Western Caribbean Cruise

I started this post a ways back and realized it was still sitting in my draft folder. Since we can’t get out and get anywhere just now I thought I would finish this one off and post it.

Just before the Christmas holiday B and I went on a cruise. It was our third cruise although this time we went on a different cruise line, MSC. We went with our friends who we went to Cuba with a few years ago.

Our flight to Miami from Seattle was a LONG day with a layover in Houston. Our friends Jim & Christine picked us up at the airport and we stayed with them in their condo that night where we met two others in our group, Peter & Melinda.

Sunday we grabbed an Uber with Peter & Melinda from our condo to the cruise terminal and arrived on the ship around noon. As you get on to the ship you arrive on a shopping level [five?] with this amazing ceiling above you. The dome changed photos throughout the day. They even had a “dome show” where they had different iconic ceilings from around the world change to music. It was pretty cool!

Dome

Getting on board didn’t take too long and we headed to the nearest bar for an old fashioned – shaken. Was not expecting that and all of the pulp. The next time I went to that bar I asked for it stirred and that bar tender never forgot from then on.

Old Fashioned Shaken

Monday was a day at sea where we enjoyed the pool and water slides and a Cirque de Soleil show. I have seen several Cirque shows and this one did not disappoint! There was not a bad seat in the house and your ticket [extra just like a shore excursion] came with an adult beverage. Sorry, no photos were allowed.

Tuesday was our first stop, Costa Maya, Mexico. Immediately off of the ship we went through a “tourist village”. Multiple places to eat, shop, swim and relax. They even had a Starbucks.

Starbucks

Flamingos just chillin!

Flamingos

Beautiful bougainvillea all around.

Bouganvilla

We toured a Mayan ruin called Chacchcoben where we were able to get a virtual Geocache. Our first cache in Mexico which earned us a souvenir for the country.

Chacchcoben

Our guide dropped us off at the lighthouse in Mahahual for a cache. I have to say it was not very safe. B & our friend Christine ventured out to get it. IT was in the middle of an island roundabout.

We grabbed a cab and after some interpretation and being taken for a ride [literally] we paid the cab driver more than we agreed to for him to drop us at the Tropicante bar for another Geocache. We enjoyed a beer on the beach and then grabbed another cab back to the cruise terminal.

Tropicante

Wednesday was our second port of call, Belize City, Belize. We had to take a tender in to the port and again there was a “tourist village”.

Belize

After taking some photos we quickly moved through the shops and met our guide for our trip to a second Mayan ruin called Altun Ha. After hiking up Chacchoben the day before I elected to stay on the ground. At one point the sun was getting to me and I opted to sit on a small hill under an Allspice tree and let the breeze wash over me. It was so peaceful!

Allspice Tree at Altun Ha

Below our group at the top of the Sun pyramid.

At The Top

This is a Jaguar built in to the sun pyramid.

Jaguar

Included in our tour was lunch at a local place called The Road House Restaurant. They do not have a website and I cannot find them online. It was literally a stop on the highway between Belize City and Altun Ha. Lunch was chicken, beans and rice. The flavor was really excellent. After we were full we headed back to Belize City with a little tour of town. Our guide dropped us off and B, Rob & I headed out to do some Geocaching.

After a full day playing tourist and my what felt like 30th request to have my hair braided I decided to call it a day and head back to the ship for a nap. B & Rob stayed in town for a while longer.

Thursday was our third stop at the island of Roatan, Honduras. There are two ports on Roatan. We were supposed to be at Coxen Hole but there was already another ship there and we received special permission to dock at Mahogany Bay which is Carnival’s private dock on the island. It was much nicer and again included another “tourist village”. This one was pretty large. There were paths through the woods to the swimming area with areas that would mist you as you walked through.

Below is my friend Christine near a piece of art made from recycled garbage.

Christine and Recycled Art

We located a Geocache and then we were on our way to meet out tour guide. First stop was the Manawakie Eco Nature Park where we were able to hold a sloth. That is Peter behind me playing with The Big Deal’s claws. He was a seven year old sloth. He was much lighter than I expected and had such a serene smile on his face. And yes, he is SLOW!

Sloth

The claws on sloths are crazy long and sharp!

And play with capuchin monkeys who were very cute but also got in to everything! This one managed to get the snaps on B’s pants undone and tried to pull items from his pocket.

Capuchen and Bill

Our driver took us to our next stop the Roatan Rum Company where we sampled rum cake and seven flavors of rum. B purchased a bottle. This is also the highest point on Roatan at 900 feet above sea level.

Highest Point on Roatan

Next we went to the Roatan Chocolate Factory where we purchased a couple bars and then roamed through The Rusty Fish where everything was made from recycled items.

Bill is an Angel

Second photo of B in front of angel wings. Below a Jellyfish. If you look closely you can see faded Coca~Cola bottles.

Jellyfish

We continued on to the Jungle Top Restaurant. They also have a zipline facility. B and I shared a plate of Iguana which was the special of the day. It tasted like chicken but with a lot more bones like fish.

Friday was another day at sea and a second Cirque de Soleil show but due to rougher seas it was canceled.

Saturday we arrived at Ocean Cay, MSC’s private island. We paid for and shared a cabana between the seven of us and it was SO worth it! The building behind our cabana was the bar. It took quite a while to get here from the main part of the island.

Cabana

I settled in with my book and a fruity adult beveridge.

Reading

This was my kind of beach day! It was a bit breezy but a perfect temperature.

B & Rob

The ship is rather large and kind of dwarfs the island. The lagoon is between the ship and where our cabana was.

Ship at Island

We were the second ship on the island and they definingly have some kinks to work out. Only one place to get food which is at least a twenty minute walk from our cabana. Long lines and they ran out of items.

