Sunday, May 31, 2009

Going Home

We had a lovely visit with Steve, Marta, Gabe, and Ali. Today we are going home and I'm going to miss them all so much. The next time I see them, Gabe and Ali will have learned new things and will be at different stages of their lives. Since I last saw Gabe in January, he has progressed a lot in learning many things; he speaks knowledgeably about many topics such as dinosaurs and animals; he can tell long and interesting stories in two languages; he can write his name and is beginning to write other words; he understands a little about basic math. Ali at 3 1/2 months can laugh, communicate well with her eyes, let you know if she wants to be fed, changed or allowed to sleep. What will they be doing the next time we see them? I can only wonder.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Happy Girl

Ali enjoys playing with her parents and now she can laugh out loud!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Swimmer

Steve exercises almost every evening in the pool. He has a harness which allows him to experience the exercise benefits of long distance swimming while remaining stationary. It is having a good effect because his shoulders and upper arms are increasing in muscles.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Monday, May 25, 2009

Smiles in the Morning

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Happy Birthday, Grandpa!

Saturday was Tony's birthday so we celebrated with dinner in a special restaurant followed by delicious pastries. Gabe was helpful in blowing out the candle!

Gabe and Ali

Ali is only three months old but already she and Gabe love each other.
The Cookie Helper

I'm always looking for a good chocolate chip cookie helper and Gabe is an enthusiastic helper. He enjoys "checking" the chocolate chips sometimes when my back is turned so the quantity of cookie dough tends to disappear!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Ali is a very happy baby. At three months old, she communicates well with her eyes; looking in her eyes you can see how she feels. She smiles easily and often, and she is very responsive. She is just starting to use her hands a little: she sometimes looks at her hands as if to say, "What are these? Where did they come from?" Ali is an easy baby and very undemanding. (Jack and Lib: the pink outfit that she's wearing is the one you sent! Isn't she cute in it?)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Here's Gabe and Steve enjoying the pool.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Monday, May 18, 2009


Saturday I traveled to Florida to Steve and Marta's new house which they just moved into a month ago. It is very beautiful and comfortable with the unique style of Southern Florida.
Most importantly, I was there to meet Ali (pronounced Ah-leh), my newest granddaughter. She is 3 months old, full of smiles especially when she wakes up in the morning, very happy and easy. She loves her mommy and daddy and thinks her big brother Gabe is funny.
We celebrated Gabe's fifth birthday on Sunday. He had a beautiful cake and presents and was very happy. The five years since his birth have passed very quickly. Gabe and Steve enjoyed some time in the pool as you can see in the picture.
Marta is doing well, very busy with caring for the children and settling into the house. It is a pleasure to spend some time here.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Traveling Again!!!
This spring has been a traveling time for me. I went to Tom and Kelly's house for two weeks to help Kelly with Matthew and Tyler. After going home for a few days, we went on our cruise. Now I've been home for a week and......guess what I'm doing on Saturday? Traveling again!

Where am I going? Here's a hint......I'm going to meet someone small, new and pretty. Also I'm going to see someone big, handsome, and interesting to talk to. Stay tuned and find out where I'm going next.....

(After this next trip, I promise to stay home for awhile.)

Monday, May 11, 2009

May 6 Venice

Today was the last day of our trip and it was perfect! During the morning our ship was sailing through the islands approaching Venice. People gathered at the railing on the front of the ship to watch. As we got came near to the city, a small boat attached to the front of our ship and guided us in. We docked in Venice about 11AM so then were free to go ashore. We decided to walk to the city which took just a few minutes. Soon we could see wide and narrow canals with lots of different modes of water transportation: water taxis, small rowboats, motor boats, many kinds. Venice was more than I imagined: the central feature of water making it unique. We enjoyed walking through narrow streets next to canals. So beautiful.
This evening was one of my favorite experiences from the trip. We had an evening gondola ride through the city. First we went by water taxi to the gondola station. After a walk through the central section, we boarded our gondolas. To our surprise, our gondola featured the musical entertainment, an accordion player and tenor singer to serenade our group of gondolas as we rode through the narrow canals of Venice finally arriving at the Grand Canal. One of the houses that we passed had an inscription that it was Mozart’s house when he was living here in Venice. As we were enjoying our gondola ride, the lights of the city came on and it was truly charming.
Early tomorrow morning we prepare for our journey home. We will be transported to the Venice airport for a flight to Amsterdam, then continuing later to Detroit. It was a perfect trip. Everything went smoothly and was very enjoyable.

