Sunday, December 30, 2012

Chaos Is An Understatement

I told our company coming for dinner today that if they find a seat, sit down and don't move.  It may be awhile before another seat becomes available.  Our house is perfect for the two of us, not bad for two more but seven people with Christmas gifts, big dinners, suitcases and visitors gets a bit tricky!  But we are making it.  Terry and Carol as well as Kara's friend Lora, her husband and daughter Hope are coming for dinner today.  An even dozen!

Larry and Kristin arrived right on time on Wednesday and despite six inches of snow overnight in Michigan, Kara and the kids arrived on time too.  We were so thankful for that.  We came home, got settled in and had our Christmas just two days late.

Morgan received a Merida from Brave costume for her Build A Bear Molly.  It included a red wig that was wrapped in a sort of hair net to protect it in the package.  When Kristin helped her dress the bear, Morgan put the hair net on too.  Kristin said she didn't need that, it was just part of the packaging and Morgan pipes up with "No, she's a noon aide!"  I hope all those women working in their school district in Michigan aren't reading this. 

The electronic age dominated our Christmas, probably as much as anyone else's.  If the electric goes out, we are done for.

After dinner we drove to see the lighted house Ted and I visited last Friday.  Larry took lots of pictures.  The display was closing at 10 pm so we were the last people there and talked to the man who builds it all.  He was very nice and passed out candy canes.  Larry said he would bring him a CD with pictures of the house on it.  I don't think he believed him because the next day when Larry did just that, the guy said people tell him that all the time and this was the first time he had received any photos.  You can visit his website at

Friday morning we girls went to the bridal salon to look at gowns.  We all learned some things about bolero jackets, belts, strapless dresses, etc.  This opened up a whole new avenue for Kristin to pursue.  We found a lovely combination that will now be her benchmark as she looks some more.  She is going to LA in February with her friend Sheetal who will be the maid of honor.  There is a big bridal shop out there she wants to visit.  I'm sure her final selection will be lovely.

We went to Olive Garden for dinner compliments of Uncle Terry and Aunt Carol then went to see a couple streets decorated in our own area.  One is an entire area decorated to honor a young man who was killed in an accident.  Apparently it has grown each year with everyone in the neighborhood joining in.  The next was Whoville where one neighbor paints the characters with looks and interests of the children living in that particular house.

Saturday was American Girl store day.  We made our way to Memorial City Mall in Houston despite the drive and traffic for Morgan to use her gift cards from Kristin and me.  Kristin asked Morgan, who was playing a Game Boy in the back seat, how she was doing and she said "I'm OK, I just keep getting my head knocked off and killed." 

These doll clothes are more than you would pay to dress a real person!  She bought a set of PJs for the doll to match a nightgown her mother bought her and an ice skating outfit. 

We tried to eat at their restaurant but there was no availability.  We tried CA Pizza Kitchen, passing the skating rink, but it was a 20 minute wait.  They all wanted to try Cheesecake Factory and I said it would be worse, and it was, one hour.  We ended up at Sweet Tomatoes which was a good choice.  Everyone had what they wanted and we were seated immediately.  When I took Morgan up to get an ice cream she didn't want a brownie under her ice cream nor a cone, she just wanted ice cream with sprinkles.  They happened to have white and green ones for the holidays instead of chocolate.  When we got back to the table she told her mother "I hate Michigan State but they are the only sprinkles they had."  She cracks us up!

We all went to Mass at 5 pm then went to see one more house decorated with lights in time to music.  There was not nearly as much to look at but the music seemed to be synchronized a bit better.  Over the garage door, there were talking Christmas tree outlines in green lights with mouths that moved.  They were hilarious as Miss Piggy, Kermit and another time as the Chipmunks.  All in all, we saw some really neat displays.

My oven continues to give me fits.  It turned itself off again this morning while I was baking a french toast casserole.  We have been watching it like a hawk all day.  Good thing Ted is using his smoker for the brisket.  Let's hope we get this one last big company meal on the table!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Let The Chaos Begin!