We returned to the ship for a nap, a shower and some food and then back to the island for a parade and fireworks show.

Sunday we were back in Miami and headed home to Seattle with another LOOONG travel day. We did manage to get Geocaches in three cities in the same day. A virtual in Miami, an earth in the Denver airport and another virtual in the Seattle airport.

Takeaways:

  • While the western Caribbean was not high on my bucket list I enjoyed the cruise. My absolute favorite was Roatan and the adorable Sloths and Capuchen monkeys!
  • The beverage package we signed up for ahead of time did not give us much options for adult beverages we would enjoy so we upgraded when we got on board after we tried to order a drink that was not covered. I prefer the price of the beverage package on Norwegian. Their beverage package was at least double that of Norwegian. Same as on the Alaska cruise, when in port they do charge you tax.
  • Upon entering the ship you are inundated with people trying to upsell you on everything. Upgrading you, shore excursions, tickets to the Cirque show, fine dining, you name it. I was not a big fan of that. It did taper off as the week went on.
  • We did not get a dining package and had a set time at a set table in a set restaurant for dinner each night. Our entire group was at that table. Norwegian has what they call Freestyle dining which I liked much better. I did have sushi one night and B and I splurged on a yummy crepe dessert.
  • My Away luggage served its purpose but it was almost too small for the trip and I may consider a larger one for B and I to share along with our carry on’s as we are planning on going on a two week Mediterranean cruise in 2021.
  • We did bring cards and a travel cribbage board but did not end up playing. The book I brought I read a bit on board but mostly on the island on the last day of the cruise and the airplane.
  • We flew United – just NO! The only positive was the free on board movies.
  • We booked shore excursions through our friends we traveled with [they are travel agents] through Trip Advisor. That enabled us to do an excursion in every port because pricing was so much better and in two of the three it was just our group. B did meet a new friend in Costa Maya who was in our group. Much better than a large bus with 100 of your closest fiends. In Costa Maya & Belize we made it to the Mayan ruins before the large tour busses and had the places almost to ourselves.
  • As with Norwegian your “currency” is your room card. You use it at every meal and with every beverage or duty free purchase or activity [go kart’s, shows, gambling, art auctions, etc.]. The cruise line holds a credit card on file and it is run at the end of the trip. In our case we were able to view our balance whenever we wanted on the TV in our room. I brought along a wristlet to keep my room card, phone and chapstick in while on board.
  • We did have the Wifi package. It took a bit of time to get it working correctly and after a few days I got the hang of it. We did not use up all of our “minutes”. We still had to be old school about meeting up. MSC does have an app that you can “text” people in but you need to add friends and isn’t kind of a hassle and doesn’t always work right. Sometimes the message would come in a couple hours after it was sent.
  • I really enjoyed the shows on board and we went to one every night.

Have you ever cruised before?

Loving This Week

Howdie there! I thought I would start doing a weekly roundup of cool things I saw online this past seven days.

Heading in to the weekend the weather is supposed to be nice in my area. Last weekend I eradicated a TON of ivy from our front yard but there is more! I did a little more tonight after logging off my work computer then enjoyed a zoom happy hours with some friends. I intend on continuing the ivy eradication this weekend as well as edging a new bed I am creating.

I have been getting in to baking our bread and have been working from the cookbook Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. My second round of bread went much better once we decided to let it rest in the office where it’s warmer. I really love sourdough and made this sourdough starter yesterday at lunch [pro tip, DO NOT put it in too warm a room – yeah exploded, starting over].

Anna over at Door 16 painted and stenciled her kitchen tiles. It turned out AMAZING!

If you are looking for advise on how to clean a rug click on over to Young House Love. They have a video and step by step process.

This couple from Buckinghamshire dresses in period costume for walks.

I never really got in to The Office but I am a fan of John Krasinski. He started his own weekly zoom broadcast called Some Good News. Only two episodes so far but go watch [EP1 & EP2]. They are feel good for certain!

Kind of obsessed with these Tortoise Tumblers and definitely contemplating getting a pair.

Have a great weekend!

 

 

 

Salmon Cakes

I came across this tuna cake recipe the other day by Emily Bites. All of her recipes include weight watchers values if you are following that plan. We had all of the ingredients at home but tuna wasn’t sounding like something I wanted. We had some smoked salmon so thought I would try it with that.

OMG!

They turned out amazing! I’m sure with tuna it would be good but the flavor of the smoked salmon combined with the panko and parmesan cheese was perfect! We served them with roasted brussels sprouts and sweet potato fries.

Salmon Cakes

One thing I did notice was how wet the patty’s were after I and coated them with the panko/parm mixture. We ended up with seven patties instead of nine even though I used a 1/4 measuring cup to make them per the instructions. As they sat while the cooking oil was getting up to temp [see below] they firmed up so I felt better and that is something to keep in mind.

One caveat to her instructions. She says to use 1 tablespoon of olive oil to cook your cakes in. In the past that has just not worked for me. My patties end up sticking to the pan and crumbling and frustrating the heck out of me. I used a generous amount of peanut oil [probably 1/4 deep in a large pan that would hold all seven patties at once] and let the oil get really hot in the pan. Peanut oil has a higher cooking temp and is good for this sort of thing. Better than canola for sure!

Once the oil is really hot [flick some water on the surface from your hand – if it sizzles its ready] and then place your patties. Let them cook for a while and get browned on one side then flip to finish.

The below WW values are from her recipe with tuna. Tuna and salmon are rated the same points wise but I did use full fat mayo when I made it. I generally don’t by lite or diet items.

Blue: 2, Purple: 2, Green: 3

Cruising to Alaska

Hello there! It’s been super busy over here. B and I got back a little over a week ago on a cruise to the Western Caribbean [Mexico, Belize, Honduras & The Bahamas] so I thought I would post our cruise adventure from last summer.

