I was so very wrong.
I can remember writing the poem… an anniversary gift for my Gary. We’d spent the last three of our seven years of marriage living on St. Thomas, and we’d be moving back to New Mexico in a few short weeks. There’s a line in it… “I know there are no memories that can take the place of these.” Well, perhaps I was partially right. The memories are always with us. But all those years ago I could never have dreamed that more island living would come our way. I did not imagine that so many of my happy days to come would be spent enjoying sapphire blue water with this man, over and over again.
Last month we took another break from reality, and for the first time in 26 years we were back on St. Thomas together. We were back in a jeep on those left-handed, twisting, climbing roads, back at our schools, and back on those gorgeous white sand beaches. It was a special day on another special cruise, reliving special memories.
The poem is sweet, but I still say I was wrong. I thought those days were almost make-believe, and that my “real life” wouldn’t be so dreamy. Not the case. Every day with Gary has been a marvelous and beautiful adventure.
Happy Valentine’s Day to the love of my life!
It’s the first thing I decorate. Right after Thanksgiving, my wonderful stair railings are covered in draping greenery, velvet poinsettias, red feathered birds of all sizes, huge gold Christmas balls, swirling gold ribbon.
And it’s the last thing to come down. I put it off for as long possible because it’s just so special. Left up to me, our staircase would have been one straight line along the wall. (No, left up to me it would have been a ladder.) But my amazing husband builds gorgeous houses, and I’m beyond blessed to have lived in this barn with these elegant stairs.
Well, today was the day. The calendar is filling up with appointments and events, so it’s time to wrap up the holidays and get down to business.
That’s what it means when the garland comes down. There’s work to be done. Deadlines to meet. This year I’ve been looking so forward to is now upon me. Time to buckle down.
2016, you’ve been on my mind with great anticipation. I’m ready for the journey.
Job one – deal with this amazing new gadget from Santa Baby. (He knows how new gadgets vex me, and yet the man continues to challenge me with better technology!)
It’s almost 3:30, Tuesday afternoon. Let’s just see how long it takes me to get a photo on this thing, get my blog dashboard pulled up, and somehow manage to get these words and a photo published to my website.
Alrighty then, it’s almost 4:00. To the casual reader, this accomplishment may not seem like much. If I hit “Publish” and this works, I’m going to feel like a million bucks! Happy 2016! Bring it!
The ornaments were a simple shape this year.
I needed a simple shape, and this year I really needed help. It’s been a whirlwind around here! Thankfully, there were elves – I mean employees – who did the cutting and sanding for me!
Months ago I’d found this great jigsaw puzzle map, and had printed out over 100 copies to be ready.
I always love it when they’re all together. So much like cookies!
Maps, puzzles, and a favorite song…
that’s what I chose for my 2015 ornament.
I love this planet.
I hope 2016 brings peace around the world.
Another beautiful day in Portales! The 18th Annual Holiday Happening was held in the ENMU Ballroom, and once again the room was filled with one glorious holiday table after another, friends and families laughing, enjoying the grand decorations and a delicious dinner.
This year’s table was “Christmas at the Castle”. It all started with a little ad popping up on the side of my computer screen for some lovely blue and white dishes… and priced just way too good to be true!
Next step – Figure out a way to build a castle!
Serendipity steps in – A friend posts a photo on Facebook of a little boy playing with a set of castle building blocks. I zoom in on the photo and get the name of the set from the box that’s in the background.
Progress – When the building blocks come in I spend a day at my mom’s house and we paint the blocks to match the dishes then hot glue them together… because there’s no way I’m waiting for the hurried holidays to assemble a castle.
Order some napkins to match the seat covers I already conveniently have in blue due to last year’s “Cruising for Christmas” table. Decide upon jeweled headbands for the gifts for my guests, which will double as napkin rings. Oh… and one bow tie for the gentleman who will be dining with us this year.
Oh yes.. it’s Christmas Time! My house is decorated, I’ve got Dean Martin singing Christmas classics as I drive along in my car, and today is the annual Holiday Happening in Portales.
Altrusa International has kept the tradition going strong for 18 years, and it’s always a wonderful way to begin the season.
Here’s my contribution to this year’s silent auction to benefit local charities. I hope it brings some dollars and some smiles!
