What up recently…. not much but working and Grad Party

So we have not posted lately, but that is because we are not doing much. We did however have our sons Garions Graduation party – that took all our free time for about a month and a half in preparation! But our youngest son is now graduated and starting online community college next week – it is way cheaper and I went to community college prior to moving on to Oakland University – where he has decided to go as well.

Sharing a few pictures of him. The party was small and separated some inside, some outside, some downstairs some in the garage, the ultimate social distance party. It has been three weeks since the party and I am feeling rested and ready to start posting again.

Café Du Monde & Walking around New Orleans

We are in New Orleans, LA for Mardi Gras. We always have wanted to travel to the worlds greatest festivals and celebrate life. So, last night they closed up the Endymion parade, because for the second time this week a person somehow was crushed by a float and died. Prayers and Love to these families for their great losses. So we will post the few pictures of just the beginning of the parade after we have a few more parade pictures to share.

We did have some incredible beignets at the historic Café Du Monde. A tasty treat after a night of drinking. Coffee and super powder sugar beignets. The Coffee here is a mix of coffee and chickory, dark and woodsie tasting to me. I took a couple of spoonfuls of the powdered sugar to mix with my coffee and it was sweet and like a dessert drink.

At Jackson Square, across from cafe du monde. It is filled with artists, music, tourists and fun.

Trip to Puerto Rico

Ok, finalized a trip to Puerto Rico. We wanted to donate supplies while there, but can find nothing online about donations when visiting, so I am going with a trip to a local church and then dropping off kids toys and school supplies. Wish we had a real list of what is needed, so if you have suggestions, let us know. No China for now, but Puerto Rico and a Cruise while visiting.

Late Late Dinner in Chicago

Dinner at Volare Ristorante Italiano Chicago, right around the corner from the Christmas tree and on the way back to our hotel near Michigan Ave.

We walked over to dinner and had some wonderful Italian food that I still can remember, having fun with friends makes everything better! Next to the Red Head Piano bar for some Late, Late, Late singing and drinks! The bars in Chicago stay open to 3am we are told….

Les Nomades, Chicago

Next year, we are going to try this restaurant out, but looks like reservations are required. We loved the feel, look and menu of this place. It is so close to our hotel, we could walk over. Date night idea 2020!

We would do the early menu and just splurge!

Lobby at the FireKeepers Hotel – 7 pillars of the Tribe Battle Ck, MI

The Lobby at the FireKeepers hotel is a Huge entrance with a light up tower at the center, and seven pillars of the Tribe and humanity surrounding it.

– Humility, Wisdom, Love, Respect, Bravery, Truth, Honesty. Love is my favorite. David’s favorite is Bravery.

Love the local Indian tribe history and will be sharing a book I purchased on the history of the Casino Indian Tribe the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi in the gift shop as soon as I am done reading it. You can read more on the Hotel History at this link: https://firekeeperscasino.com/about/our-story/

Huge center tower
1sec video of the light tower

3 Best things on our Ruby Princess Alaska Cruise Trip

If you have followed us for even just a few posts, you have noticed we like to keep our posts nice and short and to the point. On our recent trip to Alaska we enjoyed these three things the most:

1- The peaceful, spiritual feelings when out in nature. Whether we were staring at a glacier, hiking thru the woods, or out in the bay watching whales. We loved the outdoor time. Alaska is truly the last frontier feeling for us and we absorbed it all in. So the walk over to the Mendenhall glacier/Nugget fall, the Whale watching tour and the time off the bus ride that took us up the mountains – were all the best. Laura was truly not interested in going to Alaska, and agreed for David, who wanted Alaska for years, but Laura became a true believer in Alaska and we both cannot wait to return.

2- The Ruby Princess Cruise ship was beautiful with many high end accents everywhere. Compared to Holland America it was decadent. There was a greater cross section of people on the Princess Cruise, all age ranges and style and we preferred that over Holland America significantly older cruise ages. The Food was superior on the Holland America Ship, but both ships were really tasty.

3- The time together. We are still really in love and find each other interesting to be around, we are each others best friends and playmates. When we are at home, we are so busy with work and kids and household chores. It was nice to enjoy each other again.

We are back to real life, and going to catch up on a few posts, but still enjoying our trip and the memories.

Date Night back on Ruby Princess Leaving Alaska

Were back on the Ruby Princess Cruise ship and having a date night. We are celebrating our Anniversary on Board, before headed over to Vancouver, British Columba. We buy the upgraded King Crab dinner for $29.00 each.

Having crabs for dinner

Its a love boat Anniversary Cake!

We did think the upgrade pricing was worth it, and enjoyed the nite celebrating!

Totem Pole Carving in Ketchikan, Alaska

After our delicious crab early lunch, we headed over to check out some totem pole carving at the Alaskan Rainforest Sanctuary.

https://www.alaska.org/detail/rainforest-sanctuary-totem-park-eagles

We walk over to the totem carving shed to see this beauty in progress.

The Totem artist explaining what step he is on now.

He says the whole process will take him about 4 months and he is 3 months into it right now, and this is his first independent project, but has been an apprentice for many years now.

What his final project will be. Notice the hidden Mickey in the corner of this picture!

David and I are both amazed and while we have no real artistic capabilities, we feel inspired. This totem is planned for the raptor center, which is next door and where we are headed next, the bird sanctuary.

Glacier Bay, Alaska – Part 1

These were our views from the deck of the Ruby Princess, it was so breathtaking, I am posting in two parts. Few words, mostly pictures

In my mind this is the entrance to Supermans secret layer….
He was floating by on an iceberg.