My mom turned 75 in early August and surprised us all by taking the entire family including spouses and grandchildren on an Alaskan cruise. This was my second cruise experience and it happened to be on the same cruise line. Click here for a recap of my trip to Cuba. Read on for more on our adventures in the land of the midnight sun.

We live just north of Seattle so getting to the terminal was a Shuttle Express ride away. There were eight of us traveling, six adults and two kids. My mom splurged for balcony state rooms which was really nice! We went on the new NCL ship The Bliss with stops in Juneau, Skagway & Ketchikan as well as cruising through Glacier bay with a final stop in Victoria BC.

I was not certain what to pack as the weather was going to be in the 50’s and 60’s but we were also going to be on board a ship and near icy glaciers so layering was my friend. I purchased an Away rolling carryon bag and packing cubes before our trip to California in March which was only four days. My expectation was this pieces of luggage would still be fine for a week long trip. Most of my clothing items I would wear at least twice with my bulkiest outfit for embarkation/debarkation. I managed to fit everything in and wore all but two items.

The day was actually kind of chilly in the morning. I wore my skinny jeans, a short sleeved striped grey & cream shirt, caramel riding boots and my blue Goretex shell. Getting on board was a breeze. We grabbed some lunch in the cafeteria and ate on the observation deck. It did warm up as the day went on. B went to the bar and got us going away drinks. A Vodka dirty martini for me and an Old Fashioned for him.

Leaving Seattle

There were plenty of seats along the large windows in the observation lounge. My brother [waving in the photo below] and mom found a spot a little further down the length of the room. We all took in the view of downtown Seattle on a bright blue day.

Brother So Far Away

We oriented ourselves a little more and ordered another round of drinks from the bar to toast the cruise and my mom’s birthday [we had the beverage package which I highly recommend]. From the left, my brother, mom, myself & B.

Bon Vayage!

Once our cabins were available I was lucky to spy my luggage in the hallway on the way to the room. I ditched my shell in the cabin and changed in to grey capri hiking pants and my Brooks running shoes. 

We took a short tour of the ship, especially the top deck with a go kart track, water slides & five hole mini golf. B suggested we go to The District Brew House for a beer. We quickly learned this was actually our muster station as well. Everyone is required to meet at their muster station just before or after leaving port. In the event of an emergency so you are funneled to a waiting lifeboat.

Shell Casing Art on the wall on the way to the brew pub.

Shell Casing Art

There are lots of dining options on board. We ended up in The Local for dinner which was a pub style restaurant. All the excitement of the day led to an early bedtime.

Our first full day on board was at sea. I wanted to be comfy and warm. I wore a blue hooded top, grey yoga pants and my favorite Brooks running shoes. We were out in the Pacific ocean and I did have about an hour or so where I was not feeling so great due to the movement of the ship. We settled in to the Observation lounge with my brother and played a few games of Guillotine.

Even being from Seattle you cannot escape Starbucks. Yes there is one onboard [my brother, niece & nephew in the photo below]!

SBUX

Can’t seem to escape work either.

Pops

B and my nephew wanted to take advantage of the go kart track so we arranged a time the next day before getting to our first port. Below is my nephew on the first curve of the Go Kart track. Yes, he wore shorts every day – did not matter the weather.

Go Karting

Our first port of call was Juneau, the capital. The weather was mild but on the chilly side and I was prepared with a sweater and leggings along with my shell and boots. B & I had our sites set on getting some Geocaches to earn our Alaska souvenir. Our first stop was a mystery cache that B had solved before we left Seattle and my nephews first cache ever. We found a TB hotel and then tried for another which we had to come back to three times due to muggles. We found an earth & a virtual all on his first day of caching. Mom wanted to see the capitol building [a bucket list item for her]. My back was acting up so I waited in town and solved a clue to one of the caches we were looking for. We stopped at Barnaby Brewing for a flight and root beer for the kids.

After Barnaby we visited the legendary Red Dog Saloon where kids are allowed. My nephews first bar experience complete with sawdust on the floor and waitresses dressed like cancan gals!

After a bit more walking around mom and I took a shuttle back to the ship and my brother, nephew & B did some more caching on the way back where my nephew made his first find. Dinner that night was at a sit down restaurant called The Manhattan. A tad bit too early for me to eat and I rested in our room after dinner. Later B & I went to the whiskey bar where I discovered a drink they called the Matador. Ingredients below and link to recipe here. So good!

  • 1.5 oz Bulleit Bourbon
  • .5oz Fresh lemon juice
  • .5oz Elderflower syrup
  • 3 pieces candied ginger
  • 3 dashed blood orange bitters
  • Splash ginger ale [or beer]

The next morning I had the most amazing breakfast! Dill & spinach pancakes with salmon and sour cream. Sounds weird and the color was a little bit off putting. Generally I am not a pancake person but these were so good! The restaurant menus changed daily but I was able to get these twice!

We were early enough at breakfast that we got a window seat and saw at least 20 wales that morning. I was never quick enough to get photos but it made breakfast that much better. Sometimes the memory is just as good!

Skagway was our second port of call and one that I was hoping would not disappoint. I went there when I was ten [a little less than 30 years ago] and loved it so much. I was hoping it would not have changed with the cruise industry. I took advantage of layers and wore a grey turtleneck sweater, jeans, boots and my shell. I also brought along a large white & black scarf for the wind.

We took a shore excursion on a train up to the top of White pass. We got an earth cache while on the train. A passenger even saw a bear.

Train Ride

The tunnel we are headed in to was really black and one of two on the trip.

Train Tunnel

This bridge we went by was built in the early 1900’s during the winter. It’s no longer used for obvious reasons.

Old Bridge

The trail of 98.

Trail of 98

We crossed in to Canada briefly and then looped around to head back down the mountain.

