New Orleans, LA

Well were here in New Orleans and Mardi gras is everything we imaged. A few pictures to share of our first parade

Lawry’s Steak House, Chicago Illinois

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!

Me and my Boss Ray enjoying a wonderful meal together!

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.

Mendenhall Glacier & Nugget Falls, Juneau Alaska

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.

Smells like Heaven

The plaque says – Romeo, the spirit of Juneau’s friendly black wolf lives on in this wild place.

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!

Space Needle – Seattle, Wa

Second on our list while in Seattle, Wa for one day on our way to Alaska is the Space Needle. We honestly do not know much about the space needle, except it is tall and cool and we want to check it out. I did just learn today that the space needle was built in 1961 for the world’s fair. The glass floor is new from a recent renovation – which is good, because it turns out the glass floor is our favorite part.

Walking up to the Space Needle after a quick Lyft ride over.
We bought our tickets – and did not realize thought we would not have enough time to make it over to Chihuly gardens, and turns out the gardens are right next door, so missed out on the shared deal you can buy as we purchased these tickets at the base of the space needle.
TIP: Really look into a joint deal on travel sites, prior to dismissing the option.

Video (from the top) of the elevator we just rode up to the top of the space needle.

Picture from the top and the glass bottom, people love to lay on the floor and snap a picture of the suspended look. It is for sure an uneasy feeling walking over the glass portion for the first time.

David having fun with the glass bottom from the top of the space needle.

You can buy at drink of wine or beer or a soda/water at the top or a light snack meal. We did not, but instead just reviewed the views from the top.

Wait a minute: “This will be to Seattle what the Eiffel tower is to Paris” – then we have back to back seen Both the Seattle and Paris towers… this is us in June. (wait it was late July, time sure does work weird when your on vacation).

https://daveandlaurasdream.com/2019/07/10/eiffel-tower/

Late Nite Pokemon MagicKarp snack in Tokyo

Late Night snacking – we come across this pokemon Magic Karp snack made of a warm cake filled with pudding (choices are chocolate or vanilla) we buy one of each and they are incredible. Just perfect for a Tokyo Late night snack.

210 yen or approximately $2.10. A deal for this warm delicious treat.

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.

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!

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!

Arc De Triomphe

The Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile or Triumphal Arch of the Star in Paris, France. It is a monument to the fallen solders of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars.

The name of all French Victories and general are inscribed on the inner and outer surfaces.

You can walk under the circle intersection of twelve roads and pop out in the center – and walk around checking out the twelve roads surrounding – you can take the elevator up to the top – but the line was HUGE – or you can book this in advance and skip the line – remember the tip of doing these at least 30 days in advance.

Hop on Hop Off Bus – Paris

Hop on Hop off bus

On the Hop On Hop Off Bus – Paris

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 tickets. 

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 – 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.

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.

Beekeeping

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.

20180929_111220  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.

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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.

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Armada Fair

We visit the Armada Fair annually, we look forward to the atmosphere the animals, the food, the exhibits.  So much fun.  Check out these fun pictures!

Bunnies!

PIGGIES!!

Sheep!!!

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FAMILY!!!!!

Chickens!

 

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So many more fun things at the Fair!  It runs thru today, so if you want to go, plan on it for next year

Gatlinburg, TN

I am spending a few days in Oakridge, Tennessee for Work training, and our group decided to take a quick trip to Gatlinburg.  1.5 hours on the back roads and we were there – an explosion of all tourist trap style shopping, drinking, eating, and things to do you can squeeze into a small area.  We walked around downtown, which is right around the corner from DollyWood.    We stopped in the Ole Smoky Tennessee Moonshine store and for $5, you get to sample 13 mini shots of liquor of every kind and a $5 coupon for anything over $5 in the store.  I bought my husband a T-Shirt our group pooled our money and bought a fifth of our favorite Moonshine – Caramel Apple Pie.    We shared our fifth with a few fellow students in the hotel lobby after class, then ate at Calhoun’s on the Water in Oakridge.  A delicious meal at a beautiful location for a fair price.   Love Gatlinburg!

 

5 things I wish I knew before I went to Cuba

 

20180409_213740I knew you cannot use credit cards in Cuba, and they have cigars and rum, but I did not know….

 

  1. 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!

 

ErnestoCheGuevara  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!

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.

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.

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.