Last Friday Ted and I drove to Conroe to see one of those houses all decorated with light shows set to music.  It was fantastic!  We stayed for at least a half hour, heard a dozen or more songs, all with light shows set to that specific music, and it never got back to where we came in.  We hope the kids arrive in time for us to take them to see it before they turn it off on 12/27.

Saturday was one more party - a Christmas luau out around the pool of our friends.  There was a live band, dinner and enough imbibing that we were rocking to a little Proud Mary followed by a conga line where no one ended up in the pool!  It was a fun time.

Our last engagement was an open house at the home of Richard and Caroline on Sunday.  Richard outdid himself on his many enticing eats.  I even tried a piece of venison and it was really good.  We saw some people we hadn't seen in awhile and met some new ones.  That always makes for a nice evening.

Monday was my day to get busy for Christmas Day dinner.  I had the table all set.

And the bar too.  However, except for a few beers and some wine, nothing else was touched.  We just don't run with a big drinking crowd. 

We went to eat at Texas Roadhouse Christmas Eve and had no trouble getting a table, we were seated promptly.  We had intended to go to Mass at 9 pm but it was a little before 6 o'clock when we left the restaurant so we thought we would drive by church and see how bad the parking lot was for the 6:30 service.  There were parking spots and we found seats in church easily so we stayed.  The children's pageant was so cute.  Fr. Tom passed by and shook Ted's hand and congratulated us on finding a "couple of good seats."  It is only the second time we have been at our church for Christmas services in the 12 years we have lived here.

Christmas morning was more hustle and bustle as we prepared for our guests to arrive.  Of course I had three things to go into the oven, all with different temperatures, and my oven still is not heating to the proper temperature and shuts itself off at times.  I am going to have it looked at as soon as I can.  But the ham was baked and Ted wrapped it in foil and put it in a cooler so I could turn the heat up to finish the sweet potatoes and pineapple casserole.  I also had green beans and made ambrosia salad.  Corn pudding and a green salad were brought by our guests along with a carrot cake, pecan pie and snacks!  We were not going to go hungry.

Here we are with our Santa Hats brought by Peg.  It is cranberry apple juice and champagne in glasses ringed with coconut.  Cute!

The meal turned out great if I do say so myself.  We delayed dessert until after we played cards so I made quick work of clearing the table and loading the dishwasher while Irene put all the cards out.  We played a game of Shang Hai and I Shang Hai'd and won at our table!  Great Christmas gift to myself. 

I served the pecan pie and carrot cake while encouraging folks to take some cookies or candy from a large plate full that Irene had also brought.  Of course no one would take anything home because they wanted me to keep it for the house full of company I have coming.

For being "alone, without family" it was one heck of a nice Christmas Day.  We have such wonderful friends here.  The saying "a friend close by is better than a brother far away" rings true.  It was dark, cold and windy when everyone went home.  My Santa had taken a header into the sprinkler, one tree was over, and the basket of poinsettias had taken flight.  I decided to wait until this morning to set things right but the wind still hasn't died down.  We went from 73 degrees to 35 in just a few hours.  The next week is not predicted to get above 70.  Bummer for the kids coming.

Kristin and her fiance Larry arrive this afternoon from Florida.  I am concerned about Kara and the kids getting out of Michigan tomorrow because they are getting snow all day today.  But they are used to that and people just go about their business in all that mess.  I remember when we moved there in 1981 I was to go somewhere with some ladies and it snowed about 8 inches over night.  I called the next morning to see if we were still going and the response was "sure, why not?" 

So I will expect them all here on time.  Sure, why not?

Friday, December 21, 2012

That Week Before the Week

After a nice laid back weekend, this last week before Christmas was busy but not quite as bad as last week.  Monday was my bunco group's Christmas Luncheon, our 12th year.  Michelle had everyone for lunch and it was fantastic.  She has the cutest Christmas dishes and set a very lovely table.  Her meal was great and she made the most beautifully decorated cookies for Christmas and served them with Blue Bell (what else here in Texas?) peppermint ice cream.  I had a small gift for everyone and we had our gift exchange.