Canadian Border.jpg

We spent much of the day wandering town and visited Skagway brewing for beer and a snack.

Double Flight

That night was another dinner in a nicer restaurant, Cagney’s Steakhouse. Will you look at the size of these shrimp mom had as an appetizer. Jumbo for sure!

Jumbo Shrimp

B and I each had the surf and turf. The little white bag had a lemon in it. Smart so you could squeeze out the juice and not get seeds in your lobster. That lobster tail was larger than my hand and the filet was 8 oz. This didn’t include the two appetizers, two sides and dessert. Too. Much. Food!

Surf N Turf

The next day was a day at sea cruising through Glacier Bay. I wore my yoga pants and a different hoodie as it was bound to be a tad chilly. Breakfast was a bagel with salmon, dill, capers, butter lettuce, red onion & cream cheese and I had a side of country potatoes. I was able to get this breakfast twice on board as well. I had a LOT of salmon on this trip!

Bagel and Salmon.jpg

Each of our rooms received a complimentary bottle of champagne and we decided to chill them in our fridges and open them while cruising through Glacier Bay National Park. Rangers came aboard in the morning and we were able to hear their talk through the entertainment system in our room. There was also a bow camera we could view on the TV.

I have to tell you, my photos do NOT do the glaciers justice!

Margerie Glacier [also an earth cache] a 21 mile tidewater glacier. The boat in the photo should give you an idea of how immense the glacier is. We saw it calve several times while we were there. The ship rotated so no matter what side you were on you could see it. We were about a mile from the leading edge.

Margerie Glacier

I don’t remember the name of this glacier. I loved the different colors that formed the glacier. Kinda reminds me of cookies n crème.

Other Glacier

Johns Hopkins Glacier [also an earth cache] is 12 miles long. We were about six miles out from the leading edge of this glacier.

Johns Hopkins Glacier

My mom, brother, sister, Brother in law, niece & nephew were on the opposite side of the ship from us so we did venture over. When we returned to our room we had guests. Our neighbors children were feeding the seagulls bread and they were not afraid. I was able to come right out on the balcony and sit within two feet of this guy.

Cabin Guest

Dinner that night was at Teppanaki, a Japanese style steak house. B and I opted for a the Wasabi cocktail which doesn’t actually have any wasabi in it but does have a lychee for garnish. My brother had the Shaku-Shaku which I tried. I like it much better.

Our last port was Ketchikan, unfortunately the weather was too windy for us to be able to dock so we did not get off the ship. My brother had made plans to meet up with a friend. It was a real bummer but it meant getting in to Victoria early.

The rest of the day was spent hanging out with my niece & nephew in the observation lounge playing card games.

B and I had reservations for Le Bistro, the French style restaurant on board as we arrived in Victoria. I chose this night to dress up and wore khaki linen pants, a lavender linen wrap top, orchid cardi & espadrilles.

Last stop was Victoria BC. I repeated my first at sea day outfit of blue hoodie, grey yoga pants and Brooks running shoes. B and I got out and wandered for a bit with my brother, niece & nephew. The goal was to get caches and a Canadian souvenir for my nephew. We already have our Canadian/BC souvenirs and have even found some in Victoria. The first cache we looked for my niece found.

There was a virtual and we walked along the breakwater near the ship for two additional caches.

Sunday morning and back in Seattle for debarkation and heading hope to my poop doodle!

Takeaways:

  • While Alaska was not high on my bucket list I enjoyed the cruise. Glacier bay was amazing.
  • I would highly recommend a beverage package [there is one for kids too]. One note, when in port they do charge you tax. Some ports [Victoria in this case] require only one bar per deck to be open, the others have to stay closed.
  • I would recommend the dining package as well. Especially if you don’t like cafeteria style dining. On the Bliss there were four main restaurants that offer sit down meals but the rotation of food can get a tad boring for a seven day cruise.
  • I learned this after the fact. You can find reviews of restaurants onboard ships! Great way to study the menu and get an idea before you cruise. By far the most reasonable meal we had was Teppanaki. Le Bistro and Cagney’s were super expensive if you did not have the dining package.
  • I am really glad I bought my Away luggage. It’s the same size as my last carry on. The only draw back is that my last carry on had two outside pockets where this one does not so it cuts down on how much I can pack. I need to work on my travel capsule wardrobe.
  • I always travel with a book but am also glad we brought some card games with us. The library on board did offer checkout of board games [and books which was a nice bonus] but there is no guarantee they will have something you want to play or available when you want to play.
  • If you have kids, there are rooms separated in to different age groups with all kinds of scheduled activities. My nephew loved the teen room. My niece was not as enamored with the activities for her age group [she is 11].
  • Book shore excursions in advance. This will guarantee you get what you want. Sometimes excursions are canceled or adjusted due to weather. In the case of a cancellation you will get reimbursed automatically to your room.
  • Your “currency” is your room card. You use it at every meal and with every beverage or duty free purchase or activity [go kart’s, shows, gambling, art auctions, etc.]. The cruise line holds a credit card on file and it is run at the end of the trip. In our case we were able to view our balance whenever we wanted on the TV in our room.
  • We did not have a Wifi package. For the most part it was fine. You just had to be old school about meeting up. Every room has a phone and you can always leave a VM. It’s pretty amazing with 4,000 people on board how easily it is to run in to your peeps often.

Have you ever cruised before?

Autumn

Hello there! Autumn is here and this is the time of year where I start getting that nesting instinct. Where I want to wrap myself up in a yummy sweater, hand knit socks and a blanket and read away my Saturday afternoon with glass of red or chai by my side. I love Halloween, leaves, football and even camping in the fall!

