Wednesday, December 29, 2010

It's the MOST wonderful time of the year!

I LOVE the Fall season and PART of Winter. I say PART, because it doesn’t even start until December 20th something and then I ONLY like winter up through January 1st!


I love Fall for the bright and vibrant colors of the changing leaves, pumpkins and other such things relating to the harvest season, the slight Chill that enters the air AND for college football season! Thanksgiving is also a wonderful time to spend with family and friends and to think of the many blessings in my life.


But, I think I love the month of December more than any other month! I LOVE the Christmas Holiday season!! And, here’s why. My top ten:


10. The "cheer" and excitement in the air... for the most part people are nicer this time of year!


9. Holiday movies that bring back memories of my childhood (like Frosty the Snowman) or just make me laugh and laugh (ELF!)


8. Receiving Christmas cards in the mail with pictures and updates on friends/extended family that I don't get to talk to as often


7. Decorating and the holiday decorations and sitting in front of a fire place with the lights off except for the tree


6. The yummy food and treats :)... and the holiday parties!


5. The chance to think about what others need and buy it for them without them wondering why you did it


4. A quiet day at home with family/friends and knowing I don't have ANY reason to be running errands or out and about


3. The Music!! I could listen all day long. I have a special place in my heart for O Holy Night and Carol of the Bells!


2. Family coming together or talking for a while on the phone


And, drumroll please...

The number 1 reason:
1. Jesus Christ: He has brought meaning to my (and everyone's) mortal existence and has given us the gift of eternal life! His is the perfect example of how I should live and it is because of him that I can feel hope, peace and joy not only during the Christmas season... but all year long!

There’s just some “magic” about this season… and I think it comes down to people letting the “Spirit of Christ” enter their heart... whether they believe in Him or not! It changes people and I think it’s a ripple effect. The change in one person’s heart and outlook, changes another, etc.

This December was just incredible for me and I feel very blessed. Here are some pictures to show some of the highlights, but really, when it comes down to it, the magic and wonder of Christmas is, for me, everything included in my top ten list… with number one being the best!


A couple of friends of mine organized the most elegant and fun Christmas party I have been to (ever, maybe). It was held at a beautiful home in Potomac, MD where there were more rooms on the first floor than rooms in my whole house! It was beautifully decorated for the holidays, and there were place settings for all 30 of us! I felt it such an honor to be invited!

We were told to wear our "best dress". Well, that slightly panicked me because
I don't own a dress! Crazy, huh? I own lots of skirts, nice sweaters and shirts, but no dresses, especially no fancy ones. I always have problems finding one that is the right length and not too short. It seems like the cute knee length dresses always fall way to short for me. And, because I wear jeans and warmups to work, my wardrobe has not needed any adjustments! So, I decided to give it another try and headed to Macy's on a Saturday in December. Me and a gazillion other people, but OH - I found a dress (2 actually!) And adorable black shoes and jewelry too! A definite splurge, but a very fun one! And, I got enough compliments at the party to make it worth EVERY cent!

We were asked to bring either a talent to share or a dessert. The choice was easy for me and I started to look through my cookbooks! Others were adventurous...

Practicing for the debut of (as I call it) the "Ho, Ho, Ho" song. Hilarious
Friends awaiting the talent portion of the evening.

Michelle - Looking adorable as a reindeer!
Chad and Chelsea taking their turn to participate in the "Ho, Ho, Ho" song!
Russ and Brad then taking their turn too!
Definitely one of the hits from the evenings talents.
These were the four girls who were the masterminds behind the party... and shared their special talent as well (learned and mastered that same day!)
Caroling around the piano
Chelsea, Michelle and I

Now transitioning. My employment this year as a nanny, means so much more than just tending children! I have many varied tasks and responsibilities, and one of them was decorating for Christmas. I will NEVER forget my reaction when I first saw this tree and the **** I went through in putting lights on it. I can look back now and laugh (a little), but I will never forget it!
I just don't think this picture does the tree justice! The room has vaulted ceilings, and as you can see it's taller the bookshelves, which are probably at the normal height of a ceiling. I had to use a ladder to get to the tippy top. It's also about 6 feet wide... maybe 7. It had to be delivered by a special truck! Despite my initial interaction with it, it was quite beautiful in the end. But, the entire time I envisioned a squirrel jumping out of it like in the movie National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation!