First I had them choose a gift based on birthdays, then everyone pulled a small piece of paper telling you what to do with your gift; i.e., "swap with the person with the most grandchildren" or "swap with someone not wearing a Christmas shirt" etc.  Then I read the story of the Little Toy Soldier and every time I said left or right they had to pass their package.  It was a lot of fun and no one had to "steal" from someone else.  Each year I try to come up with a different game but after 12 years, it is getting a bit harder.

I worked at the thrift store on Tuesday for four hours.  After three hours of tagging children's clothes, I elected to sit down and cut buttons off the discards.  Most people only do two hours for very good reason but I needed to get the hours in.  I have three more shifts after the first of the year and one senior luncheon to work and my 50 hours will be complete.  I may help out at other events but I needed to schedule those hours to be sure I got all my hours in.  Being gone until March 15 doesn't give me a lot of time.  We also must attend four meetings and help out on our committee (mine is Social) four times.  I have it all planned out and I am good!

Wednesday was an early dental appointment and everything went fine there.  This is the first time my dentist has seen the partial that the proctodontist made for me.  He asked if it was working out OK and I said yes.  Beyond that he said everything looked fine and keep up the good work.  Now that I think about it, he didn't give me a new toothbrush and toothpaste.  I don't use them but save them for traveling or put them in the guest bathroom in case someone forgets theirs.

Afterwards we went to Kroger's to start our massive grocery shopping.  We tend to run in and out of the grocery several times a week buying a few things here and there.  But with Christmas dinner for 8 and 5 people coming to stay, that wouldn't work.  We loaded the basket to the top but still aren't finished.

We drove to Livingston State Park on Thursday to visit with our friends Rick and Brenda who have been work camping there.  We stopped to see them in Memphis on our way home this past summer but haven't had a chance to visit until this past week.  They leave for Memphis right after New Year's so we won't see them again until June when we head out for the summer.  No matter which roads we take to go north, it seems we always drive through Memphis to get there.

Today we will finish the grocery shopping and I'll do the laundry.  We have parties Saturday and Sunday nights so the weekend will pass before we know it.  Christmas Eve will be busy with preparation for dinner on Christmas Day and we'll attend church sometime in the evening.  We try to avoid 4 o'clock because there are so many kids it is hard to get much out of the service.  I'll try the calmer one when everyone else is eating dinner.

I hope you all are getting everything accomplished that you need/want to.  This is a busy time of year but never lose sight of what we are celebrating.

What is Christmas? It is tenderness for the past, courage for the present, hope for the future. It is a fervent wish that every cup may overflow with blessings rich and eternal, and that every path may lead to peace.

~ Agnes M. Pharo

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Place To Be Last Friday Night

There are social events and then there are social events.  One of the most coveted invitations is to dinner at Irene's for her big Christmas party.  The basis is a Dining With Friends group that meets all year but Irene fills in with friends (like me!) who do not belong.  We were so happy to be included. 

With our travel schedule and Ted's picky eating habits, attending a home cooked dinner can turn into an ordeal when something is served Ted doesn't like.  And there are lots of things he doesn't like and refuses to try.  But that's a whole other story.  We turned down a kind invitation to join the group on a regular basis but John was fixing tenderloin and that happens to be on Ted's list.

The house was all aglow as we pulled up and you just knew it was going to be a great evening.  Irene and John are the most gracious of hostesses and so many of our friends would be there.

The front was decked with poinsettias, a lighted angel and the massive front doors all done up so beautifully.

Inside was done up even more exquisitely with a huge tree, banister up the stairs and along the hall all wrapped with lighted greenery and a magnificent mantle all decorated.

There is a "party room" at the back of the house where desserts and drinks were located as well as six tables set for dinner. 

There were two servers engaged for the evening to help with serving.  This is the young lady who helped Irene, John and Mary get dinner out to all us folks.

Jeff and Rachel were two of our dinner partners.  They go to our church and we have been in bunco groups with them.  The other folks were new to us but I learned he was a retired 3-Star General and they split their time between Texas and Alabama! 