Prairie Mountain Lakes

Yesterday B and I went with some friends out geocaching for the day. We were up in the woods and it was so beautiful! The weather was perfect! Just the right temp and it only sprinkled a couple times. Not enough to ruin our day though. Above is a lake we were near yesterday. Below is my friend Liana on the road less traveled [All Who Wander Are Not Lost].

All Who Wander

Speaking of reading, I came across this book last November when B and I went to New Orleans. It was awesome and geeky and hilarious! I totally recommend the series. It’s also the time of year where I break out this trilogy by Deborah Harkness [I have not been able to watch the TV show]. It’s just perfect for the season.

Some of my favorite autumn [Halloween] movies are; Blood and Chocolate, Sleepy Hollow, Pratical Magic [great book too], Hocus Pocus, Clue, The Craft & the Harry Potter series.

Today I am in full nest mode! I went to the grocery store and picked up enough to make several of my favorite meals as well as some new to me.

First up is Zuppa Toscana soup. It’s a Whole 30 [W30] recipe but doesn’t have to be. I don’t have a Dutch oven but a large pot works great for this soup. I made a big batch to have some this week and freeze some for when we need a quick heat up meal.

I have been wanting to make home made ravioli for quite a long time. I really enjoy Sarah’s design blog and she posts some really yummy recipes. You can’t go wrong with butternut squash ravioli from Trader Joe’s but if you are in the mind to make your own Sarah’s recipe is easy to follow [do you not just adore her kitchen?]. I read the recipe and bought myself these ravioli cutters and as luck would have it, B already had this pasta maker which got it’s inaugural use today!

I picked up ingredients to make this Brie & Apple crostini and also purchased some Bosque pears to try as well.

There are a couple of other autumn go to recipes that I like to make. I brought these Cranberry Brie Bites to a Friendsgiving meal a couple years ago and they are a great go to appetizer.

A friend of ours brought this Curried Butternut squash soup camping last autumn and it is to die for! It was perfect with some yummy bread our friend Glen made in his dutch oven over the camp fire. You gotta love a recipe that you can make while camping!

Another soup I just made recently is this white bean chicken chili. I mean how can you not go wrong with Martha?

I’m not a vegetarian but I do love a good meat free meal and try to cook them a couple times a week. I found this spaghetti squash recipe years ago and its so good! I don’t go to the trouble of making meatballs. I just serve ground turkey with shaved parm over cooked spaghetti squash.

I also like this apple Dijon burger recipe but I use the ingredients to make a panini subbing turkey meat instead of ground turkey. Sometimes I use brie instead of bleu cheese as well. Or sub cranberry sauce instead. This camping panini press is used every time we go but we can also use it on our gas range at home.

I love a good chai and B makes an exceptional one. I found this recipe that I may try in the near future. If you want to make it easier for yourself you can get this blend online. I also love a good mulled wine this time of year. Normally I pick up some bottles of Gluhwein at TJ’s but am thinking I want to try and make my own this year.

We recently got new carpet in the house, just in time for the colder months. To do this we had to empty most of our house [three rooms]. Guys our house is small, less than 1,000 square feet. The awesome thing about emptying the house is the PURGE that came after. I got rid of so much stuff and only placed items back in the spaces that had a home, I would use and fit in to the picture I have for my life today. I went through my clothes and packed up all of my spring and summer stuff and brought out all my autumn and winter stuff. I can open and close my drawers and get in the closet with no problem. I love looking at my simplified closet!

I like the idea of Project 333 but am not limiting myself to a number for my clothing items and accessories. After going through all of my clothes, there were some holes in my closet that I started to fill.

Last March I had a slipped disc and it was painful. My PT wants me to wear specific shoes for support. I purchased a couple pair of running shoes with specific insoles but I am NOT a running shoe kinda girl. I found these ankle boots and they are my go to item to wear in the fall. I tried them on at my local REI to make sure to purchase the correct size but they did not carry the dark brown color I wanted. These are fantastic and so comfortable! They look cute with jeans or leggings or even some of my dresses. I am exceedingly happy.

I am a huge fan of sweaters. They are my go to item in cold weather. I also love to knit but have yet to finish something as large as a sweater. I have this pattern on the needles though. A hoodie I would really like to finish. I recently started a knit night at the local brew pub every Tuesday so hoping to finish this soon.

Recently The Loft had a sale and I was able to pick up two sweaters for half off. This burgundy duster and this camel turtleneck poncho and this cardigan from Old Navy. They have not arrived yet but I am excited to wear them!

Now that we have brought a lot of our stuff back in to the house I can finally set up my sewing area. Our house was a three bedroom but B combined the two smaller bedrooms in to one large one and we share it for all of our hobby stuff. It was a mess before but since the purge its so much better! I currently do not have a correct height chair or desk and we are working to get that straightened out without going in to debt. I am loving this office chair from World Market in the aqua color [although the green is lovely too]. Loving this IKEA kitchen countertop to make an eight foot span for a sewing/writing space and for underneath this graduated drawer set [or two].

Hope you are all gearing up for the colder weather!

 

Garden Path

I have been working on a couple garden beds around our house. Last year I started on the bed directly in the front off the covered porch. Earlier this spring we took out a juniper, a sorry looking heather and a tree which left me with quite a bit of gardening real estate. I am focusing mainly on purple and orange flowers around the yard. his strawberry pot sits in front of a large fern and gives a pop of color in the front of the yard.

Purple & Orange

I placed a very large pot from my mom on the stump and filled it with a bunch of colorful blooms and sweet potato vine in May and they are still going strong now.

Newly Planted Pot

The ground surrounding this stump was really hard to dig in and there were still remaining tree roots so I decided to place a circular retaining wall around the pot that would raise the bed up and allow for easier planting.

