Bacardi Tour, Puerto Rico

What should we do other than eat, swim, sleep in late, enjoy each other, and hang out on a Beach…. we decided to Tour the Bacardi Distillery. We Uber it over… and David says as we pull into the Bacardi complex, they should name a building after you. I do love Bacardi Silver Rum!

The Sunrise, a sweet orange tropical drink we could purchase upon arrival.

We decided a history tour of the distillery, a mixology course on three infamous Bacardi drinks. All super delicious and what a fun experience, we were laughing thru the entire mixology course. We are sharing a few pictures of our time here. More to be added as soon.

Coins we were given to purchase one drink upon arrival, we both choose the sunrise drink. Orange, Lime, Grendine, Rum – Delicious!
My finished product of a Bacardi Mojito at our Mixology course.

More pictures to add this afternoon, awaiting David’s photos to add, and lets face it, his are superior to mine.

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!

Chihuly Glass Art Garden, Seattle Washington

I first heard of Chihuly, when visiting Kalamazoo, MI and they had a show of his art at the local Glass art shop. One of the reasons I starting working in Radiology was the cool way you could look thru the film – it was translucent and how every image was different. I have now been working over 30 years in Radiology and film no longer exists, but I still love looking at the images on the monitor. I feel drawn in to Chihuly glass in the same way I do when I was first attracted to Radiology imaging, both have a depth and detail and I am fascinated. These pieces are huge in scale, which makes it fun like a giant animal or sea creature.

Neon Yellow Blown Glass next to the space needle nestled in a black grass garden.

How amazing!

I loved this place, David, he was more interested in checking out the bees in the garden and testing his theories of electric charge and bees on flowers. Oh well, we both had fun!

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.

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.

Sushi, Saki, and the Chicago Field Museum

What an enjoyable evening with my husband at the Hitachi Buffet at the Chicago Field museum. We walked 3 blocks over from our Fair Field Inn Ontario street hotel to the AAPM, American Association of Physicists in Medicine cocktail party at the Chicago Hilton. Then to the Hitachi Party. All the Japanese Sushi and Saki we could want, then tours of the museum at our freedom. An incredible night!20181127_205830

I love this Sexy Man at the RSNA Hitachi Field Museum Event.  I feel so lucky and blessed to have these incredible times with him!20181127_195807

Ray Carlson my Boss toasting with my husband a Saki Special!20181127_192626

The Shrimp were so tasty, but I loved the Bai Bun the best, like a cloud of tasty!20181127_190843

An RSNA event at night with over 1000 people at the Hitachi Dinner with Sushi, Saki and at the Chicago Field Museum. 2018112795174758

David, Me and My Boss Ray Carlson!201811279517545420181127952013012018112795174754

Cars of Cuba

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20180409_16195920180409_16183320180409_16175520180409_16173320180409_100935Cigars, Castro, Rum, Heat, Colorful Buildings and Cars from the 1940s and 1950s are the things we think about when we think – Cuba.  This post is about the cars of Cuba!

While I know practically nothing about classic cars.  I do know these are beautiful and I love the vibrant colors.   I could look at these all day long.  Havana is a moving car museum and makes all those fields I have walked thru looking at sitting classic cars seem like a museum of the dead.  Havana is a living moving classic car show.

These are a source of pride to the Cubans.  These classic automobiles are held together with bubble gum and blender motors (a quote from our tour guide).  He said Cubans have suffered and had so little, due to the 1961 US Embargo, for so long – but they make due, they fix and they mend, and they preserve regardless of the limits that are set on them  – and that makes they proud not angry.  A great lessen in life.

 

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These mini cabs are so adorable.

First day on Vacation

Short post.  We flew into Fort Lauderdale, Fla the night before our cruise, and we spent the night at the Link hotel, about 12 minutes from the airport, $100.00/nite with breakfast, small rooms, but clean and free transportation to the airport, but it only runs until 8 pm and we missed the ride to the hotel from the airport.  We woke up around 7:30am, ate breakfast and shuttled over to the airport again, where we took another shuttle to the cruise ship yard.

A day a sea, and then we will be in Grand Cayman.  Looking forward to posting next.

 

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.

Cruise to Cuba

After weeks of looking for a trip that we could take together (no kids) during the time our youngest would be on spring break (and could go to his mothers) we finally found a cruise to Cozumel, Mexico – Grand Cayman  – and two days in Havana, Cuba.  It is a Holland America Cruise, smaller older ship.  But the cost total for seven days and a day before stay in Fort Lauderdale is under $2100.  We searched Travelzoo, Travelocity, Groupon, Cruise.com and finally found a trip that meets all our criteria.  Whew, a lot and I mean a lot of looking (months of looking) our deal was on Cruise.com, but cheaper directly thru the Holland America site (like $150 each cheaper).    Now just to dream and figure out excursions, hopefully loose a few pounds and buy a nice outfit.