Salmon Hatchery – and Seal eating them all up – Alaska

Sharing a few pictures of our visit to a Salmon Hatchery, they hatch baby chum Salmon and then release them into the wild and after years of living out there, they return to the hatchery and mate and then die. The guide we had said their death is the beginning of new salmon and they fertilize the ground. Plus they are food for so many Alaskan wildlife, including this cute sea lion, eating his fill.

Sea Lion scouting salmon

These are the Salmon returning to spawn.

A million baby salmon in the hatchery – jumping out of the water.

Whale Watching in Juneau, Alaska

Were in Juneau Alaska – On the excursion agenda – Whale Watching, with Allen Marine Tours – and guess what we saw …Whales, lots of them. First lets set the stage, they pick us up in a bus from the pier, and it is overcast and raining – a lot of rain. But when I see the boat I am excited, it is covered and at least we can stay inside. I am not a cold weather girl, so am dressed warm and ready for this.

Heading on to our ship for whale watching, lets Go!

Inside the boat it is warm and we are headed out to look for some whales…

Babe did you get that, nope missed it, but here is a great picture from my husband!

Yes, we saw this!
A whale tail. We were told if you see a whale tail, you are blessed with another year or two of life. Well we saw dozens of tails, so glad to live to 90!

There was a guarantee, if you do not see a whale you get back $100, no worries there, we saw lots of whales.

We also had a wonderful buffet dinner on the whale watching boat and it was all Alaska based locally made foods, we loved it!

A Yummy dinner of everything delicious from Alaska.
The Blueberry dessert was my Favorite, but David loved the Reindeer.
Honestly, I am falling in love with Alaska, and this was supposed to be a trip for David and me just tagging along. One day in and I am enjoying this A LOT!

From Tokyo to Seattle, Washington

This trip is just David and myself, our kids are back at home safe and sound. We flew to Seattle to travel to Alaska, but first stopped in Seattle for the beginning of our travels.

David and I have never been to Seattle, so we researched as we always do a TripAdvisor search, a WordPress search for blogs on the area and last – when we arrive, we ask as many locals about everything fun to do within a short period. We narrowed down our less than 24 hours in the area to a visit to:

1. Pikes Place Market

2. Space Needle

3. Chihuly Gardens

Straight off the plane, we head to our hotel – Seattle hotels are expensive ($230-300/nite) down town, but since we only have one day, we want to be where the action is and stay at the Motif Hotel (just purchased by Hyatt this very week). It is a clean and cool hotel. In fact the entire ride from the airport over in our Lyft, the town looks young and hip – we see many people walking around with dogs and lots of public art. Our first thought is – this town might be too cool for us – lol, so we will soak in the youth and try and learn a new trick or two.

Our view of Seattle coming in from the airport. We head straight from the hotel with an early check in to Pikes Market.

Pikes Public Market is a huge fish, art, collectibles, dining & farmers market – where you walk for what feels like miles up and down and lengths, both inside and outside. It is a wonderful sunny day – warm and perfect for walking. We are only 0.6 miles to the market from our hotel. As we approach the market we realize it is busy, really busy – but we love these types of out door/indoor markets. The first thing we see is….

There are flowers – huge long stalls of flowers. I want to buy some, the flowers are fresh and different from anything I have seen, and really well priced, but we are only in town for one day, so no flowers for us.

Walking around Pikes Place Market.

We buy a cup of hard pressed apple cider at a vendor. Then a BBQ Pork bun and pork meat stick at Mee-sum pastry – the lines were long at Mee-Sum, so that had to mean it was a good place, and it was the bun was fluffy and the BBQ pork stick was perfect.

We looked at so much – I will add in more pictures here as soon as David gets his together, we are in transit today so posting while moving can be hard, but nice to remember while still fresh.

Date Night – Tokyo, Japan – Grilled meats and giblet hotpot

We have been back from Tokyo for a little while now and wrapping up these posts. So just a few left. Then on to our next adventure.

David and I always try and sneak away from the kids for an evening – we try to do it once a week, but it does not always work, but we steal away time even if just a walk down the street to a mini eatry – the giblet hotpot for some yummy meats on a stick. We tried the chicken skin, chicken wings, asked for a surprise (yep could have been anything, guessing it was heart) and some pork belly. All was delicious.

Cooking up our dinner date snack.

Tokyo Sky Tree at Sumida district

We thought we were at Tokyo Tower, but were recently corrected this is Tokyo Sky Tree at Sumida district an Eiffel Tower inspired lattice communications and observation tower in the Shiba-koen district of Minato, Tokyo, Japan. It is huge, actually 332.9 meters and is the second-tallest structure in Japan. When we visited Tokyo Tower, we had no idea what to expect, but it is like a HUGE mega mall. So pictures of what we were up to at Tokyo Tower! We walked in and first saw a huge food market, with so many choices, of everything, then later a food court, and then shops, so many many many shops. We were there for over 3 hours and had to start walking faster, just to get to the stores we really wanted to see – Pokemon’s second store, and some clothing stores the girls wanted to look at.

Totoro character – we bought quite a few gifts at this store.
Moomin House Cafe – ran out of time for eating here, but fun place.
Pokemon store at Tokyo Tower

Gundam Cafe- Akihabara Japan

Garion more than anything else wanted to buy as many Gundams he could while in Tokyo. He wanted to buy a super large one, but it would not fit in our suitcase – he did purchase five normal sized model kits. So we decided to surprize him with a Gundam Cafe Visit. Gundam’s are a Japanese science fiction media animation series that features giant robots (mecha).  