Christmas EVE!
I invited my mom, brother and sister in law over to the house where I work since they were out of town. We enjoyed dinner, sitting around the fire, and then a fun game afterwards that my sister in law introduced us to! It was such a wonderful evening! I love time with family!
Mom by the ever-famous tree!
Evan :)
Then, this is the tree in my apartment! My roommate totally decked out our kitchen and family room and I loved it! It was fun to sit by the tree at night with the lights off and just enjoy the beauty of it! So... this is me in my pjs all full of excitement for Santa to come :)

Christmas Day!
and
Turkey DISASTER!
I had a PERFECT Christmas holiday. It was quiet, but just wonderful. My brother and Madison came over later in the morning to open gifts. I got some things I had asked for, as well as some very nice pieces of clothing my sister in law had picked out!

Madison and Evan also wanted to host Christmas dinner. They had invited Madison's cousin and her family to join as well. All my mom and I had to do was bring the turkey! Easier said than done. My mom has made many
turkeys in her motherhood years... no sweat right?

Well, it would have turned out perfectly if my oven had 1. Heated up & 2. Not turned itself off TWICE! We didn't realize number 1 till after an hour of cooking. And, we didn't realize number 2 until 2 hours into the cooking!

So, needless to say, 30 minutes before we are supposed to be at Evan's, I call and say we're going to be 30 min late. My mom and I take the turkey out of the oven and slice it into pieces. We then cook those pieces on the stove top like it's chicken breast! Pretty creative! We only cook enough for our dinner and then I take the basically raw turkey out to the dumpster.

Raw turkey getting sliced!

FORTUNATELY, dinner guests were very flexible and not "die-hard must have" drumstick and gravy or dark meat kind of people to make their Christmas dinner a success! Madison had made everything else for the dinner and it was all wonderful! We had fun getting to know her cousin and her cousins family and spending time just talking. So nice! They had a cute little 6 month old baby who was the star of the evening as well!

Mom and Evan setting the table
My mom isn't that short... he's just really tall!
Evan and Madison's Christmas tree!
It's really unique in that 98% of the ornaments are all hearts. In her family, each child has a theme for ornaments they are given over the years. She is a heart. They have labeled Evan with ships! So, there is one ship ornament on their tree and one White House 2010 ornament (which I gave them.) Every other ornament is a heart!
Evan and Madison
Family :)
I am always a bit melancoly when the holidays are over. Such a wonderful time of year. Fortunately for me, I had the week in between Christmas and New Years off... and was able to come home to PA for some of it! There really is NO PLACE LIKE HOME!... But, Christmas is where your family is, and that was what made it wonderful! Maybe some year we can ALL be together instead of spread out between Washington, Colorado and DC!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

A quote I want to remember

Overheard someone saying at a coffee shop while I was getting hot chocolate: Gets me thinking!
"I don't want to do something I don't enjoy even if it pays well because money can come back, my day cannot"- Random dude at Starbucks

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Finding Christ in Christmas

It's the Christmas Season and I love listening to Christmas music in my car. Today was no exception as I headed off to church. It was a great 3 hours worth of meetings, lessons and ultimately... people just talking about Christ and their love for him.

On my way home, I was thinking about what I had just partaken of at church and about my love for the Savior. I wasn't really listening to the music until I stopped at a light and tuned in to this song. Here it is on youtube

Here are the lyrics:
How Many Kings by Downhere

Follow the star to a place unexpected
Would you believe after all we’
ve projected
A child in a manger

Lowly and small, the weakest of all
Unlikeliness hero, wrapped in his mothers shawl
Just a child
Is this who we’
ve waited for?

Cause how many kings, stepped down from their thrones?
How many lords have abandoned their homes?
How many greats have become the least for me?
How many Gods have poured out their hearts
To romance a world that has torn all apart?
How many fathers gave up their sons for me?

Bringing our gifts for the newborn savior
All that we have whether costly or meek
Because we believe
Gold for his honor and frankincense for his pleasure
And myrrh for the cross he’ll suffer
Do you believe, is this who we’
ve waited for?
It’s who we’ve waited for

How many kings, stepped down from their thrones?
How many lords have abandoned their homes?
How many greats have become the least for me?
How many Gods have poured out their hearts
To romance a world that has torn all apart?
How many fathers gave up their sons for me?
Only one did that for me

All for me
All for you
All for me
All for you

....
So, yet again, I was in tears listening to these lyrics in the car. Recently, I was reading a talk about the Savior from our church's 2009 Christmas Devotional. Here's a link to it: In summary, it's about "Seeing the Savior"... or "Seeing Christ in Christmas". President Uctdorf describes how the Savior didn't appear as many thought He would when He was here on earth. He was born in a humble stable to a carpenter. He was not given a worldly education. He was not wealthy and didn't hold a political office. He walked among the poor and humble.

