Friday, June 26, 2009

June Is Slipping Away

June is slipping away and will definitely go on record as having the fewest number of blog entries since Twilightme started. However, I can't let the month pass without doing a post on this month's celebrants: Cody & Taylor.

Way back at the beginning of the month, we gathered to celebrate their birthdays in their other grandma's backyard. The setting recalled to mind Cody's first birthday which was also celebrated in this back yard. Time has flown and that little Gerber baby is now 14! He and his beautiful sister Taylor shared a cake and a place on the swing where they opened gifts. Taylor celebrated her first birthday up the street in the house where she has lived her entire 12 years. Let me offer just a few adjectives to describe these two: smart, talented, good-looking, mannerly, conversant, helpful, funny, energetic, wonderful!!!

In addition to turning 14, Cody also graduated from 8th grade this month. I'd have to say that the ceremony for his class of 6 graduating BOYS was one of the best I've ever attended. Each boy had a special role in the ceremony. Cody arranged a song and accompanied his dad on guitar as he sang. What an arresting conclusion to this sweet graduation. There was no way I could hold back tears of pride and admiration as my son and grandson performed together.

OK I cry easily . . . especially when it comes to witnessing landmarks in the life of my family.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Cruise to Alaska-Part 2

Life aboard a cruise ship is completely unreal and wholly self-indulgent. I think everyone should experience it at least once. Someone makes your bed every day, not once but twice, and usually without you even knowing when! We would leave for breakfast and come back to find our bed made, fresh towels in the bathroom, and the trash emptied. In the evening, we'd return from some form of entertainment and the bed would be neatly turned down with chocolates on the pillow and the Princess Patter at the foot of the bed. The Patter was a newsletter about the next day's entertainment and activities.

There is so much to do aboard ship that days at sea simply whiz by. First and foremost is EATING. There is a buffet that is open from 6am until midnight so you can eat ANYTIME you want. There are also formal dining rooms, a hamburger stand, steak house, bistro, and ice cream shop, not to mention 5 or 6 different bars all over the ship. Cindy was in dessert heaven and the little fridge in our stateroom was always full of the delicious treats she had wanted to eat but couldn't, so she brought them back to the room for later, but of course later there were more desserts served which continually multiplied her options. I, on the other hand, was trying to figure out how to deal with the abundance of food and not gain a 1000 pounds.

I'd read in a women's magazine that one way to combat cruise over-eating was to take the stairs anytime one had to move between decks, so I often climbed 7 or 8 flights of stairs while Cindy and her mom and dad took the elevators. I also spent a lot of time in the fitness center at classes and on the treadmill. I took yoga and aerobics classes and there were also pilates and spin classes. I walked 3 laps of the promenade deck every day which was a mile and many days I did much more. I participated in the 5K Cancer Walk and earned a cap: On Deck for a Cure. We also walked a lot in ports of call and I'm happy to say that despite the fact that I totally overate EVERY day, I only gained one pound.

The entertainment aboard ship was awesome. There were huge musical productions that were the best. We chose seats down front every time to get the full effect of the incredible singers and dancers. We went to comedy shows and laughed till we cried. There were lectures on wild life and arctic ice. We went to Bingo almost every day. There were lots of things we didn't do, like the golf, dart, and suffleboard competitions. There were games going on everywhere: trivia, word and board games. There were computer classes and dance classes: line, rhumba, ball room. Nature entertained us every evening with a marvelous sunset. And there was a little Casino.

Every afternoon Cindy went to the Casino while I exercised or napped. Her luck was phenomenal. She kept winning and winning and winning. In the end, she won enough money to pay for our entire trip and then some. Her biggest pot was $2000 on a progressive slot machine game, but she also won two $500 pots and some smaller ones as well. She was passing out money to her mom and dad and her aunt. When she won the $2000, she came into the stateroom where I was napping, flipped on the light, and tossed hundred dollar bills on top of me. It was simply AMAZING!!

