I finally got one of my April to dos done yesterday. It was a big project and I knew it would be met with resistance, so I’d been putting it off. Yesterday he asked me to order him some new scrubs as his scrubs were all way too big. So I figured it would be a good time to get rid of all his big clothes that were mashed into his armoire. I so should have taken a before photo, you just wouldn’t believe how many pairs of shorts and jeans were crammed in there.
There are 3 bags for Goodwill. He was so grateful. 50 pounds down honey! Great job! Next I need to tackle those drawers... Do you keep after your significant others wardrobe? I think I’d be kind of upset if he cleaned out my clothes, but honestly, he’s not going to do it. And now there’s room for new clothes.
Every year on Easter, we go out as a family for brunch. We try to pick a different place each year, but the buffets are usually similar no matter where we go. However, the views are not always this amazing!
This year we went to the Polaris, which sits (and rotates) high atop the Hyatt in Milwaukee.
Here is cuteness personified, shortly after arriving at the Polaris.
He spent a good amount of time checking out the moving floor before we were seated, to the moving cityscape (and window ledge) after we got our table.
I told him to put one foot on the moving part of the floor and one foot on the part of the floor that didn't move and watch to see what happens.
Nikki and Gavin. Gavin Just turned 6 months old (already) on the 7th.
My Epiphanie camera bag, looking out over Milwaukee.
The Polaris is supposed to make one complete cirle every 60 minutes, but they can turn the speed up or down. Hubs and son were feeling the movement and it definitely seemed to be turning faster than the last time we were there.
It was a crystal clear day, and just perfect to see Milwaukee from up high.
If you are ever in Milwaukee for Easter or Mothers Day, I highly recommend brunch at the Polaris. As long as it's not raining!
I've been a Republican most of my life. When I first signed up to vote, I believed what the Republican Party pushed: give a man a fish and feed him for a day, teach him to fish and feed him for life. Oh no, wait, that was Jesus. Oh well, whoever it was. I identified with the Republican Party.
I even went door to door for Richard Nixon in 1968. I was 12. My father was a Democrat, he worked at Armstrong Cork Company and was taken care of well by the Union he belonged to. I can't identify with unions, I mean I know they were good back in the olden days... when people where using child labor and working women for pennies.
But this is 2012. There are laws that govern us on how we treat our employees. These aren't suggested rules, they are required. We don't need a union to tell us to pay our employees fairly and to give them decent benefits. We pay them decently, we give them benefits, we don't want to lose them!
So I don't agree with the Democrats in that regard. However this year, I am truly ashamed to be a Republican. They (the Party) have made me feel like they are trying to put women back to the 60's.
Is this all you have to offer me oh Grand Old Party? Mitt Romney? Newt Gingrich? Rick Santorum? There aren't any better candidates out there? I like Ron Paul well enough, I think he'd run the country just fine. But lets face it, if I vote for him, my vote is wasted. He just doesn't have the support he needs to even win the primary.
So yes, I support Obama. I have to do it quietly because hubby and father are staunch Republicans who believe Democrats are fools. I can't tell you how many times I hear "I hate that guy" when Obama is on tv. But is having a GOP president is going to change everything? Isn't that what we all thought 4 years ago? Wasn't that Obama's slogan? Change? Yes I want a GOP candidate, but I want decent representation as President of the United States.
And you know, I believe in gun control. I believe in my right to chose. I believe in peace. PEACE. And you know, our president brought our kids home from Iraq. He didn't do it quick enough, but he DID it. And he also had Osama Bin Laden hunted down and killed.
So yeah, I'm not voting. I'd just be wasting my time. I'm not a Republican any more. I'm Independent. I have my mind and the right to use it as I see fit.
How about you? I know this is opening a can of worms, but I have to get it out because it is so frustrating to have someone you love hate the candidate of choice.
All I wanted to do was complain today, and then I took a look through some of my uploads to Flickr in the past few days and realized I have a lot more to be thankful for than I do things to complain about (although my feathers are still in an uproar).
Thanks first of all to Mother Nature: Thank you for the beauty that is the unfolding and blooming of early spring flowers. I really am glad there are no hard freezes in our forecast for the next ten days. I will take record warmth weather in March any day over an April snow storm. And I'll just take the weather 10 days at a time. Soon hopefully, we will be out of threat of winter weather.
I've learned to dress in layers usually always here in Wisconsin. It can be 70 degrees in the afternoon and 20 degrees by late evening. And it can swing the opposite direction like it did today. It was chilly willy when I left to go see the kids this morning.
They missed me as much as I missed them while we were in Puerto Rico. I love Nikki and her boys so much. Gavin and Quinn are heartwarmers. They have smiles that don't quit and they make me forget my aches and pains.
Little Gavin looks a lot like I did as a baby, but totally I see my dad in him, from the baby pictures that I've seen of dad. I should try and find them for Nikki. I told him he was definitely an Espensen!
This little guy, my dreamboat grandson is just perfect. He is starting to talk in sentences. When he figures something out he exclaims "YES!" He asks me to take his photo now, what a perfect little model he is for Meemaw! But, I am usually so busy playing with or holding him or Gavin, I just forget to take pics.
But this week, he's been asking so here is "cheese" face! Today we went to Trader Joes and Brennan's. I imagine it would be nearly impossible for Nikki to go to the grocery store with 2 babies, so we do it together every couple of weeks, and she carries Gavin while I push Quinn around and feed him samples. What a chore. Woe is me.
On Sunday, I walked into the kitchen to get some iced tea and stepped on a dog poop. My dogs don't usually poop on the floor so I must have missed a cue. (queue?) Anyway, I cleaned the poop off from between my toes, cleaned up the rug, tossed everything away and walked towards the Coffee Station (I should take a photo, my 2011 blogher pass hangs there) to get my tea. I slipped in dog pee! and my foot crashed into the underside of the cabinet and now I have a purple swollen toe. I'll spare you the photo and give you this little pretty instead.
So what totally ticked me off and got me thinking about doing a blog post was this app I heard about yesterday. It's called "ugly meter" and it will read your face and tell you how ugly you are on a scale of zero to one hundred. Who buys that crap and better yet, who promotes it? Our friends The Today Show and Huff Post and Fox News to name a few who gave these people air time. aye... don't even bother looking it up, it will just make you angry.
Oh and the cost of this app that will bring you nothing but uncertainty and unhappiness is 4.99. They sold 100,000 of them first week out. Go figure?