Many yearned for the day the Christ would come... but, yet, when He walked among them they were blinded by their interpretation of what He would be... that they missed seeing him. They remained self-righteous and didn't let the Spirit touch their hearts.

As the song states:

"Follow the star to a place unexpected
Would you believe after all we’ve projected
A child in a manger

Lowly and small, the weakest of all
Unlikeliness hero, wrapped in his mothers shawl
Just a child
Is this who we’ve waited for?

Cause how many kings, stepped down from their thrones?
How many lords have abandoned their homes?
How many greats have become the least for me?
How many Gods have poured out their hearts
To romance a world that has torn all apart?
How many fathers gave up their sons for me?"

I got to thinking... If I had lived here when the Savior was on the earth, would I have been blinded by my own vision of who He was and by my own personal pursuits? And, even today? Do I let the glitz and glamor of the season get in the way of me realizing WHAT I am really celebrating? Do my lips talk of the Savior, but my actions lead to worldly pursuits?

Because, SERIOUSLY:

How many kings, stepped down from their thrones?
How many lords have abandoned their homes?
How many greats have become the least for me?
How many Gods have poured out their hearts
To romance a world that has torn all apart?
How many fathers gave up their sons for me?

In answer to all of these: None that I can think of...

But ONE

Only one did that for me!!!

All for me
All for you
All for me
All for you!!!!

I am SO GRATEFUL for my elder brother, Savior, and friend. I am so GRATEFUL for those who DID see the Savior for who he was when he lived here on the earth, and that we can read about their journey and experience with him. I am so GRATEFUL that my Savior died for ME so that I could return to him again. I am SO GRATEFUL for the Christmas season every year to take the time to seek "the Lamb of God, the King of Glory, the Everlasting Light of the World, the Great Hope of Mankind, the Savior and Redeemer of our souls!"

Saturday, December 4, 2010

A "Friendsgiving"

As one of my friends put it so nicely, this Thanksgiving was a "Friendsgiving" and it was absolutely wonderful!

Martha Stewart would have been impressed and I think that was their goal :) These 3 fabulous and talented women got together to host a Thanksgiving dinner this year... and let nothing that might seem "over the top" get in their way! Nothing was left behind! They could host the next show for Martha. Aprons and all.
Sleep-deprived and still all smiles
Melissa, Chelsea and Michele

A little background on how I ended up here...

Originally, my mom, brother and sister-in-law were going to get together for a family dinner. A month before the big day, it ended up being best for my mom to fly out to Colorado to spend some time with her grandchildren while their mom had to travel for work for most of November. So, then we were down to just the three of us...

But, about a week before the big day, my brother calls to ask how much I would hate him if he went out of town with my sister-in-law for Thanksgiving! I had to laugh at how he approached it, but of course I said it was OK with me. Thanksgiving, ever since I left for BYU, has been more of a "Friendsgiving" than a Family Thanksgiving. Now, if this had been Christmas and they deserted me, I would have not been OK with it, but Thanksgiving is OK. Christmas seems more family-centered in my opinion, and besides, all of my friends would have been home with their families so I wouldn't have had a place to go anyway!

Well, here is a picture of the impressive set-up. We had "chargers"! (Yep... didn't even know what those were until I asked on Thanksgiving! And, for those who don't know, they are the largest plate beneath all the others in a table setting). We had butter cut out in fall shapes, a printed menu at each spot, a placecard in the shape of a boat (to symbolize the pilgrims!), candles, scented pinecones and other such decorations, wine glasses (for the Martinelli's!!), etc. You think of it... we had it! I was so impressed! Now mom... don't be offended... but this was probably the nicest Thanksgiving table set-up that I've ever been to!
Here's a picture of my setting
See the "1621 ship" with my name on it?
Cool, huh?!!!!
The food was incredible, the company was fun (there were about 15 of us), and it made me realize how much I feel like DC is now my "home". I feel comfortable here. I never felt this in my 6 years in Boston despite the many blessings I received when I was there. I met some incredible people, had wonderful friends and roommates, and opportunities abound... but it just never felt like "home" or where I belonged.

