Skagway, Alaska

Just a few pictures of the town of Skagway. After our Helicopter tour was cancelled, we walked to town and did some shopping while waiting to go on our Gold Panning Tour. We also thought about doing the railway Yukon route – but there was a landslide, and the railway was shut down for the day, and we learned some were stuck up on the mountain waiting for bus trips back down. So we learned this town has ~500residents during the winter, and ~1500 during the summer, the local campsite is booked two years out during the summer and empty in the winter. We really enjoyed just hanging out in town. These are some of the high lights.

Check out the Cruise ship at the end of the street! It looks like a building, but this is the view from the front.

Some signs in Skagway.

Back to the ship.
Skagway, Alaska Visit for a day
Skagway view from back at the Ruby Princess Cruise Ships.

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.

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.

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

Y-12

20180417_072218As I am driving thru Oakridge, Tn – I see atomic symbols everywhere – so my interest is peaked.  Following signs to the Y-12 museum – I have to investigate what this unusual atomic symbol is with the name of Y-12.  I learn Y-12 is a national security complex tucked away and rarely heard and the small museum is a wealth of interest to a physicist and history buffs.

Y-12 itself is a National security complex with three primary national security missions that protect our country.  They maintain the US nuclear Stockpile, reduce global threats, and fuel the US Nuclear Navy.

The museum show cases instruments and stories of Radioactive history.  My favorite part of this museum is this newspaper article.  This is the site the Atomic Bomb was made!  For some reason… Manhattan Project, made me think the WW2 Bomb was made in NY, but nope, it was made here.

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A few more interesting pictures to share:

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A “Moon Box” manufacturered here at Y-12 that was used Moon lunar geological samples to Earth.

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Sample badges and ID for Y-12 workers, looks just like the badges I recall from Manhattan project workers, although these are just samples.

Interesting side trip for a Radioactive Geek Girl!

 

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.

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.