May 5 Dubrovnik, Croatia

As I look out our window I can see a bay with sailboats and blue water surrounded by high mountains, the town of Dubrovnik with white stucco houses and orange tile roofs. It is a beautiful place full of tourists from all over speaking many languages. We Americans are a minority here but regardless I am always recognized as an American. I always wonder why that is; what makes me look American? I don’t know.
This morning we gathered for a tour called “Dubrovnik’s Riviera”. We went by bus out in the countryside along the sea to a small village named Cavtat, a very beautiful place. We had wonderful views along the way. We got out for awhile and had time to walk around. Always on the tours we have a native guide who speaks English, giving a lot of information about the history and whatever we’re looking at. Then we went by bus back to Dubrovnik stopping in the old part of town which dates back several hundred years to watch a folkloric show. The dancers had very colorful costumes and good dancing skill. (I have short videos to show on my blog later.) Then we could walk through the old town which featured a fortress like wall with moat and high gates. We have seen many seaside fortifications like this which included high walls for protection from invaders from the sea.
This afternoon we will be sailing to our final destination, Venice. Usually the ship is sailing while we are sleeping and during the day is in a port so we can get off and explore. The captain just announced that our speed will be about 23 mph and we will cover a couple hundred miles tonight.
We have a required disembarkation meeting in a while so they can explain to us what happens when we leave the ship in Venice. Also the crew will be saying goodbye to us. I think it will be a musical program with the crew singing. The Cabin cleaners and dining room workers are from Indonesia and the Philippines. They are always smiling and cheerful.

May 4

Today we were in Corfu, Greece. It is a sunny town with a gorgeous bay filled with sailboats, yachts, ferries, and cruise ships. After breakfast we set out to explore the town. It is filled with all kinds of stores, some high end, lots of sunglass shops . Every town we’ve been to is congested with traffic so that it’s a little scary to cross the road. I’m finding things very expensive, maybe double or triple what I’d expect to pay, so I just haven’t shopped but enjoyed walking around and seeing things. We always go to a supermarket whenever we come on one to see the different items in that kind of store.
This is an eating cruise. There is a large buffet restaurant on the 9th floor of the ship where you can eat almost any time. The buffet has a salad bar, Asian corner with sushi, rice, noodles, a couple of entrees, an Italian corner, a sandwich line, a dessert line, and offering various main dishes like fish, chicken, vegetarian, all kinds of food. Also there is a special dining room where we can make reservations and be served as in a high end restaurant. Usually when we make those reservations we are seated with various other people so we’ve made new friends and had lots of interesting conversations. Last night it was two couples from Holland and a Korean American professor and his wife. This evening we had dinner with a lovely and interesting British couple. Also there are a few other places to eat on the ship. In fact you could almost eat for 24 hours and the food is quite good. (I feel kind of fat! I did walk loops around the deck this afternoon for 40 minutes but…….)

May 3

Today we are in Katakolon, Greece. There is a very beautiful seaside community; the weather is warm and sunny.
This morning we had a tour called “Ancient Olympia and Zorba”. We got on a bus and rode for about 40 minutes to the ancient city of Olympia, the site of the first Olympics, which dates back several centuries before Christ. The ruins are there, some in not great condition because of earthquakes, destruction by various people, and fires. I actually ran (jogged) the length of the ancient stadium and I have a video to prove it!) for snacks and a Zorba show. The snacks included Greek wine (orzo?? Not sure if that’s spelled right), olives, meatballs, cheeses, bread, vegetables, and watched a show of Greek dancing. It was fun.
When we arrived back to our ship, we decided to walk through the town of Katakolon, a very touristy but beautiful place. I’m not doing any shopping, finding everything very expensive, but it’s fun to walk around and see everything.