I am so grateful for the friends I have here, the jobs I've had and have, and for living in such an area that's richly blessed with diversity, history and opportunity.

Thanksgiving day here in DC was overcast and a bit chilly, but warmth and merriment abounded with flowers as pretty as these and smiles and beautiful as Melissa's!
Happy Friendsgiving!!!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A visit to our Nation's Capitol Building!

Last Saturday I had the opportunity to take a tour of the U.S. Capitol building with a group of women from my church congregation. One of them is the niece of Senator Bob Bennet (R, UT) and he had agreed to take us on a tour.

I was also lucky to be accompanied by a male! Yes. The only male. But, I should mention that he is about 9 inches tall and is flat. Yes, flat.

Have you ever heard of Flat Stanley? You can read more about him here but long story short, he was flattened by a bulletin board falling on him and decides to take advantage of his flattened
state... by sliding under doors, etc. Well, he can also go through the mail, so my friend's daughters class sent him all over the country/world this year to see what knew experiences he could have. They asked his hosts to take pictures with him and send them back with some additional information about their town. What better place to take him in DC than the U.S. Capitol!

And, here he is.
He was very polite and well-behaved
the entire time!

This is another cool picture of the Capitol and the Washington Monument I found online and wanted to post.

Well, more women showed up than expected (over 80 of us!), so we had to split into two groups. But, before we split, Senator Bennet shared with us some of his favorite memories of working in that building. His is retiring from government service at the end of this term (in January), so it was really neat to hear from him because he has served in government for so long! He shared stories such as... remembering exactly where he was on the Senate side of the building when he found out that President Kennedy has been shot. He also had the privilege of escorting President Bush and Cheney out of the Capitol building in front of 4 million watching viewers during the inauguration of President Obama.

Here are some of the cool things I learned and saw:

The Rotunda: It is a circular space that serves as a gallery of paintings and sculpture of American historical figures and events.

Picture of the upper walls.
Very intricate art detail.
The apotheses. The very top of the ceiling.
Everything painted has meaning.
Learn more about it here.
The Senate and House literally split the rotunda right down the middle. Both have control over who lies there for viewing after their death and I thought it was really cool that they lean the casket to one side if a member of senate/house!

Brigham Young Statue: For UTAH!

The concept of a National Statuary Hall originated in the middle 19th century, even before the completion of the present House wing in 1857. At that time, the House of Representatives moved into its new larger chamber and the old vacant chamber became a thoroughfare between the Rotunda and the House wing.

It was decided that all the States would provide and furnish two statues, in marble or bronze, of deceased persons who were citizens thereof, and historically renown or distinguished for their civic or military services

All state statues were placed in National Statuary Hall. However, the aesthetic appearance of the Hall began to suffer from overcrowding after 65 statues were put in there… so then they decided to spread them out in other areas of the Capitol. I was born the year Ronald Regan started his presidency and I have always admired him even though I didn't know much about what he did while he was serving his two terms! I saw this statue and I had to take a picture. But then, our tour guide told us his statue was unique in that a layer on the bottom contained some of the pieces of the Berlin Wall because he played a significant role in that coming down. If you look closely in the picture, you can see the change in color near the top. It was also neat to say that I touched part of the Berlin Wall on this trip!
We also saw the Old Supreme Court room which is located in the Capitol. It was used from 1810-1860
Finally, this is a picture of the room where Congress meets
although, I didn't take this picture!
Some other cool, cool facts I learned about the Capitol Building!

1. Construction began in 1793 and the original building was finished in 1826, but it was being used long before that. The first Congress met on November 17, 1800

2. No building in DC can be more than 13 stories high! There is a law stating this because they want to be able to always have a view of the Capitol and the Washington monument. The top of the U.S. Capitol is 209 feet lower than the Washington Monument.

3. No one is buried in the Capitol, but there was a tomb area created for George Washington's body! However, after reviewing his will they knew his expressed wish was to be buried at Mount Vernon. So much for all that work to create the tomb. Lesson learned to check things first!

It was awesome to have this opportunity! I am so glad to live so close to our nation's capital! Flat Stanley enjoyed it as well and is now on his way back to some 2nd graders in Arizona with pictures from his visit!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A sad farewell... and a new beginning...