Tip: Check out web sites before heading over to a special tourist cafe, as sometimes you HAVE to have a reservation, or they open at weird times.

Gundam Cafe website: http://g-cafe.jp/akiba/menu/food/

I can’t stop smiling!

In his complete Glory of happiness!

So we had a snack and Garion ate, everything – a blue soda drink a Hamburger and fries. He could not be happier, and that makes all of us super happy.

The Best Fortune at Sensoji Temple, AsaKusa Japan

There was a Fortune area in front of the temple, and for $1.00, you can pick a chop stick out of a box, track the symbol on the stick to a box, and take out your fortune.

Dave gets a Bad Fortune!

Oh no! So you take your bad fortune and wrap it up tie it to a metal rod, where they will burn it later.

I also got a bad fortune.
Looking for the box that matches the stick symbol.
But guess who got a good fortune!
Katrina, she got a good fortune! Actually the BEST Fortune! All the rest of us fated a bad fortune. Sabrina wants me to point out, she did not get a fortune.

Nakamise Shopping Street, Sensoji Temple – Asakusa, Tokyo Japan

Our family left the Confucious Temple and walked toward our goal of Nakamise Shopping street and Sensoji Temple. We heard this was a great tourist location, and we are tourists and want to shop.

Check out the serious number of little stores here – like a tourist shopping paradise!
We buy a lot of little gifts.
High five a statue, and head on over to the temple
Katrina, David and Sabrina posing in front of the Sensoji Temple Entrance.
David and Garion in front of the temple entrance

Lets go In!

Sometimes I stand in awe – thinking how lucky I am. During this trip it is probably my 100th time of just thinking how Blessed and lucky I am to be here with my family. Even when looking at these crazy demons in a temple. Inside the temple it is even more interesting things. I buy a health charm for my mom and say a quick prayer of safety and health for everyone in my family and the world and we walk around the grounds next. We see a Prayer/Fortune area, will check that out in the next post.

Shrine of Confucius, Tokyo Japan

We stumbled across the Shrine of Confucius while walking around Tokyo, toward Nakamise Shopping Street and Sensoji Temple. Confucius Temple is hidden away behind a gate and greenery. We walked in and looked around the peaceful garden grounds. Were sharing a few pictures of our time and the treasures we saw while there. We were told, this is one of the few non replica temples in all of Japan. Now, we are a Christian family, and all Strong believers, so we enjoy learning about all other religions without worry of waiver in our faith. So check out what we enjoyed. Nakamise Shopping Street We stumbled across the Shrine of Confucius while walking around Tokyo, toward . Hidden away you can walk into the gated temple and walk around the peaceful garden grounds. Were sharing a few pictures of our time and the treasures we saw while there. We were told, this is one of the few non replica temples in all of Japan. Now, we are a Christian family, and all Strong believers, so we enjoy learning about all other religions without worry of waiver in our faith. So check out what we enjoyed.

I read this is the largest statue of Confusion in the World. It was big, but not overbearing big, but that makes since as he was wise and simple, not extravagant. I loved the exposed tree roots, and I felt drawn to this status. We continued walking thru the garden toward this large dark temple.
Its raining and we are enjoying the rain, because it is super hot and humid.

It is a $4.00 donation to see inside the temple, so David and I go in, but the kids wait outside in the rain. Inside we learn about a water drinking well that captures rain water to drink later.

There is a lot of very interesting artifacts inside. It feels dark, peaceful, ominous and fascinating. We stay for about 25 minutes, just looking around and imaging what each of these items history. I have a huge imagination, so there is a lot of Indiana Jones and zen ninja fights going on in my mind while walking thru this temple.

We end our tour and collect the kids and walk on to the next adventure.

The Masked Dancer Dances Backward on Dance Dance Revolution Game – This video is Amazing! Sega Akihabara Tokyo Japan

While inside the SEGA Building in Akihabara Japan, after checking out the Crane Games and Virtual Reality and playing until we were almost out of money for the day, we saw this….. The Masked Dancer is what he calls himself. Look! HE IS DOING THIS BACKWARD!!! with a Mask on – he has memorized this Dance without even looking at it.

Backwards!

Forward is just as impressive!

I could watch this all Day!

Mario Cart Competition & Crane Games – Play Videos Akihabara- Tokyo Japan

Were at the Sega Video Game Building in Akihabara, Tokyo Japan. This building is FILLED with all kinds of AWESOME crane games, Video Games and Virtual Reality Games. Next to the escalator, you can see there is 7 – yes 7 floors of arcade games here!
Many Stories and Two separate SEGA Buildings, so many Games, so little time!

Crane Games Everywhere!

At this point he has spent more than the item would cost…. but so close – so by the end of the trip he could have bought two. I love how animated he is after this.

Sabrina wanted this puppy and lost, but her sister won it on the next try. Lucky, not many winners around.

Our family loves to go to our local Utica, MI Dave and Busters to play Mario Cart. I typically loose, David and Sabrina are up at the top, Katrina second, Garion third. But lets check out our game in Toyko, Japan.

Get Ready to Battle Drive!

The Winner of this Round – David! So for the finally, we went up to the top and the boys played Virtual Reality shooting and horse riding bow and arrow competitions, it was funny to see how they walked around with their headsets on – and when they were done, they said it was so real, they could not get their minds to believe it was not. They were shaking after the first round.