Dinner was salad which Ted proceeded to take apart, giving me the cucumbers and tomatoes from his, followed by melt in your mouth tenderloin, green beans and potatoes cooked with red peppers (Ted ate the green beans) and rolls (which Ted ate) all cooked by John.  Dessert was a choice of blackberry wine cake (which I had - delicious!), tiramisu or carrot cake - all baked by Irene.  All of the desserts were fine with Ted but I honestly don't remember if he ate any.   No restaurant could have done any better. 

And you know the best part?  John and Irene are one of three couples coming to our house on Christmas Day for a casual lunch buffet followed by an afternoon of Shang Hai.  All of us will be welcoming our children the day after Christmas and I saw no reason for all of us to be alone on Christmas Day.

My house would fit inside Irene's three times and my table will be way less elegant than hers, but that won't matter to anyone.  We choose our friends by how they treat us, not by what they have.  And having friends so willing to share with you is the best Christmas present ever.

The most I can do for my friend is simply to be his friend. I have no wealth to bestow on him. If he knows that I am happy in loving him, he will want no other reward. Is not friendship divine in this?

 ~ Henry David Thoreau

Friday, December 14, 2012

Party Hardy

I left home Wednesday morning at 7:45 and returned at 7:15 that night. First up was working the NAM Senior Luncheon for Junior Forum. These folks always have a good time and really enjoyed the Merry Melodies Christmas show and the lunch we served.

From there I headed to my Shang Hai group, taking my Christmas shirt with me so I could change. We all had our photo taken together in front of the tree. I had good cards and came in second.

Then it was off to Karen's to drop off two bingo prizes for the next day's senior luncheon that I was not scheduled to work at.

Finally at 5:30 I was settled in the pedicure chair soaking and had time to sit back and relax. It felt good.

But Thursday it started again. I was working the Women's Shelter gift distribution at the Methodist Church. By the time I left, when all gifts should have been picked up, there were still 20 families who had not arrived.

I know if someone was providing my family Christmas presents I would remember to pick them up. But that is just me.

And when did they stop putting kickstands on bicycles? I took many out to cars but I had to hang on to them until the car pulled up because they can't stand up by themselves. Hardly seems like progress to me.

Well I couldn't stay any longer because I was due at the salon to get my hair cut. I suppose someone from the shelter contacted the 20 families. I may never know.

Then it was home to dress quickly for the next event which was a group dinner we had been invited to at a local restaurant. The food was good, their handling of a crowd mediocre and their price pretty expensive for what we had. We sat with Janet and Tom who we don't know well so it was nice getting to know them better.

Tonight is a big dinner party at my friend Irene's house. She has a huge party room and 42 are invited for dinner! I can't even wrap my mind around that. Her decorations are exquisite so I will take a few photos to share next time.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Amazing Race Excitement

Saturday after church we went to our favorite Mexican restaurant with Terry and Carol.  Ted shot on Sunday and after dinner we watched the second last episode of Amazing Race.  I was excited because one of their stops was Mallorca, Spain where we had just been.  They had to do a challenge inside the bullring that I have a picture of in a previous post and the Pit Stop for that leg of the race was the Belver Castle that also is in the post.  Doesn't sound like much but I thought it was really neat!  I am easily amused.

I played Canasta yesterday and scored in the middle.  We have been playing so much Shang Hai I had to wrap my mind around Canasta again.  I didn't have good cards all afternoon but my scores hit the average mark but average doesn't win.  This is the $1 group so you don't lose or win much.

Today is the lull before the storm because tomorrow starts up a couple very busy days - both day and night.  In the midst of all that I need to do some "grooming" at the nail and hair salon in anticipation of the holiday parties.

We have invited a few friends over for Christmas Day for a casual buffet and a game of Shang Hai.  It seems there are several couples whose children are coming after Christmas like ours or are leaving on a trip a day or two after.  There is no reason for all of us to be home alone on this special day.  And besides, I get to use my new Christmas dishes I bought last year.

Life is partly what we make it and partly what it is made by the friends we choose. ~ Tennesee Williams

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Staying Afloat

After the fellows left I had several days with nothing pressing to do.  I had kept that time free because I knew I would have lots of catching up to do.  I got all my shopping done (OK, mostly on the internet!), wrapping (when it arrived) and took care of my Christmas cards the easy way. 