Day 33 – November 26,2012 – At Sea
Today was our Mariners’ Brunch… with the pretty little tile gifts. (And a day for me to discover people who have extras to give me – as well as the wonderful plates they don’t want to take home on the planes.)
“Blue Hawaii” was our movie… and we needed the laughs after the somber shows we’ve been going to this week! Entertainment tonight – The Beatles. The same men who gave us The Beach Boys a few nights ago. Great show, crowd pleasers, lots of fun. We had dinner alone again tonight. Very nice when we get to dine alone and don’t have to carry on with the polite chit chat. =)
Day 34 – November 27, 2012 – Honolulu
Okay… we don’t need to return to Honolulu. Ha! Stressful day trying to walk to the palace, opting out of the tour, catching the bus, missing the shuttle stops. Uggghhh! Happiest time of the day was getting back to the ship for our own luau on the lido. =)
Day 35 – November 28, 2012 – Maui
Loved the place. Enjoyed Lahaina and Hanapali. Walked along the shore, played in the water, bought matching Hawaiian shirts (old cars and surf boards) and enjoyed hearing Bing singing Melikilikimaka inside Hilo Hattie’s. Really a beautiful spot we’d happily return to.
Day 36 – November 29, 2012 – Hilo
Went on the excursion to Kilauea and loved it. Wonderful views of the smoking crater, a walk through a lava tube, standing in the steam. This island was beautiful and lush and we hope to return and have the chance to see Kona.
Enjoyed sailing away out on the back deck with Rick & Sue, then dining alone, and on to the excellent concert by a classical pianist. He played a grand variety, and helped put us into the Christmas mood by playing music from The Nutcracker. We are spoiled. Indeed… we are Hollandaised!
Day 37 -41 – November 30, 2012 – December 4, 2012 – At Sea
We begin the journey home. 5 days at sea. We’ve had a marvelous time. If we only had one sea day… that would be fine. Since we have 5, that’s fine too. We will completely unwind, no worries, no agenda, just float on.
Day 28 – November 22, 2012 – Apia, Samoa
You never know what to expect. Today’s surprise was the gauntlet of taxi drivers! Usually Holland America takes us to nearest town on a bus… and we’ve grown quite spoiled to these Grand Voyage accommodations! Ha! Today we were met by a wall of large Samoan men right behind the gates of the pier, longing to take us in their taxis. So hard to choose… hoping you do so wisely. And so we finally said yes to Simone – in his lava lava, bare-feet, and floral shirt. And when he took us to his car… aye adai! It was the oldest one we saw all day, the air-con didn’t work much, the tires were about to split, and it had a hard time chugging us up over the hills… but all’s well that ends well, and we enjoyed our day.
We saw the beautiful Papapatai Falls and an incredible resort on the opposite side of the island from Apia. We visited Villa Vailima, the home of Robert Louis Stevenson, and also stopped at a gorgeous Catholic Church… all open air.
It’s a quaint place, little villages, thatched roofs. Simone is a chief in his family, lives in a farming village and has no electricity. They cook their food with wood, and they catch their water. Again… reminders of Guam everywhere… and probably what Guam was like 40 years before we moved there.
(By the way… Gary gave him money at the end of our tour to go buy some new tires!)
Day 29 – November 22, 2012 – At Sea
Notice that it’s still November 22, still Thursday, still Thanksgiving Day. We’ve crossed the Dateline.
It felt a little odd this morning… no preparations to be made, no hustle and bustle. We filled the day with nice conversations, good food, samba lessons and reading. Gary actually got on a bike today. He’s been giving his achilles a break.
Thanksgiving Dinner was very nice this evening with Carol and Evan. The dining room was filled with American flags and red, white & blue streamers… making sure we Americans were honored on our holiday. I had two courses of delicious pumpkin soup, and also had two desserts… pumpkin and pecan pie. The turkey was good, the plate was filled with vegetables – so we truly had our traditional meal.
Day 30, 31, 32 – November 23, 24, 25, 2012 – At Sea
Movies, dancing, reading, relaxing. “Hawaii”, “Amelia”, “Pearl Harbor”.
Another beautiful formal night, a dessert extravaganza, lovely gifts of commemorative plates. We crossed the equator Friday night and loved watching our tv screen count down to zero from the south, then begin moving up into the north.
Day 26 – November 20, 2012 – Fiji
What a special day! We docked in Lautoka and were told we weren’t at an island with any pretty beaches. All aboard was 2:30, so really not enough time to get out to the gorgeous areas of Fiji… so we got off the ship with no expectations other than to meander and see what we could see.