Samurai Museum – Tokyo Japan

David at the Samurai Museum, Tokyo Japan

The one thing David really wanted to see in Tokyo was a Samurai show or a Samurai Museum. We tracked it down on Trip Advisor, it is in the same area as the Robot Café. We did want to see the Robot Café it was on our list but changed our mind after reading the Trip Advisor reviews and realizing how much it cost – $64.00 after a 60% discount coupon that you have to wait 24hours to collect. We opted out. We walked over to the Samurai Museum and it was a short 15min wait until the next tour and show, so for $16.94 we bought a ticket on Trip Advisor, it was $19.00 at the site, and waited while shopping the gift shop.

David loved this one the most, he even bought a mini replica of this samurai outfit.

Honestly, this was a wonderful tour, we learned ALOT, and it was interesting all the way thru – even to my ADHD kids, and we even got to watch a samurai & ninja show and then ask questions at the end. I really enjoyed this and I did not think I was going to.

We really enjoyed this combination history lesson, museum quality piece and stories that went with each piece in a tour, then the Show and Dress up time. I recommend this stop if you visit Tokyo.
These two hams loved playing samurai and dress up!

Hedge Hog Café – Tokyo Japan

On the Way to the Pokémon Café, we see a Hedge Hog and Cat Café. The Café is on top of a puppy store – yes they sell Puppies there – really tiny teacup puppies, that are on display in a fish tank style shop, these puppies are honestly the cutest I have ever seen, but they are $$$ in price, starting at $1000.00 was the cheapest I saw. But I cannot take pictures, because it is posted everywhere not too. But this post is about Hedge Hogs – Because we decided we had to go and we pay for 10mins at 350yen or $3.50.

Tip: In pet café, the clock starts when you are at the bottom of the stairs, it seems they all were upstairs – all that we saw, and they don’t give you a clock you have to keep track yourself.

We jog up the stairs, we are seeing hedge hogs, the kids went to see cats – I don’t know why – we have two cats at home, but its their money, I am going to pet a hedge hog! I open the door and there they are – Two Hedge hogs sitting in there little habitats. I’m headed to pet one.

I pet one, but realize I should wear a glove. He is spiky and does not like to be petted.

Hedge Hog Happiness!

Hedge Hogs are Fiesty!

There were also Rabbits there, but I grew up on a farm and raised Rabbits, so it was only the Hedge Hogs I wanted to see.

Hedge Hog Paradise

We saw two, but you can put them in any habitat they have, I was not going to move him, but enjoyed this for sure for the price!

Disney Popcorn & Disney Twins

Popcorn At Disney is Unique. Check out this Popcorn Bucket for 2300yen, or $23.00. So you get the bucket and popcorn, plus refills are cheaper. These buckets come in many different shapes – Steam Boat Willy above and Toy Story Wagon below. We also saw popcorn buckets in the shap of Cinderella’s Carriage, Duffy the Bear (who is HUGE in Tokyo Disney – bigger in popularity than Mickey), and BB-8 from star wars.

Curry Flavored Popcorn

The popcorn flavors here in Disney are Unique. We tried chocolate Milk and Honey. There was also Garlic Shrimp, Curry, Strawberry and of course Butter.

In Addition to the Unique Flavors and Buckets for Popcorn, there was also a twin theme, which apparently is always going on from what I heard from others I spoke with, not just during our visit. Check out some of the pictures of people dressing as twins. There was seriously 100s of people wearing twin clothes, it is hard to not notice this.

Now my daughters are twins, but have not dressed that way since third grade.

Next Post a few more pictures of Disney, then Samurai Museum.

Disney Tokyo

This is what I have been waiting for the Entire Trip, the one thing I REALLY wanted to do in Tokyo – Go to Tokyo Disney. I actually want to go to every Disney Park in the world, so all that is left is the waterparks in Florida and Shanghai and China Disney parks. I researched that today is a great day to go as the Tokyo Disney crowd calendar says it is moderate, which is the lowest crowds at the park the entire time we will be there – Never go during high, because it turns out it was still pretty darn busy there.

TIP: Use a Disney Crowd Calendar – just do a quick web search on this and it is easy to figure from there.

Disney Sea Map
The map including rides and details of Disney Sea, Tokyo
Entrance to Tokyo Disney Sea – Wide shot

We take a train about 45mins from our Airbnb to the entrance to Disney Tokyo, and wanted to visit both Disney Sea and the Disneyland Parks, there are two Parks. But you cannot swap between – no Park Hopper options. No using the tickets we have from the Florida park you have to buy new ones. A one day price one park (we decided on The Seas based upon previous online research) is 7400 yen or $74.00, in comparison todays price for Disney World is $109.00 for one park one day.

The best price deals though were inside. Food and snacks in comparison to Disney World are extremely well priced you can buy an ice cream large for $3.00, this frozen treat is made of a frozen jello on the bottom, shaved ice in the middle and rice crisps sprinkled on top with a creamier than you get in the US style frozen custard on top – it was 550yen or $5.50, Bargain in Disney!

You can buy a quality tasty chicken curry bun sandwich for $5.00, and it is cute! More on food in a future post.

View from when you walk in
View of Arabian Coast
The boys in front of Indiana Jones Adventure Temple of the Crystal Skull Ride

Check out my two bearded guys faces on the screen – nothing just pan face nothing, lol!

This is a YouTube Video of the Indiana Jones Adventure Tokyo ride for more details: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8OEkTOubp8g

Around Tokyo – 1st Day

We learned the subway system really quick, you have to – my main goal was to NOT get separated. We did have the plan of if you get lost, stay there for 2hours, if still no one comes back, get a taxi back to the house.