Friday Carol invited me and several friends to a lunch at the country club to visit with her friend Judi who came to town. That started my busy time before Christmas.  In the evening we met Barry and Gerre for dinner and then attended a performance of "White Christmas."  It was done with all the song and dance production numbers and was very entertaining.

Saturday at church was the first opportunity we had to tell Fr. Tom about our visit with Richard in Rome. He was happy to hear we met up with him.  Later I emailed Fr. Tom a photo of Ted and Richard together at dinner.

I invited Terry, Carol and Judi for dinner on Sunday. Ted had to shoot but came home in time to grill a whole pork filet. Normally he would do tenderloins but he bought this by mistake. He did an excellent job! Wild rice, baked apples, vegetables, yeast rolls and pumpkin pie rounded out the meal I made.

Monday I dropped off sandwiches at church for a funeral, picked up Judy and went to Jeanne's for lunch to celebrate Peg's birthday.  The area Jeanne lives in is gorgeous.  It is out a bit and I never even knew it was there.

That evening Ted and I attended a "mission" at church. This is done by a visiting priest, most of whom are great speakers. Missions last for three nights but his message just never came together for us and we didn't attend the next two nights.

I spent Tuesday doing laundry and getting ready to host my own neighborhood luncheon. My menu was Chicken Florentine Casserole, Jarlsburg Winter Salad, croissants and Banana Split Cake. We had a nice time, exchanged our gifts and everyone said they enjoyed the lunch, gifts and decorations. It's nice to have that behind me.

Thursday I did my favorite Junior Forum job - hosting a Christmas party at Regent Care Nursing Home. We decorate the tables for whatever the season is, put name tags on the residents, honor their birthdays, provide some entertainment and have cookies and lemonade for them. We have to be very careful about their dietary choices so each one wears a tag saying what they can have. Our lemonade is Crystal Light and we also bring sugar free cookies in addition to the regular ones so most can partake. There are a few who can't have either and the home provides something for them. It is a hard existence to say the least and to bring just a couple hours of joy to them is heartwarming.

Then it was time for some fun at the Junior Forum Christmas party. Suzy, Kathi, Margaret, Peg and I went together in my car. I needed to drive because I was bringing home the toys to be taken to Northwest Assistance Ministries on Friday. The meal was very good and we were entertained by a female barbershop quartet.  It was great to see everyone dressed up instead of in their JF uniforms!

The Social Committee Chair was out of town so we had to decide how to divide the gifts up between me and the gal taking half to another location.  Taking the bull by the horns I told the ladies who rode with me to separate them all by boy, girl, baby, stuffed animals, games and books. In no time we had them sorted, divided, loaded in the car and were on our way home.

There was a dog that moved, barked , growled and whined. Every time I hit a bump he carried on. We laughed all the way home.  The next morning I met up with Kathi and we delivered the toys. The dog entertained us all the way there.  We filled a huge bin and a rack with the toys and wrapping paper.  The ladies were delighted to receive the items.

When I arrived back home I took off my JF shirt and put on my church logo shirt and headed to Chik Fil A to buy a tray of chicken strips for another funeral. I certainly hadn't had time to make anything.  I stayed to help serve, clean up and brought eight tablecloths home to launder.

Today is a day honoring Mary in our church so last night we went back to church for Mass. A new young girl was the cantor and sang Ave Maria so beautifully it gave me chills. It was 9 o'clock before we got home. Ted helped me fold the huge round tablecloths and get them on big wooden hangers. They will go back to church tonight with us.

We have nothing planned for this weekend so I will start getting things ready for the children's arrival the day after Christmas.  Just wrapping my mind around meals and grocery shopping will take some doing. 

The next two weeks are more of the same but I wouldn't have it any other way. 

Enjoy the journey, enjoy every moment, and quit worrying about winning and losing.