To my ever faithful, hardworking, humble

Toaster Oven

You've lived through the past few years with me, traveled through many states, worked hard for me at all hours of the day and you have never failed me.

But, the time has come. Not necessarily by my wish, or plan, for you. It seems too soon. I was given you by a fabulous roommate in Boston, after you served her well for so many years. I knew I could always count on you to toast my bread to perfection, and reheat my pizza better than any microwave could ever do.

However, the time has come for us to move on from each other... basically because my mom thinks you're going to burn down my apartment one day (she doesn't know you as well as I do and she never learned the phrase "Don't judge a book by its cover.")... and because it did smell like smoke in our hallway when I used you this past week (but I think that was most likely coming from a neighbors apartment since I'll never lose faith in you!!)

You've served me well and I will truly miss you. Thank you for helping to make so many yummy meals for me! I hope you enjoy your rest and find friends you knew from your manufacturing days as you join them in the junkyard.

Moving on...

Meet my new friend! We haven't had the chance to bond yet over a meal, but will later on today.



The Cuisinart® Convection/Broiler Toaster Oven features the convenience of Total Touch® touchpad controls, consistent shade control, and an Exact Heat™ sensor to maintain precise oven temperature. And its large enough to fit a 12" pizza!

I'm excited to learn what "consistent shade control" means for when I toast my bread because I never knew light was a factor in getting the perfect toast! I am also excited for the muscles I will build lifting my new friend when I put it away after each use because it weighs 22.8 lds... but here's to roasting my first small chicken! ... and maybe now I'll be inspired to actually cook something :)

Past roommates and family will understand why I just wrote that! :)

Saturday, November 6, 2010

ALASKA PART 1

This has taken me too long to post!!! But, this was such an amazing trip. Here's the first post.

Sunday - Seattle, WA
Monday - The Alaskan Inside Passage, AK
Tuesday - Juneau, AK

CRUISE DAY!

PORT: SEATTLE, Washington


I had never been on a cruise, and despite all I had heard from friends, I was still a BIT skeptical as to


WHAT I would do all day??!

I am an active person and I like to transition from something to something and not doing one thing all day long. For instance, I can NOT sit on a beach all day and read. Give me one hour and then something else to do. AHDH? Yep - I have self-diagnosed this for me! So, a little nervous about the cruise before we left!


My mom and I had plenty of time to get to the boat before we had to board, but we heard it was fun to get on early and enjoy the buffet lunch (not like we wouldn’t have it for the next seven days!!), and to get acquainted with the ship before we left. So, we had a leisurely breakfast in my favorite hotel in Bellevue and headed into the city mid-morning. (we didn't have to be on board till 3 or something.)


It was an overcast/cloudy morning with a little drizzle. Not an ideal situation, but the best of our options... I dropped my mom off at the cruise with all our luggage. It was a madhouse at the port! I will never forget the totally illegal turn I made in the middle of the street while a cop stared at me, and I held up traffic on both sides, just so I didn’t get stuck in the madhouse traffic (mind you, this is after stopping in the street to let me mom out and unload our luggage!)

I AM PROUD OF THE WAY I DRIVE!!! :)

Anyway, I left her there so I could drive about 12 blocks away and return the car (straight uphill! As noted in previous post, I couldn’t believe how steep it was!). Well, I was lucky enough with my timing, that just as I was returning the car it decided to start to drizzle, so I ran the 12 blocks in the rain (fortunately mostly downhill) to meet my mom who was also standing in the rain! Whew. Somehow we both remained cheerful during all of this! By the time I got there I was also sweating and wet… so much for looking cute when I got onboard!


We waited in long lines to board the ship, and I loved this because I am such a people watcher. I love making up stories in my head of how everyone is related, where they’re from and why did they choose to go on this cruise! We were surrounded by people of all ages, and some of the kids kept trying to butt in front of others (while dragging their suitcases) so they could move faster in the line… that got slightly annoying, but I had to remember the excitement I felt as a child with certain things and how hard it was to WAIT!


I also felt like a fish out of water because everyone seemed to know what they were doing, but my mom and I were SO confused! Fortunately, we learned early on, that EVERYONE who works for a cruiseline is there to MEET and EXCEED your needs! So, we had very helpful, and patient people help us along the check-in process!