We wanted to go to Tokyo Disney the first day, but it was Raining pretty hard, and by the time we got our luggage we realized we only had a half day, so we decided to check out the area after the mall visit and here are a few pictures from the first afternoon.

We had Shabu Shabu, Pork Loin. Shabu-shabu is a Japanese hotpot dish of thinly sliced meat and vegetables boiled in water and served with dipping sauces. Apparently we were eating it so wrong, we were drinking the dipping sauce like a soup and dipping the vegetables one at a time and eating them. Some one from the next table came over to explain how to eat it correctly. You take the vegetables and put in the boiling pot for 5mins, then add the meat strip in the boiling vegetable water for 1min, pull it out, dip it in the sauce and eat it, eat the vegetables in between. Honestly this was a delicious meal and we LOVED it, wish I could have eaten this everyday.

Delicious, so Good

TIP: In Japan, people will stop and help you if you look confused or lost, this is a wonderful benefit for a tourist.

This is our street where our AIRBNB was, it was filled with little stores for shopping, pets, a mini grocery store, 7-11, wine store, and about 10 restaurants. We checked out everything we could.

We played a little Pachinko – a Japanese form of pin ball, but combined with a Video Game.

Tomorrow is Disney Day!

Eiffel Tower

So we saw the Eiffel Tower from a far and walked down to it! Stopped and took a bunch of pictures, had an ice cream, and bought Katrina an Eiffel Tower sucker.

Garion showing off his mini Eiffel Tower he bought!
Katrina showing off her Eiffel Tower Sucker!

Next Post – Under the Eiffel tower and then….. Off to Toyko, Japan!

Paris Pictures

There are so many beautiful pictures from random areas we saw in Paris, these are a few. Some from a top the Hop on Hop off, some just from wandering around. Enjoy!

A wonderful eating and shopping street near Notre Dame.
The busy streets near the Seine river
Notice the Bride entering the building.
Gift from Egypt to France.
There was a protest going on at this area – peaceful and childrens medical rights based.

Louvre

The Louvre is the world’s largest art museum and is in Paris, France. The museum is housed in the Louvre Palace, originally built as the Louvre Castle in the late 12th to 13th century under Philip II. The building was added onto many times to form the present Louvre Palace. In 1682, Louis XIV moved to the Palace of Versailles, leaving the Louvre primarily as a place to display the royal collection.

360 degree view of the Louvre (outside).

We did not go inside, honestly we have been inside back in 2008 and we all agreed spending the day in a museum when there is so little time was not on our schedule.  So these are some pictures of our time at the Louve (out side) or above as the museum is below this area we are in.

Tip:  We have seen the Mona Lisa picture, it is inside the Louve, but surprisingly small and a very crowded exhibit.

Tip:  The entire Louvre area is a HIGH ALERT pic pocket area.  We use strap over shoulder purses, and money pouches to minimize loosing all our money.  In busy areas, the boys put there backpacks on the front side.

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Garion being Garion

Next posts: Lock Bridge and Eiffel Tower

Notre Dame – still standing just like us!

Notre Dame is still standing – battered and in renovation, but she is still standing despite what we all thought was the end of her and the fire that was so devastating only just 2 months ago.

This month David and I will be married 3 years and together 5 years. We are winning against the odds of a second marriage succeeding. Our marriage and my life is testament that regardless of your current situation, you can fight hard, and win – in a big way. Our children are thriving and growing up surrounding by love and we are a family. Six years ago, my life was so different. I was in the middle of a divorce and thinking my life was over, I was fighting for my health, my finances, and my children. I was devastated and burnt down to my core. At the time I could have never predicted that point of my life was just the beginning of things to come. I still have to pinch myself to believe this is my life. I feel so blessed and grateful, it can be overwhelming.

Seeing the Grand Dame was also a memory of 2008, and my last visit to Paris with my parents and children. When we were there, we went to Palm Sunday Mass, which was crazy busy with mass mobs of people – in fact we were separated by the crushing crowds. I was just laughing about that with my parents last night – what wonderful memories of this trip, and the memories are still strong.  

Six years from now, I would love to visit Notre Dame and see her completely re-built, toast her and myself for both over coming against the odds.

Paris Date Night

We like to date, even when traveling, we think it is part of what keeps us together – grown up time to re-connect. My daughter recently asked David, what was he looking for in a date when he was first dating me – he said companionship – he wanted a companion to do things with, talk with, travel with, enjoy his time with. That is part of what Date night is for us. So we date.

Were exhausted, after 20 hours of traveling, but we make time for a date.
Date night dinner of roast beef with mushrooms and au gratin potatoes for me with a glass of cabernet – 20Euros.  David had cheese and bacon risotto with a coke – 23Euros.  A wonderful meal at the little café about 2 blocks ~5mins walk, from our Airbnb.

TIP: Wine is cheaper in Europe than a Coca-Cola (soda pop).
I say go with the local lifestyle and drink wine!
We sit and talk away the evening, people watching and amazed at the beautiful buildings that surround us. I love this man and our time together.
Parisian buildings that surround our dinner.
The view all around us
Liked this wall posting we saw on our walk home. David, Architecte, 1821 – lol!

Next posts: Notre Dame and The Louvre Museum.

Arrive in Paris

We arrived in Paris, France after a long and tight (economy) flight – we drove to Toronto, Canada from Detroit, Michigan only 3 hours in good traffic from our home – this will save us about $1000 per ticket using this method.  I recommend this as an option for considering any travel.

Tip:  Check airports within a few hours of your home for potential flight discounts. Driving a few hours can save thousands.

We Arrive!