First of all… BULA! It’s the greeting, and everyone says it! People just walking down the street, all determined to make us feel welcome, just grinning and saying “Bula!” We were in a mix of Polynesians, African descendants, Indians… and the clothing and shops depicted this beautifully. I got carried away! Bought a beautiful dress from India – with the little pantaloons and a pretty scarf. Also bought an amazing necklace and earrings – later coined my Fijian Bling!
We loved the local produce market! Got great photos and later went back for amazing pineapple. There was a parade for peace in the home… women all dressed beautifully in their traditional clothing… the variety of cultures – and a marching band playing “Onward Christian Soldiers”, but also doing a fun dance to the percussion beat right at the intersection where we happened to be standing.
We took a nice long walk that actually began at a mosque where children were at school, on around to a Krishna temple, and ending up inside a Methodist Church where women were having their weekly gathering. We sat down quietly in the back on old wooden pews and were treated to the most heavenly choir singing in Fijian. Maybe the most special moment of the whole day.
So much about the place reminded us of Guam. It was a hot and humid day – which made our break for drinks and a tropical smoothie that much more delicious. They had no bottled water, so we got sodas. Gary had a Coke and I had a Fanta. I was reading the label, and it’s bottled right there – probably right next door to the sugar cane factory. Carbonated water, sugar and ascorbic acid in my drink… certainly no corn syrup. Mine was ‘made in Fiji’, but Gary’s was ‘lovingly prepared’ in Fiji! Isn’t that great.. a Coke, lovingly prepared!
This was a place on the globe we’d happily return to!
I wore my pretty new dress to dinner and loved playing dress-up.
Day 27 – November 21, 2012 – At Sea
Just another beautiful day in paradise – cruising along. Samba lessons. Formal night – so I wore my black velvet dress with my new Fijian Bling. Again – loved playing dress-up. And of course, more steak and lobster. For entertainment tonight we went to the movies… “South Pacific”.
Day 23 – November 17, 2012 – Auckland, New Zealand
We were off the ship as soon as possible this morning… 7:00, and there was Mandy – waiting for us at the docks, looking just the same as she did 30 years ago when she came to Portales as an exchange student! What fun!
We spent the whole day together, with her showing us a variety of things around her city. We had a wonderful breakfast of Eggs Benedict and coffee. (We’ve learned how to order in Australia and NZ now that we’re leaving… long black and flat white.) We took a beautiful walk along a rugged shoreline with fabulous homes, went to her house and had tea and strawberries with her kids, a grand drive to see where she used to live in the country – near the dotcom mansion, then to the Sky Tower… the tallest structure in the Southern Hemisphere. That’s tall! We stood at the top watching bungee jumpers, and being a little amazed at how we couldn’t bring ourselves to stand on the glass flooring!
Lunch at a food court in a grand old brick building, walking in the rainy weather back toward the ship, another chance for coffee and gelato before coming back aboard. (Should have made arrangements for Mandy to come aboard… but didn’t start the process soon enough.)
Only two stops in New Zealand. Not enough. We must return someday.
We pulled out at 5:00, went to the dining room – where we were the only two from our group tonight… so enjoyed a relaxing evening alone. Afterwards we went to the hot tub to unwind and warm up from today’s chilly temps, and it’s early to bed for us. Time for books and good night’s sleep!
Grand Asia – The Pacific
Day 24 – November 18, 2012 – At Sea
Sleeping in, talks on what-to-do in upcoming ports, lounging in warm sweats in the cool breeze and sunshine on the back deck and our own verandah. More wonderful entertainment tonight… Graffiti Classics.
Day 25 – November 19, 2012 – At Sea
Sleeping in, chatting with Rick & Sue (From Manly, she lived in Lubbock as a child while her father went to Sunset School of Preaching), finishing our books (I have become enchanted with Mark Twain), more relaxation. G visits with Cal, and learns he’s the rabbi onboard. Who knew!
Day 22 – November 16, 2012 – Waitangi, Bay of Islands, New Zealand
The day begins early because we keep losing time. Every day we reset the clocks! Gary dashed off to his final acupuncture appointment with Christopher from Sydney at 8:00. I met him in the standard after-the-appointment-spot by the pool, coffee in hand at 9:00.