This is a video of our tour group and guide.

May 2

Today we are at Navplion, Greece. Tony has a cold/laryngitis and needed to take it easy so I was on my own in this small Grecian town. Some lifeboats were put down into the water and used as water taxis to take us to the shore as our ship is anchored out in the bay. I was surprised because I didn’t know the lifeboats were used in this way. I felt a little nervous being by myself for the day but I thought I should take advantage of the opportunity to see this town. Again the weather was perfect; sunny and just a little chill on the water but perfect temperature in the town. Navplion has a very high hill with a fortress on top; 1000 steep steps lead to the top of the hill, so of course the first thing I did was to climb the hill! The view from the top was outstanding! Next I hiked to a fortress located nearer the water. These ancient towns all had fortresses and protection usually in the form of high walls in case enemies were on the way. How lacking in protective powers a 15 foot wall is today! Next I walked all around the town, finding a very large farmer’s market active, being that it’s Saturday morning. All the fruits and vegetables looked so fresh. I especially noticed the artichokes which are so available here. Even though Navplion is a small town, the traffic was pretty congested through the winding and narrow streets. You have to about step into traffic in order to cross the street. One more thing I did which I always enjoy in a foreign country was to visit the “supermarket”. This is my second supermarket for this trip, having gone to one in Italy already. Supermarkets show what average people are buying and for every place it is a little different.
Almost every evening there is entertainment with professional level singers, dancers, and others. Last night was a dancing show; probably 10 young men and ladies provide a Las Vegas style show for maybe 45 minutes, twice in the evening, in a large theater area.

I sound pretty out of breath in the video because I had just climbed the mountain!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

May 1
Today we were at sea all day; it was a sunny and very relaxing day. The temperature was probably in the high 60’s; it felt good to wear a sweater or jacket. Every time I started to read my book, I dozed off. People were sunbathing, sitting in deck chairs, enjoying the view of the sea.
We were invited to a special lunch today hosted by the captain and his staff. It was a lovely lunch and we were seated with a mother and daughter from the Yukon, a lady from NYC, and a couple from somewhere else. Everyone on board is very friendly and it’s easy to meet people.
By tomorrow morning we will be docking in Navplion, Greece. It is a small town with ancient fortresses. From the map we were given, it appears small enough to walk around which we plan to do after breakfast.

Usually the sea was very calm and the waves were hardly noticeable, but this evening there was a rolling sea so I shot a video to show this. It is pleasant to go to sleep with the motion of the waves, like being rocked to sleep. I have not experienced seasickness.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

April 30

Today we are in Messina, Sicily, Italy. Our ship is docked on the strait of water between mainland Italy and the island of Sicily. It was a beautiful sunny day so it was exciting as our ship arrived just before lunch.
This afternoon we had a bus tour to Mt. Etna, the largest active volcano in Europe. There was a 1 ½ hour bus ride (40 miles on the steep and winding roads) gradually going through towns and villages, edging up the mountainside, sharply navigating the hairpin curves of the road. I admire the bravery of the bus driver; so many times it seemed impossible to make the next curve. In fact, he would often blow his horn as the curve approached to let an oncoming car know we were there.
Mt. Etna is amazing. There is black rock for miles. It has erupted often, most recently within perhaps the last 5 years or so. Near the top where the bus parked, we walked around and it was so cold and windy! I had on three layers but was still cold. The wind could almost knock you over. From Mt. Etna you can see across the villages and countryside all the way to the Mediterranean. It was spectacular.
Tomorrow we are invited for a special lunch with the Captain (along with, I’m sure, dozens of other people?!?) We will be at sea all day on our way to Greece.