Room check in was at 3pm, we asked to check in early, but they said the room would not be ready, so we had to keep busy from 10am until 3pm. We decided to separate – as everyone in our group – except our youngest son Garion had already been to Paris, and he wanted to see the Catacombs.  So the girls and myself took off for the ….. Zoo a favorite from out last trip and a side trip to the Curie Museum.  We each purchased a subway ticket and left Charles De Gaulle (CDG) airport, with our luggage.  David and Garion, never made it to the Catacombs – too long of a line for their patience.

Tip:  Book Paris Catacombs online in advance  – 30 days if you really want to see them.

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David and Garion stop at the Arc De Triumph, when the Catacombs were busy and a long line.

The Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile – means Triumphal Arch of the Star. I heard there were a lot of recent riots in this area, but a quick check of the recent news showed those were over months ago, so lets go! The Arc de Triomphe was built to honor those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, with the names of all French victories and generals inscribed on its inner and outer surfaces. Beneath its vault lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I. It is HUGE. More picture to follow in future post. ††

Zoo in Paris Jadin des Plantes - heart of Paris.
We visited this Zoo in 2008 when traveled there with the kids, they loved it and wanted to see it again. We walked with our luggage to the Zoo, it was hot, and hard to drag around the luggage, but we really enjoyed it!

TIP: Figure out what you will do with yourself, and where to put your luggage between the time you arrive in Paris to the time you can check in. Wish I would have checked the luggage, and saved the long haul to the zoo carrying our luggage.

We read that the zoo is the second oldest in the world, and was built in 1793 with the animals coming from Versailles after the revolution – instead of killing the animals during the revolt, they saved them and they eventually ended up here.

We wanted to visit the Marie Curie museum, but honestly we were beat tired and it was 3pm, so we skipped it and headed to the Airbnb for a rest.

Next post: Date night in Paris with my handsome husband & Notre Dame, she still stands – and under repair.

Notre Dame, still stand!

Epic Adventure Before it begins

Epic Adventure – Before it Begins

Our family trip to Paris, France – Tokyo, Japan – Amsterdam, Netherlands.

The Airbnb’s are booked.  In Paris we will stay at:

In Tokyo we will stay at:

Let us compare afterward – what we booked and what we got.  So this is the before, same post after the trip with the details of each location.

We have the exchanged moneys, we used a credit union, which had no fees according to my husband and his mother – Wings Credit Union.  Next time we exchange I will for sure ask a lot of questions on this no fee, same exchange to assure this is true, as I want to report back to each of you.  It seems too good to be true, as the airport charges the best fees I have found, and my current bank has large fees associated with foreign money exchanges. 

Tip:  Check with a Credit Union or a friend who could exchange $ for you at a credit union for great foreign money exchange fees.

We have the credit cards – we are bringing two, one each with no foreign exchange fees (this could cost you upwards of 10% per transactions, so very important to have this in place). 

Tip:  ALWAYS bring two credit cards when traveling – as I will read about in a future post, if one is compromised you will have a back-up.

We have our luggage picked out, our three largest suitcases, with another in each (for bringing home gifts).  We are traveling with three of our five children and sometimes we question why we would ever do that, but I already know the answer, I love them unconditionally and cannot wait for this Epic Family Adventure.

Flying out of Toronto Airport on Air France.

Chinese Lantern Festival – Philadelphia, PA

At the end of our visit with our Son in Phily, PA, Brett had to head back to his job at Dover Air Force Base for a 6am Shift on Sunday. While we only had Friday and Saturday to be with Brett, the visit was wonderful and this left a date nite for us parents. We chose to visit the Chinese Lantern Festival -which was at Franklin Square, within walking distance from our rental apartment. The festival moves from town to town and is in downtown Philadelphia thru June 30, 2019. This website has more information: http://historicphiladelphia.org/

Walking into the Festival

The Festival has these Extreme oversized light sculptures, some that move and change colors. There is also food, alcohol, acrobats, snacks, vendors and these incredible visual explosion of color and showmanship of what looks like paper or silk lighted lantern art. I loved this and would recommend it with a 10 out of 10. The price was $20 each, and even though it rained the entire time, I did not even notice I was so memorized. Fun night, and my husband is wonderful company.

David with Angel Wings – he says – see I told you I was an angel
In front of the mouth of a dragon!
Panda Tree that Changed Colors, it was Magical!
As it became darker it was even more magical.

Henderson Castle – Kalamazoo, MI

Had a date weekend with my husband. We visited Henderson Castle for a dinner date, while you can stay at Henderson Castle, we did not. What a great date night. This is a little history of the castle: The Castle was built in 1888, by Frank Henderson. He was the owner and president of the Henderson-Ames Company which made uniform regalia for secret societies, fraternal organizations, and the military. I noticed many pictures through out the bar of Males in Church robes, Militia service outfits, and Fancy Pants outfits, the bartender explained a quick history lesson of the Castle and how these clothes were his handy work. The Queen Anne style house cost $72,ooo and was designed by C. A. Gombert of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The house has twenty five rooms, seven baths (one with a thirteen-head shower), an elevator, a third-floor ballroom.

Davids beard is looking a little shaggy in front of Henderson Castle.
Fancy Romaine Salad.
We had steak, which was really tasty, but $$$ – Good thing we had a Groupon.
Beautiful interior

Overall wonderful Nite, beautiful location and I heard they give tours and I would really have loved to do that, but they were scheduled. Not going to lie, service was slow, no one ever answered when we called or even called us back to confirm the reservation. But we did not care because we were enjoying each other and the conversation. Without the groupon – this would have been a very expensive meal. Would I go back, sure if I was willing to wait, and had another Groupon.