Around the time we got on, the sun decided to show its face! We made our way to the Garden CafĂ© (the buffet!!) and I was shocked! I had been worried they wouldn’t have any healthy food… or food I liked, but OH MY WORD! It was the largest buffet I have ever seen of foods from ALL around the world and a huge salad bar with anything I could imagine putting on my salad! I was IN heaven! Literally, I think I went to the buffet three or four times (Why? I ask myself now that now!! It’s not like they wouldn’t have that EVERY day, ALL day for the next seven days. But this didn’t dawn on me then!)


We ate and then walked around a bit more before they called out on the loudspeaker that our room was ready. Here are some pictures of the ship and our room… Some places we loved that didn’t make the cut for pictures was the workout room which had a fabulous view of the water, the library, and man,… just the entire ship was beautiful!


The Norwegian Pearl (in Ketchican, Alaska)
Mom and I in the Garden Cafe!
Our 2nd Home and Meeting Place on Board!

On a side note: Ships do everything they can to prevent the spread of illness or disease. I can imagine if one gets sick, ALL get sick! So, they had a rule that anytime you entered one of the dining areas you got a little squeeze of anti-bacterial soap! They called it "washy-washy!" It became such a common phrase and something that made you smile each and every time you heard it! We also made good friends with one of the girl "washy-washy" crew members. **** She always asked me or my mom how we were and where the other was if we were coming in alone. She had a constant smile on her face and such a positive happy attitude. It made me smile just to see her!
Things we never got to use! Some of the kids braved
the temps though when it got sunny and went swimming!
This was my mom's favorite place to go and read.
The Spinnaker Lounge.
We also enjoyed some of the evening entertainment
from these comfy couches!
Our cabin. I have to say I was very surprised by the size when I first saw it. I didn't know how I would live in such a small thing all week long! But, I got used to it quickly and we actually didn't spend too much time in there! Surprisingly, it also had a lot of storage space for all our stuff!! And, this was a four person room. I can't imagine having more than 2!!!
The other half of our cabin. There was a bathroom with a shower, sink and toilet to the left.

After putting some of our stuff away, we went up on deck to enjoy the sunshine and enjoy the view as we left the port.


Mom enjoying the sunshine on the top deck!
leaving Seattle

We spent the rest of the evening, going back to the buffet for dinner (!!) and enjoying the evening show! FUN!!!


MONDAY


Monday was our day where we spent all day on board as we sailed all the way to one of our top destinations in Alaska, Juneau. It was a rainy, overcast day. We had heard this might be the weather everyday… so we were prepared… and fortunately we could stay inside the ship all day!


I woke up crazy early because I was still on east coast time and because we gained an hour by going to Alaska (had no idea they were 4 hours behind EST!). But, I’ll take an hour whenever I can get it! So, I got up and worked out (which I did EVERY day on this trip because 1. I had the time; 2. I ate SO much food!!) I didn’t realize how hard running could be on a boat rocking back and forth! Fortunately, our trip was smooth for the most part, or maybe I just grew accustomed to it, but I do remember this morning being hard to run so I had to hold on to the treadmill! I joined my mom at the buffet for breakfast and we planned out our day after reviewing the ship's daily schedule! We had some fun classes to attend and activities galore! Everything from health and beauty, to fitness, to informational classes about the towns we would visit, to organized family games, etc. Endless! And, of course the buffet was open all day long… just in case you had that strong urge for ice cream or a cookie! It was hilarious because I think I saw some of the same kids with ice creams in their hands all day long the first two days. It must have been dessert heaven for them too!


Norwegian is different in that it does freestyle dining. Meaning, you can dine whenever you want, and wherever you want. I loved this option because I didn’t want to be tied down to a certain time to eat if there was something I wanted to do onboard at that time as well. There was always the buffet, but you could also make reservations at some of the special restaurants as well. We did that only one night… simply because the buffet had more options and was just so dang good! And, I am not a formal diner anyway. Well, I think I loved the buffet more than my mom… but she was so patient with me on this trip and she is very easy to please!


I thought it was so funny how that even in the specialty restaurants, you could order whatever you wanted, as many orders as you wanted, and just endless amounts of food. If you wanted five desserts – Cool! No questions asked! I also thought it was amazing to watch the mounds of food that people would pile on their plates.


I was also just so surprised and impressed by the staff. Companies should learn how to train their staff like cruise lines do. These people were so friendly, nice, helpful, and just a pleasure! I was also just amazed and in awe of how a cruise ship runs. Where do the staff go when not on duty? Where do they eat? They just seemed to appear and disappear - like they vanished in the wind when not on duty!


