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Saturday, April 18, 2015

Overthinking Thinks

I am a chronic Overthinker. I overthink all kinds of thinks. You read that correctly. Not things, but thinks. Sleep is stolen from me nightly as I lay wide awake overthinking the most ridiculous queries.

Are we saving enough money for retirement?
Hard to know for sure ... and by the way - do we need long-term care insurance?
 
Will I be the fatty in the wedding photo? Is my hair too short? Too grey?
Yes to all three.
 
Am I making a substantial contribution to society?
If I have to ask it's probably a big fat "no."
 
Have I made peace with my past?
Yes, yes I have. And forgiven as well.
 
What does my future hold?
Hard to say.
Yoga and a positive outlook are working their magic on me.
 
I embrace the opportunities just beyond my horizon.
(With a magnificent trip just waiting around the corner for me at any given moment.)
 
And, I am grateful for the love of my family.
Day in, and day out they are all there for me, and I am so very blessed.
 
 
 




 
 My Rock... My Hubby... My Jeff!

Cheers Everybody :)
Deb

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Islands of Spice

I wasn't really paying close attention in Social Studies when I was in middle school, but do remember hearing about The Spice Islands of the Caribbean. Now, there are literally thousands of islands in the Caribbean and I am bound and determined to visit as many as possible. This past week we visited seven islands, five of which were new to both of us via Celebrity Cruise's gorgeous Summit.




Hubby and I flew into San Juan, Puerto Rico for a couple of days prior to boarding our ship. The Luis Munoz Marin Airport in San Juan is cleaner and far more spacious than it was a few years ago. This airport is easily navigable, and taxis were plentiful just outside. Our cab driver dropped us right at the front door of Chateau Cervantes (www.cervantespr.com), our respite for two nights. Chateau Cervantes is located right smack in the middle of Old San Juan, making it uber-easy to wander all over town. There is plenty to see and plenty to taste here.


 
The streets of San Juan, Puerto Rico.

 
Cemetery at the Old Fort in Old San Juan.

 
Near the San Juan Gate.



We wandered down to the Old San Juan Gate, through the Old Fort and Cemetery, and stopped into Ole Curiosidades for Panama Hats. Midafternoon found us rum tasting at a quaint little place near the Cathedral de San Juan Bautista. Check out one of their t-shirts below. We couldn't stop laughing!




You'll want to check out Aguavivia for the freshest fish dinners and The Parrot Club for dynamite plantain nachos and great mojitos. Both are owned by OOF! Incorporated with local information at www.oofrestaurants.com.

More than anything else in San Juan, you MUST - absolutely MUST visit Casa Cortes Choco Bar (www.casacortespr.com) for their amazing delicacies. I was seriously expecting good chocolate and found that, but found even more. There were seven different types of hot cocoa, delectable mofongo with chocolate, ham and cheese sammies with chocolate, chocolate waffles and pancakes, fresh salads with chocolate vinaigrette and more. This place was so amazing, we had to re-visit a second time. If I had more time in San Juan, there would have been a third visit. Absolutely loved it. Stop in and say hello to Karolina with a "K". Tell her the crazy Americans with the hats sent you!

Our ship beckoned and we succumbed to one of the most beautiful cruises we've ever sailed. This ship is truly splendid with lovely public areas that seemed un-crowded, great food, wonderful entertainment, an intimate spa area, and the most witty captain we've ever encountered. We love Celebrity Cruises and you will too - check them out at www.celebrity.com to plan your adventure.

First stop on this itinerary was St. Croix. St. Croix is one of the U.S. Virgin Islands and this little spit of paradise was so beguiling. The sprawling white sandy beaches front the most beautiful turquoise waters that I have ever seen. We opted for an island bike tour here in Frederiksted through Freedom City Cycles (www.freedomcitycycles.com) and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Safety and island history was their primary concern for us and we rolled along the coastline for about 5 miles in either direction of the pier. Fresh coconuts and local rum quenched our thirst following our bike tour, along with some pretty snappy fish tacos at Freedom City Surf (www.freedomcitysurf.com). It's a pretty laid-back atmosphere here with good food, good rum, and beach rentals. A terrific place for relaxing, but.... I didn't see a lot of hotels on this side of the island. You'll probably want to check out the VRBO situation or B & B's in your research.




Next up was a visit to St. Kitts. This British Virgin Island is a former home to sugarcane plantations, but now is a luxurious vacation destination. Our trek took us out on a catamaran for a sail and snorkel. Now I really wish I could remember the name of the company that took us out for this wonderful experience, but I cannot. I've looked online and just can't get my memory to jog - so sorry! If you're booking through a cruise line, they'll hook you up for sure. If you're on your own... you're on your own! The beach is lined with hotels and resorts here on the Basseterre side of the island. It's gorgeous - clear waters ideal for snorkeling and a little portside village with shops and spots to grab a quick beer. Want more info? Check out www.stkittstourism.kn for a ton of information.

Our third island adventure happened in Roseau, Dominica.




Wow, just wow. Talk about a lush tropical green rainforest - it's right here. And the colors in the flowers just pop!


 
 

The downtown area certainly smacks of some poverty, but the people could not have been friendlier. Unemployment arches up around 40%, but according to our guide, Jeremiah, no one goes hungry. Food is plentiful in backyard gardens, and farms throughout the area - everyone shares here. The crime rate is below 5% and peace officers do not even carry weapons.




 
Cemetery in downtown Domenica
 
 

We loved the visit here and the drive through the rainforest with Jeremiah. Our pit-stop was a River Tube Adventure in over-sized inner tubes. There were a few little rapids along the way that made the journey a bit more exciting, but we really enjoyed our floating time too. The monkeys were kinda cute as well. We booked through the cruise lines for this adventure so I don't know the name of the company. Sorry!

Next up was a visit to Grenada. This Spice Isle held true to its name and history. Littered throughout the downtown were tiny huts with local selling turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, cocoa, and more. The scent of ginger and cardamom were predominant throughout. We wandered up and down the hilly area near the dock and saw a city in re-growth. Churches and hospitals were being restructured and re-erected. The people are definitely at work here!


 
Fresh fish caught this morning by the local fishermen.

 
Harbor area of St. George, Grenada.

 
The view through a gorgeous church window.

 
Up towards the old fort in St. George, Grenada.

 
Local vendor wares ... pineapple tarts - yum!!
 
 
The best part of this visit was a trip to BB's Crabback Caribbean Restaurant. Situated right on the harbor with the best ventilation you could ask for and magnificent ocean breezes. Our humidity addled bodies craved the breeze and some fruity adult beverages. Brian Benjamin is an excellent owner and host here and the menu is local delish! We had sweet pea risotto, creamy pumpkin soup, delicate pumpkin fritters, and fresh local veggies. Aside from our chocolate treats in San Juan, this may have been the best food we ate all week. You gotta try it for yourself if you're in the vicinity. Check out their website at www.bbscrabback.com. You won't regret it.
 
Our last stop was to St. Thomas. Having been here before, we opted for a ferry ride over to St. John. The skies opened wide and the rain dampened our agenda a bit, but we tarried on. I have to be honest and let you know that St. John was my least favorite island. It wasn't just the rain, because that stopped once we landed. Trunk Bay is allegedly the most beautiful beach in the world according to certain publications - you'll have to see for yourself. Personally, I favored St. Croix.
 
 
 
Trunk Bay on St. John.
 
 

 
 
 
Wandering through an old sugar cane plantation.
 

 
Termite nests - ew.

 
The local taxi situation - open air and easy breezy.

 

 

There were a few places to stop in for a bite to eat but I won't mention what we had. It was dismal and I wouldn't go back. There are a few shops as well if you're willing to spend more than you would on just about any other Caribbean island. IMHO - you can skip it. 

Cruising makes an easy visit to the Caribbean. You can see a few different islands without having to unpack more than once. The food onboard Celebrity Summit was quite good, and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

Can't wait to do it all again!!
 :) Deb
 

 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

An Offbeat Kinda Day

Our eight days in London had passed by so quickly and the last day of our vacation loomed before us.


 
 
We'd seen the parade at Buckingham Palace with the Changing of the Guards.
 

 

We'd visited the Tower Bridge and Tower of London.
 


 
 
We thoroughly enjoyed "Guys and Dolls" playing in the West End with
Jane Krakowski and Ewan McGregor!

 

 
 
We'd wandered parks and seen statues, and tributes galore.
 
 
 

The plan was to jump on the tube at Swiss Cottage Station near Regent's Park and get off at Kings Cross Station before boating up the River Thames to Windsor Castle. SO looking forward to seeing the castle. Aaaahhh.... the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.... or so they say.

At approximately 8:45am on July 7th, 2005 the London Underground Railway came to a screeching halt when three bombs exploded simultaneously destroying multiple sections of the track. Our vehicle stopped midway between two stations to unload commuters into the darkened passageways of the underground. An electric failure was given as the reason for disembarking the train and we followed along, climbing into the London sunshine and the monumentally crowded streets above. Over 700 people were injured and 52 people were killed in this horrifying display of terrorism. Yet here we were, blissfully unaware of the tragedy, mildly disappointed that we'd miss Windsor Castle.

And so our day began. Strangely enough, it was one of the loveliest days we've spent together as a family. The city was basically at a standstill, especially after a double-decker bus was bombed and all traffic was removed from the city streets. Hundreds of thousands of Londoners were out walking to work, or back home as shops, restaurants, and tourist attractions closed their doors. We stumbled into a grocery store with a television and saw the news reports. Scary to be sure, with our only recourse to head back to our hotel on foot.

You cannot possibly imagine the sense of quiet that comes over a major city when everything shuts down. It was an experience like none other - truly surreal.

There were a few shops that stayed open and an eatery or two along the way. We meandered unhurriedly, crisscrossing the city back to our hotel on foot... a mere 7 hours, mind you. We really did stop to smell the roses in Queen Mary's Rose Garden and shared a most delicious afternoon tea at a little stand inside the park, not knowing if any of the Regent's Park restaurants would be open when we got there.





Jeff had left his cell phone in the hotel room so we wouldn't be bothered with work phone calls - the only day he had left it behind! When we arrived back at our hotel, we checked in with family and friends who had called throughout the day, all of them concerned for our safety. Feeling that depth of both love and worry humbled us.

We are so blessed, so lucky, so fortunate to have been so close to a disaster of this magnitude and escape with only the memory of an extraordinary day. Our story has been told many times to new friends who cannot believe we were there. But, we were and we are better for the experience.

Travel is a grand opportunity to experience this beautiful planet we inhabit. There are certainly terrors and boogeymen everywhere we go. But I cannot travel in fear. I research and plan, begging and cajoling others to join us for adventures near and far. I am unafraid and eager for that next delicious plate of food, a chance to spy a glorious bit of nature, and a reverence for the differences that bind us together.

With Gratitude,
:) Deb

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Best. Days. Ever.


Do you ever stop and ponder your best day ever?
                   A day filled with so much joy you just might burst....


 Seize the day - Carpe diem!!
 

I mean honestly, how do you conclude from one day to the next?

Was yesterday your best day ever?
Or was it one day long ago?
                        








  
 Are holidays the best days ever?
 


                          Will it be tomorrow or next month or maybe next year?

Maybe it was in the Summer of '69 like Bryan Adams sings "those were the best days of my life."



(Easter 1969 - my first time wearing pantyhose and I had to chase the dog around the block in bare stockings!)

                         Or the day you got married. A truly spectacular day for me by the way.




Every once in awhile a great day is re-enacted on television or in a movie. Sometimes a magazine article about living your best life will come along. And many times while listening to a favorite song on the radio, the notion will rock me back in time.


 Corona Grads 2004 and 2006


Brooklyn-based alt-rockers American Authors sing about The Best Day of My Life. They are "never gonna look back." So then, should I stop cataloguing all the best days of my life? Or keep moving forward in anticipation?

My favorite Green Day song, Good Riddance shares this sage enlightenment "... time grabs you by the wrist directs you where to go, so make the best of this test and don't ask why, it's not a question, but a lesson learned in time ... it's something unpredictable but in the end it's right, I hope you had the time of your life."


 Cruising in Alaska



Mid-way up the Eiffel Tower in Paris

 Pub-hopping in Dublin

We may not know exactly the time or place for our best day ever. Those magical moments may be spontaneous or carefully orchestrated for perfection.


  
Tae Kwon Do - State Champ!!


My Mom Beating Breast Cancer!!


 
Unforgettable Switzerland!!

 
Can you conceive the idyllic dream of your best day ever, put it on paper, and then make it happen? Sure - weddings are such events. We've got two biggies coming up this year and they will most definitely be the best days of our lives.
 




Pitbull is counting on it when he sings in Time of Our Lives "I want the time of my life, give me the time of our life."

Are there many best days of your life? I certainly hope so. As a matter of fact, I'm counting on it. SO many best days past, present, and future.  Is there truly such a thing as only one best day? Or is life a cornucopia of Best-Days-Ever??




The Best Day, sung by Taylor Swift shares a perfect sentiment from me to my family and friends ... "and I didn't know if you knew, so I'm taking this chance to say that I had the best day with you today."




I mean seriously.
You wanna know what I think?
Make the most of what you've got and really live your best day every day.





The sun is shining, and the chimes are singing in the breeze. The dogs are happy, and I'm packing for a trip. In the movie, The Way We Were, Robert Redford's character Hubbell Gardiner rows on the lake with his college buddy and states that the best day is in fact... today.

I couldn't agree more.
:) Deb