Beginning of the Wall

The pot has filled in quite a bit since I planted it in May. You can also see in the photo above my clematis. I have been wanting to plant this for some time and since we painted the house last year I have finally been able to plant some climbers. I have also planted trumpet vine on the other side of the post. It’s growing like crazy but no blooms this year.

Clematis Two

A close up of my clematis above.

Pot Later

Obviously I have a bit of work ahead of me. I still have the other half of the retaining wall to finish. At least I have all of the stones. I have several of these Chinese Pagoda Primroses in the front bed. Some near the clematis on the opposite side of the porch post. I really enjoy these when they bloom in June. It’s a perineal so they will be back next year.

Chinese Pagoda Primrose

I decided for ease of working in this part of the yard it might be nice to have a path. I have been super busy this last month and the path I had staked in July I was able to finally work on today.

Path Framework

I had staked out the general shape of the path with some hemp twice and bamboo steaks I had on hand. You can see above some lupine that was blooming in late June. Below a close up photo of one of them. I just LOVE the colors!

Lupine Two

Labor day was set aside to create a garden path for this area. The last month the path has been developing weeds. Phase one below. Mind you the lupine has bloomed and reseeded and I cut down the dead portion.

Path Stage One

Phase two after all the weeds were gone. I also cut back the plants that were handing over the edge of the path as it bloomed in July. I took out the weeds growing in between the bricks on the porch as well.

Path Stage Two

Phase three, this was the hardest stage. I laid down weed barrier and then placed edging along the path. This particular style edging you don’t have to dig out a trench. You just secure it with really long steaks. I used a total of 14 steaks in all and about 18 feet of edging.

Path Stage Three

Phase four after watering as the river rock was very dusty. I still have some planting to do along the sides and may consider a water feature below where the fern is. That fern will end up moving to another part of the yard as well.

Path Stage Four

I really am pleased with the way this is turning out. Aside from the rest of the circular retaining wall and installing some plants I still have in pots there is not much more I am going to do to this area this year. As the weather turns I am planning on looking at some evergreen to fill in for the winter.

Different View

Next path project will likely be in the spring. Just  to the right of where this photo stops will be another path that goes down the side of the house. I will continue the use of the river rock from this path as well as some square pavers.

Hearst Castle

It’s been a bit since I posted about our trip to California in March. I had meant to post this a while ago.

Our second day in California we woke up in Paso Robles after a yummy meal at Firestone Walker. We grabbed coffee and a breakfast sandwich at the local SBUX and headed further west to the coast and Hearst Castle. On the way we stopped for several puzzle challenge caches along the highway. It was rainy and really foggy. At one point we could only see about 500 feet in front of us.

As we arrived at the parking area of the visitors center the sun started to come out. We purchased our tickets and took the bus up the long winding five mile road to start our tour.

“I would like to build something up on the hill at San Simeon. I get tired of going up there and camping in tents, I’m getting a little old for that. I’d like to get something that would be more comfortable.” ~William Randolph Hearst

I think Mr. Hearst brings glamping to a whole new level!

The property was inspired by young Williams visit to Europe and called The Enchanted Hill La Cuesta Encantada. We took the grand rooms tour [assembly, refectory, billiard, theater, gardens, Neptune pool & Roman pool] which is recommended if you have never been there. Once your tour is over you are able to walk the grounds for as long as you like until the last shuttle. The estate was built like a small Mediterranean hill town. The gardens take you over five separate levels and are reached by many staircases all of which were ornamented with tile work. Statues, citrus trees, large oaks, roses and azaleas can be seen throughout the property which include two pools, three guest cottages and the main house.

The entire Hearst Castle grounds project was designed by a female architect Julia Morgan. She graduated from the L’Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris and was California’s first licensed female architect.

Below is a view of the Pacific ocean from a terrace below the cottages. All of the property you can see to the coast is owned by the Hearst company including 13 miles of coastline they intend to keep undeveloped. The exception is highway 101 that winds along the coast. They also have a cattle ranch on the property.

Pacific from Hearst.jpg

After climbing several stairs through a few terraces with amazing views, art and plantings we came to the Neptune Pool named after the Roman god of the sea. It originally began as a garden with a lily pond. In 1924 Hearst decided he wanted to make the area in to a swimming pool. It holds 345,000 gallons of water and was recently refinished as it had been leaking. It was enlarged two times from it’s original size.

Neptune Pool 1.jpg

The pediment on the building across the pool was actually too short for the ancient Neptune statue and they had to cut off his feet to make him fit. The horror! He’s also missing a trident that would have been in his left hand. The pediment and all six columns on the building you see above are from the first to the fourth century A.D. The aqua color of the pool bottom makes the water look so inviting!

Neptune Stairs.jpg

Beautiful detail was everywhere. Even the hand railings for the stairs in to the pool. I especially like the tile pattern on the bottom. Below is a view higher up on the Neptune terrace that overlooks the pool. You can see the Santa Lucia mountains in the distance.

Neptune Pool 2.jpg

The view below is looking back at the main house in between two of the cottages [Casa del Monte on the left and Casa del Sol on the right]. The statue La Naissance de Venus [The Birth of Venus] in the center Hearst commissioned Charles Cassou to create.

Neptune Looking at house.jpg

Behind this statue at the top of the stairs are 17 dressing rooms and above that space is the Neptune Terrace. Electricity was plentiful from the town of San Simeon on the coast and the gardens were lit at night. Thaddeus Joy [Julia Morgan’s chief draftsman] designed these swan lamps.

Swan Lamps

The “cottages” are large [our house could easily fit in the smallest one] but have no kitchens as guests were expected to dine at the main house. The three cottages are named for their views and form a half circle between the Neptune pool and the main house with Casa del Mar on the right, Casa del Sol in the center and Casa del Monte on the left. Each has entries, one grand on the outer façade of the house and also a courtyard entrance facing the main house.

Casa del Sol House of the Sun [pictured below] was sited with views of the sunset. The architecture of this house has Moorish ornamentation from southern Spain. It is 3,620 square feet and features 8 bedrooms, 3 fireplaces, 8 bathrooms and 2 sitting rooms. The statue in front is a reproduction of David, After Donatello [original c1430] and was placed atop a reproduction of a Spanish Renaissance fountain. It was early in the day when we started the tour and still overcast.

Casa de la Mar.jpg

This is the view from the courtyard entry of Casa del Sol.

Outside Cottage

Below is the courtyard entry to Casa del Mar House of the Sea. This is one of the cottages you can tour. It is the largest at 5,350 square feet and features 8 bedrooms, 5 fireplaces, 6 bathrooms and 1 sitting room. The view is of the Pacific ocean. The busts on either side of the front door are from the Roman imperial period [1st through 4th centuries]. The architecture is Mediterranean Revival. Hearst initially used this as his residence and was the first cottage built on site.

Casa del Mar Door.jpg

This is Casa del Monte House of the Mountain the smallest of the three cottages. The views are of the rugged Santa Lucia mountain range and features 4 bedrooms, 3 fireplaces, 4 bathrooms and 1 sitting room. Bougainvillea is seen on the façade of the house but there were no blooms when we were vising, just the dead vines from last year.

Casa del Monte

Everywhere you turned there was artwork and beautiful tile work and gardens. Hearst and Morgan designed around large old oak trees. Where the entries to the three guest cottages are very symmetric, the feel of the grounds is very organic and had a great flow. The stairs below featuring tiles of lotus blossoms, have a mirror image and flank a 3,000 year old statue of Sekhmet.

Tile Stairs.jpg

Sekhmet the lion-faced Egyptian goddess of war and battle. These statues are the oldest of the estate and date to 1350-1200 B.C and acquired by Hearst in 1935. To the left are the cottages, to the right is the main house, behind her are the mountains and the main terrace of the main house. She is looking at the Pacific ocean.

Sekhmet.jpg

The main house Casa Grande is styled much differently then the Mediterranean villas of the cottages. It is 68,500 square feet and has 38 bedrooms, 42 bathrooms, 14 sitting rooms, 2 libraries, a billiard room and a movie theater. It was constructed of reinforced poured concrete and has withstood many earthquakes. The below photo is just past the statue of Sekhmet. It has a Moorish and Middle Eastern look to it and resembles a cathedral because of the twin towers which were inspired by the church of Santa Maria la Mayor in Ronda, Spain.

Casa Grande.jpg

The main terrace with this reflecting pool is directly behind Sekhmet and what you see when you come out of the front door of Casa Grande. Hearst had 70 dachshunds and would let them swim in this quatrefoil shaped marble pool. There was even a little wooden ramp for them to be able to get out of it themselves. The statue Galatea on a Dolphin was created by Leopoldo Ansiglioni.

Casa Grande Reflection Pool.jpg

The front of Casa Grande. I could not capture the entire façade but if you look at the photo two back you can see what the top of the façade looks like [the towers]. On each side of the door are 15th century statues of gothic wild men and the Duke of Burgundy is above.

Casa Grande Front Door.jpg

We did not enter through the front door but I wanted to show you what the entry looked like from inside. You can see the quatrefoil reflecting pond and patio through the glass.

Casa Grande Front Door from Inside.jpg

This statue sits just to the right of the main door if you are facing the patio outside. The floor is made up of tiny pieces of stone to form a mosaic.

Casa Grande Entry.jpg

The first room we entered was the assembly or sitting room which is just off the main entry where you see the statue above. The walls are lined with walnut choir stalls from 16th century Italy. The Flemish tapestries [four in all] called The Triumph of Scipio woven between 1530 and 1550 hang above.

Refectory Seating.jpg

This fireplace is directly across from the main front door through the entry. It was originally carved for Chateau de Jours in Dijon. People often worked jigsaw puzzles, played poker or just lounged in this room.

Refectory Fireplace.jpg

There are doors built in to the wood between the choir stalls along the walls that lead you deeper into the castle. I don’t know if these are original to the choir stalls.

Refectory Door between Seats .jpg

The ceiling of the assembly room is carved wood.

Wood Carved Ceiling.jpg

Arched doorways were everywhere.

Arched Doorway.jpg

We moved in to the refectory or dining room. All meals took place in this room. This room also was lined with choir stalls. There is a carved face under each seat.

More Seating.jpg

Meals could sometimes go for hours. Charlie Chaplain was a frequent guest. The room is decorated with Italian tables, Spanish banners and northern European silver. The ceiling is 15 life sized panels representing 12 saints, 2 coats of arms and the Virgin Mary. Fun fact, this room inspired the dining hall for Hogwarts in the Harry Potter series.

Celing with Flags.jpg

These chairs were amazing. I loved the detail and styling!

Chair.jpg

The morning room was just off the refectory. The ceiling is currently being restored. It is Spanish from the city of Teruel. Unfortunately the sun was shining in this room when we visited so I could not get a good photo of the furnishings.

Ceiling

From here we went in to the billiard room. It featured 19th century Persian tiles of party scenes and a 15th century Spanish ceiling filled with figures pursuing outdoor sporting activities.

Billiard Room.jpg

This early 16th century tapestry depicts a stag hunt in the “Mille Fluers” style.

Billiard Room Tapestry.jpg

The tile is Persian mosaic.

Billiard Room Tile.jpg

The castle has 36 Belgian carillon bells housed in the two towers. These towers also include large tanks to transport water from mountain springs. They were controlled by this organ type piece. Currently an iPad plays the bells at noon every day. Notice the Arabic tiles above.