We pulled into this gorgeous Bay of Islands around 11:00… truly a bay, filled with over 100 wonderful islands. Rode our tender boat into Waitangi, and started walking to Paihia over a bridge and along the beach. I commented that we’d surely get a beautiful photo of the ship today. I had no idea!!!
Once we made it to the little town, our first and only plan was to find some restrooms. Gary saw a sign for “Public Toilets”, but joked that he was on his way to find out how much the chopper ride would be… as it was parked right there. Ha! A man instantly answered from the shop we were passing by with the price! There he was, brochures in hand, a reasonable price, and the pilot was ready to go right then. Snap decision, and we said yes.
Fabulous ride! Amazing views of all these emerald islands with shining white beaches with turquoise water. Right by the ship of course, all the way to the end of the bay where the first island crops up. Our first time in a helicopter, and another amazing day of memories!
The rest of the time was spent meandering, drinking coffee, strolling back to the ship along the beach, stopping every few minutes to enjoy another view from another bench on another strip of beach. This is a special place on the globe!
Back on the ship, up to the Lido for supper, out on the back deck for a lovely sunset sail-away.
Day 19 – November 13, 2012 – Eden, Australia
A lovely stop. A little piece of paradise… a camping area, a retirement community. The people rolled out the red carpet for us! They were out clipping hedges along the walk ways, visiting with us, welcoming us to their home. We loved it! We only had a few hours, but we enjoyed the cool, cloudy day… made our way to the boardwalk along the lake to see the black swans, then along the beach – another gorgeous strip of sand and surf.
Day 20 – November 14, 2012 – At Sea
Truly… we loved Australia, and it was a bit sad to leave it behind. No worries… Holland America to the rescue!
This was a magnificent day. It began out on the Lido deck with special solar eclipse viewing glasses and coffee – bundled up in sweats and hoodies.
Today we had Viennese Waltz lessons, then had to hurry on down to the Wajang Theater for our theme movie, “First Knight”. It was Medieval Night on the ship, so the place was decorated with royal crests, and our crew was decked out in shining armor. Another beautiful formal night on the Amsterdam – Gary in his tux, I in my new green blouse from Singapore – G dining on steak, I chose lobster. Another evening of photos and dancing. And a spectacular show for us… I consider it a consolation prize for having to say goodbye to Australia… a performance by Melissa Manchester! “Midnight Blue”, “Through the Eyes of Love”, “Don’t Cry Out Loud”… we were treated to a really wonderful night of music.
Day 21 – November 15, 2012 – At Sea
Oh we love the sea days. Late breakfast, reading and writing, more Viennese waltz lessons, a fun question & answer session with Melissa Manchester. Another delicious supper, more dancing, and one incredible show tonight! “Ash & Mike”… two young men from Australia – amazing musical talent and energy. Loved, loved, loved their show. Another perfect day.
Day 17 – November 11, 2012 – Sydney, Australia
Up early this morning to be in the Crow’s Nest at 6:30 to cruise into Sydney. Oh my! How wonderful to see that bridge and the Opera House come into view. Finally… we have been to Sydney.
Enjoyed our day. Toured the Opera House, browsed through the crowded Sunday market at The Rocks, had lunch in a courtyard, walked out on the bridge, desperately searched for my Australian sweatshirt until I had success, had chocolates and Starbucks (and got a great new coffee mug), found the gorgeous St. Mary’s Cathedral complete with another grand park and gardens, more fabulous old buildings, more wonderful gardens, and a long walk back to the ship. That’s a full day! Gary may stay in bed where he’s already reading, but I’m off to see the 9:30 showing of the traditional Australian dancing. I presume I’m in for didgeridoo music!
Day 18 – November 12, 2012 – Sydney, Australia
We love this place! Would love to come back for a longer stay sometime. Today we took the ferry across the harbor to Manly. Enjoyed the pretty beach, the seaside shops and street cafes, both got haircuts, and just had 3 relaxing hours. Finished up in that area with gelato, then dashing back onto the ferry, and back across the harbor. It’s just wonderful to pull up to those wharves right next to the famous Opera House.
All aboard was 3:30, so we’re pulling out in the afternoon, making our way south.
The sail away was incredible! I got a great video… out on the lido, band playing, everyone festive, cameras flashing, under the bridge, out of Darling Harbor. This was a place!!! Can’t wait to return someday.