She was having such a great time that she even managed to get up at 6am to disembark in Victoria, our last stop where unfortunately we had a very short visit. I had hoped to go to the Butchart Gardens while we were there, but there wasn't time. However, Victoria is simply lovely and just walking in the downtown area, which is reminiscent of being in England, was a sweet experience. The rhododendrons were in bloom and there were beautiful flowers and gorgeous architecture everywhere. Pictured below is the government building with a statue of Queen Victoria in front and a handsome redwood given to the city by the state of California in celebration of its 100th anniversary.

On the last night aboard ship, we ate in the formal dining room. After dinner, the chefs and the servers paraded in to a rousing rendition of "Hot, Hot, Hot" carrying baked Alaska, another delicious dessert experience. I woke at 5am on the morning we sailed into San Francisco. A change in the sound of the engine told me we were no longer at sea. I got dressed quickly and hurried on deck. Though I missed going under the Goldent Gate Bridge, I got to watch the sun rise over the Bay Bridge--the perfect ending to a wonderful journey. Later, we sat on deck in the sun gazing at the city while we waited for our turn to disembark. It will take a few days for the wonder of our Alaska Cruise to fade as we remember how to prepare our own meals and make the bed.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Cruise to Alaska-Part 1

Alaska wasn't on a list of places I wanted to see, but it was on Cindy's dad's list. So when Cindy's parents signed on for a cruise to Alaska, we decided to join them. And I'm glad we did. The trip was FABULOUS--from the spectacular scenery to the decadent life aboard a cruise ship. We only saw a tiny portion of Alaska as we traveled the Inside Passage, but it was enough to make me truly appreciate the beauty and ruggedness of the state. We took over 600 pictures so it was hard to choose a representative selection to share here. Also, I wrote nearly 100 pages in my journal chronicling all that we saw and did so the report and images here are a mere sketch of this amazing trip. I've divided it into two parts, one covering all but one of the ports we visited and the second will be about life aboard ship and our last port of call.

I knew it was going to be an amazing trip as we sailed out of San Francisco Harbor under the Golden Gate Bridge. We stood in the wind on the bow of the boat with many of our fellow 1900 passengers, where we were nearly swept away with awe. The fog, the wind, the majesty of the bridge let it be known that this would be one incredible journey.

After two days at sea (more on this later), we reached our first stop: Ketchikan--the southern most city in Alaska and the salmon capital of the world. The weather was awesome as it was for most of the trip, cool and sunny. We visited a museum, walked about town, including a boardwalk called Creek Street, and rode a funicular to the top of the mountain-side against which the town is built. At the top, we got a chance to see a "grove" of old totem poles, incredible historical relics seen all over this part of Alaska.

The next day we landed in Juneau, the capital city to which there is NO road access. The only way in is by sea or air. We visited the Mendenhall Glacier. Pictures can't do justice to the beauty of this geologic wonder, but in the one below you might be able to see the blue tone of the ice. We also visited the Tongass National Forest, riding in a four-wheel drive cart up a steep mountain road deep into the rain forest where we saw an eagle nest but not the eagle. This was when I got in touch with how attached I am to the earth and things that grow, for the forest filled me with joy and respect.

On the third day, we traveled up Tracy's Arm, a channel which is frozen in winter and where the ice was just breaking up. We could not go as far as planned because the ice was still too dense to be safe, but it was amazing to see big chunks of it in all sizes and shapes floating in the water.

Our most northerly stop was Skagway where we rode the White Pass narrow gauge railroad to the top of a 2200 foot peak that the gold miners had to cross (before there was a train) to get to Canada and the Klondike gold fields. We rode into the mist at the summit and saw the border between the US and Canada marked by flags. The views were spectacular. At one point, we could see down through the pass to where our ship was docked. I found immense satisfaction in the deeply fragrant forest of spruce, cottonwood, and birch. A storm blew in as we descended and we had to walk in fierce winds to make it back to the ship, giving us a tiny taste of the weather Alaskans deal with all winter.

As we sailed away from Skagway, Cindy and I climbed to the uppermost deck despite gale force winds to take pictures of the surrounding mountains and the pass through which we had just traveled by train. The wind took our breath away, and it was nearly impossible to walk, so we leaned on the ship's rails and marveled at the majesty of the land and the force of the weather. We had turned south towards home, but it would be four days until we would again land in California. Stay tuned for Part 2, life aboard a cruise ship.