The video is very noisy because it was extremely windy up on the mountain; also it was very cold, the coldest I ever felt on this trip.

April 29
We arrived at Civitavecchia, Italy, last evening. This is the port nearest Rome. This morning we met our tour bus at 8:30 AM for the 1 ½ hour drive to the city. It was a long day with a lot of walking in a very big and congested city but we saw some amazing sights.
First we headed to the Colosseum and had a chance to go inside and appreciate how huge it is, and how amazing that it was built at the time it was made with lack of machines and only manpower to do it. Next we went to the Vatican and St. Peter’s. It also is larger than I ever imagined. We didn’t have enough time to go inside the Vatican, unfortunately, but we could see much of the outside areas.
We walked all day until we met out bus for the return trip at 4:45 PM. Arriving back at the ship, we were very tired and hungry so we had a great dinner tonight. It was Italian night aboard ship with swordfish, various pastas, and Italian desserts such as tiramisu. We have one tour later in the day tomorrow so I’m planning a good night’s sleep and to take it easy tomorrow morning.

April 28
Today we are in Livorno Italy, a small town on the edge of the Mediterranean. This morning we took a shuttle into the town and did a lot of walking. It is surrounded by an ancient wall and moat but has a modern downtown area. We happened on a parade of the naval academy with representatives from many countries marching. The weather was better today; sunny, cool enough for a light jacket, very pleasant. This evening there is a violinist performing;the picture shows us in the dining room on the ship.

Friday, May 08, 2009

April 27

Today we arrived in Monte Carlo about noon. It was raining heavily much of the day; at this moment it is cloudy and cool, but it’s okay, when you’re on vacation and especially a trip like this, some days will have better weather than others.
As I look out the window I can see Monte Carlo right before me on the mountainside. There are uncountable yachts, bigger and fancier than anything I’ve seen before, just a few hundred feet away. We are lucky because we have a little outside verandah just outside our room and it faces the bay with perhaps the best view from the ship.
After lunch we set off with raincoats walking and we walked to the palace and the downtown area. The Grand Prix is coming in about 3 weeks so there are many preparations for it. It surely is a beautiful place especially when the sun shines!This turned out to be the only completely rainy day of our entire trip. I think we went at the perfect time of year because it was just a little cool; I can't imagine doing this cruise in the heat of summer.

April 26

Today we had an excursion in Barcelona. At every port there are many excursions offered for passengers on the ship with a great range in pricing; we chose a few of the lesser expensive options. A bus tour of the city gave us many views that we had not seen before. The first stop was at the Barcelona Cathedral, a huge and ornate building with many chapels and interior scaffolding. I was reminded of The Pillars of the Earth (one of my favorite books.) Suddenly a very strong rainstorm hit us; we had our raincoats so I felt pretty lucky. A little while later the sun was out!
Next we went to a flamenco show, very beautifully done as you can see in my little video. The performers were energetic and seemed to be enjoying themselves.
Next we went to Gaudi’s church, La Segrada Famillia, a work in progress. You can see in the picture that it is so beautiful.

April 25

The first day of our Mediterranean cruise! Yes, a major recession is going on in the world and pirates are attacking ships, but Tony and I are on a cruise! My philosophy is that we don’t know what happens in the future; we are healthy and this is the time to do what we enjoy.
We are on Holland America’s Oosterdam having traveled on Holland America to Alaska last August and found this a pleasant and comfortable way to travel. The ship becomes your hotel; other passengers are friendly and kind; the staff takes care of everything; food and accommodations are well planned.

We just returned from our trip last evening. While we were on the ship, internet service was very expensive so I saved all my postings, using my netbook that I take everywhere with me, and will upload them starting today. I feel so lucky that I was able to experience a trip like this. We had a wonderful time, but as in all good vacations, we're really glad to be home again!

Here is a short video showing our room on the ship: