Friday, December 30, 2016

Christmas Celebrations

Christmas for us almost always starts Thanksgiving weekend with the Festival of Trees.  I loved this ornament that represents to true meaning of the season to me and decided to scrapbook it.  

Since none of our family was going to be able to join us for Christmas, Bill and I asked Chris if he wanted us to come to Bellingham to spend Christmas with him.  He had to work the whole weekend so he wasn't going to be able to come home.  We also hadn't seen his apartment yet and had some things to take up to him.  So we booked a motel room and decided that Christmas was going to be in Bellingham this year.

We were really hoping that we could find something to do with Chris that would be uniquely Christmas.  I happened upon a website that gave events in Whatcom County and found out that "The Nutcracker" would be playing at the Mt. Baker Theater while we were there.  I immediately knew that this was what we were looking for.  We were all a bit on the weary side.  Chris from working all day and Bill and I from traveling all day.  But we enjoyed the ballet very much.

The Mt. Baker Theater was built in around 1927 and has been restored beautiful.  I had seen the outside on many occasions but this was the first opportunity to see the inside.  

Christopher's apartment is pretty sparse.  And I had to make a few trips to the store to get what we needed to cook with and eat on but we ended up having several lovely meals at his new apartment.  He made us a great salmon pasta dish for Christmas Eve dinner and eggs, bacon and cocktail sausages for Christmas morning breakfast.  Christmas dinner was pork chops with a blueberry sauce, baked potatoes and brussel sprouts.
We took up a few gifts for Chris and Tom and Maddy sent our presents there for us to open.  Some arrived in time and some didn't so we have a few more presents to open when Chris comes home for New Years.  The big "gift" of the weekend was going car shopping with him the day after Christmas.  Unfortunately, Grandma's 18 year old car was becoming less and less reliable so we helped him out with a down payment and helped him pick out a used Prius.  Happy that he has a more reliable mode of transportation now.

It started snowing while Bill and I were driving up to Bellingham.  Not enough to make the roads dangerous yet but enough to start sticking and be pretty.  It was really icy by Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with the temperatures staying at or below freezing the whole time we were up there so we had a White Christmas.  On Christmas Day, it was so pretty out so I asked Bill to go to Lake Padden with me to take some pictures.  Unfortunately when we got there, I was disappointed that the fog level there prevented me from getting some really nice blue sky photos.  But the ones I got were still pretty cool.  Including really cool ice formations on the tree branches.  And it was fun seeing the ducks.
But this foggy look is pretty much what was available to take photos of.

Tom and Maddy weren't able to come home for Christmas.  The Air Force allowed Tom to have vacation time but had to be within 8 hours of driving distance from Wichita.  So no plane trips allowed.  Maddy was dying to go cross country skiing so they found a place in Colorado to go skiing.  They stayed in Keystone and would drive to Frisco to go skiing.  Sounds like that had a great vacation with some really great skiing and dining at the highest restaurant in North America--Alpenglow Stube.  It is at 11,444 feet and they had to take two gondola rides to get up to is.  They went on sleigh rides too.

We got a later start home from Bellingham than we had hoped for but did make it home around dinner time.  I was delighted to find this centerpiece arrangement sitting on our porch.  It had been there for over three days so happy that it was still there when we got home.  Since we were gone so much of the month on our trip to Hawaii and weren't going to be home for Christmas, I did zero decorating for the holidays.  This lovely arrangement has perked up my holiday spirit.

Other than being sick with the flu or really bad cold for two weeks, it was a really lovely holiday.  We got to spend it with Chris and talked to Tom and Maddy a lot over the weekend.  Family is really what it is all about.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Trip of a Lifetime: Hawaiian Cruise

This trip has been a long time coming.  We have never been to the Hawaiian Islands and had never been on a cruise so when some friends mentioned they were going to be cruising in Hawaii--I thought "what better place to spend our 30th anniversary".

Long before we left, I had done all the research and booked our shore excursions.

We started out in Honolulu.  We flew in a day early so that we could go to Pearl Harbor and see the USS Arizona Memorial.  It was a sobering place but so well worth going to.  The next day before we got on the ship, we also went to the air museum on Ford Island.

We got to the ship about noon and hung out by the pool, had some drinks and lunch while we were waiting for our cabin to be ready.  

With it being December, they had started decorating the ship for Christmas.  I really liked how they had decorated the grand staircase in the main lobby in patriotic white and red colors.

Our excursion on Maui was to take a bus to Lahaina and just explore the town on our own.  It was raining most of the time while we were there but we got to see pretty much everything that we wanted to see.  Of course the next day that we hung out on the ship, there wasn't any rain--at least not where we were docked.  We stopped at an old Chinese temple and social club which is now a museum as well as the Baldwin home which was the home of missionaries and is the oldest home in Lahaina.  The largest banyan tree in Hawaii is in Lahaina and covers over a half an acre which is pretty amazing.

We had lunch at a seafood restaurant and on the advice of a friend, we had shave ice with macadamia nut and coconut ice cream while we were in Lahaina.

On Tuesday, we landed in Hilo for a day of touring there.  We chose to go on the volcano tour.  Bill really enjoyed seeing it but wished we had more time to really see the entire park and do some hiking.
 We stopped at the main crater of Kilauea first.  I guess you can usually see some lava spewing from the crater but we didn't see any that day.  Just smoke.  We also stopped at one of the many steam vents that are there, walked through a lava tube and saw Kilauea Iki crater.  We could see people hiking across it and Bill was really itching to do that.  After dinner on the ship that night, we staked out a spot to see the lava flowing into the ocean.  We got within a mile of shore to see it.  Without binoculars, we couldn't really see it well but there was definitely a glow that could be seen for miles away.

 We also went to Rainbow Falls which is in the town of Hilo.

After we went to the falls, we also went through a nearby park where there were a lot of banyan trees but didn't get out of the bus.  It was an area that had been wiped out in typhoon years ago.

Pretty much anywhere you go in Hawaii, there are flowers that you don't see anywhere else.

The night of our anniversary, we went to a Brazilian Churrascaria for dinner.  We had been to one before with Tom and Maddy in Pensacola but that was our only other experience with it so it was a really fun way to celebrate.  We got our pictures taken by the ship photographer, was serenaded by our waiters with "Let Me Call You Sweetheart", and got an anniversary cake to take back to our room with us.

When we got to Kona, we had to take tenders back and forth to shore because the harbor isn't deep enough there to dock a ship.

One of the stops on our bus tour was the Painted Church.  This was Bill's favorite spot in Kona.

My favorite spot was the Place of Refuge.  It was so gorgeous there and we had the perfect day to see it with all those palm trees against the blue sky.  It was pretty much the only "nice" day we had our our trip.  Although it was great to see the blue sky, it was really hot.

So much of the history of the elite and laws of the land are told at this place.

The little bay coming into the royal grounds and place of refuge was beautiful!

After our official tour, we had lunch in Kailua-Kona and stopped by the royal palace and the oldest church in Hawaii.  They were decorating for Christmas so it was fun to see how they decorate there.

Most of the time, we left our port after it was dark at night and arrived at the next port before the sun came up.  Kauai was an exception.  We arrived in Kauai about 0930 in the morning so I was out of the deck taking pictures as we were coming into Nawiliwili Bay to dock. I had been told that Kauai is the most beautiful of the islands and it was pretty clear that is was from what I could see from the deck coming into port.

We had a really long tour day in Kauai--11 hours.  The first thing that was really noticeable there is that there are chickens literally everywhere you look.  Our first stop was at a nice beach that also had the island's place of refuge.  It rained a good part of our trip that day but we did get to see the Spouting Horn.  We had to eat lunch on the bus instead of the beach that we were supposed to eat lunch at because it was raining so hard at that point.

We went to see Opaeka'a Falls.  It was pretty far in the distance but was interesting to see.

Waimea Canyon is billed as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific.  I have never seen the Grand Canyon to compare but Bill and others on our tour said that it may not be as big as the Grand Canyon but it is definitely beautiful and more colorful.

After seeing the canyon, we made a brief stop at Kauai Coffee before we headed to the Kilohana Plantation for the luau.

The food was great and the entertainment was spectacular.  I am told that this luau is different than most because it tells a story of love and travel between Hawaii and Tahiti.

The next day was spent just relaxing and reading on the ship.  As with our other day on the ship, it was sunny instead of raining.
We stayed on deck to watch leaving Nawiliwili Bay and then headed to Na Pali Coast.  We got there in the late afternoon--just before our dinner reservations for the evening.  Our last view of Kauai.  A sentimental moment knowing that our cruise would soon be done in the morning.

I took photos at each of our ports of call and am using this layout as the back cover of my photo album.  This was such a great trip.  I highly recommend it as a way to see all the Hawaiian Islands to get an overview.  I think the two islands that we might return to if the opportunity arises again in the future are Hawaii to see more of the volcano national park and Kauai to see more of the beauty and go places that a tour bus can't go.