Friday, November 30, 2012

The Week in Review

Keith and Steve came back to our house after the cruise.  We all had lots to do in the way of laundry and getting caught up, especially Steve who had 1300 emails or so.  Sunday was spent getting the luggage emptied and laundry going.  Thank goodness we had attended Mass on the ship on Saturday night so we didn't need to stop at 6 pm and go to the last Mass of the day on Sunday.

Monday we continued with the laundry but took time to drive them around to see some of the area we live in.  Other than the ride to the country club on Thursday, it's about all of our Township they got to see.

Tuesday we drove to Brenham to the Blue Bell ice cream factory where the workers "eat all they can and sell the rest."  It's a lovely complex and delightful town so it was easy to spend the day there.  First we took the factory tour, then ate at the airport diner right next to the runway where the waitresses dress in poodle skirts and then we hit some of the shops along Main Street.  They had been looking for a pickle ornament (an old German custom is to hide that green ornament in the tree and have a gift for whoever finds it).  Our search had been unsuccessful until I was told to go to Fancy That.  I was so tickled to give Keith the decorated bag that contained it.

Here they are with the Blue Bell logo sculpture wearing their paper worker hats given on the tour.  The second photo is beside an old ice cream delivery truck with the original name Blue Bell Creameries.  Last is our waitress at the diner taking our order.

Wednesday we traveled to Old Town Spring and visited every one of the stores.  Despite many unique stores and boutiques, none of us bought anything.  We did however try several of the dips and spread samples some stores had out.

Thursday Keith and I continued our decorating quest.  Because we are usually gone, decorating has been almost non-existent since we moved into our present home.  He would ask where does this "go" and I would say nowhere in particular. It's been in the attic for 10 years.  So he had carte blanche to do whatever he wanted.

Late afternoon we headed to the country club for Thanksgiving dinner.  What a spread!  They had everything imaginable and it was all very, very good.  I didn't over eat though.  One trip to the salad station, one to the hot food for turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing and vegetables and one piece of pie.  Well maybe that is overeating on Weight Watchers but after our eating frenzy on the ship, this was mild.  I did gain 2 lbs. while away but I didn't think that was too bad.

Ted was fighting an upper respiratory infection that I managed not to get.  Maybe my flu shot did work!  But we left him home and headed to the San Jacinto Monument.  We watched the movie, took the elevator to the observation platform and took in the exhibit.  This monument is taller than the Washington Monument, but then everything is bigger in Texas!

Next we went to the Monument Inn for a late lunch and watched lots of barge activity in the ship channel.  The ferry looked as if it was playing cat and mouse.  A barge would go by, here came the ferry.  Another barge went by, there goes the ferry.

Next up was a tour of the Battleship Texas.  We all enjoyed this part of the day because you get to go most anywhere you want on this ship.  There are many, many floors from the bowels of the ship with the engine room to the highest point of a crow's nest.  And you can go wherever you want.  No particular tour guide or anyone to stop you.  What they don't want you to have access to is locked.  We spent a lot of time here before heading home.

Too soon our week was over and it was an early morning run to the airport for them to head back to Connecticut.  This past week I had kept empty on my calendar because I knew that after a month of travel and company and Christmas coming I would have lots to do.

But I am in great shape now.  House decorated, Christmas card ready to go out through, shopping done mostly through Amazon and I just need to wrap the few things I have here for the kids that are coming.

But next week really gears up so I'm glad to be as far along as I am.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Water, water everywhere ...

... and not a drop to drink.  That's what the bars are for! 

Our trans Atlantic trip was so smooth we hardly knew we were at sea hundreds of miles from land for the most part.  We did pass through the Straits of Gibraltar between Spain and Morocco in the middle of the night.  Some people stayed up or got up to see the Rock but in the dark they said it was a mere shadow.  The straits are about seven miles wide so we were very close to Africa.

I didn't take many pictures on the ship.  We filled our days with leisurely breakfasts which was easy to do because each night we gained an hour as we moved west.  There were mornings I went to the Promenade when it was still dark except for the Cafe.  The lights came on at 6 am.  Normally I would run into someone, have coffee, and after an hour or so would take coffee to our cabin for Ted.  Eventually we would head to the dining room for breakfast.

Our group would gather outside one of the bars on the Promenade and people would come and go for visits.  A priest was on board and said Mass at 9:15 each morning and sometimes we attended.  We took Spanish lessons, played Trivial Pursuit, walked the track on the top deck, played miniature golf and shuffleboard and did some of the activities the ship provided.  There were movies every day and we did see Chicago again because we both like it so well.

After lunch whoever wanted to play cards met in the dining room at 1:00 and we played until around 4:00.  By then it was 5 o'clock somewhere and the group would start gathering outside the bar again but instead of coffee, the drinks started coming.  Dinner for us was at 6:00 followed by great entertainment in the showroom after that.  When that was over most headed to their cabins because the day had started so early and we would gain another hour the next day!

Here is a group photo on the steps of the Rhapsody in Blue dining room and a "photo of the photo" (I don't have a scanner) taken by the ship's photographer on our last formal night.  By the third formal night, Ted refused to wear a tie, he said he was on vacation!  The six late diners and a couple others are missing from the group shot.  It was taken on our second formal night (and Ted has on a tie!). 

After six days at sea we docked in Nassau.  The sun was shining, the weather was warm and everyone was ready to set foot on terra firma once more.  Two Carnival and one Norwegian ship were in port along with us.  It made for a very crowded downtown.

Ted and I had visited back in July, 1973, when the Bahamas received their independence from England.  The bus driver actually mentioned that date during our tour.  We saw Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Blue Angels as part of that celebration.  There are two forts Fincastle and Port Charlotte and the Queens Steps but not much else to visit.  Here are Ted and I at the bottom of the Queen's Steps and at our stop at the beach. 

The one thing that has been developed over those 40 years is the Atlantis Resort where our tour made a brief stop. 

Some of the yachts parked in their basin.

My Edith Ann pose in the Atlantis chair in the lobby.

The fountain at the entrance to the hotel and casino.

Without a "bracelet" that you paid admission or are staying there, you can't go very far in the complex.  Of course they will allow you into the casino and shops!  I turned $5 into $8.50 in a few minutes at the casino but had to cash out quickly to catch the bus.  If you had the time, a day pass to the resort would be well worth it but we didn't have that luxury this time.

Ted, Tom and I walked through the downtown and I bought the jacket I am wearing in the formal photo above.  We had two more days at sea passing the Florida Keys and entering the Gulf of Mexico to Galveston.  On the last night we played bingo and I won $277, but the last game, the big jackpot that had been building, went to one woman for $5800.  That would have been nice but to win at all was a thrill.

When we arrived in Galveston we had reserved a bus to take 14 of us to Terry's where cars and rides awaited us.  It was a great trip!

But Keith and Steve were coming home with us for a week so there is more to come.

Canary Islands

We had a day at sea before arriving in Lanzarote, Canary Islands (also belonging to Spain) and pronounced Lan-Za-Roe-Tae.  This island reminded me of the Big Island of Hawaii since it was mostly volcanic in nature. 

Our destination from the coast to the higher elevations was Jameos del Agua Cave and Mirador del Rio.  All buildings are no more than two stories high and painted white. It was almost blinding in the sun.

The Jameos del Agua is part of a 6 Km long lava tube that formed about 3,000 years ago when the Montaña La Corona erupted. Molten lava continued to flow as the surface hardened, which in turn led to the formation of the tubes, which run down under the Atlantic.

The word Jameo is used in this context to refer to the large openings in the tube which formed when parts of the roof collapsed, due to a pressure build up caused by the volcanic gases. It is these open-air caves which Manrique used as the centrepiece for the attraction and which have given it a name.

You enter the Jameos by climbing down a stone-staircase into the first cave known as ‘Jameo Chico’, which has been turned into an unusual bar / restaurant, with views over a small lake.

This natural lake has extremely clear water — regulated by the Atlantic Ocean — and is home to a species of blind albino crabs known as ‘Jameitos’, which are only found on Lanzarote. These crabs have been adopted as the symbol of the Jameos del Agua. 

I took a picture of these crabs that are no bigger than your thumbnail but you really can't see them in the dark water.