Organ.jpg

The last room on the tour was the theater. Hearst would often show his own films or films of guests here. We watched a short black and white film reel of crazy happenings at the mansion while Hearst lived there. The walls are lined with scarlet damask and gilded caryatids support the ceiling. Cary Grant, Carole Lombard & Greta Garbo were often featured guests along with Marion Davies Hearst’s longtime companion.

Theater.jpg

B and I wandered around the property for a little while taking photos and also a selfie in front of Sekhmet for a virtual cache. The statue in the background of the photo below [just left of center] is of Europa being carried away by Zeus who has turned himself in to a gentle bull to capture her interest and convince her to mount his back.

Below is another statue in a field of vinca.

Statue in Vinca.jpg

Everywhere you looked there were wonderful carved statues. This is Mercury.

Mercury.jpg

A large oak tree a few hundred years old. This is on the same patio near the front of the main house and the quatrefoil reflecting pool.

Old Oak.jpg

There were several sarcophagi on the property.

Sarcauphagus

I don’t know the details of the one above. Below is a covered sarcophagus from the 2nd century A.D. The inscription identifies the man as C. Insteio who was 20 years and 9 months when he died. One of the sarcophagi was missing the lid. It was interesting to note inside one end was at an angle as if the person buried was propped up.

Sarcauphaus.jpg

An esplanade wanders through and connects all of the buildings on the property.

Walkway.jpg

Just beyond this walkway to the left are the tennis courts. They sit directly over the indoor Roman pool.

Tennis Court.jpg

This fresco is at the top of the stairs from the tennis court. B believes this could be Bacchus and some concubines.

Art.jpg

Soon we were ready to depart. The indoor Roman pool [under the tennis courts] was the staging area to take the shuttle back to our car. The pool is 1,665 square feet and holds 205,000 gallons of water. Below is mosaic tile with gold leaf in the entry.

Entry Mosaic Roman Pool.jpg

The indoor Roman Pool was amazing! You can see in the photo below similar detail on the railing for the stairs in to the water as at the Neptune pool. These lamps and statues are so beautiful!

Roman Pool.jpg

I am not certain but I believe this is a diving platform. The water looks deep enough. Its very shallow in the area behind the platform.

Indoor Roman Pool Diving Platform.jpg

The pillars had mosaic tile as well. There were seahorses and dolphins. I recently read this pool is being opened for people to be able to swim in. I really MUST go back!

Seahorse Mosaic Roman Pool.jpg

One thing I didn’t get a photo of was a U shaped pergola that we caught glimpses of both on the way in and out of the property. It’s a mile long and people would often walk or ride horses under it. [Below two photos I found online].

Pergola.jpg

This shot is from the road.

Pergola From Road.jpg

Hearst had his own private zoo. On the way out we saw the area dedicated to polar bears that used to be in residence and just above some of the pergola. We have been told that you can still see zebras near the state park campground to the south of the property.

B was a little unsure of this part of our trip but he is glad I wanted to see it. We plan to take another trip with the bus down 101 and stop in again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Roundup 5-5-19

So I missed the roundup last week but I never said I would be consistent…..here are some interesting stories from around the internet this week.

May the Fourth

An epic celebration in Ireland happened yesterday. #mythe4thbewithyou

It was sad and horrific what happened to the Notre Dame Cathedral but the bees of Notre Dame are alive and kickin!

One of my favorite design bloggers, Sarah over at Room for Tuesday planted a lilac tree in a planter on her front porch. I never would have thought of that and might need to give it a try!

A few weeks back I was listening to NPR and heard this really interesting article on Eric Hebborn who was born in London and ended up becoming a really good painter, so good that he painted masterpieces – well forged them. There is a book written about him called In the Shadow Of An Old Master. I tried to find the original article on NPR’s website as they interviewed someone who lived with him as an assistant in Italy and came to have several of these pieces in his own home.

Right now I am embracing color in our home. In the walls and furnishings. But I do love a neutral home. Caroline at Un Fancy shows us her guest bedroom but also a dressing nook [or two] she created in her home. Never thought of this but it’s a great way to stage clothing for the next day if you are that organized. Or just to keep out some pretty clothing you like to look at.

You have likely heard of the Aurora Borealis but have you ever heard of STEVE’s?

Last night B and I went to a local radio station in downtown Seattle for a concert featuring Seattle’s own Mudhoney. Thank’s to Paul Allen’s generosity there is this Gathering Space. You can hang out, get coffee and watch KEXP DJ’s live. This is where the concert was held last night.

Hoping to post more this week. Tomorrow I am diving in to the Wild Mediterranean way of eating.

Have an excellent week!

 

Roundup 4-14-19

Well would you look at that? A second week of roundups for me. Spring is just around the corner and I can feel it! The below photo is of a Clematis I had at my condo. It would usually be at the height of blooming around the end of July – my birthday. I am planning on getting a couple clematis planted here for this season.

Clematis.jpg

I thought this article on picnicking in cemeteries was certainly interesting.

I am so ready for spring and this strawberry salad will be in heavy rotation around here. I swapped out romaine for spinach or butter lettuce and feta for goat cheese.

It’s been proven that getting out in nature and moving your body does wonders for the soul. There is a philosophy in Japan called Forest Bathing. I just love the way that sounds!

In my path to minimalism I think this article and the subsequent articles for each in his list are super helpful.

B and I have been Geocaching for about five years. It’s a fun way to get outside wherever you are [urban & rural settings]. One of the things I love about it is you can do it wherever you are and play the game however you like. We especially love to do it while traveling as a caches often take us to places we may never have discovered.

If you are a reader and looking for something fun might I suggest The Chronicles of St. Mary’s by Jodi Taylor. St.Mary’s Historical Institute is the setting for hilarious stories of investigating major historical events in contemporary time. Time travel to us. It follows Max a ginger haired historian and the inevitable situations she get’s herself in to.