I was also surprised at how well the security remained unseen… except when there was a problem. For instance, one day right before meeting my mom for lunch I heard “Code Alpha” being spoken over the loudspeaker. Hmm… what does that mean, I thought? Ten minutes later, I heard “Code Alpha Stand Down” as I walked to meet my mom in the buffet. Well, when I got there, I was SHOCKED at the number of security and medical people surrounding one woman who had fainted, but seemed to be OK. I thought… where do all these people hang out when there’s no emergency!! I was dying to see the inside workings of the cruise ship, but when the tour was offered later in the week it cost $50 to go on… so I opted to just remain curious!


I quickly learned that many things on board are free, but that they also charge an arm and a leg for many, many other things! They lost money on my mom and I, I think… because we didn’t drink, didn’t gamble, didn’t use the spa, and didn’t shop on board! I was amazed how the onboard casino was packed all hours of the day and how many people just ordered whatever they wanted to drink and signed the bill away. I would have loved to see their bills at the end of the cruise! It’s so easy for money to quickly add up on a cruise if you’re not careful.


Anyway, we had a fabulous day on board and didn’t find ourselves with a lack of stuff to do. We also read some, took a little nap, and just enjoyed relaxing. I also enjoyed just people watching!


Our cruise director, Andy, would come on the loudspeaker and announce what was going on, and he had more energy and enthusiasm than the energizer bunny! I don’t know when he slept… cause he was always awake when I was and I know he stayed up late at the parties they had until 1 or 2 AM!

Here are some pics from Monday as we cruised up Alaska…it was a cloudy day... better pictures of this beautiful state come later in the week.


You can see some of the land through the clouds
TUESDAY - JUNEAU, ALASKA

Fun facts about Juneau – No road in or out and state capital… only sea and air!!!

The area is larger that Rhode Island and Delaware individually and almost larger than both combined! And has a whopping 30,000 people with ONE MILLION coming in each summer on cruise ships!


Tuesday – We didn’t arrive in Juneau until 1 or 2 PM, so we had a nice relaxing morning. It was still overcast so we prepped ourselves with raingear and chose what adventures we wanted to do when we got off the ship. I had done a lot of research, so I knew that we could book an excursion for cheaper when we got off board. The top excursions were: 1. Mt Roberts Tramway (but everyone said to not book that till you got there in case it was cloudy and you wouldn’t be able to see anything… which it was so we didn’t do that!); 2. Dog Sled Tour (way fun, but not in the rain); 3. Zipline (but again, not in the rain); 4. The Red Dog Saloon … ummm not really that appealing; 5. The Mendenhall Glacier – which is what we did!! My mom and I chose to book a roundtrip bus tour to the Mendenhall Glacier which also happened to stop by Homestead Park and some salmon locks. Homestead Park is a scenic outlook across the river from the main part of Juneau. It is a series of stairs leading down to the scenic outlook. A little slippery when wet, but we did get pictures!


Me at Homestead Park.
The main part of Juneau is across the river
Chillin'.
Enjoying the view from the other side of the city!

Our ship from a distance
This was the salmon locke we stopped at. Can you see them? They blended in with the rocks in the river, but there were a TON of salmon!
The river the salmon were coming down

Our featured destination of the Mendenhall Glacier was AMAZING! Because of the rain and amount of time we had there, we didn’t walk all the way to the closest viewing point, but we did get some good pictures and enjoyed touring the museam!


Info about the glacier is here : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mendenhall_Glacier





It was beautiful!!

Tuesday night it was back on board for buffet dinner and some awesome entertainment!


Speaking of entertainment, I was TOTALLY impressed! We had comedian David Naster, who I thought was funny, but also LOVED that he did some workshops during the day for kids who wanted help in dealing with bullies. (I attended and basically it was giving them tools on how to turn around what a bully says to make it funny, etc). He also did a class on finding laughter and happiness even when things are not looking good.


Then there was Shark Bait, two guys who used to be clowns with Ringling Brothers, but left to do highly entertaining shows on NCL with juggling and similar stunts. AND, if that wasn’t enough we also had the group called “Oh What a Night!” … 4 guys who were perform in tribute to “Frankie Valli and The Four Season”. They were incredible! Most of the songs from this original group were produced in the 60s and 70s, but I was amazed at how good they sounded as well as how many I recognized!