Nothing is quite like walking out of the dark tunnel to be faced, suddenly with a huge open-air cave lined with tropical plants and the most fantastic swimming-pool you may ever see.  This crystal-clear, turquoise pool is truly paradise, even if you can’t actually use it, as swimming is forbidden.

From the far end of the ‘Jameo Grande’ you can access the auditorium, which has been constructed in part of the volcanic tube running down to the Ocean. The auditorium has unbelievable acoustics and has been the setting for some memorable concerts.

Mirador del Río is an attractively designed observation point / lookout, built over several levels anchored into the volcanic lava-rock cliff face. It overlooks the nearby Canarian island of Isla Graciosa and down the North West coast of lanzarote.  In 1974, César Manrique (iconic Lanzarotian artist and designer) transformed the site into its current form. The combined use of modern materials such as white-painted concrete, gigantic panoramic windows and abstract sculpture contrasts with the natural beauty of the coloured lava rock face that it is hewn from and the platforms tessellated with volcanic paving stones.

We headed back to our ship for our last stop for a week in Tenerife, also part of the Canary Islands.

Tenerife is a very busy port and our ship was met by an ambulance. I was just amazed at the number of people seeking medical attention and becoming seriously ill. When we were in Nassau a couple was removed from the ship. My understanding is there was some sort of "domestic violence." He was in the brig and she was confined to her cabin. Someone saw Security in the cabin with her directing the packing and removal of their things! I don't know if they were turned over to any authorities or just removed.

Our tour on Tenerife (Ten-Er-E-Fay) was Pyramids of Guimar. This is a step pyramid complex oriented astronomically to the summer and winter solstices. These show great resemblance to those found in Egypt, Mesopotamia, Sardinia, Sicily, South American and other parts of the world.

Thor Heyerdahl moved to Tenerife to study these pyramids and disprove the thinking that these were mere rock walls built by farmers removing rocks from their fields. If that was the case, these were some very talented farmers or had lots of time on their hands to build something so accurately that they have stood for centuries. The authorities are still out on their origin.

The port, Santa Cruz, where we docked was very modern and had a beautifully built art museum.   It reminded me of a cross between the art museum in Milwaukee and the Sydney Opera House.  Unfortunately we did not have time to visit it.  We were heading out to sea for six days. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

St. Peter's Basilica

This didn't get "published" so is out of order.  Sorry.  One of the things that started our "minor mutiny" was the lack of a visit to St. Peter's.  Who would plan a tour of Rome without including it?  When we arranged Thursday in the city instead of Tivoli, we agreed to get up early Friday and spend the morning at St. Peter's Basilica before heading to Civitavecchia (where the Costa ship left from before hitting the rock!). 

The first thing to greet you are the symbols of the papacy, the keys to the church.  Next up would be Michaelangelo's Pieta.  This was our second sculpture of his to see having seen the only one outside of Italy in Bruegge, Belgium.

I would normally rent one of the audio tours but I knew I did not have enough time to listen to it and see the entire inside of the church.  Going to the crypts below was out of the question but we could see through grates in the floor.

This is an altar dedicated to Pope John XXIII.  He has been Beatified which is a step to being declared a saint.  His body is encased in a glass coffin.  I believe it said there has been wax put over his face but his body remains intact.

There is much to see and the only way to get the full effect would be to take your time and use the audio tour.  There is so much church history, artwork, sculptures, etc. to admire.  But our time was short.  And we took time to attend Mass in one of the many side chapel alcoves.  Some young boys were servers at our Mass. I imagine they will always remember the time they served Mass at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. I know I will always remember attending All Soul's Day Mass there.

Just as it was finished about five cardinals in their red hats came out following someone all in white with a white miter hat who went to another chapel where the gate was closed and no one was given access.  I was tempted to tell them my joke "I'm an important Catholic.  In case of emergency, call the bishop."  But I didn't. 
Outside was a well where people were getting drinks.  It appeared to be very old but I cannot find any information on it.  One can only imagine how many centuries ago it was dug and put into use.  If I am not mistaken, those top structures are symbols of the papacy.