Tropicana Club, Cuba

I figured out how to add videos! Better later than never! so this is older post updated.

We only had two days in Havana, Cuba – so we made the most of it – a day of everything, then an evening trip to the Tropicana Club.  I would describe it as an outdoor larger version of the “I Love Lucy” Show’s – Ricky Ricardo’s Club – which was also originally called Tropicana – then renamed Club Babalu.  David and I saw the Las Vegas review – Jubilee, and this show is superior, the dancers have a fire, the music is the over the top and beats Jubilee for me.

We took a bus on a 20min drive to the Tropicana, which had a huge entrance first with a Billboard show casing the Tropicana Club name and a dancing ballerina (club icon), then we drive down a tropical foliage filled drive to the entrance.

We stood in line a long line, but only for 5 mins to walk thru a lobby,  where a Tropicana show girl hands out a cigar to each man and a flower to each women.  There is a sign posted  – all must pay to take pictures inside the club, which we did (hence our photos and videos), but we saw no one else pay and no one was stopped from taking photos, so if you skipped this fee, I don’t believe there would be any trouble for you.  We then huddle into what we assumed would be an indoor theater, but instead we were walked outside to a lush outdoor garden amphitheater style venue, with elaborate overhead lighting.

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This picture does this location no justice.  It is a 180 degree theatre, with a waterfall dancing stage to our far left, a main stage for singers directly ahead, a mini dance bridge in between.  To our right was a three level tower of dancers and in between the main stage and this tower was a hidden full orchestra.

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This picture also does this club a small justice there is stages to the left and right.

The girls and the costumes are incredible.  There were tall statues of art with about 12  costume changes that each were more over the top than the previous, we saw bikini (no nudity) wearing model ladies, with fruit baskets 3 feet tall on their head, they wore chandeliers on their heads, they danced in the 80 degree night heat like it was nothing.

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There were acrobats and singers and non stop Mambo, cha cha cha rhythms action for the entire 1 hour 45 min show.

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You get an entire bottle of rum (and a big bottle, larger than a fifth) to split with four people at your table, each person gets a tiny glass bottle of Coca-cola along with a bucket of ice.  So of course we drank most of it in the flaming heat, which made our bus drive home a boisterous spectacle to our bus mates, we laughed so hard, I think we had everyone else laughing too.  I highly recommend the Tropicana Club for the Havana experience!  We sat at the back, and I would have paid the extra $30/ dollars for a middle closer seat, but the front section is not necessary – all views are amazing.

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Bon Voyage

We are headed out to our 7 day Cuban Explorer with Holland America Cruise, on the Veendam.  We started in Fort Lauderdale, Florida then to Georgetown, Grand Cayman, to Cozumel, Quntana Roo Mexico, then Havana Cuba, back to Ft Lauderdale.   We choose this cruise specifically for the Cuba Experience and we are really are very excited to step foot in Cuba.   We did read in our paperwork, we had to book an excursion or we will not be allowed off the ship, and that is a recent change to the US requirements.   So we booked an 8hr – Best of Havana, and a night trip to the Tropicana Club.  While many might not ever even consider visiting Cuba, for us something about seeing what has been forbidden is a thrill.  This might be a short window of opportunity that we never get to experience again, but if we enjoy Cuba, and it is still possible a longer trip might be in our future as well.

This is our third cruise together as a couple, but Davids ~10th, I only started cruising when I met David, so my third cruise.   This is our second with Holland, where the population is significantly older, but then again our cruise with Celebrity was also an older group.  I guess most can afford to cruise when they are older and finally have the time, so the ships population is filled with motorized scooters, canes and stories of grand children.

When I checked online reviews of the Veendam, I see Excellent reviews, and that it is a small ship with a max capacity of 1350.  We will report back on what we experienced upon return.  I am sure I will drink a few Cuba Libras (Rum and Coke) during this trip, so I will try and report back daily on our adventure, or might forget a fact or two.

Hoover Dam

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On the way to Hoover Dam, a quick stop at Lake Mead.

Going back a few weeks, we visited Hoover Dam.   We were already in Vegas, and David has never been and he wanted to see.   The downside, the elevators to the inside powerhouse were down, so we only were able to see the outside and the museum, which was amazing.  The upside of this day trip – a quick nap on the bus ride and beautiful sites, with education learning that fascinated me.  As a physicist, I love learning how things work, and the museum there had a lot of information on both the history of Hoover Dam and the science behind the design.  The quick summary, is there were two years of fertile farming, and then years of severe flooding in the surrounding areas, which lead to this (originally named Boulder Dam) project.  The Dam is a concrete arch gravity dam in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River, right on the boarder of Nevada and Arizona.  It was built during the great depression, which paid super low paying, very dangerous (112 deaths) jobs to those who were desperate and had nothing.   The water is taken into the towers, then down the narrowing funnels to the powerhouse, the water pressure turn the turbines, which make electricity.  There is a lot of past fighting over who gets what % of the energy, but I honestly ignored that portion and focused on the awe and science.

We bought the bus ride on Groupon, with Grand Canyon tour (below)  just two days before we left, and they picked us up at the hotel, took us to a depot, where we sat for about 20mins before leaving for our trip.  Since the Hoover Dam, Powerhouse tour was not available, they did refund us for that portion, and I would definitely recommend this tour.

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Below we are on the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, which was built to help with traffic and to help with safety on the Dam drive over (to minimum traffic which helps maintain security).  Note each of those (which look like lego blocks are 6feet tall), it looks so small, but the size is almost unimaginable.

