Were back from our cruise, but then I came down with a fever of 103, and a cough. Since I work in a hospital, prior to returning they made me get tested and turns out I only have a stinker flu – my temp is down to 100 at this point so on my way back to health.
So lets move on to fun things, such as Sushi Classes on our Sea Day. We wer on the Royal Caribbean Vision of the Seas and had a sea day, decided to try a Sushi making class, and honestly I learned a lot.
With out a doubt as soon as I can get over to our local super Asian grocery store, I will buy some ingredients and make a huge pot of rice try this class with the kids as home.
Quick Break from RSNA (Radiological Society of North America) meeting for Lunch at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co location at Navy Pier, Chicago. This is a fun restaurant location with the Forest Gump movie theme with Forests and Lt Dan’s Shrimp business as the inner theme. All kinds of Shrimp – we love the place and the food.
We recently had dinner with friends and co workers at Lawry’s Steak House in Chicago Illinois, see previous post for more of this dinner site. We go every year to Chicago for RSNA, the Radiological Society of North America. This is our Dinner spot. Sharing a few pictures of the beautiful site! It is filled with history and we love it.
Dinner live carols! Check us all out video taping, everyone!
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.
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
We did think the upgrade pricing was worth it, and enjoyed the nite celebrating!
We are going to try and start something new – post license plates from places we have gone, so here is ALASKA! Who knows maybe we will start a trend! Like posting beautiful Doors photographed on Travels, we will post Travel License Plates!
I did check and see if this is allowed, and a lawyer commented this is because they are public and there is no malleus or personal information attached.
A bus ride from the cruise dock to Mendenhall Glacier and Nugget Falls was only a few minutes from our Port. We had three choices when we arrived at our destination, check out the small museum movie and gift shop – walk over to the river to watch the salmon spawning, or a hike over to the Mendenhall Glacier & Nugget Falls. We choose to hike over, just over 20mins one way. We were really glad we did.
I must admit, on the hike over, I kept thinking we could be eaten by a bear. We had a saying – Bears don’t like surprises, so we talked while walking, nice and loud.
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!
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Next Post a few more pictures of Disney, then Samurai Museum.
You see them all over the place in the major tourist towns –
Hop On, Hop Off Buses. We love
them. This is probably our sixth time
using a Hop on Hop off, but we have no favorite.
Tip: Use the HopOn HopOff Bus service at the time and place you are in.
Tip: Buy your tickets online (best your phone in hand) – it is always saves money and time.
We have checked into it from every way, waiting in line at
the location, buying from the bus driver, buying online – the cheapest and
quickest way is buying right off your phone.
We did learn something new this trip – buy the service you are
standing in front of. We bought one we
saw driving by – but then could not figure out where the stop was – looking at
a map on a website of stops and trying to find it was – ARGH! After a 30 minute lesson of figuring out a
stop and standing at several other service stops that we did not buy (3
services with three different stops location made a difficult morning for us). Finally after a lot of back and forth and we were
on our way. Even with the bus service
app downloaded we could not find the stop quickly. Follow a bus, find the stop, buy the tickets.
TIP: Get to the stop, buy your bus passes for the
service at the stop – even if you miss that bus, another will be back shortly. Trying to figure out even on a map from your
phone exactly where a stop is at is much harder than you might think. Follow a bus, Find a stop, then buy the
Tip: Sign up for PayPal prior to your trip, link
it to a credit card – this will making buying things online so much quicker,
and you won’t have to put in a credit card while standing on a street corner.
Plus your safe if your account is compromised.
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.
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/
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.
The Spring and Fall mean a lot of work to a beekeeper. We would love to share a few pictures of our hard work.
Walking to the back yard to start some bee work.
Notice how he only wears the top section and thin gloves. Yes, he has been stung, but only one time this year, five times last year. The tool in his hand helps him pull the honey frames out of the boxes.
Notice our Caution sign. This is for legal reasons.
We also collect the wax. After we extract the honey, we break down the frames and put them in a metal pan, that is put into our home made wax melt box.
The box is closed with the wax inside and it has a clear window that is faced toward the sun, the wax melts out of the frames to the bottom of the box. It is way easier than picking out the wax.
Then we take that wax out along with scraps of wax and melt it in a crock pot, and pour it into molds. We have a lot of wax, and this year we are thinking about making candles for Christmas for our friends.
I knew you cannot use credit cards in Cuba, and they have cigars and rum, but I did not know….
We were told we had to have a cultural tour booked or we would not even be allowed to step off the Cruise ship (or if we flew in – not step off the plane). This is not true. The threat is empty. We saw several couple walk off the ship (they were Americans) they said they had nothing booked and were unconcerned and when we were back on the ship they said they had a wonderful day.
2. Everyone in Cuba, LOVES Che Guevara!
Ernesto “Che” Guevara was an Argentina Marxist Revolutionary, a doctor, an author, guerrilla leader and HERO in Cuba. He was a major figure of the Cuban Revolution, his picture and vision has become a symbol of rebellion in Cuba and popular culture.
I saw two pictures of Fidel Castro, saw 1000 pictures of Che Guevara.
3. Every person in Cuba (except politicians) make only $50 per month. You could be a doctor or street dancer, it is the same salary.
4. We had no idea how much to get in Cuba dollars, so we got $150, which was more than enough since there was not much to buy when on a tour. We did buy rum, one cigar, a necklace at a local children’s center and could have bought typical tourist trap t-shirts and carvings and plastic items you could get at any tourist trap location, but we are past that type of vacation item. When your on a tour, you do not have an opportunity to buy much, but if your so inclined sharing a few dollars with the locals, would be wonderful, considering #3.
5. The Cuban people are wonderful, we expected them to be angry with many things, including our President, but did not find that true. I was not afraid even for a minute, and would not be even if we were wondering around town ourselves, it is a safe place. We would go back in a heart beat, but first so many other choices to explore!
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.
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.
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.
There were acrobats and singers and non stop Mambo, cha cha cha rhythms action for the entire 1 hour 45 min show.
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.
Cigars, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.