Retirement seminar

So David and I went to a Retirement pitch dinner, where they try and upsell you on a product.  Honestly we know so little about the variety of retirement programs out there.  What we do know:  A Traditional IRA is a tax-deferred retirement account. You save your $ today and are taxed later when you withdraw the money.  A Roth IRA, is like and IRA where you don’t get a tax deductions for the $ contribution today, but later can withdraw the assets when you retire without paying taxes.    A 401k or 403b is an employer sponsored retirement program. Taxes aren’t paid until the money is withdrawn from the account.  Sometimes employers match these on a smaller amount.  A SEP, is a Single Employer Pension Plan, which really is a small business owner traditional IRAs (SEP-IRAs) set up for employees.  Do not put all your eggs in one basket and diversify as much as possible, save and save in as many different methods for retirement as possible.

But If I am going to retire early, I figure I need to know Everything and make best choices, saving money is good, but saving it smart is better. So this seminar did teach me some things.  What I learned:

  • On a Roth or 401k/403b, you can withdraw your money as soon as your 59.5years old, (before will cost you 10%) and have to start spending these (or be penalized 3%) by age 70.5.
  • 403b’s are more restrictive, but also can allow higher contributions.
  • An annuity can go up, down, or stay the same.
  • A fixed annuity can go up or stay fixed – this is what they were selling – so going to learn more on this and report back later.  It sounds fabulous, but things always do at free dinner seminars.  I plan on researching this subject and getting back to everyone.

What do we have as far as retirement plans and income- well we currently we have a huge diversification – I have a 403b, with a small match plan.  David has a 401k.   We are not 401 millionaires.   We both have retirement accounts – David has stocks, and mutual funds, and MESP accounts for the kids college, which he is still adding to.   I have two SEP accounts – one for each business I own – an education website, and a physics consulting group.  These were added to at the advice of my tax accountant, who told me send a certain amount of money to these each year to avoid taxes in the current year.  I have a small Roth IRA, and an IRA.   I have three MESP accounts for the kids, that a funded.  We have three rentals, which I bought one at the peak of the market and two at the downfall.  We have an investment property, that too this point has not generated any money.  I have two pensions (one fairly small), and two pensions from my ex-husband (which can be collected upon 6 years after we retire).  David has a pension.  We cannot collect on our pensions until 3 years after we retire (at 55 years old) but that would be at a low rate, and waiting would be smart.

So we are need to bulk up and figure out how to live for those years in between when we retire and we can collect on our retirement funds.  Another post in the future will detail our plans, even though these are in flux and well honestly we are not 100% sure.  I guess we will learn and figure it out as we go.

 

 

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.

Sandos Eco Resort, Cancun Mexico

We decided to start rating the locations we visit on our travels.  Scale of 1 to 10, with 10 as the best experience we could ever imagine.  The Sandos Eco Resort, in Cancun Mexico is a great family all inclusive.   We spent 7 days at this resort, and never ran out of things to do.   We are giving the resort an 7.5.

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Our favorite dining locations were the surf and turf, Los Lirios, with the best filet I can remember eating in a long time, and the potato soufflé was also very tasty.  The Japanese Teppanyaki (table top cooking style) Steakhouse, El Templo, was a fun nite, but you will need a +5day ahead reservation, so do that when you book your trip.  We also really loved the Brazilian Steakhouse, Fogo De Brazil.  All of these are on site and included.  The two buffets, International and Italian, both were OK, but there was a large choice of food, and almost always open for a quick snack.   All of the dessert at the site we just above OK,  mostly dry cakes and the lower end of flavors.

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By far the best part of the resort, and the entire reason our daughter choose this specific location was – the animals on site.  This trip was for our twin daughter we are graduating high school, they wanted the beach, the Caribbean and site with lots of animals.  The Sandos.com website showed us quite a few animals and the location delivered.   There were rabbits, donkeys, dear, peacocks, sheep, pigs, monkeys, tapirs, coati, dogs and lots of stray iguanas and cats.  Animals were noted on signs as rescues and site animals are spayed or neutered and fed everyday, there areas were very clean and you could sign up to be an animal caretaker and feed them at lunch time.  There are signs not to feed the animals, but my daughters did feed them – a lot, and even though they look skinny they looked happy and would stop eating when full.

Baby Deer

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There was plenty to do, and ALOT of walking.  We were in the furthest location from the beach, our daily location of choice, so much walking I have the blisters to show it.   There are bicycles to borrow, but we never used them.  There are several pools, including an adult pool by our rooms, a mini water park with quite a few water slides and a big sized kids pool.  We spent most of our time at the beach which honestly it was way too rough to actually swim safely.  This for my husband was the biggest turn off of the resort – he loves the ocean and it was unsafe to swim.   We did really enjoyed the man made cenotes for swimming, these were cool, and it was hot.  There were fish and turtles and quite a bit of algae in these cenotes, so not for everyone, but we loved it.

The nite time shows were actually great.  The Sunday Fire show at the onsite Mayan ruins were just incredible.  We recommend you go to all of the variety of ancient Mayan culture shows.  There was also a Freddy Jackson Tribute show, a Disney Princess show and a super hero show at the Theater – which were cute, but don’t worry if you miss them, save your show time for the culture shows in our opinion.

Our rooms were very clean, and huge, and the best part, there was really cold air conditioning, which is important, because the days were SUPER hot and it was so nice to sleep in the cool.

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So, would we go back, yes.  But we are the type of family who likes to see what is next, so maybe after many other visits to many other places.  Next blog, pictures of the beauty of the resort.

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