HooverDam 2017

 

Seeing the world with my husband, is my dream, and I am living it.  We don’t travel as much as we want, but we make it work, and I love looking back at these pictures and how happy we were and are.

Next Trip?

The cover picture, is David is holding a baby turtle at a turtle farm we visited in Grand Cayman, our first family trip together in 2015.  So we are now together almost 4 years.  I was divorce Feb 13, 2014 and joined Match.com the end of Feb 2014 and met David after about 30 coffee dates in 30 days (yep marathon dating) and after a Tim Hortons coffee date, I was hooked.  So end of March 2014 will be four years.

So now, we are trying to plan our next trip, which is always a masterpiece theater trick of timing, cost and minimizing kid inconveniences.    There is an upcoming winter break we could slip away for a few days, and so trying to find some close by 4 day trips.  Maybe New Orleans, or Mexico, or a 3 day cruise.  Some place warm for sure, but too short to head to China, or Greece or Italy.  So next we must plan.   I think the planning is half the fun, and waiting for the next trip is so much fun imagining what we will do once we are there.

Disney for Two

David and I just returned from Disney today, What a fun time.  Two and a half days alone with my husband, what a treat!

Yes, we were just in Disney in July, but that was with four kids, which had its drama and I was exhausted at the end of the trip.

Florida this October weekend was cooler, and actually invigorating.

We stayed at the time share – Summers Bay, which is a timeshare my husband has from way back.  We went down for an owners meeting, that turned out to be a sales pitch.  We did not let that stop our good time, and it was interesting to hear their offers.  They start with a deal for $11,600 upgrade, then only $8,000 for a lesser version, then $4000, then $3000.   I learned alot, so my time did not feel wasted, but don’t think I will be sitting thru one of those again soon.

The rest of the weekend was wonderful.  Sharing some pictures of us at Universal City Walk, we also enjoyed an afternoon at Disney Springs (used to be Downtown Disney).

Ok, so reviewing the images, I realize, we  saw the blue man group show, and then mostly ate.

We stopped at the Toothsome Chocolate Emporium at Universal City Walk … they specialize in milkshakes, wow they looked amazing, the table behind us was a birthday party and they had one each.  We saw them making a potted chocolate cream, which was a pot of what looked like hot fudge – super decadent.  We had the chocolate bread, a peanut butter candy, baked apple macaroon, and a savory chili Brussels sprout dish to counter all the desserts.  I LOVED this place.  Steam punk meets Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

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On Saturday we took a break from eating and cooled down in Disney Springs, Jock Lindsays Hanger Bar.  The cool headed monkey was so lite and refreshing, I want one right now.

 

We also had a quick snack at Universals City Walk – Camacho Cantina.  The corn pudding in the enchilada was so moist and delicious.   I was just starting to enjoy the mariachi band, when the finished up for the nite.

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The nite before we went to Joes Crab Shack and David ate all he could. 20171013_213207

We were back home Monday early and we really just love these little escapes.  I forget sometimes just how much I love being with David, and then I Also feel guilty for wanting him all to myself, he is also a wonderful Father and sharing him when were home is important to me, but damn I love all this alone time.

Next alone trip…. Chicago in November for RSNA – Radiological Society of North America.

Date night Back to the Future

We had a great date night at the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s (DSO) Back to the Future Movie play along nite.  We first ate dinner at Hop Cat a cute restaurant about four blocks from the DSO, which was a fine walk during the day, but at night… I was glad David was there with me.  I can not believe I used to walk thru Detroit at night after grad school at Wayne State University by myself at 11pm, 1 block only, but crazy I did that back in the 1990’s.

We shared a plate of Vladimir Poutine Crack Fries, there was chili gravy, Peruogi and well the kitchen sink on those.  I had a salad to counter the fries, David had a Bar Zee Hamburger.  We could not finish it, so took most of it home for lunch the next day.  I would go back for sure, but I also saw a restaurant I saw on one of those competition cooking shows I watch – Rock City (next visit).

We really enjoyed the show, I believe it was a one day event, but they do have a Home Alone show coming up for Christmas.

I still really enjoy my husband, he is my best friend and marriage and this partnership is just like I always imagined marriage would be like, but never experienced until I met David.

 

Graduation!

The twins Graduated!  We had a big party and just finished up cleaning up the house – three months of prep (we even painted part of the house & re-did the kitchen – which should add to re-sale value and we get to enjoy it in the mean time).

My whole life I have always said if I could just raise these children to become happy, healthy and great members of the world, I would be happy.   I am one step closer. Whew!!! as all parents know, you start to think – this will never happen, the late night homework helper, drama filled situations, school events, vacations where no one is happy, messy everything, an ex-husband who argued every single step of the way with me, to the point I was the bad person of the family – another post for another day I suppose.   So glad I have David now to help with the support – we might not always agree, but we never never say it in front of the kids….team work to the end on the subject of kids.  Stand or fall, we do it together.

So now the girls are graduated and off to study graphic design at the local community college and then off to an art school to finish up a bachelors.  I could not be prouder of them.  How lucky am I to have two such wonderful daughters who are respectful, smart, beautiful and with the biggest kindest hearts and they are finally on the way to be the adults they want to be.

The bonus is – David and I are one step closer to our dream of retirement.  In fact we even had two whole days with no kids this past week.  We did not do much, but did sleep in, went out to breakfast, took naps, enjoyed the quiet (missed them a lot for sure).  We imagine this combined with travel as how our retirement will be – just enjoying life and each other.